Non-practitioners often accuse Yoga practitioners of too much self-indulgence. The common concern is that too much self-awareness will cause the Yogi, or Yogini, to worship the inner being. Before you get too excited – you and I know this is not true, but the world needs some time to adjust to Yogic philosophy.
You are thinking: “How can the world need more time? Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years and that is plenty of time for people to adjust. The answers must be found within, and then projected outward.”
This is true, but warfare, ignorance, and intolerance have been around longer than Yoga. As a species, we have become much better with systems for the common good of humankind, but we have also become more efficient at suppressing our neighbors and killing each other.
What can a Yogi do to help? Allow friends, family, and associates, their space, and do not speak harshly of any religion or culture. We know that Yoga practitioners are from many religions, and some have no religion at all. It would be fair to say the majority of today’s Hatha Yoga practitioners are not Hindus.
However, all branches of Yoga are perceived as religious insurgency by religious fundamentalists. You cannot stop fundamentalist philosophy. Much like the ego, within us, fundamentalism spends most of its time protecting itself from perceived threats. It does not matter whether the threat is real or pure fantasy.
As a Yoga practitioner, you are an ambassador of Yoga to any non-practitioner. Therefore, try not to judge, look at issues from at least two sides, and listen. Listening with empathy is the beginning of truly understanding your neighbors.
Recognize the right of another to defend himself or herself. Do not back someone into a corner with your philosophy, morality, or religion. Be tolerant and seek diplomatic solutions to problems before retreating into self-defense mode.
If you push hard enough, even a mouse will bite back. Therefore, do not push your religious or political ideas on others. World peace is not just a catch phrase. It can be attained through knowledge, mutual understanding, respect, courtesy, diplomacy, and tolerance.
Every act of intolerance, no matter how small, sets an equal chain reaction in motion. This is the law of Karma. Look at the prospect of world peace today. We desperately need more people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela.
© Copyright 2005 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
Paul Jerard is director of Yoga teacher training at Aura in RI. He’s a master instructor of martial arts and Yoga. He teaches that along with fitness. He wrote: Is Running a Yoga Business Right for You? For Yoga students who want to be a teacher.