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Lesson 11 - What is Yoga? What is Religion?  (Audio)
    Addition 11.1 - You can't Win Some Arguments, But It's Okay
    Addition 11.2 - Human Spiritual Transformation in Christianity

Nov 16, 2003

Yoga. Religion. These two words conjure up so many images, don't they? Not all of them clear. Not all of them good. Let's not get into the foibles of humanity right now. Let's stick to the basics. For spiritual practice is best seen in terms of the basics, and often is clouded by the cultural coloring of these two simple words.

Yoga means, "to join." Religion means, "to bind back together." Hmmm... similar meanings. But to join or bind back together what? Ah ... this is the essence of it. We are, or seem to be, two things that are to be put back together. On the one hand we are in the world of space and time, a world we perceive through our senses. On the other hand we are observers of the world, something behind it all, within it all. We are conscious. Aware. We are both subject (observer) and object (observed). And these two things are separate. But must they be? Are they really? Yoga and religion say, "No." So the putting together process starts there. No matter what else you may have heard, that is what yoga and religion are really about.

But why the separation in the first place? If the two are really one, why are there two? Think about yourself for a minute. Who are you? Most of us point to our body and say, "This is me." We all sense something more, but the best we can do is observe our body and say, "This is me. This is my body. My name is Joe Schmo. I can think and feel, and that is part of me too."

If you were to say to someone, "I am something behind all this that you see, and behind all this that I think and feel. I am consciousness," might it seem a bit strange? Why strange? Because we are identified with our perceptions of our body/minds and this world. It is a habit, a deep biologically and neurologically ingrained habit. Not only that. Because we habitually imprint our sense of self on our body/mind, we see our physical surroundings as separate from ourselves. So the world becomes a stranger to itself. Through our process of identified perception the one has become many.

Yoga and religion are about clearing up the identification of awareness that has led to the one becoming many. Not that the world will go away. It is only to be seen for what it really is, a flow of the one, the real you. Then it becomes a much friendlier place. That's the whole point, to find happiness in our lives in the world. Even as the whole thing keeps lurching forward through the shadows of apparent separateness, we don't have to go on seeing it that way. This is the promise of yoga and religion. This is the promise of spiritual practices. It's a good promise. It is up to us to fulfill the promise of yoga and religion, using the best means we can find.

The joining is not just about an intellectual understanding of the situation, though that can't hurt. It is about changing our deepest functioning, biologically and neurologically. Then does our experience change. From that, our thoughts, feelings and actions change, becoming full of love and purpose. We could all use more of that. The identification gradually dissolves, and something stupendous comes up from within us. Yoga is not just an intellectual process. It is physical, as anyone who has taken a yoga class knows. Yoga practices operate on many levels - physical, mental, emotional, neurological - and in galaxies of inner ecstatic energy!

The process of joining begins with making direct contact with our inner self, our consciousness. Once we have established a foothold in consciousness, we can proceed from there with many other things. Becoming aware of our deepest consciousness on a regular basis is peaceful and pleasant and can bring immediate relief to a hectic, busy life. It is accomplished with meditation. A very particular kind of meditation called deep meditation. This is the first advanced yoga practice we will learn on our road to union, on the way to binding ourselves back together. It is a good first step that brings a big return for a small daily effort.

"Daily effort?" you say. This is what we will talk about next. For without a commitment to a daily effort, you will be wasting your time here, and anywhere else.

The guru is in you. 

Addition 11.1 - You Can't Win Some Arguments, But It's Okay
Jan 12, 2015

It is funny, you know. The AYP lessons have been presented as "non-sectarian," but have often been accused of being one sectarian thing or another, or even not religious enough.  Sectarian values never made much sense to me. So much bickering, misery and death throughout history have been the result of sectarian cultures, and sadly it is still going on.

Admittedly, my formative background in the 1950s and 60s has been Christian, with heavy doses of Eastern teachings since the early 1970s. The former was made obvious in The Secrets of Wilder novel, while the latter has been made obvious in the AYP writings as a whole. This kind of background is not uncommon for the generation of Americans and Europeans brought up during the conservative post World War II "baby boom" years, and giving way to the turbulent 1960s and 70s Vietnam War years. Many young adults of that era were driven to seek "something more" in life, because what was going on in the world at the time simply made no sense. I was no exception.

Are things so different now? There always seem to be good reasons for seeking a greater fulfillment beyond the ongoing foibles of human ignorance, including our own. It can be done! And these days, thanks to the internet, you don't have to run off to far-away places to do it, though there is nothing wrong with that.

So, rather than being a religious or non-religious endeavor, AYP is a practical one for unfolding the greater potential within us all. By now, these lessons have been viewed through many eyes, and colored accordingly.  No matter how much I say AYP is non-sectarian, someone will argue that it is. The funny thing is that AYP has been called Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, and even esoteric Jewish. Within the Eastern traditions, AYP has been called Mantra Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Tantra Yoga, and even a strange brand of Advaita-Vedanta, each to the exclusion of all the others. Arguing that AYP is not any particular brand has been fruitless, so at times I have said that it is any and all, borrowing the best from all teachings to create a practical integration. That argument seems okay to many (it is the truth), even to opportunistic atheists. And, no, AYP is not that either.

Even so, AYP continues to be labeled as this or that sectarian tradition, or at least springing from a single traditional source.  Not so.

Not being able to win the argument of AYP being truly non-sectarian has proven to be not so bad. Everyone views it in their own light, and that is okay. The important thing is that we engage in daily practice, because that is what brings results that can change our life for the better. Whatever motivation or belief brings us to the meditation seat each day will be the right one, because we will be changed by sitting with the easy practice of deep meditation.

Belief, combined with an intensity of desire to take action to make a difference in the quality of our life, will bring us to effective daily practice, and the associated inner openings that bring us more peace, energy and creativity in daily life. This can be accomplished within any religious or cultural setting. By this, the aims of both yoga and religion are fulfilled. Behind the external appearances, their aims are the same.

Practice is what counts.

Addition 11.2 - Human Spiritual Transformation in Christianity  
Sep 9, 2020

Q: I am hanging in there with AYP.  I am very religious since childhood, having been brought up in a Catholic/Christian background. However I became disillusioned and unsatisfied with the dogma of the church, so I began to pray to God to show me the true path of Christ. Well, God began leading me to meditation, but at first I was adamantly against that having been brought up believing meditation is for "freaks" and you could open yourself up to demons.  But God persisted with me and I told him I would give it a sincere shot. So I did, first with the breath as object and I made it a point to be on the lookout for demons (only kidding).  Then I began to feel something, but wasn't sure if it was working. I could not ask anyone in my world of work, and strict fundamental Christianity. 

All through this I was educating myself and trying to find the best system, but found so much dogma and things about foreign gods that it troubled me, until I came across the AYP System, which did not reference all these non-Christian gods and the like.  And so, after a month of breathing meditation I began the AYP system.  After about a month of Deep Meditation and Spinal Breathing Pranayama, something indescribable happened.  I began to feel an energy/force I had never felt in my life, stirring around the root and sacral area and I thought to myself: Is this the Kundalini thing they are talking about? Well suffice it to say that it indeed was.  So upward the Holy Spirit began her journey but I remembered your teachings about not getting caught up in the scenery and just keep with the path/exercises which I tried.  As I kept tracing the sushumna from root to crown in spinal breathing I felt something in my heart! Then I felt tears drop off my face.  I thought, what is this? But they were tears of joy as the Holy Spirit entered my heart, bringing a feeling of Love/bliss that I never even thought possible as a human being.  In this place there was no guilt, shame, time, nothing except the most unimaginable love/bliss.

There were a few more stirrings through the months since but nothing like this experience.  I could not interpret everything about the experience but my understanding of it increased as time passed. The best way I could explain this is an explanation I heard in a lecture.  It was the beginning of an unfolding or expansion within myself. I may be wrong, but I feel like I was "born again," and it seemed like everything the Bible describes about being born again, except for real, not just words.  I knew one thing for sure. I could never return to the person I was, and that indeed I needed the soul, higher self, essence to guide me through the rest of my life. I even stopped eating meat.

I tell you, if Christians (or anyone for that matter) ever experienced this state, the church/world would be radically different. I began to see the scriptures in a different light and realized Jesus and his disciples were yogis (or spiritual adepts, or whatever comes close).  I studied like crazy things I always had blocks to studying in the world's mystical traditions. I continue on now in my third year doing twice a day, every day, pranayama and deep meditation.  So, for this teaching, I thank you.

A: Happy to hear the AYP resources have been a help on your path. Some beautiful openings you are experiencing there. I was raised Christian also, and have never found any conflict with the results of meditation and yoga practices in relation to Christianity, once we look past the dogma and cultural trappings, which have little to do with true spiritual development. In fact, as you point out, Christians (and anyone in any religion) can gain much truth and spiritual development within their own faith with the kind of non-sectarian techniques AYP offers. 

All the best on your continuing path!

The guru is in you.

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Note: For a detailed overview on building a daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Online Book.

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