Many people who have sworn allegiance to some religious system talk of religion and spirituality as though they are the same thing.  It would be a pity if it were to be so because, while religions are sectarian in practice, true spirituality is universal.  It cannot be the monopoly of any group, nor can it have anything to do with events in history because it is beyond time.  Unfortunately, the religious people want to wrap up spirituality into their fold not knowing that sectarian religious practices are essentially a matter of conditioned response while spirituality is beyond all that.  It is rather obvious that sectarian religions and spirituality are mutually exclusive.

Sectarian approaches are inevitably tied up with beliefs and system-oriented practices.  Except in the case of philosophically oriented religions, the system expects rigid conformity and no questioning is allowed.  If somebody were to point out any inconsistency in the system, he or she will be ostracized from that community.  Emotional attachment to the system is expected. For that very reason, creating enemies of the other groups becomes inevitable.  Can all these be ever part of a true spirituality which can move us towards the Truth? 

The spiritually oriented person understands the corruption that thought plays in one's attempt to find shelter in a system which promises grandiose things through conformity.  He or she moves away from looking for a psychologically comforting system and applies oneself to understanding the hidden harmony behind the apparent chaos.  That is what moves them towards sensing Truth, Divinity or what one may call the Ultimate.  Beliefs and disbelief do not attract them because they see the meaning behind the adage "One believes what one wants to believe."           

Sectarian religious practices do not bring about any transformation in the psychology of the adherents.  Practicing the religion for 30 or 40 years only increases their dependence on and expectation from God, so the 'I' remains intact.  If their religion is criticized, they would feel hurt and may even react violently to the criticism, indicating that the practice has only served to intensify their ego.  If such practices are truly spiritual, the opposite would be the case.  These are elementary facts, but millions upon millions of people do not want to acknowledge those facts, because they fall a prey to the two essential demands of the ego: satisfaction and security.  The sectarian religious practices provide them.  The adherents would rather be with satisfying illusions than question their own conditioned response and the harm it does to themselves and humanity.             

Inner freedom is possible only for those who are willing to move away from dogmatic religious practices and the egoism they support.  Then, there is the possibility of imbibing pure self-awareness untouched by man-made influences.  There lies the greatness of the pristine spirituality.