"Twin sons of different mothers" is an expression used to describe two individuals from different families and backgrounds who share common interests, perspectives, and worldviews. At first blush it may seem implausible to place a Yogi from India and a Native American Shaman in this category. But over the years, I have learned both share remarkably similar spiritual philosophies with ancient common roots. And both provide wisdom teachings that are desperately needed today.
- Yogis and Shamans both embrace and seek union with the same God
- Yogis and Shamans both acknowledge and revere the Divine Feminine
- Yogis and Shamans are both masters of the same unseen spiritual realms
- Yogis and Shamans both utilize the transformative power of the sacred Tree of Life
The beliefs and practices of two great men, Paramahansa Yogananda and Nicholas Black Elk are a perfect example of the striking similarities between the shared spiritual foundation of yoga and shamanism.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 to 1952), was an Indian Yogi and guru, born in India near the Nepalese border. His book, Autobiography of a Yogi, was published in 1946 and is considered a spiritual classic and one of the “100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century.” Yogananda’s teachings and writings have introduced millions of Indians and Westerners to meditation and Kriya Yoga.
Nicholas Black Elk (1863 to 1950), was an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Shaman, medicine man, and holy man, born along the Little Powder River at a site thought to be in the present-day state of Wyoming. His biography, Black Elk Speaks, was published in 1932 and is also considered one of the “100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century.” Black Elk’s spiritual visions and insights have inspired millions around the world.
Yogananda and Black Elk were roughly contemporaries and although born on opposite sides of the globe, into cultures that appear on the surface to be radically different, they were indeed spiritual twins of different mothers.
“You must realize that to find God is the only goal, the only purpose, for which you are here. For Him alone you exist. Him you must find." Paramahansa Yogananda
“We should understand well that all things are the works of the Great Spirit...who is within all things.” Nicholas Black Elk
Yogananda and Black Elk both taught that our spiritual journey, our life’s work, is to seek oneness and unity with God, the Divine. When we are aligned and in-balance with the Divine, our creations are able to manifest in their most perfect form. Although Indian and Native American cultures developed unique ceremonial practices, both paths led to the same God.
- Yogananda’s path was Known as “Yoga”
- Black Elk’s path was known as walking the “Good Red Road”
Both the Yogi and the Shaman know that God, the Divine, is transcendent and also imminent — in the world and available to us here-and-now. They know we can experience the Divine in our daily lives and it is possible to experience our oneness with the Divine directly in this lifetime.
Living in harmony and balance with the Divine restores us to our original state of grace and oneness and enables us to live in harmony with life and all Creation. When we move toward, and achieve harmony with, the Divine we are able to receive help, insight and understanding directly from Source.
The culture of ancient India, as well as shamanic cultures around the world, have all recognized the Divine as having both male and female aspects — God the Father and Mother. Early Indian art, and the earliest Neolithic shamanic cave paintings, depict the Divine Feminine as the Great Mother Goddess with great reverence.
- Yogananda knew Her as Bhūmī-Devī, the Divine Mother Earth
- Black Elk knew Her as Unci Maka, the Sacred Earth Mother
For both the Yogi and the Shaman, the Divine Feminine is not an ancient myth or spiritual icon to be taken on faith. She is a vibrant, living presence in the world today. Her unconditional love and compassion comforts us during times of distress and despair. Her grace and forgiveness is a source of strength and courage when it is most needed.
Yogic and Shamanic practices and ceremonies help us to turn to Her in our times of greatest need with the assurance and confidence that She will provide for us. She will always hear our prayers and will embrace us as Her beloved children.
Unseen Spiritual Realm
Most of us have been taught that the three-dimensional world we live in is all there is. Yet, for millennia, Yogis and Shamans have worked to master the unseen, higher spiritual realms that exist alongside our material world. They have long recognized these realms have an immediate influence on our daily lives and hold the secrets to our health, fulfillment, and well-being.
- In the Yogic tradition, these realms are often referred to as the Astral and Causal planes
- In the Shamanic tradition, these realms are often referred to as the Dreamtime and the Upper World
Yogis and Shamans know that by accessing these higher realms, we are able to move closer to the Divine as our limited, every-day sense of self expands and our self-imposed limits dissolve. From this higher state of consciousness we are more open, aware, receptive, and able to experience greater self-realization and inner strength.
From this perspective we are able to view our life with a pristine clarity, as if from a much higher vantage point. We are able to comprehend a higher and grander purpose that guides our destiny and leads us toward unity and oneness with the Divine.
The World Tree, also known as the Tree of Life, is a fundamental concept in ancient spiritual traditions around the world with artistic representations dating as far back as the fourth millennium BCE. Both yogic and shamanic cultures recognized the World Tree as the symbolic bridge between the material world and the unseen spiritual realms.
- Yogananda knew the World Tree as Ashvattha, The Yogic Tree of Life
- Black Elk knew the World Tree as the Sun Dance Tree
In the yogic tradition, the taproot of the World Tree connects directly to the Divine. In the shamanic tradition, the World Tree grows from the womb of the Sacred Earth Mother. The Tree’s roots, going deep underground, and its branches, reaching to the heavens, remind us our world is a limited reflection of a much grander spiritual reality.
Connecting with the energy of the World Tree keeps us grounded, in-touch with Source, and attuned to the subtle yet powerful unseen spiritual currents guiding our lives. With practice, we can use the Divine energy from the Tree to create greater health, happiness and fulfillment.
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The Yogi and the Shaman are truly twin sons of different mothers. Their respective paths to enlightenment, personal healing and transformation rest on a common spiritual reality that all of us have the ability to experience.
To experience the transcendent world of the Yogi and the Shaman, please join John and Molly Larkin:
May 28th to 31st
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
“A Shamans Pathway to the Divine”