Cult Mentality and Religious Fanaticism: Love is Freedom

During a lecture on the intriguing topic of “religious fanaticism,” Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda, a world-renowned yoga spiritual master & founder of the Science of Identity Foundation, urges us to analyze this phrase, and in particular, analyze each individual word. As we will see, the terms contradict.

Jagad Guru shares that “fanaticism means force” while religion means “love for God.” Indeed, few people appreciate the actual meaning of “religion,” so it is very important to look at these terms closely. Jagad Guru explains that many people believe that “religion is something you join or something you quit. They think religion is a type of label that you put on or a new type of clothes that you wear or a new declaration of dependence. They think religion means changing your labels. For example, a person becomes a Christian after having been a Hindu or he becomes a Muslim after having been a Christian. He changed his religion.” But this is not the true meaning of religion.

“Religion is that eternal aspect of the self which cannot be changed, and that is the self’s relationship with God. You are an eternal individual spark of God, and you are eternally His servant and are meant to be engaged in His loving service. Religion means loving service to God. Love for God.” According to the teachings of Jesus Christ, Jagad Guru says that achieving such real religion means “action based upon loving service to the Supreme Lord.”

And while there are many different “so-called religious paths,” Jagad Guru explains that if a certain path “helps a person come to the point of love for God, then that is a good path because it leads to religion, real religion. So the lover of God is the religious person. He’s immersed in love for God. And if his love for God is perfect, it’s pure, it expands, then, to all of the children of God.”

In sharp contrast to real religion, which is based upon love for God and his children, fanaticism is based on force or coercion (as often seen within cult). These terms are opposites. “Love for God means freedom. Love is based on freedom, not force.”

One key point that Jagad Guru shares is surrounding the word “surrender.” Indeed, many scriptures say to “surrender to God,” and some people may think this implies an element of force. But surrender actually means to give love freely. Jagad Guru beautifully illustrates this in the example of a woman who surrenders her mind and body to her boyfriend or spouse. She has the freedom to give—to surrender—she is not taken by force. On the other hand, if she is attacked and raped, her rapist may hold her at knifepoint and tell her to “surrender” under the threat of bodily harm.

Yes, this is also a surrendering, but these two scenarios are in stark contrast. “One is voluntary, it’s based on love. That’s the difference. Love means that I am doing it. I’m doing it. I am giving, it’s not being taken from me. I am giving. Not that somebody can come up and take my heart and give it to God, or that somebody can, by force, make me love someone.”

By knowing what real religion is, we will also know what real love is—they are identical. “Religion means love and love is based on individual free choice. That I love, not even for a reason. Not even that I decided to love God, that He just captured my heart. It’s not even a conscious decision to love God. I may make a conscious decision that I want to come to the point of loving God and that I can direct my life in such a way so I can try to cultivate my love or increase that love or try to make it so that that flame of love grows, but I can’t actually make myself love God. This is important to know.”

A fanatic doesn’t know this. He doesn’t actually know what religion is. Jagad Guru says that this is quite astounding to most people because they think a fanatic is a very religious person. But in fact, he doesn’t know God and doesn’t have love for God. He only has fanaticism. We shouldn’t be fooled by such pretenders, no matter how big their congregations or cult may grow.

As Jagad Guru explains, “because the terms ‘fanatic’ and ‘religion’ are contradictory, therefore there is no possibility of there really being a religious fanatic.” Therefore, we need to stop thinking that a religious fanatic is a person who is really religious because a person who is actually religious appreciates that each of us has free will. Offering one’s life, one’s heart to God must be done freely, voluntarily, otherwise it is not a true spiritual offering. It is not true surrender in the spiritual sense.

Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda is a yoga spiritual master in the disciplic succession known as the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. This highly respected spiritual lineage extends back over 5,000 years to Lord Sri Krishna Himself.

Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda is also the founder of the Science of Identity Foundation which teaches the practice of meditation and kirtan—along with the timeless yoga wisdom—to help individuals achieve greater spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. Passed down for centuries through an unbroken line of self-realized teachers, this ancient and authentic process of self-discovery can be practiced by anyone.