Is Vedic Meditation a Religious Practice?

“Vedic Meditation is not religion in the way that most people interpret religion. However, would it have an impact on religion if you practiced it? It would have a positive impact on religion, or a positive impact on your view of your place in the Universe, even if you’re an atheist.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

Vedic Meditation teachers are often asked if the practice is a religious practice. Its ancient roots and the reverence that we sometimes approach it with can have the appearance of being religious, but this is largely due to misunderstandings of what the word religion actually means.

In short, the practice of Vedic Meditation doesn’t require any belief. It works for believers and non-believers alike and doesn’t favor one over the other. Practitioners of all religions practice the technique every day, as do practitioners of no religion, all with equal efficacy.

Listen in as Thom explains the true meaning of religion and why Vedic Meditation transcends religious difference, while at the same time enhancing whatever religious understanding you may or may not have.

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Episode Highlights


The True Meaning of Religion



“I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.”



No Commandments



Compatibility With Religion and Atheism



A Better Understanding


Jai Guru Deva


Is Vedic Meditation Religious?

The True Meaning of Religion

[00:45] Sometimes people ask me if Vedic Meditation is a religion and this all depends on what our definition of religion may be. The word, religion dates back to the Latin re, which means back, and ligare, which means to bind something. The word ligament comes from that, or ligation comes from that. Re-ligare, to bind you back to something. Religion.

[00:01:10] What is religion supposed to be doing with regard to this Latin definition of where the word came from? Something that holds you back to your deep inner source. And what is that deep inner source? Well, some of the great prophets of the past, and teachers of the past, often referred to this.

[00:01:28] For example, there was a particular rabbi by the name of Jesus who walked around Nazareth and parts of Israel and Jerusalem teaching, 2021 years ago, or so, and one of the things that he taught, and openly taught as reported by his disciple, Luke, was quoted saying, “The kingdom of heaven is within you” and, “First you seek that and then all will be added unto you.”

[00:01:58] How do we interpret the teachings of a teacher? Is that religion, that you’re going to settle back inside yourself and experience your true inner nature, the state of Being? Being is your true nature. Being is your spirit.

“I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.”

[00:02:15] People use the word “spiritual,” very often to avoid using the word religion, as in “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual,” meaning you eat avocados on your toast and you maybe have had a macrobiotic diet or something and you go off to yoga classes wearing your Lycra and things once a week, “I’m spiritual.”

[00:02:38] And spiritual is supposed to be a way of dodging the word religion, because it doesn’t sound like you are engaged in an organized religion.

[00:02:48] On the other hand, sometimes we look at the word religion as organized religion, meaning there is a group that has a leader, and that leader, purportedly, is carrying forward the authority of previous leaders, going back to some founder leader, who tells you what kinds of thoughts make God angry and what kinds of thoughts make God happy, and your job is to make God happy and not make God angry. And this thing of, how your relationship is with God, “Are you pleasing God or are you angering God?” 

If this is what we’re thinking about with respect to religion, Vedic Meditation is definitely not that.

No Commandments

[00:03:35] Anyone who has learned it will tell you that what you learn is a systematic technique that you practice twice each day, and no one is going to give you any commandments or a list of do’s and don’ts, not that there’s anything wrong with commandments and lists of do’s and don’ts, but we don’t give those things. We don’t offer to you a specific idea of who or what God exclusively is.

[00:04:02] We don’t really talk about these things, unless you ask questions about what is the Vedic worldview about these, and then in response to your question, you might receive some information about what great masters of this tradition have talked about for thousands of years. But still, we’re not going to say to you, “Unless you do this, God will be unhappy, or if you do that, God will be happy.” So we don’t really get into your relationship with your concept of God.

Compatibility With Religion and Atheism

[00:04:33] To make this really a much more pointed answer, there are Roman Catholic religious, here the word religious means monastic people, nuns, monks, and priests who are avid practitioners of Vedic Meditation, and find no conflict in it.

[00:04:54] There are members of the similar level of religious meaning, the highest level of religious understanding in Judaism who practice Vedic Meditation happily and enjoyably and recommend it to everyone, and do not find any conflict with their Jewish religion.

[00:05:15] Likewise with Hindus, likewise, with Muslims, likewise with Zoroastrians, but, and here, most importantly, atheists.

[00:05:28] Some of the most famous atheists in the world are practitioners of this kind of meditation. I’ve met several of them and in fact, I’ve taught at least three of them who, famously, are espousing that we should not be believing in anything like a personified cosmic intelligence, and yet they practice Vedic Meditation twice every day because it produces verifiable, regular, systematic results for them of releasing stress.

A Better Understanding

[00:06:00] So what we advise people to do is to practice this technique and as their awareness grows and broadens, then it should be that their capability to understand everything grows and expands and broadens. So someone practicing Vedic Meditation who had little understanding of science will start to be able to understand science better.

[00:06:24] Someone who practices Vedic Meditation, who had little understanding of how relationships work will find that, as a result of practicing, their understanding of how relationships work expands and grows, and they’ll stop being bewildered by relationships.

[00:06:40] Someone who practices Vedic Meditation likewise, when they apply that expanded awareness, which is the gift of Vedic Meditation, to their understanding about what religious teachers were originally teaching, will naturally experience a growth and their understanding and a reduction of bewilderment, and a reduction of mysteriousness in their own experience of whatever religion means to them.

[00:07:11]Some people who are humanists and who are atheists will find that simply understanding and appreciating the totality of all the implications of the human condition, will start to take on a more expansive view of that.

[00:07:28] So really Vedic Meditation is not religion in the way that most people interpret religion. However, would it have an impact on religion if you practiced it? It would have a positive impact on religion or a positive impact on your view of your place in the universe, even if you’re an atheist.

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