I wanted to share an interesting experience I had with a religious organization that was what you could call, an "off branch" of Hinduism. It originated in India and has now spread internationally, holding centers all over the world. I attended what was advertised as a local meditation center for a few months, beginning with their Raja Yoga course. At the time, I felt very alienated from being able to find a well suited spiritual community in my early exploration of adapting Vedanta traditions and was so relieved there was a local place that welcomed me and understood many of the traditions and beliefs I had implemented in my life - many of which that made me felt that I no longer fit into Western society.
As I continued to show up to their programs, they gradually shared more of their organization’s philosophies with me. They would conceal their core beliefs and practices from outsiders, with the awareness that it would come across as off-putting, and gradually as you maintained presence in the organization, you would earn their inside knowledge. They believed one supreme creator that was formless, yet was often depicted as a bright light. This image of light they would meditate upon with open eyes meditation and auto-suggestion of being a soul, and not a body. They looked down upon any deity worship as inferior faith. They believed a cosmic cycle that took place every 5,000 years, divided into 4 parts - every 1,250 years, the quality of life/purity on earth would diminish by one quarter, these stages of human civilization degradation were characterized as “Golden Age,” “Silver Age,” “Copper Age,” and “Iron Age.” Our stage of purity diminishes through every lifetime, as we accumulate samskaras which attach to the soul and carry onto our next life - the continuation of accumulated experiences creates impurities that overtime bring us further from the essence of our true nature. Just as the Vedas state we are in Kali Yuga (the Dark Age), this organization states we are currently in the Iron Age.
Most of these beliefs felt fairly reasonable and aligned with Vedanta tradition, but what made me really question their teachings was they did not believe in Moksha.
Moksha in Sanskrit means “liberation,” when the soul is empty of samskaras (impressions of the mind), then there are no more seeds of the mind to plant new life, thus the soul becomes freed from the cycle of birth and death. They did not believe Moksha is possible - and that we are inevitably stuck in this endless cycle of birth, existence, death, rebirth - everything we experience now, we have already experienced before in the infinite previous cycles. There is no escaping it, yet they romanticized the Golden Age which we would return to following the destruction of the world… Once the world was in such a dark state that it was beyond repair, the supreme lord would come and destroy all the impurities and all would be restored back to its original pure state of divinity. This sliver of time that transitioned the state of the world from darkness to purity through ultimate destruction was defined as the “Diamond Age.”
How can we romanticize the Golden Age, a temporary period of time where everyone is in their true state of pure divinity and all is aligned with God, when we are fated to just repeat the cycle of spiritual deterioration all over again, inevitably for eternity?
I loved the community of people, I felt such a strong belonging and high vibrations, yet I could not get past the flaws in their fundamental ideologies that their whole institution was founded upon. On top of that, there was no room to question their beliefs or take what resonated and leave the rest, because every time I would attend a meditation, they would repeatedly share about the cosmic cycle while the mind was in this receptive state. It felt like an effort of hypnosis, and began to feel untrustworthy.
The greatest question that came from all of this is - how can we believe in Moksha? Is liberation for the soul from the cycle of birth and death really possible?
We see here in the material world, cyclical cycles are the laws of the universe, the laws of nature - as the sun rises and sets, water goes through evaporation, condensation, precipitation, the seasons repeat from fall, winter, spring, summer, our cells are constantly dying and regenerating.
We know from Vedanta philosophy, change equates to death - where there is change, death is inevitably present. This is why Truth is considered to be that which does not change. Truth is that which is eternal, and that is the undying soul, the essence of our source of light that remains untainted, unaffected throughout the cycles of death and rebirth, the Atman. Therefore, witnessing the process of nature to analyze and assess the ultimate truth beyond the material realm is not possible. That is why a cyclical cycle of our existence is a limited view. We must see beyond the limitations of the material realm that we experience through the senses and feel the possibility of Moksha within ourselves. Do you believe in Moksha?