Yoga is not a religion, but a systematic and exact science for body, mind, and soul.

—Swami Rama

It doesn’t matter where you were born, or which denomination you belong to. As long as you realize the importance of having a healthy body and a balanced mind, you can start practicing those things that make sense to you. You don’t have to abandon your faith or embrace another one. Stay wherever you are. Do not disturb your family or your society.

Practice truth in thought, speech, and action. Love for truth will help you understand what your most urgent problems and concerns are. And soon you will notice that you are not interested in either hell or heaven—you simply want to be happy and peaceful.

In the early stages of your inward journey you begin to work with your body, for it is the tool for achieving both worldly and spiritual wealth. You should practice exercises that make your body healthy, whether you are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist. Similarly, breathing exercises do not conflict with any religion.

You also need a system of gathering the power of your senses and withdrawing them from the external world. You must learn how to relax and provide maximum rest for your body, senses, and nervous system, so that your mind is free from the complaints of your body. This process does not require you to be born in any particular religious or cultural background.

You need a one-pointed mind to unveil the truth that saints from different traditions share with us.

Then comes concentration. At this stage of your inward journey you need to choose an object on which to focus your mind. Make sure that it is intrinsically peaceful and carries the least amount of sectarian baggage. Improve your concentration and one-pointedness by constantly focusing your mind on that one chosen object. By this process you can train your mind to be concentrated.

The mind has a habit of running from one object to another. This roving tendency drains a vast amount of energy and causes weakness and frustration. No one with a scattered mind can expect to be successful either in the external world or in the spiritual world. Practicing a method of concentration makes it possible for you to cultivate one-pointedness. And with the help of a one-pointed mind you can resolve even the most complicated issues. You can penetrate the greatest of all mysteries. You need a purified, one-pointed, and disciplined mind to unveil the truth that saints from different traditions share with us. If you have a healthy body and a one-pointed mind you can practice Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism much more accurately and successfully than those who are unhealthy and confused.

You become a more tolerant and loving human being.

According to the sages of the Himalayas, the best spiritual discipline is the one that helps you gather the means and resources for undertaking a spiritual practice. That is why they designed a holistic lifestyle, which in ancient times was called raja yoga. Simple principles of life—such as practicing non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation in sense activity, non-possessiveness, cleanliness, contentment, disciplining the body, mind, and senses, the study of genuine scriptures, and faith in a higher truth—are the foundation of holistic living. There are no religious, ethical, moral, or social schools in the world that do not honor these 10 principles.

With the help of this simple practice of spirituality (which consists of these 10 principles, plus physical exercise, breathing exercises, relaxation, concentration, and meditation) you automatically begin to overcome your doubt and skepticism. You know what you are doing and you know that it is helping you. You will notice that your understanding of your religious faith, your family life, and your relationships have improved. You have become a more tolerant and loving human being. That is a great achievement in itself.

Afterwards your mind and heart will tell you what should follow next. The process of gradual transformation and unfoldment is healthy and long lasting. Depending on your degree of emotional maturity and intellectual understanding, you will aspire to find a spiritual path that is perfect for you. There are many jackets in the market that are attractive and well made, but the best one is the one that fits you. This is also the case with a spiritual path and spiritual disciplines. All lead to the same goal, but the best path is the one that suits you. Manmade cultural and religious institutions need to follow the truth, not the other way around.

Source: “Swami Rama of the Himalayas” in The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD
Further Reading

The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition

by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition explores the lives and teachings of eight prominent sages of this timeless tradition—men who knew how to be successful in daily life while experiencing the innermost truths of life here and hereafter. Pandit Tigunait brings the experiences and teachings of these great masters to life, with practical insights into how to discover and understand life’s richest secrets for ourselves. Purchase your copy of The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition and discover the perennial wisdom of the Himalayan sages.

More in this Series

Practical Teachings of Yoga