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Q&A 11.12.12

Can your yoga teachings cure disease such as Aids -Cancer?

The purpose of yoga is to expand the sense of self. Anyone who claims to cure anything with yoga is selling something.

It can help ailments with asanas and vitality with Pranayama.

Asanas are not yoga.

Pranayama is practiced to withdraw the mind from the senses. Any other use in practicing it (and yes, there are many uses, and I used to teach them to entice people to practice genuine pranayama) is merely the practice of

pranayama-like methods, and again is not yoga.

Asanas are part of yoga. There are 8 different branches of yoga.

Yes, I am aware of the limbs of ashtanga yoga, which is patanjala yoga as well. But the third limb, asana, only refers to the still posture one assumes in the practice of pranayama. All of the asanas that are normally associated with what the West calls Hatha Yoga are later inventions and not yoga.

And again, I wrote a book so I would not have to explain all of this to every individual who writes to me. In feeling a need to inform me of yoga, you not only expose your ignorance of what I teach, but also of yoga itself. Read the book, please, and save both of us time. Otherwise, there is no reason for you to write to me further. There are many dunces in the world that will teach you whatever you want to hear.

Mantra can keep help rid of viruses. Microvita can kill AIDS

Mantra is just sounds/words verbally and mentally repeated. Its purpose is to liberate the mind from restless activity. It is a means of energy conservation, or asceticism. If you really believe the above, then you've already bought something, and not yoga.

Why is mantra a means of energy conservation?

Man is manas or mind and tra is to free or liberate. The purpose is to free the mind from restless activity as that squanders energy. Yoga is concerned with the conservation of energy (yama, niyama, asana) and the expansion of energy from its normal sense-bound routine (prana-ayama).

You do realize that all energy and physical form work by sound. Everything has a sound that makes up it form.

AIDS-Viruses live off a person's prana-sound. It is a negative virus form, so a positive one will be used to kill it. Simple.

Everything is vibration, but the rest of what you’re saying is a dangerous, and nonsensical non sequitur. But again, if you believe this spiritual blather, I really am not the yoga teacher for you. Best of luck.

* * *

As you may have surmised, I have both trust issues and a fairly skeptic mind. I am grateful that I've been given a privileged station in life wealth-wise and am certainly inclined to spend on a good cause. However, more obvious causes like education, health, and upliftment of the poor appeal more to my conscience than spiritual institutions, whose theories or systems, until proven in the laboratory of experience, must remain theories. Your response did lead me to think more about how, even without concrete proof, these theories can foster good in the world through transforming people psychologically and instilling better attitudes. In my specific case, it got me thinking about how much I've benefited from your contributions, or say Yogananada's. So yes, the correct thing to do would be to give back.

The teachings of the yogis raise a more pressing question in this matter. Let's say you follow Jesus's advice in the New Testament and give all you have to the poor. Or perhaps you follow Methodist teachings and grow rich so you can give more. You give toward education, health care, and to fight poverty. The question yoga asks is "Then what?"

Even the teachings of the Institute are educational, and designed to educate people regarding organized religion. If those teachings were global and understood, the amount of human energy saved by avoiding divisive pursuits would be incalculable. But again, then what?

Let's say you've accepted, as I have, that most of the problems facing the human race, such as poverty, war, disease, global warming are actually caused by overpopulation. Let's go farther. Let's say you see that the disempowerment of women is the cause of overpopulation, and hence is directly and indirectly the cause of every other problem we face. Let's say you make the empowerment of women your lifelong pursuit. Or, you make depopulation the cornerstone of your philanthropy. The question still remains: Then what?

At any moment, an Extinction Level Event could wipe out the entire human race. All your money and all the money in the world may not be enough to reverse climate change, if some of the recent models are taken seriously. All the knowledge, art, history, and science of the human race is not unlike Adi Sankara's drop of water on a lotus leaf, hanging precariously by a thread in what might as well be cosmic anarchy. The human race will end, either by our hands or the sun going supernova, unless we are able to escape this solar system. What does anything you do really matter?

The yogis don't say not to give. They say that if you give, make sure you keep the larger picture in mind. In their lager framework, serving others is not valuable because the human race will be blotted out one day, but in spite of that because the giving is not primarily about who you give to, but about the expansion of your own sense of self. And that expanded awareness, and nothing else, is what will survive and transcend even the hottest supernova, even the colliding of this world with an asteroid, and even the loss of our moon. This cosmos is an awareness machine, and the destruction of entire worlds is not to be lamented because those worlds were merely the housing or stage for the expansion of awareness, which is God.

And that underlying reality is not only what the theory of self teaches. It is what the theory of self teaches one how to independently realize through the application of sense-introversion and ascetic discipline.

Your mental block is peculiar. Perhaps you've been called stubborn by your friends and family, but what I see in you is an intellectual honesty that fails to account for the very evidence in front of your nose. It's as if you're blindsided by facts and miss the truth.

Self-awareness is not measurable and would hardly be called an objective fact, and yet no one on this earth denies it. The sound of our thoughts must be biologically based, and yet we have found no biological basis for it. Mind, awareness, and conscience are measured only in their secondary and tertiary consequences, and because of that you are like someone who sees footprints in the sand and feels comfortable doubting that feet made the prints. Yes, it is safe to doubt. Who knows what made the prints when the walker is perennially invisible? But look down, meaning within. You are invisible and you are making footprints! All you see of your own existence are the footprints you make, and you yet don't deny your own self's reality and existence.

As long as you apply this double standard, the error is not merely hypocrisy, as that is understandable and even common in ontological investigation. The error is self-abnegation. This may even be the root of your personal dilemma, which, as I've said before, is resolved by courage applied in the capacity to deny the truly false facts such as marital expectations and familial traditions. It is one thing to live by artificial constructs and also the artifices of a spiritual endeavor. But to live by the artifices of society and expectations -- as I don't see much else keeping you from the course you need to take -- and yet deny the rigor of spiritual investigation -- one that precisely denies the artifices of your life that work toward your own unhappiness -- on the grounds that it is not yet "fact," is a recipe for misery.

This is an aside, and not relevant to the above, much more significant issue in my life. I gave a copy of GWR to a friend of mine who has just gone through a divorce and has been thinking about spiritual questions. He is completely blown away by your discourse. We have been discussing yugas and what gels with the theory and what doesn't. You are right - while the evidence for the theory is far from the standards required of science, it offers some very interesting thoughts. I still find the claim of non-linearity of material knowledge a stretch (in substance - of course it isn't strictly linear). But at least in the Indian context (I have very little knowledge about other civilizations) there is a lot of evidence of times when the spiritual/moral caliber of earlier civilizations was superior.

For instance, the sophistication and beauty of Sanskrit, the sacred-ization of knowledge, music, and the arts and the great premium placed on them. This is somewhat evident in the caste system where Brahmins, or seekers of self-knowledge, are put on a higher pedestal than all others, as opposed to our current social organization, where (usually corrupt) politicians and the wealthy have all the power and sycophants. Artists being classed in the third varna, Vaishyas, seems strange to me, but there is a lot of evidence to show, on the other hand, that art (esp. music, drama and dance) was really venerated and thought to be a conduit to deep meditational states. While a lot of the morality of the Ramayana and Mahabharata is repugnant to me, it is undeniable that an obsession with dharma and ethical living suffuses both the stories. The way characters in these epics are depicted thinking of so many of their actions, big and small, in terms of concordance with dharma, seems a bit comical in our time, but certainly is indicative of a more idealistic society.

An interesting development in sexual outlooks parallels the fall of knowledge during the descending portion of the Cycle. It isn't coincidence that, world over, the denial of sexual pleasure came to the fore during the Dark Ages. We, as in the world owning to the prevalence of Christianity, are still in the throws of backwards attitudes toward sex. Where once it was respected and celebrated as the literal basis of the world, it became ridiculously profane and sinful, and certainly punishable. To me, that's more evidence of a general decline, as evidence of loss of knowledge cannot be limited to one locale, even one as wide as the Roman Empire, but most be global since the Cycle Theory claims the cause to be galactic in nature. I love Adi Sankara's work, in general, but the Swami Order was a bad idea, and had no basis in ancient Indian history or its scriptures. He might have instead followed the lead of his namesake, Siva, who mythologically "couldn't get enough."

* * *

Yes of course there is the proverbial saying "all is One."

When it comes to organized religion, all is definitely not one. The idea of one truth clothed in many garments sounds warm and fuzzy, but it is false and the history of violence between peoples of differing faith is evidence of very different sets of beliefs. And the apology that people are ignorant of their religion, and so wage war in its name, is truly folly. Yes, people are ignorant of many of the dogmas of their own faith, or do not apply them. But that may be a saving grace, for many otherwise good people would become criminal in no time were they to apply the written word of their beliefs without question; and I don't see much crime in being ignorant of violence-producing beliefs.

What I meant when I wrote, "All mystical and spiritual traditions unite in the practice of pranayama and asceticism," is something very different than any such uniting platitude. I meant that the practice of pranayama and asceticism unites mystical traditions because even the most backward mystical system that included self-mutilation was designed, in its Kali Yuga (Dark Age) fashion, to deny the senses as the final arbiters of the parameters of the self. Further, you were speaking of the similarities of Buddhism and Vedanta. Buddhism developed during the Dark Ages as it moved into East Asia, and much of that is nonsense as far as yoga is concerned, but the Buddha himself was a yogi that practiced asceticism and pranayama. Vedanta is the esoteric Vedas, and overtly expounds yogic teachings, centering on the application of pranayama and ascetic methods.

The question you have to ask yourself is how much yoga are you genuinely practicing, because as a yogi, the distinction as a Buddhist of Vedantist is utterly irrelevant. No self-respecting yogi would narrowly identify him/herself as either.

But I am talking about direct mutual influence, not just the commonality of all religions.

Yes, so am I. I find little commonality among all religions. Only people who have not studied religion say they are all the same or all one. It is easy to point out general similarities, archetypes, motifs, themes, super-truths, etc.; but that is because they are all human invented and humans genetically share the same psychological fears, desires, and hopes, and the same physiological survival needs. Going from that to that perhaps we should all get along is childish and silly. Perhaps we should all get along because that's what grown-ups are supposed to learn to do, or because we have no other good alternatives, or anything less is a waste of our limited resources, time, and lives.

Historically, Buddha and Vedanta were both from India.

They share far more than that. Truly, I don't see the issue. Scholars have written books showing the similarity between Buddhism and the teachings of Jesus before the advent of Christianity. If you say you want to be a Buddha-loving Christian, or a Jesus loving Jew or an Allah loving Hindu, what does it really matter. You can call yourself whatever you want and practice whatever you want, assuming you live in a free country. I think, if you've read my book, you'd realize that there are far more pressing questions worthy of your attention, as the emerging and developing sense of self is the issue, and just Buddhism alone is not monolithic. Every religion has a hundred shades of belief and expression. The development of your sense of self is of tantamount importance, and so far, nothing you are saying speaks at all to that duty and challenge before you.

Buddha was not Islamic or Judaic to our knowledge., But he was Hindu, and his teachings were very strongly influenced by the Upanishads.

The influence of Indian thought on the development of Near East religions is perhaps greater than you think. Again, none of these religions are monolithic. They each have a dozen shades of gray and yes, you can find some shades of Buddhism that influenced some strains of these religions. Basically, older religions influenced later ones unless there was an ocean between them and no exchange of ideas.

There are Vedic gods all throughout the Buddhist pantheon. In the Vinaya Pitaka, Buddha actually acknowledges that the Vedas in their true form belong only to 7 sages, such as Vashistha, Bhardwaja, Angirasa, and a few others. So right there, he absolutely acknowldedges the value of the Vedas, however this acknowledgement is of the "original" vedas, not the one subsequently corrupted by Brahmin priests.

I think I see where you're going. Indian thought went downhill with the Dark Ages. Buddhism went downhill with the Dark Ages. Hebraic thought went downhill with the Dark Ages. The whole world, not just Rome, went through a Dark Ages. Confucianism was corrupted during the Dark Ages. There is very little in Buddhism that I consider to be authentically what came out of the Buddha's mouth. And even if it did, I do not consider him an authority and it is my right, as it is also our obligation, to question it. The same goes for the Vedas and whatever sages are identified with them. Most of modern Buddhism is of no more yogic value today than modern Catholicism. Finding similarity between one heap of garbage and another is hardly worth your time. I admit that, years ago, I made the scholarly effort and showed the similarities. In fact, you might find my old post that I titled something like Buddhism is the Catholicism of the East. But at least I did so to move people away from both and guide readers to the sound practice of pranayama and asceticism -- the very practices that centrally contributed to the self-realization of the Buddha. Taking comfort in similarities, without practicing yoga, doesn't sound very comforting to me, at least not in the long term.

And just like the Vedic structure, where all Vedic gods were second to Brahman, this is the same in the Buddhist structure - all deities are subordinate and/or manifestations of Buddha.

Right, they both embraced the same nonsense. Now what? I suggest you read God Without Religion and go deeper.

Thank you for your opinions. I respect them. Just on another subject, what do you think of Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism?

In what regard/context? It is a primitive belief that had a strong influence on Hebrew and hence Christian thought by introducing a dualistic view of the cosmos complete with an evil god, which became Satan for Hebrews and Christians. Its view of the birth of its prophet as a time marker presaged that of Christianity. I briefly discuss it in God Without Religion as views of time inform views of the self.