Star Lord (Chris Pratt) whipped it out in Guardians of the Galaxy:
If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you´re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I´m the love that you´ve looked for, write to me, and escape
- Rupert Holmes, Escape, from Partners in Crime, 1979
From Guardians of the Galaxy, the song was in Star Lord’s Awesome Mix (Vol.1, Track 10), with over 15 million YouTube views. The iGens in my study group knew the song even though four decades old. Everyone calls it “the Pina Colada Song,” about a Personals Ad that snags an unlikely fish (an existing “partner” of some kind). Today the song begs a question – who is “not into yoga” with still “half a brain” anymore?
It is a silly song, not a serious critique of yoga. It is a glimpse of the seismic shift in American culture since eastern religions moved from fringe to mainstream. Today, the Pina Colada song would trigger considerable judgement in our Politically-Correct atmosphere for ridiculing yoga, which shows intolerance of Hinduism and Buddhism.
These critiques are meant for people who trust a biblical world view, since much of it is not problematic outside the Bible. Nor do these critiques necessarily apply to Christians involved in yoga as outreach, since we need not be afraid of entering seedy places for redemptive purposes. JC went to Matthew’s party of reprobates and was the hit of the party. But it would be naïve to ignore the spiritual atmosphere poisoning the haunts, hangouts and headquarters around us, where “you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).
From a biblical view, the concept of “Christian Yoga” is an oxymoron, since yoga was created to support unbiblical assumptions about the spiritual realm. Christians should be “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). If American pop music spotted the specious nature of yoga 40 years ago, Christians should still see the problems.
A brief, historical glimpse at the rise of yoga gives perspective on the strength of the spiritual effort underway to drag Americans into spiritual slavery through Eastern Mysticism. In today’s climate yoga looks like a simple trip to the gym simply because Eastern Mysticism is rampant, embracing yoga uncritically and irrationally.
The forces driving yoga popularity were not clever ad campaigns. Despite becoming a $6 billion annual money-maker, yoga grew by word-of-mouth, anecdotal evidence, Politically-Correct media coverage (embracing religious diversity), by champions in academia (including public schools), and very recently, uncritical praise for its medical and psychological benefits.
National Geographic, for example, reporting on “The Science of Addiction,” devoted considerable space to a psychiatrist, “a student of Buddhist psychology,” claiming, “the best hope for treating addiction lies in melding modern science and ancient contemplative practice.” Straightaway it begs the question – why is a science article advocating “ancient contemplative practice”? The article briefly explained, “In Buddhist philosophy, craving is viewed as the root of all suffering,” and other teachings from “The Buddha.” The psychiatrist was “an evangelist for mindfulness, which uses meditation and other techniques to bring awareness to what we’re doing and feeling, especially to habits that drive self-defeating behavior.” Oddly, the article began with a pronouncement by the surgeon general and neuroscientists that “addiction is a disease, not a moral failing,” but ended with The Buddha’s pronouncement that “craving is…the root of all suffering,” which is a moral failure in Buddhism! Addiction to cravings is punished by karmic law through reincarnation, The Buddha taught. The article says, in effect, “addiction is…not a moral failing,” but also a moral failing! Such doublespeak and doublethink is typical in Eastern Mysticism. (See “The Addicted Brain”, National Geographic 9/2017.)
Both yoga and the new “mindfulness” craze are two sides of the same coin, both adorned with fantastic claims and widespread recognition. These eastern practices are not scientific disciplines, yet praised in “The Science of Addiction” because Americans today are so enamored with them, they receive kind treatment by scientists and academics. Does anyone care if biblical faith is far more effective at treating addictions than Buddhism?
New Age zealots crawling around the Sedona, Arizona desert looking for crystals, practicing yoga with magical chants, were – in a word – unattractive. Such was the world of yoga when the Pina Colada song appeared in ’79. Yoga and Eastern religions were fruity curiosities in mainstream America, embraced by LSD-crazed hippies, commune dropouts and “tree-huggers” – and some oddball, California nuts like Steve Jobs.
The Beatles famously tried adopting a Hindu lifestyle, which failed after a few months, but other counterculture heroes kept pushing the cause. Still, the eastern invasion was just a darling in elite and fringe circles, until “a great disturbance in the Force” put hippies and eastern-friendly Boomers in charge of running the country. George Lucas evangelized “The Force” from the Big Screen, while Postmodernists merged atheist relativism with a few ancient, eastern ideas fit for American consumption. The coolness of reincarnation and karma, the piece of “god” in everyone and everything, and especially the absurd (blasphemous!) idea that anyone can know much about the Supreme Unknown (as “It” is described in the East) swirl around in the American imagination, with variations.
The Beatles stayed with the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for a few months, until
The mish-mash of Boomer beliefs are jumbled, but one, universal, eastern pillar strengthened the adoption of American yoga – denial that critical (logical) thought can grasp spiritual reality or anything meaningful. This pillar is axiomatic in American thought today, hurling faith against science and reason. Yoga is fueled by America’s quest for experience beyond the confines of reason, so the God of the Bible – the Creator of human reason – grows more irrelevant.
Dichotomizing faith and reason is an eastern concept, not a biblical one. God specifically says, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18), which undermines Postmodern faith in feelings and experience. As Americans keep turning away from God-given reason to embrace irrational experiences, they are left wandering in dark, spiritual places where nonsense makes perfect sense.
The Rise of Eastern Intuition
Eastern mystics rely on spiritual intuition to grasp true reality, since the Supreme Unknown must be encountered, not grasped cognitively or logically. It is a subjective knowledge they call intuitive. Encountering this non-rational reality brings spiritual enlightenment in Eastern Mysticism. “Buddha” means “Enlightened One” and Buddhists follow the spiritual path undertaken by Siddhartha, who became The Buddha. The goal is to gain enlightenment deep within, beyond interference from cognitive thought, beyond conscious awareness, so this approach is called Eastern Intuition.
Translated in crass, American terms, Eastern Intuition means “follow your feelings” and “search your heart of hearts.” It is highly-compatible with older American platitudes, like “To thine own self be true,” by Ralph Waldo Emmerson, who was enamored with Eastern Intuition back in the 1800s, and one of the first zealots to bring Eastern Mysticism into American thought. Eastern Intuition finally swamped America with personal, subjective truth (“My Truth”) as the final, spiritual truth for each person.
Postmodernism, Hinduism and Buddhism are very different ideologies, but the abandonment of logical-cognitive awareness in favor of an internal and experiential quest for truth spans all three ideologies. Irrational contradictions make sense, in a way, with Eastern Intuition. More precisely, irrationality is necessary and good, since the Supreme Unknown cannot be defined by reason. Faith and reason are dichotomies.
“Imagine the sound of one hand clapping,” is a famous concept from Zen Buddhism and Taoism (or “Daoism” – a Buddhist-friendly Chinese philosophy). Accepting such a premise makes it easier to grasp Eastern Intuition. Like “the sound of one-hand clapping,” Eastern Intuition is full of doublespeak.
American Postmodernism is full of doublespeak, like “absolutely no absolutes,” or “nobody can know anything certain about God” (except this certainty). Irrational maxims like “all gods are the same god” are confidently pronounced in “tolerance education” classes at KSU, now required for incoming freshmen. Christians who argue against the irrational nature of Postmodernism fail to understand how useless it is to point out the irrational nature of Postmodern beliefs. If someone thinks faith and reason are incompatible, reason is useless.
Like Eastern Intuition, Yoga spans Hinduism, Buddhism and Postmodernism. Yoga is the practical expression of Eastern Intuition – a conduit to spiritual enlightenment, eastern style. The acceptance of Eastern Intuition by Americans gave yoga another chance after its abysmal, weird introduction. By itself, Eastern Intuition is boring and complicated, but Postmodernism is torturously boring and negative, in search of a spiritual experience. Nobody gathers in Postmodern societies or clubs simply because it would be excruciating to hear endless diatribes against what doesn’t exist – no Absolute Truth, no One God, no Real World, and so forth. Eastern Intuition also preaches against what doesn’t exist, which includes everything we see, taste, touch, smell or know anything about. All of it is an illusion.
The quest for spiritual experience is a strong, human need. Both yoga and mindfulness provide metaphysical experiences, derived from irrational Eastern Intuition. They were created by the religions of Eastern Intuition, and by necessity these practices are laced with the spirituality of Eastern Mysticism. It is the contemplative techniques of yoga and transcendentalism that give Eastern Mysticism its name and any substance.
It is not surprising National Geographic claimed that “Buddhist psychiatry” and “ancient contemplative techniques” are effectively breaking down unhealthy addictions. Humans need to find a spiritual dimension to a meaningless life, or find temporary relief through unhealthy addictions, or stay highly distracted and busy – but how long can anyone ignore innate, spiritual need? Yoga is gaining acceptance because it offers spiritual fulfillment to a culture drowning in materialism and swirling with irrational, boring spiritual convictions. Along the way, Yoga is getting attention from medical research for its metaphysical effects, even though the effects are a counterfeit of authentic spirituality found in the Bible.
Is it true that Eastern Intuition and yoga are spiritual counterfeits, or is it just eastern-phobic rhetoric? Their counterfeit nature is objectively verifiable in every assertion they make, but the revelation of God’s Word is required to spot it easily. Like a well-crafted counterfeit bill, the defects in yoga-mindfulness are subtle.
Before opening up more evidence, consider the many counterfeits and difficulty spotting them in the National Geographic article (above). The Buddha taught that “craving is the source of suffering,” which is false not only according to the Bible, but false in natural life – most guys (should) admit sexual intercourse always begins with “craving”. Does that make sex “the source of suffering” in a healthy marriage? Far from it! Rather, sexual “craving” is the essential source of baby-making! The first few pages of God’s Word also rejects this defective view of sexual desire, where God wrapped up a glorious present for Adam, called Eve. Then National Geographic, along with the author and scientists reviewing the article, missed the glaring inconsistency of endorsing Buddhism at the expense of the article’s primary thesis (that “addiction is not a moral failure”). Even more insidiously, the “student of Buddhist psychiatry” downplayed The Buddha’s teachings to fit the article’s theme on addiction. Buddhism does not simply renounce the “craving” of addiction, but more precisely, “the source of all suffering is desire,” which is far more extreme. The editors should have caught the glaring downplay. Buddhism actually practices extreme asceticism to suppress all desire, facilitated by “ancient contemplative techniques” like yoga. Ascetic suppression is not advertised to Americans, for obvious reasons. Steve Jobs embraced reincarnation from Buddhism, but lived in luxurious American comfort, denying the bulk of Buddhist teachings.
Such are the tangled, convoluted, subtle ways of spiritual counterfeits. Eastern Intuition and its practices were refined over millennia for wider adoption. Culturally-contained Hinduism, which cannot expand beyond India’s borders, was refined into Buddhism. For American consumption, the refinements continue. Especially in the new era of contentious confusion, Christians need to be “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” resisting mindless conformity (Rom.12:2; 1 John 2:15; James 4:4), despite the cultural hype behind yoga.
The next installment will list more practical, more significant reasons why yoga clashes with biblical faith.
- The Myth of Christian Yoga
- Romans 1:1-7 Notes / Study Questions