Ashtanga Yoga, A Pantheistic View

From a very early age I’ve been fascinated with life and what it means, the universe and its wonders. The desire to answer all these profound questions have shaped my journey through this planet.

I was raised in a catholic family and very quickly I became disappointed with organised religions. This led me to become an atheist and for many years I dismissed any kind of spirituality and believed all answers would come from this “reality” and our ability to scientifically understand it. This approach made much more sense to me for many years. But, after a while, I couldn’t deny some more profound and in a way subtle phenomena that I was aware of and that were happening around me all the time.

For all I knew, science was right. However it was missing something…

As I became more interested in these “mystical” aspects of reality, I started looking back at ancient traditions and the way they saw Nature and the universe. Particularly looking at human beings as an intrinsic part of nature and not just separate, dominant entities. Realising this interconnectedness between all forms of life and even the seemingly inert objects around us seemed to be that missing link.

The Ashtanga Yoga practice quickly became a very important part of this search. Contrary to what many people believe, Yoga is not a religion, but is very much based on spirituality, which is definitely not the same. Unfortunately, this makes it much easier for people to attach their own spiritual and sometimes religious beliefs into it. Yoga is simply a method to help us find this missing link and make sense of reality, our existence and the subtler, maybe spiritual aspects of it while looking at all these aspects without filters or distortions.

We have all heard how Yoga is the union of body, mind and spirit. This seemed very fitting with what I had discovered and was just starting to tap into. As I dived deeper into this system, the connection between my own self realisation and the realisation of a more interconnected universe became more apparent.

I was re-discovering my own body, mind and; maybe for the first time, my spirit.

Slowly, slowly I realised that I wasn’t just discovering my self but as I discovered my own body I was connecting with all the matter that shapes our reality, every single rock, river, animal, planet, star and galaxy. My mind became the science that helped me in a way understand this reality. And my spirit.. well that became a bit harder to explain. In a way I could equate spirit to the inherent intelligence behind this universe. But that still left a lot of unexplained territory.

Ashtanga Yoga became the perfect map for this quest. The tapasic nature of the asana practice combined with the deep philosophical background of Patanjali’s method for stilling the mind and our sense organs in order to see reality as it is while always keeping in mind that all of this doesn’t lead anywhere without the awareness of being part of a greater intelligence, seemed to hit the three nails -Body, Mind and Spirit- right on the head.

Grounded in my yoga practice I kept seeking and a few years ago I came across the concept of Pantheism.

Milky WayAccording to the World Pantheist Movement, “Pantheism is the belief that the Universe and Nature are divine. It fuses religion and science, and concern for humans with concern for Nature. It provides the most realistic concept of life after death, and the most solid basis with environmental ethics. It is a religion that requires no faith other than common sense, no revelation other than open eyes and a mind open to evidence.”.

Pantheism is the belief that nature itself (nature meaning everything in the universe) is god instead of god being a separate anthropomorphic being.

Bang! So Nature itself is Spirit and we are all an intrinsic part of nature, thus we are all god. Or part of it.

The Ashtanga Yoga system and the Pantheistic philosophy go together hand in hand. Through daily asana practice we learn to connect and understand our bodies, our physical reality and the connection with a all of nature and its cycles (hence why we don’t practice on moon days).  Patanjali’s Ashtanga method is a very scientific approach to see reality as it is without filters, conditions or judgements. And thirdly without acknowledgement and surrender to our spirituality the Ashtanga practice becomes empty, just as in the pantheistic view recognising and humbling to the majesty of nature and its wonders gives us a sense of belonging.

This is what Poffo Ortiz who is a formidable expounder of Pantheism said about the words “Spiritual” and “Spiritualism”  in one of the threads of his Facebook group, Biopantheism, which I amply recommend to anyone interested in these concepts:

“The words “Spiritual” and “Spirituality” mean different things to different people.. but in the Pantheist community, it generally means a heightened awareness of reality, a deeper consideration for the natural world and our place within it.. a more pervasive knowledge of self and the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. 

And adding to that, a deeper respect and appreciation for Nature, a greater understanding of biological processes and a more intimate knowledge and awareness of physics and astronomy, with a very strong emotional reaction to the Cosmos, all of which leads to humility and an overwhelming sense of wonderment, mystery and awe. 

These things also intrinsically motivate inspiration, contemplation, creativity and a heightened sense of idealism.. with a more holistic outlook and greater level of ethics, morals and values that are sure to follow.. all of this, is what i define as “spiritual” 

It has nothing to do with a supernatural world, or with any archaic concept of ghosts, devils, demons, angels or disembodied spirits, an afterlife, or the fanciful notions of heaven or hell. No invented, man-made gods or mythological fairy tales of supernatural entities. 

Spirituality is communion with Nature, pure and simple.. it is connecting with the forces and powers that already exist in the real world, minus any false delusions that religions have created in peoples’ minds for centuries. 

Hence, Biopantheism is a completely Naturalistic philosophy.”

Love and Happiness,

Mannu