8/18/2005

Book: GOD Without Religion

God Without Religion offers a way for individuals to discover and define God on their own rather than accepting the interpretation of a particular religious doctrine. Instead of providing answers about God as organized religions do, the book encourages readers to explore their ideas of God... [My Catholicism seems so far from Ratzinger's AKA pope Benedict that I don't know if will remain Catholic. I will always believe in God and Jesus, though.. -- law]

An Interview with Sankara Saranam Author of God Without Religion

Sankara Saranam, author of God Without ReligionWhat led you to write God Without Religion?

After living as an ascetic for nearly two decades, engaging day and night in sophisticated methods of sense-introversion, and eventually coming to an inner understanding of how the human sense of identity manifests, I felt burdened by my discovery and needed to share what I'd found. I wanted to help people by demonstrating how the ideas of God introduced by organized religions have propagated divisiveness through split-level thinking like "us and them," "believer and infidel," and "saved and damned," leading to prejudice, violence, and ultimately, war. I wrote God Without Religion to introduce the idea of a universal God-a concept approached by past philosophers and mystics, but never explored comprehensively from the inside out.



Do you think the average American can relate to a book that challenges the religious bedrock on which this country was founded? Whom do you perceive to be your readership?

Americans are often taught that this country is founded on religious beliefs, but many Founding Fathers, like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, actually opposed organized belief systems. Jefferson said that he inwardly swore "eternal hostility" toward organized religions. Lincoln, widely considered the most spiritual United States president, admitted during his campaign that he'd never joined a church. God Without Religion seeks to inspire a personal involvement with a new idea of God and is intended for anyone interested in spiritual growth, regardless of religious, cultural, or political affiliation. Atheists, too, can benefit from this book.



As founder of the Pranayama Institute, please tell us what pranayama is and why you chose it.

I chose to focus on pranayama as a path to spiritual knowledge because of its scientific rationale and its universal application. The scientific basis for all mystical traditions, pranayama is the secret technique of yogis, prophets, and early religious figures such as the Buddha, Elijah, and Jesus Christ. Prana refers to nervous energy and yama means control. Getting in touch with the motion of prana in the body and brain helps us better understand our existence, while controlling this motion by directing awareness inward can unite humanity in the shared appreciation of God experienced by the expansive sense of self.



How do you define the expansive sense of self, and why should we seek to understand it?

The sense of self, or identity, can expand to include all of humanity, regardless of nationality, beliefs, ethnicity, race, gender, or lifestyle. If a suburban midwesterner could identify with an Iraqi farmer, a straight white southerner could relate to a gay African American couple, or a Congressman could see a Palestinian merchant as part of his family, and vice versa, we wouldn't be able to propagate hatred and violence. God Without Religion guides readers to expand their sense of self until it encompasses every living being, eradicating all preconditions for conflict and war.



You state that organized religions direct people to look "without" rather than "within" for their happiness. A minister, rabbi, or priest would most likely disagree with that. What would you say to them?

I'd ask how deeply they are looking. For example, a rabbi might counsel his congregation to look within, but not so deeply that they forget they are Jews. More often, religion distances worshipers from their inherent spirituality by directing their attention to outer rituals that reinforce dogmatic belief systems. In either instance religion stifles questioning, which is why antagonism between mystics and orthodoxy-such Jesus and Jewish leaders, Buddha and the Brahmin, and the Sufis and Islam-permeates the history of religion. Instead of facilitating a dialogue with God, religious leaders interpret God for their followers, which has the effect of narrowing the sense of self so much that it is perceived as separate from the infinite self of God. If we were to focus awareness inwardly, very deeply, we would no longer need an interpreter because we would have a direct knowledge to the universal self peering through the eyes of all.



What does the universal divine have to do with the God of the Hebrews or the Christians or of Islam, or the teachings of the Buddha or Joseph Smith? Do we really need yet another interpretation of God right now?

God Without Religion offers a way for individuals to discover and define God on their own rather than accepting the interpretation of a particular religious doctrine. Instead of providing answers about God as organized religions do, the book encourages readers to explore their ideas of God by asking a series of questions that ultimately expand their sense of identity. I call this "worshiping by wondering." Wonder is the gateway to spiritual knowledge. The more questions we ask about the nature of God, the more profound the answers will be, leading to deeper questions which broaden our perceptions and expand our sense of self. Constantly challenging our conclusions and refining our knowledge of God promotes the deep spiritual growth needed to transcend the violence so prevalent in the world today.



GOD Without Religion

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