Adapted from "Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies."
Three centuries ago, Voltaire said, "As long as people believe in absurdities, they will continue to commit atrocities." Since human beings, with a few pathological exceptions, act according to their Dharma and truly believe that they are performing the right actions at all times, a corollary to Voltaire's statement is that every atrocity committed by humans stems from an underlying absurdity in their belief systems. The belief systems may be traditional and cultural, but as Brian McLaren points out, "Uncritical loyalty to your ancestors may implicate you in a crime against your descendants."
So you might ask, what does Tar Sands mining of oil, Mountain Top Removal mining of coal and Factory Farming of animals have to do with the ancient Indian practice of Yoga?
Tar Sands Mining of oil, Mountain Top Removal Mining of coal and Factory Farming of animals are atrocities committed by us, humans, against Nature and thereby our descendants.
Yoga is a conscious attempt to eliminate the underlying absurdity, which is the belief that we are separate from Nature.
If we truly internalized the fact that there is no separation between "I" and the "other," between "us" and "them," and that destroying the boreal forests of Canada or the mountain tops of Appalachia or the tropical rain forests of Amazonia (in order to raise and kill billions of animals), is like amputating our own hands and our children's hands to boot, then we would stop doing these acts, automatically and effortlessly. The fact that we're doing these acts stems from our absurd belief that there is such a separation, that after everything is destroyed and converted to meat, milk, eggs, waste and cash, the 1% can float above it all, perhaps permanently in space as Stephen Hawking would have us learn how to do, no doubt while recycling and consuming their own wastes.
The ancient Indian practice of Yoga is a systematic approach to help us "snap out" of this predicament. The ancient Indian sages, recognizing that one drawback of a powerful intellect is this delusion of separation which can eventually cause our own destruction through our collective unbridled hubris, devised a four-fold approach to our reconnection with Nature or creation:
1. through our actions (Karma Yoga),
2. through our intellect (Gnana Yoga),
3. through our heart, i.e., devotion (Bhakti Yoga) and
4. through meditation and other spiritual practices (Raja Yoga).
Yoga is Sanskrit for "Union," which is the union between "I" and the "other," between "us" and "them," with the goal to dissolve the artificial barriers that we erect within ourselves and between us and Nature in our daily interactions. Of course, this is a far cry from the Yoga that is practiced in health spas around the world where it is presumed to be all about twisting our bodies into pretzels, which is really just a small part of Raja Yoga. Instead, a truly realized Yogi would promote and exemplify compassion for all creation in all thoughts, words and actions.
Therefore, may we eliminate this absurdity of "separation" soon from our consciousness so that we stop committing the atrocities that ruin our future and especially our children's future on this beautiful planet called Earth. After all, "This is the only home," as Archbishop Desmond Tutu so eloquently put it at the rally in Durban.