I have always been conscious of the horrible things that have been done in the church: the child abuse, subjugation of women, the economic bleeding of the poor, and the extreme culture of judgement it has given us. Because of this, I have always been very careful when teaching to say “God, consciousness, spirit, whatever words feels right to you.” I realize that people have been very hurt in their lives and I don’t want to alienate anyone.
Well, I’m currently reading the book “Guns, Germs & Steel” by Jared Diamond, an interesting history of how the “haves” and the “have nots” politically came to be that way.
I’m currently reading the passage describing Spain’s invasion of Peru. The Spaniards, under Governor Pizarro, literally came in, asked to see their leader and promised no harm would come to him. They then proceeded to slaughter every Indian in sight. The Indians did not fight back. They just stood in the fields having never seen guns or horses and were innocently slaughtered by the thousands. (Now, I know that this is the story of conquering nations and I’ve read them my whole life… I am a descendant of those who did it to our own Native Americans… but this time something just rose inside of me – more in the context of this topic perhaps.)
The first thing that happened was Governor Pizarro sent his friar to approach their leader, Atahuallpa, holding a cross and a bible saying, “I am a priest of God, and I teach Christians the things of God, and in like matter, I come to teach you.”
Needless to say, Atahuallpa “declined the invitation” and the friar turned to the soldiers and said, “Come out! Come out Christians! Come at these enemy dogs who reject the things of God.. March out against him, for I will absolve you.”
The massacre began, ending with the capture of Atahuallpa. Later, the Governor used these words “to soothe his rage”: “Do not take it as an insult that you have been defeated and taken prisoner… We come to conquer this land by [the King of Spain’s] command, that all may come to a knowledge of God and His Holy Catholic faith; and by reason of our good mission, God,… permits this, in order that you may know him and come out of the bestial and diabolical life that you lead… When you have seen the errors in which you live, you will understand the good that we have done by coming to your land… Our Lord permitted that your pride be brought low and that no Indian should be able to offend a Christian.”
Now, I realize that this happened in 1532 but this sentiment still exists in subtle ways in mainstream religion and in not-so-subtle ways in the extremists.
So, between our healthy rejection of such proselytizing in our world today, and the possible memories passed down genetically within us, either as the oppressed or the oppressors, no wonder, we don’t want to hear the word God in our yoga and tantra classes!!
It’s Not the Same God
The problem is that this “God” that they were (and some today are) talking about is not the God of the yogis and tantrik(a)s. It isn’t really even the God of Jesus, Allah or any other true teacher has taught about. This has nothing to do with true integration of the Divine or enlightenment. It is just a man-made fabrication based on ignorance and a desire for power.
The challenge is that in this time of spiritual clean-up, there is a great chance of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and missing the same thing that our predecessors missed: the real meaning of God in our lives.
And so, I suggest that we bring the word “God” or whatever word you prefer back into our spiritual traditions and use it in it’s true sense.
(I had a similar challenge when I began teaching tantra. Many people warned me not to use the word “tantra” because it has been misused so often today – that it will be linked with sexual aides, massages, orgies and free sex. And while it’s true that Facebook and Google almost always disapproves of any ads I try to post, I maintain that I want to return the word “tantra” to it’s actual meaning. I want the truth to be felt within us, and the fictional, sensationalized aspects of tantra will just quietly disappear from the limelight.)
I’m not Going to Define God
Of course, defining God is impossible. The word is a placeholder for something unfathomable. It isn’t something that we can describe with our brains. It is something that we feel. This is why the spiritual paths of yoga and tantra are lifelong journeys and why teachers and gurus are so incredibly vague about describing the divine… it is always for US to discover. And there are never words when we actually get a glimpse of what we are seeking.
Regardless, the integration of this divine aspect of the world is central to any spiritual tradition. This is what makes it a “spiritual” tradition. It cannot be deleted.
The difference between the “God” of the aforementioned friar and the one that we are integrating can be found in what happens to us on our personal spiritual journey:
- We are personally empowered. (And not in a way to OVER-power others but in order for us to become fully human).
- It connects our finiteness with our eternal, infinite selves
- It is a source of guidance from beyond our current understanding.
Why this changes everything in our lives can be explained through the words of Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.
When we integrate this eternal, infinite space within us into all aspects of our lives and listen for guidance within it, we are able to make decisions beyond our current head-space and thought-patterns. We are able to truly grow beyond what our family or society believes in. We are able to fully develop who we truly are without limitations or inhibitions.
This integration is all about our own personal growth. In fact, as we grow in this space, we feel even MORE connected to others. We become LESS judgemental. We become MORE innocent and open to the world. We become LESS fearful and needing of power.
This concept of God almost seems opposite to what we have been taught. It makes sense that we struggle with it. We have a long history to sort through in our consciousness.
But it is worth it.
Because without it, yoga simply becomes stretching and tantra becomes sets of rituals focused on sex… and in both cases, we miss the true magic that deep down we know is possible in every one of our lives