Many Paths, One Destination
Many Paths, One Destination, by Rev. Teresa Stuefloten
Today I’m going to talk to you about Yoga. When we hear the word Yoga, most of us think of Hatha Yoga. We think it’s exercise. Did you know that Hatha Yoga is actually intended as a preparation of the body for meditation and prayer? Hatha Yoga is “A system of techniques and physical postures (asanas) that promotes health and mental calm. (DR, Yogananda) When you are mentally calm you can more easily tune into God in meditation and prayer.
Yoga - “From Sanscrit yuj,’union’. Yoga means union of the individual soul with Spirit.” (DR, Yogananda) To yoke, to bind back to God. (Uma) “To ‘yoke’ or ‘unify.’ To bring together, to identify with the one Consciousness by using specific (spiritual) practices that remove restrictions from the mind and awareness.” (Roy) Yoga is binding back to Source. A yogi is a person who is on the spiritual path, learning that they are one with God, Spirit, Source. So if you are on the Spiritual Path, you are a Yogi !
And, actually, we are all on the spiritual path whether we know it or not, because we are Spirit, so our life is our Spiritual path. All of life is a spiritual path. There is no other path. We are are all in the process of awakening to who we truly are. We are each a beautiful Spirit having a human experience.
When we come into this life, fresh from the other side, do you know that as newborn babies we did not even have the awareness of ourselves as separate from our Mother? We did not even have a sense or a separate self. We knew our Oneness when we first arrived in this physical body. We were one with our Mother. She was our source of nourishment and love. When we hold a newborn we can feel this innocence and purity in them. And then gradually, as we grew and had more experience with the physical world, we developed the false belief that we were the body. We could see it & touch it. You know how a baby grabs it’s own feet & explores them, putting them in it’s mouth, tasting them? Because we could see and touch the body, we developed the false belief that this temporary manifestation is who we are. As we learn to crawl and walk, we develop more mastery over the body. We can now move away from our Mother, our source of nourishment. We decide we are separate and develop ego and will. Now we need the spiritual path to come back to the knowledge we had of who we truly are.
As we have different temperaments, there are different approaches to finding our oneness with God. There are different approaches to realizing the Truth that we are the eternal soul, not the temporary body. These different approaches are the different types of yoga. Some come primarily from love, some from the intellect, and some are down to service.
For those with an emotional approach to life, Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, attaining the knowledge of God through love. Bhakti Yoga is “The spiritual approach to God that stresses all-surrendering love as the principal means for communion and union with God.” (The Divine Romance, Yogananda) “Bhakti is the yoga of a personal relationship with God. (Jai Uttal)
The Bhakti path is said to be the easiest path. We are familiar with love. We all love someone or something. When we love someone we are unconsciously responding to the Divinity in him/her. The Bhakti focuses on devotion to God, the love of God, nearer than the heartbeat, closer than the breath. (Vedanta Society)
Jesus is an example of a Bhakti yogi. Jesus loved God above all else. He declared his oneness with his Divine Father. Jesus treated others with compassion. God is love. Jesus talked about love continually.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. John 15:9
‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Mathew 5:44
If you have a powerful and discriminating intellect and you love studying, Jnana Yoga may be the path for you. Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge, is “The path to union with God through transmutation of the discriminative power of the intellect into the omniscient wisdom of the soul.” (DR, Yogananda) “Jnana uses the power of the mind to discriminate between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the transitory.” (Vedanta S.) The Jnana Yogi asks what is eternal, what is unchanging? The body obviously changes constantly throughout our life and eventually dies. But the Soul is unchanging and eternal. It never dies. The real You never dies. The Universe of time and space undergoes constant change, but God is ever the same. By reading and studying scripture, and spiritual books by authors such as Nona Brooks, Malinda Cramer, Joseph Murphy, Joel Goldsmith, and other New Thought inspired writers, and contemplating what is True and eternal, the Jnana Yogi comes to know him or herself as Spirit. When you are taking a Divine Science class, such a the Fundamentals, and grappling with the concepts, you are being a Jnana Yogi. For some this path is natural, rewarding, and joyful. For others it may not be their favorite path.
Some are drawn to service, caring for and serving their fellow beings. Karma Yoga is “The path to God through nonattached action and service. By selfless service, by giving the fruits of one’s actions to God, and seeing God as the sole Doer, the devotee becomes free of the ego and experiences God.” (DR, Yogananda)
“Karma Yoga is the yoga of action or work; specifically, karma yoga is the path of dedicated work: renouncing the results of our actions as a spiritual offering rather than hoarding the results for ourselves. “ (Vedanta Society) The service is surrendered to God and the outcome is released in Karma Yoga. We do our best and dedicate our service to God. This is the tricky part, releasing the outcome. Most of the time we work from ego. We are expecting appreciation, praise, approval, we are expecting to get something back for our efforts. And we have an idea of how we want our service to turn out. We have expectations. We are disappointed if things don’t turn out the way we wanted them to. In Karma Yoga we release the outcome to God. There is a recognition that Ego is not the doer of the actions, God is seen as the doer. We see the Divine in all others and that is what we serve. Jesus said “What you do for the least of these you do for me.”
Ghandi and Mother Teresa are examples of Karma Yogis. Ghandi served his people. Mother Teresa served the Divine in the poor and suffering.
As a minister, we experience the challenges of Karma Yoga when we prepare our talk. Ego hopes people will like the talk, and that lots of people will come to the service to hear the talk. Being a Karma Yogi means preparing the talk as if one hundred people will hear it and being grateful that one person heard it. Karma Yoga means accepting constructive feedback with gratitude.
When I was in Seminary I taught a meditation class at the Sports Club at SJSU for a few semesters. It was a challenging place to teach a meditation class. I was in a yoga studio, down at the end of a row of racquet ball and handball courts, down the hall from the basketball court. There were lots of things for students to do at the Sports Complex, like aerobics classes, and stationary bikes, treadmills, and stair stepper machines where the students can watch TV while exercising. These are mostly young, restless 18-22 year olds. Only a few were attracted to learning to meditate. Some came only once. Some came and then didn’t come back for several weeks. One young woman looked at herself in the mirrored wall for the entire class. Very few came regularly. One time no one came and I sat there by myself for the entire hour in case someone came late. They had a hard time sitting still. I had to tell myself that I was planting seeds in consciousness that will sprout in the future. I had to let go of the outcome and be there to teach the class for God. I had to surrender. Some weeks I did that more effectively than others. If I did not surrender the outcome my ego took a beating, and sometimes I was embarrassed because as the teacher I had to record the number who attended in the computer each week. It was good spiritual growth for me.
To the other yogas, we add Raja Yoga - “The ‘royal’ or highest path to God-union. It teaches scientific meditation as the ultimate means for realizing God, and includes the highest essentials from all other forms of Yoga.” (DR, Yogananda) Raja Yoga adds meditation practice to the other yoga paths. Everyone should practice Raja Yoga. We all benefit from a regular meditation practice that brings us into God communion. We can all practice all of the yogas. It is good for everyone to do some selfless service, serving the God in others. Spiritual study benefits everyone, too. And having a loving heart benefits everyone. We will just have a natural tendency to spend more time with one of the Yoga paths that draws us because it compliments our temperament.
So Look for ways to help others, ways to serve. Do your best and let go of the outcome. Dedicate your service to God. Practice seeing God in others and in yourself. Try to love others, even those you find challenging. Practice seeing your oneness with others. Study scripture. Read the Aramaic translation of the Bible. Study Divine Science. Read books about Divine Science and study New Thought. Ask yourself what is true about life and what is false. Write down your insights. Meditate and pray every day. Make it a practice.
Next Sunday , this is very important, we are going to have a service honoring our ancestors, those in our family who have gone before us. You are invited to bring photos of those in your family who have made their transition on to the other side. You may bring more than one photo, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. You may include phots of a spouse, a child, or a sibling who has made their transition also. We will have an altar to put the photos on and a ceremony to honor them, similar to the idea of Day of the Dead, Die de Los Muertos in Mexico. You will have an opportunity to make a gratitude journal to take home with you for the month of November. If you enjoy journaling, you might want to journal about your ancestors this week in preparation for next Sunday. So make a note to yourself to bring your photos, maybe put them in your car so you will remember. You are welcome to bring flowers, also. And come with an open heart next week to honor your ancestors.