Listen, but not like a yogi.

YogiThen from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35 NRS)

Yogi Baba Prem, who is a Hindu Yogi, a Vedavisharada trained in the traditional gurukural system, came across a book called “Yoga for Christians.”  To which he proclaimed, “There is no such thing as yoga for Christians . . . why do Christians insist on trying to steal what is Hindu?  . . .  Besides, they do it all wrong.”

Hindus and Christians listen (or meditate) differently. Hindus learn to empty the mind to achieve peace and union with the external divine. In silent meditation, they hope to free themselves of the illusion of the world and become part of the divine.

Followers of Christ, on the other hand, believe that God, the Holy Spirit, dwells within them – so we aren’t trying to achieve union with God, but we are listening to God who already indwells us. What we expect is not union, but direction in how we take on the yoke of Christ. Nor does scripture teach that we should try to empty our minds, but redirect all thoughts on Christ.  It is our way of coming to Christ…

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 NRS)

The difference is subtle, but ultimately significant. Respect Yoga for what it is. Respect Hindu’s too, but honor that we don’t believe the same things and be at peace with that. We certainly don’t make practicing Hindus happy by stealing their stuff and rearranging it for ourselves. Nor are we more enlightened – or more progressive – by ignoring that we have differences. In addition, trying to merge divergent beliefs into one new age theology destroys both faiths! Instead, honor the differences!

On the other hand, I know very few Christians who ever “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Listening prayer or meditation is rarely practiced by Christians. Yet, scripture tells us to close the door, be quiet, and listen to the Holy Spirit so that we can have the wisdom and power to live out the life of Christ – to be his hands and feet.

May Lent be a time of listening – opening our lives to God’s wisdom and power – so that we may share in the yoke of Christ.

*****

April is a progressive Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs.  

2 thoughts on “Listen, but not like a yogi.

  1. Their is a very ancient Christian understanding going back to the second and third centuries, when Christian theology was taught primarily in Alexandria, Egypt in north Africa, and still retained in Eastern Orthodoxy of “theosis,” a CHRISTIAN understanding that Christian spirituality is indeed unitive with God. Also in Western tradition, we see this in the medieval mysticism of Christians like Meister Eckhart and Catherine of Siena (who melted into God unitively, Whom she called “Sea of Peace”) and Reformation era teacher of prayer Teresa of Avila, whose definition of prayer is still used in the Roman Catholic Catechism. She taught “prayer of union:” as the highest stage of Christian prayer, which her student John of the Cross also promoted. While kenosis (self-emptying as Paul describes Christ doing and tells Christians to follow in Philippians 2.7-8 is different than some forms of yoga which may have a goal of total self-annihilation (the individual entirely disappears, as individuality is an illusion, into a true cosmic Oneness), there are MANY forms of yoga and Vedantic practice / belief EVEN in INDIA itself, just as there are many forms of Christian practice and belief throughout the world and its history. Let’s try not to oversimplify in ways that promote division and misunderstanding but perhaps seek harmony together and give one another a gentle, loving benefit of the doubt. — a Christian yogi

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