A question of Religion

I have been busy writing a new book on Hatha Yoga.   The groundwork for the book is articles that I wrote  for Pure Inspiration magazine, over the past four years.   I enjoyed addressing these articles about Yoga to people who are brand new to it.  I tried to interest them by writing in a  simple and straight forward way about its benefits.    I  only slowly, very slowly introduced the various, deeper aspects of a Yoga practice.   I introduced the postures and breathing and then pranayama, mudras and meditation, hoping to prepare the body and open the mind so that Yoga would seem reasonable.    But even before I had written about Yoga’s more esoteric properties,  I had  a barrage of questions from devout Christians, asking, “Is Yoga, Hindu?”

This, my friends is an interesting question that entertains not only Christians, but also Yogis and Hindus.

Interestingly enough, the contributors for the magazine, Hinduism Today often write articles suggesting that Yoga has been hijacked from Hinduism and that Hindus need to “take back Yoga.”   For really very few Hindus actually practice Yoga.

Most Hatha Yoga classes today are seen strictly as physical exercise and certainly the practitioners are not and never will be Hindu.   Some of Hatha Yoga classes around Orlando are called, Christian Yoga.  I don’t know what that means as these seem also to be just asana classes.

Most practitioners of Yoga today, who practice Yoga as part of an integral, spiritual discipline, refuse to confine themselves to any religion.  Hinduism just as other religions has a strict set of rules that regulate spiritual beliefs and rituals, but also home, hearth and heart.   Having recognized that religion is one of the principle sources of division and conflict in the world, and that in an age where every detail about every religious or spiritual tradition is accessible through books and the internet, to confine our self to only one religion is severely limiting.  Taking on a religious identity creates automatic social divisions, starting with our family and friends. Once we  call ourself a Hindu, or a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, we invariably create a wall of fear and antagonism between our self and others, born of incomprehension and ignorance.

Yoga arises out of Sanatana Dharma, which  is of the oldest “religion,” and the first name given to Hinduism.   Yoga is spiritual but not a religion.  It  is a means of self discovery.   It gives us a reason and way to shun falseness and walk in truth and helps us to know the difference.   It is a way to love God and through that love to know Him and feel his love for you.    “God is love” religion says, but,  according to the Siddhas, Yoga takes that a step further to say,  “Love is God.”    And that He is the Transcendent Reality and the primordial sound Aum.

The Siddhas have drawn our attention to the Lord within us and and also without.    They have taught us  that it is through meditation and worship that we communicate with our Self and the Lord.   Hinduism would have us  worship and meditate but would require accceptance of all the accompanying rituals,  rules and regulations and suggest that a sanctified Temple  would have  the spiritual energy to attract the devas and Mahadevas and the Lord, Himself.   And  the temples and rituals  would be different for a Saivite Hindu than it would be for a Vaishnavite Hindu.   A Saivite would call Siva, Lord; A Vasihnavite would not see Siva as the Lord at all,  only Krishna..and so on …

As Yogis we can learn to see our own body as a temple, which too can become sanctified enough to welcome the Lord, in whatever Name or Form, He/She chooses.    And once we accept that the Lord is available within, we can begin to see Him/Her outside us, in various disguises and everywhere we look.

A yogi is one who practices with strict adherence to ethical guidelines of non-violence, truthfulness, greedlessness, honesty and moderation.   A yogi  must walk a totally disciplined life, vigilantly studying his/her words and actions in an attempt to bring purity and contentment to the heart and soul.  Only such a life (and not ritual) will create the firm ground necessary  to deny the senses and  Surrender the ego.  And once the ego is surrendered what religion is really necessary?  Firm ground creates the means to receive grace.

Surrendering the ego to the Will of the Lord is one way to install grace in our life.  Once installed, grace is poured incessantly, but you still have to be awake (Aware) to receive it.

Yogic awareness is required, not religion.  The use of yogic visualizations, mantras, yantras…the pictures and sounds arising out of an Enlightened Mind, that is what unlocks deep levels of Consciousness and brings purity to the mind and peace to the Soul.

Furthermore, Babaji does not tell us to become Hindu, instead he gives us His instructions for surrender.   He says we must first remember our Divinity, second express our Divinity and thirdly, enjoy our Divinity.    He says too, we must not discard His Living Presence in other forms.    He says that to practice his Yoga we must “love all and serve all.”

These words are all I require to settle the dispute for both Christians and Hindus alike.

  1. My school teacher used to say, there is no process to convert yourself to Hindu. If you say you are a Hindu, then you are a Hindu. I guess, he meant Sanatana Dharma, I was too young to understand it then. But it did make a deep mark in me.

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