If you ask, “Is Yoga a Religion” it is similar to asking the question, “Is prayer a religion?” or “Is meditation a religion?” If you want to know the deeper answer to this question then you would have to be clear as regards the meaning of the word “Yoga” and the word “Religion.
Is Yoga A Religion? The answer is NO Yoga is not a religion. It is a scientific program of practice inviting the direct personal/non-personal/paradoxical experience of unity with Divine Presence. The reason why there may be confusion is that the essential purpose of religion is also the experience of unity.
Menu for Is Yoga A Religion?
- Real Religion and Real Yoga
- The Two Paths of Religion.
- Yoga as a Secular Practice.
- The Importance of Intention
- Why Real Yoga is Dangerous to Believers.
- Living a Life Beyond Belief.
So let us begin to explore this important question “Is Yoga a religion?” in the hope that it might give you some direction as to whether or not this adventure into the meaning of life is for you.
Real Yoga and Real Religion
The word religion comes from the Latin word ‘religio’ meaning, “To bind.” The word ‘yoga’ comes from the root of the phrase “to yoke.” Each invite the joining of that which is separate.
What is separate are:-
- The personal from the Universal.
- Time from Eternity.
- Form from the Formless.
In reality none of the above are separate from the other except that most everyone feels that they are. This feeling of separation is the primary cause of most personal and collective suffering on this planet.
The real purpose of Yoga, and the real purpose of religion, is to give you a direct experience of sacred unity that allows you to experience real healing.
What is healed is the primary experience of separation from Divine Presence.
There are two different paths to this ultimate task of being human.
The Two Paths of Religion
For most people religion means that you associate yourself with a formulated teaching coming from a given tradition such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and others.
Each of these religious traditions have what are termed two paths. These are the
- Exoteric Path and the
- Esoteric Path.
The exoteric approach means, “The Way of the Many.” The esoteric means, “The Way of the Few.”
The way of the many is the way of the believer. The way of the few is the way of the KNOWER or the mystic.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. – Matthew 7:14 KJV
What the KNOWER knows is that you are not separate from, and are never separate from, is the Love of the Divine. This is experiential KNOWING. It is the purpose of all religion. It is the experience of YOGA.
This KNOWING transforms you from a believer into what is called a mystic.
A mystic, as I use the term, is someone who has had a direct personal/non-personal/paradoxical experience of Divine revelation.
This revelation is always given by way of grace. You cannot ever earn it. Why it is given is a mystery. The mystic is someone who has been graced to enter that mystery of union.
Yoga as a Secular Practice
In the West Yoga as it is practiced, is for the most part, a secular activity.
By that I mean that those who practice Yoga in the West do not have as their foundational intention attaining union with the Divine.
Thus the intention of their yoga practice has no religious significance in either an exoteric way or esoteric way.
I liken this to living in the basement of a magnificent Palace (The Palace of Nowhere) where you decorate the basement in order to make yourself feel more comfortable about your personal life circumstances.
There is nothing wrong with this except that it means you might never get to know the astonishing light of your own being.(Hafiz)
Most people practicing some form of exoteric religion use the same approach to decorating the basement.
They adopt a system of belief rather than take the journey beyond belief and into KNOWING. – into Yoga – into the true religious experience of sacred unity.
The Importance of Intention
Intention is One with Cause and Effect – Oprah Winfrey
You do not have to be religious or spiritual to practice Yoga in the way it is understood in the West This is, for the most part, a program related to the practice of postures or asanas.
What is foundational, however, is your intention.
If your intention is to simply become fit and subtle, then Yoga in the true sense of the word, is not your goal.
Thus you can practice yoga postures as part of your esoteric religious tradition without compromising your beliefs.
However, you need to be aware that, whether or not you intend to, the practice of Yoga postures can open you up to Divine revelation.
This is in fact the reason why Hatha Yoga is designed the way in which it is – to prepare the body for the infusion of Divine energy.
When the higher flows into the lower the lower is transformed by the higher – Meister Eckhart – Christian mystic (1260-1328)
Why Real Yoga is Dangerous for Believers
It is the opinion of this writer that Real Yoga is dangerous to those who are believers in exoteric religion because the practice of Real Yoga can open you up to a revelation of Oneness.
This revelation, by way of grace, will shatter any belief system. This is the role of all REAL religion but it means that your esoteric religious foundation will be rocked to its core.
The danger for a believer is that you will no longer be able to subscribe to a system of belief that the direct experience of Real Yoga/Union will shatter. However, such a shattering may take you into what has been referred to as the 2nd awakening of faith.
This will change your relationship to your religion and it may mean you can no longer belong to any religious group practicing their faith in an exoteric way.
While the grace of revelation will shatter your limited exoteric beliefs it will take you into an experience beyond belief. You may not be ready for such an experience.
Such a revelation happened my sister Mary who belonged to a fundamentalist Christian sect who told her that such experience of union with the Divine was not valid.
Through a direct experience of Yoga you are no longer a believer.
Living a Life Beyond Belief
You become one who is a KNOWER . You KNOW who you are and why you are. You KNOW your purpose and your work is to live in alignment with this purpose.
This is the primary purpose, not of your personal life, but of Life itself. This is the purpose of Love.
Your purpose is to follow Love’s Purpose
This is beyond belief in a very literal sense of the word.
You willingly go into the UNKNOWN (2nd Awakening of Faith) in order to be KNOWN through. This is where you then become one who moves in the world as Love in action.
There is less struggle. There is more FLOW and real prosperity.
Out of this direct KNOWING you pour fourth all the blessings you are given.
You don’t do this because you think it is something good to do. This is not the practice of religion as doing good works. You do it because it is who you are.
You might or you might not call yourself religious but you do recognize that you are a servant of Love’s purpose.
This is what you KNOW from the experience of Yoga and from the experience of esoteric religion.(mysticism)
Summary of Is Yoga A Religion
Why Do Yoga?
I hope that the above gives you at least some greater understanding of the question, “Is Yoga a religion.”
More than this I hope that it invites you on a journey of exploring the magnificence of the Secret of Secrets that is within you and invites you to become that revelation.
I hope that you are encouraged to leave the basement of belief to journey higher into the many Mansions of your Being that are quite literally beyond belief.
Real Yoga ,like Real religion, might always be only for the few. I hope that the numbers will grow because this is needed at this time on this planet given the many challenges we face as a species.
You have to begin with the belief in the possibility but don’t make belief a signpost that you cling to that allows you to forgo the journey of revelation.
This will bring you home to your Essential Self where you are blessed and can bless.