Advaita Vedanta (Absolute Oneness) & Yoga Philosophy at Divine Life Church
Divine Life Church of Baltimore is a community that honors all paths to God and the universality of the world's major scriptures and spiritual traditions. These traditions include the mystical teachings of Jesus, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism, and others. Our philosophy emphasizes our connection and oneness with all life, selfless service, meditation, Self-realization, and unconditional love. We are dedicated to applying these ideals in our everyday life and to promoting the mutual welfare and progress of all beings – our global family.
Yoga means oneness of soul with God. Yoga philosophy teaches that God is the one infinite, all-permeating reality. This philosophy, also called Advaita Vedanta or Absolute Oneness, acknowledges that everything and everyone in the universe is a manifestation of this one divine reality and therefore is innately endowed with the nature and qualities of God. The purpose of life is for each person to realize this truth and to unfold and share his or her divine attributes. By unfolding his divine nature, man regains the consciousness of his spiritual identity. Our yoga philosophy emphasizes our connection and oneness with all life, selfless service, meditation, and unconditional love. Yoga philosophy teaches that man, as the manifestation of God, is never separate from God. The soul of man and God are one and identical. The application of yoga philosophy, meditation, and service provide the means for every being to realize his or her divine potential of spiritual oneness.
FOUR ASPECTS OF YOGA
Yoga is the way and the goal of realizing unconditional love, limitless existence, and infinite wisdom. Yoga derives from the Sanskrit root word “yuk,” to unite or join. It also relates to the yoke put on beasts of burden, such as oxen, and finds further expression in Jesus’ invitation, “Take my yoke (yoga) upon you.... for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The practice of yoga reveals the presence of the light of oneness and universality—the light that is the presence of God in everyone and everything, the light that reveals our essential oneness, perfection, and beauty. To achieve the ideal of yoga, ancient self-realized beings offered specific methods and instructions for that purpose. These methods fall into four major categories, namely, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga.
JNANA YOGA is the path of pure consciousness. The cornerstone of Jnana Yoga is the recognition that all is one. Brahman is the ultimate Reality of absolute oneness and the source of all manifestations. There is but one Reality without a second, the One appearing as the many without any separation. Distinction appears only in manifestation, not in essence. Self-inquiry is a grand means for achieving transcendental consciousness. Constant inquiry into the question Who am I? ultimately leads to the answer, contained in the question: I AM. Jnana Yoga acknowledges maya as that which both conceals and reveals the ultimate Reality. To become established in Jnana requires self-discipline and intentional remembrance that there is “but one Reality that permeates thee and me and all beings,” as the young Avatar Shankarachariya expounded. “Therefore, rise above the consciousness of separation and realize thyself in all and all in thee.”
KARMA YOGA, the path of selfless-service and action. Karma Yoga is love in action and selfless service. It is achievement of self-realization through total dedication of all actions, both mental and physical, to the indwelling, creative Spirit, the source of all actions. Through Karma Yoga, one purifies one’s mind and heart and achieves the practice of the presence of God under all circumstances. The watchword of the Karma Yogi is, Not I, but the Father in me, the creative Source, is the performer of all actions.
BHAKTI YOGA is the path of love. Bhakti is intense devotion to the cultivation, realization, and expression of unconditional love in thought, word, action, and relationships. This may be considered the easiest way for the seekers after enlightenment to transform every aspect of their lives into unconditional love, ever new joy, and ever greater self-expansion in spiritual consciousness and oneness. It may be called “the active presence of divine Love in our interrelationships and identification through loving oneness with all beings and creation.”
In Bhakti Yoga, all experiences are regarded as gifts because the Bhakti invariably sees them as opportunities for drawing closer to the Beloved, who dwells in all hearts. The ideal Bhakti judges no man and no experience as good or bad, but as an opportunity to discover the positive value for both individual and collective upliftment. One who aspires to be fearless, ever free, joyful, and pure in thought, word, and action keeps his attention ever directed on the Beloved, who dwells in all. Thus, the light of love illumines his whole life and fills it with sweetness, contentment, and good will. In Bhakti Yoga, the means and goal are identical: the realization of unconditional love.
RAJA YOGA, called the royal path of spiritual unfoldment by the practice of specific techniques, is arranged in eight steps as presented in Patanjali’s Yoga Aphorisms. Raja Yoga is a spiritually scientific approach for gaining mastery over the mind and achieving self-knowledge.
Kriya is an important aspect of this system with specific technique of meditation developed as Kriya Yoga. The foremost exponent of Kriya is Babaji, who reintroduced this ancient technique in modern times through Lahiri Mahasaya. Kriya meditation technique was introduced to the West by Swami Yogananda Paramhansa and continues to be taught by qualified Gurus to qualified disciples.
Many aspects of our philosophy can be found in the questions below.
WHAT IS GOD?
God is infinite; therefore, God cannot be defined, because definition by its very nature imposes limits. Man, nevertheless, seeks to express his understanding of God. God is One, both the impersonal and the personal Reality. Man calls God by various names, such as: Brahman (Hinduism), Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism), Jehovah (Judaism), Nirvana(Buddhism), Christ (Christianity), Allah (Islam). God is imminent and transcendental. God is the all-pervading spirit of the universe. Everything is the manifestation of God. God is Light. God is Truth. God is Love. God is Energy. God is the creative Imagination. God is Perfection. God is I AM THAT I AM. In essence, God is Consciousness-Existence-Bliss Absolute.
WHAT IS THE SOUL?
The soul is God in man. The soul of man is of identical nature with the God of the universe. The soul is endowed with the nature of God, the divine Reality: immortal existence, divine love, pure consciousness, infinite perfection, and absolute oneness. The soul of man is the source of eternal wisdom, guidance, revelation, and realization.
WHAT IS MAN'S PURPOSE?
Man is the manifestation of God and is the total of all his experiences. Man is a complete being whose nature consists of four principal aspects: spiritual, mental, devotional, and physical. By unfolding his divine nature, man regains the consciousness of his spiritual identity. God and the Self of man are one and identical. The purpose of life is Self-discovery and Self-realization. Each being has a unique mission in the divine plan: to unfold and share his or her divine attributes by serving God, which is present in all beings, creatures, and creations. Self-unfoldment is a subjective process that leads to Self-realization in divine perfection.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL PERFECTION?
Perfection is the realization of absolute oneness with God. The philosophy of Absolute Oneness teaches the ideal of spiritual perfection, which is our essential state of being.
HOW CAN WE REALIZE GOD?
Self-realization is the divine birthright of every being and can be attained by following any of these paths:
— Karma Yoga, the path of divine oneness through selfless service
— Bhakti Yoga, the path of God-realization through pure devotion and unconditional love
— Jnana Yoga, the path of God-realization through pure consciousness or wisdom
— Raja Yoga, the path of God-realization through meditation and prescribed techniques
WHAT IS YOGA PHILOSOPHY?
Yoga means oneness of soul with God. Yoga includes both the ideal and way of divine union. Yoga philosophy teaches that God, or Brahman, is the one infinite, all-permeating Reality and that the soul of man and God are one and identical. Yogic disciplines provide the means for every being to realize his or her divine potential of spiritual oneness.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is subjective communion with God. It is calming and stilling the mind in order to become aware of the underlying presence of God. Meditation establishes our life, mind, heart, and soul on the reality and qualities of God. Meditation is a prerequisite to God-realization. There are various techniques of meditation offered to anyone interested in the practice of meditation. For guidance in meditation, see the senior Swami.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
Every religion regards prayer as an essential and integral aspect of worship and has its own definition of prayer. All religions agree the purpose of prayer is to acknowledge the presence of God and establish a personal relationship with God. Prayer reveals or teaches that we are not alone in the universe. Prayer allows us to realize that whatsoever we ask of God, believing that we have received it, so it will be. Prayer is the devotee talking to God. Meditation is the devotee listening to God.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE WORD “CHRIST”?
The word “Christ” is derived from the Greek term “Christos,” meaning “the Christ.” It signifies the anointed, illumined state of Christ-consciousness, or God-consciousness, the realization of absolute oneness with the infinite Reality. Jesus of Nazareth (in Galilee) attained Christ-consciousness and became known as Jesus the Christ.
WHAT IS THE TEACHING OF ABSOLUTE ONENESS REGARDING JESUS?
Absolute Oneness teaches that Jesus was a divine incarnation, or Avatar. He was a Savior who came to awaken humanity to spiritual perfection and to teach man the way of supreme peace, enlightenment, and union with God. He left the dispensation that allowed humanity to make a direct connection with the God of Love, for Love itself is shown to be the way and the goal. He is the embodiment of the way of wisdom, love, and truth. He came to remind everyone of their innate divinity and oneness with God.
WHAT IS THE TRINITY?
I AM. Absolute Oneness teaches that God is one, both transcendental and immanental. God manifests in three correlated functions designated by the terms Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Transformer. The three aspects of deity are also expressed in the Western religious tradition as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (or Cosmic Vibration).
WHY DO WE FOCUS ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS AND THE TEACHINGS OF OTHER SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS AND AWAKENED BEINGS?
Truth is one, although it can be expressed or approached in many different ways, even as the diamond is one, though it has many facets to reflect the light in infinite variety. Absolute Oneness focuses on the underlying unity of all faiths and spiritual philosophies.
IS THERE A HEAVEN AND A HELL?
Both heaven and hell are states of consciousness. Heaven is the God-consciousness of unconditional love and perfection, whereas hell is the ego-consciousness of negativity and self-limitation.
WHAT IS SIN?
Absolute Oneness teaches that every being is the child of God and, therefore, can never be separated from God. Sin is humankind’s belief in separation from God. As an immortal child of God, man can never be separated from his divine source, even as the sunbeam cannot be separated from its source of light. The soul is ever pure, ever perfect, and ever one with God. When traced to its Greek origin, the word “sin” means “missing the mark,” that is, falling short of realizing one’s spiritual identity and oneness with the Source.
WHAT IS THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION?
Absolute Oneness teaches that every soul is the Immaculate Conception of God, the pure emanation of Consciousness-Existence-Bliss Absolute. What is conceived in the consciousness of God partakes of the pure and perfect nature of God and Its attributes.
WHAT IS REINCARNATION?
Absolute Oneness teaches that every Soul incarnates many times in human form, even though the mind generally does not remember. We may call nonremembrance the law of blessed forgetfulness. The purpose for reincarnation is to gain the experiences necessary for the unfoldment of our innate divinity into absolute perfection, or until humanity regains the consciousness of immortality and bliss.
WHAT IS DEATH?
According to the teachings of Yoga Philosophy, death means "dehatyaga", the soul’s renunciation of the body. Death is not the end of life but the transition from one plane of existence to another. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to these planes as “many mansions.” Life is eternal, immortal, and infinite and is the source of all embodiments.
WHAT IS EGO?
Ego is the sense-identified I-consciousness that creates the illusion of separation from God and from one’s fellow beings. Ignorance is the source of the ego and the cause of human suffering.
DOES THE CHURCH TEACH THE BELIEF IN ONE GOD OR MANY GODS?
Absolute Oneness teaches that there is only one God, one Power, one Reality, one Presence, one Creative Cause, and one Source of all beings and creations residing equally in all. Scripture reminds us of the truth of our divinity when, in the words of Jesus the Christ, it proclaims, “Wist ye not, ye are gods?” Hence, we are the individualized self-expression or extension of infinite being.
WHAT IS AN AVATAR?
An Avatar is a Divine Incarnation. The Avatar is one who has attained absolute oneness with God and chooses to reincarnate in response to man’s fervent yearning to realize God. Among the Avatars are Rama, Krishna, Gautama the Buddha, Swami Shankarachariya, Jesus the Christ, and Ramakrishna. The Avatars have all dedicated themselves to assisting man to attain Self-realization, or union with God
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE CROSS AND LOTUS ON THE ALTAR?
The cross is a universal religious symbol. Individually it also represents every being whose physical form and inner path of self-unfoldment constitute a perfect cross. In the philosophy of Absolute Oneness the cross represents the path of ascension and spiritual perfection. The lotus is the symbol of the spiritual unfoldment of all our innate, divine qualities.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF "AUM" ("OM")?
“AUM” is “the ‘Word” referred to in all scriptures of mankind. In the beginning was God, Brahman, with whom was the Word, and the Word is AUM. AUM signifies the triune aspects of the divine reality, as well as that which is beyond name and form. Essentially AUM signifies Consciousness-Existence-Bliss Absolute. By the practice of meditation on AUM with faith and devotion, man can realize God.