“We are called to follow Christ.”
--Sam Blair, Catholic Christian motivational speaker
When Sam Blair said the above statement, he was speaking to about 60 Catholic men in the St Ambrose Men’s Group at Holy Family Church. I immediately thought of the calling of other men and women from the other major world religions and from the Yoga tradition.
Each of those traditions, talk about following their spiritual leader. Each follower of the world religion wants to follow and be like the founder of that particular religion. The Jewish people, especially the Orthodox Jews, are committed to following the Law of Moses, explained in the Torah. The Muslims believe they are called to follow the path of Mohammad, outlined in the Qur’an and the Hadith. Christians feel called, as Sam Blair states, to follow Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings as detailed in the Christian Bible. Buddhists wanted to follow the Buddha; Taoists practice the behaviors of Lao Tzu; and so on! Each religous tradition’s practitioners are urged to follow their spiritual leader.
The Yoga Tradition, in contrast to religious traditions, asks it followers to practice the eight rungs (ashtanga) of yoga; namely, the yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayamas, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Yoga does not ask its practitioners to follow a saint or a sage or “God-figure.” Yoga asks people to go within to follow the Source of Life within themselves. Yoga calls this Source of Life various names. One such name is Ishvara, which means Ultimate Goal of Life.
Each of us, in the Yoga Tradition, is called to fulfill our unique purpose, the specific purpose for which our Divine Source of Life has brought us into this world. Yoga, like religions, has a number of books and teachers that help yogis and yoginis in their practice of fulfilling our purpose, but yogis and yoginis do not see the “persons” of the tradition as Ultimate Model of their journey. They have a tendency to see all the great saints and sages as many helpful models in their search for union with that divine Source of Life.
Union with the Source of Life, whatever it is called or whatever it looks like, or whatever culture it practices, is yoga’s calling. We are to become one with the deepest part of ourselves, the core of our nature, the Divinity within. We only use the great saints and sages, the great spiritual leaders of the world, as guides. We do not worship them.
And how do we, as spiritual people of yoga, learn and understand this truth? Through study and meditation. May you continue your study and your meditation, for you are following your Essential Spirit, the core of the Divine within you.