|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Oriental religions|
Yoga: a science, or a religion?
Source: “The gurus, the youth and the Elder Paisios”, (book, pages 364-370).
There was a time that my thoughts and my mind’s ability to reason had become “paralyzed”. And this had occurred, in spite of the fact that I had studied positive sciences and had been trained to think.
I was always mysteriously drawn to exotic philosophies and oriental super-humans. I would enthusiastically and thoughtlessly swallow any theory that was given to me. After all, they were the experts!! No-one had ever thought of doubting them.
It was pain that awakened my mind.
I had suffered many things on their account. I had been exposed to danger…pain…fear…and that was why I was forced to…start thinking. I had to rid myself of a certain “psychological suggestion” whose existence I had not been aware of at the time. I had to struggle hard to face reality. I needed to analyze, to examine actions, words, intentions…I had to reach conclusions about people.
Today, I am inviting you to think along with me; without awe, without fear, without prejudice, without limitations; just freely and methodically. We have every right –and also the obligation- to think freely in every direction and to seek the truth, otherwise there is always the risk that our life will be entombed inside a mistake; inside a well-planned hoax.
Let us examine the view that “Yoga is not a religion but a science, just like every other science.” This was the view expressed by the Indian guru Satyananda himself when he spoke at the “Samaria” Hotel in Chania, Crete on the 24th of April 1984. This detail is mentioned in the book “Teachings of Paramhamsa Satyananda”, volume 6, page 148, which was published by the same guru’s movement in Greece, “Satyananda Ashram”.
This view was also expressed many other times, even by Satyananda himself, but also by the official literature of his movement that is published in Greece. It is the basic element that constitutes the image that the “Satyananda Ashram” movement wants to project of itself outwardly. This same view was also expressed by the guru of Transcendental Meditation, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. When inaugurating his establishment, which he baptized with the name “European Research University”, he had stated that “this is nothing but pure science.”
It is not only the gurus, but practically all of the “New Age” movements who strive to disguise themselves by donning the cloak of science. Let us therefore focus on the claim that “yoga is not a religion”.
The largest (population-wise) religions of our planet are: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
The “core” of Hinduism is the population of India; geographically speaking, the land of India is the source of that religion’s name. Today, after centuries of isolation, attempts are being made to propagate the religion throughout every continent: Europe, Australia, Northern and Southern America, Africa, but also in Russia and Japan.
Hinduists are divided; there are hundreds of heresies/schools that are in disagreement with each other, but also very hostile to each other. However, all of these schools bow before the Bhagavat-Gita (=the divine song of god), or, the “Gospel” of Hinduism. It is a text where all Hinduists meet; a text that is considered by all of them “holy” and “divinely inspired” …
This text is studied and chanted by yogis on a daily basis, during their worship of the “god” Krishna. In the ashram of Satyananda in Monghir India, every morning, for one whole hour they would chant excerpts from the Bhagavat-Gita in an adorational manner.
What is the Bhagavat-Gita? It is a dialogue, in the form of a poem. It is something like the ancient Greek poet Hesiod’s poem “Theogony”, in which he describes the “birth of the ‘gods’” of Mount Olympus; it is like Homer’s “Iliad”, where, on the pretext of the war of Troy, ‘gods’ and … humans interlock in enmities and friendships.
Thus, within the Gita, during a certain war and just before the commencement of a major battle, the ‘god’ Krishna revealed yoga to his friend and pupil, Arjuna. The king-warrior Arjuna asks, and the ‘Lord’ (=Krishna) teaches. But, why not let the text –which is so revealing- speak for itself? All of the excerpts are from the book of Bhagavat-Gita, Kardamitsas publications (Greek language), 4th edition 1991, translation by Theodore Pantouvas. It is dedicated by the translator to his guru, the Swami Ghanananda, of the Ramakrishna order, president of the Ramakrisna Vedanta Center of London, and is benevolently prefaced by the current president of Swami Bhavynanda Center.
So, according to the Gita, yoga is not a human invention, a human creation, as science is; Yoga is a “divine” revelation; a gift that the “Lord of Yoga” (the “god” Krishna) offered to mankind, through Arjuna:
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who try to realize the self. Some are inclined to understand it by empirical, philosophical speculation (Jnana-Yoga), and others by devotional service (Karma-Yoga)." (Chapter 3, verse 3)
Elsewhere, the Lord (=Krishna) says to his pupil Arjuna:
"That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme (yogah) is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science." (Chapter 4, verse 3)
A few more of the innumerable excerpts of the Bhagavat-Gita will convince us that Yoga is definitely a form of worship, through which the “god” desires to be worshipped by his followers. Thus, Krishna says:
"O son of Pritha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible."
"Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion."
(Chapter 9, verses 13-14)
Elsewhere, he says:
“.......who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me—such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me." (Chapter 12, verse 14)
"And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation of ours worships Me by his intelligence." (Chapter 18, verse 70)
The ‘god’ Krishna obviously speaks with authority, and he ordains that not only the practice of Yoga, but also the simple reading of its theory, is considered worship addressed to him! Now, surely everyone knows that ‘worship’ is a religious act and not a science!
Furthermore, in the Bhagavat-Gita, the ‘god’ Krishna teaches that “Yoga is a form of sacrifice to his person”. Well? What do you think? Is sacrifice also a.....scientific practice? Let’s see….
"Others, who are interested in achieving self-realization through control of the mind and senses, offer the functions of all the senses, and of the life breath, as oblations into the fire of the controlled mind." (Chapter 4, verse 27)
"Having accepted strict vows, some become enlightened by sacrificing their possessions and others by performing severe austerities, by practicing the yoga of “eightfold mysticism”, or by studying the Vedas to advance in transcendental knowledge." (Chapter 4, verse 28)
In other places, the ‘god’ Krishna proclaims himself as the god-creator of the world. He proclaims that he is the center and the reason that everything orbits around -and ends up- in Hinduism. Everything - the ‘holy’ scriptures (Vedas), the sacrifices, the rituals, the mantras, the divine word “OM”, the yoga exercises… all of them are... Krishna.
Let us again notice the words in the text of the Bhagavit Gita, chapter 9, verses 16, 17, 18 and 19:
"But it is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter and the fire and the offering."
"I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable om. I am also the Rig, the Sama and the Yajur Vedas."
"I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge, and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed."
"O Arjuna, I give heat, and I withhold and send forth the rain. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both spirit and matter are in Me."
But, let us proceed even further.
What, finally, is the element that convinces people to begin practicing Yoga? What are they searching for? What is the desired end result? Without paying any attention to the “provincial vendors” who will say anything to advertise their merchandise, let us listen to what the... “metropolitan” center has to say. Let us listen to the ‘god’ Krishna himself, from within the Bhagavat Gita, giving his personal reply to the above questions:
"Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend." (Chapter 18, verse 65)
“People who do not have faith in this teaching are doomed to return to the path that leads towards the death of this world, without ever reaching Me.”
(As in many other places, here too we notice the word “faith” being used!!!!)
“By His grace, you shall reach the ultimate serenity, in the eternal residence.”
In order for one to reach the final destination, apart from practicing Yoga, it is also necessary to have attained the….”grace” of the ‘god’ Krishna!!
Well, what do you think? Is yoga a religion, or is it truly a science, as proclaimed by the Hindu guru Satyananda? What is your opinion? Was he telling the truth, or are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes?
“....and even he who is redeemed, shall reach the illuminated worlds of the virtuous...”
So, it seems Yoga’s objective is an eternity within the illuminated worlds of the virtuous…
Yoga’s objective and its end purpose is supposedly one’s union with God. Besides, that is what the term “Yoga” means: union with god. But beware – it does not mean union with any impersonal ‘god’; it is referring very specifically to the ‘god’ Krishna! The inventor, the creator and the teacher of Yoga. This is what is taught by the ‘god’ Krishna, or…whoever is hiding behind him. This is what the ‘holy’ Gita teaches!
Yoga, and its philosophy (from whence all its practices spring), are insolubly bound to fundamental religious concepts such as:
· The existence and the immortality of the soul
· The law of Karma (=the reciprocation of people’s good or bad deeds in other lifetimes)
· The existence of a god that guides the faithful towards him
After all of the above, what do you think? Is yoga a religion, or is it a science, as the guru Satyananda had stated?
But, isn’t the object of science the study of natural laws, of matter and its manifestations? The instrument of science is supposed to be…logical thought, wherever it can reach. When we overstep those boundaries, then we are merely formulating hypotheses, or making assumptions, or just expressing what we believe. Many of the major scientists (Einstein, Pascal, etc.) believed in God, but they never, ever considered presenting their beliefs as…scientific views.
But gurus seem to be quite accomplished artists, when changing and warping words and meanings. “Science gives credibility in the Western world”, they think to themselves, “so it is to our advantage, if we don the “cloak” of science”. Wolves in sheep’s clothing, no less…. So I ask, why do you all hide behind things that don’t belong to you? Why don’t you straightforwardly and honestly proclaim your metaphysical beliefs? Are you perhaps afraid of the world’s reaction? Or do you intend to gradually make them addicted to these metaphysical notions? Do you perhaps want them to forsake their ancestral faith?
Let us now add a few observations of a sociological nature, in order to complete the picture:
Hindus are a very profound people. They are a deeply religious people. Everywhere in their land, one will find images, statues and temples dedicated to one of the thousands of gods of the Hinduist pantheon, i.e., Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Kali, Indra, Rama, etc….
Within this multitude of people, the Sanyasins, the Swamis stand out the most. These are especially religious people. They have dedicated their lives to a certain form of Yoga, in the search for God. They wear a characteristic garment, usually an orange-colored robe, which makes them very obvious in a crowd.
They are usually gregarious; they live in an ashram, under the guidance of a guru. There are several of them who are wanderers, far away from the cities, who travel from one “pilgrimage” to another, usually along the length of the ‘divine’ river Ganges. They drink from –and they bathe in– its waters on a daily basis, because they believe that this cleanses them of their sins, of their bad ’karma’.
In Greece, those who practice yoga usually succumb –sooner or later– to a cultural Indian influence. They begin to decorate their homes with Indian trinkets, cook Indian meals, listen to Indian religious music (Kirtan), “think” in an Indian manner, speak of reincarnation, of ‘previous lives’, of man’s ‘latent powers’, and the ‘achievements’ of yogis….
In the end, some of them become permanent residents of the ashrams here. They wear the characteristic yogi robe. They cut their hair and dedicate it to their guru. They change their name, to an Indian one. They obey – usually absolutely – their guru and their local representatives-pupils. They perform a certain ritual and acquire the title of ‘swami’. They donate their estates to the movement and dedicate their whole being, their entire life, their full time…to the expansion of the movement that will…save the world.
If therefore they can convince us that all of the above are NOT religion, then they are very close to convincing us that we are not free-thinking beings, but spiritually subjugated robots.
I believe in the freedom of a person’s religious conscience. What bothers me is methodical deceit. What bothers me is when someone presents themselves with an enticing mask, for fear of not becoming accepted if they show their true face. This kind of behaviour I consider hypocritical, and devious.
They had stolen a portion of my life. I wasted time, energy, money and opportunities. I fought with a cleverly set-up lie for years.
It is my hope that with these lines, I might be able to help my soul-brethren to escape much faster, much easier, and with minimal losses.
The art of deception
It is only natural for a person to desire whatever is good and beneficial. However, “all that glitters is not gold”! Especially in our day and age, where the “art” of advertising –or, better still, of deceiving– has reached an extreme level of development, therefore we need to be very careful.
All advertisers present their ‘wares’ from their “good” aspect. Disadvantages, flaws are either suppressed altogether (if possible), or else they are presented as…virtues. Thus, the unsuspecting soul…moves in, and it is only after it has “taken the bait” that it will realize it has been tricked.
Because I am one of those who had “taken the bait” and suffered immensely as a consequence, I consider it my duty to warn you. From now on, how you will react will be your own responsibility.
In our day and age, a very intensive proselytism is under way. Certain centers are consciously cultivating confusion in people’s minds. In this way, their ability to think and to judge regresses. The person becomes vulnerable. It is directed, it changes ideas, it believes and is directed towards specific “realms”.
How is this confusion cultivated? In many and varying ways. One of them is for example the following: By altering the meaning, the context of words!!!
When the same words are given a different meaning, confusion is the result. This deception is bred in the muddy waters of confusion.
One small example of this kind of alteration is the word “Christ”.
The meaning that this word has had, for thousands of years now, is that Christ = a specific historical person, who was active in the region of Palestine (currently Israel), 2000 years ago. He taught a certain specific truth, acquired many followers, and founded the Church.
Source: “The gurus, the youth and the Elder Paisios”, (book, pages 364-370).
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 2-9-2006.
Last update: 2-9-2006.