While yoga is not a “religion” in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine” is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching. This incompatibility runs much deeper.
Yoga’s metaphysics center around the quest to attain liberation from one’s conditioning caused by past karma. Karma includes the baggage from prior lives, underscoring the importance of reincarnation. While it is fashionable for many Westerners to say they believe in karma and reincarnation, they have seldom worked out the contradictions with core Biblical doctrines. For instance, according to karma theory, Adam and Eve’s deeds would produce effects only on their individual future lives, but not on all their progeny ad infinitum. Karma is not a sexually transmitted problem flowing from ancestors. This view obviates the doctrine of original sin and eternal damnation. An individual’s karmic debts accrue by personal action alone, in a separate and self-contained account. The view of an individual having multiple births also contradicts Christian ideas of eternal heaven and hell seen as a system of rewards and punishments in an afterlife. Yogic liberation is here and now, in the bodily state referred to and celebrated as jivanmukti, a concept unavailable in Christianity and in an afterlife somewhere else. Ironically, the very same Christians who espouse reincarnation also long to have family reunions in heaven.
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