Yoga and the Spiritual Landfill

Many feel the concept of landfill is wrong; tons of rubbish buried for future generations to deal with. We even export rubbish to poorer countries, where people who have no other means to buy food sometimes scavenge it at great personal danger. We get clean air and uncontaminated water by pushing our problem onto others.

I was brought up as a Christian and taught of Heaven and Hell. Hell strikes me as “spiritual landfill”, a place of wasted soul resource. As far as I recall, the Bible mentions that the tragedy of Hell can be watched unfolding from Heaven.

Yoga speaks of a deeper personal and transpersonal identity that we can connect with, that we are all equally part of. Its nature is “transcendental” because there’s no more differentiation into Heaven and Hell – no more excess good times or burgeoning plenty, and no more picking over the detritus of life for any scrap of value.

The exact interpretation of this varies between the different schools of Yoga. Some say that this transcendental nature – our innermost Self – is separate and remains so for ever. Others say it’s an aspect of a Universal Self (or “God”). Someone who’s connected to their fundamental identity is variously called Self-realised, Enlightened, or Awakened One (Buddha), or Awakened-in-Life (jivanmukti).

What has such a person realised, what have they awoken from?

They’ve stopped buying in to the idea that they can be happy and complete while wrong is being done elsewhere. The wrong could be wasteful consumerism, or discrimination, or destruction of natural environments, or the ease with which children can get hold of 18+ content to name a few examples. They don’t see themselves as separate from the world around them. What happens “out there” is felt inside. For these people, ideas like Heaven and Hell don’t help. We can strive to get to Heaven, but what about the ones in Hell? Surely there’s still a problem until ALL are saved – until ALL that rubbish in our landfills has been dealt with, and the landfills are beginning to disappear?

Different Yogic paths will use different methods to embed this clarity. Bhakti Yoga practitioners might spend hours chanting the name of God. Raja Yoga practitioners might spend many hours in deep, settled meditation. Hatha Yoga devotees would use asana and pranayama to explore their physicality, in order to realise that it’s not the limit of their being.

To be aware that there is something greater than ourselves, to be comfortable with interdependence and the responsibility it places on us, it to be on the Yoga journey. We don’t know whether we will ever actualize our already-present transcendental nature that the texts describe. But all the time we’ll be making a positive contribution to the welfare of all through conscious choice.

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