by Dr Steve Kumar

Many people approach religion the way they approach food: “I like it because it satisfies my need.” “If it feels good do it.” “Try it and you will like it.” Religion is not a matter of food or feeling. We must not see religion as being in the line of a cafeteria picking a principle in one religion and value system from another. For example: Taking a carrot from Islam, a tomato from Judaism, a potato from Buddhism, some garlic from Hinduism, and trying to cook up a religious soup.

In a world of many religions the idea of a multi-religious soup appears attractive, but before we whet our spiritual appetite, remember that there are no religious cooks who have such a recipe. Whatever is being cooked and served by religious syncretists falls short of our need. Religious questions are too valuable to reduce to the level of human taste.

Religion is not like food–it is not a matter of taste but a matter of truth. It is not a matter of feeling but of facts. It is not how it makes you feel but whether it is true. It may sound impressive to say, “I believe because I have a burning in the heart,” or because “I have a shiver in my liver.” Feelings do not validate a belief.

1. ALL RELIGIONS ARE DIFFERENT

No truth is as dangerous as half truth:

  • Humanism is atheistic.
  • Tribal religion is polytheistic.
  • Hinduism is pantheistic.
  • Buddhism is agnostic.
  • Islam is unitarian.
  • Judaism is monotheistic.
  • Christianity is trinitarian

He who says all religions are the same knows very little about religions. R.C. Sproul states, “That Jesus claimed to be God and Mohammed claimed to be a prophet is an essential difference. That Buddha was an atheist and Christ a theist is an essential difference. That Confucius died and Christ resurrected is an essential difference. That Jim Jones advocated suicide while Jesus preached patient endurance is a radical difference. That most religions teach salvation by good works while Christianity teaches salvation by grace is an essential difference. That Christianity features an atonement and a mediator who reconciles and redeems is an essential difference. That some men worship idols while others worship a transcendent God is an essential difference. The worship of Yahweh is a far cry from the worship of a cow.

Only the non-religious say all religions are the same. The World’s religions differ on:

  • Who is God;
  • What is the nature of the problem?
  • What is the nature of man?
  • What is sin?
  • What is salvation?
  • What is the ultimate destiny of life?
  • How do we solve the human problem?

For the Moslem, Mohammed is a prophet of God, for the Buddhist, Buddha is the path to Nirvana, and for the Hindu, Brahman is the invisible essence. But for the Christian Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of God but God himself.

2. ALL RELIGIONS CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER

As we study world’s religions we discover that they are not only different but that they are contradictory. World religions give a confusing view of life and reality. A leading historian, after studying the World’s religions to determine what they have in common came to the following conclusion: belief in God–if there is a God, and life is worth living–sometimes.

The question is that if all religions are from God why do they all disagree? Why is there so much confusion? I agree with G. Bailey, “If all religions lead to God, how is it most of them, having been given a thousand years at least, haven’t yet arrived?” To say all religions are the same is: Not logical, not factual, and not honest.

What is the evidence that all religions are one? How do we know all religions are one? What is the basis for this belief? I spoke to a lady who said she believed in all religions. So I asked her, “Do you believe the Christian message that Jesus is God?” She said, “no.” She actually rejects Christianity but gives the impression that she is broad-minded. There is nothing like comparative religion to make a person comparatively religious! To reconcile the basic teachings of Jesus with those of Buddha would require the skill of a magician.

3. ONLY ONE RELIGION CAN BE TRUE

How can all religions be one when they contradict each other? Religious relativism which accepts all religions as equally true commits intellectual suicide. Where all views are right the word “right” loses all possible meaning. “Right” has meaning only in the context of wrong (true and false, positive versus negative, yes and no). When everything is right nothing can be wrong. When nothing can be wrong, nothing is right.

Ultimately religious relativism leads to the death of all religions. When a religion cannot be tested or falsified nothing true can be affirmed about that religion. Hence statements like, “All religions are true” are empty phrases which have no logical or empirical basis. One cannot hold to this view and be a serious thinker.

In a country of many religions we must respect the rights and the freedom of others to hold their view. Tolerance is a virtue which we must prize highly, but we must not, in the name of tolerance, compromise the truth by regarding all views as equally true. A world where two opposing or contradictory views are right is cosmic madness. Honesty and respect must dominate our search for truth but unity must never be achieved at the expense of truth. Truth would often require that we agree to disagree but one should always do so in love.

If all religions contradict one another there can be only two logical choices: either all of them are false, or only one of them can be true. The French philosopher Pascal was right: “I see a number of religions in conflict, and therefore all false, except one.”

WHY CHRISTIANITY?

Christianity is different from all other religions. There is no faith like the Christian faith. Billy Graham says it rightly, “There are many religions in the world, but only one Christianity, for only Christianity has a God who gave Himself for mankind. World religions attempt to reach up to God; Christianity Is God reaching down to man.” In world religions we have man’s answer to man’s problems but in Christianity we have God’s answer to man’s problems. Christianity is the story of the God who searches for man.

C.S. Lewis, the former atheist, expresses my conviction, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” Religion is man’s search for God; man’s effort to find God, Christianity is God’s solution to man’s dilemma. In religion man asks the questions but in Christianity man finds the answers.

Christianity says man is sick. Man has a problem–look around–look at the hatred, prejudice, murder, injustice, cruelty, greed, selfishness, envy. What will change human nature? Not education and not moral teaching but only the power of God. There is only one cure for the world’s sickness and that is the Gospel which is really God’s medicine for a sick world.

1. REMARKABLY UNIQUE?

What is so remarkable about the Christian faith? Why believe the Christian faith? What Is so special about it? Hinduism has the techniques of Yoga, Buddhism has the Eight-fold Path, Islam has the Five Pillars, Judaism has the Torah but Christianity offers a resurrected Saviour.

Christianity is remarkably different from all other religions. Take Buddha out of Buddhism and we will still have Buddhism; take Krishna out of Hinduism and we will still have Hinduism; take Mohammed out of Islam and we will still have Islam; take Confucius out of Confucianism and we will still have Confucianism, but take Christ out of Christianity and we will eliminate Christianity.

Christianity is not a system of ideas or speculations of a certain philosophy or a principle of ethics, but Christianity is a focus on a Person. The good news is that God has personally come to visit us in the unique historical space-time event of Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 & 14 NIV)

I will never forget the occasion when I was asked to speak at the University of Calgary with James Erwin, the American astronaut who walked on the moon. The most moving statement he shared on that occasion was that, “The greatest event in history was not when man walked on the moon but when God walked on this earth.” That is the greatest event!

Christianity is not essentially a religion about God but a relationship with God. What we need is not just religion but reality. In all other religions the leaders pointed a way to God but Jesus pointed to Himself as God.

2. RELIABLY TRUE?

There is much evidence for the Christian faith. But the greatest evidence is the resurrection of Christ. There are three major facts which prove the resurrection:

A. The Empty Tomb

(i) The Jews never denied it.

(ii) The Roman guards saw it.

(iii) Six of Jesus disciples saw it.

(iv) Peter proclaimed it to 3000 people who could have refuted it.

According to D.H.Van Daalen, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” There are many reputable scholars who accept that the tomb was empty.

B. The Appearances of Christ

The facts demonstrate that on several occasions different individuals and groups saw Jesus alive after His death. He was seen not only by believers but also by sceptics, unbelievers and even His enemies. On one occasion He was seen by more than 500 people.

C. The Origin of the Christian Faith

The origin of the church proves the resurrection. What gave birth to the church? How did the church come about? Why did the church come into being? All the scholars agree that Christianity came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

Professor Moule of Cambridge University says, “The origin of Christianity must remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the resurrection.” If the resurrection is true then we don’t have to speculate on the meaning of life. We have something concrete on which to base our trust and hope.

3. RELEVANT FOR ME?

Is the Christian faith relevant to me? How relevant is it in the context of my 21st Century lifestyle and existence? How does Christ handle the great questions of life here and now?

If Christianity is true then it must be relevant. Christ answers the question of history; He offers a solution to the problem of sin; He removes the burden of guilt; He releases us from the fear of death; He changes despair into hope and He provides power to live a victorious life with God.

Confucius saw the evil of life and said, “Duty!” Buddha saw the misery of man and said, “Meditate!” Mohammed saw the cruelty of life and said, “Fatalism!” Krishna saw the suffering of life and said, “Karma!” Jesus saw the agony of life and said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Christianity is not a set of views, not a system of ideas but a change of heart. It is a vital and dynamic relationship with a living Christ. As disciples of Christ we can affirm that without Christ we cannot live and with Him we cannot die.

by Steve Kumar

An Eastern sage once said that he could write the biography of’ a Westerner in three words, “Hurry, worry and bury.” In our rush for successful living we often fill victim to tension and stress. In our crisis nothing sells better than a recipe for relaxation. In TV, sports, business and even in education yoga is promoted as a panacea for stress, health, success and peace. It is attractively packaged as an exercise for the body and cleverly presented as a science of the mind. The sales person for yoga tells us it has nothing to do with religion. What is the real truth?

The verdict of Professor Ruth Tucker, a leading authority on contemporary religious, should be noted, “The true religious nature of yoga is frequently disguised in the West, and individuals frequently practice the exercises without, they claim, becoming involved in the actual religion. But the two are deeply entwined and ought to be viewed in that light,” (Another Gospel, p. 386). Another authority, Professor Irving Hexham of Calgary University, in answer to the question “is yoga truly a religion?” declares that people who practice yoga, “gradually and imperceptibly begin to accept other concepts which involve definite religious convictions.” He argues that, “despite claims to the contrary . . . yoga cannot be practised in isolation from other Indian beliefs. The whole concept of yoga is based upon a carefully worked out theory of beliefs about the human condition. The terminology used to explain the practice itself involves acceptance of presuppositions with religious origins,” (Update, Sept. 1986, p.6). US. District Judge H. Curtis Meanor declared the practice of T. M. yoga “is religious in nature.” There are five reasons that one could propose to establish the religious nature of yoga.

 REASONS WHY YOGA IS RELIGIOUS

1. The Origin of Yoga

The origin of yoga goes back to Hinduism. It is the outworking of Hindu religious metaphysics. In other words the Hindu perception of reality gave birth to the techniques of yoga. This notion is irrefutable as virtually all respectable scholars disciplined in the field would agree.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica states, “Yoga assumes the existence of God, who is the model for the aspiration to spiritual release.” (Vol. 12., p.846). Mary Ann Lind in her book, From Nirvana to the New Age insists, “Ask any Hindu living in a village in India and he will tell you that yoga is a very intrinsical part of his ancient religion.” (P. 74). She correctly points Out, “When we trace the origins of yoga, our search takes us to the ancient Hindu sacred text, especially to the Bhagavad Gita, in which the Hindu hero god, Lord Krishna, introduces yoga as a pathway to heaven,” (p.75). T. George Harris, editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, insists, “All the Eastern exercises grew out of religious roots, and all are designed to evoke specific religious experiences. The word yoga literally means yoked with God. ” (Dec. 1975).

2. The Meaning of Yoga

The very meaning of yoga confirms its religious element. The word (Sanskrit) yoga literally means “yoking” or “union.” The question is “union with what.” The consensus view is union with Brahman; the individual (Purusa) soul must unite with the cosmic being. According to Hindu scholars yoga is designed to reverse the process of evolution and get back- to the original cosmic stage. Since the mind dominates the body and causes the soul to experience pain and pleasure the mind must be mastered and emptied in order to reach its original stage. It is a method by which one brings self-redemption or self salvation. It would be meaningless to talk about union with nothing. According to Hinduism the answers to our problems and suffering, are found in yoga. It is the key to humanity’s liberation. In the practice of yoga, as professor Arindam Chakrabarti of University Delhi affirms, “A self can get back to its pure essence and stop suffering,” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, p.355). Hindu thinkers have always understood yoga as the uniting of the individual with the cosmic force. The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states, “The object of yoga is to isolate this eternal element (the soul) and to free it from implication in the material world” (Vol. 8, p.358). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, explains, “Yoga is the discipline or yoke necessary for the pure subject to recognize itself, and separate itself from the empirical reality with which it is confused”

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary declares that yoga is, “A Hindu theistic(God) philosophy teaching the suppression of all activities of body, mind and will in order that the self may realise its distinction from them and attain liberation.” The Encyclopaedic Edition of Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary confirms that yoga is, “A Hindu system of mystical and ascetic philosophy which involves withdrawal from the world and abstract meditation on any object, as the Supreme Spirit with the purpose of identifying one’s consciousness with the object.”

3. The Practice of Yoga

When one practices yoga one is engaged in performing a religious ritual and activity that has its origin in Hinduism and is an essential practice of the religion. The Hindu text says, “Disciplined action, study of the self, and Surrender to the Lord, constitute the practice of yoga” (Yoga Sutra 11.1). Bruce Nicholls confirms, “Yoga has come to be universally practised by the religious sects of Hinduism, however much the metaphysical interpretations may vary” (p.148). The yoga physical postures (Asana) are specifically developed to control consciousness. It is meaningless to deny that an activity is nonreligious when its origin and practice are intrinsically Hindu. Redefining something and calling it nonreligious does not deny its essential nature. A rose with another name is still a rose. Yoga is central to Hinduism, without yoga Hinduism has no meaning. Trying to isolate yoga from Hinduism is like attempting to isolate fish from water. They are mutually dependent. You cannot have one without the other.

William Watson, author of A Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions, states, “The practice of yoga, with its various postures and exercise, leads man to self liberation and god-realization,” (p.259). Ronald L. Carlson in his book, Transcendental Meditation: Relaxation or Religion, points out, “Yoga’s practical motive is to attain salvation or liberation through disciplined activity,” (p.41).

A leading authority in Hindu philosophy, Sarvaepalli Radhakrishum in his work, A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, confirms, “The special feature of yoga system is its practical discipline, by which the suppression of mental states is brought about through the practice of spiritual exercises” (p.453). Dr. Ruth Tucker, a research specialist on contemporary religions, points out, “Yoga is a Hindu system of mental and physical exercises, the goal of which is to separate the soul from the body and mind in order to release the soul from the endless cycle of reincarnation” (Another Gospel, p. 385).

Yoga is a central part of many pseudo-religious groups including Divine Light Mission, Hare Krishnas, Transcendental Meditation, Sri Chimnoy, Sathya Sai Baba, Theosophy, and Eckankar. Hindu gurus have long insisted the discipline of yoga is religious both in purpose and practice,

4. The Consensus of Scholars

Virtually all scholars who have specialised in the study of yoga unanimously agree that yoga is a spiritual activity. Even to attempt to justify the above assumption is as futile as trying to inform mode mind that our world is global. One only has to read standard texts on religion and encyclopaedias to see the truth. Hindu teachers, priests and philosophers including Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekenanda, Gandhi, Aurobino Ghose, Sai Baba, Bhagwan Rajneesk all agree on the religious nature of yoga. Even the most popular work The Encyclopedia of Mind, Magic & Mysteries by Francis X. King admits, “Many, perhaps most, Westerners tend to think of yoga as no more than an unusual type of culture, characterized by strange postures and breathing exercises. In reality this physical yoga–hatha yoga is vastly more complex than is generally appreciated, there being a great deal more to it than its purely physical component” (p. 194). In his insightful book, The Spirit of Hinduism, Dr. David Barnett notes, “Hatha yoga was not developed to stand on its own, but as a preparation for Raja yoga” (p.203).

Why Yoga Should Be Rejected in Schools

Introducing yoga to our schools is a subtle means of introducing Hinduism. It is politically wrong to use taxpayers funds to promote a religious practice in the name of education. This is essentially proselytising which clearly violates the stated purpose of neutrality claimed by educationalists. We believe in freedom of religion in New Zealand and if religion is to be kept away from schools then Hinduism should not be promoted in the name of creativity, arts, drama or even therapy in the fight of overwhelming evidence that yoga is religious. To promote it in schools is to impose Eastern religious systems and beliefs on our youth.

Yoga advocates must not ignore the warning of Julio Ruibal, a former yoga master and guru; his experience is most revealing. He states, “I became the youngest guru in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most advanced and powerful. Twice a week I taught yoga on television. Hatha Yoga sounds like a nice simple set of exercises; everyone thinks it is just gymnastics. I want to warn that it is just the beginning of a devilish trap. After I became an instructor in Hatha Yoga, my guru showed me that the only thing these exercises do is open your appetite for the occult. They are like marijuana; they usually lead you on to a drug that is worse and stronger, binding you so completely” (A Mirage from the East, p. 8). Yoga teacher R.L. Hittleman admits that in yoga, health benefits are secondary and that he used the health angle to hook Westerners on the Eastern metaphysical view. (Guide to Yoga Meditation, pp. 9-14).

It does not take too much reflection to understand the devastating consequence of the practice of yoga in the son of India. As researcher Dave Hunt points out, “Hinduism has turned India, in spite of its vast natural resources and manpower, into one of the poorest and most suffering countries on earth.” (Peace, Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust, p. 82). A sensible mind must ask the crucial question, What is the fruit of yoga? The test of the fruit is in the roots. If the teaching and practice of yoga has been such a miserable failure in the East would it help us any better in the West.