What is Spiritual By-passing?
I recently read a post on Yoga for Healthy Aging on Yoga and Social Justice. In it, Jivana quotes the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most essential texts of yoga: "As we become more in tune with ourselves, we begin to experience that underlying connection with others.” Lord Krishna, who is teaching Arjuna how to be a yogi, explains: “As your mind becomes harmonized through yoga practices, you begin to see the Atman in all being and all beings in your Self; you see the same Self everywhere and in everything. Those who see me wherever they look and recognize everything as my manifestation, never again feel separate from me, nor I from them. Whoever becomes established in the all-pervading oneness and worships me abiding in all beings – however he may be living, that yogi lives in me. The yogi who perceives the essential oneness everywhere naturally feels the pleasure or pain of others as his or her own.” (6.29-32 translation by Swami Satchidananda). "Just seeing through the diversity of nature to experience the oneness of creation isn’t enough. Krishna is teaching us that once we go down that path, we will literally feel the pleasure and pain of others as our own. That’s the ultimate level of awareness – true connection. And that is the first step on the path to equality and human rights. If we feel intimately connected to others, then we automatically take care of them. But this can only happen if we understand our personal privilege and the perspective we are coming from, otherwise that concept of oneness can be used to avoid the harsh reality of human rights abuse and leave us complacent. This is called spiritual bypassing." “Spiritual bypassing perpetuates the idea that the belief “we are one” is enough to create a reality where we are treated equally and as one. It is not. Spiritual bypassing permits the status quo to stay in place and teaches people that if you believe in something and have a good intent that is enough. It is not.” —Michelle Cassandra Johnson"
Yoga doesn’t just unite our body, mind, spirit. It connects us to each other. Over time, we deepen the practice of yoga - focusing on the heart and the mind as well as the body, we cannot ignore that our actions affect each other. That we are all Divine light. Karma yoga is the yoga of action. It is the art of LIVING your yoga practice. It is practicing selfless service without attachment to results. It is pure giving without thought of self-gain or acknowledgement.
It is in some ways, putting the other paths of yoga into practice. Raja yoga is the yogic path of mind and body control, Jnana yoga is the path of wisdom – studying the ancient scriptures, Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion to a Higher Power.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna also tells Arjuna, “The unenlightened do things with attachment (wanting some results for themselves). An enlightened person does things with the same zeal, Arjuna, but without attachment, and thus guides others on the path of selfless action (Karma Yoga)." (From Living Gita, translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda).
This means listening to others, asking questions, seeking to understand, not causing harm – which goes back to the first Yama – the first limb of yoga – which guides us toact with compassion. How do our actions guide us in our daily life? Where does our food come from? Who grows it, harvests it? Profit from it? Where do our clothes come from? Who is harmed? Who is helped? How do our actions affect every other being on this planet? Are we active in our communities, helping those in need? Are we aware of how the way we vote and the way we act affect the poorest among us? Are we aware of how policy affects real people? What are we consciously doing to make the planet better for all? What efforts are we taking, without attachment to results – without asking for recognition?
I was recently wo-manning a table at a local event to collect signatures against yet another pipeline they want to put through Maryland (a state that has banned fracked gas). This pipeline would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Virginia. Many folks stopped by and expressed their concerns about this pipeline running through our county, but one young man said he did not want to sign because he didn’t want to be “political”. Why is caring about the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink political? Do you care about yourself, your family, your health, your neighbor and your community? We have been trained to accept so many things that are detrimental to our health – pervasive use of fossil fuels, dumping coal ash in our waterways, pipelines sprawling across water and land, pesticides on crops, lack of clean water on farmland, causing people to die from bacteria on their food, eating food out of aluminum cans and drinking water out of plastic bottles, supporting the endless war machine. We do these things without question. We have become consumers, hungry for the next invention. In the meantime, we have calcified our pineal gland and separated ourselves from our intuition that knows better – that connects us to Nature and to Source.
The practice of yoga teaches us to stop, to pause, to listen, to question, to act, to cleanse our bodies and our minds, to go inward, but to also take action. As you continue to go inward on your yoga journey, don’t forget to also look outward and be the change you want to see in your community. Namaste.