08 Mar Salvation through Yoga or through Christ?
Salvation through yoga or through Christ? What yoga is and salvation through it Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that has a broad variety of schools, practices and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.i Pāṇiniii, Vyasaiii and primarily Patanjaliiv contributed to the meaning of yoga. In Vedic Sanskrit, the literal meaning of the word yoga is “to add”, “to join”, “to unite” and is from the root „yuj’. The origin of yoga is debatable.v According to Sadhguru, an Indian yogi, Shivavi was the first yogi (Adi Yogi) and is said to have begun imparting the knowledge of yoga to the rest of mankind and thus also became the first guru (Adi Guru).vii Patanjali defines ‘yoga’ in ‘Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali’, in the 2nd sutra of Book 1: “yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhah” – Yoga Sutras 1.2 Swami Vivekanandaviii translates this sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)”. To Patanjali, yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in eventually attaining a state of Samadhi where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself.ix Raja Yoga is to be practiced to attain Samadhi (which is the last stage of meditation, when the person is out of physical consciousness) and is also described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.x Samadhi literally means “putting together, combining with, union, trance”.xi Samadhi is oneness with the subject of meditation. There is no distinction between the actor of meditation, the act of meditation and the subject of meditation. Samadhi is that spiritual state when one’s mind is so absorbed in whatever it is contemplating on, that the mind loses the sense of its own identity. The thinker, the thought process and the thought fuse with the subject of thought.xii The ultimate goal of yoga is moksha (liberation). It is a key concept, where it is a state of “awakening”, liberation and freedom in this life.xiii ‘Moksha’ is very central to the Hindu belief and it refers to the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirths.xiv The words ‘moksha’, nirvana and salvation are usually used interchangeably. From the Bible The Bible places importance on the concept of joining and uniting but in a context unrelated to the above. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church against physical adultery is a fitting parallel in this
author’s opinion, to the context of spiritual adultery. For the sake of uniformity, all verses quoted are from the ESVxv. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17, italics added) In stark contrast to the ultimate goal of yoga, the Bible does not recognise salvation as something that can be pursued, attained or earned. Rather, the Bible says that salvation is a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Further, God would not have created man in His own image, if as stated earlier in the „Yoga philosophy of Patanjali, that the mind ultimately loses the sense of its own identity. Curiously, there is no unanimous answer as to what the ‘subject of meditation’ ought to be. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Final notes and comments
There is no evidence to suggest that the Bible endorses yoga, since as shown above, both are fundamentally different at its core. Since the Human Resource Department Ministry has planned in 2016 to introduce yoga as compulsory in schools as per the statement of Shripad Yesso Naik, Minister of State for AYUSHxvi, a plausible question that can arise in the Indian context could be ‘how should believers in Christ respond if yoga is made compulsory in schools?’ To avoid sounding legalistic, this author will not pronounce a ‘decree’ but would like to direct the reader’s attention to what Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army did in a similar circumstance (2 Kings 5:15-18). Understandably, more faith would be needed to do what the 3 Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did (Daniel 3:12-18). Readers are also encouraged to remember the following verses whenever dealing with such situations.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:14-16)
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
Shalom. Soli Dei Gloria.
This article is meant only for believers who desire to walk in accordance with the Bible. This author acknowledges to not being formally trained in philosophy or Christian theology. Despite a finite understanding of Hermeneutics, a whole-hearted attempt was made to treat this as dispassionately as possible. There is no intention whatsoever to use this work as a tool to contend with neighbours practising a different belief and this author respects mankind’s free-will. Sources have been cited to ensure transparency and avoid plagiarism.
Kevin N. Jacob
Kevin is currently working in Cochin in a private firm
Citations and footnotes
i Sarbacker, Stuart Ray. “Samādhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga.” SUNY Press, 2005. 1-2.
ii Pāṇini was a scholar of Sanskrit grammar who was born in modern day Pakistan.
iii Vyasa was a scribe of the Vedas, the author of Mahabharata and also worshipped as an avatar of Vishnu.
iv Patanjali was the compiler of the book ‘Yoga Sutras’.
v Flood, Gavin D. “An Introduction to Hinduism.” Cambridge University Press, 1996.
vi Shiva is the Destroyer – one of the 3 major deities in Hinduism.
vii Sadhguru, J. “The first Guru is born.” Times of India, 03 July 2012.
viii Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk who was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the West and a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India.
ix Bryant, Edwin. “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.” Rutgers University IEP, 2011.
x Hari Dass, Baba. Ashtanga Yoga Primer. Santa Cruz: Sri Ram Publishing, 1978.
xi Williams, Monier. Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon. 2008 revision.
xii Āraṇya, Hariharānanda. “Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali.” State University of New York Press, 1983. 252-253.
xiii Eliade, Mircea. “Yoga: Immortality and Freedom.” Princeton University Press, 1958, Reprinted 2009. 33-34.
xiv Sharma, Arvind. “Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction.” Oxford University Press, 2000. 113.
xv ESV is the English Standard Version of the Bible.
xvi “HRD Ministry asking states to make Yoga compulsory in school.” Press Trust of India, 6 May 2016.