WHAT ABOUT YOGA?
How is Yoga connected with Hinduism?
By Fr. Joseph Magnus Frangipani, USA
To be clear, Hinduism does not refer to a specific religion. It is a term the British gave to the various cults, philosophies and shamanistic religions of India. If you ask one Hindu if he believes in God, he may tell you that you are God. But ask another, and he will point to a rock, or statue, or a flame of fire. This is Hindu polarity: either you are God, or everything else is a god.
Yoga is beneath this umbrella of Hinduism, and in many ways is the pole of the umbrella. It acts as a missionary arm for Hinduism and the New Age outside of India. Hinduism is like an extraordinary Russian nesting doll: you open one philosophy and within it are ten thousand more.
And the unopened ones are risks. You may swim easily and carelessly in waters you do not know. But unaware of the tides and nuances of the area, you may be in danger. You may be swept away by the undertow. You may cut yourself against unseen rocks and contract imperceptible infection and poison.
This happens in the spiritual life.
When we dive in the ocean, we may be attracted to the brightest, most colorful and intriguing fish but the most colorful and exotic are often the most poisonous and deadly.
The first time I visited India, I took off my shoes and socks and walked through the water, coconuts, discarded candy and shimmering fire of Kalkaji Temple. It is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Kali, ‘the goddess of death.’ I didn’t know it, but I was right in the middle of her most important festival of the year. The temple was chaos and the energy very heightened and dark.
Thousands of men, women and children gathered at this Rishikesh temple to worship this demon. Next to me, a woman’s eyes rolled back in her head, arms waving back and forth, tongue wagging pink from her mouth, legs lifting and falling like a puppet on strings. This was clearly demonic possession.
Once, I venerated the Sitka Mother of God icon and experienced incredible warmth, tears of humility and love, mental clarity, and peace. It was like walking in front of a window full of warm, fragrant sunshine. At Kalkaji temple, I experienced the opposite.
Kali is often depicted as a frightful, many-armed goddess with purple skin raising a severed human head, a bloody tongue hanging from her mouth. She wears a necklace of human heads and a belt of arms.
I have drank coffee with people instrumental in the movement of yoga, Hinduism and the New Age in America who, in order to be initiated into her cult, were prompted to eat human corpses from Nepalese graveyards. Not too long ago, the popular British newspaper The Guardian reported that child sacrifices continue to this day, honoring this demon Kali. This is all connected to Hinduism. And it is connected to yoga because the postures of yoga are not religiously neutral. All of the classic asanas have spiritual significance. For example, as one journalist reports, the Sun Salutations,—perhaps the best-known series of asanas, or postures, of hatha yoga—the type most commonly practiced in America—is literally a Hindu ritual.
“Sun Salutation was never a hatha yoga tradition,” says Subhas Rampersaud Tiwari, professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at Hindu University of America in Orlando, Florida. “It is a whole series of ritual appreciations to the sun, being thankful for that source of energy.”
To think of yoga as a mere physical movement is tantamount to “saying that baptism is just an underwater exercise.” writes Swami Param of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy and Dharma Yoga ashram in Manahawkin, N.J.
It is the goddess Kali who attempts to unite practitioners through shakti with Shiva by means of yoga. At her temple just outside New Delhi, I saw the hideous ‘self-manifested’ idol: a rock with strange, beady eyes, beaked and covered in yellowy slime and curdled food. In Hinduism, idols are ‘woken up.’ They are dressed. They are fed. They are sung to. And they are put to sleep. I’ve been part of hundreds of these ceremonies.
With more than five million readers, Yoga Journal is the best-selling yoga magazine in the world. In a revealing moment regarding the superiority of yoga as psychotherapy, Yoga Journal revealed the Hindu philosophy behind the practice:
“From the yogic perspective, all human beings are ‘born divine’ and each human being has at its core a soul (atman) that dwells eternally in the changeless, infinite, all-pervading reality (brahman). In Patanjali’s classic statement of this view…we already are that which we seek. We are God in disguise. We are already inherently perfect, and we have the potential in each moment to wake up to this true, awake, and enlightened nature.”
Teachers and students typically greet each other with the Sanskrit ‘namaste,’ which means, “I honor the Divine within you.” This is an affirmation of pantheism and denial of the true God revealed in the Bible. The Sun Salutations, or, Surya Namaskara, originated with the worship of the Hindu solar deity Surya.
In Church hagiography and iconography, we venerate saints—real people who lived righteously before God and participated and continue to participate in His light and love—asking their intercessions. Idols, on the other hand, writes Fr. Michael Pomazansky, “are the images of false gods, and the worship of them was a worship of demons, or else of imaginary beings that have no existence; and thus, in essence, it is a worship of the lifeless objects themselves.”
I have seen swamis – in this country, in America – transmit this demonic kundalini energy just by looking in a person’s eyes. And if one is open to it, the body may shake and vibrate like a tin windup toy.
And yet when it came time for me to receive this cursed energy through Shaktipat, an unbelievable fear washed over me like cold, electrified water so I raised my shield and sword: I started saying the Jesus Prayer. Glory to God! This awful presence was deflected by the Name of Jesus. We must remember, as St. Paul writes, We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
With that prayer as my shield and sword, I swam a stroke back towards Christ. I took a step out of the far country. I took a step into my Father’s House.
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 A gift from laborers of the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Sitka, Alaska, this exceptionally beautiful miracle-working icon is indeed a window to heaven.
 The Guardian, Saturday, March 4, 2006.
 Dru Sefton, “Is Yoga Debased by Secular Practice?” Newhouse News, July 15, 2005, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1445950/posts.
 Stephen Cote, “Standing Psychotherapy on Its Head,” Yoga Journal, May/June 2001, p.104. http://michaeltalbotkelly.com/standing-psychotherapy-on-its-head/.
 Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, p. 323.
 Shaktipat is the conferring of demonic spiritual energy with a word, look, thought or touch. The Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
 Ephesians 6:12.