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Podcast – Yoga as the Essence of Religion

Part of a talk on religion given on a yoga teacher training course in Andalusia, Spain, during the Spring of 2019. Subtitles are available by clicking “CC” below the video.

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I’m going to talk a bit about religion first because, I mean it’s a fascinating subject. It’s something I’ve been interested in for, for years you know; years and years. And actually, the more you understand, the more you practice yoga, and the more you understand yoga, the more you understand religion. And the more you understand every religion, you know, even without studying them. Because, the heart of every religion is yoga. You know, in truth, at the heart of every religion is yoga, and there’s a yoga practice. And so, the founders of every major religion in the world had a spiritual practice, which led them to realize the union of the self and the Divine, and that is yoga, that’s what yoga is. Any practice which leads to the union of the self and the Divine, in that yogic communion, or yogic joining, that is yoga. And so, the Buddha practiced yoga and founded the Buddhist tradition. Jesus practiced yoga and founded the Christian tradition. Everyone, Mahavira founded the Jain tradition, the Taoists, you know, there isn’t, there isn’t any religion which isn’t based on yoga.

But then of course, they have their own language. And you could, and so then you could say well what’s the difference between a religion and yoga? And that’s actually quite a difficult thing to answer because it’s, it’s actually quite difficult to answer the question what is religion? You could say, well religion is the belief in God. But it actually isn’t, because there are some religions where people don’t believe in God, like the Buddhist religion. The Buddha said there is no Brahman and there is no Atman, practice and find out for yourself. So, religion can be a belief in God but not necessarily. So, really religion is, it’s more like, it’s more intangible than that. It’s more like a shared set of beliefs, or a shared set of rituals, or a shared set of practices. It’s more like just people having something in common on their spiritual path. Yes.

“Doesn’t the word religion actually mean “coming together”?”
“Ligo” to bind, from the Latin “to bind” and “re” to do again. So, to “re-bind”, or to “re-join”. So, it actually means the same thing as “yoga”. So, it’s really, it’s really just, you could say different yogic traditions, that the religions are different yogic traditions. So then, so then where does the, where does all the infighting come from? So, yeah, it’s really, it’s a really bizarre. It’s one of the most bizarre things in the history of humanity because, if all the religions are founded on yoga, and yoga is about union with the Divine, and part of that as we talked about last night is about the opening of the heart and coming into experiencing unconditional love for everyone, then uh, why do different religions end up fighting each other? And, personally, I believe that, you know, that it’s a lot more political than that. That the religions get kind of harnessed by political leaders. It’s not really, you know, the war doesn’t start because someone says, you know, you’re doing the wrong yogic practices, you should be doing our yoga practices, and we’re going to make sure you do, with our swords. You know, it’s not, personally I think that what really happens is that one Kingdom thinks I’d like land from their Kingdom, and then they use religion as an excuse. It’s “these people are non-believers; we need to kill them”. So, I don’t think it’s really a, a religious issue. I think it’s a, it’s politics and politics are using religious, people’s religious beliefs to get people to fight, basically. But it’s amazing that it works. It’s amazing that people from different religious traditions don’t just turn around and say, you know, what about “love thy neighbour?”, you know, because most religions have love as a central teaching, and, tolerance as a central teaching, peacefulness, harmlessness as an essential teaching, “turn the other cheek”, you know, ahimsa, it’s all, it’s all there.

Essentially yoga is not a religion. You don’t have to believe anything to practice yoga. Well actually, you do, you have to believe one thing to practice yoga, which you probably won’t guess. Anyone guess what’s the one thing you have to believe?
“That it works.”
Yeah, you have to believe that it works. You have to believe that getting onto your mat and doing the practices, is going to transform, do something to transform your life. If you don’t believe that then you won’t do it. But you don’t have to believe in God, you don’t have to believe in other dimensions, you don’t have to believe that you’ll be reborn when you die, you don’t have to believe in reincarnation, you don’t have to believe that you should be a vegetarian, you don’t have to believe anything. Everyone can practice yoga without any, er, any requirements.

So, then, so going back to what I was saying before, the more you practice yoga, the deeper you get into it, the more you start to see, in every religion you start to see that there’s a kind of core; the core teachings of every religion are pretty much just pure yoga. It’s all just about purifying your heart and mind, and coming into union with the Divine.

“How does this fit in with the idea that you have to come to know Jesus before you die?”
So, I would say you need to know Christ before you die, yeah. So, slightly different language, and so yeah, and so the term “Jesus Christ” is an interesting one, because it wasn’t his name. He wasn’t “Mr Christ”. So, his name was Jesus, or Jesus of Nazareth. And then the Christ label, “The Christ”, is an interesting one because, actually, I might talk about this a bit more tonight. I mentioned, um, I mentioned, the production of a particular fluid in the body that happens as part of the, the journey. It’s a fluid called Amrita that comes up inside the body, and actually comes out of the crown, and it feels like oil being dropped on the crown, okay? So, it’s quite a high-level stage in yoga. And the word “Christ” actually means “one who has been anointed”, okay, one who’s been anointed. It’s the Greek translation of the word “Messiah”, which means the same thing: “one who has been anointed” and er, my own belief is that this sensation of oil dripping on the top of the head is what it’s referring to. So, “Jesus Christ”, [is] “Jesus who has been anointed”. And uh, and so Christ really refers to a state of consciousness. It’s a, it’s a very pure level of consciousness and, uh, so to know Christ, the way I understand it, means to know that state of consciousness that Jesus was living in before he was crucified. So, uh, yeah, we can all do that, if we want to. If we work at it. Work at the practices.