Religion and Spirituality
From the earliest 15th century settlements of Pilgrims and Puritans who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom, this country was founded on the idea that each of us has the right to decide what spirituality means to us personally and practice our faith without fear of persecution. Religious freedom — spiritual freedom — is our birthright, just as the awakening of the Kundalini energy is our birthright. The spirit and the subtle energy system are found in all human beings, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, age or gender.
Still, Americans have struggled across the centuries to understand the true meaning of spirituality. Along the way, the lines between spirituality and religion blurred. The two words are often used synonymously, conflated to have the same meaning. But they don’t have the same meaning, or at least, not necessarily. One can be religious, yet not be spiritual (connected to the divine energy that created the universe). And one can be spiritual without being religious (devoted to a specific doctrine, set of beliefs or rituals).
Religions are man-made structures, evolving over the years around the teachings of various prophets or spiritual messengers. Humans, interpreting (or perhaps misinterpreting) the messages of these prophets divided into various factions, which only further obscured spiritual truth. Yet, these prophets, though they hailed from different countries at different points in history, all spoke about the same truths: The truth of the spirit within us and the ultimate goal of a human life — to achieve enlightenment.
The Sahaja perspective of spirituality is that it is the true religion within oneself. Spirituality is the absolute truth that transcends all religions.
The emergence of Yoga and Meditation
Most of us grew up within one religion or another. Growing up in 20th century U.S., most people you met were either Christians, Jews, or non-religious. Certainly within Christianity, there are many different denominations, including Protestants (e.g., Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.), Catholics, Mormons, various Evangelical movements. Before the colonial period, spiritual history in the U.S. was dominated by Native American spiritual practices. The spiritual makeup of America ultimately became quite diverse due to the proliferation of Christian denominations, especially when you consider that many countries have been dominated by a single religion for centuries, such as: Catholicism in Italy and Ireland, Hinduism in India, or Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most Americans were socialized to believe that spirituality requires “organization,” and regular attendance of church or synagogue. So yoga and meditation as a personalized spiritual practice is a relatively new idea to us, whereas people who grew up in Eastern countries viewed yoga/meditation as a “normal” spiritual practice. But by the early 1960s, Eastern forms of spiritual yoga and meditation were beginning to spread across the U.S, even if not yet in the mainstream. But some of these forms of meditation (such as Zen and Tibetan Buddhist practices) established deep roots in American culture and are the foundations from which other spinoff forms of meditation would evolve.
More Americans were seeking out gurus, teachers or spirit guides to help them discover the Inner Self and pursue the path of enlightenment or self-realization. Some found that achieving enlightenment or self-realization wasn’t as easy as some charismatic gurus had led them to believe. Some of those so-called gurus even turned out to be con artists, more interested in taking money from Americans rather than helping them achieve enlightenment. And as meditation and yoga became more popular, commercial interest exploded and yoga/meditation had become, in many cases, a thriving commercial enterprise.
It seems that many of the Eastern gurus teaching yoga and meditation to Americans don’t necessarily understand the true meaning of yoga themselves. Some view it as a system of postures, breathing and stretching exercises, rather than the union of the Kundalini energy with the all-pervading divine energy.
The differing techniques of yoga and meditation spreading across America have different views of spirituality, too. Even among spiritual forms of meditation, spirituality itself seems to have different meanings. Some meditation and yoga techniques aim to connect the practitioner, ultimately, to the universal divine or to a particular deity or deities; others view spirituality as connecting to one’s own spirit or inner self in a mental health, self-improvement, self-help sort of way.
The Sahaja Yoga Difference
What was sorely missing in the U.S. until Sahaja Yoga’s arrival in 1973 was a meditation/yoga technique that allowed one to easily and directly access one’s own true spiritual truth, discover the Inner Self, and achieve self-realization. But this is exactly what spirituality has been all along — a simple method of connecting the Inner Self to the all-pervading spiritual power in order to realize these benefits.
Sahaja Yoga offers Americans the best of both worlds… the ancient spiritual secrets of the Eastern mystics and monks distilled to a simple technique that combines the power of the Kundalini energy with American views of self-improvement, spirituality, and self-realization. Traditionally, the spiritual and practical self-improvement aspects of meditative practice were often seen as separate goals, separate paths. Sahaja Yoga integrates the two aspects.
Because the meditation techniques of Sahaja Yoga allow one to connect directly to the source of spiritual truth, there’s no longer a need to cling solely to faith-based paradigms of spirituality or become mired in an elaborate web of religious beliefs or rules. Once you become attuned to your own subtle energy system through the practice of meditation in Sahaja Yoga, real and tangible experience of constant feedback from your energy centers will verify what’s true and guide your spiritual journey.
And there’s no commercial intent involved in the practice of Sahaja Yoga, it is offered entirely free to the public.