Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Dear Yoga Mentor

Sometimes students write to or ask Swami Veda and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice. When this happens, Swami Veda may answer the question himself or ask a senior teacher to do so, or if the question is asked directly to a senior teacher, the senior teacher will respond.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.

Question: Is it okay to take initiation into two different traditions? The reason why I was asking was because I am attracted to Bhakti Yoga and there are traditions which I am attracted to as well. I was wondering if it was necessary to pick one tradition out of the myriad traditions that exist. I'm definitely most attracted to bhakti yoga but I am also attracted to raja yoga and jnana yoga. 

Answer: Two senior teachers have answered this question: Lalita Arya (Ammaji) and Michael Smith. Both responses are below.

From Lalita Arya (Ammaji):

The Path of Yoga has many branches - according to one's inclination, personality, karma etc one maybe attracted to one specific path. However, this does not entirely exclude "other" paths as Yoga when fully understood is ONE. Many times for a particular development of the personality a specific attraction occurs - like devotion to Krishna for Bhakti, or listening to knowledgeable speakers on the scriptures, or the practices that lead to inner realization and so on. So if one feels a pull towards a specific path he/she might want to follow that and eventually the realization occurs that the paths do merge some time, some place, somewhere within. 

As far as following various traditions, one should be careful not to get confused. Many people follow various traditions. You might be born in one kind, grow up in another (if you move from country to country, for example), marry a different one, and we may go on. Adjustments take place, but they take time and lots of efforts. I have a simple example. When I was rearing my kids they were taught in our tradition to respect the elders and never call them by name, instead if a little older Didi (big sister)or Bhaiya (Big brother) (in Hindi) or Aunty or Uncle if older. When we moved into the American ways my kids were faced with the dilemma when told by the so-called Uncle or Aunty 'I am not your Uncle/Aunty'.  It doesn't matter if this seeker is talking about spiritual traditions. It’s the same kind of confusion we have to be careful and respectful about.

Taking initiations from several sources can also lead to confusion. In a very practical sense, we have to spend so much time just trying to follow one mantra or initiation practice, imagine how much time, concentration and effort would be needed to do more. I am not saying that the 'initiation' in several path should not be. I am pointing out the practicalities. It’s like that old saying 'Jack of all trades' and Master of none'.

I hope I did not say anything that would offend. Just trying to help. In service, Ammaji

From Michael Smith:

That’s a good question because there are many different schools and teachings available at the present time.

The Himalayan Yoga Tradition combines many ways to spiritual realization, beginning with the Raja Yoga teachings of Patañjali, which is an integrated path, emphasizing meditation.  Within the Raja Yoga teachings there are “Yogas of Life” and “Yogas of Practice.” The “Yogas of Life” include Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga and they are compatible for people who are, respectively, devotionally oriented, service-oriented, or philosophically-oriented.  Most of us are a mixture of these three, but one aspect may predominate. Each of these three paths offers a different journey and different experiences but at the end, all three paths merge into the same experience of Unity Consciousness.  See Swami Rama’s book Choosing a Path.

About studying the teachings of various traditions, Swami Veda has said this:

A true temple of God has shrines to all deities.  A man of meditation enriches his mind with a love for the music, liturgy, ritual, religions and cultures of all lands. To close yourself to any culture's beauty or to any religion's ritual is to amputate the mind.  I wish your meditation ... to lead you to a participation in the beauty of all cultures.  May you open your soul to the divine truths that have been revealed to the chosen nation, the human nation. ("The Human Nation")

Someone who stands on the peak sees many trails coming to the top, but one on the forest trail does not see the parallel path.  In your temple, in your church, let all cultures flourish.  Let each person be guided on his trail by the One at the peak.  Let the bee of your mind gather honey from all flowers.  I wish you . . . a view of the paths of truth from the Peak.  ("The Faces of Truth are Many")

About practicing the teachings of different traditions, such as using mantras from different traditions – the answer is no. It is not recommended to “split your dharma.”  One saying about this is: “If you chase two rabbits at the same time, you won’t catch either one.” Another one is: “If you are seeking water, it is better to dig one deep well rather than a lot of shallow wells.”  We only have a short time in this life, so it is best to stick with one single time-tested spiritual tradition. 

Before choosing your spiritual tradition, study the ones you are most interesting in and take classes directly from the master teachers of those traditions. Sometimes you don’t have to choose; the tradition chooses you – and then the feeling is like you came back home. 

In Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Rama wrote:

“Many modern students might conclude that Sri Krishna’s teachings are sectarian; that the Bhagavad Gita teaches that one should only take refuge in Sri Krishna and in no other form of God. That is not true. Sri Krishna speaks from the heights of that one universal consciousness that is beyond even divine forms and from which the divine forms come. He is not speaking only as a specific incarnation. He is one with all incarnations, and at the same time he is beyond all incarnations.

Though all incarnations are one at their source, authority, and state of consciousness, each clothes the eternal message in a different wrapping. The aspirant is not able to dive completely into the teachings of all incarnations. He will progress most directly if he absorbs himself in one tradition while respecting all others. When he starts practicing sadhana, the seeker is strictly warned to follow only one path, the path he is taught by his teacher and not to follow other paths. For if one changes the path he follows every now and then, he will not be able to attain the Absolute. Students often leave the path they have practiced, running here and there, which is a sheer waste of time and energy and above all brings complete dissatisfaction and disappointment. That is the actual sense hidden in this verse:

Whosoever in whatever way submit themselves to Me,
I confer grace on them in the very same way.
Human beings in all different ways follow My path, O Son of Pritha.
(Bhagavad Gita 3.11)

Whatever path one follows up a mountain, he finally reaches the summit. Though the ways are diverse, the goal is one. Sri Krishna explains that although people follow various paths to Self-realization, finally they reach one and the same Absolute. Some seekers waste considerable time trying to know this path and that path. And other seekers are confused by the diversity of spiritual paths. It is important for the seeker to start treading his path and to continue on it instead of being lost in the bewilderment of diversity.”
(from Swami Rama’s Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, pp. 175-176.)

Editor’s Note:

If you have a question about spiritual practice, you can send it via http://ahymsin.org/main/adhyatma-samiti-spiritual-committee.html




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