Is Yoga a Religion or a Philosophy?

Welcome to Part 14 of The Seeker’s Story, where Namit continues his exploration into yoga philosophy. This week, he discusses why yoga is not a religion but philosophy.

Previous Chapters:

Chapter 1 & 2 – Yoga Sutra – A Seeker’s Story Part 1.

Chapter 3 –      What is Yoga?

Chapter 4 –      Yoga’s Theory of Creation 

Chapter 5 –     Happiness and Oneness 

Chapter 6 –     Does Magic Really Exist? 

Chapter 7 –     Who is God?

Chapter 8 –    What is Karma?  

Chapter 9 –    What is Spirituality? What is Spirit? 

Chapter 10 –   What is Prana? Is it the Same as Breath? 

Chapter 11:    Why do We Do Postures in Yoga?

Chapter 12:  What’s the Point of Meditation? 

Chapter 13:  Why a State of Balance is Important for Enlightenment 

Chapter 14:  What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?

  

Yoga Sutra – The Seeker’s Story

By

Namit Kathoria 

 

Is Yoga a Religion or a Philosophy?

The next day came and I found yogi ji with his shoulders rested on the ground of the temple and his legs above and behind him. I waited until he noticed me and then I sat down. A few moments later yogi ji came and joined me and sat down next to me. 

‘Yogi ji why are there so many religions?’ 

‘Because there have been many spiritual teachers Jake.’ 

‘Well then is any one particular religion right and the others wrong? Or do they all follow the same God?’ 

‘Yoga sees the world as one big family Jake. It sees no separation of country, class, creed, religion. It sees us as all connected.’  

‘So yoga people do not believe in religion?’ I asked curiously. 

‘It is more that in religion there is a divide between people of different faiths. It is the divide that yoga people do not believe in. A yogi will always see that others have the same goodness inside them and that we all have a connection.’  

‘So if religion creates a divide between people then this means it is wrong to be religious and that we should not respect religion?’  

‘No Jake it means that we should respect that the other person in their own religion has the same love for goodness that we do. We are all connected. We cannot dislike someone for following a good path. What we do is we avoid looking at divides and we just look at connections.’ 

‘One more question today?’ I asked yogi ji. 

‘Oh you give me headache Jake! Go on then!’ he giggled. 

‘So is yoga related to religion?’ 

 ‘No Jake religions started to become organized by human beings some two to three thousand years ago. Yoga goes back at least four thousand years. It is more of a philosophy. There is no governing pope, pontiff or priest. In fact it is not really concerned with any hierarchy at all, just everyone being equal and living in unity and in harmony.’ 

‘What is hierarchy yogi ji?’ 

‘Someone at the top. Yoga believes that we all have the same rights and essentially the same right to be in our original state of happiness.’ 

‘I like the idea of equality yogi ji.’ 

‘So do I’ replied the yogi. 

‘By the way yogi ji do I need to believe in God in order to become a better human being?’ I asked hoping that yogi ji was not getting fed up with all my questions that day. There had been times in my life where I had felt that there is a God and times in my life where I had felt that there is not a God. I just wanted to know if it was essential to believe in God. After all I was sure I could meditate and still my thoughts even if I did not believe in God. 

‘Faith in God is not a prerequisite for spiritual development.’ 

‘Explain what you mean yogi ji?’ 

‘You do not need to believe in God in order to become a more developed human being. This has been taught in India for centuries and the Buddha taught this too. Basically he said that if you work on your own goodness then your good karmas increase and you live a good and happy life. So no Jake you do not need to believe in God in order to follow a good and happy path in life.’  

I was content with this answer. 

[Stay tuned for Chapter 16: Illusion next week]

About Namit Kathoria

Namit Kathoria has a Bachelors Degree from King’s College London in Pharmacy and a Masters Degree in Clinical Pharmacy from Queen’s University Belfast. He is also a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and has worked the Pharmacist Advisor to NHS Direct. He hence has a vast knowledge of health which he applies to his yoga teaching. He has studied yoga across the world including various parts of his native India including Dharamshala, Rishikesh and Mysore. He currently teaches yoga retreats in Spain at Yoga Sutra Shala in Sayalonga. To read more please visit www.retreats-yoga.com.

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