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The Role of Religion

“The word religion comes from the Latin word religare which means “to bind”, as in, to bind oneself to set of views of beliefs about the world and thereby creating that particular reality through one’s actions, thoughts, words, and deeds.” – Grant Ifflander

Understanding religion can be an important part of weaving and integrating together the spiritual philosophies expounded through Yoga and what we have so far covered. Observing the need for humans to create a “God-concept” helps us orient to the overall idea of spirituality. Allow us to investigate the role of religion and how it emerges out of humanity's innate spiritual quest in the module.

According to psychology and neuroscience religion is a way that humans can organize their prone-to-chaos psyche into a certain level of coherence. This is the case due to the fact that our brains function optimally when we employ higher order beliefs. Higher order beliefs are beliefs that transcend the individual and assist us in behaving in ways that are supportive to our families, our communities, our societies, and the Earth as a whole. These are beliefs that, when believed in, move us away from selfishness and towards a less limited sense of self. Interestingly, this process – the process of transcendence that we are describing – is fundamentally a Tantric process. Therefore, it may be said that the mechanics of spirituality embedded in all (effective) religion is fundamentally Tantric. We put (effective) here in parentheses to suggest that religion can be ineffective. We are not interested in debating the efficacy of the different types of religion and faith, per se, but we are very much interested (being the spiritual scientists that we are as yogis) in understanding what produces a positive result. As yogis, we are interested in the underlying mechanics that ensure good harmony within our organism and between our organisms – as Yoga is the pursuit of unity. Thus efficacy is important!

So, what beliefs serve us? How does religion fit into this?

Krishnamacharya was known for saying that “Yoga is the means to actualize the faith of one’s particular religion”. He believed, and taught, that yoga sadhana, when done correctly and in accordance with one’s innermost beliefs, would help them actualize their ideals. Why would this be so?

We must understand that since the beginning of time, religion has been an attempt of humans to organize the chaos of the psyche. We all know the destructive tendencies of mind, when left unattended. What we discover in our path and process is that when we practice seeing things a certain way, we start to see the world differently, and the world literally becomes different. We all know that real change happens from within. The amazing advent of quantum physics and quantum mechanics holds keys to the scientific explanation of “when we change how we are looking at things, things change” (see the double slit experiment). It is no surprise that the human psyche needs training. As a species, we have survived (and evolved) through many, many horrific experiences. We are still very much animals and driven by base instincts. War (and the other terrible atrocities of life) is the result of the morbid tendencies of our race. Religion was, and is, an attempt to bring into alignment and balance the inner forces which seek to destroy us and others.

The scriptures of religion were largely written by what we would call, in the yogic tradition, seers. Ones who had realized the true nature of Reality. These masters had darshan, or divine vision, and from their enlightened experience began to share the shakti of this with their tribes and communities. Achieving a Higher View and being able to look down on the damage caused by tribalism and less efficient belief systems, these masters wanted to bring peace to Earth because they saw, clearly, the ongoing destruction that was the result of humans left unchecked, unguided, or perhaps un-spiritualized.

The idea of a Self-Realized being becoming a religious leader is fascinating as you probably might guess that they, being fully aware of the Oneness of All Things, did not intend for humans to rally around them and perpetuate more division and tribalism, although that has been the case in many instances. Knowing what is driving this behavioral tendency may be helpful in understanding the root cause, so it is encouraged to explore this in oneself – through regular yoga and meditation practice.

Yoga and meditation practice is the means by which we become aware of our deep seated tendencies and beliefs. It is very important – if not critical – that we begin to understand why we are the way we are. Religion has been an attempt to explain this, in different ways across different times, according to the collective karma of society and culture. The scriptures of religion do hold keys to our success as a race, and many esoteric codes are hidden in the sacred literature. However in order to see and understand these secret messages, we are responsible for becoming clear enough channels of light to be able to perceive what the original masters perceived. This clear seeing is how we integrate the role of religion into our lives – without dogma, without separation, without judgment.

We can become the seers of our time, the Great Realizers of the Oneness of life. Step by step and bit by bit, with care and attention to the process, we can purify our minds and hearts to be able to directly perceive what all great rishis spoke of.


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