Is Sat Yoga a belief?
Questioner: Dear Shunyamurti. Thank you for your wonderful recent answers. I am writing this to impose yet another question on you:
What is your belief called? Aspects of it can be found in so many religions and beliefs; Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Stoicism, Plato, Socrates... I really don't know what to call it. I know you teach a special form of spirituality, but aspects of it can be found in nearly every religion. I wouldn't say Pantheism, because Pantheism doesn't include the practice of meditation, and doesn't mention enlightenment at all. What would you call your belief?
Shunyamurti: Sat Yoga is a set of biopsychospiritual technologies for the transformation of human consciousness. The transformational science of Sat Yoga was originally developed some 5,000 years ago in what is now India. The knowledge spread both eastward (as Taoist alchemy, tai chi and chi kung, Ch’an Buddhism, and Zen) and westward (as the source of the Greek and later Western philosophic lineages and Middle Eastern religious traditions), and this technology became the basis of what are now the world’s religions and philosophic and spiritual traditions.
The Yogic tradition has continued unbroken in India, but has branched into many specialized forms, most of which have lost the sense of Sat Yoga’s original wholeness. We are now re-integrating the insights that have been culled from the various branches of Yogic science into a single comprehensive paradigm. The Yogas that we have synthesized include Gyana Yoga (the knowledge of our Higher Self), Raja Yoga (the science of meditation), Kundalini Yoga (the science of transforming psychic energies), Karma Yoga (the theory and practice of egoless action), Swapna Yoga (the science of dream consciousness), Ashtanga Yoga (the eightfold path that includes ethical principles, physical asanas, and pranic breathing techniques), Mahavakya Yoga (the art of awakening others through speech), and Nisarga Yoga (attaining the natural state of transfinite awareness).
Aspects of the Sat Yoga philosophy can be clearly found in Plotinus and the neo-Platonist philosophers, the Catholic teachings of Meister Eckhart, Saint Thomas Aquinas (and his modern exponent Jacques Maritain), the esoteric texts of the Kabbalists and European alchemists, and in the works of such philosophers as Hume, Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel. The Yogic concept of prana (known in China as chi) was rediscovered in the West by Anton Mesmer and called animal magnetism. But his work was banned and never developed into a true science. (Over a century later, Wilhelm Reich, working from a psychoanalytic paradigm, would re-discover the same force, and call it orgone energy, but history repeated itself, and he also found himself persecuted and imprisoned for his work, which was too far ahead of its time.) A great deal of intellectual ferment was occurring at the same time on other fronts that would bring some of the core insights of Sat Yoga back into human consciousness. Nietszche, despite the many flawed aspects of his understanding, was boldly re-opening the long-overlooked questions of causality, of nothingness, and of cyclic recurrence. The French philosopher Henri Bergson also delved into Yogic waters at the beginning of the twentieth century, developing a deepened understanding of élan vital (prana), time, consciousness, matter, and evolution. Philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead at the same time contributed a deeper understanding of process, a central concept in Sat Yoga.
At the same historic moment, elements of this most ancient science of the Self (known in Sanskrit as Atman) were partially revived as a healing modality—at least in terms of re-discovering the lower mental sheath and its vasanas and sanskaras (re-dubbed the unconscious), the lower chakras (conceived as drives), kundalini (misunderstood as libido), and the importance, if not the true significance, of dreams—by Sigmund Freud (who was influenced by the philosopher Schopenhauer, who in turn was inspired by the first Western translation of the ancient Indian atmanological texts called the Upanishads). The field of psychoanalysis for many reasons remained mired in the lower levels of the psyche. But other researchers, such as Carl Jung, Rene Guenon, John Levy, Wei Wu Wei, Mircea Eliade, Henry Corbin, Joseph Campbell, Sri Aurobindo, Fritjof Schuon, and more recent theorists in the field of transpersonal psychology, such as Ken Wilber and A.H. Almaas, have, despite the limitations of their perspectives, revitalized the effort to understand the higher levels of the transformational process.
Further pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place thanks to the efforts of thinkers who have worked out the enigmas of conceptual thought in relation to human reality, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Derrida and Mark Taylor; mathematicians such as Gottlob Frege and Georg Cantor, the latter having developed the indispensable concept of transfinite numbers; phenomenologists including Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, who opened new intellectual paths toward the ancient meditative understanding of the spectrum of consciousness; and those who have explored the relationship between language and psychic energy, in particular, the psychoanalysts Jacques Lacan, Heinz Kohut, and Wilfred Bion, and the poststructuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze. The attachment theorist John Bowlby and child analysts like Melanie Klein, Francoise Dolto, and Margaret Mahler have taught us a great deal about the development of the infantile psyche. We also owe much to the synthesizing efforts of contemporary Buddhist philosophers like Kitaro Nishida, Keiji Nishitani, D.T. Suzuki, David Loy, and Masao Abe. The revived ancient Indian science of Ayurveda has been usefully expounded in a Westernized framework by such practitioners as Vasant Lad, Robert Svoboda, and David Frawley. And of course the findings in the field of modern physics, both relativity and quantum mechanics, have gone far to demonstrate the insights of Sat Yoga in the real of elemental material being. Perhaps most important, sages in the lineage of Yoga and Advaita Vedanta of recent years—including Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and Baba Hari Das—have kept the living power of enlightened presence before our eyes as an undisputable reality. But a clear and complete paradigm has until recently eluded human understanding.
Above all, it must be remembered that ultimate reality transcends the rational mind. Concepts can never grasp the Absolute. Our conceptual knowledge of the noumenal order is like a ladder that, once having been climbed, must be left behind, in order to actually enter into the Supreme Real. It is the addiction to Logos, the fascination with the mind as an object, that is the final obstacle to Liberation. This tendency to remain within the symbolic order is responsible for the eventual petrifaction and loss of potency of every spiritual path.
Religions have tended to develop both esoteric and exoteric levels. The outer, exoteric, level tends to become fossilized as ritual, dogma, clerical hierarchy and closed-minded fundamentalism. But most religions manage to maintain an esoteric core that transmits at least some of the original knowledge that was its reason for being. However, it is a law of human nature that the purity and spiritual energy of cultures tend toward decay and decline. The knowledge of how to raise our species’ level of consciousness and psychological maturity has now gone into eclipse at the macro-social level. This is the root cause of the present world crises we are facing. A new renaissance of spiritual consciousness is taking place, however, at the micro-level across the planet. The revival of the lost wisdom of Sat Yoga is part of this global spiritual revolution.