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Yoga and new trends in Christianity

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'Kneel to yourself. Honour and worship your own being. God dwells within you

as You.' Swami Muktananda, Hindu guru.

 

'I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.' Paul the

Apostle

 

At a New Age fair, where I was helping with a Christian witness, a young man

told me that he rejected all religious systems. He said that he was

discovering god as a force within himself and so finding harmony with all

created things. When I told him that he was in fact following the ancient

religious system of Hinduism, he said angrily, 'I don't like Christians

telling me what to believe,' and walked off.

 

This brief conversation highlighted the conflict between the eastern

religious world view now being accepted by many people in the West, and the

biblical world view now being rejected. According to Biblical Christianity

the basic problem of humanity is our sin nature which causes us to break

God's laws and thus separates us from God who is holy. The solution is to

invite God into our lives through repentance and faith in the Gospel

message: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through the

sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Before we take this

step of faith, God is outside of our lives. After doing this He is inside

our lives, dwelling within us by the Holy Spirit.

 

According to Hinduism the problem of humanity is not a moral one, but one of

a lack of knowledge. God already dwells within us, but we do not know this.

We have lost contact with our innate divinity through becoming entangled in

the material world and being limited by our rational finite minds. The

solution is to discover the 'god within' through experiencing a higher state

of expanded consciousness. It was evident from the huge numbers of young

people attending the New Age fair that this idea is far more attractive to

many today than the traditional Christian view. New Age devotee Miriam

Starhawk has written, 'The longing for expanded consciousness has taken many

of us on a spiritual journey to the East and to Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist

concepts. Eastern religions offer a radically different approach to

spirituality than Judeo-Christian traditions. Their goal is not to know God

but to be God. In many ways these philosophies are close to witchcraft.'

(Yoga journal May 1986).

 

How does Hinduism claim that one can experience an 'altered state of

consciousness' leading to discovery of 'godhood'? Over thousands of years it

has developed numerous techniques to manipulate human consciousness in order

to bring this about. These techniques are called yoga. According to a Hindu

saying, 'There is no Hinduism without yoga and no yoga without Hinduism.'

Yoga therefore can never be seen solely as a means of gaining physical

exercise, reducing stress or as a medical therapy. Some of the methods used

by yoga are as follows:

 

Hatha yoga: Physical and breathing exercises

 

Body postures (asanas) are intended to immobilise the whole body. Practising

them will enable the body to become completely motionless and hardened in

fixed positions. Meditation words (mantras) serve to immobilise the

consciousness. Mantras are usually the names of gods used for worship.

Symbolic body movements in yoga are designed to close 'all nine doors of the

body', so that no sense perception from the outside penetrates into the

mind. When all outer sensation is shut off the body itself will create sense

perceptions of an inner kind, an inner light, an inner sound, an inner

smell, and an inner pleasure.

 

I once talked to a yoga teacher who became a Christian. He said that he did

not teach his pupils anything about Hinduism to begin with, but simply

taught them the techniques of yoga. They then experienced things that they

could not explain and he interpreted their experiences in such a way that

would lead them deeper into the Hindu philosophy of discovering god within

yourself.

 

Japa Yoga: The mechanical way of salvation

 

Japa is the repetition or chanting of a mantra which is usually the name of

a Hindu god. One example of this is the Hare Krishna movement which chants

the names of Krishna and Rama. I once had a conversation with a young man

selling Hare Krishna books in London. As soon as I questioned his basic

philosophy he began chanting 'Hare Krishna, Hare Rama' after which all

meaningful discussion became impossible.

 

Transcendental Meditation (TM), taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, has become

one of the most well known forms of yoga in the West. In TM the meditator

learns first to forget the rest of the world and to concentrate only on the

mantra (usually a short word, a name of a deity such as Ram or OM). Then he

forgets the mantra too, transcending all thoughts and feelings. After

several years of meditation one is said to attain 'god consciousness.' In

this state it is said that one can even communicate with birds, animals,

plants and rocks. The final state is 'unity consciousness', in which the

devotee perceives the oneness of himself with the universe. This is

'liberation.'

 

Kundalini Yoga: Salvation through the 'Serpent Power'

 

Hindu psychology teaches that the 'kundalini shakti', or serpent power, lies

at the base of the spine. Normally the kundalini lies dormant in most human

beings, but when it is awakened it arises and begins to travel upwards. In

its journey from the base of the spine to the top of the head it passes

through six psychic centres called 'chakras'. When it passes through a

chakra it kindles various psychic experiences and energies. When it reaches

the sahasrara, or crown, one attains power to perform miracles and to

achieve liberation. The most influential guru who preached kundalini was

Swami Muktananda. He labelled it Siddha (perfect) yoga, for it is the only

yoga in which the aspirant does not have to do anything. He just surrenders

to the guru and the guru's grace does everything for him.

 

In an article published previously in this magazine (October 1995), Robert

Walker described what takes place in kundalini yoga: 'Few Christians realise

that for thousands of years gurus have operated with gifts of healing,

miracles, gifts of knowledge, and intense displays of spiritual

consciousness as they stretch out and connect with a cosmic power which,

though demonic in origin, is very real. The meetings which mystic Hindu

gurus hold are called 'Dharshan'. At these meetings devotees go forward to

receive spiritual experience from a touch by the open palm of the hand,

often to the forehead, by the guru in what is known as the Shakti Pat or

divine touch. The raising of the spiritual experience is called raising

Khundalini. The practice is quite intricate but is brought on by Shakti Pat

in conjunction with the repetition of mantras or religious phrases and by

holding physical positions for a long time. After a period when the devotee

has reached a certain spiritual elevation they begin to shake, jerk, or hop

or squirm uncontrollably, sometimes breaking into uncontrolled animal noises

or laughter as they reach an ecstatic high. These manifestations are called

'Kriyas'. Devotees sometimes roar like lions and show all kinds of physical

signs during this period. Often devotees move on to higher states of

spiritual consciousness and become inert physically and appear to slip into

an unconsciousness when they lose sense of what is happening around them.

This state is called 'samadhi' and it leads to a deeper spiritual

experience.'

 

The role of the Guru in granting liberation

 

The role of the guru in the liberation of a devotee is described differently

in different sects. Generally speaking the guru's task is only to teach the

technique of achieving liberation; the devotee has to achieve liberation by

practicing the technique on his own. Some sects however teach that at

initiation the guru takes the karma (action) of a disciple upon himself.

According to the law of karma, each man has to take the consequences of his

good and bad actions. For this he has to be continually reborn into the

world. But if the guru (out of love and grace) takes the karma, the

necessity of a rebirth vanishes, and one attains deliverance from the

bondage of reincarnation. Therefore it is believed that without the guru's

grace, one cannot be saved. Devotees generally claim blessing, peace and a

sense of union with god as a result of the guru's ministry. Clearly

something supernatural happens, often with miracles taking place. There is

however no lasting blessing, peace or real union with God.

 

Connections to contemporary Christianity

 

Today we see that the 'guru' mentality is being accepted by some Christian

groups in which it is required to submit to authoritarian leaders who are

said to provide the believer's connection to God and who cannot be

questioned. Often these leaders' authority is reinforced by demonstrations

of spiritual power causing people to fall to the ground, laugh

uncontrollably and generally behave in a way which resembles an 'altered

state of consciousness.'

 

An audio tape produced by Hank Hanegraff, author of 'Christianity in

Crisis', features actual recordings of well known American preachers getting

crowds under their spell to repeat, mantra like, the serpent's lie, 'I am

god.' Those who resist or object to these new trends are often ridiculed as

narrow minded legalists or Pharisees, warned that they will miss out on

God's blessings or even threatened with death and damnation.

 

Christians alert to the deceptions of the end times should not be

intimidated into accepting uncritically all that they are told at highly

charged meetings by preachers with apparently powerful ministries. We should

question any manifestation which is not to be found in scripture, especially

if it connects to yoga and Hinduism. These spiritual forces do not bring

liberation and union with God, but bondage, deception and alienation from

God. In his book 'The Dust of Death' Os Guiness has described the invasion

of eastern religious ideas well;

 

'The subtlety of eastern religion is that it enters like an odourless poison

gas, seeping under the door, through the keyhole, in through the open

window, so that the man in the room is overcome without his ever realising

that there was any danger at all.'

 

Looking at this issue from a prophetic point of view we see that yoga is a

force which is helping to bring together religious devotees of different

backgrounds, since its techniques can be superimposed on any religious

system including nominal Christianity and Islam. As such it is helping to

unite the religious world in the coming one world religion described in

Revelation 17, 'Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and

Abominations of the Earth.' The defence we have against all this is to be

found in a true faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the one way to a true

relationship with God, who has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all

Truth.

 

Information from 'What Yoga really is' by Johannes Aagaard, 'Five paths to

salvation in contemporary guruism' by Vishal Mangalwadi, 'Journey to

Nirvana' by Robert Walker. All available on request.

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