Blog # 52: Yogis, Sages and Saints

 Spiritual teachers are like different facets of a diamond. All are dealing with the same reality, but they do so in different ways.

 The Yogi tries by diet, breathing and physical postures to “yoke” the body and the mind together. The purpose of this is to quell the ego-mind and get a sense of felt connection to ones inner spiritual nature.

 As the body and the mind become partners again, one’s consciousness grows. However, the expansion of consciousness is more “horizontal” rather than “vertical.” The purpose of the Yogic path is cosmic consciousness, not union with a “higher” reality. You may have noticed that I am using a lot of quotes here. That is because words can never capture fully the inexpressible nature of the ultimate. In the end, we may be all referring to the same reality (after all, we say there is only one God), but, again, it is the emphasis that is subtly different.

 As a source of my assertion that the Yogic path is more “horizontal” than “vertical”, which may come as a surprise to some people, I refer to Sri Aurobindo (the Teilhard de Chardin of Hinduism) and Sri Ramana Maharishi, two great teachers who ought to know what they are talking about.

 The Yogic liberation from the sense of being imprisoned in a “skin-encapsulated ego” (Alan Watts) is one of life’s greatest gifts. I can still remember when this consciousness first began to dawn upon me. I was only 19 years of age, taking a walk by myself at dusk. Then the consciousness suddenly came upon me: I am a part of all things, a part of nature, a part of the cosmic flow of things. What an exciting, liberating moment this was for me!

 As great as this experience of cosmic consciousness is, however, it is still at the beginner stage of the spiritual path. Another quantum leap forward happens when we move to the level of being a “sage.” The sage no longer depends upon the breathing exercises and the physical postures and all of the psycho-spiritual technologies of the Yogi, although he or she may continue these practices. The sage is someone who has come to realize that all sense of the radical separateness of the ego from God is an illusion.

 The sage is not interested in the conscious pursuit of God either. The sage has simply “dissolved” all sense of self importance and even a separate sense of self altogether. The great Zen teacher D.T. Suzuki used to sign his name “wu shih”, which means “nobody special.” That is the consciousness of someone who has literally died to all sense of a separate self.

 The third type of spiritual teacher is the “saint.” Being a saint does not preclude also being a Yogi and a saint. Thus the saint may have the consciousness of the Yogi and the total loss of a sense of self that we see in the sage. What is different, however, is a “burning love for God.” Again, kindly remember that we are dealing with words here, but this is how the saint would express themselves.

 Ken Wilber, arguably the greatest theorist in consciousness of our times, thinks that the sage is at a higher level than the saint. He says this because he thinks that the saint is still locked into a certain dualism. The separate self is in love with a separate God.

 It seems to me that Dr. Wilber is setting up a “straw man” and then knocking it down. The saint, like all lovers, is aware of his or her own individuality, but when they surrender to their relationship, they are taken out of themselves. Technically, then, the lovers are separate; practically, they are one. Thus is the relationship between the saint and God.


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8 responses to “Blog # 52: Yogis, Sages and Saints

  1. I really liked this blog. Thanks Tom


  2. Jane Selleck Bush

    Sage, Yogi or Saint – these are terms assigned to a few people by other people in recognition of their saintly, sage behavior etc. Mother Theresa, St. Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi etc. We honor all of these people. They are role models and give us courage. Everyday, all over the world, in some of the most unexpected ways, “ordinary” people respond to a person, a situation a crisis with a brilliant, acute understanding of what is needed at that moment. That brilliance is the God – the Spirit – the Sage within us. It is built-in to us. When we access that we become one with the brilliance that is God. It is in these daily miracles that our actions become Sage, Yogi, Saintly.


    • Interesting point, Jane, that many people are capable of flashes of saintliness, even though one does not consistently see this in them. Blessings to you!


  3. Wow, Doug’s posts remind me of how inferior I am at an intellectual levl, and your remind me of how behind I am spiritually as well as intellectually. Very interesting blog tho




  4. By its very nature, putting words around states of consciousness that are beyond words, is indeed a challenging task (one this author would say is not possible), but I admire all who work toward this (I am one), as shining light on Divine Self is one of the highest callings.

    Of course, if one were to poll yogis, saints and sages – I suspect the answers of what their practices represent would be as varied as shoppers in Tiffany versus shoppers in the dollar store. We call ourselves these names, but unless one has experienced the higher states of consciousness that these names imply, it’s like trying to see over the countertop when our fingertips barely reach the edge. We can guess – but we don’t know. Certainly, there are enough writings and quotes from thousands of yogis/sages/saints who will say what their practices represent, which is perhaps true for them in the moment, but most likely do not represent the highest goal.

    As one who calls herself a yogi (or shall I say yogini) I offer additional insight into practices of yogis, sages and saints, in the Eastern bend, which comes directly from my own experience, and that is the practice of monism. In my personal practice of advaita vedanta, we conduct our practices toward removing the veil of separateness between God and all things. Rather than the belief that God is somehow separate from who we are, we recognize the Light that resides in all things. And while we, as individual souls in a body are not GOD (Brahman) we contain a “spark” of this Divine Light (Atman, Soul, Higher Consciousness, Christ Consciousness) within ourselves. And when we reside in that space of consciousness, there is no longer Me and God, or You and God…..there is only God…God is all things. The wave subsides back into the ocean..are all One.

    In this space – there are no words of yogi, saint, sage…or even God – as the experience is beyond words – and the moment we put words around such experiences, we leave the Oneness state of consciousness and return back to dualism. And we are again in the foothills trying to describe the view from the peak. So hard!

    Tom – with gratitude and joyful memories I remember when you first introduced me to the ideas of Meister Echkart – a Christian Mystic. Upon reading more, I came across the following quote: “The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.” -Sermon IV : True Hearing

    Tom – thank you for writing this blog – it makes me think! and then I learn, and then I think more – and then I want to learn more! While it is not my practice to put one name on one thing (as the diamond you mention is multi-faceted) certainly you shine forth as a wise, compassionate and caring teacher! Thankyou


  5. Ah, the insufficiency of words… Freud said that symbol is the language of the Unconscious. We might say that symbol is the language of the soul. Looking at a newborn baby or a couple in love, or a flower or a sunset may be the things that can bring together yogis, sages and saints. As long as they then do not talk about what they are saying!!


  6. Yes! Beautifully said!

    I enjoy your writing and learn, always….thank you for this !


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