October 27, 2012

Just Because You Practice Yoga Doesn’t Mean You Should Sacrifice Free Speech. ~ Patricia Jackson

Photo: Lucien Walery via Wikimedia Commons

Many of us are rebels against organized religion, but I tend to see the same strains within the yoga/Oneness movement.

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. We were taught not to think beyond the Bible and not to read anything that was not written by Christian authors. My curiosity led me to search outside of such rigid thought structures and to philosophy.

When I was 18, I made the conscious decision to leave the church. My reasoning was that I hated my own hypocrisy; I could not be both a Christian and a thinker. My intellectual travels brought me to eastern religion, spirituality and to yoga.

What is the difference between being a Christian then and studying yoga now? Not a whole lot if I take what I am being offered at face value. It is in the concepts of ego and boundaries that I run into the same rigid thinking.

“In contemporary yoga such voices of nivrtti often resort to two strategies of criticism meant to proffer the superiority of taking a “higher” and “spiritual” path that contrasts with the conflicting views and uncertainties of a mundane human reality.  The two strategies are covertly (or not) coupled with certain logic of superiority.  It goes like this: any effort to express views that might be contentious, disputed, or cause conflict are deemed (1) the work of the “lower” features of an Ego—n.b., the capital “E” works a certain magic meant to express the authority of the claim that Ego = culprit in the equation that affirms (2) silence in the role of our better angel for “spiritual” accomplishment.  So, it is implied, to become silent and so serene beyond measurable response is set apart as the higher path of a “true” yogin.  The “spiritual” then becomes the apolitical.”

~Douglas Brooks

Politics can occur in the classroom. What if you staunchly disagree with something your guru or teacher has told you? This figure may be the most important person in your life.

“Tantra loves, and loves unconditionally. It never says no to anything whatsoever, because everything is part of the whole, and everything has its own place in the whole, and the whole cannot exist with anything missing from it.”


What if your teacher has crossed a boundary with you that you feel is wrong? Because Guru and God are one does that mean you are in error and you must overcome or deny the feeling that it is wrong? Or that you should have so much compassion for them and self denial that you give in?

I think giving in may be happening more than we are willing to admit.

Men and women have died to preserve our right of free speech and human rights in the political world. Do we retain them in our intimate relationships with our teachers and gurus? A good teacher will walk away from reverence and let the student’s deep truth inside take the reins.

Shall we be strong lions of independent thought watching out for dharma or remain spiritual children dominated by the whim of power?

“Reasoning is harmful to fools; it ruins their good fortune and splits open their heads”

~ Dhammapada ( Sec. 72  Gil Fronsdal, Shambhala 2005)

Photo: Carl Heinrich Bloch via Wikimedia Commons

The ability to reason and think critically for oneself should be a vitally important part of the practice of yoga. Often it is dispensed as a hindrance to transcendence.

Most spiritual disciplines have a code of ethics or morals that go hand and hand with spiritual practice itself. I am not fond of fundamental morality, but have we dispensed with reasonable standards?

Who will control the unbounded yogi-fatal that has a completely selfless identity?

This state of selflessness is profound and joyous, but can be manipulated by teachers and gurus who do not have the student’s best interests at heart.

With so much money being pumped into yoga and Oneness movements we have reason be wary.

Anger is activated when boundaries are violated; that horrible feeling in the gut that tells you something is wrong.

However, we are told again and again that anger is a sign of one’s lack of spiritual discipline and compassion for others:

“Although we are all the same in not wanting problems and wanting a peaceful life, we tend to create a lot of problems for ourselves. Encountering those problems, anger develops and overwhelms our mind, which leads to violence. A good way to counter this and to work for a more peaceful world is to develop concern for others. Then our anger, jealousy and other destructive emotions will naturally weaken and diminish.”

~ Dalai Lama

There are others who hold the opinion that anger and compassion do not have to be mutually exclusive. Anger is not necessarily the same as aggression. Just because one is angry doesn’t mean they will act it out in a negative or hurtful way.

“We cannot hope to be mature and find true integration without first being clearly differentiated, vividly and unmistakable outlined.  Good boundaries provide and support this essential differentiation in our lives…the primary emotional state that functions to uphold our boundaries is anger-which is quite problematic for those who view anger as a merely negative state…Without free access to our anger, our ‘no’ lacks intensity and strength to have the impact it needs, and our “yes” remains anemic and cut off from real vitality…Not having the voice and energy to assert the boundaries we need leaves us at the mercy of forces that may be detrimental to us.”

~Robert Augustus Masters, Phd.  From Spiritual Bypassing – When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters. North Atlantic Books, 2010

Is this type of rationale, i.e. that boundaries and ego are really not enlightened, helpful at all?

These ideas can be deeply disempowering and leave students vulnerable. The student is then blamed for staking out the boundaries that create meaningful and ethical life. I realize this is a complicated issue filled with ambiguity within the guru/student relationship.

Take it deep. Take it to the core. If dharma is being violated, don’t we have the duty to speak up or just not participate?

The truly selfless state is non-attachment and resting in truth. This fact may make you get up and stand up where you may prefer not to; like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. That is what this article is about; it comes from my heart.

“There is no God higher than truth”~ Mahatma Gandhi

Patty Jackson is from Los Angeles. She is mother to three children Madi, Ruby and Wyatt. She enjoys yoga, chanting and playing her harmonium.




Editor: Lara C.

Like I’m not “Spiritual.” I just practice being a good person on Facebook.

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