is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga.
While Yoga may be in Religions, the many
Yoga practices with body, breath and mind, along
with their transcendent goal of direct experience,
are generally neither characteristic of Religions,
nor typically practiced by the adherents of Religions.
Yoga is in Religion. Religion is not in Yoga.
These are NOT ten
They ARE ten different people,
each of whom arise from the same source,
regardless of what, if any, religion they choose.
Xenophanes: Ethiopians imagine their gods as black and
snub-nosed; Thracians blue-eyed and red-haired. But if horses or
lions had hands, or could draw and fashion works as men do,
horses would draw the gods shaped like horses and lions like
lions, making the gods resemble themselves.
Yoga means union. It is the joining together
the aspects of ourselves which were
never divided in the first place.
To say that the word Yoga itself is a religion
makes as much sense as saying
that the words Union or Holistic
are themselves religions.
It is important to note that there is
not universal agreement on these points, nor the definition of Yoga,
with many feeling that Yoga is not a religion, and many people
feeling that Yoga is a religion. See the comments below related to
commingling Yoga and religion. See also the quotes
and articles linked below, where others are describing the relationship between
Yoga and religion. See also the section about making
your own choice regarding Yoga and religion.
If one day I say I am a Buddhist,
the next a Christian, the next a Hindu, the next a Jew, the next
a Muslim, and the next something else, has the "I" actually
changed, or only the opinions of the mind? Who am I? That cannot
be answered with a mere opinion of mind. It can only be
experienced in the stillness and silence of direct experience,
wherein these divisions evaporate.
missing with Yoga?
Here are a few of the things that are
usually part of religions, but which are missing with Yoga:
Yoga has no deity to worship.
Yoga has no worship services to
Yoga has no rituals to perform.
Yoga has no sacred icons.
Yoga has no creed or formal statement
of religious belief.
Yoga has no requirement for a
confession of faith.
Yoga has no ordained clergy or
priests to lead religious services.
Yoga has no institutional structure,
leader or group of overseers.
Yoga has no membership procedure.
Yoga has no congregation of members
Yoga has no system of temples or
O man, realize
that the kingdom of God is within you, the Lord of life is the
highest of all. Anyone who has realized this, would like to go
to his innermost self. And there is a way for that. I am not
talking about Hinduism, I am not talking about Buddhism, I am
not talking about Christianity, I am not talking about Islam. I
am talking about something universal. The moment you realize
that the absolute truth which is not subject to change, death,
and decay is within you, then you attain a freedom, freedom from
fears, all fears. That is called the state of enlightenment and
that can be considered to be a state of perfection. Therefore,
learn to go to the deeper aspect of your being. Everyone should
learn to meditate so that he’s free from many, many diseases.
That meditation should be simple, a purely scientific technique,
without putting any brand, like Hindu meditation, Buddhist
Zen meditation, Christian meditation or Jewish meditation. These
teachers have destroyed the whole philosophy of meditation. Meditation
is a simple method.
To point out that Yoga is not religion,
or that Yoga is in religion, but religion not in Yoga, are not facts
opposed to religion. That one should or should not practice religion is
not what is being described here. Religion can be extremely useful, and
some would say absolutely essential. That one can practice Yoga either
with or without religion is described further below.
Respecting religious choice:
Practitioners of Yoga may be very clear about Yoga not conflicting with any religion. However, there are many thousands
of denominations and sects within many diverse religions. Some of these
groups have religious beliefs that might seem very different to ones
For example, some say that certain foods should be eaten,
while others say that the same food item should not be eaten. Some suggest polygamy, while others require monogamy.
Some agree with medical treatment, while others say that healing is
only up to God, and that modern medical treatment should not be
used. Some believe in social freedoms, while others believe more in
So too, some consider basic practices like calming
the autonomic nervous system through diaphragmatic breathing to be of a
different religion, while others see this as a universal human
process from which anyone can benefit. Some others consider making the
body flexible to be a part of religion, while others see it is physical
fitness, while still others see it as a part of systematic,
non-sectarian meditation. Some of the customs of various religions may
seem odd to the others, but these are the realities of the diversity of
Pointing out this diversity in this article is not intended to
resolve these issues, nor to proffer a solution. However, it seems
useful to accept that, to some degree, there are
people who consider Yoga to be religion, even though we may know it is
not. Maybe it is good to respect that choice of others.
The word Yoga means union,
and comes from "yuj" which means "to join," to bring
together into union the various aspects of yourself that were never
divided in the first place. From that comes the direct experience of
yourself that is beyond the false identities stemming from the seemingly
countless colorings of attraction and aversion. Another modern
adaptation of this principle is the word holistic, meaning to
become whole, or to realize your underlying wholeness.
Patanjali describes this in the Yoga
Sutras where he defines Yoga as the mastery (nirodha) of the mind (Sutra
1.2), allowing the
true Self to then come shining through (Sutra 1.3).
Patanjali also explains that the purpose of Yoga is discrimination (viveka)
among the inner processes (Sutras 2.26-2.29).
The process of mastering and integrating the mind may be a part of
religions, but that does not mean that regulating your mind in this way
is, itself, a religion.
in Yoga and Religion
Yoga also recommends meditation on, and
cultivation of lovingness, compassion, goodwill and acceptance, as well
as non-violence, truthfulness, training the senses, non-possessiveness,
and other such virtues (Yoga Sutras 1.33,
2.30-2.32). Religions also recommend
cultivating such virtues. However, it is self evident that cultivating
these ways of being or living are not themselves religion. When these
are practiced in Yoga, the subtler, finer, truer aspects of our being
are revealed, and this may or may not be seen in the context of
religion. That choice rests with each individual person.
Four definitions of
religion: Below are four definitions
of religion, taken from the Encarta World English
Dictionary, an online dictionary. Based on those definitions, is
Yoga a religion?
Yoga a religion?
Beliefs and worship:
beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship
of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and
No: Yoga does not prescribe the worship of any
specific "deity or deities." The word divine is
defined (in dictionaries) as coming from, or connected with God or gods. Yoga does not
give specific instructions for the "existence, nature, [or]
worship". Yet, Yoga
acknowledges that bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion is a
valid aspect of Yoga. Yoga does not tell you where to
direct that devotion, or the specific methods by which you should do
it. That is left to personal religious preference. (See also
the note below on the fallacy of
composition, in that some will argue that Yoga is a religion
because some may suggest or allude to a particular name of God
"A particular institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and
practices relating to the divine"
No: Once again, divine is defined as relating to
God or gods, and Yoga itself does not prescribe to what or whom one
should direct their worship, nor does Yoga require it. Again, Yoga
definitely acknowledges the value of bhakti Yoga, regardless of which form that
takes for an individual person. It also may be true that one uses
the word divine in other ways as well. Also, Yoga itself
is not institutionalized as a religious system, although some of the
principles are contained within many religions or other systems
(such as the principles of kindness to other people, taking
care of one's body, regulating breathing, or quieting the mind).
Beliefs or values:
"A set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody
Maybe, but not really: One could argue that Yoga is a
religion by the definition of religion as being a set of
strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that one lives by. On
the other hand, this could also apply to many other things as well,
including governmental, educational, psychological, social, cultural,
or familial ways of living. Common sense tells us that these are not really what is
meant by the word religion in the context of questioning
whether or not Yoga is a religion.
practice, cause, or activity that somebody is completely devoted to
or obsessed by (The danger is that you start to make fitness a
religion.)" [Italics are in the
but not really: One could become "completely devoted to or
obsessed by" Yoga, and thus this use of the word religion
might apply. Once again, however, common sense tells us that this is
not really the meaning of the word religion. Most people have
a working, day-to-day, common language sense of the meaning of a religion,
and it simply does not apply to Yoga.
An old saying: There is an old saying
that, "If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it
quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck!"
commingle Yoga and Religion
does Yoga appear to be Religion.
similar because of commingling: This is where the problem
arises with Yoga and religion. Sometimes, when one encounters Yoga in
particular organizations or groups of people, it can look very much like
a religion. This is because some of the teachers and practitioners of
Yoga and Yoga meditation commingle Yoga with religious practices. This is particularly
true in the arena of bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of devotion. From the
standpoint of bhakti Yoga, it is the devotion that is the point, not
that a particular object is suggested for that devotion. Thus, one may
practice bhakti, or devotion, from within his or her own
their own religion: When the teachers practice
their own religion in the context of Yoga, and present that to their
students, the students end up with a mixture of Yoga and religion. The
student may know the theory (and truth) that Yoga is not a
religion, while at the same time those same students are practicing the
religion of their teacher in addition to practicing Yoga.
Yoga and religion get
blended: Gradually, Yoga and the
religious practices blend, and suddenly you have a religious duck named Yoga!
This does not mean that Yoga or Yoga meditation is a religion. It does mean that
a particular organization, lineage, or system may have taken on the
coloring of religion, and within that sphere, there is religion being
Logical fallacy of composition:
In the area of logic or deductive reasoning, one of the erroneous
ways of arguing a point is the logical fallacy of composition.
One version of the fallacy of composition is projecting a characteristic
assumed by a part to be the characteristic assumed by the whole. For example, we might
say that some people like a particular food, and then make the logical fallacy of
saying that all people like that food, confusing the part and the
The way this happens with Yoga is that one might argue that since some
teachers and aspirants, current or historical, have practiced Yoga in the context of religion,
the whole of Yoga itself is therefore a religion. By understanding the fallacy
of composition, it is easier to see through such arguments.
Keeping the context of
your own religion: Yoga systematically deals
with all levels of your being, leading you to a place of deep stillness
and silence. From within this stillness and silence, you can more fully
experience spirituality in the context of your own religion and personal
It's about removing
obstacles: When we are not
experiencing such a deep stillness and silence, it is because our world,
senses, body, breath and mind have become obstacles to inner peace and
spiritual awareness. (See Yoga Sutra 1.4)
Then comes spiritual
insight: It is in the spirit of
observing, accepting, understanding, and training ourselves in Yoga
Meditation that these
obstacles are gently, systematically removed. It is somewhat like
gradually thinning out a cloud bank that is veiling the spiritual
serenity that is naturally there. In this way, our world and the aspects
of our own being can become tools rather than obstacles. This
spiritual focus is the entire purpose of Yoga. (See the article, Modern
Yoga versus Traditional Yoga.)
Feeling closer to your
own religion: Through this spiritual
focus of Yoga, one may come closer to their own religious roots,
although the practices themselves are not necessarily religious.
Exoteric and esoteric:
One of the main reasons
for the appearance of Yoga being like religion, is really a confusion
between religion and mysticism. Within most religions, there are shades
of gray within two poles, that are called Exoteric and Esoteric. (See
the article Mysticism, Yoga, and
Each religion has both:
The Exoteric, or external
religious practices are what most of us see as dominant in our cultures.
Within all of the Exoteric religions, there are also Esoteric
practitioners that are seeking direct experience. These seekers of
direct experience are often outcasts from the Exoteric organizations
of their own religion. This has happened throughout human history. The
examples are easy to find in books and articles, and are not presented
Yoga is Esoteric: Yoga is itself a mystical
seeking of the direct experience of inner realities or truths. However,
Yoga itself is not telling an aspirant what religion to follow. It is
involved with training in the process of working with senses,
body, breath, and mind, such that the inner can be experienced directly
(See the description of Yoga in Yoga
Sutra 1.2 and the description of the seer in Yoga
Sutra 1.3). Yoga deals with the Esoteric, rather than the Exoteric.
In this light, some of the practices of Yoga are contained within
religions, while religion is not contained within Yoga.
Only an appearance of
conflict: What appears to be conflict between a particular religion and Yoga is often not really
valid, because of comparing an Exoteric religion with the Esoteric
practices of Yoga. This same appearance of conflict also occurs within
religions themselves, usually due to the fact that the Exoteric
followers have little understanding of the Esoteric seeker. The
Exoteric follower has simply not
traveled far enough to feel the deep-seated Esoteric longing of the
yogi to know the deeper teachings and direct experience.
The Yogis and Mystic Seekers
must come to accept
that they are consistently in a minority.
Seeing in front and
behind: In the principle of
spiritual life being like climbing the steps of a ladder, or staircase,
it is easy to see the steps behind you, while it is difficult to see the steps
still in front of you. Thus, in the view of the Exoteric religionist,
the Esoteric seeker or Yogi is seen to have strayed from the path, to be
an evil person or sinner, or to have a psychopathological problem.
Learn acceptance of
being in a minority: Like it or not, the
practitioners of Yoga and the mystic seekers in our modern world, like
those throughout human history, must accept that there is rejection by
others who do not understand the subtler path. This is not likely to change, for the
simple reason that the seekers of inner experience and truth are
consistently in a minority.
Make a personal choice:
The Yoga practices of
self-awareness, self-training, and self-discovery are non-sectarian, and
are compatible with all religions. If you are familiar with
the differences between Yoga and religion, it is easy to keep them
separate, or if you prefer, to integrate them. The choice rests with
each person as an individual.
about Yoga and religion
Keep them separate. If you wish to keep
Yoga, religion, and spiritual matters completely separate, this is easy to do. It
simply means practicing and studying your Yoga at places, and with
people who share those same values and orientations of Yoga not
being part of religion. Each person is free to follow their own
religion in their own way.
Retain and blend your religion. If you wish to
practice Yoga, including its deeper, more authentic, so-called
spiritual aspects, retaining and blending the religion of your youth,
family, and culture, that too can be done quite easily (keeping in
mind, however, that authentic Yoga will lead one towards the
esoteric or mystic and of the spectrum of religion, as noted
Choose a new religion. If you wish to
integrate Yoga with a religion new to you, and you are with a teacher or
organization whose values and orientations match yours, this too may
Have clarity about your
religion, and choose: It seems most useful to have inner clarity about
one's own religious preferences.
Then it is easier to choose whether to practice Yoga separately from religion, in the
context of religion, or with no religion at all. Then, the aspirant can attain all of the
benefits of both their religion and of Yoga. The benefits of Yoga are
Yoga is for everybody:
All of these options are
available to each of us in our practice of Yoga. There is a simple
reason that these options are available. That is, Yoga truly is not a
religion, and thus, Yoga can serve all people of all faiths or
are a few quotes from people suggesting that Yoga is not a religion.
Obviously, not everybody agrees with this, and contradictory quotes can
also be found easily. Once again, it leaves each person to decide for
himself or herself whether or not to practice Yoga in the context of
Saraswati: "Yoga is not a religion,
but an aid to the practice of the basic spiritual truths in all
religions. Yoga is for all, and is universal."
[To practice yoga] "You need not believe
in anything other than the possibility that you can transform
yourself." "...some Yoga practitioners are more religious than
others. But Yoga itself is simply a tool for
exploring the depth of our human nature, of plumbing the
mysteries of the body and the mind.
Saraswati: "Yoga tends to bring out the inner unity that exists
at the central core of all religions, and its non-sectarian
techniques bring people closer in spiritual ties of inner
"Yoga was rejected by Hinduism... because yoga would not insist
that God exists. It didn't say there was no God but just wouldn't insist
there was.... Yoga is not a religion
and should not [affiliate] with any religion." (link)
Swami Rama: Yoga is
a systematic science; its teachings are an integral part of most
religions, but yoga itself is not a religion.
Most religions teach one what to do, but yoga teaches one how to be.
Yoga practices, however, described in symbolic language, may be found in
the sacred scriptures of most religions. (Lectures on Yoga, 1979,
from Chapter entitled What is Yoga?)
Saraswati: In the last two or three decades, when yoga was
introduced to the modern world, it was received with some scepticism. At
first people thought that it was another religion. But in spite of this
young people took up yoga and soon others began to notice its amazing
effects. Then the psychologists, medical doctors, criminologists, and
philosophers started making investigations and they were surprised to
find that yoga is not a religion but
a science. (link)
Shri Ram Sharanam
is not a religion. it is not necessary for you to believe in
a certain god or to chant certain hymns. it is spiritual and ancient
science, which leads to health in the body, peace in the mind, happiness
in the heart and liberation of the soul. (link)
Pandit Usharbudh Arya:
Yoga is not a religion or a church.
It requires no belief in a doctrine, no credo. All yoga philosophy is
concerned with the experience of meditation and nothing else. It does
not require anyone to adhere to a belief system. (from the book, God)
The foundation behind the practice of Yoga, or meditation proper, is the
resolution of conflicts and fulfilment of all longings to the utmost
extent until one reaches infinity itself. What a grand thing is Yoga!
Now we realise! We will be surprised that our very life is there only
for that goal. Now we will be able to appreciate that Yoga
is not a religion. It is not Hinduism. It is not Buddhism. It
is not Christian mysticism. It is not anything of that sort.
Osho: First, yoga
is not a religion—remember that. Yoga is not Hindu, it is
not Mohammedan. Yoga is a pure science just like mathematics, physics or
chemistry. Physics is not Christian, physics is not Buddhist. If
Christians have discovered the laws of physics, then too physics is not
Christian. It is just accidental that Christians have come to discover
the laws of physics. But physics remains just a science. Yoga is a
science—it is just an accident that Hindus discovered it. It is not
Hindu. It is a pure mathematics of the inner being. So a Mohammedan can
be a yogi, a Christian can be a yogi, a Jaina, a Buddhist can be a yogi.
Yoga is not a religion and can
usually be practiced by people of any religious persuasion. (link)
Viditatmananda Saraswati: Yoga need not be identified with a
religion. It is based on the fundamental principles of life. It can be
practiced by any individual anywhere, at anytime. It does not threaten
anything. Yoga teaches us the fundamental principles and
prescribes a way of life in keeping with those principles. When we live
a life in keeping with fundamental principles, there is harmony. When we
live a life in violation of the fundamental principles, there is a
disharmony. Harmony is happiness, and disharmony is unhappiness. Yoga
is not a religion
Yes, it is integrated in Hinduism, because
it evolved in India. But it can be integrated by any individual without
violating or sacrificing the tradition within which the individual has
grown up. That is why it has been adopted worldwide. People have found
that they can retain their faith and their beliefs, yet continue to take
advantage of what yoga teaches. (link)
Although we speak a lot of God and say that yoga is the way to God, yoga
is not a religion nor a religious sect. God is a universal
principle, cosmic light, eternally awake consciousness which pervades
all existence. (link)
This site is devoted
to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of
the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways,
while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or
practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in
direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the
Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute
Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the
Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the
intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which
complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the
classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well
as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra
Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge
into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the
pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.