The main purpose of spiritual life is to recognize our spiritual oneness. Living a spiritual life means living in harmony; caring and sharing for one another. There’s no room for any exploitation or corruption in spirituality. This also means to feel and show brotherly and sisterly affection to one another and to feel that the entire globe is our family. In one sense, we are all different parts or different limbs of the same global body, and the sooner we learn that, the better our lives will be. There is no society or country that can ever have a real material balance, without having a spiritual balance.

Some may think that there can be unity if everyone has an equal amount of land or an equal amount of money. You can never do that; it’s not possible. Imagine that a father divides his property equally. Each of the children receives a million dollars. Within a couple of months, one would have lost the whole million. That one would have gone straight to Las Vegas. Another would have purchased about a thousand acres of land, developed it, and multiplied their million into several more million dollars. A third will have spent the money just sitting all day at the beach. The father divided the money equally, but he couldn’t divide the brains of his children equally, and then put them back into each head.

So, the only unity that is possible is in the spirit. When we recognize the spirit, and learn to see the spirit in others, then our minds become more relaxed. We become dedicated and then we try to share everything with others. For example, there is a sloka in the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, that says that if you cook food for your own personal sake, you are a thief. That means, you are not even supposed to cook food for yourself. Instead, share your food with everybody. If there is anything left over, then you can eat.

If you take care of others, then others will automatically take care of you. Perhaps you are still thinking of yourself. “I must have an equal amount of everything that everyone else has.” But real religion asks us just to give. So what will happen if you give away everything? Don’t worry. If you are a good giver others will keep you alive for a long time. Think of the fruit trees. If a fruit tree gives plenty of fruit you will never chop it down. You won’t allow the tree to be disturbed by any animal and you will take good care of it and protect it. So, if you become like a fruit tree giving and giving, the whole world will take care of you because it is their loss if they lose you. We need people who are dedicated like that. It is those people who are called the prophets; they dedicate their very lives for the sake of humanity.

In the 1960s and 70s, Yoga and the spiritual path became very popular in the West, and particularly with the young people. They were getting tired of mere material and scientific growth alone. They were amassing money, getting all kinds of physical comforts, and realizing that even so they didn’t seem to be really getting much peace or harmony. And they were in the habit of competing with each other to see who has the better car or house and so on.

Temporarily, there was a transition period. Young people became frustrated by the Western approaches to spirituality and before they understood the Eastern ideas, many of them got into the drug scene. They thought that they could get the kind of yogic tranquility called samadhi that comes naturally through Yoga, but more quickly with drugs. So, they tried LSD, mushrooms, and other things because Americans don’t tend to want to go slow and steady. They don’t want to wait that long. They want everything to happen instantaneously because it is a fast-moving age. So they were after “instant samadhi.” There were some shortcut gurus that came introducing all kinds of drugs, cubes, and mushrooms. But that didn’t last very long. Then, the young people realized that even if it took some time, they were willing to practice Yoga properly so they could experience the genuine stuff. That’s the reason they were coming to the pure yogic path. Yoga is slow but steady and it’s very positive. Everything that’s natural takes its own time. An artificial kind of growth is quicker. You can inject a little chemical that brings forth its fruits quickly but it’s chemically grown, not organic. If you want a natural growth, you should just wait for the wind, the rain, and the sun to do their job. It takes longer but is much better. Spiritual growth is also like that. Yoga presents the fundamentals that are found in all the religions, but are not necessarily emphasized. People seem to feel that the fundamentals that are taught in Yoga are helpful to them.

At that time in America, the educational institutions seemed to be focused on material growth, but not on the spiritual growth of the individual. Even religious institutions were more interested in their organization than in the spirit of the religion. Churches were fighting between one another and synagogues were fighting between each other. Each one was trying to compete with the other one. So, in the West, particularly at that time, the modern youth had lost faith in their religions and asked, “What is this? In the name of God there’s a lot of fighting and competition going on. If this is the result of religion, we don’t want to be part of it!”

So that is the reason why they were looking here and there for a better method and then began looking toward the East. They wanted to find out if there was anything for them. There were also a lot of religious rivalries in the East, but thank goodness all those things as a whole didn’t come to America at that time. And, over the years, we’ve been able to present the more unifying factors of the Eastern faiths. To some extent, even in the name of Yoga, we do find some dividing factors. One tries to say that their method is the best. But, as a whole, in Integral Yoga, we are trying to tell people that it doesn’t matter which path they follow. There are many paths to wisdom and they are all to be appreciated and respected. Choose whichever path suits you and follow it toward your goal.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda