“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the divine within my heart.”-Rumi
As a black woman who grew up in the south, it’s rather unusual to deem yourself non-religious and just spiritual. My parents raised me to be a free thinker and religion was never something that was forced upon me.
When I first began practicing yoga, a friend of mind, who is Christian, stated she did not like meditation. She quoted the popular saying; “The idle mind is the devils’ workshop.” In response I said that meditation was similar to prayer, except words are not spoken. To be honest, it was a futile attempt, and the last thing I wanted to do was offend her.
In addition, I came across an article about a Christian blogger that said practicing yoga is like playing with a Ouija board. I immediately chuckled. Seriously?
As someone that doesn’t believe Satan exists, there’s no denying that evil is real. The million dollar question is, can practicing yoga lead you to wickedness? The answer is no. The whole purpose of yoga is to keep the mind in check (hence stopping the flow of negative thoughts). Here is a more in depth look:
Chapter one (Samadhi Pada) of Patanjali Yoga Sutras, by Swami Vivekananda states,
“Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from various forms (Vrittis).”
I scratched my head. “What the heck does that mean?” Well Swami Vivekananda describes our true self as being at the bottom of a lake. Chitta is the lake itself, and Vrittis also called whirlpool, are the ripple effects.
In other words, we practice yoga to restore these ripples and disturbing waves to a mind of calmness and still waters.
So what can happen if these waves are not controlled?
The 14th chapter of Bhagavad Gita discusses the The Three Modes of Material Nature, also known as The Three Gunas (Sanskrit for force), which are as follows:
goodness, purity, knowledge, balance
passion, lust, turbulence of the mind, greed, excess
ignorance, laziness, inertia, darkness
The Three Gunas are the subtle influences on our physical, emotional, and spiritual world. In our material world, it can be very difficult to transcend these three modes. Sometimes we can get caught up in our failures, desires, and insecurities that these negative thoughts manifest into anger, misery, negativity and darkness.
When we are in the mode of Sattva, we are happy, content with what we have, undisturbed by desire, the ego, or selfishness. Without control of these emotions and thoughts, we can become trapped within Raja or Tama, which is not where we want to be.
It’s from Sattva that we are able to transcend into the 8th and final stage of yoga, which is Samadhi, a complete state of concentration, intellectual and mental acuity, spiritual enlightenment, and a profound state of happiness and contentment.
There’s nothing evil about yoga and meditation. Its sole purpose is to keep the mind under control. No matter what your religious beliefs may be, yoga is simply a path to calmness and spiritual peace.
Thank you so much for reading. Namaste.