What are your thoughts on New Age religion? I don't really identify with one faith but I draw from many- Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism. Is it disrespectful for me to wear a Buddha or engage with my Chakras if I am not traditionally from these cultures? I also have a crystal jewelry business and I am not sure if its disrespectful for me to sell religious symbols. Thank you!
Swamiji Says:The New Age Religion like Hinduism is not one tradition but a variety of practices and beliefs and so it is hard to comment upon this without knowing more about your specific beliefs and practices. Most of the New Age traditions have their origins in modern Western mysticism which has been influenced largely by the influx of Hindu teachings in the West. The New Age tradition pulls from various religious traditions, modern trends and mystical concepts, making it more of a spiritual movement than a religion. There is a predominant thought within the New Age movement that the religious traditions are flawed or imperfect. Great emphasis is placed upon personal freedom and a lack of confinements and dogma. People in the New Age movement often seem to try to change things in the world instead of doing inner work. Though many mystical concepts are accepted from various religious traditions, the basic ethical guidelines of the religions are by-and-large rejected by the New Age.
There are several potential difficulties to this type of approach. The first is that mysticism divorced from ethics is a path which will leave people in the dark. When people practice mysticism without following the basic guideline of personal conduct laid out by all the religious traditions, they will insure that they increase personal ego and suffering through the mystical practices they do. Though they may have mystical experiences, their experience of the mystical realms will remain limited and they will connect only with the lower astral realm. To progress in spiritual practice, we must be humble and sacrifice the selfish desires of the ego to the will of the Higher Self. The ego by its nature leads to darkness and suffering. Jesus, who was a great master, said that “If the blind follow the blind, they will all fall into a ditch.” The teachings and blessings of the realized masters lead to salvation from suffering and from all mortal bonds. If we are not following the tradition of one or another realized master (and all the major religions are the traditions of spiritual masters), then we are following the ego blindly and increasing our own pain in the world. When we mix traditions, we water down the potency of the traditions and practices and we increase chances of confusion. It is very hard for the thinking mind to understand spiritual teachings. They can not be taken from a book, but they can be seen from the examples of the Saints, profits and Sages.
Spirituality and mysticism is different than religion. Religion guides us in life, teaching us to have faith in a higher power and to treat all people with Love and compassion. They help us to live happier lives and increase peace on Earth. Mysticism is for the few who really dedicate their lives and their being to spiritual practice. They must be willing to sacrifice their personal will and desires toward the higher goal of realization. Jesus gave us a great example of this as He allowed the Romans to crucify Him. This is what we must be willing to do to reach God (though in practice, God’s will does not have us all literally be crucified).
To advance in mystical practices for direct perception of the Divine, it is absolutely necessary to have a realized teacher. The guidance and energetic support of the teacher is needed to awaken and sustain the kundalini. Those who cannot humble themselves before a living teacher, cannot humble themselves to the Divine in the world or within themselves. They have no business doing mystical practices. Such practice is a sure path to the asylum, hospital, or cemetery. Practices which are aimed at awakening the kundalini have great potential for harm when they are not done in the right ways. There are many New Aged “Gurus,” healers, and teachers. Most of them have not had a teacher themselves. The person on a mystical path who does not have a teacher, has the ego for his teacher. Whether he says he is channeling angels, or saints, or sages, or Gods, it is all just ego if he has come into the practice without the blessing of a teacher. God works in the world through the living teachers of various traditions. And when we try to go against God’s ways (the ways of nature), we separate ourselves from God. I insist of all my students who seek spiritual teachings and initiation from me that they absolutely avoid contact and teachings and blessings from all New Age healers, teachers, and mystic. This is not because they are all bad, but because we do not know, and the potential to be misled is great. After spiritual initiation, the consequences of hurtful actions toward others can be dire. But this is what I teach my close disciples. I do not try to convert others to my path, but wait for those who are prepared to approach me.
For happiness in life, I would recommend to people joining a religious tradition founded by a spiritual master. It does not matter which tradition; any that your heart is drawn toward will do. For spiritual realization and freedom from the confinements of living in the world, I would recommend finding a living master and bowing before that master’s will for you and dedicating your life to that master’s teachings. Each of these great spiritual traditions have living masters who can guide you. If you call to your master, he or she will hear you and will begin preparing you to meet him/her at the right time.
However most practices which work with chakras in the New Age only focus on the outer (physical) chakras. Working with the outer chakras for healing is a safe practice for people of any religious tradition. Practices which may stimulate the kundalini to flow through the chakras, like mantras, meditation or forceful kundalini yoga practices, should only ever be attempted with the direct guidance and explicit blessing of a Guru. We must have great wisdom to be prepared to deal with the expansion of consciousness that can come from such practices. This comes from hearing the teachings of a Guru or a religious tradition. If our subconscious blockages to awakening are not cleared through spiritual practices like serving people, working to overcome fear and anger, bowing in the Temple, developing love and compassion for all people, then the path for the kundalini within the spine will be blocked. When we try to force the kundalini up, it will flow into other channels which can cause insanity, great pain and even death. If we have not been prepared for the elevated state of consciousness, then the kundalini may plummet into lower chakras causing us to get caught in depression, fear, anger or worse. There is no quick or easy path to realization, though many New Age teachers try to sell these. We must always do the hard work to overcome the faults of the ego-self. As we do this hard work, in time, we drop our faults and we become more loving, serving, kind, and aware. Spiritual awareness increases as we become inclined through practice to always love and serve. This is really what kundalini awakening is, the increase of spiritual awareness. For this, the simple practice of any religion will do… And without the traditional practices of humbling the ego and overcoming our faults, no realizations can be sustained. Please understand, it is not disrespectful to work with chakras, but potentially very, very dangerous.I personally think that wearing jewelry of any sort of religious items is not good, unless a person is very serious about that religion and it is a part of their religious practices. When people use sacred items as common adornments, they lose their power as sacred objects. Others may say that because these religious images have power to uplift people toward spiritual thought and good deeds, that it will increase peace in the world whenever people see them. My thought here is that people in the West are losing the sense that anything is sacred and that when we have tattoos or T-shirts or bumper stickers or jewelry of spiritual images, that this increases people’s disconnect from anything sacred. You must follow your own heart here and sell what you think you should. If you are not meaning to be disrespectful to Buddhists, and your customers also have great reverence, then no Buddhist should be offended by your actions and you should be helping the world. You should evaluate your intent here and also the effects that your sales are having and do what you think helps people the most. Are you trying to spread the teachings of the Buddha by selling these things? If not, do you feel right using images of the Buddha? You must evaluate your intentions here. The karmic consequences are said to be far worse when we treat sacred sorts of objects with disrespect. We should always approach such sacred images with great reverence and respect. The same could be said of posting or reblogging spiritual images on Tumblr.
Gananathamritananda Swamiji’s wonderful response to a question. Follow the user somamatha for more of Swamiji’s words.
His message here is simply: reject any Hindu-origin practices under ‘New Age’, be ever skeptical of New Age teachers, follow one religion with extreme reverence and be respectful to sacred images and symbols!
Jai Mata Di!
so much truth