[Taken from a transcript from conversations with Swami Veda Bharati during his journey to China in 2006 – Ed.]
I will now take the question of what is culture, what is religion and what is spirituality. In the teachings of all the wise men of the world, religion and culture start from spirituality. This spirituality is a personal realization of the principles that run the universe. Some may call it God, some may call it dharma, still others may call it enlightenment, but it has to be an inner personal realization. For this, the personal resolve that: the truth that Buddha or Lao Tzu realized, may I realize the same truth. What Lao Tzu or Jesus realized, may I realize the same truth. All efforts that go towards that internal realization are called spirituality.
Now, that spirituality has many different applications. It becomes a culture when we create symbols, language, and all kinds of art. We create these on the basis of that inner realization. That inner, spiritual realization that is manifested into the external world is what is called culture.
When we take the same realization and establish the principles of relationships in family, in business, in government, in society it is known in English as ethics.
Culture and ethics born out of that realization also give form to certain rituals; rituals and ceremonies. Rituals such as all the various kinds of external worship performed in the different cultures and religions.
So, first comes the inner spiritual realization, inner experience of the truth. Then, from that realization, the inspired knowledge that has arisen from that realization produces culture and morality. These things are brought together into rituals. If you put all of this together, it is called religion.
And they each flow into each other. Many times, people who do not understand this relationship make separation among these components. For example a musicologist who does not believe in any religion may still study Christian music or Chinese Buddhist music. Yet the whole tradition of music that he is studying has arisen from spiritual realization.
He may still study Christian music or Chinese Buddhist music, but he is studying it outside the context. For example, drama in all the cultures began as an act of worship and so also all art forms began as expressions of spiritual realization. Nowadays in the study of the history of arts we are studying them in separation from their source.