‘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.