Gary: Now, Religion in the News. This week’s item is from the Bend Bulletin [Oregon], with the headline, “Spirituality, Total Liberation, is at the root of yoga: These days it seems everyone’s doing it. For many, physical fitness and relaxation are the goals of yoga, and certainly those are lofty aims in a culture of traffic jams and fast-food drive-throughs.
“ ‘Most people who arrive at the doors of Yoga for Health in Arlington, Texas, enter not because they are looking for religion but because they are seeking a way to relieve stress,’ said Leonard Jefferson, who owns the studio. In his classes, Jefferson said, he does not emphasize the spiritual aspects of yoga but concentrates on the physical postures, exercises, and breathing techniques.
“For Kari Rollins of the Wellness Center in Fort Worth, yoga is clearly not a religion. As an osteopathic doctor, Rollins uses it in her medical practice and teaches it as preventive medicine, she said. ‘Anyone with any religion can practice yoga,’ said Rollins, who teaches some of the center’s nineteen weekly classes. ‘It has a spiritual side to it, but not a religious side,’ Rollins said. However, even for those who practice yoga to improve their health and relieve stress, spiritual elements can surface. ‘It can be used strictly on a physical level,’ she said, ‘but that spiritual element creeps in.’”
Tom: Dave, it’s not possible to practice yoga without the spiritual side entering in. The whole concept of it comes out of Hinduism. It’s, as we’ve mentioned in the past, yoga is basically yoking yourself to Brahman, the “god of the universe.”
Dave: Tom, but I think—maybe that statement you made seems a little bit too strong for some people.
Tom: Okay, well, lighten it up.
Dave: We—no, I’m not going to lighten it up. I want to justify what you said.
Dave: The whole purpose of yoga, as you said, is to yoke with Brahman. It’s self-realization—to realize that “I’m God,” because everything is “God”—(I’m a funny kind of a God. I forgot that I was God. So I practice yoga in order to remember that I’m God, with self-realization.)
Yogananda—self-realization society—he brought that. Well, if I’m God, and I forgot that I was God, what good will it do me to remember that I’m God, when I forget it again? But anyway, the point you were making is [that] yoga was
designed for this purpose—to escape time, sense, and the elements; to reach Moksha. It’s a technique for dying, not for living! Okay? So all the positions that this article talked about, the breathing exercises and so forth, were specifically designed to put you into this altered state of consciousness to get you into this unity with Brahman, [with the goal] to reach cosmic consciousness, which some of our young people experience on drugs and so forth.
So, how can you take something that was designed for this, and then use it for something else? So, they’re talking about physical fitness—well, if you’re interested in physical fitness, you should practice exercises that were designed for physical fitness! I’m not saying that these might not make you limber and so forth, but you cannot escape the spiritual aspect of this, and the reason you can’t escape it is because that was what it was designed for. Even the physical positions and exercises and breathing and so forth are all designed for a spiritual purpose!
Tom: Right. And it’s more meditation than it is aerobics. Somebody who wants to exercise, well, aerobics might be of value to them. But meditation—no! And if somebody says, “Well, yes, it just helps me to relax,” and so on. But there is a spiritual side that is inherent with meditation.
Dave: Well, meditation, Tom, again, we have to define the word, because meditation in the West always meant “contemplation.” In the Bible, for example, Psalm 1: “In His law [God’s Law] doth he meditate day and night.”
Tom: Give me another word—see, these words are being confused. Sometimes when you say “contemplation,” it goes back, really, to an eastern idea of looking within. So, really, we’re talking about thinking—using your mind—that’s the heart of it.
Dave: That’s right! Concentrating upon, trying to come to a deeper understanding of…God’s Word, or something. This is what meditation always meant in the West. Now, as you said, it’s been confused by the influence from the East. But this meditation from the East is the opposite! You’re not supposed to think. You’re supposed to arrive at this relaxed-but-alert state, but without any thoughts running through your mind. In fact, you want to quiet yourself, to get to the point where you are not thinking, you are not in control, you are… That’s not meditation! That is opening yourself to demonic entities.
So, Tom, if we had time to quote from some of the books on yoga by the great yogis, they warn you—they warn you that you could be taken over by another spirit. You ought to have somebody actually monitoring you as you go into this relaxed trance state.
In fact, in much yoga—not all yoga, this practice—you have a mantra. And, for example, those who practice Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi, they discovered that their mantra was…all the mantras are the name of Hindu deities. And, again, read the books on yoga by the great masters of yoga, and they will tell you that the repetition of these mantras is a call to these entities to come and possess you! So you can’t escape that, although you are told…Maharishi said, “This is scientific. It has nothing to do with religion.” That was a lie!
So they’re getting into what they think is good health, and they’re actually getting into Hinduism.
Tom: Right. Dave, most people, if they’re going to do something, they want to do it really well. If they’re going to put their time and energy into it, they want to understand it and do it as best they can. Now, you go to the YMCA, you take a course in yoga—people from the East, yogis, who practice this, would laugh…
Tom: …at what goes on over here. Because it has nothing to do, really, with…although it’s built upon it, and there’s some aspects of it, but it’s not yoga as practiced in the East. It has to do, as you said, with the process of dying!
Dave: So why call it “yoga,” Tom?
Tom: That’s a good question!
Dave: It’s accepted advertising.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, my point is people are getting into something, maybe not expecting it to be spiritual, but that is the heart of it! And they are going to pick up baggage, including, in some cases—and there are warnings out there by these teachers—demonic possession! Not in every case, but at least they’re going to have their…if they’re Christian, they’re going to have their Christian worldview completely undermined by this process..
Dave: They’re going to pick up a worldview, there’s no doubt about that. They will pick up an unchristian, unbiblical worldview without a doubt.