What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

Spirituality encourages people to come to an understanding of right and wrong, truth and untruth, through personal exploration. Religion imposes a definition of right and wrong. In a spiritual tradition the heart is allowed to sense what is right and wrong, and the buddhi (intellect) is given the freedom to evaluate the ideas of right and wrong that have come to us from great masters in the past. If the heart and the intellect are not allowed to come forward and help us find our path, the life goes out of spirituality and it becomes a religion.

In other words, the moment a spiritual tradition begins to discourage people from seeking God independently, it turns into a religion. When the heart and brain are suppressed, when we are forced or manipulated to think along the lines of somebody else’s thinking, spiritual wisdom declines and the process of inner transformation slows and stops. Transformation comes only when we put the teachings into practice in our own lives.

Buddha taught that our immediate concern is not with gods and goddesses, but with understanding that there is both pain and a cause of pain. He encouraged those around him to find a path that leads to the state beyond pain and misery and begin practicing that. He taught that our immediate goal is to achieve nirvana, the state where pain is extinguished forever, and when we have done that, we will not need to figure out whether God exists or not, or whether God lives in heaven or within ourselves. All this will become apparent once the mind is free from misery, hatred, loneliness, anger, and pain.

Until then, Buddha advised, “Do not waste your time trying to understand the subtler issues of life, and do not waste my time asking questions about God.” He avoided the subject of the existence of God, and when pushed he said, “Forget God. What is clear is that misery exists and there is a need for happiness.”

What would it take for yoga to spread and become as popular as the religions of today?

It will never happen, because yoga demands that you practice and experience, rather than simply believe. Yoga requires you to find out for yourself, and most people are not interested in doing that. They are looking for someone to lean on. Religion has a hold on those who suffer from dependency, while those who are drawn to yoga are aware that they have to gather the wick, oil, and matches and light their own lamp. Such people suffer less from fear and doubt than those who are dependent. They know that they can reach somewhere higher only when they themselves move from here to there, and they know that this requires self-effort 🧘🏼‍♀️🙏🏽🧘🏼‍♂️