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Our Natural State is to Believe in Eternity

3 Feb

In Philippians 1:21, the apostle Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

As Christians, we have no need to fear death. What we are, our soul, continues on for eternity with God. And we know that forever is true because it is part of our being. When God made us in His image, eternity was placed on our hearts (Ecc 3:11). To believe anything counter to this truth is to deny something our Creator has infused into us.

monksIt’s no surprise then that this recent study, shows that Tibetan monks, who spend years meditating and learning the teaching that the self is an illusion, are those who wind up being most afraid of death (by a significant margin). Without hope, fear takes over, and no matter how many times you tell yourself the lie, deep down, if God placed it on your heart, you’re going to know the truth.

Christ is the answer. He is our hope. Eternity is found only in Him.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Yogananda’s shoddy hermeneutics

12 Jul

Paramahansa Yogananda is the founder of SRF. (For a basic overview of the religion, see this post.) He was extremely impressed with Jesus and wrote a lengthy commentary on the Gospels. However, as is consistent with the teachings of SRF, his remarks on the Gospel stories are often reimaginations of the text in light of a modified HinduYogananda theology.

Below are just a few specific examples of Yogananda’s poor Scripture interpretations. In many instances, he offers a meaning of the verse without regard for any historical or contextual background. This results in a gross misrepresentation of the words of the text. The other major flaw in his interpretations is, as noted, rather than let the text say what it says and read out of the text, he approaches the text with a Hindu mindset and reads a Hindu worldview interpretation into his understanding of the text.[i]

Reference Biblical scholars interpretation Yogananda’s interpretation
Matt 10:32-33 Jesus points out the seriousness of not following Him. Accept Jesus as the Savior of the world, or reject Him. There is no option in between. Yogananda says this is a warning from Jesus that devotees will lose their “contact with Christ Consciousness, and be unable to advance” if they are materially minded or give in to temptations.[ii]
Matt 18:19-20 Unfortunately, many Christian laypersons misinterpret this passage as well. The statement about two or three agreeing is a Jewish legal one. God is with His people (in the sense of His presence) when they are alone just the same. This passage is about God confirming a decision made regarding church discipline (see whole paragraph for context). Yogananda suggests that Jesus meant that a weaker person reinforces a stronger one in meditation.

He also says, if two people have a “strong and continuous” concentration, any “good” wish will be fulfilled.[iii]

These interpretations are completely ignorant of the surrounding context.

Mark 2:10-12 Only Jesus has the power to forgive sins because He is God. He is the one who was sinned against. Yogananda says that what Jesus means when He says He can forgive sins is this:  People, by following what Jesus says, since he is a true teacher of wisdom, can be free of those sins (as opposed to trusting in Jesus as savior).
John 3:16 Jesus is the one-of-a-kind Son of God. He will make atonement for the sins of the world and man will have eternal life. See “Jesus” in comparison chart

Yogananda does not address “only begotten”(Greek monogenes, also translated one and only) other than to say like so many other phrases it means “Christ Consciousness” but there is just no linguistic or biblical support for this.

John 3:18 Not believing that Jesus is the one and only God-sent Son is self-condemnation. So man condemns himself by not believing in Jesus. “To think that the Lord condemns nonbelievers as sinners is incongruous. Since the Lord Himself dwells in all beings, condemnation would be utterly self-defeating.”[iv]

Yogananda is interpreting this passage in light of pantheism, but the God of the Bible is clearly separate from the creation, and frankly it is nonsensical to interpret the text otherwise. There are a plethora of passages that teach of the difference.

John 5:24-5:25 By trusting in Jesus as our Savior, we pass from death to life and are no longer subject to judgement for our sin. “Jesus meant, never that he was the sole Son of God, but that no man can attain the unqualified Absolute…until he has first manifested the ‘Son’ or activating the Christ Consciousness”[v]

As he often does, Yogananda takes another Christian term with a specific meaning and says it just means “Christ Consciousness.”

John 9:1-35 The disciples asked Jesus why the man was blind. They asked the question because Rabbis of the day generally believed that suffering was a result of sin. While Jesus acknowledged that suffering could be due to sin (John 5:14), He denied that it was always so (Luke 13:2-3a). In John 9:3, the man’s blindness was not the result of any previous actions and Jesus made that clear to the disciples “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.”

Jesus looked at it as an opportunity for Him to show God’s glory and make the larger point that evil is not always the result of sin, but it is allowed in order to move us toward God.

Jesus brought the man from darkness to light.

Yogananda says that Jesus is speaking of Karma here. He says, “Jesus meant that the man’s affliction was linked to hidden causes formulated in his past lives that brought him to his present condition.” He adds that Jesus healed the man because in this life he had worked up “sufficient good karma.”[vi]

Yogananda wants the reader to believe that when Jesus said “Neither this man nor his parents” that he actually meant it was a past life. If that were the case, why didn’t Jesus just say so? And why didn’t He say He healed the man because of his good works if it was karma?

John 14:6 The only way to salvation is through Jesus. “To ‘come to the Father’ every human consciousness has to expand and attain realization of the Cosmic Vibration first…Only those advanced disciples who attuned themselves with the Christ Consciousness by deep meditation could realize the presence of the Father. ”[vii]
John 18:3-6 Jesus declared not only that He is the man from Nazareth when He answered, “I am” but also that He is God Almighty. Jesus used the expression “I am” on a number of occasions. (The “he” part of the expression in the translation is not present in the Greek.) “I am” is in reference to Exodus 3:14 when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and said His name was “I am.” Note that the men fell to the ground when Jesus said this. Yogananda says that when Jesus said “I am” that he meant “I am the Christ Consciousness manifested in the body of Jesus which you want for persecution.”[viii]

Again, this is completely reading his theology into the text and ignoring the historical context of how the Hebrews understood the term.

[i] His comments on Jesus post Resurrection appearances are radically reinterpreted in light of Hinduism. However, due to the fact that they use many terms that Christians are unfamiliar with (gunas, the difference between astral and casual bodies, etc.), I have not included them in the chart. It would take a whole lesson in Hindu vocabulary to explain what he is saying. The essence of it can be gathered by a basic overview of Yogananda’s views listed in the comparison chart.

[ii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 790-791.

[iii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 938.

[iv] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 276.

[v] Yogananda (Quote of Sri Yukteswarji). The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1373.

[vi] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1005.

[vii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1373-4.

[viii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1448.

A comparison chart of Christianity to Self-Realization Fellowship

10 Jul

SelfRealizationFellowship

Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) is a religious organization that attempts to combine the teachings of Jesus with Hinduism into a unified spiritualism. It ultimately winds up a pantheistic worldview that takes the Bible completely out of context. The chart below offers a direct comparison of the orthodox beliefs of Christianity to the teachings of SRF. For an overview of SRF, see this post. And for some of the SRF founder’s beliefs about Jesus, see this post.

Topic Christianity Self-Realization Fellowship Additional Comments
Nature of God Monotheism.

There is one, and only one, Almighty God. God is a distinct infinite and personal being.

Pantheism – ultimately all is God.

“Self-realization is the knowing – in body, mind, and soul – that we are one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence; and that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.”[i]

“Pantheism by definition is the identification of the creation with the Creator. This is the essence of idolatry and is an abomination in the sight of the biblical God (Exod. 20:2–5; Rom. 1:18–25), who created the world out of nothing, not out of Himself, by the irresistible power of His Word (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6–9; 148:1–6; Heb. 11:3; Rom. 4:17).”[ii]
Nature of man Man is a distinct creation, made by God in His image. Every soul is a separate individual. Man is God and thus ultimately an illusion.

“God was infinite omniscient Bliss; but, being alone, there was no one but Him to enjoy that Bliss. So He said, ‘Let Me create a universe and divide Myself into many souls that they may play with Me in my unfolding drama.’ By His magical measuring power of maya He became dual: Spirit and Nature, man and woman, positive and negative…”[iii]

“God and man are one, and the separation is only apparent”[iv]

Man exalting himself, or thinking high of himself always leads him away from God (Gen 3:4-5; Is 47:8-10).

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“‘In the pride of your heart you say, ‘I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.’

But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.”” (Ezekiel 28:2)

Creation A material world that God created out of nothing. An illusion. “God’s entertainment”, “like a movie”[v] “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:5)
Why is man in a state of separation from God? Sin.

Man broke God’s moral law.

Man is ignorant of his true union he already has with God. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)
How is man restored? Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Man progresses to understanding the truth that all is God, including man. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Many, many verses in the Bible teach that man is distinct from God (see Nature of man).

What does man need to do? Trust Jesus as Savior. Observe certain practices, including kriya yoga, meditation and being a moral person, in order to progress to understanding. “Salvation” or reaching Brahman clearly involves works as part of the process. By contrast, in Christianity, works are a result of salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
Man’s purpose Love & glorify God To evolve into “God Consciousness.”

Man has 4 stages of growth (from traditional Hinduism): postulancy, novitiate, brahmacarya, and sannyas.

In SRF, personal identity is lost in a cosmic sea. Christians, however, do not lose our identity in accepting and following Christ. Rather our unique identity in His image is a gift from God. We will be united with Him in will and in purpose for eternity where we will love and glorify Him, but we will continue to be distinct individuals.
Meaning of “Christ” Anointed One, or Messiah The divine piece of man There is no historical basis for SRF’s view. They completely change the meaning of a Greek word.
Scriptures The Bible Selections from the Bible; the Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu scripture, Yogananda called “timeless and universal” and “all-encompassing in its expression of truth.”[vi]); and others. Bible references used by SRF and Yogananda are completely misrepresented – see this post for some examples.
Jesus The unique incarnation and only begotten Son of God. A Yogi “born in a mortal body, who evolved his consciousness to become one with God Himself.”[vii]

“It is a metaphysical error to speak of the historical person of Jesus as the only savior”[viii]

SRF believes Jesus is not the only person to achieve “Christ Consciousness” as adherents believe Paramahansa Yogananda also achieved it.

In contrast, the Bible says there is just “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim 2:5)

Death Christians are with Jesus forever upon death.
Non-believers are eternally separated from God.
Reincarnation until learning to be with God (as God).

“man reincarnates on earth until he has consciously regained his status as a son of God”[ix]

“people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Heb 9:27)

In addition to the links at the top, this link offers some other info.


[i] Paramahansa Yogananda (2004). The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, p. xxi.

[ii] http://www.equip.org/article/swami-yogananda-and-the-self-realization-fellowship/

[iii] Paramahansa Yogananda (1997). Journey into Self-Realization: Discovering the Gifts of the Soul. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 31–33.

[iv] Paramahansa Yogananda (1982). The Science of Religion. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 20–21.

[v] Yogananda. Journey into Self-Realization: Discovering the Gifts of the Soul, 31–33.

[vi] http://www.yogananda-srf.org/Hidden_Truths/The_Hidden_Truths_in_the_Bhagavad_Gita.aspx#.WQYeSca1vIV

[vii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 273.

[viii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 274.

[ix] Paramahansa Yogananda (1998). Autobiography of a Yogi. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 199.

Christianity and Self-Realization Fellowship

5 Jun

Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) is a religion that teaches a hybrid theology of Hinduism and Christianity, though it is significantly more Hindu than Christian. Followers believe that Jesus Christ and Paramahansa Yogananda (the founder of the SRF movement) are both “avatars” (divine incarnations) and see them both as Messiah type figures.

SRF2

SRF Temple in Encinitas, CA

Several of the teachings of Yogananda and the SRF are good. For example, they instruct that one should desire to overcome evil, to grow closer to God, to bring science and religion together, and to serve mankind. On the surface, these all seem to be good things. Who wouldn’t want to see evil defeated? Is not growing closer to God something we long for? And serving mankind is a noble cause for sure. These things are biblical teachings as well, and that’s what can make SRF appealing. However, the vast majority of SRF teachings are straight out of Hinduism, and they completely reject traditional Christian doctrine.

SRF claims to teach original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ, but it actually turns out to be a reinterpretation of the Scriptures (primarily the words of Jesus in the Gospels) in light of Hindu theology (see this comparison chart and this post on specific passages). After all, the history of the SRF movement lies in the response by adherents to Hinduism in India, who were losing believers to Christianity as Christian missionaries went throughout the country. The local leaders found a way to incorporate Jesus into their traditional religion.[i] So SRF ultimately winds up being a Hindu religion that uses Christian terms (such as soul, Christ and the Father), but strips those words of their biblical meaning, and redefines them with Hindu connotations.

The group’s founder, Yogananda, whom followers believe divine, died in 1952 at the age of 59.[ii] While some of his adherents have made claims that his body did not and is still not in a state of decay (a claim that would easily be falsified if they exhumed his body), there is one thing for certain: Yogananda’s body is still in his grave. Jesus is risen!

——-

The following are some good Scripture passages for a follower of Christ to keep in mind when thinking about the claims of SRF.

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” (Matt 24:4-5)

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt 24:23-25)

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” (Col 2:8-10)

“For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough… For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Cor 11:4,13-14)


[i] An excellent article which includes the history of SRF can be found at: http://www.equip.org/article/swami-yogananda-and-the-self-realization-fellowship/

[ii] As has been noted elsewhere, this happened to be several years below the average life expectancy for a male at that time.