21 JUNE 2014
Where was Jesus during his hidden years?
As a yoga teacher I believed and taught that Jesus spent a great portion of the years between twelve and thirty studying under gurus in the Far East who taught him how to awaken his Christ nature. I based this view on the general opinion that prevailed among my peers, but even more so, on The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ written by Levi Dowling and the teachings of Edgar Cayce.
Both of these individuals claimed to receive insight on this matter from the Akashic Records. This is supposedly an immense field of knowledge surrounding the earth containing a complete record of every thought, emotion or action in this world since its inception. After becoming a Christian, I realized that the accounts given by Dowling and Cayce actually contradict each other. If they got their inspiration from the same source, why did this happen?
According to Edgar Cayce, Jesus was discipled by an Essene teacher named Judy. She later instructed him to travel to Persia and India in order to learn astrology and other yogic and spiritual disciplines. It should be noted that this is highly unlikely because the Essenes traditionally did not regard women as capable of filling such positions of prophetic influence.
Levi Dowling shares an altogether different version. He explains that an Indian prince named Ravanna obtained permission from Jesus’ parents to take him to India in order to learn from the wisdom of the Indian sages. Dowling offers that Jesus studied under Brahmic masters for a season, then went on to Benares of the Ganges where he was mentored by Hindu healers who taught him their art, then on to Tibet. Finally, he journeyed to Egypt where he allegedly became part of a “Secret Brotherhood” in Heliopolis. There he advanced through seven degrees of initiation to become the Christ.
The Bible is largely silent about Jesus’ hidden years. However, it does shed some light on what probably happened. When Jesus was twelve years old, he purposefully remained in Jerusalem after attending the Passover Feast with his family. Joseph and Mary, who thought he had been lost from their caravan, finally found him in the temple area discussing doctrines with the doctors of theology. Seeing their concern and responding to their request, the Bible explains, “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” (Luke 2:51) The wording is very plain.
Years later, when Jesus announced his ministry in Nazareth at the age of thirty, “as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” This wording suggests that this practice had been a pattern in his life for some time. When he announced his claim to Messiahship by quoting Isaiah 61, the awed listeners “marveled at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth” and questioned, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:16, 22) Obviously, this unique Nazarene was a familiar figure to them all. Because of these and other arguments too lengthy to mention, I now contend that Jesus never departed from the land of Israel during his ‘hidden years.’
The popular writer, Ron Rhodes, offers an informed and insightful observation:
“Among those who became angriest at Jesus were the Jewish leaders. They accused him of many offenses, including breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy and doing miracles in Satan’s power. But they never accused him of teaching or practicing anything learned in the East. The Jews considered such teachings and practices to be idolatry and sorcery. Had Jesus actually gone to India to study under ‘the great Buddhas,’ this would have been excellent grounds for discrediting and disqualifying him regarding his claim to be the promised Jewish Messiah. If the Jewish leaders could have accused Jesus of this, they certainly would have.“1
1 Ron Rhodes, The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age Movement (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1990) p. 52.
What does it mean to be “one with God”?
This concept of being “one with God” can be interpreted two main ways: (1) Undifferentiated
oneness and sameness. (2) Differentiated
oneness: union with uniqueness, marriage by merging, blending but not the banishing of individuality. In this view, oneness does not mean sameness.
The traditional metaphor used in Hinduism and New Age veins of thought is the drop of water being immersed in the ocean. The droplet of water is atman (the soul); the ocean is Brahman (the impersonal Oversoul). At the moment of complete absorption into God the ‘droplet of water’ cannot be differentiated from the ‘ocean’ into which it is immersed. This symbol fits in with the idea that man in his present ignorance is in the process of realizing that he is God, on a journey that ends in actually ‘becoming’ God.
After the cycle of reincarnation is finally over, the soul completely loses its connection with ‘self-consciousness’, dropping all human personalities in which it was encased through the cycle of rebirths. Unrestrained, the latent divinity in man becomes fully expressed. To the philosophical Hindu, and to most yogis and swamis, this is the ultimate meaning of being “one with God.” Progress in life depends on realizing this oneness now and living in the higher consciousness and divine direction provided by the ‘higher Self’ (which is identical with Brahman). This view in Indian philosophy is referred to as Advaita-Vedanta. (The word advaita means “non-dualism”.)
Its main proponent was Sankara (c.700-750). He taught that man and God are one and the same. We only perceive separate selves and existences because of maya (illusion). Actually, the world and everything in it is a manifestation of Brahman and will ultimately return to its original state. This interpretation is based on a monistic and pantheistic view of the Creator and the creation.
An opposing view within the boundaries of Hinduism is called Dvaita-Vedanta. (The word dvaita means “dualism.”) One of its main promoters, Madhva (13th century), taught that Vishnu is the supreme god, and that an evolved soul’s ultimate destiny is relational: the final realization of an unhindered, unrestricted relationship or union with a personal God. According to this view, the world is real, not an illusion; and souls, though dependent upon God, are distinct and separate from him. It is interesting to note that Madhva’s followers considered him an incarnation of the wind god Vayu, sent by Vishnu to bring deliverance to those who are good, while they described Sankara (who promoted Advaita-Vedanta) as being sent by the powers of evil.
Madhva’s view is structured somewhat similar to Christian doctrine. However, while proposing man’s destiny of relational ‘oneness with God’, it fails to supply the correct means of making this happen or the correct revelation of the “One” with whom union is sought. Jesus definitely promised present and ultimate oneness with God for those who follow his teachings. However, the means of accessing this oneness is much different than the methods offered by Far Eastern religions. In his great intercessory prayer for the church (John 17), Jesus revealed how this oneness can be received (not achieved):
“Father… I have given to them the words which You have given Me… that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us… and the glory which You have given me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.“
(John 17:1, 8, 21–22)
So through the impartation of the words Jesus spoke (the Word of God) and the glory that rested upon him (the Holy Spirit) believers can experience this gift of oneness with the Father. Such a state of being can be actualized during this life, then finalized and perfected at the loss of this mortal body. So what’s the difference?
Far Eastern religions teach that this state of being comes through the removal of ignorance and the attaining of higher states of consciousness through various means (meditation, chanting, pilgrimages, devotion, etc). It is considered an inward potential that all human beings possess. It need only be awakened. Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that oneness with God is not an internal possession, latent within all men. It is the product of an external influence, an impartation from God. As a promised gift of God, it is granted only to those who seek it according to his directions.
In Christianity, God is a transcendent God. Mankind is separated from God by sin. It is impossible, therefore, for unredeemed men to be one with the very God from whom they have been separated. This sorrowful condition of soul is wonderfully rectified by the spiritual rebirth Jesus promised. This happens when the Spirit of God enters a person’s heart once it is cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus. This is the only means by which human beings can be reconciled to a right relationship with God.
Prior to this experience any claim to ‘oneness with God’ may be philosophically correct (as a gift that men can acquire), but not experientially correct (as an experience that men possess). When I was a teacher of yoga, I sincerely believed that I had oneness with God, but I never actually possessed that oneness. I never truly experienced union with the Divine until I approached God according to the words of Jesus and until I received his Spirit (his glory) into my heart.
This difference becomes most evident when the comparison is between Christianity and the monistic, pantheistic view of philosophical Hinduism. This vein of thought in Hinduism deifies all men. We are all manifestations of God. The biblical view, though, is that man is not God and will never be God. Oneness does not mean sameness. Adam and Eve became one in marriage in the beginning, but Eve did not become Adam. Later on, Paul used this marriage analogy explaining, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31–32 KJV)
Some of the Far Eastern viewpoints on this issue are like a house that’s been framed up, but not boxed in and furnished. The framework of truth is there (God desires us to experience oneness with him), but the actual means of experiencing that oneness is absent. Of course, I often meet deeply sincere students of yoga and Far Eastern religions who are very godly and loving persons. In living ethical, honorable and self-denying lives, I admit, they have come into harmony with the divine will to a great degree. Usually their daily goal is to live according to the intuitive promptings of what many of them would term their ‘higher Self’.
I believe this inner influence is simply the conscience — that subliminal sense of what is morally right and morally wrong. The conscience is a gift from
God, but it is not evidence of the actual presence of
God within the heart. Those who yield to this inner influence do achieve oneness with God in a limited sense, by becoming one with his moral demands. But there is a huge difference between keeping God’s rules and being filled with his personal presence. I deeply admire people of various religions who live such devoted lives. My heart hurts deeply for them — for I see such consecration, such realness, such thirst for God evidenced in their lives. O that they could take the next step and discover the Fountainhead of all the joy, peace and fulfillment they seek: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the Bible forecasts a time when the sons and daughters of God will shine brilliantly in the Kingdom of God. They will reflect the image of God in absolute perfection. These redeemed individuals will experience union with God to a superlative, perfected degree. However, those who inherit eternal life will never become formless, omnipresent spirits filling the universe, nor will they merge into undifferentiated oneness with the Oversoul. The heirs of everlasting life will always have a distinct form (an eternal glorified body) and they will always exist as individual, independent personalities. They will be distinct from God, yet enjoy everlasting, blissful oneness in their relationship with him. Yes, I agree with the apostle Paul — this is a great mystery!
The word “yoga” means yoke. It implies being yoked or harnessed with God, brought into harmony with the Divine. Yoga is one of the six primary systems of orthodox thought in Indian philosophy. It is focused, first, on freeing the aspirant from the illusion and ignorance that characterizes this earthly realm, and second, on enabling the seeker, through various self-disciplines, to achieve oneness with the Divine. There are many types of yoga, such as: Hatha Yoga (the path of physical disciplines), Karma Yoga (the path of selfless action), Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion to an individual god), Jnana Yoga (the path of transcendental knowledge), Mantra Yoga (the path of chanting mantras to achieve enlightenment) and others. Primary sacred texts are the Yoga sutras written by Patanjali (c. 200 BC).
The Origin and Nature of Man
In many groups practicing the study of yoga, human beings are described as possessing spiritual energy centers called chakras. Though there are some different views promoted by various yogis, it is generally believed that there are seven main chakras, five of which are positioned along the spinal column. The sixth is the ‘third eye’ and the seventh, the ‘crown chakra’ located at the crown of the skull. The third eye (in the middle of the forehead) is described as one of the main gateways out of the body into the astral realm. Each chakra is associated with a different deity. When the kundalini (the latent deposit of divine energy at the base of the spine) is ‘awakened,’ this energy travels upward through the chakras. Upon reaching the crown chakra, God consciousness is attained.
According to Samkhya school of yoga, man is bipartite, with the self (purusa) bound inside of a body of matter (prakriti).
The Nature of Salvation, Liberation or Enlightenment
Emancipation comes through comprehending 25 principles: beginning with prakriti (nature) and ending with purusha (soul). Moksha or liberation does not consist in a cosmic, monistic oneness: a perception of everything in the Self and the Self in everything (as is promoted in many other yogic schools). Instead it involves the freeing of the individual soul from the cycle of rebirth, yet simultaneously, an isolation from all other ‘Selves’ within the sphere of its own, personal, omnipresent, omniscient and divine, eternal existence.
Did Jesus teach Yoga?
It may surprise you, but the answer to this question is a definite “No”. (If you are not a follower of Jesus yet, please don’t stop reading! You will understand my response by the end of this article.)
O, I know some people will insist that I am wrong. Any argument offered would surely include the following information. The word “yoga” means yoke or union and the implied meaning is to be yoked with God or in union with God. “Certainly Jesus taught that we should be yoked with God,” many would say, “So He must have taught yoga.” That may sound logical to some people, but let’s inspect what the real practice of yoga involves. In Hinduism, it is believed that this union with God can be achieved through different schools of yoga, such as:
1. Hatha Yoga—the path of physical disciplines (asanas)
and breath control (pranayama).
2. Karma Yoga—the path of action: good works or selfless service.
3. Mantra Yoga—the path of chanting mantras.
4. Bhakti Yoga—the path of devotion to God, a god or an individual guru or avatar.
5. Jnana Yoga—the path of transcendental knowledge.
6. Raja Yoga—the royal path of meditation and mind control.
7. Tantric Yoga—the use of esoteric methods to obtain supernatural experiences, sometimes the harnessing of power through a sexual union with multiple partners.
8. Kundalini Yoga—a blend of many kinds of yoga, with the primary aim of awakening the “kundalini” — defined as a latent, divine power coiled like a serpent at the base of the spine.
Usually, various branches of yoga incorporate several of the above types into one composite yogic system. Though each branch may promote a slightly different approach, the ultimate goal of all yoga practices is Enlightenment, oneness with the Divine, the awakening of the Higher Self, the attainment of God-consciousness. To the uninformed, these terms may sound very attractive and it may appear that yoga and Christianity are both striving toward the same goal — but this is not the case. Keep reading, and you will see why.
I was a teacher of Kundalini Yoga at four universities in Florida, so I am well aware of the various yogic practices designed to carry devotees to higher levels of consciousness. I am now a Christian minister, a believer in the biblical worldview. So I have experienced both sides: theoretically, theologically and experientially. (You can read my testimony, the story of my conversion to Christianity by clicking here: http://www.thetruelight.net/personalstories/shreve.htm)
As a yoga teacher I often proposed to my students that Jesus was just another yogi—for He definitely taught men and women how to be “yoked with God,” and how to experience “union with God.” I would often try to reinforce this claim by quoting Jesus’ famous invitation:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)
When Jesus said, “Take My yoke on you” in essence, He was saying, “Come into union with Me — learn to think, feel, act and react just as I would.” Furthermore, He prayed in John 17 that His disciples would be one with the Father, just as He was. So oneness of heart, union with the Almighty, was definitely an emphasis in Jesus’ preaching. This is the primary goal of yoga and it was the primary theme of Jesus’ message—so what’s the difference?
Oneness with God within philosophical Hinduism ultimately involves the realization we are Divine; we are God in manifestation (as is all of creation). It means embracing the idea that Atman (the soul) and Brahman (the Oversoul) are one and the same. There is no difference. So the goal of yoga is coming into the experience of an undifferentiated union with God.
This is NOT the goal of Christianity. We are called to yield to God. We surrender to His Lordship. His Spirit enters our hearts and blends with our Spirit. But we never—I repeat, NEVER actually BECOME GOD. Does the cream become the tea when the two are mixed together? NO! So when human beings come into true union with God, do they actually BECOME God—the answer again is NO! A husband and wife become ONE in marriage, but they still maintain their own personal identities—and so it is with the heavenly Bridegroom and His earthly bride (the church).
The philosophy behind true Christianity and the philosophy behind the practice of yoga are oceans apart. There may be common terms used in both worldviews, but the terms are interpreted differently. The inward experience, though described with similar words, is still something totally different. When closely inspected, you will see that the teachings of Jesus do not fit at all within the framework of the various yoga schools already mentioned:
1. Hatha Yoga — Jesus never taught the necessity of physical exercises and breathing disciplines in order to open up the chakras (spiritual energy centers) and achieve a state of inner harmony. Most teachers of New Age ideas or far eastern religions would readily label Jesus an Avatar (a manifestation of God on earth). If He did fill this role (of course, Christianity teaches that Jesus was the “only” incarnation of God to ever visit this world) and if Hatha Yoga is a valid methodology, why did He neglect such an important subject? Of course, the logical answer is that He did not consider such methods necessary to man’s spiritual development. Years ago, I spent many hours doing yoga postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama). Now I am convinced, they may help tone and oxygenate a person’s body, but they do not aid anyone in obtaining true experiences of the transcendent state. God is a personal God who is approached in a personal way, not by such structured, mechanical methods.
2. Karma Yoga — This yogic system is based on the idea that every action causes either good or bad karma. Furthermore, the soul of a person remains locked in a series or rebirths (reincarnations) until all karmic debt is paid off. So the object of Karma Yoga is to live such a perfect life that there is no karmic indebtedness. At that time, release (moksha) from physical existence is achieved.
Jesus did not teach this. He taught one life and then a resurrection, not karma and reincarnation.
However, He did teach a certain concept of cause and effect. He warned that if we judge others, we will be judged; if we are merciful, we will obtain mercy; and the measure we deal out to others will also be dealt back to us. (See Matthew 5:7; 7:2) Later on, Paul, the apostle, restated this concept with the words, “Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
These statements describe a general truth that is somewhat predictable concerning life and relationships in this world. For instance, if we show hatred toward others, they will normally respond with hatred toward us. If we express love toward others, they will usually react with love toward us. If we bless others selflessly, they will often bless us in return — and God Himself will often reward us with outpoured blessings for our generosity. If we drink or do drugs, we will end up destroying our bodies and minds. If we involve ourselves in sensuality and immorality, it will destroy family relationships. If we rebel against God’s laws, we will suffer the consequences. What we sow, we reap. That’s just the way things work in life.
However, neither Jesus nor Paul intended to convey the karmic concept that every action MUST result in an exactly matched counter-action. Neither did they teach that souls get ‘locked’ into samsara (the cycle of rebirths) because of karmic debt. Believing this doctrine leaves no room for forgiveness coming from God, which was a major emphasis in Jesus’ teachings. Man instead is required to work out his own destiny by the strength of his own choices. We will definitely reap from all of our actions and attitudes in this life, but if “payment” doesn’t come in this life, it will overflow into the next stage of our existence — after we stand before the Lord and receive from Him the decree of our eternal destiny.
3. Mantra Yoga — Jesus never taught the use of mantras. Quite the opposite, he warned against this method, describing the practice as “vain repetitions”. (See Matthew 6:7) The Bible does encourage us to confess the promises of God’s Word. It also urges us to use certain words and phrases in prayer that can sometimes get somewhat repetitive (like “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah”). However, it never instructs Christians to chant these words or some magical phrases over and over in a monotone way, in order to manipulate some kind of inner cosmic power. God is a personal God, to be approached in a personal way, and these biblical praise words are a means of worshipful celebration for those who have already established a relationship with Him.
4. Bhakti Yoga — Of course, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all the heart, mind, soul and strength. However, to actually do this, a person must know and correctly define the name and nature of the true God. Not all names and personalities ascribed to God are correct. Bhakti Yoga would advocate devotion to any god as being legitimate. However, if one expresses love and devotion to a god that is actually non-existent, there is no value to the soul. A deity that is the product of human imagination is a deity that cannot deliver its devotees from sin and deception, for the very worship of that deity is itself sinful and deceptive, a transgression of the first commandment (“I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before Me”—Deuteronomy 5:6-7).
5. Jnana Yoga—Bible believers are encouraged to grow in the knowledge of God and we are taught that “in Christ” are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Gaining greater knowledge of God through prayer (revelation knowledge) and through the study of God’s Word (intellectual knowledge) does heighten one’s awareness of God and increase intimacy with God. And Jesus did explain to His disciples, “This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) So knowledge is important—though knowing God is far more important than knowing about God.
The difference is this. Much of what is promoted in Jnana Yoga as the “Path of Knowledge” would not be in harmony with what Jesus taught. Just learning theories and ideas about God is not enough; we must learn the truth for it to be effective in our lives. Just experiencing the supernatural is not enough; we must have an experience of true Spirit of God. Reading the Scriptures of all world religions will lead us down a path of theological error (I did this as a yoga teacher); we must study only what is truly inspired of God, and only the Bible fits this description. “Knowing” God in eastern religions involves an experience of Ultimate Reality as an impersonal force; “knowing” God in Christianity means establishing a relationship with a personal God (the Everlasting Father). So the two paths do NOT lead to the same place.
6. Raja Yoga — This group emphasizes meditation. Well, Christians are taught to “meditate” on God and on His Word. Biblically, the word “meditation” simply means a private and focused time of devotion, which often involves prayerful study of God’s Word. Many of the meditation practices encouraged in Raja Yoga are much different that the methods Christians would employ. Often, yogic meditation is geared toward emptying the mind in order to experience mystical experiences within higher levels of consciousness.
The Bible never advocates “emptying” the mind, nor the seeking mystical experiences. On the contrary, we are commanded to fill our minds with thoughts of praise and worship toward God. If supernatural experiences come, that is God’s decision. We don’t “conjure” them up with some mechanical esoteric or magical method. These are never prescribed as a part of the biblical approach to God. The Bible teaches that a spiritual regeneration is necessary in order to know God. This can only happen through the soul being cleansed by the blood Jesus shed on the cross. Any other method aimed at penetrating a supernatural world will fall short of its goal.
7. Tantric Yoga — No true Christian would EVER be involved in the pursuit of enlightenment through sexual practices. Quite the contrary, the Bible teaches against fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and any other aberrant sexual behavior. Sexual involvement is only allowed within the confines of marriage and is never projected as being a means of obtaining enlightenment. Any supernatural experience coming from this method involving partners other than a spouse actually bring a person into a demonic experience.
8. Kundalini Yoga — Jesus never taught his disciples methods aimed at awakening some inward, latent, coiled energy at the base of the spine, bringing on enlightenment. Neither did He portray God as an impersonal cosmic energy that permeates all things, to be discovered by meditating within. He rather taught an external, transcendent God who is personal and accessible only through the atoning death Jesus died on the cross. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)
In order to enter a relationship with God, again let it be said—the heart must first be cleansed by the blood of Jesus from all sin. This takes place when a seeker asks Jesus to come into his heart and be Lord of his life. The Holy Spirit will then enter that heart from without, effecting a spiritual regeneration. This is the experience Jesus referred to as being “born again”, an experience far different than any experience provided through yogic disciplines. (See John 3:1-6.) Jesus clearly informed that this experience is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. If the Spirit of God has not yet entered a person from without, any attempt to awaken some divine presence within is in vain.
SO, DID JESUS TEACH HIS DISCIPLES YOGA?
He certainly did not — for what He taught never has and never will integrate with all the yogic methods, practices and beliefs taught by the groups listed above. However, Jesus did teach us how to be in union with God, and that is the most important discovery to be made in this life. Seek it with all your heart and you will find a treasure that will enrich you forever: “…THE TRUE LIGHT, which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
What really is the Kundalini?
Echoing the sentiments of my teachers, as a yoga teacher, I often referred to an inward ‘spark of divine nature’ that all human beings possess. Yogi Bhajan called this inner divine essence “the kundalini,” explaining it to be “the dormant power of infinity,” a coiled energy at the base of the spine that must be aroused.1
Many swamis, yogis and gurus strangely refer to this dormant energy as the ‘serpent power’. They also claim this coiled energy is a manifestation of the goddess Sakti (also spelled Shakti). Theoretically, when this ‘awakening’ of the kundalini takes place, it travels up the spinal column through five chakras (spiritual energy centers), then through the sixth chakra (the third eye), finally reaching the seventh chakra at the top of the head (called the crown chakra). At that point, within a person’s inner being, the goddess Sakti comes into union with the god Shiva. This experience is supposed to bring enlightenment or God-consciousness. It is “the dissolution (laya) of the ordinary self into its eternal essence… This experience is also understood as the primordial union of the male and female cosmic principles… It is thus simultaneously a microcosmic, bodily occurrence and a universal one.”2
Rabi Maharaj recalls from his past experience as a guru, “When aroused without proper control, it [the kundalini] rages like a vicious serpent inside a person with a force that is impossible to resist. It is said that without proper control, the kundalini will produce supernatural psychic powers having their source in demonic beings and will lead ultimately to moral, spiritual, and physical destruction. Nevertheless it is this kundalini power that meditation and yoga are designed to arouse…”3
The world renowned Swami Muktananda recounted his experience with the ‘awakening of the kundalini.’ He encountered a naked ascetic blissfully meditating on top of a pile of human excreta. This Hindu ‘holy man’ invited him to come sit on his lap and lick his head. The ascetic then proceeded to initiate Muktananda into Kundalini Yoga. Later that day he explained, “My mind seemed deluded… I felt I would soon become insane… My entire body started aching and… the tongue began to move down the throat, and all attempts to pull it out failed… My fear grew… I felt severe pain in the knot (manipur chakra) below the navel. I tried to shout but could not even articulate… Next I saw ugly and dreadful demon-like figures. I thought them to be evil spirits… Suddenly I saw a large ball of light approaching me from the front… It merged into my head… I was terrified by that powerfully dazzling light…”4
Though not all stories dealing with the ‘awakening of the kundalini’ match the bizarre aspects of this account, still, my concerns are very grave when it comes to this subject. I spent many hours in meditation seeking to ‘arouse’ the kundalini—and I succeeded, when I was finally lifted out of my body into the experience of ‘white light’. However, after becoming a Christian I had a very profound, spiritual encounter that proved to me the dark, negative source of this power. The following points need to be emphasized concerning “the kundalini”:
• Serpent Symbol — Though many New Age groups relate to the serpent as a symbol of esoteric wisdom, biblically, it primarily represents that which is satanic and blatantly evil. A venomous serpent is an agent of death. How could this creature be symbolic of that which leads to goodness, life and the experience of God? (See Genesis 3:1–15, Revelation 12:9.)
• Sexual Overtones — The experience of ‘enlightenment’ is compared to a supernatural ‘union’ between a god and goddess, so there are sexual overtones.
Possibly because of this, some fringe sects, especially those involved in what has been termed the ‘left-handed’ form of Tantric Yoga, have made ritual sex (especially with socially forbidden partners) an aid to developing higher consciousness. Some gurus even include the handling of the genitals in the so-called ‘awakening’ process. Yet the Bible clearly commands that we abstain from sexual immorality.
Regardless of how it is wrapped spiritually, any doctrinal package containing this suggested approach is of darkness and deception. Of course, there are many Hindu ascetics, Buddhist monks and other Far Eastern mystics who live pure lives. They would be appalled at the thought of these immoral practices going on in the name of achieving enlightenment.
• Dangerous Side Effects — The majority of those who believe in the ‘kundalini power’ do not pursue its ‘awakening’ by indulging in illicit or occult sexual practices. Most are sincerely seeking an experience of Ultimate Reality. However, most do agree in the danger of its ‘unguided or premature arousal.’ I was even cautioned as a yoga student to be extremely careful, because there were instances of some seekers becoming ‘locked’ in a catatonic-like, meditative state, even for years. In contrast,
there is absolutely no account in the Bible of the Spirit of God moving on a person to their detriment. No prophet ever had an encounter with the Most High that caused him to be demonized, or to feel nearly insane (as Swami Muktananda admitted). Only good, healthy, enriching things result from contacting the real Creator. There is no lurking danger present when communing with the Lord of glory. No person filled with the Holy Spirit in the Bible lamented the experience because it resulted in a manifestation of evil, psychic powers.
The true power of God saves, heals, delivers, forgives—but it never destroys (mentally, emotionally, physically or in any way). Therefore, the source of this ‘serpent power’ could not be God. It must be the Prince of darkness and his subordinate demons. Those who yield to this dark influence are often granted false supernatural encounters that seem beautiful, enlightening and ecstatic in order to successfully draw them away from the true Source of eternal life. I am well aware of this type of religious deception, having experienced it myself. Remember, Jesus warned that Satan comes to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” but he promised concerning himself, “I am come that they may have life… more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
• Chakras—The whole idea of the “kundalini” is interwoven with a belief in chakras. These are believed to be “energy centers in the body”—”focal points where psychic forces and bodily functions merge and interact with each other.” Each chakra is “associated with a specific color, shape, sense organ, natural element, deity and mantra.”5 Though advocating this concept as being true, strangely, Yogi Bhajan insists chakras are “imaginary and nothing else.”6
There are at least six reasons why I no longer espouse the existence of these psychic centers:
(1) Many teachers who believe in chakras cannot agree on the correct number. Some yogic models include seven, eight, nine and twelve chakras. In Buddhism there are four chakras; in Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) there are five. If there really are rotating, internal energy centers in man, those who ‘discover’ them should agree on how many actually exist.
(2) Each chakra (in Hinduism) is identified with a different Hindu god. I firmly believe these gods are mere man-made myths, full of human-like frailties, essentially unreal. So it is only logical to deduce that the chakras with which these gods are associated are also essentially unreal.
(3) The concept of chakras is inextricably connected to the concept of the kundalini (the serpent power) rising up through these ‘energy centers’ to bring a seeker to new levels of consciousness. Because the kundalini power is NOT the true power of God, but a demonic counterfeit, then the whole idea of chakras is absolutely unnecessary. The experience of God-consciousness (conscious awareness of the reality of God) comes through the entrance of Jesus Christ into the heart of man. This has nothing to do with the supposed ‘opening up’ of internal energy centers.
(4) The concept of chakras is based on the idea that God is an internal, impersonal, energy force that can be controlled by the right incantation, mantra or ritualistic practice. Yet God communes with His people; he is not controlled by them. He is a personal God and he responds to prayer offered to him in a heartfelt, personal way. He is not impressed or motivated by numerous, repetitious utterances or magical rites.
(5) Certain gurus have made sweeping claims about the power of meditating on certain chakras. For instance, Sivananda taught that meditating on the first chakra causes all sins to be wiped away; meditating on the second chakra frees a person from desire, wrath, greed and deception; and meditating on the sixth chakra (the third eye) wipes out all karma from previous lives. If these things are true then we do not need the crucifixion of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, nor the Holy Spirit entering and regenerating our hearts for a character change (which are both absolute necessities). Furthermore, the consequences of our past sins are taken out of God’s hands and placed in ours.
(6) The concept of chakras cannot be found in the Bible or the teachings of Jesus.
For more information on the “kundalini” please see, www.yogadangers.com.
1. Yogi Bhajan, The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, The Power of the Spoken Word, p. 182, #733.
2. “Kundalini,” Miriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1999) p. 651.
3. Rabi R. Maharaj, The Death of a Guru, p. 203.
4. Amma, Swami Muktananda Paramhamsa, (Ganeshpuri, 1971) p. 32ff; quoted in Vishal Mangalwadi, Yoga: Five Ways of Salvation in Hinduism (unpublished manuscript, 2001) pp. 11-12.
5. “Chakra,” Miriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, p. 193.
6. Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga, The Flow of Eternal Power (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996) p. 61.
Kundalini Yoga (Yogi Bhajan)
In 1969, at the age of 40, Yogi Bhajan came to the Western world from India. He formed the 3HO Foundation (Happy, Healthy, Holy Organization) and began spreading the message of achieving a happy, healthy and holy life through the practice of Kundalini Yoga. Some recognize Yogi Bhajan as the Siri Singh Sahib, the chief religious and administrative authority of Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere. There are other Sikhs who question his right to bear this honorific title. Kundalini Yoga is professed to be a combination of many other types of yoga (hatha yoga, mantra yoga, raja yoga, etc.). It is called the “Yoga of Awareness”. Its emphasis is the arousal of the “kundalini” power in order to achieve enlightenment.
The Nature of God
Yogi Bhajan offers a monistic and pantheistic view of God. “We have never realized what God is. On the other hand, we say, ‘God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.’ We say it. We know it. We all agree to it. We expect to find him in a church, in a temple; we find him here, we find him there. God is a stick, God is a cup, God is a man, God is a woman; God is everything and God is nothing-anything which exists in any totality… that dance goes on… Hindus call it anhat, Christians call it communion, Buddhists call it light, Confucians call it wisdom, a Sikh knows it as ecstasy. All is one and one is all.”1
1 Yogi Bhajan (Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Kalsa Yogiji), The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, The Power of the Spoken Word (Pamona, California: Arcline Publications, 1977) p. 77, #277.
The Origin and Nature of Man
Human beings possess ten bodies: a spiritual body (the soul), three mental bodies (the negative mind, the positive mind and the neutral mind), the physical body, the arc body, the auric body, the subtle body, the pranic body and the radiant body.1 There are eight main chakras (energy centers): the seven chakras traditionally taught in Yoga, and an eighth (the aura or magnetic energy field around a person). Of the three functional minds there are nine aspects, twenty-seven projections and eighty-one facets.2
1 Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga, The Flow of Eternal Power (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996) pp. 183-186.
2 Yogi Bhajan, The Mind, Its Projections and Multiple Facets (Espanola, New Mexico: Kundalini Research Institute, 1998) p. 135 (diagram), p. 207 (fold-out diagram).
The Nature of Salvation, Liberation or Enlightenment
“If you want to get out of your karma there is only one way, vibrate the Nam. The Nam is the vibration of the praise of infinity.”1 This quote is an echo of Sikh doctrine. The word Nam, meaning “name,” is usually combined with Sat, meaning “true.” Sat Nam or “True Name”
is the main designation for God in Sikhism. Yogi Bhajan also taught, “Who is the savior? It is your own higher consciousness which can save you from your own lower consciousness.”2
1 Yogi Bhajan (Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Kalsa Yogiji), The Teaching of Yogi Bhajan, The Power of the Spoken Word (Pamona, California: Arcline Publications, 1977) p.177 #709.
2 Ibid., p.129 #510.
The Spiritual Journey and Ultimate Destiny of Man
Reincarnation ultimately liberates the soul into oneness with God. At the end of each incarnation, when a person dies, the Spiritual Body (the Soul) and the Subtle Body leave the other eight bodies (See “Kundalini Yoga” under The Nature of Man.) to begin the spiritual journey to the next karmically determined destination. The ultimate goal of the soul is absorption into God. However, becoming one with the Universal Consciousness is not considered a “loss of identity,” but rather, a “loss of limitation,” the “discovery and experience of one’s greater identity which is infinite… Succinctly put: Sat Nam: Truth is your identity.”1
1 Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga, The Flow of Eternal Power (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996) p. 55.
Do these energy centers called “chakras” really exist?
Many Far Eastern and New Age religious groups profess a belief in a number of internal, rotating energy centers called “chakras.” The traditional view numbers seven: five along the spine, one (the third eye) in the middle of the forehead, and the seventh chakra, called the crown chakra, at the top of the head. These are supposed to be “focal points where psychic forces and bodily functions merge and interact with each other.” Each chakra is “associated with a specific color, shape, sense organ, natural element, deity and mantra.” 1 Though advocating this concept as being true, strangely, the guru I studied under in 1969-1970 (Yogi Bhajan) insists chakras are “imaginary and nothing else.” 2 Through the years I have met some Christians who attempt to mingle Biblical beliefs and Far Eastern beliefs — and who claim to embrace this doctrine. Though as a yoga teacher, I once advocated a belief in chakras, I now feel strongly that it is impossible to truly accept a Biblical worldview and incorporate this concept into your belief system. Please consider the following points:
Seven Reasons Why I No Longer Believe In Chakras
(1) Many teachers who believe in chakras cannot agree on the correct number. Some yogic models include 7, 8, 9 and 12 chakras. In Buddhism there are 4 chakras; in Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) there are 5. If there really are rotating, internal energy centers in man, those who ‘discover’ them should agree on how many actually exist.
(2) Each chakra (in Hinduism) is identified with a different Hindu god. These gods are no more than imaginary entities, man-made myths, full of human-like frailties and are essentially unreal. So it is only logical to deduce that the chakras with which these gods are associated are also essentially unreal.
(3) The concept of chakras is inextricably connected to the concept of the kundalini (the serpent power) rising up through these ‘energy centers’ to bring a seeker to new levels of consciousness. Because the kundalini power is NOT the true power of God, but a demonic counterfeit, then the whole idea of chakras becomes absolutely unnecessary. The experience of God-consciousness (conscious awareness of the reality of God) comes through the entrance of Jesus Christ into the heart of man. This has nothing to do with the supposed rising of a ‘serpent power’ or the ‘opening up’ of chakras. Many swamis and gurus warn that a ‘premature’ arousal of the kundalini can result in insanity or dark occult powers being awakened. However, there is NO ACCOUNT in the Bible of anyone having an experience with the TRUE GOD and experiencing negative or detrimental results. (See the article titled What really is the kundalini?)
(4) The concept of chakras is based on the idea that God is an internal, impersonal, energy force that can be controlled by the right incantation, mantra or ritualistic practice. Yet God communes with His people; he is not controlled by them. He is a personal God and he responds to prayer offered to him in a heartfelt, personal way. He is not impressed or motivated by repetitious utterances or magical rites.
(5) Certain gurus have made sweeping claims about the power of meditating on certain chakras. For instance, Sivananda taught that meditating on the first chakra causes all sins to be wiped away; meditating on the second chakra frees a person from desire, wrath, greed and deception; and meditating on the sixth chakra (the third eye) wipes out all karma form previous lives. If these things are true then we do not need the crucifixion of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, nor the Holy Spirit entering and regenerating our hearts for a character change (which are both absolute necessities). Furthermore, the consequences of our past sins are taken out of God’s hands and placed in ours.
(6) Some advocates say that Jesus taught the existence of chakras, because of a statement he made in Matthew 6:22-23 — “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” When taken in context, clearly this passage is not referring to a psychic energy center, but our ‘perception’—the way we look at life. In the verses immediately before and after this statement Jesus is warning against laying up “treasures on earth” and trying to serve “God and mammon” (material riches). He is just emphasizing that we should stay ‘focused’ on spirituality, though we live in a secular world. Also, it helps to see that other translations render the word single as “good”.
Other Bible versions use words like, “sound,” “healthy,” “clear” or “unclouded” for the word “good”. The exact meaning becomes all the more obvious in these newer renditions. Very simply, if you ‘look’ at life with a good attitude—if your values are sound and healthy, and your perceptions, clear and unclouded — the light of truth radiates in you and through you. If Jesus were actually attempting to enlighten his disciples concerning the existence of internal psychic energy centers, he surely would not have been so vague.
The concept of chakras cannot be found in the Bible. Because the Bible alone is God’s inspired Word, concepts that are extra-biblical should not be included in our worldview.
This is a more thorough presentation of thoughts that already appear In Search of the True Light written by Mike Shreve, In Search of the True Light, pages 227 & 265.
1. “Chakra,” Miriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions (Springfield, MA: Miriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1999)
2. Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga, The Flow of Eternal Power (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996) p. 61.
Five main reasons why I no longer practice Hatha Yoga!
There is a major trend in our eclectic western society that is gaining momentum. It involves a departure from our Judeo-Christian roots (quite often because people have become disenchanted with a powerless expression of Christianity) and a turn toward new age and far eastern concepts and practices that many hope will improve the health of their bodies, minds and souls. One of the chief indicators of this trend is the rise of interest in yoga. The word “yoga” means yoke or union. It speaks of being yoked with God or in union with God. The majority of westerners do not associate yoga with religion or an approach to the Creator, simply because they are unfamiliar with the deeper levels of practice and the religious doctrine that forms its base. Most westerners relate to yoga only in its simplest form — the physical exercises (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) that make up a practice called “Hatha Yoga.”
This type of yoga, on the surface, appears to be nothing more than a highly developed, low impact exercise regimen. What could be wrong with stretching, twisting, bending, breathing, sweating it out and getting the body in shape, regardless of the method used? Absolutely nothing — if that’s all there was to it. However, there are some definite negatives that are almost always, to one degree or another, attached to a yoga experience. Usually, this makes it, not only unwise, but ill-advised for Christians to participate. Before I elucidate on this, let me first share my spiritual resume — something that I believe qualifies me as an authority on this subject.
MY SPIRITUAL RESUME
Before my conversion to Christianity in the fall of 1970, I taught Kundalini Yoga at four universities in Florida. Several hundred students attended my classes. I studied personally under a guru named Yogi Bhajan and ran a yoga ashram (a commune where yoga devotees apply themselves more intensely to its practice). Each day was consumed with intense spiritual disciplines: from 3:30 in the morning until about 8:30 at night. In my classes, I incorporated many Hatha Yoga exercises, as well as other meditation and mantra techniques aimed at experiencing higher supernatural realms. Kundalini Yoga claims to be an amalgamation of many types of yoga, including Hatha. I was very devoted to the practice of yoga until I had an amazing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. This pivotal experience revealed to me the vast difference between the biblical approach to God and any methodology offered in far eastern religions. Since then, I have never practiced Hatha or any other kind of yoga.
Over nearly forty years of ministry I have often been asked if it is acceptable for a Christian to practice Hatha Yoga. My answer is always in the negative. When I respond this way, those enquiring are often surprised by my reaction. But the love of God, the love of truth and the love of people all compel me to assume this posture. I believe this is an issue that we will face more and more as our culture evolves under pervasive, syncretistic influences.
THE FIVE REASONS
There are five primary reasons I advise Christians not to practice yoga.
I categorize them as: (1) Spiritual Roots; (2) Spiritual Perspective; (3) Spiritual Transfer; (4) Spiritual Intrigue, and; (5) Spiritual Endorsement. Let’s visit each of these points in greater detail:
(1) Spiritual Roots — Hatha Yoga is based on a far eastern view of both the physical and spiritual aspects of a human being. Be assured, these exercises are not just for physical well-being. They have been specifically created to supposedly “open up the chakras.” According to yogic lore, there are seven chakras or spiritual energy centers in the body. The first five are located along the spine. The sixth is the “third eye” and the seventh is the crown chakra, located at the top of the head. Adherents believe that something called “the kundalini” (the latent “serpent power” supposedly coiled at the base of the spine) rises up through the chakras especially during deep meditation. This “awakening of the kundalini” is considered essential in bringing a person to “God-consciousness”. It is also important to note that each “chakra” is associated with a certain Hindu deity. These deities are all mythical beings, full of human-like frailties and faults.
Practitioners may have no knowledge of these things, but ignorance does not sanctify or purify the system from its attachment to spiritual falsehood. Those who believe in the one true God — if they are faithful to their belief system — cannot involve themselves in anything that accepts the worship of false deities. It may seem like too strong of a statement, but to do so smacks of idolatry and blasphemy.
It is also taught that a yoga practitioner can exit his body through the “chakras”, especially the third eye or the crown chakra, and experience higher, spiritual realms. Hatha Yoga allegedly prepares one for these kinds of experiences. No promises like this are attached to aerobics, isometrics, weight lifting, jogging or other methods of exercising. If these out-of-body experiences were legitimate, leading a person to a real relationship with God, there would be no problem. However, I discovered the opposite to be true. Without a doubt, during those out-of-body experiences I had during long periods of yogic meditation, I was actually overtaken by demonic beings that granted me false experiences of the supernatural world. Upon receiving Jesus as Lord of my life, I was delivered from these spirits.
In traditional Hindu teaching, Hatha Yoga is the third stage in Patanjali’s eight-stage plan toward enlightenment (Samadhi).1 The first two stages are Yama (restraint) and Niyama (observance, devotion). In a book titled The Book of the Vedas, Timeless Wisdom from Indian Tradition, we find the following description:
The word Hatha is an amalgam of “sun” (ha) and the word “moon” (tha), and symbolizes the positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the body. The balancing of the two is seen as the means to harmonizing and mastering these currents so that “vital force” (prana) can be controlled. In so doing, the mind will be cleared and the path open to experiencing higher states of consciousness.2
According to the Bible, the presence of God can only be accessed through the soul being washed in the blood of Jesus and a person being “born again”. This regenerative experience definitely leads one to a “higher state of consciousness” (a conscious awareness of the reality of God), but it is totally different than anything offered through eastern religions. Biblical salvation is not the result of some “serpent power” traveling up through the spine from within; it is the result of the power of the Holy Spirit entering INTO a repentant person from WITHOUT. The contrast of these two approaches to spirituality actually reveals two very different views of God in His relationship with creation (Pantheism versus Theism).
(2) Spiritual Perspective — Most yoga advocates embrace a pantheistic view of the universe and its relationship to God. In Pantheism (an idea which dominates Hinduism), the universe is an emanation of God. Because God veils Himself in the appearance of physical matter, it is taught that there is a spark of divine nature within everything and everyone. So to find God, you look within. In Theism (the biblical perspective) God exists apart from physical creation and approaches man from without. In Pantheism, God is an impersonal, cosmic energy. In Theism, He is a personal God. These two views cannot co-exist in one belief system.
The “serpent power” unleashed in meditation is not the power of the Holy Spirit, nor is it merely the latent power of the soul. It is a power even gurus admit can be very destructive to the yoga practitioner. So where does this power come from that can potentially be so dangerous? It should help the inquisitive reader to see that there is absolutely NO account of anyone in the Bible being harmed by being filled with the true Holy Spirit (symbolized by a dove—a harmless creature). But there are accounts of insanity or dark, occultic powers being the byproduct of an encounter with this power likened to a serpent (a venomous and dangerous creature which can be quite harmful). Belief in this power is at the “root” of the yogic system of thought.
If we are going to live free from deception, we must inspect the “root” of Hatha Yoga practice, and not be merely concerned with the “fruit” of a body that gets in better shape. We should remind ourselves that one of the commandments warns in no uncertain terms:
I am the LORD your God … you shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)
(3) Spiritual Transfer — Though I was unaware of it at the time, when I studied yoga, I came under the influence of a counterfeit, spiritual power that was not the true power of God. This passed to me from the guru under whom I studied. (Actually many yoga devotees often fervently seek this “transference” of supernatural power from various gurus and swamis, thinking it to be a means of attaining higher levels of consciousness. This act of impartation and awakening is called Shaktipat).
There are many sweet, gracious, kind and compassionate people studying yoga who would never purposefully seek to come under the influence of dark, deceptive, demonic powers. Most are genuinely seeking for truth and for Ultimate Reality. Some are striving for no more than just to shape up their bodies. Because of this, in some cases, it is possible to go to a Hatha Yoga class and never be introduced to any kind of false spiritual “power”: if all the participants are only into the physical aspect or if all participants are Christian believers with a pure doctrinal stance.
However, if the teacher of the class is involved in the philosophy behind the entire yogic system, there will be a subliminal spiritual transference from the teacher to the student that is likely not the true Spirit of God and can be very misleading. Those who are weak in their Christian faith can have their belief-system eroded over a period of time and end up being drawn into the far eastern mystical point of view, to the detriment of their own soul. It should be mentioned that in order to be a “certified” yoga teacher, by the standards in place in that industry, a teacher must spend a certain number of hours studying Vedic philosophy and the teachings of certain “yoga masters” from the east. Do you want that influencing you?
(4) Spiritual Intrigue — Even if the Hatha Yoga class atmosphere is relatively harmless, there is normally an arousal of curiosity on the part of those involved to learn more about the whole system of thought. I recently visited a Hatha Yoga Center in California, as I often do, in order to share the Gospel. There I met a teacher, a gracious young man who claimed to be a Christian. However, all around the studio were magazines, books and videos that presented the far eastern worldview (which is non-biblical in many ways). There were also Buddha statues and pictures of Hindu deities. Almost any person attending classes at this studio would inevitably be drawn to look at these books, magazines and tapes and become intrigued about other deeper aspects of yoga. So, as is often the case, Hatha Yoga becomes the “bait” to carry people into a vast belief system that involves much more than physical exercise. When curious seekers begin exploring these ideas, they are usually carried far away from the power and purity of the simple Gospel of Christ.
(5) Spiritual Endorsement — Just suppose everything is relatively benign in a yoga class, that no one promotes far eastern philosophy, that all the teachers are Christians, and even Christian music is played, etc. Is there still a negative? Yes, there is! If a Christian goes to classes (that may have NO spiritual emphasis whatsoever), still, a signal is going out to others that could easily be misinterpreted. Those who see Bible believers participating in Hatha Yoga classes could easily construe it to be an endorsement for the whole system of thought.
This issue is very similar to Paul’s admonition to early Christians not to eat meat offered to idols. He explained that the idol didn’t really exist and certainly the people needed food, so eating it would be all right. However, weak Christians or non-believers might interpret such an act as an endorsement of idolatrous practices. (Read all of 1 Corinthians 8.) For this reason, Paul asserted he would never eat that kind of meal again, lest he become a stumbling block to any spiritually weak person. It makes sense that our final conclusion should be just as strong with regard to the practice of yoga.
THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSION
Well, I think I know what might be going through your mind at this point. “Guess it’s time to break out the old jogging shoes. Treadmill and racket ball court, here we come!” Push-ups and sit-ups, O no, back to the old grind!” Well, not necessarily so.
I have a number of friends who have developed yoga alternatives, who feel that the idea of “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron. I agree with them. There is no way that Christianity can truly be mixed with yoga. Even recognized Hindu leaders have admitted that. In all fairness, though, I must say that I have personally been acquainted with fitness teachers who claim to have “Christian Yoga” classes. They lead praise and worship, quote Scripture and as far as I know, never meditate using far eastern methods. They are often real believers, sincerely committed to the truth. However, I am still very uncomfortable with the overflow of Hindu terminology and the hidden reasons behind some of the poses they still implement (like the lotus posture with the fingers curled in a circle that represents the word “OM“). According to Hindus, this was the sacred syllable that accompanied creation and meditating on it can usher a person toward “enlightenment” (Samadhi). Why even associate yourself with false concepts like this? Check out the following websites and I believe you will conclude that exercise can be low impact, yet free from any false mystical entrapments.
WholyFit with Laura Monica — www.wholyfit.org
Praise Moves with Laurette Willis — www.praisemoves.com
Doxa Soma (Praise with the Body) with Angela Carlson — www.doxasoma.com
Check what these Christian Fitness Instructors have to offer. Instead of walking on “thin ice” and not being sure of where you stand, build your life on the sure foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Patanjali was the writer of the Yoga Sutras, a categorization of yogic thought arranged in four volumes. The first three were apparently written, some say, around the 2nd century BC and have become the foundation for most yogic teaching since. Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian (Hindu) thought.
2 Virender Kumar Arya, The Book of the Vedas, Timeless Wisdom from Indian Tradition (Hauppauge, New York, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2003) p. 76 (emphasis by author of this article)
TESTIMONY OF A FORMER YOGI-01 MIKE SHREVE
NEW AGE-MIKE SHREVE