Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 20 - Enlightenment without God?
Date: Sun Nov 30, 2003 4:02pm
Q: I am an atheist. A friend told me about this group. Frankly, I find the religious overtones annoying. But I was curious and tried the meditation, and have been pleasantly surprised. I would like to continue because it calms my nerves, and I remain curious as to what I might learn about myself. But I am still an atheist! Is there such a thing as enlightenment without God?
A: There is enlightenment both with and without God. This is because human beings are inherently enlightenable, transformable to a higher state of evolution, regardless of the belief system utilized. We could say that all of existence is headed in that direction, from the rocks up through all the kingdoms of living things. Everything is moving forward. Humanity is no exception. We humans have an added ability to consciously accelerate the process, to choose a fast track, which is what advanced yoga practices are about. We can turbo-charge the evolutionary process.
There has always been a mystique about human spiritual evolution. It is a practical mystique, a mystique with a purpose. The conception of God by humanity has been a necessary relationship structure. It has enabled humanity to surrender to its higher destiny, and approach it enthusiastically. At its best, this is what belief in God is – Belief in humanity’s highest destiny, emerging from within us, and ultimately experienced all around us. Belief in God helps people to personally participate in the most exciting part of the human journey – the enlightenment process.
Is it necessary to believe in God for this unfoldment to occur? No. But it is necessary to believe in something in order to move in the direction of enlightenment.
If we are sitting in a café in New York, and I tell you there is a wonderful place called California three thousand miles away and that you should go see it, why would you go? Suppose you didn’t believe me, didn’t believe such a place existed at all. How could you find the motivation to go? It would be hard. Having never been west of the Mississippi River, you might believe that everyone who has gone past the Mississippi fell off the edge of the earth. This is, in fact, how Europeans felt about the Atlantic Ocean until people like Columbus and Magellan proved that there was a new world on the other side, and more.
To be motivated to do something about moving forward, you have to believe in the possibility of the destination. For many, the journey toward salvation is fueled by a belief in God. But it doesn’t have to be about God. It can also be about truth, and believing that there is a final truth about us, in us, and that we can live it, become it. It can also be a belief in a personal process of transformation, and our own experience of it as we practice meditation and other yoga methods. Experiencing the journey naturally unfolding through practices can be more than enough to believe in, once the process has gotten underway and our experiences of deep silence and bliss light the fire of our desire to go for more and more. Whether we are selling out to our own rising experience of peace and bliss, or to the idea of pursuing the ultimate truth of life, or to a relationship with God, the result will be the same – an unwavering devotion to becoming one with “That” which is true.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”… No mention of God there.
The word “God” does not exist in Buddhism or Taoism. Each has found its own intellectual and emotional motivations for approaching the infinite within. In all approaches it is the same thing that is sought, that great inner truth which lies deep within our heart, mind and senses — That which we can merge with by direct means, which, in turn, brightly illuminates our heart, mind and senses. This is the joining. By any name or belief structure, the outcome will be the same, so long as the aspirant has found the motivation to apply the methods of transformation on a daily basis.
So, it does not matter exactly how you have come to believe in a place called, “California.” You may even call it by some other name. If you believe enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will eventually be dipping your toes into the Pacific Ocean. If you don’t believe it is there, you aren’t likely to put forth the effort to get there. It’s that simple.
Think of enlightenment in whatever way that inspires you the most, and use that inspiration to meditate every day…
Be tolerant of your brothers and sisters who cherish beliefs that are different from yours. We will each develop our own unique passion for the journey, and we are all headed home.
The guru is in you.