It might come as a surprise to most people but in today’s age when technological advancement is rampaging, spirituality is still not lost. What is even more surprising is that teenagers these days are becoming more and more spiritual. One might think that teenagers would be engrossed in gadgets and the all absorbing wonders of tech. However, that is not the case. In fact, teenagers are using tech in order to popularize spiritual endeavors. The term ‘spirituality’ might have different meanings for different people. After all, subjectivity is a very important part of the spiritual process. But more on that later.
What do we mean by spirituality?
Without going into depth, the spiritual process can be defined as man’s attempt to attain a state of higher being. This attainment is the goal of all spiritual processes, regardless what the method may be. In different religion, various tools and methods are suggested to deliver the human soul. For instance, in Hinduism, chanting the name of God is one method of spiritual development. Yet, these elaborate definitions of spirituality and perspectives on the same may seem very alienated. For some of us, who are not involved in the matters of religion and spirituality so much, it becomes difficult to identify the spiritual aspects.
The qualities associated with spiritual development are empathy, forgiveness, inner peace, egolessness, compassion, harmony, humility, simplicity and reciprocity. When we embark on the spiritual path, we aim to become more in-line with our inner self and develop and refine the aforementioned qualities. A spiritual person would not let his inner core falter in front of external changes, whether they are positive or negative. The ups and downs of life would still be there but as you progress on your spiritual path, their effect on you would lessen.
It is rightly said that to experience life in its truest form, one needs at least some spiritual understanding. When we’re not aware of the universe we are in, we are always too involved in our own thoughts and our own constructed little world. Spirituality is there to make us realize that the world is bigger than ourselves and everything that surrounds us. It is there to make us realize that the interconnectedness between human beings and all conscious beings.
What is teenage Spirituality all about?
The overall intelligence of the world is increasing with time. Children these days are exposed to a lot of information in school as well as outside. Thus, it only makes sense that teenagers have begun asking existential questions such as “What is the purpose of my existence?” and “What is the meaning of my suffering?”. However, the manifestation of the spiritual development in teenagers becomes a little bit apparent to their parents with change in their behaviors. Everyone knows what being a teenager feels like. With them undergoing hormonal changes due to puberty, there behavior becomes off-putting and hostile. They tend to rebel against authority.
However, towards the end of their teenage years, parents can often notice a change in their behavior. Many teenagers adopt some philosophy to make sense of the world. Some turn to orthodox religion, some to different types of spirituality and some drown themselves in the material world. Yet, almost all of them do end up incorporating qualities such as humility, reciprocity, egolessness, etc. in their daily lives. Thus, we can say that there is some apparent spiritual development.
Spiritual elements can be found everywhere in our cultures and subcultures. Even the pop music that teenagers listen to, carry different spiritual messages. One of the most popular spiritual axiom today is “Live and let live”. This translates into acceptance of other lifestyles and cultures. The underlying spiritual concept in this message is that of accepting reality as it is without judging it. This is one important distinction in terms of attitude of the previous generations and this one. In the 1960s, the American society was anti-immigrant and unaccepting of lifestyles that differed from their traditional American one. To this, many reactionary counter-cultures rose, some of which were the Beat culture and Hippie culture. Even those counter-cultures were led by young people in their 20s and teenagers. Easter spirituality and mysticism was a big part of those counter-cultures.
The eastern spiritual elements that were introduced by the Beatniks to the Western audience in the 60s are still popular today and teenagers are heavily influenced by them. This brings to our next section.
The interest of teenagers in Eastern spirituality and mysticism
Figures like Alan Watts and Terence Mckenna became very popular 1950 onwards and for good reason. They were monumental figures who introduced Eastern philosophy and mysticism to a western audience. Prior to the arrival of speakers like these, the common American man was largely uninformed of Eastern philosophies and spirituality. It was only accessible by those who were pursuing it academically. It can be said that in a way, these guys brought Eastern spirituality into the mainstream. Those spiritual practices then were embraced by the young people of America. Today, we find references to that era and those elements prevalent in our media and other cultural representations. For example, take a look at the type of music we have today by artists such as Astrix. Their works have clear references to Eastern mysticism and spirituality. Moreover, these artists are very popular among teenagers in the western world.
The main idea in all of Eastern spiritual philosophy whether it be of Buddhism or Hinduism, is that every human being is a part of the whole. Our consciousness is a part of the complete consciousness of the universe and we are the universe experiencing itself subjectively. This idea, when brought into the western world, translated into egolessness – a state free of hubris. Teenagers, especially in the west, are quite fond of these alternative ways of perceiving the universe. This is not only true of America. American culture has influenced the whole world and people all over the world have been consuming American culture in one form or another. It is found that teenagers in countries which are heavily influenced by American culture are attracted to the ideas of Eastern mysticism.
Influence of the Beat culture and Hippie movement
If one was to trace the popularization of spirituality in America, that would land us in the late 50s and the early 60s. That was a time when American economy was booming and the American capitalist culture was extremely materialist. Then came the beatniks who, through their writings, influenced the American culture. They popularized Eastern mysticism and spirituality in America. Teenagers of that time began to take an interest in this movement. It was also closely tied to the civil rights movement and would later influence the Hippie movement. Some of the very famous beatniks were Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. These were writers and poets who incorporated sexual liberation, psychedelic imagery and eastern spirituality into their works.
In countries like India, Yogis and monks practice spirituality for years. The mystical experiences and the spiritual stability they attain is supposed to be the result of their lifelong commitment to spirituality. In the west, nobody had the time. Thus, mystical or divine experiences were out of question. Then came Albert Hofmann, a scientist who discovered LSD. LSD is a psychedelic drug that, in purely medicinal terms, causes hallucinations. However, it also opens up the doors of perception and lets the user see the world in a way that they never have before. LSD and other psychedelic drugs were an important part of the Hippie movement. They let the busy Americans have a peek into the mystical experience or the divine. This furthered the credibility of Eastern spirituality which made sense as it was in agreement with the kind of experiences induced by LSD and similar drugs.
Even today, psychedelic drugs hold an important position in spirituality as well as philosophy. They are very popular among the teenagers. However, this article would not take a stance on their consumption – that is for the reader to figure out.
All in all, the hippie movement and the beat culture were massive factors in popularizing spirituality in the west. At that time, it was the youngsters and teenagers who embraced it. And today, we see teenagers becoming more and more spiritual.
The role of technology in spiritual development
Teenagers and new tech go hand in hand. Today, teenagers are using the internet to discover and advance the concept of spirituality and practices associated with it. If you go to YouTube and search the term ‘Spirituality’, you will find hundreds of thousands of videos on the same. This is how teenagers today are breaking into various spiritual scenes. The fact that one has to read a lot of books on spirituality to get an understanding is no longer the case. There are audiobooks, lectures, animated videos, etc. available on various spiritual concepts such as Moksha, Ego death, etc. Thus, teenagers, who notorious for avoiding books, are gaining easy access to the spiritual process. This is an amazing technological achievement for mankind.
The youth is becoming interested in the inner, facilitated by technology and the internet. Spirituality is no longer a concept associated with old age, retirement and monks. Many are willing to undergo a spiritual transformation and the fact that many of them are teenagers is very uplifting.