Monday, March 04, 2013

Is Yoga the Anti-Religion?

Last night I watched a documentary called "With One Voice" that featured a group of mystics from fourteen different spiritual traditions talking about Oneness. I was very pleased when my favorite guru, Sadhguru, started the show. Every word out of this man's mouth seems to resonate in me. It all seems so clear and makes so much sense. The basis of the movie was that we (all creatures on this planet) are inter-connected. There is no breaking point at which we, as a person, ends and the universe begins. Sadhguru explained the first time he sat for meditation and could no longer sense "himself" as being seperate from the ground that he sat on or the air that he breathed.

Although I am not yet to the point where I can say I know exactly what this feels like, I can at least grasp this concept of Oneness with the Universe. I was brought up Catholic and always believed in God. Whether I call this power "God" or something else, I believe there is an almighty force responsible for all that is. It's the whole institutionalized "religion" aspect that never did sit well with me.

During the documentary one of the speakers tried to draw the parallel of talking about religion as we would talk about food. Imagine a group of people and each person believes that we should only eat one particular kind of food and they are so sure and passionate that this one particular food is THE right food for us and all other foods are wrong. So you may have the "pizza" person condoning pizza and claiming that all other food is bad and wrong. Then you have the "pasta" person who does the same in favor of their food. How ridiculous would that be? And yet that is exactly what we do with religion.

I went from watching this movie last night to attending a funeral mass this afternoon. Although I was brought up Catholic and even attended Catholic school, I have since fallen away from the church. In fact, you will only find me in one for a wedding or a funeral and today it became clear why that is. The entire mass just seems so meaningless to me. I heard the priest drone on and on with what (to me) are empty words. It's the same words over and over, with the same robotic responses from the parishioners We all stood up, sat down, kneeled down, and then repeated several times. What is that all about anyway?

I sat there and just couldn't help but to think about the fact that my yoga and meditation makes so much more sense to me. Yes, I went seeking for a guru, which I found and learned a great deal from, but I got the info I needed and now I'm on my own. I can sit in my house, on a beach, in a field, in an airport, or anywhere else in the world and go within to experience the Oneness. I don't need a church or a priest. I just don't understand the whole institution of it and it makes me wonder . . . is it because of yoga that I feel this way? Did yoga make me lose my faith in the church? Because of yoga I have opened my eyes to things that I never knew existed. I saught out teachings from a guru that made more sense to me than any bible verse ever could.

Maybe now I understand the controversy surrounding yoga and religion. Maybe now I realize why my local church wouldn't allow me to teach yoga in their gym. A couple of years ago I didn't understand, but it's becoming more clear to  me. I guess what I believe in is that the Universe (or God, or the Source, the Devine, or whatever you would like to call it) is inside of me and there is no need for a middle man. Yes, it makes me a bad Catholic, but it doesn't make me a bad person. If fact, I think it makes me a better one.

If you are interested, you can watch the film here:

And I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this subject. Am I alone with these feelings? Am I the only one that fell away from religion with my increased practice of meditition? If your belief in your religion changed in any way (decreased or increased) since practicing yoga, please leave a comment or drop me a line to tell me about it. I'm fascinated with this subject and would love to explore it further.

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