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Theism, Atheism, Yoga and Fear

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    From: http://www.swamij.com/theism-atheism-yoga-fear.htm (Insightful graphics are at this link) THEISM, ATHEISM, YOGA AND FEAR Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati Fear
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 25, 2007
      (Insightful graphics are at this link)

      Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

      Fear is defined as a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the
      presence or imminence of danger. Though there may be many sources and
      effects of fear, there is a particular fear related specifically to
      practitioners of Yoga meditation, as well as other meditative and
      contemplative practices or traditions. Many sincere seekers of direct
      experience of subtler realities seem to have a pervasive fear
      stemming from the negative influences of two polar opposites: the
      Theists and Religionists, and the Atheists and Secularists.

      In America, some Theists or Religionists view Yoga (as well as
      Mysticism and Gnosis) as being in opposition to their individual form
      of Theism, and hence, see it as in alignment with Atheism. Some
      Secular Atheists view the Yoga practices of meditation and
      contemplation as being part of Theism or Religion. At the same time,
      however, practitioners of authentic, traditional Yoga usually view
      both Theism and Atheism as separate from the direct experience sought
      through these practices.

      The often imperceptible fear of the Theists, Religionists, Atheists,
      and Secularists can be a major obstacle in sadhana or spiritual
      practices by virtue of the fact that the sadhaka (practitioner)
      is "going against" the subtle pressures of the human environment. The
      effect of this fear can be an unconscious reticence to pursue the
      deeper teachings, or to explore and surrender into the subtler
      processes such as with advanced meditation or contemplation. Or, the
      fear may be strong enough to completely stop you on your inner
      journey of enlightenment, even though it may remain undetected by the
      conscious mind.

      Now, it is important to note that these observations are not intended
      to make a sweeping generalization about all Theists or all Atheists,
      most of whom are likely very genuine and well-intentioned people.
      While there may be some who are individually quite aggressive and
      destructive in their belief based actions, most are probably just
      living day-to-day lives, only indirectly and unintentionally causing
      harm. In reflecting on the influences of other people, it is also
      important to remember the principle in Yoga of ahimhsa, non-harming,
      and the value of cultivating love for all, as we all arose from the
      same one source.

      Some Theists or Religionists have a world view that theirs is the
      only valid way of living, that they are right and everybody else is
      wrong. If you do not see reality their way, then you are a sinner and
      are going to burn in hell. The fear being talked about here is not
      just the fear, for example, of what "God" may do to you for your
      failing to follow the rules of the religion (though that fear may
      have also been programmed into you at a deep level). Rather, it is a
      subtle, often unnoticed, ever present fear of the religious
      institutions and their human representatives and followers themselves
      who want you to follow them. It is a fear that creeps not only into
      your worldly activities with other people, but also into the recesses
      of your unconscious mind, where it can become a block to your
      spiritual life.

      As if that is not enough, there is a growing presence of Atheists or
      Secularists who decry all spiritual practices as being irrational and
      a waste of time. Some of these people are completely convinced that
      all nature of consciousness emerges solely from matter. If you are
      not a pure, one hundred percent materialist, you are perceived to be
      an ignorant Religionist of the most extreme fundamentalist type. The
      fear is not based on the atheistic possibility of there not being an
      afterlife, that you will finally, irreversibly no longer exist in any
      form. Rather, it is a fear of the people themselves, resulting from
      their rejection of both you and your views, along with an argument
      that you should disbelieve any metaphysical experiences you may have
      had, and abandon your seeking of anything higher or deeper.

      If either of these types of people, Theist or Atheist, are present in
      your family, social and career worlds, the unspoken (or spoken)
      pressure to conform, follow, or convert to their views can be a
      tremendous threat to your sense of well being, both in terms of
      emotional response and the realities of functioning in a world of
      such people. This fear can have a devastating effect on ones feelings
      of safety in family, community, and professional life, and, in turn,
      on spiritual life. It can cause hesitancy, timidness, reluctance,
      mistrust, self-doubt, and other such emotions and reactions, which
      are often projections of an underlying fear. These, in turn, are
      antagonists to the tranquility or peace of mind consistent with
      meditation and other spiritual practices.

      In America, the fifty states are spoken of as either red states or
      blue states, based on political party dominance. The two colors also
      represent religious polarities of conservative or liberal. Imagine
      for a moment that there were a third category, which we can call
      violet states, which would be those where the Yogis and Mystics are
      in the majority. How many violet states are there? None. The balance
      of blue states and red states may shift slightly from time to time,
      but there remain no violet states. If you are red oriented you can
      easily visit or live in a red environment. If you are blue oriented
      you can easily visit or live in a blue environment. However, if you
      are violet oriented there is no state in the U.S. where you can go
      where you are anything other than a minority. As is often the case
      with minorities, the stage is set for fear.

      So, if you think of yourself as a Yogi, Mystic, or Gnostic seeker,
      you are extrinsically and subliminally pressured from two directions.
      One is the Theistic Religionists who say you are evil or damned
      Atheists, and the other is the Atheistic Secularists who say you are
      misguided or confused Religionists. You may intuit the all-pervading
      Reality rather than only some one, single overseer of the world,
      contrary to the Religious Theist. You may intuit that matter
      manifests from consciousness, rather than vice versa as seen by the
      Secular Atheist. In either case, you may find yourself feeling alone,
      confused and suffering deeply, or at best, feeling yourself to be in
      a miniscule minority.

      In response to this unnoticed fear, you may find yourself speaking in
      hushed tones when talking with others about subjects like meditation.
      If a conservative Religious Theist walks in the room, you may lower
      your voice or change the subject of conversation. You may look around
      to see who is watching or listening before starting a conversation
      about the inner contemplative journey. Similarly, you may find
      yourself suddenly become either very quiet or verbally evasive in the
      presence of a self-declared Secular Atheist. You may have learned
      over many years that it is safer to just remain silent, to keep your
      experiences and perspectives to yourself.

      The fear we are talking about here is not a clinical paranoia, but a
      low level, pervasive fear that may otherwise be having little effect
      on your daily life, as might be the case with a medically diagnosable
      paranoia. However, you may find yourself longing for a "community"
      of "like minded" people, while often feeling alone and not having
      such a close network of friends and fellow seekers. You may read
      books, but never have anybody to talk with about them, or with whom
      you can share your insights or ask your questions. You may meditate
      or do other practices, but still feel a vague sense of incompleteness
      that you do not understand.

      Theistic Religionists can be quick to label Yogis and other Mystic
      seekers and organizations as cult followers or cult organizations.
      They describe the methods of cults as including being emotionally and
      financially exploitive, psychologically manipulative, demanding of
      unquestioning dedication or devotion, requiring suspension of
      critical thinking, and other such means of control. Ironically, it is
      these very kinds of practices that the Yogi or Mystic may see in the
      Theists and their organizations. Not knowing quite how to deal with
      this in work or social settings, the Yogi or Mystic may end up with
      an internalized fear which may not be recognized as having an
      unconscious influence over one's own spiritual practices and life.

      Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you may be carrying
      around this kind of inner baggage of fear and having it negatively
      impact your spiritual practices and life. It often manifests as
      feeling you "do not have time" to meditate or do other practices, as
      if some invisible force is blocking the path in front of you. It can
      manifest as feeling you are "not ready" to go ahead on the journey.
      It can feel like you are "not worthy" to have the joy of direct
      experience of your own true nature. It can leave you "deciding" to
      follow the inner journey later in life, maybe after you have a
      different circle of friends, after you have moved to a different
      city, after your children are grown, after your relationship with
      your spouse has changed, or after you retire from your job.

      No teacher, no method, no class can deal effectively with this,
      without seeing clearly the nature of this pervasive fear-filled
      obstacle, and without having a resolute commitment to see it, explore
      it, accept it, and not let it prevent you from doing your
      meditations, contemplations, or other spiritual practices. The
      suggestion of Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras that these obstacles be
      dealt with by one-pointed training of mind may lead to feeling even
      more hopeless because of feeling you "cannot do it," although this
      ability to stay focused is ultimately seen to be extremely important
      and useful.

      The Theists or Religionists have found or created a very broad range
      of communities of peers with whom they can relate and provide support
      for one another. So too, the Atheists and Secularists have
      increasingly found or built communities for supportive relationships.
      Surely, some practitioners of Yoga and Mysticism have found or have
      formed small, supportive communities. Of those, some have encountered
      and dealt with the fear being talked about here. However, there are
      many, possibly millions of sincere seekers with lesser experience and
      exposure who have neither discovered and dealt with the fear, nor
      found any supportive community where they can openly explore and
      transcend this very subtle, powerful obstacle. They are quietly
      suffering alone in an unseen fear of both the Theists and
      Religionists, and the Atheists and Secularists, who are by far in the
      majority amongst their neighbors, coworkers and family members.

      If you are a sincere seeker of direct experience, it is imperative to
      see the nature of this fear so that you can develop the will power,
      the sankalpa shakti, the determination to move forward, right through
      the middle of these obstacles, regardless of the opinions and actions
      of your fellow humans, whether Theists or Atheists. This is done by
      cultivating an active, passionate conviction to seek that for which
      your heart longs. With this awareness and commitment, and an attitude
      of loving perseverance, the fear is ultimately seen as a phantom and
      gradually dissolves into just one more past habit that no longer
      binds, or blocks the finer realization being sought.

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