Yoga - Exercise or Religious Practice?

By Brad Scott

Assume that an incomprehensible THAT, an invisible sub-stance, imminent and transcendent, pervades, envelops, and underlies everything. Assume that It is changeless, infinite, and eternal. Marvel, too, at the beauty and magnificence of the natural order. But then notice that everything is changeful, finite, and transitory. Although THAT is One, you see multiplicity everywhere. Especially bewildering are the endlessly alternating extremes of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, life and death.

How would a human, you might wonder, rise above the dualities of life and realize this One alone? If you and your progeny were to seek this answer for 3000 years, you would seek also the means by which you could transcend worldly life and rest in this One. Even with all the theories the generations might generate, they would long most for a practical system that might relieve their distress and fulfill their quest.

Definition and Goal

The East-Indians, following this reasoning, developed such a practice for natural man: yoga. To understand this yoga-not the "yoga" that Westerners say "belongs to the whole world"-one first needs to define yoga as the masters of India defined it. In doing so, one needs to return to its roots, trunk, branches, and all. Only then will one be equipped to engage in apologetics with those who practice yoga.

The "Yoga" of Tradition

First, we must consult Patanjali, the systemizer of yoga (ca. A.D. 150), and other credible East-Indian teachers. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras (I.2), says, "Yoga is the restraining of the mind-stuff (chitta) from taking various forms (vrittis)." Swami Yogananda, one of the most respected gurus to arrive in America (1920), termed yoga the "science of mind control." "Yoga," he wrote, "is a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevents all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit." In the same book, he further clarifies this definition: "yoga, 'union,' science of uniting the individual soul with the Cosmic Spirit."1 Swami Vivekananda, the first bona fide swami to preach in the West (1893), expands still further on this orthodox definition in his commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: "The yogi proposes to himself no less a task than to master the whole universe, to control the whole of nature."2

According to tradition, "yoga" means "union," the union-by means of various time-tested practices-of the finite "jiva" (transitory self) with the infinite "Atman" or "Brahman" (eternal Self).

The "Yoga" of the West

How, then, does hatha yoga-an "exercise program"-and other yogas fit into the ancient system of yoga? Patanjali details eight progressive steps ("limbs"). Hatha yoga is a small part of the third step ("asana," posture) and sometimes the fourth ("pranayama," as breathing exercises). The more advanced steps include concentration ("dharana") and meditation ("dhyana"). Today, ironically, "yoga" teachers skip the first two fundamental steps in the yoga system: "yama" (non-injury, truthfulness, chastity, etc.) and "niyama" (moral purity, contentment, austerity, study, surrender to "God").

Today, drawing on "tantric" practices, yoga teachers also offer instructions on the seven "chakras" ("spiritual centers") in the body and the techniques for raising the "kundalini" (coiled serpent power) that allegedly lies dormant at the base of the spine. Vivekananda speaks of the importance of the "kundalini" to yogis: "When awakened through the practice of spiritual disciplines, it rises through the spinal column, passes through the various centres, and at last reaches the brain, whereupon the yogi experiences samadhi, or total absorption in the Godhead."3 The eight limbs of yoga represent the stages leading to this end.
  If Vivekananda's claim that yogis propose to master nature sounds extravagant, then the claims of modern gurus sound megalomaniac. For they promise that yoga will completely alter "consciousness" and re-form "reality" (the yogi's and everyone else's). On the Transcendental Meditation website, the Maharishi proclaims, "I will fill the world with love and create Heaven on earth." In the March/April 2000 Yoga Journal, Bikram Choudhury declares, "My most cherished goal is to save America through my yoga."

In the hands of modern gurus, the definition of yoga undergoes a good deal of adjustment. Depending on the angle of approach, Atman and Brahman, for example, may be replaced by Krishna, Shiva-Shakti, Divine Mother, Mother-Father God, the Goddess, True Self, Higher Self, Higher Power, the All, the One, the God Within, Cosmic Consciousness, and in some circles Christ-Consciousness.

The History of Yoga

The Yoga Sutras may mark the formal origin of yoga as a system. But teachers within India's traditions-Vedantins, Vaishnavas, Shaivites-properly cite more ancient texts as evidence that yoga existed before Patanjali systematized the general principles into specific practices, which were to yield often-extraordinary results. Once sufficiently advanced, yogis can put an end to their hunger, walk on water, and soar through the skies (Yoga Sutras, III.31, 40, 43).

The word "yoga" appears often in the Bhagavad Gita ("The Lord's Song"), a section within the Hindu epic the Mahabharata (ca. 500-400 B.C.). In chapter 6, Krishna commends yoga: "To this yogi who is taintless and free from desires, who is of a tranquil mind and identified with Brahman, comes supreme bliss. The yogi, freed from blemish, thus fixing the mind constantly [on the Self] attains easily the supreme bliss of union with Brahman" (vv. 27-28).4
  Moreover, the practice-and goal, union with the Self-appears in the teachings of the "seers," who after purportedly experiencing Brahman firsthand composed the Upanishads, the final sections of four extant Vedas (ca.1000-500 B.C.).5 The Svetasvatara Upanishad advises results-oriented disciples to control the vital force ("prana"), senses, and mind through austerities and meditation. "Be devoted to the eternal Brahman," it says. "Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman. Thus will the source of ignorance be destroyed, and you will rise above karma." Further yogic instructions follow: "Sit upright . . . "; "Turn the senses and the mind inward to the lotus of the heart"; "Meditate on Brahman with the help of . . . OM"; "Retire to a solitary place"; etc.6

Because yoga's origin is ancient, one mustn't assume that the practice is primitive. Nor considering the methods of some modern teachers, who seem as slick as telemarketers, should one take the theological underpinnings of yoga lightly. The Hindu scriptures demonstrate high philosophical and esthetic achievement, easily rivaling the output of the ancient Greeks.

Succumbing to oversimplification, many underestimate the beauty, acuity, and allurement of East-Indian philosophy. They focus on the grosser forms-the plethora of gods; scores of Hindus, hip-deep, in the Ganges; clusters of glassy-eyed Westerners locked in lotus postures-and dismiss the whole spectacle as ridiculous. Hucksters may call it "bhava yoga," "sahaja yoga," "kriya yoga," "kundalini yoga," but underneath the falderal is the same old rigorous, high-minded yoga of the rishis.

The Theology of Yoga-Vedanta

Respecting this sophistication, we must understand that India has produced six main philosophical systems dating back to the 6th century B.C. Three remain fundamentally compatible with doctrines held today. The first, Samkhya, founded by Kapila, draws elaborate distinctions between Prakriti (substance, "the producer") in all its multifarious forms and Purusha (spirit, "the person"). Yogis still use Kapila's terms: the "three gunas" (elemental modes), "buddhi" (intellect, perception), and "manas" (mind, conception). But they have rejected the rest of his philosophy. The second, the yoga system of Patanjali, has already been described. The third, Vedanta, developed by Badarayana (ca. 200 B.C.) but perfected by Shankara (ca. A.D. 800), is the most formidable of the three.
  The Vedanta, as Will Durant puts it, has always "sought to give logical structure and support to the essential doctrine of the Upanishads-the organ-point that sounds throughout Indian thought-that God (Brahman) and the soul (Atman) are one."7 Because I concur with Durant, having practiced yoga for seven years under an orthodox swami, I shall explain yoga doctrine by means of an overarching system that may be termed "Yoga-Vedanta."8


Popular Hinduism, it's true, is known for its tangle of gods: Kali, Parvati (feminine); Prajapati, Nataraja (male); and others like Ganesha, a deity resembling an elephant-man. To some, Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer) are three aspects of one Ishvara. To others, Rama and Krishna, two "avatars" ("incarnations of God"), are worthy of worship as god. The "Hari Krishnas," the Vaishnavas, form such a sect. To others still, the intellectuals, "Brahman" and "Atman" are used interchangeably to refer to one impersonal deity, affirmed to be the "same" as the God of Judeo-Christian tradition.
  The Yoga-Vedantins divide all sects into three categories, according to the way God is viewed. Interestingly, all three have sprung from the same scriptures: the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita ("the Bible" to Hindus), Puranas, and Bhagavatam. Each view may thus be characterized:

1. Dualism: Dualists ("dvaitists") preserve the distinction between the worshipper and worshipped, lover ("bhakta") and beloved (the deity). God and man never become one, just intimates, ecstatically united in love. As these devotees progress spiritually, they may pass on after death to a "loka" (a heaven), where they enjoy certain rewards before reincarnating. In the end, they reach the highest heaven where they and their god may together eternally "sport."

2. Qualified Nondualism: Qualified nondualists ("vashishtadvaitists") hold that through spiritual practices, including devotion and meditation, they may attain a kind of "oneness" with God. They too, life after life, progress toward the highest "loka," between births eventually attaining positions as demi-gods. Using an analogy, they say that God is like the sun and souls are like separate rays of the sun. In the end, they experience themselves as emanations of the Source but not the Source itself.

3. Nondualism (Monism): Nondualists ("advaitists") hold that only through the practice of yoga, especially "jnana yoga" (union through Knowledge) do the most advanced attain God-realization. To them, each soul is like a clay jar at the bottom of the infinite ocean of Brahman. The jar is "maya," a false appearance superimposed on the Atman within. This "maya" isn't illusion, but ignorance of the Truth: that Atman and Brahman are one. Once the yogi, through negation ("neti, neti")-"I'm not the mind, not the senses"-shatters the jar, he experiences eternally his true identity with the absolute Brahman. He then declares, "Aham Brahmasmi" ("I am Brahman"), the One Without a Second.9

The "yoga" of the West is mainly nondualistic, but when yoga apologists find it convenient, they can, like shape-shifters, quickly sound like qualified nondualists, even dualists if they wish to show special tolerance. Every self-respecting yogi must affirm the Sanskrit dictum: Ekam sat vipra bahudda vedanti ("as many faiths, so many paths"). All faiths lead to God (even Christianity, my guru used to assure me).

Creation and Creatures

Put simply, all creation to the Yoga-Vedantin is comprised of the substance of Brahman. Hence, yogis are pantheists, whether they preach nondualism or qualified nondualism. Brahman created the universe out of Itself, as a spider spins out a web. Nevertheless, Brahman while immanent in creation remains forever transcendent-avangmanosagocharam: "beyond the reach of mind and speech"

The law of karma. Essential to explaining how yogis may achieve "perfection" and why souls eventually struggle to free themsleves from maya is this law of cause and effect. Yogis know that none can attain union with God in one lifetime, unless he has already striven for thousands of lifetimes to realize his true nature. To achieve the end of yoga, one must perforce become a yogi.

Every embodied soul, after all, has to deal daily with scores of unpleasant "dualities": attraction-repulsion, pleasure-pain, good-evil. The yogi rebels against this maya and his natural impulses. Often for every step forward, the heroic yogi seems to take two steps backwards. He strives to conquer the sexual impulse-for sex is thought to impede progress by wasting "ojas," power-but finds a year later that he is lusting after a woman, perhaps longing to raise a family.

The yogi smitten by human love, overcome by any "worldly desire," isn't yet ready, say the gurus, for the high road. Obviously, he is still burning off karma from his past lives, reaping karma from his present life, or creating karma for his next turn on the wheel of pleasure and pain. As he reaps, he sows, inexorably, with nothing like grace to catch him when he stumbles.10
  Although a seeker constantly generates new karma, he ardently practices yoga-through self-sacrificial work, devotion, mental control, and/or the quest for "true knowledge." Still, unless he is sufficiently advanced, he must proceed slowly. He must heed the gurus and seers to test the validity of his "spiritual experiences." On this lower road, he learns that he occupies a body, as Shankara puts it, comprised of filth, pus, bile, and so on. In time, the good karma will outweigh the bad. Until then, he trusts "Self-realized gurus"-the "avatars," especially, serving as guides and authorities.

Reincarnation. Thus assisted, the yogi eventually renounces the fickle world that tempts him and the vile body that imprisons him. Disenchanted with "the dualities of life," he yearns for freedom and devotes himself to God-realization-without wavering, it's said, like the flame of a candle set in a windless place. Therefore, every seeker must pass through lifetimes of experiences, donning and shedding bodies, as the only way to taste the world and "get over it." The cycles of birth and death won't cease for the yogi until he desires Self-realization as intensely as a drowning man desires air.

The concepts of karma and reincarnation thus dovetail. Together, they help explain "fate," good and evil, and the appeal of the yogi's goal: union with God. Everything that happens to him is his doing solely. It's his karma. As the Gita says, he alone is his own friend, and he alone is his own enemy.

Salvation: Liberation

Thus, despite popular re-adjustments by humanistic psychology, yogis advance not by transformation but by conquest, renunciation, retrieval. The figure in the Bhagavad Gita is that of a charioteer, the soul being the rider, the body the chariot, a discardable vehicle. The yogi masters mind, senses, and body to transcend them, blasting upward through the topmost chakra, the "thousand-petaled lotus," on his way to Cosmic Consciousness. The caterpillar doesn't transform into a butterfly. The transitory and impure can't transform into the Eternal and Pure. The Brahman that the yogi enters isn't like the self he has discarded. It's "satchitananda": pure existence, consciousness, and bliss.
  The soul is liberated, not transformed. Once the yogi has overcome the delusion of separateness (the false "I"), he discovers what he really IS: Brahman (or a ray of Brahman). Then for him there are no more rebirths, only union with the One. Through arduous work over aeons, the yogi transcends the dualities of life, including "good" and "evil," and renounces his ignorance of his True Self. The rope that at dusk seemed to be a snake appears now as it really is, a harmless rope. The little self is dead, and so too are all its petty griefs, desires, and dreams. Thus the yogi achieves his own liberation, reaching the finish line alone, like a long-distance runner having just crossed the Kalahari Desert.

He knows that he possesses true spiritual knowledge because, well, he knows. The Reality is too "real" to mistake for anything else. The "experience" is so stunningly brilliant that it serves as its own proof that he has "arrived." Now he can disregard all authorities, for he has become THAT which everyone else is seeking.

This is yoga.

As a former yogi who felt the "kundalini" rise numerous times and experienced "savikalpa samadhi" three times, I know that I have accurately characterized the practice of yoga because, well, I just know that I know. Besides, my guru called me Yogiraj ("king of the yogis").

The Response of the Evangelist

A reasonableness attentive to verbal abuses lies at the core of any loving confrontation with the exponents of yoga. Because yoga teachers have been casually quoting scripture and equivocating in their terminology ever since they arrived as "missionaries" on our shores, we should challenge any blatant proof-texting and word warping in theological discussions.

We must affirm that words do have meaning, and do still matter, whether one is typing an email or following the doctor's orders. Just as our Bible serves as our primary authority, so also our English dictionary may serve as, at least, a secondary authority when the fog-index in an exchange begins to rise. As faithful exegetes, we refer to the Bible, first, but we may also keep an English dictionary, an objective cultural reference point, at our elbow.

Having made this foundational case for clarity, I shall outline the primary distinctives of biblical Christianity over and against the Yoga-Vedanta worldview.11


According to Christianity, God didn't create the universe out of himself, as a spider might, but "out of nothing" (ex nihilo). God merely said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3), and there was light. He "made the earth and heavens," we are told (Gen. 2:4). Grounded in the Bible, Christian tradition has never held otherwise: God spoke His creation into existence. And Jesus himself confirmed the authority and veracity of every "jot" and "tittle" of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:18), including the matter of creation. As Jesus declared elsewhere, "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law" (Luke 16:17), the Law being the first five books of the Old Testament.

Although God is everywhere (see Ps.139), he isn't everything, nor is he a substance that comprises everything. If he were a substance, or life force, resident in bees, birds, and trees, he would be limited by every form He inhabited, or He would be like some pitchy syrup that anyone who wished to "strive for perfection" might tap into. How could this god be sovereign if a person, by will alone, could draw upon his "Power" and then, if he wished, soar through the air? If such a god has no say, unless "man" wills it so, he becomes not only impotent but redundant. Who would need a god who can be defined or "used" in any way one wants. What would he be? Who would care?

According to Christianity, God resides as the Holy Spirit in those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ and receive him as their Lord and Savior. God remains sovereign. He oversees and controls, yes, but He also provides, guides, comforts, forgives, answers prayer, and loves each person individually, as an eternally existent individual (even having numbered the very hairs of our heads). He doesn't regard souls to be wayward rays of sunlight or trapped pools of God-consciousness too dense to grasp the truth-without a lot of karmic drubbing. Christians know that God cares as a Father does because Jesus Christ bore visible witness to the nature, attributes, and purpose of the one true God.

The yogi, unless he is schizophrenic, enamored by self-contradictory beliefs, can't have it both ways, regarding God as personal and impersonal. If God is love, as many yogis would agree, He is also personal, for "love" would be meaningless without at least two, one to love and one to be loved, a subject and object. Even if the yogi retorts, "Well, I love my True Self," he is still assuming the existence of two: the one loving, the other being loved.

Creation and Creatures

By no means does a belief in karma and reincarnation resolve the moral dilemmas and "inequities of life," as yogis insist. If karma begets karma, none escapes karma, malignant or benign. If the yogi cares about other creatures, about the impact his thoughts, words, and deeds might have on others, he will soon realize how helpless he really is as he tries to control the wayward impulses that pour into and out of his mind, over which he alone is responsible. Faced with this dilemma-that he must transcend karma but can't-he learns not to care about his thoughts, words, and deeds-and their impact on others. He will have to "renounce the fruits of his actions," "kill desire," and negate the world-mind, body, soul, all that generates karma. He faces two choices: cling to the wheel (the endless loop of karma) or let go of it.

The resulting state of mind is disengagement not just from karma, the "bondage of the world," but also from all relationships and goals. The yogi must call human caring "ignorance." To care-to be "attached" to anything or anyone-is to create karma. If attachment is the fruit of ignorance, ignorance of the "truth" of nonduality, then the yogi who cares and hurts for others can't realize the nondual Truth: All is one-Aham Brahmasmi-"I am God." But even thinking like a yogi creates karmic results: detachment, indifference, absent-mindedness.

How far does the yogi want to follow this path of indifference, as far as the "masters"? If one carefully studies the eyes, in person or in portraiture, of "masters," one glimpses the "end" of yoga. A "no vacancy" sign may be posted on the "vehicle" of the master. Inside, there is no one behind the eyes, no person who cares. If the disciple comes or goes, it's all the same to the egoless master. Because the law of karma explains everything, masters remain blissfully unmoved by the woes of others. But in history one Master did care that we receive the truth, that we reconcile with God. And he was Jesus Christ, who unlike any other "master" in history, cared enough to die that we might know the truth that sets us free.

Reincarnation, once karma is understood, is cruel. Ultimately I suffer life after life not so much for my specific misdeeds but for my "own good" so that I will stop caring about all that is in the world. After all, I can't know specifically why I am suffering at the moment, for the causes are hidden in a cloud of unknowing of past lives. Speculating about these lives offers no permanent relief either. So what is the lesson to be gleaned from this inexplicable suffering? Chuck it all with a mighty exertion of the will, say the gurus, and think only of the True Self. No better example of the callousness engendered by "the law of karma" exists than India, where poverty and pain are more intractably present per square inch than in any other country.

Only by putting a face on this cruel, inexorable law can we grasp its devastating effects on people. Having traveled to India, I saw firsthand the misery in the faces of those I passed. But since then, I found most moving the testimony of a former Hindu, now a Christian leader. That he was born into a wealthy, educated family of high-caste Brahmins should betoken good karma. Unfortunately, because he was handicapped, confined today to a wheelchair, he in fact was thought by his parents to have bad karma. From an early age, he would be carried around by servants, those of a "lower caste." He recalls the way he would be whisked off to another room whenever guests arrived, lest his "bad" karma somehow upset or infect them. The "bad karma," remember, was his doing, so whether the many rejections hurt him or not would be irrelevant to his family. And yet a child wouldn't understand that he is responsible for his "own karma" or that others would feel the need to protect themselves from his "bad vibes." Indeed, helping or loving someone with bad karma might actually be tampering with his karma and incurring bad karma for oneself.

In the West, many believers in karma and reincarnation do so not because they really want to lose all identity in blissful union with Brahman but because they find comfort in the idea that they will live on, in body after body, for as many lives as they "need." Convinced that they will always possess ever-new bodies as they learn their "karmic lessons," they have no need to fear either of two other possible ends to their mortality-empty nonexistence or eternal existence in hell-neither of which thoughts produces much satisfaction in those already crying, "I can't get no satisfaction."

Salvation: Faith Through Grace

But even a serious seeker, who believes he will achieve Godhood over many lifetimes, won't feel overanxious about the present or future status of his soul. Nor will he feel inclined to ponder his inadequacies before a perfect sovereign God. He knows that he is the master of his fate and that real self-esteem is Self-esteem. For these reasons, yogis can't understand, or refuse to understand, the Christian meanings of words like "sin," "salvation," and "redemption." As I once did, they scratch their heads and ask, "Saved from what?" Liberation from ignorance, they believe, is the end; progress toward God-consciousness, the measure of perfection. And Truth is subjective, not objective. Experience is the sole test. Anything that they "feel" is leading them toward their goal is "good." The orthodox are more cautious in this regard; the more numerous unorthodox are often reckless, for they can rationalize nearly any "path."

But "self-effort" may result in apparent "progress," material but not spiritual. Practicing hatha yoga to obtain a healthy body or practicing meditation to handle stress better prove nothing about one's spiritual standing before God. Even feeling that one is progressing toward God is no guarantee that one is drawing closer to God. Thus the yogi, in trusting subjectivity, can never really know where he stands in relation to God or the goal, no matter how often he tells himself that he is more "advanced" than the common folk. Without objective truth, truth may be anything one wants it to be, including nothing at all.

But Christ said that we can know the truth-with certainty. To receive and follow him is to know the truth objectively. He said that if we would believe in him alone he would give us eternal life: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish . . ." (John 10:27-28). Let a yogi consider this puzzle: If each soul already has eternal life (because he is "God" already), what is "the eternal life" that Jesus promises to give? How can he give what one already possesses? Unless he is a liar, he must be capable of giving life that people don't possess. In fact, it's Jesus who is the light of the world and the life of humans, so to receive him is to receive his light and life-and hence, to know the truth. He claimed, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me" (John 14:6).
  Who are the "me" and "I" to whom Jesus refers? Is it Krishna? Is it Mother? Is it Buddha? Is it an "avatar"? Is it some generic, impersonal "Christ-consciousness"? Obviously, not. For Jesus, although God incarnate, was a real man who lived in a specific cultural setting and preached specific doctrines, most of which contradict the "truths" of Yoga-Vedanta. He forgave sinners but said, "Go and sin no more." He loved the world enough to heal the sick yet sacrifice his life, and yet he held that a Judgment Day was to come and that he would return to administer judgment. He also believed in the words of Moses and the prophets of Israel. He believed that Satan exists, and he held that souls who reject him, the only Son of God, as savior will be condemned to eternal hell.

It's dishonest therefore for yogis to purloin the terms "Jesus" and "Christ" and make of Jesus whatever they will, for the only way to know the real Jesus is first to encounter him in the Gospels. If a yogi finds that Jesus Christ repugnant or inconvenient because he makes pronounce ments with which the yogi can't agree, then the yogi, rejecting the Christian Scriptures, should reject Jesus too. For this Jesus, the only one who can be known, would then be a liar and father of lies, and the yogi should flee from him, lest Jesus impede his progress toward God-consciousness.

But if a yogi believes that Jesus was all that he said he was, he should seek to know Jesus, humbly approaching him. This yogi must stop seeing Christians as strange benighted "baby" souls and allow a mature Christian to open the scriptures for him. Then the yogi may discover, as followers of Christ do, that a human isn't "set free" by works-by virtue of personal merits and attainments-but by faith through grace (Eph. 2:8-10). Christianity isn't about detachment from the world but relationships-the abundant life lived in but not of the world. If the yogi has saving faith in the words of the living Christ, the grace of God shall pour into him, purging him of all concerns about "karma" and the rounds of births and deaths. And this grace shall make him a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Who then needs yoga when Jesus Christ-having lived, died, and risen-stands knocking at the door, bearing the gift of eternal life? He alone can make the seeker's burdens light and grant him rest.

1 Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1990), 261, 592.
2 Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1970), 16.
3 Ibid., 289.
4 Bhagavad-gita, with commentaries of Shankara, Anandagiri, Madhusudana, Sridhara, et al. 2nd ed. (Bombay: Nirnaya Sagar Press, 1936), as cited in Swami Satprakashananda, The Goal and the Way (St. Louis: The Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1977), 238.
5 Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Part I, Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 389-583, used as the source for all dates of composition.
6 Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester, The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal (New York: New American Library, 1957), 120ff.
7 Durant, 546.
8 I studied under Swami Shraddhananda, former private secretary to the president of the Ramakrishna Order, Swami Shivananda, one of twelve disciples chosen by Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) to carry on his work. All these disciples embraced Shankara's monism. Swami Shraddhananda was invited in his 70's to return to India to become president of the Ramakrishna Order. In 1978 before I converted to Christianity, he told me that I would eventually be his successor at the center I attended after becoming a monk. For details, consult Brad Scott, Embraced by the Darkness: Exposing New Age Theology from the Inside Out (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1996).
9 The classic work on nondualistic Vedanta is Shankara's Vivekachudamani (published in English as The Crest Jewel of Discrimination).
10 For this claim and others about yoga, I have provided ample citations in Embraced by the Darkness: Exposing New Age Theology from the Inside Out.
11 I use "biblical Christianity" to distinguish it from certain "Christian" ideas seemingly compatible with Yoga-Vedanta: e.g., Paul Tillich's "ground of being" (panentheism), Cobb and Griffin's "process theology" (Process Theology, 1976) and Rudolf Bultmann's "demythologization" of Scripture.

About Us | Articles | Resources Catalog | Donate | Free Newsletter | Contact Us