Yoga and Buddhism

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

buddha767738865.jpgWhen I say that I am Buddhist, I am saying that I respect and practice the teachings of the Buddha. But, I not am saying that I only read books or attend talks by Buddhist Masters and block off teachings of other Spiritual Masters. No, that will only limit my spiritual growth. Buddhist teachings have brought me inner-peace and Kriya Yoga has deepened my understanding of Buddhism. In this chapter, I hope to show that both Buddhism and Kriya Yoga are not and never was, intended to be religions.

The foundation of Buddhism is based on three simple principles; Anicca (Impermanence), Dukkha (Suffering) and Anatta (No-Self). Yes, from these three principles, millions of books have been written. This is because our beliefs, perceptions and conditioning are as varied as the number of people on this planet. Each one of us has different beliefs and thus, the required approach to help each of us understand the principles can be very different.

Buddhism teaches us that we are not our body, feelings, perceptions and mental formations (thoughts and images). We can easily come to that conclusion with our body. For example, if one’s arm is amputated, the Self still exist. Similar rational conclusions can be made with the other aspects for example, our feelings, perceptions and mental formations changes all the time. Therefore, they cannot be the Self. If they are the Self, the Self would vanish each time they go away. However, understanding these concepts INTELLECTUALLY is of no use. We need to rid ourselves of the HABIT of identifying with our Mind-Body personality or our ego.

We all know that changing a habit is very difficult especially this habit of identifying with our Mind-Body personality. It seems almost impossible. Yes, but only almost! We can slowly reduce the power of this habit through awareness. Through awareness, we can realise the three basic principles that underlies the teachings of Buddhism; Impermanence, Suffering and No-Self. We can see all these when we observe our body, feelings, perceptions and mental formations. We will use our negative thoughts as an example. When negative thoughts arise, our emotions will be negatively affected. If we are aware, we will realise that these thoughts came on their own accord. Some externality stimulated it. We did not choose to think those thoughts. From that, we observe the teachings of No-Self (Anatta).

Our awareness of our negative emotions tells us that identification with the thoughts or our ego has brought suffering (Dukkha). We then bring our awareness to our breath, the thoughts and the negative emotions, and watch them with love and compassion. We see the opportunity to learn from this event and watch them with a keen intention to understand the Self. These negative thoughts and emotions will slowly fade away as the negative thoughts lose their emotional charge in the light of our awareness. From that, we experience impermanence (Anicca). This is consistent with the Buddhist sutra on the Four Establishments of  Mindfulness.

Now, let us address the apparent inconsistencies between Yoga and Buddhism. Consider the following remarks:
• Buddha Nature
• You are God
• No Self
• Yoga is the cessation of identifying with the fluctuations arising within consciousness
• God is omnipresent

These are different sentences pointing to the same thing. When asked, is there a God? Buddha remained quiet. He did not want to answer because he knew that if he said yes, he would create the confusion that God is a separate entity sitting on his throne somewhere in heaven and directing events. Neither can he say no because our very essence is God. So, he says we have Buddha Nature. That is brilliant! Buddha Nature tells us that we are not our Mind-Body personality (ego) but our habit of identifying with our ego binds us to it. With awareness, we slowly let go of this habit of identifying with our ego and become free.

Does this mean that we will suffer until we achieve enlightenment? No, it does not mean that. We suffer only if we live unconsciously. Every time we choose to be aware, we are choosing happiness and every time we choose to allow our habit of identifying with our egos run free, we choose suffering. So, we can enjoy the journey to enlightenment.

Awareness gives us a glimpse of the bliss and joy of enlightenment. We can enjoy it NOW by choosing to be present. Buddhism and Kriya Yoga help us to transcend our habit of identifying with our ego. You see, I can talk about the principles that come from Buddhism and Kriya Yoga, without mentioning them, and the listener will not be able to tell the difference. When I say, we are not our mind-body personality; we cannot say that it comes from Buddhism or Yoga or anything else. All of us experience this fact when we are aware. Buddhism and Yoga give us the tools to help us overcome our habit.
That is all.

A Buddhist friend who also practices yoga told me that her other friends are of the opinion that she is straying away from Buddhism through her practice of Yoga. How can one stray from any teaching? One can only understand a teaching better by looking at it from different perspectives. Take the word ‘Love’ as an example. All of us can have different definitions of Love – unconditional love, love of a mother, love of a child, love of a spouse and so on. All these carry different meanings. Do we truly understand what ‘Love’ means? Whatever core religion we practice, we cannot allow it to become another layer of conditioning or set of beliefs that veils the Divinity within; or from the Buddhist perspective, our Buddha Nature. We have walked millions of miles to reach where we are now, we cannot let our ego limit our final step into freedom. Be a child again. Learn from everything and everyone.

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