Where is God?: A Yogic Perspective
Isn’t God more than a person? Doesn't God dwell within us? Isn't everything God? These are some of the questions I have been hearing from friends that I thought to address. There is much more that could be shared or elaborated on, but that is what future blogs are for. :)
On my second night at Ananda in 2004 my Yoga Teacher Training class was asked to define “God.” I furiously wrote a page about how I hate the idea of a man sitting in a chair in the heavens judging us and how religion has caused many wars. On the back of the page I wrote about how I prefer to believe in things like peace and love. We were then asked to share what we wrote. I sat quietly because I did not want to share anything negative. I listened, though, to how everyone in the group described the term “God” as concepts like peace and love. My eyes were completely opened to another way of looking at God. With a new understanding of the word God I thought there should be a new word to represent this new concept. For a long time I ignored the word when I heard or read it in the texts of Ananda. After a while I had forgiven and forgotten my old discomfort associated with the word and allowed it to generate a new meaning.
With a primarily Judeo-Christian culture, it is easy to refer to God as a male or female being outside of ourselves that we are trying to get to. For many of us it is easier to relate to God as a being similar to a human rather than an abstract concept because that is what we know. I believe the true intent of the spiritual path that I am on is to say God is within us. Our plight is to realize that fully within ourselves. I see some people get scared that they are being told they are not good enough or not perfect as they are. I believe everyone is; we just have to realize it. Thus this is the path of Self-Realization.
Now you may ask, how can we be content if we have not already realized our perfect state? We also have the right to stop judging what it means to be realized and let God decide. I don't think we have to know how close we are to ultimate realization nor can we make a judgment on the level of progress or distance from the goal. When you are pulling a nail out of a board you may not know how long the nail is or how hard it will be to pull it out. But if you keep trying, eventually it will come out.
As long as we are compelled to act, then we are trying to do something to fill a void. Just as the river always tries to return to the sea, I believe humans are always trying to become self-realized. Thus every action we take has that purpose, yet true enlightenment is an actionless state.
We come into being with egos when the soul identifies with the body. The physical science of operating that body in the simplest form requires food, water, breathing, and sleep. With that comes a proper balance of making enough money to supply those demands without so much stress to obstruct our breathing or time to take away from our sleep. And our egos crave much more.
A carpenter uses a hammer rather than the hammer controlling the carpenter. In the same manner we can learn to use our ego as a tool to support our aim towards self-realization rather than leading us in directions where we think our happiness comes from outside ourselves. So begins the process of seeking self-realization within and reducing outward activity.
Many yogis have been able to transcend beyond the need for food, breathing, or sleep using meditation techniques. Thus begins the journey beyond needing to take action to sustain the body. A greater layer of the ego dissolves as the soul no longer identifies with a body. That is when full contentment can reign. As we work through this process, if we can accept where we are without judgement, we can also feel a greater sense of contentment.
If God is within, why do some people feel they need a guru? When trying to learn to fly a plane if your intuition is perfect, you may be able to figure it out on your own. How many of us have such great intuition? You could also try playing with the controls until you get it right. With that method you might end up with a few crashes along the way and hopefully you live through them. Rather, you are going to find a teacher who can offer you a foundation of knowledge based from their expertise. From there you can go on to fly your own plane and create new models of planes to fly in different ways. I believe a guru intends to be used as a tool to get us to the place where we can fly on our own and connect directly with God. Here are a couple quotes from my guru that support that statement:
“For the guru is simply a channel for God’s power and wisdom. God is the true Guru.”—Paramhansa Yogananda
“The purpose of the guru is not to weaken your will. It is to teach you secrets of developing your inner power, until you can stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.” —Paramhansa Yogananda
The final thing I have been hearing a lot is an inference that it does not matter what we do because everything is God. Yes, everything is God. Murder and delusion are also God. Yet those are not things most of us wish to aspire to. What we also seek is awareness and contentment in order to transcend taking harmful actions.
The yogis say the path towards Self-Realization is about three and a half feet long from the base of the spine to the spiritual eye (point between the eyebrows). Once we are able to direct all of our energy to the spiritual eye, the crown chakra opens up and we can become fully realized or aware.
Our actions can either draw our energy down the spine, around in each chakra or energy center, or up the spine. What I prefer is take the most direct route to God. Thus what causes my energy to go down or get stuck in repetitive cycles or dependency on outside sustenance is not what supports drawing all of my energy into the center of the spine and up. Which actions cause what direction of energy is what you get to define for yourself.
“Nothing works for long in this world. When disillusionment ensues, people turn away to seek their fulfillment elsewhere. This is a roundabout way to God, but it, too, reaches toward Him at least, inasmuch as repeated disappointments do, eventually, turn one’s heart to Him.”—The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita as explained by Paramhansa Yogananda
What is your most direct route towards realizing God within?