Yoga - not a religion but a spiritual discipline

Fri, 24 Feb 2012

"Practising yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil." Or that is at least what Father Gabriele Amorth, the 85-year old Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, stated a few months ago, on November 29, 2011, at an event in Terni where he was speaking on the subject of People And Religion. He added: "Yoga is the Devil's work. You think you are doing it for stretching your mind and body but it leads to Hinduism. All these oriental religions are based on the false belief of reincarnation."

Leaving the Harry Potter bit aside for now, let's focus on this statement on yoga as we launch the new website

Yoga is not a religion, nor has it anything to do with religion - yoga is a spiritual discipline of self-realisation, of awareness unfolding. The Sanskrit word "yoga" comes from the word "yoke," which means "to join together," or "to unite." Yoga is the union of the individual's consciousness with the infinite consciousness. Viewing yoga only as a physical exercise system for vitality and health does not do it justice, and neither does seeing it solely as a psychological system that develops the potential of the psyche. Essentially, yoga is a relationship, a union, of body, mind and soul; of self (the individual consciousness) and Self (the Universal Consciousness). Nothing in that is the Devil's work...

Yoga takes you on a journey of finding your inner self, and as such it is about freedom: freedom from the religious ritualism that is so often devoid of true meaning, freedom from externally imposed rules or dogma's laid down by others, freedom from controlling forces. It is you relating to your spirit, your essence, your higher self, in the most personal inner relationship. In Kundalini Yoga this is called "Sat Nam": "Truth is my Identity." Yoga (just like Mindfulness and any type of meditation, for that matter) makes you aware of what is Ego - all the attachments you have and which you think create your self - and what is your True Self, your Essence. And that essence is just this: that you are. Not who you are, but THAT you are. Through experiencing your breath, your body and your mind, you become aware that you are in this moment in time. Nothing more, nothing less. As Yogi Bhajan put it so wonderfully: "We are all spiritual beings experiencing a human existence." Once you relate to yourself in this way, you will start relating to everyone around you in the same way: you will no longer relate to their ego, but to their essence, and you will realise that it is the same Essence as yours. "If you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all" (Yogi Bhajan) - something Father Amorth clearly is not capable of yet.

And yes, yoga can bring a person on a path that is affiliated with a certain religion, if the individual feels that that religion expresses his/her experience of his/her essence, but yoga doesn't aim to do so, and it is certainly not tied to any particular religion, contrary to what Father Amorth states. The reaction of the head of Rome's Yoga Academy Giorgio Furlan is quite interesting in this respect: "with me it had the effect of bringing me closer to Christianity and in particular the Catholic Church which I had abandoned as a youngster." But more than anything, yoga will bring you to you.

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