Again and again, the question arises among practitioners as to the difference between spirituality and religion. Spirituality encourages people to come to an understanding of right and wrong, truth and untruth, through personal exploration. Religion imposes a definition of right and wrong. In a spiritual tradition the heart is allowed to sense what is right and wrong, and the buddhi (intellect) is given the freedom to evaluate the ideas of right and wrong that have come to us from great masters in the past. If the heart and the intellect are not allowed to come forward and help us find our path, the life goes out of spirituality and it becomes a religion.
Transformation comes only when we put the teachings into practice in our own life.
In other words, the moment a spiritual tradition begins to discourage people from seeking God independently, it turns into a religion. When the heart and brain are suppressed, when we are forced or manipulated to think along the lines of somebody else’s thinking, spiritual wisdom declines and the process of inner transformation slows and stops. Transformation comes only when we put the teachings into practice in our own life.
Yoga is not a religion but a path of practice that leads to self-transformation. Rather than simply believe, yoga demands that you practice and experience. Yoga requires you to find out for yourself, and most people are not interested in doing that; they are looking for someone to lean on. Religion has a hold on those who suffer from dependency, while those who are drawn to yoga are aware that they have to gather the wick, oil, and matches and light their own lamp. Such people suffer less from fear and doubt than those who are dependent. They know that they can reach somewhere higher only when they themselves move from here to there, and they know that this requires self-effort.
Every journey is a personal journey.
Every journey is a personal journey. It never happens that someone else undertakes the journey and you reach the destination. It is not enough to understand that someone else has walked the path—but unfortunately many will not accept that: they want others to walk the path for them. And because yoga will never pretend to do that, it will remain unpalatable to most people. Those seeking independence and personal freedom will be drawn to this path; others will not.
Source: Inner Quest by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait