Whether you have done these specific sequences of asanas or not, please recognize that you are not safe from unknowingly participating in yoga poses that honor Hindu gods. Everything in yoga has meaning and purpose. Whether you are aware of it or not, you may be doing postures that are blatantly offensive to God and detrimental to your own spiritual well being. Even though you may not realize the pose is worshiping another deity, God knows! How do you think He feels when he sees His people going through the motions of Hindu idol worship?
One of the early pioneers of Hatha Yoga, Richard Hittleman, stated:
“As yoga students practiced the physical positions, they would eventually be ready to investigate the spiritual component which is the entire essence of the subject”. (Yoga Journal, May/June 1993, Pg 68) http://www.letusreason.org/NAM1.htm
Can you see how the moment you walk into a yoga studio you’ve submitted yourself and stepped on dangerous ground? As you stretch your body into yoga poses, and practice the breathing and meditation techniques, you open yourself up for spiritual forces to move into your body. As you progress into a relaxed state, or get “centered”, you achieve an altered state of consciousness where your brain is in the alpha state. This is a light-hypnotic state where your mind is now openly receptive to input and suggestion. From which spirit are you obtaining suggestion? Is God’s spirit actually going to manifest Himself to you through a pagan practice?
The physical levels of advancement are interconnected with spiritual levels of advancement. Yoga’s stretching, breathing, and meditation practices all work together as disciplines to bring about a spiritual awakening. One door opens another, each of which is leading down a path that takes one away from the true God of the Bible and faith in the sacrifice and salvation of Jesus Christ, alone. When one is practicing yoga exercises, whether they are aware of it or not, they are practicing essential (spiritual) elements of Hinduism and are methodically moving in the direction of mysticism.
Mysticism is defined on Wikipedia as:
“The pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism
Remember, yoga’s purpose is to preparing oneself to yoke, unite, or experience the Divine within. This is mysticism. It is a spiritualistic practice.
There are numerous ways to de-stress, and many exercise programs that incorporate stretching and physical strengthening that in no way relate to yoga…if one wants to choose them. Yoga IS INDEED a spiritual practice and Hinduism is at its core. The eight limbs of yoga are used as pathways for achieving this ultimate goal of self-realization.
I could stop here and end this study. Enough has already been said which should give the reader a clear understanding of why Yoga is not harmless to the Christian. But for the sake of those who still are not convinced or who are really wrestling with this because it has been such a positive experience in their life, here is more food-for-thought.
Aum-Om and Mantras
The use of “Ohm or Om” in Yoga is for meditation purposes.
It is thought to be the unifying vibration/syllable of the universe; “the primordial sound that resonated at the creation of our universe and which continues to resonate in each of us and all of existence.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suhag-a-shukla-esq/yoga-wont-wreckyour-body_b_1195754.html
It is the “mystical sound of Hindu origin, sacred in Hinduism, Buddism, and Jainism. It is a sacred incantation to be intoned at the beginning and end of a mantra or an invocation to a Hindu deity (god) being sacrificed. Om is an invitation to and for that God to partake of the sacrifice.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om
“Om is considered capable of creating spiritual transformation. Mantras, which are used in Yoga, are used to liberate the mind, consciousness, soul, atma from repeated birth and death.” The authors of the Hindu scriptures of the Upanishad…postulate that the vocal sounds of the mantra have inherent meaning independent of the understanding of the person uttering them.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantra
Did you catch that? Whether you know what you’re saying, or not, a mantra may still have its effect. Also taken from the website above, “Mantras, the Sanskrit syllables inscribed on yantras, are essentially ‘thought forms’ representing divinities or cosmic powers, which exert their influence by means of sound-vibrations.”
Did you know that a “Mantrik” is someone who specializes in practicing mantra? In India the word mantrik & similar names are synonymous with magician in different languages.
A Mantrik is one who chants to please a god or evil spirit for his benefit. Mantras are sacred chantings containing magical and mystical words. A Mantrik is known for his use of sorcery and magic and can be called upon for the casting of spells and magic, divination, astrology and all aspects of sorcery ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantrik
For the Christian, this revelation should provide a whole new level of understanding about the practice of yoga, Om, and the use of mantras. So, I ask the question: “Is Yoga harmless?” And I would answer:
- Is sorcery harmless?
- Is magic harmless?
- Is mysticism harmless?
- Is entering an altered state of consciousness harmless?
- Are engaging in spiritual exercises directed at realizing your own inner divinity harmless?
- Is believing you have an inner divinity harmless?
- Is assuming asana postures that honor someone else’s (idolatrous) God irrelevant because that person’s God doesn’t happen to be your own?
- Is voicing a sacred incantation to a Hindu deity pleasing in God’s eyes?
Let’s think long and hard about what we are actually doing when Christians engage in the practice of yoga. What kind of spiritual awakening, or should I say “spiritual sleep” may be taking place? Is it possible that instead of realizing “nirvana”, which of course is not most Christian’s goal in doing yoga, they are instead, being lulled into a state of spiritual apathy and lack of discernment? Is it possible they don’t even realize that they have adopted pagan practices, eastern meditation techniques, and become involved with mysticism, sorcery and magic?
Let’s let Christ rule our lives, not Karma. Let’s fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit instead of seeking to empty ourselves – and thereby allowing other spirits inside. Let’s turn to the God of the Bible for enlightenment, not to ourselves. Let us be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ instead of seeking to become one with the universe. Let us honor and worship the Creator God of the Bible and avoid pagan and idolatrous rituals, practices, and exercises that honor nonbiblical god(s). Let us be “sober and vigilant” not emptied and “open” (to another spirit); because our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8).
Let’s take Joshua 24:15 to heart and apply it in our own lives:
“Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
With all of this said, I now want to include an article by Suhag A. Shukla, Co-Founder/Executive Director of the Hindu American Foundation who gives a clear understanding of the Hindu position on yoga and validates much of what has been set forth in this study. On March 15, 2012, The Huffington Post’s Religion section posted an opinion poll titled: “Change My Mind: Yoga Is A Hindu Practice”. People either voted they agreed with this statement, or disagreed. Suhag Shukla posted her side of the debate stating her position that “Yes, Yoga is a Hindu Practice”. I would like to include her full article since it is so concise and clear about the topic at hand. Here it is.
Change My Mind: Yoga Is A Hindu Practice
By Suhag A. Shukla, Esq. Co-Founder/Executive Director, Hindu American Foundation
“We are of the view that yoga, which originates from Hinduism, combines physical exercise, religious elements, chanting and worshipping for the purpose of achieving inner peace and ultimately to be one with god.”
“The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine.”
As a Hindu advocate and one of the several brains behind the Hindu American Foundation’s Take Back Yoga Project, these statements could easily be mine or those of my colleagues’ in our quest to bring to light yoga’s Hindu roots. But they are not. These acknowledgements of yoga being a spiritual and Hindu discipline are actually from the most ironic of bedfellows — Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of Malaysia’s top Islamic body, and Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Granted, Husin and Mohler do not represent or speak for all Muslims and Christians, respectively, but their conclusions are worth considering.
As a Hindu, the answer to “Is yoga a Hindu practice?” is obvious, and demands a more important question: Why are we even having this debate? I offer three reasons: 1) The $6 billion yoga industry’s cater-to-the-masses, bottom-line delinking of yoga from Hinduism has significantly secularized, plagiarized or mutated yoga, almost beyond recognition; 2) many of the Hindu yoga gurus who have traveled to America, over-emphasized the “universal” and deemphasized the “Hindu,” in their hopes of sharing, and perhaps making more palatable for Westerners, their own profound experiences of Self-realization and the systems by which anyone could strive for the same; and 3) our American tendency to “reduce, reuse, recycle” combined with cafeteria-style spirituality and an unhealthy serving of religious illiteracy has played its part as well in muddying the waters unnecessarily. With that out of the way, onto my offering to this debate’s question.
Yoga is a Hindu practice and how one arrives at this conclusion depends a great deal on how one defines yoga. I’ve said here before, yoga is the practice of preparing oneself to yoke, unite or experience the Divine within (i.e. Consciousness). Yoga is about attaining chitta-vritti-nirodha (cessation of mental fluctuations), and ultimately, moksha, or liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth. Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual discipline, the key word being “combination,” with an emphasis on the spiritual. The popular understanding of yoga, however, too often begins and ends with asana (physical posture). The truth is that asana accounts for only a small sliver of yoga. Nonetheless, asanas, named as they are after the many avatars of the Hindu pantheon and with their tremendous psycho-physiological and psycho-spiritual effects, have proven to be the gateway for millions into the heart of yoga, which is a seeker-lifestyle defined by a specific philosophy and purpose.
The inter-connected, metaphysical principles that form the core of yoga are the core of Hinduism. While these principles have informed other Dharma traditions, they are quite different from the central principles of the Abrahamic traditions. First, karma, a universal law of cause and effect, is the mechanism by which we create karmic debits and credits through our actions (thoughts, words, deeds). Some may argue, “Well, every tradition has this ‘do unto others’ type Golden Rule.” One of the key difference for the law of karma is that one’s karmic balance sheet is zeroed out over many lifetimes.
Integral to the belief and understanding of karma then is the second principle of samsara, or reincarnation. Hindus believe that the immortal soul or Consciousness evolves by experiencing varied lives through a process wherein the soul takes on different physical bodies through cycles of birth and death. Any notions of eternal hells, heavens or salvation do not fit in this transcendental equation.
These two related concepts feed into a third metaphysical principle which is that Consciousness is present in all living things. What does that really mean? It means no promised land, no chosen people, no requirement to accept any one prophet, no my way or the highway — it’s just each and every one of us, regardless of how we identify our outer-selves, owning our potential to realize or experience the Divine within on a spiritual path to which we are inclined.
Christianizing, Judeo-fying or secularizing the Sanskrit terminology, or even cutting out the Oms and Namastes isn’t enough of a twist to cleanse yoga of its guiding principles. Yes, the beauty of yoga is that it can be both flexible and fluid, but without its metaphysical, Hindu bones, yoga falls flat on its face.
Relevant Bible Texts
We are not divine; salvation is only through Jesus Christ.
…As it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one…”
Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus Himself will come again, literally, to take us to heaven. We must have faith in Him and His promises.
…”In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
…”this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
I Thessalonians. 4:16-17
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
The Bible denies an impersonal “life force” of creation, (Chi, Qi, Prana) that permeates everything. Jesus is the creator and is separate from AND sovereign over His creation.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…
Isaiah 46: 9-10
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.
I Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
We are not to worship or bow to any other Gods. There is only one God whom we should serve.
Then Jesus said to him, Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.
For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God…
Exodus 20: 2-6
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Many desire salvation, but in spite of being Christians (who do good works in God’s name) He will tell them “I never knew you.” We must surrender “self” and follow Christ in all we do.
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in they name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Hinduism and Eastern Religions teach the immortality of the soul, which is the age-old lie Satan told in the Garden of Eden. Ancient pagan religions all taught the soul is immortal.
I Timothy 6:15-16
…which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.
Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?
I Corinthians 15:51-53
We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,…and the dead shall be raised incorruptible…for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (At the second coming of Christ)
I Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
A Final Thought
The immortality of the soul was Satan’s original lie. Surely, one of the “doctrines of devils” mentioned above is this very one that came from the serpent’s mouth in Eden! Man is NOT immortal and NEVER will be like God!
So I ask, why would we want to partake of Hindu religious practice (yoga), enter their camp, soto-speak, and practice their ways? Are we trying to get closer to the world’s way, or the way of Jesus Christ?