Sect or spiritual path?

Comparative analysis by

Gregorian Bivolaru

Due to countless calumnies spread in Romanian media about YOGA and in order to make things clear for those who hardly know what it is about, we are going to point out in some ideas why genuine Yoga has never been and will never be a sect. In order to bring light in this respect we will assess the basic differences between Yoga and a sect.

According to Larousse Encyclopaedic Dictionary, a sect specifies “body of persons who agree on the same doctrine (for instance: Epicure’s sect) or body of people joining a religious community (for instance the Adventist sect)”. Oxford Dictionary reference: “body of persons agreed upon religious doctrines, usually different from those of an established or orthodox church, from which they have separated, usu. having distinctive common worship”.

Larousse reference for Yoga is yet: “a traditional philosophic, system both theoretical and practical, originated from India, which recommends contemplation, absolute motionless, ecstasy and ascetic practice in order to release the individual Self from the material contingent life and merge with the Divine (God)”.

These days sects may stand for a quite complex and modulated social phenomenon, indeed, displaying lots of particular features; we are going to present them hereinafter as compared to the traditional Yoga system.


  SECTS FEATURES YOGA FEATURES Etymology The word SECT stems from Latin SECTA, SEQUI = to pursue, to follow somebody’s traces, also from SECARE = to cut. The word YOGA stems from Sanskrit YUJ = fusion, union, resonance.   Origin  The sect generally means some dissident religious fraction, split off some cult, religion that usually imputes the former community the truth falsification. The Christian view assesses the word SECT some disparaging value, connected to heresy. (Acc. V. Kernbach, “Dicţionar de mitologie generală”, “Dictionary of basic mythology”). The word YOGA occurs for the first time in TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD and KATHA UPANISHAD. As a shaped doctrine the Yoga system is assigned to Patanjali, who brought together all previous texts in his work “Yoga Sutras”. (According to Mircea Eliade – “Yoga, Eternity and Freedom”). Here we can see that unlike sects, Yoga never evinced such objectiveness and instability. On the contrary, it is some unitary system, naturally developed since more than 2500 years, as a result of the ancient experience and of the human consciousness expansion. Propensity Contraction of consciousness, closing; it’s well-known that “sectarian” goes for excluding, narrow, confined.   Healthy expansion of consciousness, balanced opening. The psychological urge of Patanjali in Raja Yoga, just like all forms of yoga Bhakti Yoga – Yoga of love, Karma Yoga – Yoga of detached action, all these keenly convey a tendency to opening, understanding, compassion and love to all beings in the Universe. Methods of  spiritual evolution– theoretical features Sects very much insist on stubbornly denying the original religious doctrine they had left. It often sticks to defending the former agent of the breach or the element triggering the emergence of the sect. This is considered a unique revelation, which nobody could ever grasp. Yoga provides lots of simple, clear, logical, effective methods. Raja Yoga, for instance is structured in 8 stages, which represent as much classes of evolution methods settled is a systematic, gradual display:
1. The moral rules (YAMA)
2. The ethic rules (NIYAMA)
3. The body poses (Asanas)
4. The breath control (Pranayama)
5. definite ways of directing the senses inwards (Pratyahara)
6. Techniques of mental focus (Dharana)
7. Techniques of deep meditation (Dhyana);
8. The state of divine ecstasy (Samadhi). Among thousands of great yogis who followed such systematic path of evolution and then contributed to the spiritual and cultural developing of the humankind:
 Sri Aurobindo, Ramakrishna, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Shivananda, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Gandhi, etc
  Practical elements The approached techniques are usually simple and confining. For instance: group songs obsessively chanted; the reiteration of so-called long mantras (such as the Hare Krishna sect, going for the stereotype: HARE KRISHNA, HARE HARE, KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE, HARE RAMA, HARE RAMA, RAMA RAMA HARE HARE). In such case, the adepts confine to the quantitative feature of the spiritual practice (as if God would be counting the prayers). All they know is they have to repeat this Mantra 3000 everyday all their life in order to be redeemed. Yet they completely miss to get aware in full transfiguration of their act. Also they evince shallowness in dealing with some genuine methods of evolution. Sahaja Yoga for instance is a sect talking about spiritual ideals, about accomplishing the inner Self, (ATMAN), raising of Kundalini. They are amazingly naïve to claim all this is possible by simply listening to some tape recorded conference lectured by the sect leader Sri Mataji, or by stupidly waving one’s hands in order to… “knot“ the energy on top of the head(!!), peak of stupidity. Anyway, there are some sectarian precepts, some of them quite absurd, by all means, bound to be stiffly and dogmatically respected. Else the members of the sects are death threatened or doomed to eternal misery, unless they obey it everyday.  There are different techniques or branches, proper to every individual psychological profile. Therefore persons leaned to actions are advised Karma Yoga, intellectuals are urged to Jnana Yoga, Hatha Yoga is generally recommended in order to naturally solve the health problems, also for metal and psychic harmony; it basically consists of body postures and breath control techniques. For all Yoga branches practice is carefully measured in gradual stages from the simplest techniques up to the most complex ones. Yoga practice is mostly performed in solitude.  Continuous awareness of the actions and thoughts is pursued.  Quality is particularly stressed here, unlike quantity. Kundalini, the fundamental, subtle energy of the human being gradually emerges after years of diligent practice. Once this awakening occurs it may secure states of ecstasy for the yogi, paranormal skills, (SIDDHIS), wisdom, beneficial power, effectiveness in all actions that fit the universal harmony. Lots of practical techniques are described in countless Yoga treatises, (for instance there are 8,400,000 asanas – body postures referred to), which means any practitioner is always allowed to chose.   Duration Due to theological and ecclesiastic instability, there are many religions to shuttle down into countless sects, which are then subdivided into sub-sects. After the initiator of the sect is dead, it usually splits again in new groups and it may yet get off the original nucleus. It may be appropriate to call them religious trends, for these are indeed but some ephemeral, shallow aspects, which simply pass by in time and they may even disappear.  Although it is based on a 2500 years old philosophical system, both theoretical and practical, Yoga is always in. Apart from the “Yoga Fashion” and the shallow tendencies in the West, there still is some genuine streak since the oldest times.  Besides the Yoga system owns the inner availability to agree to people’s psychology and tendencies whether they are Eastern or Western, whether in ancient or modern times.  This is how Yoga testifies its universal feature.   Duration explanation Ephemerity: the ideal of the people often is some fake idea, basically the public manifestations of obsessions, which may turn rather violent.  For instance, Jim Jones’s suicide sect “Temple of people”, “Ananda Marga” sect, based on some neo-nazist ideology, or the sect “Jehovah’s witnesses” utterly displaying anarchical features. Yoga is some authentic tradition, based on the ancient fundamental experience. Always referring to the Divine, essential, out-of-time and universal reality, pursuing the general laws and principles of the universe, these will always keep yoga out of degradation and routine. The truth revealed by direct and effective experience provides the communication warmth, accessible to all genuine human beings, no matter the social and cultural background.    Target The alleged redemption, which will mostly fail. Although devotion is usually excessive, they miss the authentic knowledge proper to discrimination. As they lack discrimination and maturity, there emerge naive ideas about God or about some Redeemer usually childishly identified with the sect leader, who would provide “redemption” to everybody in the sect. Their philosophical, ontological and Gnostic ideas – in case they exist – are so dogmatic and restrictive that people usually lack any objective and harmonious perspective. The self-knowledge (in Jnana Yoga), love and devotion to God (in Bhakti Yoga), removal of the suffering “chains” by detached actions (in Karma Yoga), all these aspirations are basically identical. There is no real knowledge unless the love of God, and there is no Divine love unless the knowledge of the Supreme Self (ATMAN). These can express by getting out of the narrow individual area and by ecstatic union to the whole Universe.  The yogi who accomplishes his Divine essence (the Supreme Self) transcends the ephemeral manifestation and ecstatically melts into the Divine, just like a rain drop that gets back into the Ocean of God the Father, attaining thereafter eternity and spiritual release.   Structure    Sects often comprise unsatisfied people, from the middle social strata or from the outlying decayed groups usually non integrated in the social background, suffering from stress. Such people mostly are inferior, they lack personality and are dominated by the sect leader; they are afraid of life, uncreative, they display low QI and are unable to perform basic philosophical exercises. We do not know people (for there hardly are any) who should have belonged to any of these sects and who might have left any valuable traces of genius for humankind. Some morbid naivety often urges them to find at all costs some social task, which gets them maniacs or fanatics to the other people; for instance the para religious sects, such as Ananda Marga, or the Bahai sect. Although Yoga was initially introduced as a rite for the Brahman caste, as the attribute of the highest social rank, it became soon popular and became nowadays a swift, authentic way of uplifting the human being. In India, where all its attributes are known it was even practiced by the greatest politicians or by some cultural personalities: Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Aurobindo, Vivekananda. In the West, some shallow or hasty yoga teachers, low trained, basically obstructed the richness of these techniques. Nevertheless, there have been remarkable persons who practiced Yoga: the violin player Yehudi Menuhin, the actresses Raquel Welch, Adi McGraw, Mae West, etc. Moreover, let’s mention that the sportive, Olympic teams in many countries and also all the cosmonauts do include in their daily training specific Yoga exercises. Among the Romanian personalities who have successfully practiced Yoga we ay mention: Mircea Eliade, Ion Vulcănescu, Sergiu Celibidache, Corneliu Coposu, Gheorghe Zamfir. New members   Any sect constantly endeavours to stick to new members. We may say that it’s the propaganda aspect that stands for the main pole in the sectarian’s life and not at all its redemption. It’s known for a fact that: “It’s not Yoga that need people, but it’s people who need Yoga”. The doctrine and propaganda aspect is rather minor as compared to direct and effective practice that samples the principle: ”An ounce of practice is worth tones of theory”. The disciple often has to face here since the very beginning the tough difficulties and tests, proper to a genuine spiritual path, for in a genuine spiritual path there are any called but few are chosen. Nevertheless the spiritual guide can encourage his disciple by his own example in practice. The master   In the case of most sects, the person who had received the initial revelation or founded the sectarian group is considered the central axis there. All devotion is due to him; this will gradually remove him from his inner axis, it will put him out of centre. There the sect leader will assert himself by his own personality and by his own charisma or sometimes he may even use elements breaking the others’ freedom. To set some outrageous examples: the sect of Jim Jones, which he led to suicide; the sect of Moon where the leader would arbitrarily dispose the weddings Dazzled with the power he owns and the lust for money, such a man will get himself away from God and will be more and more false and despotic. The genuine Yoga practice will absolutely require an accomplished spiritual master (guide). “A blind man cannot lead another blind man”. A genuine Yoga master will take upon himself the entire responsibility of guiding his disciple. There will occur an ineffable, free relationship between them, which, given the noble and superior target, may yet exceed the love and empathy between parent and child. We obviously hint here to the most profound aspects in Yoga. There currently exists some dangerous tendency, basically  promoted by the freemason inspired –   New Age movement that claims that one needs no master (spiritual guide), for any man can do it on his own and there is no reason to admit somebody’s restrictions.  If we evince common sense in approaching this, we can understand that no matter the field, one needs a teacher and this is all the more necessary in Yoga practice, where there are lots of things that need minute supervision in order to be wisely and gradually applied. All great yogis agreed this fundamental idea  and acted such as. On the other hand, if approached as simple gymnastics, Yoga (Hatha Yoga) stands no risks if no master available, but it will not provide the beneficial, extraordinary effects either, that may emerge in the case of the spiritual integration.   Restrictions  There may exist some conditions imposed in the case of the sects, which obviously defy the individual freedom, as they are usually whether aberrant, illogical or tokens of feudal backward mentalities.  . For instance: prohibition of watching TV, of reading no matter what, of letting or getting blood, or seeing the doctor if sick, etc. The main attribute of these constraints in Yoga is that they never are extraneous, but they are the result of the aspirant’s wish to increase vitality, will, rigour or the spiritual force.  Therefore he stands on plain grounds in assuming this. For instance:  lacto-vegetarian food; he gives up meat, alcohol, smoking, coffee and drugs.    Taboo subjects Due to ideological contradictions or to unsolved problems by means of the sect’s own conceptions, there are lots of taboo subjects or there are specific fields of knowledge constantly eluded or that may not be tackled. As a consequence of such restrictions, there emerge life areas and classes or groups of people that become really repulsive or may even trigger the members’ hatred. There is no taboo subject in Yoga, for this is a philosophical system that wisely explains and integrates both etymologically and ontologically all aspects of the universe. The followers of Yoga have always learned how to wisely and flexibly adopt all the scientific discoveries to their own philosophical system.  For instance: Swami Shivananda, Swami Vivekananda or Paramahansa Yogananda (the latter has explained his paranormal skills in the terms of the quantum mechanics). Yoga, accepts in transfiguration all fields of life. For instance the vision of Aurobindo upon the evolution of the universe and of the human being, if considered in the current psychological context highly exceeds the vision of the psychoanalysts.    Sexuality This actually is a taboo subject, most of the times. Else abstinence is urged. The specific element is repression. Inside Ananda Marga, for instance, they admit sexual intercourse between married couples, once a month right in the full moon period. Therefore the love making basically occurs when the two persons is most vulnerable at a psychic level, due to the subtle evil energies that the Moon issues at that time. Still, there also exist sects promoting total sexual freedom, which lack any spiritual view. For instance, the Voudou sect practicing black magic sexual rites. Whether it implies abstinence, (which means perfect control and sublimation of the sexual energy out of the proper sexual performance) or sexual continence (perfect control of sexual energy by non-ejaculation love making) the main target in Yoga is the ascending direction of the sexual energy, which is hereby sublimed and lifted up to the superior levels of the being and turned into vital, emotional, psychic, mental or spiritual energy.    Money  It represents a quite important element among the preoccupations of a sect, for the sect leaders consider that money can provide many ways of manipulation and often attract new members. The members are often compelled to work 14 to 20 hours a day and they are usually urged to mechanical works that lack creativity, robot like activities that coarsen them. Given their orientation towards the spiritual aspects of life, the great yogis evinced detachment to the material aspects and they particularly did not fall a prey to  the crave for money and richness. Never has a real yogi been urged by force of money and of material stuff. This view never turned money into a taboo or into something disguised and ignored, but it simply considered it ordinary life stuff. The particular feature however is that the advanced yogis do not consider the money and all goods an essential target by itself, it is just a tool to be used with detachment and wisdom.   Connections to society The sect usually represents a protest itself and most of the times it is against society. This is the main reason why sects are considered a refuge to average people, to the imaginative and non adopted people. Although the Yoga practitioner no longer is an ordinary person, easily influenced, or a mere society product he never is an antisocial element.   His creativity, his warmth, lucidity, inspiration, his bracing humour, his brilliant spirit, his devotion may stand for real examples to society, for the yogis have often brought inspired, beneficial solutions that transformed the society.  To set an example, Milarepa who was the model of Brancusi, the great sculptor; Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, who inspired two admiring novels of Romain Rolland’s; Gandhi who still is a unique example in his powerful love, peace  self-possession and humility in the politics. The idea of God For sects there usually exist a quite restrictive coarse attitude about God as “their” God as compared to “the others” God. Yoga supports a deep universal feeling of sacredness, which can be identified and gradually increased in man and which will finally lead to God. No matter we are Christian, Muslims or Buddhists, God is considered in Yoga as the summit of a mountain and all religions paths leading up to Him. However, all paths will finally meet on top.  Theilard de Chardin, inspired from this oriental vision said : “Everything that raises will finally converge”. This is te very reason why the yogis have always supported tolerance, love between people, peace and declined any conflicts between religions.  This was the only attitude to allow different forms of Yoga coexist:  Buddhist, Hindu, Jaina and Moslem yoga. To set some examples: the wise Ramakrishna, after he attained the paramount Self achievement in the tantric and Vedantic tradition, he experienced the Christian path.  Yogi Swami Vivekananda was acknowledged worldwide by his lecture in the International Congress of Religions.


9 November 2005?>

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