Yoga and Religion

Laxmi by Unknown Indian Artist

We try to understand why Yoga is not a religon.

Comparison of Religions

Religion is a western concept and therefore the word has been defined by western culture and beliefs dominated by the religions of the book Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

1. One may have only one faith or religion. Thus you must be either Christian or Muslim. You cannot be both.

2. A religion always makes a claim to Truth. A religion claims that their way is the only one and superior to all others.

If we accept both the above conditions then, what came to be known as eastern religions, originating in India, such as Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), Jain Dharma (Jainism) and Buddhist Dharma (Buddhism) cannot be classified as religions. The same can said to be true for rich spiritual traditions from the Far East: Shinto, Tao and Confucianism.

1. Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism as it is popularly called allows you to have different beliefs and practices from other faiths. A Hindu may have pictures of different gods, prophets and saints on his altar. A Hindu is frequently seen to pay respects to deities, prophets, saints and places of worship of all spiritual traditions without exception. Jains are often devotees of Amba, a personalized form of the Divine Mother.

2. Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism does not make a claim on Truth. They see all faiths as paths leading to the same. They assert all paths to be valid. Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism does not make converts. Anyone who accepts the authority of the Vedas is a Hindu.

Is Yoga a religion?

Yoga does not require you to give up any of your religious beliefs. You can practice Yoga even if you are Christian or Muslim. Neither does Yoga claim to be the only way to the Divine.

Yoga allows you to explore the nature of the Divine, of Truth or Higher Reality. It provides you with techniques that will let you explore the inner as well as the outer worlds so that you may experiment and verify the Truth for yourself.

You remain free to create your own lifestyle, adopt your own values and beliefs through trial and error, through experiences in life. Persons of any religion may practice Yoga to experience the nature of the Divine for themselves.

All those not satisfied by arbitrary rules, those who inquire, question and challenge the standard norms of society, those who want to know the whole and are not satisfied with beliefs and rituals are ideally suited to the method of Yoga.

Yoga is not a religion

It is important to note that while Yoga is not a religion, it has sprung out of the Hindu homeland.

Book Recommendations

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (8 volume set)

Autobiography of a Yogi : Includes Bonus CD

A History of Indian Philosophy (5 volume set)

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