By Rev. Clete Hux
The area of doctrine concerning Christian liberty is known as adiaphora, meaning “things indifferent”– things in personal choices that should not affect an individual’s salvation one way or the other if a person chooses to exercise those choices. These should be things the Bible neither condemns nor approves because they are considered to be non-essentials of salvation. For most believers, these choices have centered around issues like eating and drinking.
Quite often the scriptures, “All things are lawful for me, …” (I Cor. 6:12; 10:23) and, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), are used to justify a personal choice. As a matter of opinion, the “all things are lawful” statement is often used as a mantra and taken too far by being wrongly applied to things condemned by scripture. When this happens, Christian liberty becomes libertinism that ignores biblical limitations. And, let’s face it, only the naive would believe that professing Christians limit their liberty to the physical appetite alone. That being said, the “all things are lawful” attitude has gone awry, drifted off base, and is leading people into worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith. This should be a concern for all Christians and a warning that paganism could not only be knocking at the door, but could be camping out in the living room.
It has been said that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. It can also be said that the road to paganism is often paved with pragmatism, which interprets not just eating and drinking, but all things as being neutrally indifferent and their use to be determined by individual choice. Yes, I know – this borders on the attitude of relativism, “you’ve got your truth and I’ve got mine” and “who are you to interfere with my truth?” We’ve become a society of experience-oriented truth seekers, but only defining and confirming as true that which will correspond to our individual experience. This aligns closely to narcissism with its out of control fixation on self.
The out of control personal experience oriented mindset is manifest in areas too numerous to count. My original intention was to cover four or five areas in this article, but I soon realized that it would be too long. So, the article will be in two parts. For the sake of space, Part One will cover the first two areas that I believe Christians have wrongly deemed “indifferent” and are now fully endorsing.
There is a fad floating around on social media right now encouraging people to choose their avatar. All in fun, some are choosing an electronic image of what newly incarnated body they would like to have rather than the one they are presently stuck with. It is doubtful that people using the term this way ever heard of its Hindu roots. Avatar is a Sanskrit word referring to an incarnation of a Hindu deity. When this is pointed out, the response is, “Well I don’t mean it that way”. In other words, “Let me tell you what I think it means.” The implication is that a person can take something out of its original context and redefine it to suit that individual’s likes or dislikes.
Due to applying Christian liberty beyond its Biblically intended boundaries, questionable areas have become like a smorgasbord for the choosing. Sadly, to many it does not seem to matter if such things “ripe for the pickin” represent a worldview that is diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview. This is certainly the case with Yoga. There is no getting around the fact that Yoga is religious by nature and a form of Hindu worship. Yet for years, there have been attempts to distance the practice of Yoga from its religious essence. The Hindu American Foundation knows this well and is upset with pragmatists who try to redefine Yoga as merely physical exercise. The result is not only a redefining of Yoga, but also a covering up of its religious heritage and meaning. (1)
From the Sanskrit word meaning “yoke” or “union,” Yoga defines and promotes a monistic (all is one/one is all) worldview that teaches there are no separations as those recognized in a Biblical worldview such as a personal God who exists apart from His creation. My good friend, Peter Jones, illustrates this difference in what he calls a One-ism versus Two-ism worldview. Two-ism represents the Biblical Creator/creature distinction, while One-ism represents paganism which does away with separations.(2)
Because there is no Yoga without Hinduism, Yoga is consistent with a Hindu pagan worldview that divinizes creation (Rom.1:23-25). As such, it promotes both pantheistic (all is God/God is all) and polytheistic (many gods) worldviews. All the millions of gods in Hinduism are part of the one supreme being called Brahman. All is Brahman and Brahman is all. This is paganism, pure and simple. Yet, this does not seem to bother pragmatists, including Christians, who intentionally or not, are baptizing paganism by redefining Yoga, all the while assuming they have the liberty to do so.
It has become a fad in America to reduce Yoga to what “pop” culture wants it to be. This is exactly what is happening today with Hatha Yoga, based on bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana). In response to the distortion of Yoga by the commercialization and simplistic use of the asanas, Swami Param, President of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy, explains that asanas represent a specifically Hindu worldview and the word Hatha refers not only to nature worship (moon; sun:tha) but also to the Hindu deities Siva, Vishnu (Hara:Hari).(3)
These contextual historical understandings of Yoga’s religious history are completely ignored and cast aside. This “pop” culture treatment of Yoga has found its way into many contours of society including public education. Many states are already teaching yoga in their schools. Others may follow. Alabama’s legislature is considering a bill that would lift a ban on practicing Yoga in its K-12 schools. The Alabama Administrative Code (AAC), Rule 290-040-040-.2 that bans the practice of yoga and meditation in its public school system has been in place for twenty-seven years.(4)
Perhaps if school administrators and politicians better understood the religious teachings of Hinduism concerning the practice of Yoga they would uphold the application issue concerning the establishment clause of religion in the First Amendment. Better yet, if they understood that they may be subjecting students to possible spiritual danger they may think it best not to allow Yoga to be taught in schools. This certainly would be the wiser choice.
Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, in an article for Psychology Today, talks about a Christian and former Yoga instructor who makes the argument that simply relabeling Yoga as Christian fails to make it so because “authorship implies ownership”, and “ownership implies right of possession and control.” Yoga is “not just a human invention” but “coauthored” with the “spirit realm.”(5)
Further pointed out was that no matter what Christians call Yoga postures, they are a “moving liturgy, an embodied form of worship, a physical offering to the Hindu gods” who are “attracted to the offering.” By analogy, the owners of a “stolen Lexus” won’t be fooled” if a “thief removes the license plate.” Likewise, the “Hindu spirits” who own Yoga retain the “title deed, so to speak. They’ll get back in the vehicle while you’re driving it.”(6)
Hinduism teaches that there exists in all forms of Yoga something known as Kundalini energy and is, as Hans Rieker puts it, “…the mainstay of all yoga practices.”(7) Taken from kundal (coiled up), kundalini refers to the Hindu belief that a “serpent power” lies coiled up at the base of the spine. It is revered as a goddess who begins to evolve in a person’s first incarnation (in the reincarnation cycle), being fed by the other six chakras on the spine and by the cosmic energy entering through the feet from the earth. Starting at the lowest chakra, she is aroused through yoga practice and travels up through the other chakras, finally reaching the crown. In Tantric Yoga, which is more sexual than other forms of yoga, Kundalini is a part of Shakti, the divine female energy and consort of Shiva (male deity).(8)
There are a number of websites alerting people to dangerous exposure to the demonic spiritual realm that exists in yoga. One website actually quotes the non-Christian renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung in his warning about yoga:
“One often hears and reads about the dangers of Yoga, particularly of the ill-reputed Kundalini Yoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, with certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not be meddled with in our typical Western way. It is a meddling with Fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the chönyid state…” (see www.yogadangers.com).
I cannot believe that any politician, administrator, or any school authority, if they really understood the implications of allowing Yoga, would want to open such a “pandora’s box.” Why choose Yoga when there are hundreds if not thousands of other exercise programs that are available? It is not wise to promote a practice that is an inherently religious and spiritual by relabeling it. We must remember that intent does not change meaning. Regardless of intention, there is no Yoga without Hinduism and there is no Hinduism without Yoga. I agree with Swami Param when he says, “If one wants to learn Hinduism/Yoga (and perhaps become a Hindu), do that. If one wants to stretch and relax, be thoughtful and considerate, but don’t call it Yoga!