T. A. McMahon and Caryl Matrisciana continue their discussion of Yoga.
In today’s program, Tom continues his conversation with Caryl Matrisciana, producer, director, and writer of Yoga Uncoiled.
Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Well, our topic for today is yoga, and our guest…This is part two of interviews with Caryl Matrisciana. She’s the producer, director and writer of Yoga Uncoiled. If there’s ever a video, a DVD out there—that you’re concerned about yoga and so on—I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. It’s absolutely spectacular, Caryl. Caryl, you’ve done it again, as they say in the business. (Chuckling)
Caryl: Well, thank you so much.
Tom: Well, we want to talk about yoga, particularly in the West in the church, because, if you missed our earlier program, I think we spoke to the real Hinduism, or the real yoga, which is the basis for the yoga we see practicing here in the West. Of course, it’s homogenized, it’s shaped up, consumerized, done all things to make it acceptable to the Western mentality, but nevertheless, at the heart of it, the basis, the fundamental basis for yoga, is a religion. It’s a religion connected to Hinduism.
Now, having said that, Caryl, we discussed the religious nature of yoga last week, and how could anybody imagine, based on what we’ve said, and, you know, you lived in India, you practiced Hinduism for part of your life, and how could anybody in the West accept the very things that we describe, the fruits of this religion—how could it come into the West? But more incredible, how could it come into evangelical Christianity? They’re not only practicing it, but they’re doing it in their churches! Am I pushing the envelope here? Would you say that’s an evaluation?
Caryl: Well, the thing is…it’s how it has been marketed. You see, even though most people would—I mean, you and I have talked about it being rooted in Eastern philosophy—the point is it’s very, very successfully marketed in the West, and, by the way, even in India now, interestingly enough, a lot of women are doing it who would not call themselves Hindus, and cannot see the connection with yoga practice! I know it sounds confusing, but it has been so incredibly successfully marketed as a supposedly scientifically proven status, if one wants to say, that’s been said that it’s beneficial for healthcare and mental wellbeing; you know, it’s been offered in 80 percent of health clubs all over the world, I would say, I mean definitely in America, promoted as a body-toner, a flexibility exercise, offered in medical and business programs. It comes in as a steadier of the mind; it calms the emotions, it’s supposedly said to relax away stresses. So, it’s very easy to see how this has come into corporations, practiced in IBM, AT&T, Nike, HBO, Forbes, Apple—I mean it’s incredible that the corporate yoga boom has taken this because many employers feel that their employees would be more productive…
Caryl: …if they were involved in some sort of exercise on the premises. And so, these—what we’d see as religiously connected, it’s come in as scientific, and proven in that.
Caryl: And so, it’s in schools, young children are involved in it, it’s gone into prisons, it’s in campuses, all sorts of places. And children sent to juvenile facilities, prison areas, they’re all learning this yoga philosophy, and it’s not being called religious. And I remember, Tom, when I was involved in it, I did not realize that it was religious. I did not see that.
Caryl: I don’t know what I thought it was, but the night that I became a Christian, and they said, “How long have you been a Christian?” I said, “All my life.” And at the time I was practicing yoga, I was involved in drugs, I was involved in partying and promiscuity, and yet I truly thought I was a Christian, because I had been raised in a Roman Catholic background. That’s what I called myself. And yet here I was practicing a philosophy that is at complete opposites to a biblical Christianity.
But I think what’s happening here is that a lot of Christians do not understand the Bible. The Bible has been left out of churches and in our teaching—I certainly was biblically illiterate, because the moment I started reading the Bible, I could see that an exercise that was trying to bypass death was completely irrelevant—which, of course, what yoga is, it tries to bypass reincarnation and “the wages of sin is death,” that you can work out your own salvation through this yogic discipline—once you read the Bible, you realize that you don’t need to do that, because Jesus Christ has brought us life and took the penalty of death on Himself for us. So it’s, I think, a huge part of biblical illiteracy. And also, when I was practicing it, I liked the idea of an impersonal, universal energy that was very loving and kind and absorbs all this sort of wickedness of me, which I didn’t realize I was even a sinner…
Tom: You know, Caryl, I’m in my late sixties—Well, I go back to my youth in a small town in southern Ohio, and as a teenager, I can remember one of the places where we would congregate just to use their athletic facilities was the YMCA, the Young Men’s Christian Association. Some people don’t even know that’s what YMCA stands for anymore. Shows you how far that’s gone. But that was the only place, certainly in our community, and I would bet in many other communities—that was the only place where you could find yoga, and it was taught. Now I’m talking about back in the mid-‘50s and the ‘60s, absolutely incredible.
Caryl: Right, but now we’ve got that in places where the Bible is not allowed to be taught. The Bible has been thrown out of the classroom as being religious, and yet yoga is encouraged to be taught to children, not identified as a religion. And I think one of the very, very clever things in its marketing way back in the ‘60s, the very time that you were talking about, when John Lennon of the Beatles fame, because it was at that time when, you know, the Beatles in the ‘60s were instrumental in promoting transcendental meditation and yoga.
Tom: Well, Caryl, take us—for our listeners—give us a brief scenario of that development. Now, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which was the guru to the Beatles—you know, he was a missionary. We’re going to talk about that in a bit. But he was a Hindu missionary to bring Hinduism and yoga to the West. Actually, that was the vehicle, yoga. But he started off with something called the “Spiritual Regeneration Movement.”
Tom: How did that go over?
Caryl: And it was accepted, it was understood. Yoga was accepted as Hindu-based, and transcendental meditation proudly honored its Hindu roots and called itself the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, as you said. But, when it did bring some controversy as the Beatles brought it into the public forum, if you will, and it was at that point that Maharishi presented it as a science, and changed its name to the…
Tom: Well, he couldn’t get it into the schools, Caryl, if you remember. That was the problem. So now he had to regroup and figure out, well, how was he going to keep this going forward? So he changed the Spiritual Regeneration Movement to Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Caryl: It was called “the Science of Creative Intelligence,” changed from TM to the Science of Creative Intelligence, because that being a science was much more understandable, or much more acceptable, I should say. And as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in part of his marketing campaign embraced the Beatles in India—in Wales, actually—and then took a bunch of celebrities from Hollywood to Rishikesh in India, where all these celebrities were taught yoga consciousness, and then, of course, that was spewed out through the media to bring it back in to the fans, who—and I was one of them, because the Beatles were certainly my heroes at the time—and the Beatles acknowledged, as they got more fame and money, that they started realizing that they had a personal spiritual hunger, and they started to look for answers, and all four of them went off with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to Rishikesh. But at that time, John Lennon, who is the spokesperson for the Beatles—now this is, I think, where an incredible piece of marketing came in—he told the World Press that “we’re going to go to India to study Transcendental Meditation properly, so we have to go back to India to get the real roots. We want to learn properly, so we can propagate it and sell the whole idea to everyone. This is how we plan to use our power now. They have always called us ‘leaders of youth,’ and we believe that this is a good way to give youth the lead.” Here he says it: “It needn’t be religion if people don’t want to connect it with religion. It’s all in the mind: a way to calm down tension, strengthen understanding, and make people more relaxed.”
Tom: But, Caryl, you know, our good friend, Dave Hunt—he wrote an excellent little book on yoga called Yoga and the Body of Christ. Well, in it, he points out that Hinduism has the largest missionary organization in the world. So it’s not just Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and certainly it was a great boon to this missionary effort to bring the Beatles onboard. The organization is called the Vishnu Hindu Parishad.
Caryl: Vishnu Hindu Parishad—yes, that was formed in January 1979, and in fact, we went out to India to film for our Gods of the New Age soon after that, and found the very paperwork, the articles, the magazines that showed that this was a missionary organization; in fact, the Vishnu Hindu Parishad sponsored the second World Congress on Hinduism in Allahabad where we went to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad…
Caryl: …and that is an absolutely huge, huge, huge, huge festival that comes every seven years—every fourteen years for the grand festival—there are, oh, 67-80 thousand delegates from around the world…
Caryl: …and there at that time, I remember the paperwork as saying that one of the delegates said, “Our mission in the West has been crowned with fantastic success. Hinduism is becoming the dominant world religion, and the end of Christianity has come near.”
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, Caryl, for our listeners again, can you think of some of these more famous missionaries from the East who have really infected Hollywood, and then I want you to end up, after you give us a few names, I want you to end up here in Oregon—as a matter of fact, oh, about 120 miles from where we’re recording this, at least on our side. So, who were some of these gurus?
Caryl: As we said, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the perpetuator of transcendental meditation. And then we had this huge exodus from India of hundreds and hundreds of god-men—gurus, enlightened masters—that came in to perpetuate or to spread their different types of yoga…Well, actually, there was the Woodstock Festival, where Swami Satchidananda, who is the founder of Integral Yoga, led hundreds and hundreds of thousands of hippies through the “om” mantra—now, mantra is a repetitive prayer that is integral in altering the states of consciousness for yoga, which, as I mentioned in the last program, that it’s a mind-altering discipline that can merge body and mind, and one of the things is that you’re given a mantra, or the name of a deity, or a vibrational cosmic deity divine sound, which you have to repeat again and again, and here we had Swami Satchidananda telling these thousands to repeat “om,” so, you know, that was part of it; that was the Woodstock aspect. And then we’ve got all these various different missionaries, like the Hare Krishna, Prabhupada had the Hare Krishna—there again, that’s a mantra, “Hare hare rama rama…”
Caryl: …which is another prayer force, and he perpetuated that in the ‘60s where you had the Hare Krishna disciples wearing orange—bald heads, hitting their cymbals and drums, and coming down the streets converting people. So…
Tom: Caryl, what about the sannyasins, the Rajneesh? That’s what I was…
Caryl: Yeah, that was the…that’s the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. I went to his ashram, or his holy place, his monastery, in Pune, in India, and then he bought several hundreds of acres in not far—well, in Oregon, not far from you; in Antelope, actually…
Caryl: …and now his sannyasin—there again, these words have become sort of everyday language here, but these are disciples in India—it’s a very holy position to be a sannyasin, a disciple of a guru or a bhagwan—which, by the way, means “god…”
Caryl: …that when you get these people that call themselves Shree Bhagwan Rajneesh, which means “little king…” I mean, these are arrogant titles for mere mortals.
Tom: But they’re not, in their view, they’re not mere mortals, they’re gods. Now…
Caryl: They’re gods.
Tom: Now, I remember, I remember at the ashram, there was a sign out in front: “Leave your sandals and your mind at the door.” But this was drug-oriented, drug-related, and so on, and that was your experience—that’s what you found up at the Rajneeshpuram up in Antelope.
Caryl: Well, and you see another interesting thing that happened in the ‘60s, ‘70s, was that a lot of people that got strung out on drugs realized that they could actually have the same altered states of consciousness through yoga practice, or through mind-altering yoga techniques, where you could shift—you had this paradigm-shift to get into nothingness—and you didn’t have to do it through drugs. So, even though in India drugs sometimes is part of the ceremonies and festivals—that’s what we saw at the Kumbh Mela where the heavy-duty tantric disciples messed their minds up with drugs and become one with God through drug consciousness—which of course is considered deity consciousness, as well—but in the West, I think you’ll find with this new type of yoga that’s coming where people are so conscious about healthy bodies and healthy. They think, I mean, the way that yoga has been packaged here is as a health exercise, and a body exercise for nimble, supple bodies and to do all sorts of healthy aspects—but within Hinduism, it’s got to be understood that the body and the mind are one and the same. So you cannot make the body healthy without connecting the mind to Shakti power—because the kundalini, the snake, is Shakti, the great mother goddess, the living energy that is within the body—this has got to be pushed—the subtle, more psychic has to be pushed up, which is much more important in Hinduism than the materialism of the body. So, while yoga is being peddled as a body-making [building] better healthcare thing, within Hinduism it’s a vehicle to get the individual to tune into psychic abilities and become mystics, but, even more dangerous, to actually become vessels for supernatural spiritual indwelling.
Tom: Caryl, so, based on all that you’ve said, what then of so-called “Christian yoga”? And there’s a lot out there, right?
Caryl: Very, very, very troubling, Tom, and I think it’s got to be brought into the bigger picture of what the Bible warns us is that there’s got to be a one-world, global religion. So what better way of doing this paradigm-shift of divinity, oneness, unity, than through a mind-altering awareness—consciousness, if you will—which comes in, in Western Christian language, as having a better relationship with God presented as a sort of spiritual vehicle to enhance your Christian walk, but actually, it’s enhancing your body to become a container of the spirit world, which is in complete opposition to biblical faith.
Tom: The question is, Caryl, then, what about so-called Christian yoga? Well, people say, “Of course, this is a spirituality. I’m moving into a higher spirituality, only I’m applying Jesus to it; I’m applying the Bible to it,” and so on. Well, come on! If you’re a Christian, wouldn’t you be a follower of Jesus? Wouldn’t you be in submission to His teachings and to His instructions? Where did Jesus ever practice this? Where did He ever promote this? Where is this in the Bible? So, very basically, you’ve got a real problem here. And if you bring it back to what we mentioned in our program last week, it’s Hinduism, it’s pure Hinduism, and it’s antithetical to biblical Christianity. So how a person reconciles that with what he or she is doing—to me, is incredible.
Caryl: It is very confusing, and I think the confusion comes because Christians have become biblically illiterate—they’re not depending on the authority of Scripture and walking in faith; rather, they’re walking in feelings and a mysticism that really does bring incredible emotional feelings. I mean, I remember when I was involved in yoga, the spiritual euphoria that I was involved in was absolutely magical, in a sense, because I was listening to doctrines of demons, but I didn’t know I was listening to doctrines of demons until I became biblically literate and then was able to read that I was involved with lying spirits who were giving me great experiences and sensations.
So you see, the description of yoga, the very essence of yoga, is opposite to Christianity, because in yoga we’re told to unite the individual soul with the greater soul of the universe, so we have to have an experience to get into this oneness, and be reconciled to “all is one.” Well, you know, we’re told—I mean, this isn’t even a biblical aspect, because any meditations that we have in Christianity, we’re told to meditate on the Word of God and employ our whole mind, not lose our mind in a kind of giving up, submitting of your mind into the oneness of the universe—our mind is…part of the first commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your mind—“ so “we meditate on thy law day and night.” We’re actually actively using our minds to think about the character of God, and the very essence of God according to Scripture.
But in Hinduism, we’ve got to get into these ritual appreciations, if you will, of positions, of positions of frogs, or a dog, or a tree, or a flamingo, and these mere physical movements are part of the oneness of the individual getting into connection with all of this. So, for a Christian, you know, it’s almost like saying, “Well, the baptism in Christianity is just an underwater exercise.” No, it’s not! Baptism is a very important part of a biblical aspect of Christianity and it can’t be just reduced to an underwater exercise. I know that’s a poor sort of blending of things…
Tom: But, Caryl, it’s a reasonable example in this sense: baptism doesn’t move us closer to God. And those who are preaching and teacing and practicing so-called Christian yoga, they believe that this exercise is enhancing our Christian spirituality—that’s ludicrous. Jesus never practiced it, as I mentioned earlier. It is contrary, as you’ve described, contrary to the Word of God. And to think that well, my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, I’m doing this, I’m doing that, and so on—no. There are no means, no physical means, that will get us closer to God; that’s called “divination,” and that’s what we’re seeing with these people who are practicing it in the church.
Now, Caryl, we’ve got about thirty seconds, so…(Laughing) but I know Gary is going to put all this together. It’ll just be absolutely wonderful. Anyway, Caryl, I’ve got to talk about your DVD Yoga Uncoiled; I couldn’t…I can’t recommend it highly enough—for those who are concerned about this, they need to get that DVD. And Caryl, thank you so much for being with us. I think we’ve hopefully informed people; we’ve laid out some information. But they have to decide whether this is biblical or not. Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” and that’s our heart for everybody out there.
Caryl: Exactly. And also, just one other thing, Tom, that when Jesus—when the disciples asked Jesus, “How do we pray?” you know, Jesus didn’t tell them to do repetitive prayer like the Gentiles or be involved in exercises—He didn’t say, “Do yoga with me; first of all we have to jump and get into positions of health…” No, health and praying to the Holy Spirit are two different things, and we cannot merge the two.
Tom: Amen, amen. Thank you, Caryl.
Caryl: Thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, Oregon, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org.
I’m Gary Carmichael, thanks for joining us; and we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.