A Hindu Mystic and Yoga Master Admits that Yoga is Not In Any Way Compatible with Christian Beliefs

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Pastor Dale Morgan

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Nov 9, 2010, 3:02:00 AM11/9/10
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A Hindu Mystic and Yoga Master Admits that Yoga is Not In Any Way
Compatible with Christian Beliefs

The Huffington Post
Rajiv Malhotra
Founder, Infinity Foundation
The Dharma Initiative

While yoga is not a "religion" in the sense that the Abrahamic
religions are, it is a well-established mystical path. Its physical
postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct
metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits
are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However,
the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of
Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga
practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary
President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility
between Christianity and yoga, arguing that "the idea that the body is
a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine" is fundamentally
at odds with Christian teaching. This incompatibility runs much
deeper.

Yoga's metaphysics center around the quest to attain liberation from
one's conditioning caused by past karma. Karma includes the baggage
from prior lives, underscoring the importance of reincarnation. While
it is fashionable for many Westerners to say they believe in karma and
reincarnation, they have seldom worked out the contradictions with
core Biblical doctrines. For instance, according to karma theory, Adam
and Eve's deeds would produce effects only on their individual future
lives, but not on all their progeny ad infinitum. Karma is not a
sexually transmitted problem flowing from ancestors. This view
obviates the doctrine of original sin and eternal damnation. An
individual's karmic debts accrue by personal action alone, in a
separate and self-contained account. The view of an individual having
multiple births also contradicts Christian ideas of eternal heaven and
hell seen as a system of rewards and punishments in an afterlife.
Yogic liberation is here and now, in the bodily state referred to and
celebrated as jivanmukti, a concept unavailable in Christianity and in
an afterlife somewhere else. Ironically, the very same Christians who
espouse reincarnation also long to have family reunions in heaven.

Yogic liberation is therefore not contingent upon any unique
historical event or intervention. Every individual's ultimate essence
is sat-chit-ananda, originally divine and not originally sinful. All
humans come equipped to recover their own innate divinity without
recourse to any historical person's suffering on their behalf. Karma
dynamics and the spiritual practices to deal with them, are strictly
an individual enterprise, and there is no special "deal" given to any
chosen group, either by birth or by accepting a system of dogma
franchised by an institution. The Abrahamic religions posit an
infinite gap between God and the cosmos, bridged only in the distant
past through unique prophetic revelations, making the exclusive
lineage of prophets indispensable. (I refer to this doctrine elsewhere
in my work as history-centrism.) Yoga, by contrast, has a non-dual
cosmology, in which God is everything and permeates everything, and is
at the same time also transcendent.

The yogic path of embodied-knowing seeks to dissolve the historical
ego, both individual and collective, as false. It sees the Christian
fixations on history and the associated guilt, as bondage and
illusions to be erased through spiritual practice. Yoga is a do-it-
yourself path that eliminates the need for intermediaries such as a
priesthood or other institutional authority. Its emphasis on the body
runs contrary to Christian beliefs that the body will lead humans
astray. For example, the apostle Paul was troubled by the clash
between body and spirit, and wrote: "For in my inner being I delight
in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body,
waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the
law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who
will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:22-24).

Most of the 20 million American yoga practitioners encounter these
issues and find them troubling. Some have responded by distorting
yogic principles in order to domesticate it into a Christian
framework, i.e. the oxymoron, 'Christian Yoga.' Others simply avoid
the issues or deny the differences. Likewise, many Hindu gurus obscure
differences, characterizing Jesus as a great yogi and/or as one of
several incarnations of God. These views belie the principles stated
in the Nicene Creed, to which members of mainstream Christian
denominations must adhere. They don't address the above underlying
contradictions that might undermine their popularity with Judeo-
Christian Americans. This is reductionist and unhelpful both to yoga
and Christianity.

In my forthcoming book, The Audacity of Difference, I advocate that
both sides adopt the dharmic stance called purva-paksha, the practice
of gazing directly at an opponent's viewpoint in an honest manner.
This stance involves a mastery of the ego and respect for difference,
and the hope is that it would usher in a whole new level of interfaith
collaborations.

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