When does spirituality become dogma?


dogma is a binding, precisely formulated, non-questionable doctrine. Dogma comes from the Greek dógma (δόγμα) ‘regulation, resolution, philosophical principle’. The word dogma was taken up in Latin and in church language, in canon law, got the meaning ‘revealed, irrevocably valid doctrine of faith’.

Nowadays, the word dogma is also used as a derogatory term for unreflective assumptions that are often misleading. The term dogmatism is usually used negatively: someone clings to beliefs without questioning them.

Dogma and religions

Most religions have dogmas, fixed beliefs on which all teaching is based. Some religions are more dogmatic, some are less.

Within the religions, too, there are more dogmatic and less dogmatic interpretations of the teachings. E.g. Christianity today is much less dogmatic than it is usually assumed from outside.

One definition of Hinduism is: "Hinduism is the collective name for all non-dogmatic religions in India". Because in Hinduism there are no fixed dogmas that everyone has to believe in. Rather, there is great diversity in Hinduism. There is more emphasis on behavior and practices, less emphasis on certain beliefs.

Dogmatism in the Spiritual Community

Dogmatism in the spiritual community an entry in the Yoga Vidya Lexicon of Virtues an edition of the community podcast from www.yoga-vidya.de.

Dogmatism sounds pretty bad today, dogmatism is not considered good, we are in a time when flexibility, adaptability are important as well as empathy and always trying new things. We don't like old dogmas. But the expression, dogmatism, is not a bad thing either.

In theology, dogmatism also means that one thinks about what the teachings are and how one can follow these instructions or advice. Dogmatism means dealing with the basic doctrines that are really right in the first place. Dogmatism is on the one hand a scientific discipline z. B. in theology. But dogmatism is also an existing worldview that is based on a dogma or dogmas. (as e.g. also in scientific socialism)

So, on the one hand, is dogmatism thinking about what our norms are and dogmatism also orienting towards these norms. And one has to say that a certain dogmatism always belongs to a spiritual community. On the one hand, be aware of what I believe in, what are my guidelines, what is it that defines me. For example, one could say that in Yoga Vidya we follow the so-called seven basic spiritual principles. First, we believe there is a higher reality. Everyone can imagine this higher reality differently. Everyone has a different relationship to it. Second, our dogma is, if you will: the world as we perceive it is an illusion.

The world is not what we perceive it to be. We can also perceive the world differently. The third of these beliefs is that when we are alone in the outer world, when we are in the seeming world, when we consider our own conception of the world to be absolute, then that leads to dukha, suffering. Suffering cannot be eliminated from within the world. Eternal happiness, deep happiness, deep satisfaction cannot be found by fulfilling desires and needs, but can be found in other ways. This brings us to the fourth point: is it possible to experience the highest reality? Is it possible to get out of the illusion of the outer world? Is it possible to get out of suffering? It is possible to experience the Supreme Reality. And man's deep longing is to experience this Supreme Reality. Man is only happy when he experiences the Supreme Reality. All human striving can be interpreted as striving to experience the divine.

The fifth principle could be interpreted as: We can do something for it ourselves. What can we do? We can practice spiritually - sadhana. We can practice together - Satsang. We can lead a spiritual lifestyle and align it with ethical principles - sattva. We can help and serve, striving to do good - seva. We assume that everything that comes has a meaning that we can learn through fate. Fate is a chance, life is school, that is the sixth principle - karma. And the seventh is, there is divine grace that intervenes again and again in our lives and ultimately the experience of the divine comes through the grace of God. You could say that the seven basic principles are like a dogma to which we align ourselves in Yoga Vidya. A certain dogmatism would have to be considered, what are our ideas.

Of course that's very general. What makes Yoga Vidya so special, for example, is that we think we have a large width. And different people who can interpret it differently. Then there is also a certain dogmatism in terms of how do we implement these principles. That is now all dogmatism understood in a positive way. But dogmatism can of course also mean rigidity, so it is and no different and if someone disagrees, then away with you. Go to hell This is not good. Dogmatism can also mean that one becomes heartless. Therefore, dogmatism, which is based on regulated principles, must be complemented by charity and mercy and flexibility and adaptation. It is good to make sure of its principles, even if you are not living in a spiritual community, be aware of what the principles of your actions are.

What are these values ​​that are important to you and how can you live up to these values? If you have norms to which you want to align yourself and your actions. If you don't want the term dogma, you can call norms. And how do you live up to these norms, if you do not live up to them, you do not feel satisfied. How can you implement that responsibly. And how can you follow your norms without becoming dogmatic, in the sense of being too rigid? How can you meet norms and do justice to people with charity, mercy and empathy? So those were some thoughts on the subject: dogmatism. Dogmatism is not only bad but dogmatism is justified. Only dogmatism needs to be complemented by charity and compassion, flexibility and empathy.

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