Now I know what some of you might be thinking after reading the title. "Occult? Oh come on now. Aren't we over reacting just a little bit?" You may be inclined to answer my statement with the phrase, "Yoga is just exercise!" Is it? Who told you that? A yoga instructor a friend or a worker at the local gym? Have you ever looked into the origins of Yoga yourself? Have you ever really stuided the excercise routine that is touted by an eastern religion of being one of the ways to 'salvation'?
It has become a disturbing trend as of late as to just how many proclaiming Christians are unaware of the true nature of yoga and what it really means and represents.
Think back to a sunny Saturday afternoon. You're sitting in your living room when you notice out the window, two young men wearing black ties and white shirts, and going door to door with a black book in their hand. Yep, you guessed it, Mormons. You silently watch from your window as they pause for a moment at each of your neighbor's homes and then your heart beat quickens as you see them now turn up your own driveway. The two young men are clean cut, nice looking and appear quite respectable.
The door bell rings.
You open the door hesitantly and greet them with a smile. You listen to their best evangelistic efforts, but express to them that you yourself are a Christian, and that our belief system and theirs do not mix. You might converse back and forth with the young men, but in the end they go their way, and you stay in your Christian way. (Hopefully)
So how did you do in the face of a false religion? Even if you had a chance to share the gospel with them, it was clear to you that what they believed was different then what Christianity teaches. Perhaps you were prepared and you knew that Mormons believe in a different Jesus, a different salvation and that they are a cult. In any case you just experienced an evangelistic effort of the enemy. You just met two apostles of perdition - two missionaries of that old serpent the devil.
And he's up to his old tricks again, when through these two young men you heard the echoes of the words, "Did God really say?" (Gen 3:1) Relieved that you got through your ordeal with the Mormons, and perhaps even satisfied that you countered their arguments and planted the seeds of truth in their lives, you now pat yourself on the back for not being caught up in some false religion and that you have the discernment to recognize false evangelists when you see them.
You just met two apostles of perdition - two missionaries of that old serpent...
Or can you?
Over the past few decades a missionary arm of another false religion has been allowed to waltz into our society unchecked by the Church; unchecked by those who should know better, and those who should be warning others of the dangers and definitely not partaking in this idolatry with their fellow man.
If one takes the time to study Yoga, it becomes apparent that it is, in fact, the major missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement in North America. There are a surprising number of Hindu influences in our North American culture. Many of these go unchecked or even unnoticed by the Christian Church. For instance:
- The concept of reincarnation (Hollywood loves this one)
- Centering and contemplative prayer (Well supported by proponents of the Emerging Church)
- Karma (has worked its way into our daily conversation)
- Being 'One with God' (Oprah loves this one)
- Avatar (a common reference on the internet for a representation of an internet user either through icon or name)
- The fame and reverence of the Dalai Lama in modern times.
Hinduism encompasses a wide variety of religious beliefs, and has been influential in the foundations of other religions, such as Buddhism and the New Age Movement and spin-off religions. Hindus are very tolerant of other religions, because they believe that all paths eventually lead to God - because ALL is God.
Some Major Teachings of Hinduism
The Law of Karma
The Law of Karma is a guiding principal of Hinduism and is the law of cause and effect, in which each individual creates his own destiny through his thoughts, words and deeds. If we do a good deed, then we will in turn receive positive consequences or blessings. Bad actions or deeds will have the opposite effect. Essentially it is the old adage, "What goes around, comes around".
Often the Law of Karma isn't accounted for in this life, but it impacts your future life. It traps individuals in a cycle of reincarnation, each successive life better or worse dependent on your karmic performance of the previous life. Those who built up bad karma may be born into a lower caste (class) or even as an animal or an insect. It may take many more lifetimes of suffering before they are again born as humans.
Selfless acts and thoughts as well as devotions to the Hindu god(s) help one to be reborn at a higher level.
A Hindu's condition of suffering helps them to atone for the evil they have committed in their previous life. For this reason, charity is almost unheard of in the religion. If someone is downtrodden, it may be more beneficial to leave them be, as their suffering state may give birth to a better life for them next time around. To ease their suffering now, might in fact hinder their chances at a better life next time. (You can see why there aren't many prosperity preachers in Hinduism.)
The process of successive reincarnated lifetimes is called transmigration.
Transmigration is passing of the soul at death into a new body or new form of being. Transmigration and reincarnation (the soul's rebirth in a new body) are roughly the same. Transmigration occurs until a soul reaches the perfect state of nirvana, or one with god.
Nirvana is the supreme state free from suffering and individual existence. It is a state often referred to as "self realization" or "god realization". It's the ultimate religious goal of all Hindus. The attainment of Nirvana breaks the otherwise endless rebirth cycle of transmigration. Hindus call this nirvana "eternal bliss". However, no one can describe in words what nirvana is. It can only be experienced directly. The Hindu Website states, "Nirvana (or Moksha as it is often called) signals the end of becoming and beingness and return to the pristine and eternal state of pure existence, characterized by non-becoming and non-beingness."1
The Concept of God in Hinduism
Hinduism is monotheistic - sort of. It recognizes one supreme deity known as Brahman, or ultimate reality. Brahman is the universe and all it contains. Essentially, god is everything, and everything is god, a belief that is known as pantheism. To take the concept further - If 'everything' is god, then that would include you and me. Unlike Christianity, Hinduism has no concept of a personal and knowable God, who is separate from his creation. To a Hindu, Brahman is simply all that exists.
To really confuse the issue, Hinduism also has a polytheistic side. It includes aspects of worship of multiple deities (although they are all considered manifestations of the one ultimate reality). Brahman is personalized as three separate entities: Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Shiva (the Destroyer). Most Hindus also worship Krishna and Rama, two of Vishnu's ten incarnations, or avatars. In addition to these major gods (incarnations of Brahman), forces of nature, animals, and humans can all be deified, giving Hindus a pantheon of 330 million gods and goddesses to worship.
Does Hinduism Recognize Jesus?
Not the Jesus of the Bible. Not the true Jesus. Hindus are very happy to consider Jesus to be one of the many avatars or incarnations of the impersonal Brahman, however, they do not accept Christ as the ONLY incarnation of God. In no sense does Hinduism recognize Jesus as the unique Son of God, Co-equal, Co-eternal and Co-reigning within the Triune Godhead of the Bible.
Sin and Salvation in Hinduism
There is no concept of Sin against a Holy God in Hinduism. To a Hindu, man's biggest problem is his ignorance that he is in fact 'god' himself.
In Hinduism, since Brahman is all that exists, everything else is ultimately an illusion. Our material world, physical bodies, and our personal existence are all illusions. In essence our ignorance in Hinduism is equivalent to the "fall of man". We have forgotten that we are part of Brahman, and have attached ourselves to the desires of individual self. It is these desires and their consequences that bring suffering, and that subject us to the Law of Karma.
Although there is no concept of 'salvation', the goal is to remove the karmic debt and end the cycle of rebirths. When one overcomes their ignorance of their own divinity and a detachment from self (an illusion), the individual can be released from personal existence and disappear into the impersonal Brahman. This 'liberation' from the wheel of life is called mokshaor nirvanaas we mentioned before. Freed from their physical, personal existence, individuals also become free from all pain and suffering, and become like a single star within all the universe that is Brahman.
There are three paths to achieve this liberation from the wheel of life:
- The Way of Works: Liberation can be obtained through social and religious obligations.
- The Way of Devotion:
- This is the most popular way, and includes acts of worship to any of the numerous gods and/or avatars.
- Whether in a home or in a temple, worship is primarily done individually rather than as a congregation. Most Hindus worship daily through offerings, rituals, and prayers. Prayer or worship is considered to be an integral part of the Hindu way of living. The chanting of mantras is the most popular form of worship in Hinduism
Yoga and Hinduism
As just mentioned, yoga is one of the 'Ways of Knowledge'. Yoga is one of the classic systems of Hindu philosophy that practices certain disciplines to achieve freedom from the limitations of the flesh and lead to the fulfillment of knowledge. The goal of yoga is not to achieve peace within, channeling, or the working of miracles, but the acquirement of knowledge. In fact, the yoga doctrine insists that physical and mental training should be used only as a means to spiritual needs.
Yoga practice forms a ladder to perfect knowledge through eight stages: self-control, religious observance, postures, regulation of the breath, restraint of the senses, steadying of the mind, meditation, and profound contemplation.
The philosophy and practice of yoga have been primary tools of Hindu missionaries to North America since Indian priest and mystic Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga to the West at the World's Fair in 1893 in Chicago.
Swami Vivekananda is attributed with the idea of combining the theory of "evolution of the soul" with his teachings of Hinduism. Instead of working out one's karma by becoming a grasshopper, lizard or human in progressive lives, he taught an 'evolution of the soul' whereby the individual continues in an evolutionary process to 'manifest the god within' - from slime to divine. This new brand of Hinduism was undoubtedly born because it was thought that North American's would not buy into the traditional Hindu concepts of reincarnation. It would seem that pride has always plagued us North Americans. Not many westerners could imagine they would ever come back as a lower form of life.
Another fellow of interest is Paramahansa Yogananda. Another Hindu missionary, this time in 1920 he was welcomed warmly by elite circles of that day. He started the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles which still exists today. He chose to demonstrate that yoga was completely compatible with Christianity. Wearing a cross, he came to America with a Hindu religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, in one hand and the Bible in the other. He reasoned that yoga was the binding force that could connect all religions together. He wrote a book titled, " The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You". Essentially it was Yogi Paramahansa's commentary on the four Gospels, or as the cover of the book reads, " A Revolutionary commentary on the original teachings of Jesus"
Now let's stop right there.
Right now for any evangelical Christian who seeks truly after the heart and mind of God, warning bells should be ringing loudly in our heads. What on earth would a Hindu guru have to reveal about the teachings of Jesus.
Was it not Jude who warned us to keep to the original faith?
"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Jud 1:3
Take careful note of Jude's words, ' was once for all'. The implications of these words are that the canon is closed. There is no special revelation beyond those that the bore the approval of the apostles. Any teaching, new or old, must align itself perfectly with Scripture, or that teaching is deemed false. God is not the author of confusion. He invented language and wanted us to understand His Word as delivered.
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." - 2 Peter 1:20-21
How unfortunate it is that the modern Church does not recognize this most essential fact.
Christians and Yoga
A September 5th, 2005 issue of Time Magazine, featured a quote from Subhas Tiwari, a professor of yoga philosophy and mediation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Florida. Mr Tiwari says plainly within that article, " Yoga is Hinduism". 2
So if the yoga experts know this to be true, and will profess it to be so, why do so many who profess to be Christians, deny this essential and baseline fact? My friends, Christian yoga, is as ludicrous as saying a Christian Hindu, or a Christian Buddhist. There is no such thing.
The following except is from an article posted at Christianity Today3 by Sarah E. Pavlik, and it recounts an experience she had in her first Yoga class.
"Once in the class, I scanned the room, curious as to what type of people take yoga. The class was comprised of an unlikely bunch: hefty, construction crew-type men, white-haired grandmas, and people such as me, wearing Nikes and t-shirts. I didn't spot any lime-green hair, or a single pierced nose. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the front of the room. There she was, the instructor-a bit larger than I expected. She looked nothing like those leotard-clad yoga instructors on TV. Her wiry blonde hair blended with her wire-rimmed glasses, giving her an all-around bland appearance. She spoke softly but with intimidating authority.
"Take off your shoes and socks," she said with a whisper. Reluctantly I removed them, hoping nobody else in the room could smell my feet. She explained that we needed to be barefoot so we could sink our feet into the earth. Funny, this earth looked a lot like carpet to me. But I complied, imagining my feet squishing into the soft, fertile ground.
"Now we need to get acquainted with our breath. Americans generally breathe through their mouths and miss the benefits of breathing fully," she informed us. I forced the air in and out, trying to make friends with my breath. It felt good.
"Yoga is thousands of years old, and as of late, has been accepted by modern medicine as a remedy for back pain and stress reduction," she said between breaths. Thousands of years old? Accepted by the medical community? It must be a good thing, I rationalized as I prepared to stretch. We moved quickly into what she termed poses.
First I was a tree. Then she coaxed us into bending our limbs and planting our right foot onto our inner thigh. That wasn't all that difficult until she asked us to squat and twist our torso 90 degrees. She called it the "twisted chair." How appropriate. I looked like a pretzel in blue sweatpants.
Next we began "sun salutations." With our hands raised over our heads, we quickly dropped them to our feet. Finally, we brought our entire bodies to the floor, prostrate. It was obvious this was an ancient form of sun worship. Now not only was my body contorting, my mind was too. God's first commandment to not have any other gods before him sprang to mind. I was getting uncomfortable.
After several repetitions of sun salutations, she brought us back into "mountain pose." I glanced at the clock and was shocked to see all but five minutes of the hour-long class had slipped by. It was time for the relaxation exercise. My muscles were ready, but my spirit was a bit more cautious.
I lay down on the carpeted earth. She encouraged us to shut our eyes and go to our quiet place. Being a mother of two boys, I wasn't sure if such a place existed, so I decided heaven would be my quiet place. "It's time to let go of the stresses of the world, your job, your home, your deadlines, and just be at peace," the instructor said soothingly. The twing-twang of the music seemed to blend with everyone's breathing. Then she instructed us to start squeezing the muscles in our toes, then our feet, on up our legs, abdomen, and finally our faces. What a sight we all must have been lying there, our bodies rigid and our faces forced into Jim Carrey-like contortions. "Now fall back into the earth," our instructor commanded. We repeated this bizarre exercise about three times, and then, the instructor told us to come back into our body.
It was not a happy reunion. My body ached from the wicked chair-or was is it the twisted chair? And my spirit was out of sorts. Scenes of saluting the sun and leaving my body played in my mind as I drove home. Would I be able to stay in yoga without compromising my Christian beliefs? I wondered."
Sun worship? What about the other poses?
With some research under my belt, I'm sure many readers would be surprised to realize that the yoga postures are offerings to the 330 million Hindu gods (manifestations of Brahman). As you perform the yoga poses, you are in essence worshipping a false god(s).
The second commandment reads,
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image-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 upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me," - Exodus 20:4-5
And the Apostle Paul would say to us,
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodiesa living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…" - Romans 12:1
Note also from the Christianity Todayarticle quoted above that the author mentions, "come back into our body?" Leaving our bodies and going to our quiet place? I wonder who checks in, while the yoga student checks out?
Yoga means "union" or "yoked" in Sanskrit. "Union and yoked with what?", you might ask. Well, as mentioned earlier, it is one of the ways of knowledge to become in union with Brahman. As yoga is an arm of Hinduism, its ultimate goal is to help you reach union with Brahman, your higher self, god, or the universe, depending on your interpretation of 'god in us'.
The practice of yoga, the positions and breathing prepares the body for the occult changes that will arouse the coiled power (kundalini) at the base of spine. This power can travel up the spine passing through the chakras to the top of your head (Crown Chakra). It is the ultimate goal for the kundalini (Coiled or Serpent Power) to reach the brain. The "OM" which is repeated over and over again is to empty the mind of thought so that a new spirit can enter.
What kind of spirits? I'm sure you guessed it from the words 'serpent' power. (Rev 20:2)
Swami Narayananda4 describes some of the possibilities:
"These hot currents that reach the brain center heat the brain, make the mind fickle, bring insomnia, brain disorder, insanity and incurable diseases. For the hot currents keep the mind wide awake and if a person does not know how to check the currents and to bring down the partly risen kundalini shakti to safer centers, one suffers terribly and it may ruin the whole life of a person or lead one to insanity. This is why we see many become insane, many get brain defects, and many others get some incurable diseases after deep sorrow."
Gopi Krishna5, founder of one of the many kundalini research centers, records his own experience:
"It was variable for many years, painful, obsessive, even phantasmic. I have passed through almost all the stages of different mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; for some time I was hovering between sanity and insanity."
I have personally heard reports and read documentation of yoga participants experiencing some or even all of the following as a result of their seemingly harmless 'exercise' program: Fear, uncontrollable laughing or weeping, intervals of ecstasy, tremors, spasms, and violent shaking. In some cases the guru or instructor can impart these manifestations in mass, to his/her students, leaving them writhing on the floor helpless.
We must ask the question again. When someone takes part in yoga (union), with what are they becoming in union with?
New-Age techniques almost always involve some form of meditation that is to bring you into a state of peace, enlightenment, open the door of physic knowledge, and promise extraordinary power. But this power is an illusion of self-worship. It is occult and very dangerous because the spirit you invite is a demonic one. You are NOT uniting with a higher-spirit, an ascended master or a spirit-guide. Instead you are uniting with a counterfeit spirit who is delighted to deceive you into thinking it is a positive force, but in truth it is demonic and an abomination to God.
"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD…" - Deuteronomy 18:10-12
At its roots, yoga and Hinduism teach that the self is God. In Christianity, one denies self. The differences are polar opposites and cannot be reconciled.
"Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." - Luke 9:23
A Christian should not and can not take part in something so distasteful to God whom we profess to love. Even if one removes the spiritual aspects of yoga (which evidence would suggest is impossible) and fools themselves into thinking it's only exercise, the truth of the matter is that regardless of your intent, to the outside world you look like you are condoning yoga - all aspects of it. Your actions could very well be a stumbling block to others and causing others to fall into the trap of occultism, new-ageism and idolatry.
"For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ." - 1 Colossians 8:10-12
We are to abstain from those things which could make our brother stumble. We are to walk diligently in the world, but yet set apart from the world. We don't desire the things of this world, but rather the things of the heaven. In my opinion this would include those 'Christian' alternatives to yoga which are popping up. True they may not be actually yoga in concept and teaching, yet they still 'look' like yoga to an outside and unbelieving world. If the world sees a Christian doing something that looks like yoga, they might therefore believe that yoga is safe and condoned by the church, thereby falling into a trap that leads to destruction.
Yoga is everywhere. It's on television, it's being taught in church basements, at fitness centres and even in video games (a place Hinduism and new-age thinking likes to hide as well). The very popular video game Wii Fitcontains elements of exercise that is very good for the fitness of an individual, unfortunately it is also packaged with a plethora of yoga stretches and poses to help obtain your fitness goals.
Within the very city where I live there is a non-profit group called Yoga for Youth who's sole purpose is to get yoga into all of the public schools as a regular program 6 - and it seems to be working. My kids report back to me the presence of yoga in their physical education classes. My kids of course abstain, and have so far been left un-harassed by their teachers, fellow students and school administration, but I wonder for how long? Many of the Christian parents we talk to, do not have any problems with their kids taking part in yoga at school - after all, it's just exercise right? I wonder how long before our family's voice will be deemed as one of an extreme minority whose petty intolerance to things condemned by the Bible is outdated, and unconstitutional.
I hope this article has it least won some of you over to the reality that yoga is occult and an abomination to God whom we profess to love.
It's time for the Church to stand up, dust off their swords and be counted for truth and righteousness. Are we just going to continue to allow Satan to have a field day in our public schools and communities, or are we going to let our voice stand, and abstain from these types of activities and teachings? For every community group that promotes occult activities, the Church could raise up a valid and justified counter argument. However, it repeatedly remains silent. Perhaps if abstinence and letters of concern were sent in response to these types of programs, there would be far fewer of them permeating our society. I wonder if the same would hold true to the television programming and other media venues such as Hollywood? (A good subject for another article).
Christ spoke plainly, "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." - Mat 10:33
And so I must ask the pertinent question…
Where is the Church today?
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light." See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:11-16
Serving the King,
3. http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2001/sepoct/3.50.html, 2001
4. Swami Narayananda, "The Primal Power in Man", pg. 60
5. Gopi Krishna, "The Awakening", p. 124
6. "Yoga sesson goes Green", The Star Phoenix, July 27,2009
1. Ray Comfort, "World Religions in a Nutshell: A Compact Guide to Reaching Those of Other Faiths", 2008