Religion plays a significant role in the life of an individual as well as the World as a whole. There are some religions in the world namely Christianity, Islam and Hinduism which are being followed by the largest numbers of people globally. But being followed by a bigger community does not alone decide the significance of a religion. There are numerous other religions like Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism, and Sikhism and so on which are prominently shaping up millions of beliefs. And there are religious movements as well. Sahaja Yoga is not a well-defined religion but definitely a major religious movement. This essay deals with illumining the various aspects of this religious movement based on six visits to its religious meeting. All the information used here is based on interactions with Sahajs Yogis, listening to their discussions and taking part in the gatherings. Other than that, only one source has been used for this work.
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Sahaja Yoga is a religious movement which was founded in 1970 by Nirmala Shrivastava (About Shri Mataji, Retrieved in 2012). The Sahaja Yoga is in practice for last thirty years and is being followed in more than 140 countries across the globe. The primary aim of this practice is to make a person physically, mentally, spiritually and socially healthy along with being dedicated to spread Sahaja Yoga. Nirmala Srivastava, the founder of Sahaja Yoga is known as Nirmala Mata or Shri Mataji by her devotees and is considered to be an incarnation of Adi Shakti or Goddess Shakti; Adi Shakti is one of the most important deities in Hinduism. The followers of this movement are known as Sahaja Yogis who meet in their local gatherings every Sunday and on special occasions.
Misconceptions before visiting the religious meet
Analysis of Sahaja Yoga through the meetings and members
Every Sunday and on special occasions, a collective meditation and prayer is organised at the Sahaja Yoga centres in which all the members of this community take part actively. After attending six religious meetings of Sahaja Yoga, the beliefs and practices of this religious movement became crystal clear. These meetings are meant largely for discussing about and discovering more of one’s inner self through the ways preached by Nirmala Mataji.
There is more than one concept which got clarified after interacting with the members of this community and attending their meetings. Shri Nirmala Srivastava was born on March 21, 1923 in India. She attained a spiritual awareness in her primes which she wanted to spread across people to improve their lives. She was very much against what false gurus used to preach in the name of God to mislead people. She founded Sahaja Yoga to enable people awaken their inner power. According to her, a proper and regular meditation according to the rules of Sahaja Yoga can activate the kundalini power inside a human being. This power is supposed to not only clean a man physically, mentally and spiritually through self-realisation and mental peace but also make their lives blissful. She declared herself an incarnation of the Adi Shakti and set out to spread Sahaja Yoga.
Her thoughts impressed a multitude of people from both East and West. Gradually, the sum of her followers proliferated. She has given countless speeches on Sahaja and ways to live life qualitatively. She died on February 23, 2011 which was considered to be a Maha Nirvana or supreme salvation by her followers. When the Sahaja Yogis are asked about their experiences, more than half of the followers gladly admit that their lives underwent revolutionary changes after being a part of Sahaja Yoga. Moreover, the members are greatly keen on inspiring others to be a part of the Sahaja Yoga. They even spread awareness regarding the movement to general public through meetings and stalls.
Beliefs and Practices in Sahaja Yoga
Sahaja Yoga regards Nirmala Mata to be their main deity. Be it any festival- Christmas or Ganesha Chaturthi, they worship and sing glory to Nirmala Mata considering Her to be the medium. There is a prime focus on daily meditation in which the followers intend to attain a state of complete thoughtlessness. The seven Chakra or solar plexus in the human body denote to a particular function and spiritual significance in Sahaja. They believe that the negative energy should be avoided. Daily meditation and certain practices like soaking feet in salted water or some time and throwing away the water eliminates negativity from body and mind. Every Sahaja Yogi greets each other by saying ‘ Jai Shri Mataji’. There is special emphasis on ‘ collective meditation’ and singing prayers to honour Nirmala Mataji. They do name Jesus Christ, Allah, Guru Nanak, Buddha and most Hindu deities in the mantras. Sahaja Yoga is believed to bestow a follower with perfect health over time with correct and regular practice.
The Appealing Aspects of Sahaja after attending the sessions
Secularism is evident. The Sahaja Yogis have regard for Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and other religions. They do not demean any other religion. But, they consider Mataji to be the Supreme and the ultimate incarnation. One of the best aspects of Sahaja Yoga is the regular meditation. Each member tries to meditate daily for some time and attain mental peace through a state of mental thoughtlessness. Meditation is proven to heal the spirits as well as physical state. Sahaja Yogis show excellent unity and generosity to help others. They collectively pray for those who need help. For instance, if a member is suffering from some ailment or adverse situation in life, all the members of the local gathering pray for him. Last but not the least, there is evidently a calmness and happiness on the face of most Sahaj yogis which can only be seen on meeting them. And they owe it to Shri Mataji.
The unappealing aspects of Sahaja Yoga
The Sahaja Yogis emphasise too much on regarding only the beliefs of their community. They do regard other deities but appreciate only the rituals of Sahaja Yoga to worship them. They worship a picture of Nirmala Mataji on Christmas along with decorating their hall with a Christmas tree and other usual decorative pieces. They consider that Jesus is being worshipped through Mataji, which is not quite convincing. Also, Mataji has specially focussed on not following false Gurus who promote superstition. But, there are quite incomprehensible rituals like soaking feet in water and flushing it to remove negativity, keeping a lemon in pocket to soak negativity etc. In fact, some consider interacting with non-Sahaja Yogis to be a source of negative energy which is simply an indirect way to practice racism.
I do not believe in misconceptions. When misconceptions are analysed, it can be of various types. When certain people have a wrong notion about a certain group or community is one of the types. Many consider Islam to be violent; some consider Judaism to be insufficient. Similarly, many think of Sahaja Yoga to be just a meditative practice. Be it of any kind, one should not believe in misconceptions or any belief unless it appeals or gets proven in front of eye. The fact is that a misconception seems true unless it gets discarded by self-experience. So, it gets difficult to distinguish between misconception and conceptions. Therefore, the best way is to abide by a belief is to know the truth directly and not through others. If an issue is significant enough to affect one’s life, one should explore its reality before feeding the mind with what others say or feel about it. Reviews are not necessarily unbiased or justified every time. So, a self-analysis becomes important. In case of religious beliefs, it is also important to be open-minded and tolerant along with exploring the truth.
Steps to minimize misconceptions about other religions
One has to be open-minded. A mislead stubborn Hindu considers Islam to be rubbish and vice versa. Some Christians do not approve of Judaism and make ‘ Jewish’ people a matter of joke which is not fair at all. All these illogical beliefs and meaningless prejudices only add to the feeling of hatred. Communal riots and conflicts not only disturb the World Peace but also lead to killings. The question is how can a wise person be partial enough to discriminate on such grounds? People should follow their own religions but at the same time, never disrespect the beliefs of other religions. The following steps can help minimise misconceptions regarding other religions:
– Be wise enough: What is the need to prove one’s own religion to be Supreme and other religions to be useless? God is one who is worshipped in multifarious forms. So, every religion is great in its own sphere.
– Know more before you blame: It’s easy to ridicule a religion by listening to what people say about it. Google it and know the beliefs, practices and rituals of a religion yourself. If you like it, respect it. If you do not like it, at least do not disrespect it.
– Analyse it again: As told earlier too, no religion was created with negative intentions. But with time, the followers of a religion created some rules out of their convenience which corrupted the original beliefs. So, those people are to be blamed, not the religion itself. There is something great to learn in every religion. In fact, do we agree with every single aspect of our own religion? No, probably. Then, how can we expect other religions to be perfect.
Attending the religious meetings of Sahaja Yoga clarified its beliefs and practices. No matter how many of these beliefs are worth following or avoiding, it is a good religious movement in itself. So are other religions!
About Shri Mataji. Retrieved on December 14, 2012.