An atheist cannot be spiritual. It is also difficult for a theist to be spiritual, too. The difference is that one believes in God and the other doesn’t. Both of them are believing something they do not know. You are not sincere enough to admit that you do not know. That is the problem. So theists and atheists are not different. They are the same people putting up an act of being different. A spiritual seeker is neither theist nor atheist. He has realised that he does not know, he is seeking. Our Associate Editor, Navodita, an expert on Yoga gives us rare insight into a complex area with ease, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Spirituality does not mean any particular practice. If you cultivate your body, mind, emotions and energies to a certain level of maturity, something else blossoms within you – that is spirituality. When your rationale is immature, it doubts everything. When your rationale matures, it sees everything in a completely different light.
Humility is the Way to Freedom
An atheist cannot be spiritual. It is also difficult for a theist to be spiritual, too. The difference is that one believes in God and the other doesn’t. Both of them are believing something they do not know. You are not sincere enough to admit that you do not know. That is the problem. So theists and atheists are not different. They are the same people putting up an act of being different. A spiritual seeker is neither theist nor atheist. He has realised that he does not know, he is seeking.
Ishya Yoga Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says, “The moment you believe something, you become blind to everything else. The whole conflict on the planet is not between good and evil as they are trying to project it.”
It is always one man’s belief versus another man’s belief. The need for belief is more psychological than spiritual. You want to cling to something, you want to feel secure, and you want to feel like you know it all. That is coming from a very immature mind. What is the problem if you don’t know anything about this existence? You actually don’t know anything. It’s beautiful! You see how to make yourself beautiful and joyful within yourself, which is in your hands.
It is thus important to understand that one should not always have a preconceived notion about life. The joy is in exploring life and experiencing its unpredictability- what it can do to you while you have to be your best all the time and celebrate its abundance. The ‘Unknowingness’ within life brings within you a sense of humility where you learn to let go and still work towards the goal, celebrating every moment.
Equanimity and Equipoise are Important
If you come to do yoga looking for joy and pleasure, yoga will eventually disappoint you. If you instead learn to train the mind to be present, focussed and equanimous regardless of the inevitable vicissitudes of life, then you will gain your freedom and spirituality will come knocking at your door. There are traditionally three important things for further grounding in yoga- you have to commit to the practice for an entire lifetime not just a few years or months or weeks, you have to practise both on and off the mat, thirdly, your intention and sincerity matter.
These practices remove the go’s attachment to getting anywhere fast in the practice, as much as you are willing to put in the effort, the practice will give back to you, and you have to set your intention on the spiritual journey of yoga. If you know that your reason for doing yoga is to be more joyful, peaceful and happy person, then all the necessary lessons that lead to that result will become evident through the vehicle of that practice.
Yoga is not about getting rid of any external situations and circumstances that may be troubling you and controlling your environment. Yoga is about keeping your peace of mind regardless of whether you experience ease and flow, stickiness or difficulty. Changing external situations is a losing battle, but gaining control of your own nervous system is something that you can truly master.
Hence, Yoga helps you steer through all sorts of situations with ease- you just have to be constant in your practice and effort to achieve excellence and equanimity. Yoga can make you strong from inside when your external situations may not be perfect. This is indeed a major challenge you have to face and tide over while doing Yoga- battling odds to somehow practice it daily with a degree of faith and sincerity.
More than just physical yoga taking a tad closer to yourself, let us dwell on the signs that can help you gauge whether you are doing Yoga superficially or holistically. Practising ahimsa (non-violence), practising Yoga ‘spiritually’, feeling compassion for your fellow practitioner are all such instances where you need to get a deeper understanding while practicing Yoga. Violence does not mean only having a vegan diet, but it can manifest in myriad ways – it usually comes in the form of verbal and mental slashes against ourselves and one another. We shouldn’t forget that our service to others is just as important as any service we give to ourselves. Yoga, partially makes us too involved with ourselves and we should constantly make an effort to give off our time to others, too. Spirituality should come with Yoga not just with religion.
Yoga then is a greater mental exercise and less a physical exercise. It needs to be understood in its full context and complete form else we will only be scraping the surface.
Photos from the internet.
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Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24×7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.