spiritual intelligenceSpiritual intelligence is a word that was referred to for the first time by Danah Zohar in her book ‘ReWiring the Corporate Brain’ back in 1997. The phrase is suggestive of the existence of many different types of intelligence. It has been deduced that spiritual intelligence (also referred to as SQ) is something that an individual realizes mostly on his own and then develops it over the course of time. Even though the term was coined only in 1997 the inherent meaning and its uses had been in existence since the ancient Vedic times in India. It has been handed down from one generation to the other over a course of several thousand years. Understanding the power of spiritualism is a key knowledge to help you get more in touch with your own spiritual intelligence. 

Meaning of Spiritual Intelligence

Spiritual Intelligence is actually a cohesion of two different words with two different connotations. The word spiritual is immediately identified as religion. But it has deeper annotation in this context. To be spiritual does not mean that one has to be deeply religious, though in some context they are used synonymously. In fact to be spiritual means to have an understanding of the self from the view point of the soul. It means one has attained the power to rise above the physical form of being, to the level of the soul. The biggest mistake that an average human being does is to identify himself with this destructible outer form. Thus his / her life becomes a continuous struggle to gratify the needs of this mortal outer form.

In this context a very important verse from the Bhagavad Gita is worth a mention –

nainam chindanti sastrani

nainam dahati pavakah

na caiman kledayanti apo

na soshayati marutah

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 23

Explained in simple English the above verse means that the soul is eternal. It cannot be cut by a weapon, nor be burnt by fire, neither can it be drenched by water or be dried up by air. This is one of the fundamental truths about eternity of the soul in Hinduism.

An understanding of the spiritual self is an emancipation of the mind from the body. The revelation that one is not bound by the material world and that nothing can truly affect the soul that lies within, can be truly life changing. It is also why Hindu sages and rishis of the highest order are free of inhibitions, love, anger and all the other common emotions that plague the average human being with an average upbringing.

Intelligence on the other hand means the sense to know what is right and what is wrong and to always follow the path of righteousness with an intent to do no harm. An intelligent person who is spiritually minded, knows the difference between materialism and reality and can easily identify the difference between truth and deception. Additionally, he is never flattered by praises, never bothered by criticisms, threats and shows of affection. His truly one with his soul.

Spiritualism vs. Cognitive Intelligence

The use of the phrase spiritual intelligence in the modern context is more spiritual and less religious. Certainly, this helps the concepts of spiritual intelligence to be considered in the same breath as cognitive and emotional intelligence, as it is just as powerful as the remaining two. However, there is a distinct difference between those who follow the path of spiritual intelligence and those who have follow the path of cognitive intelligence. The latter group thinks that spiritual intelligence is meaningless and irrational, especially in the modern context. Certainly, this comes from the more ‘rational’ way of thinking by the cognitive bunch. No matter how much cognitive thinkers discount spiritual intelligence it is an approach that is both relevant and necessary in the modern context. By understanding one’s own self, people can understand each other better. There is a tendency among individuals to think no more than the physical self. The importance of the individual becomes bigger than the collective existence. This is a dangerous and counter-productive way of thinking, one that is going to be detrimental in the long run. In the economic context of things every business promotes collective responsibility, collective rewards and collective goals. Individuality is rarely given importance. Spiritual intelligence can help individuals to shed this petty thinking, be more productive and be collectively responsible for their actions.

Spiritual Intelligence in the Modern Society – Family and Social Life

Spiritual intelligence can help people to overcome a lot of negative vices, which are undoubtedly source of great discomfort in their lives. Expectation is a big problem in the modern way of life. Expectation leads people to suffering and depression when they cannot get what they want.  When you do something for someone, whether it is something trivial or important you should not nurture any hopes of return or reward. This philosophy comes from Karma Yoga. This is something that most people don’t follow. As a result of which they suffer when someone does not return a favor. In personal life this vicious cycle of expectation and suffering can bring bitter consequences. In Karma Yoga one learns how to put the ‘self’ behind and do what is necessary irrespective of the consequences.

Work Environment

A work environment that nurtures and fosters spiritual intelligence, as a complimentary exercise with cognitive thinking, will not consider its employees as mere tools. The overall thinking would change leading to a greater self-esteem among employees, a greater sense of ownership of what they do and certainly a greater share of responsibilities. A manager who leads by example and understands how human emotions work will know how to instill this feeling of bonding and a sense of team-spirit into his employees. In the modern highly competitive business environment there are many advantages to this approach. First, a better team player will put the team before himself. This feeling is contagious and immediately bonds an otherwise incoherent team into one strong unit. In the Film Ender’s Game the lead character disobeys the commands of a superior officer by speaking out for his team. He is punished for his insubordination which he takes without complain. Post the punishment he wins the support and the loyalty of his team members. This way, a seemingly outcast individual transforms into the ideal team leader who thinks about the team first and in the process commands the respect of those he leads.

How to Be Spiritual in Life?

There is no short cut to being spiritual in life. It is not something that you can sit down and gulp in one go. It is a process of transformation of the soul and the mind that is achieved through a number of activities chief among which are meditation. However, apart from meditation it needs a cleansing of the thoughts that clog an average mind and overcoming of the inhibitions that lead to suffering.


The process of meditation has been described in ancient Hindu texts to be a method of self-realization. It helps the mind to be free from all inhibitions and the external allures that clog the mind. Meditation is bringing the mind to a level of super-consciousness. There are three states or levels of consciousness that a human mind can achieve. Conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious. The state of consciousness is what the human mind is at most of the times. It is this state that controls most of the actions that are done actively.

The sub-conscious mind controls most of the other functions of the body such as breathing, digestion and pumping of blood through the veins. These are the functions that humans don’t do in a conscious state but they seem to nevertheless happen flawlessly.

There is third level of consciousness which is the upper-consciousness. This is the level where the concepts of self do not exist. E.g., if this level of super-consciousness is compared with sleep then there are some similarities to be found. During sleep and when a person attains super-consciousness through meditation, the vital functions of the body still works flawlessly. But unlike in meditation, when a person awakens from sleep he remains the same individual. No spiritual changes take place. But in the case of meditation, if the person attains the level of self-consciousness he is showered with enlightenment. He comes back a man transformed.

One Good Deed at a Time

Sounds like a catchword but it has really powerful implications. In some eastern philosophy it is believed that what you do goes around and then comes back. That means if you do one good deed it is like a credit that remains for you, and then when you need it, it comes back to you through an act of kindness or good deed. It is strange how simple that philosophy is and yet how seldom it is put to practice. Take a step in potentially learning how to transform your life and help you become a better you by creating your own spiritual intelligence. 


Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy for Business.

Request a demo