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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Ivan Raj

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Ivan Raj


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Ivan Raj
TOPICS: Conversations, Yoga, Occultism

Official numbers suggest that yoga is practiced by tens of millions of Americans and then by millions more around the world. Its roots are in India, but in spite of that, yoga has been embraced even by Christians. My guest was born and raised in India and has done extensive study into the roots and the philosophy of yoga. His name is Ivan Raj. I'm John Bradshaw, and this is our conversation.


John Bradshaw: Ivan, great to see you again, thanks for being here.

Ivan Raj: Thank you so much for inviting me, pastor.

John Bradshaw: I am thrilled to be able to talk to somebody who's done a great amount of study and research into yoga and its roots and its meaning and its effectiveness and so on. We'll get to that in just a moment. Let's start talking about you for a minute. You're a Christian believer today. You weren't raised in this country or in any Western nation. You were raised in India.

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: So where you're from?

Ivan Raj: So I'm from Chennai. I was born and raised in Chennai.

John Bradshaw: Now, you gotta explain to us where Chennai is.

Ivan Raj: So Chennai is located in the southeast part of India. It is the capital of a state called Tamil Nadu.

John Bradshaw: All right, all right. All right, so you were born and raised in India. What was your religious background like? The overwhelming majority of Indians are Hindu, but in your case?

Ivan Raj: So I was raised in a Christian family. My mom's side, her parents were raised by Lutheran missionaries from Germany. So we've been Christians through like three, four generations. And so my mom was church hopping at that time looking for the truth. And then we discovered the Adventist faith in 1993.

John Bradshaw: Now, I'm interested... I don't even know that I've ever asked an Indian friend this: What's it like to be a Christian in India? Now, I know that might vary from place to place because in some places there's a lot of hostility towards Christians, but you are clearly the odd one out...

Ivan Raj: Mm.

John Bradshaw: ...as a Christian and not a Hindu in India. How does that play out in practical terms for someone growing up in India?

Ivan Raj: Generally, Christians are respected in India. There are pockets and places and certain places in India where Christianity is not "good" and Christians are not treated well, but for the most part, Christians are favored.

John Bradshaw: So did you attend a Christian school or public school?

Ivan Raj: I attended a Hindu school.

John Bradshaw: Oh, right. So explain that to me.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: So... Christians are respected, you were saying, so in the south there's tolerance towards Christians, but...

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...but still, how's that, being the, you know, maybe the only Christian in your class or in your friend group? Was that tense or difficult? Was it complicated? How was that?

Ivan Raj: Not really. There was no tension as such. There was no complications. I still have all my friends. I still communicate with them. Most of them are Hindus, and many of them are also Muslims as well. So generally, if we are nice to people, people nice to us. That's what I've noticed growing up in India. And especially Christians... the Hindus, they actually love Jesus Christ. They love Christ. They love the message of Christ, and they love that Christians don't involve in quarrels and discriminations and things like that. And so therefore, because in Hinduism, there's a lot of issues with regards to caste system...

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Ivan Raj: ...discrimination based on that, whereas in Christianity, all of us are made in the image of God. So that actually helps to win favors with Hindus, yeah.

John Bradshaw: Let's talk about the caste system for a minute. I want you to explain that to me. And what I found really interesting, I read an in-depth article recently talking about how the caste system can follow Indians around the world.

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: People working in Silicon Valley...

Ivan Raj: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: ...when it is discovered that you are from a certain caste, it's over.

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You will never get promoted. I'm saying, in certain places, this is not accepted, but it's deeply ingrained. Talk about what that caste system is, how it works back home in India.

Ivan Raj: Sure, so caste system, basically there are three main deities in Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. So according to Hinduism, the priest class, skin color also is like light skin; they came out of the Brahma's forehead. And then the warrior class and the kings and the queens, they came out of his chest. So the people who do the labor work, such as, let's say, cleaning the toilets, a cobbler, or a hairstylist, these people came out of the feet of that particular god.

John Bradshaw: Mm. And that means that they are bound to be in that strata...

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...in perpetuity.

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: So the person from the caste, the lower caste, can become a doctor?

Ivan Raj: They can become a doctor, but still, even till today, people look down upon such people.

John Bradshaw: Oh, so even a doctor from a lower caste is looked down on?

Ivan Raj: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: So what you're saying, though, even if you're born in a low caste, there is upward mobility? It's possible?

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: But difficult, right?

Ivan Raj: Difficult, yes, difficult.

John Bradshaw: Because you're discriminated against.

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You apply for a job; you are from a certain caste.

Ivan Raj: Yes.

John Bradshaw: You are not getting the job?

Ivan Raj: Yes, yes. Exactly. Because in the application form they will ask, what is your caste?

John Bradshaw: Oh, they ask that?

Ivan Raj: They will ask. Yes, yes, yes.

John Bradshaw: You know, in the United States we would not be able to, allowed to ask that question.

Ivan Raj: Yeah. But in India they ask that question.

John Bradshaw: That's a brutal system.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: I mean, it just strikes me as really interesting that something so patently racist and discriminatory...

Ivan Raj: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...can exist in such a large democratic country.

Ivan Raj: Yeah, yeah.

John Bradshaw: And it's tolerated. I mean, the rest of the... no one from around the world sanctions India because they discriminate against people at the bottom of the...

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...bottom rung of the ladder.

Ivan Raj: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: I'm not saying they should. It's just a...

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...a fascinating dynamic. But anyway, you came to the United States as a young man, as a teenager?

Ivan Raj: No, around a decade ago I worked for an IT company. I used to work in Santa Clara in California.

John Bradshaw: Uh-huh.

Ivan Raj: And then I moved to the East Coast, and God opened up the opportunity for me to work at a Jewish place into sales and marketing.

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Ivan Raj: So that's where I actually developed a personal relationship with Christ in New York City.

John Bradshaw: I don't know that too many people can say that. Okay, I say that flippantly.

Ivan Raj: Sure.

John Bradshaw: So you're working in IT.

Ivan Raj: Mm.

John Bradshaw: Now you're fully involved and immersed in working in Christian ministry.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: My guess is that IT pays better than Christian ministry.

Ivan Raj: Absolutely.

John Bradshaw: So, tell me about how that transition came about and how you were able to make that decision to change your lifestyle, your income, and go all in with God. How did it happen?

Ivan Raj: Wow, okay. So in New York City, there were a lot of challenges, financial challenges as well. Nonetheless, before I quit my IT job, I was a nominal Christian. And after my mom passed away, I realized that I needed someone in my life to guide me. And I obviously, I did not find any human at that time. So I did some research on other religions, on Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. And I found that Bible made perfect sense. And every angle I tested it, it made perfect sense.

John Bradshaw: It's interesting to me that a Christian from India would study Hinduism. You were studying to see whether that's where the truth and the light was?

Ivan Raj: Yep, yeah.

John Bradshaw: And you found... what convinced you about the Bible?

Ivan Raj: Because when I read the text in the Bible, I felt like, I felt the presence of God, like special to me. When you read other religious books, it was a story; you're reading a story.

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Ivan Raj: And also they were really confusing as well.

John Bradshaw: Mm. And then you dived into Christian ministry. How did that opportunity come? And what sort of courage did it take to take that step?

Ivan Raj: Sure, sure. So I came across this text in Isaiah where God asked Isaiah, "Who will go for us"?

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Ivan Raj: And Isaiah said, "Here am I. Send me". So I felt like I should say the same answer. I felt like God is asking me the question, "Who will go for us"? So I signed up. When I signed up, I resigned from my IT job.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Ivan Raj: And... then different turn of events: I felt impressed to start a carob business.

John Bradshaw: Mm.

Ivan Raj: While I was... at that time, I was actually into sales, working for a Jewish place. I was the only Sabbath keeper. The owners were not Sabbath keepers.

John Bradshaw: Even though they were Jewish?

Ivan Raj: Yeah, they were not. So when I asked them for Sabbath off, like when I was being interviewed, I asked them, "I need Sabbath off. Can you grant it"? So the interviewer leaned to the front, and he said, "Are you Jewish"? I said, "No". "Why are you still so stuck on Shabbat"? And then he said, "Okay, I respect that. We respect that. We'll give you Sabbath off. But you should come to work on Sundays". I said, "Sure. I'll work on Sundays".

John Bradshaw: So carob business.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Explain what carob is. I mean, I know carob. I like carob.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Me and carob are old friends, but someone's going, "Did he say 'carob,' 'carrot' business"?

Ivan Raj: Carob.

John Bradshaw: Explain carob.

Ivan Raj: So after my stint at this Jewish place, this company, after that, God put in my heart... when I say God, I really felt very strongly to start a carob business, a carob truffle business. When I passed a chocolate store, it had beautiful chocolates, but there were not many people there. So that image stuck in my mind. And I thought, Okay, I have to start making carob truffles. But at that time I did not know how to make them, nor to cook anything at that time. So I sent a text to my friend, Heidi Tompkins, asking if she knows anybody who can make carob truffles. At that time, she was also looking for opportunities. And she was a Bible worker, and you know her well.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. Oh yeah.

Ivan Raj: And she replied, "Yes, me". So then we got together and God gave the business plan. When I fasted and prayed, God gave me the name and the logo, everything. So that's how it started as Heidi's Health Kitchen in 2014.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, fantastic, and now you have a... we've gotta talk to Heidi one of these days...

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: ...and ask her to tell what I think is a very exciting story. So, now you're immersed in Christian ministry.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Now, let's transition over to your latest project. I know you've been very active. You're based in New York City.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Health fairs, all sorts of outreach and working for the benefit of the communities in which you live and work. But recently you've made it your study to dig into yoga and its roots and its philosophy and its meaning.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Yoga today is very popular. And what's fascinating is it's become popular even among some Christians. Explain what yoga is just on the surface; we'll dig deeper. But on the surface, what is yoga?

Ivan Raj: Sure. Yoga is a Hindu ritual. The word "yoga" means "to marry, to connect, to unite, to combine, to become one with". That's what "yoga" means: to yoke with.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm. Now, most people thinking of yoga would say stretching and strange positions and maybe contortions with your arms and legs and hands outstretched and so forth. What is it about yoga, as you've studied it, that makes it attractive to Westerners? I'm not asking about Christians. That's my next question.

Ivan Raj: Sure.

John Bradshaw: Why has yoga attracted the attention of people in the West? It came from the East. Why has it taken off here?

Ivan Raj: Mm. So, quick answer: quick results actually. People do lose weight. People do get benefits, health-wise: mentally and physically... initially.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Ivan Raj: So what happens is when that person starts a yoga studio and teaches that, the students also get quick results. So that means the person makes quick money. It's a lot of money involved in this. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry now in the West.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Ivan Raj: So that is what the attraction is regarding yoga because it does help a person to get flexible.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. That's right. Let's talk about the benefits of yoga.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: Stretching?

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: I'm gonna suggest this. It's not just the physical movements that one does that...

Ivan Raj: Correct.

John Bradshaw: ...because to stretch and to be limber is gotta be good.

Ivan Raj: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: There's relaxation.

Ivan Raj: Yup.

John Bradshaw: There is clearing the mind.

Yes.

Even just the idea of taking the time to dedicate to yoga, you're squeezing other useless things out of your life. You're telling your whole life, "I do this. I'm health conscious. I'm oriented to do something for the good of myself". A lot of benefits, yes?

Mm-hmm.

Okay. So, on the surface, we would say benefit...on the, on the surface we would say benefits. Now, why do you think it's become attractive to Christians? Let's keep in mind: This is a Hindu practice. Why has it become... why have Christians cottoned on to this?

Yeah, because what some organizations have done is they have Christianized this Hindu ritual, and they have branded it as "Holy Yoga," "Christian Yoga," one. Number two is, instead of the chants, they say, "Read Psalms".

Yeah.

Say the, for example, Psalm 23 as you're stretching or recite or just share the certain stories, like incidents from Jonah. Talk about that as you're stretching with your kids. So the kids will learn Bible and also stretching at the same time. So...

Okay. Now, what I know is that before we are done, you are gonna tell me that Christianity and the activities of yoga are incompatible.

Correct.

I know you're gonna tell me that. But we're gonna talk about the why that's incompatible. And we may even come back to that a little later on. So it's taken off like wildfire.

Mm.

You'll see churches advertising, "Come here for yoga class". I've mentioned that yoga is Hindu. See, here's what I've seen in the news: Hindu leaders in India angry with the West...

Mm.

...saying, "Why are you taking our Hindu practice and calling it Western"?

Yes.

"Why are you taking our Hindu practice and calling it Christian"? One might want to call this cultural appropriation. Why do Hindu leaders, some of them... now, you have the current prime minister of India, who's a Hindu priest; he's very happy to spread the gospel of yoga, but we'll get back to that later. Why are some Hindus upset that the West is taking yoga and practicing yoga? Why would they be bothered?

Yeah, because first of all, in India, yoga was not big...at all. Only very few Hindu schools, like I studied in a Hindu school for some years, and I used to do yoga because I was taught yoga. So only very few Hindu schools were teaching yoga at that time. And they know, Indians...or Hindus noticed that, oh, these guys are making a lot of money off our ritual. So that's one. Number two is many people have modified the objective of yoga and commercialized it. So that also is not something that people like in India.

John Bradshaw: I think another reason they do this, Ivan, is because they know it's a religious practice.

[Ivan] Yes.

John Bradshaw: And "You are doing our religious practice for your own end without respect to the religion".

Correct, exactly.

I think one of the questions that everyone's asking is, "Well, can't you just do it and not do the religion part"? So I'm gonna ask you that. "So we're gonna do yoga. Come to my church basement. We'll do a bunch of yoga. Well, we're just stretching. We're just stretching. And we're having a happy time together".

Mm-hmm.

Well, where's the harm in that?

Sure. So yoga stretches are not just regular stretches. The stretch in yoga, each stretch has a meaning to it. So there's a, for example, there's a pose called warrior pose... warrior one, two, and three, okay? So in the warrior pose, the person stretches in certain angles. What they're doing is basically they're doing the act of beheading, which happens in Hindu mythology. That's one example.

Okay.

And also basically yoga is sun worship. So, the stretches have meaning, and the stretches have to be done in a certain sequence. You can't change the sequence. They have to be done in a certain sequential order, in order to play out the Hindu story or the Hindu mythology. Not only in Hinduism, if you take Islam, in Islam, also there is stretching.

Okay.

Physical expression of worship. So yoga stretching is a Hindu ritual. It is a physical expression of worship. You can never separate, you can never separate yoga from Hinduism. It's not possible.

Because yoga is Hinduism.

It is Hinduism.

Who says so, Ivan? Is that you saying so, or are there others who say that same thing?

There are people who say the same thing, that yoga cannot be...it is rooted in Hinduism.

What kind of people say this?

The gurus, the yoga gurus say that in India, Indian yoga gurus. Very popular gurus say that.

Okay. So yoga leaders will tell you, "You can't separate yoga and Hinduism".

You can't separate, yeah.

So, which means then that, whether they intend to or otherwise, you've got Christians practicing Eastern mysticism...

Yeah.

...what we would call Hindu worship. They may say what they want.

Yeah.

But ultimately that's what they're participating in.

Correct, correct.

Okay, okay. There's a lot to cover. We're just beginning; we're scratching the surface. I wanna talk to you about the philosophy of yoga.

Sure.

John Bradshaw: Where it came from, who were some of the figures involved in yoga at the earliest times. His name is Ivan Raj. I'm John Bradshaw. This is "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. And we will be back with more in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. My guest is Ivan Raj, who is the producer of a series called "Yoga Unboxed". What we're gonna discuss here, I think, is fairly in depth. But if you want real in depth, I would encourage you to watch what is now a five-part series with more parts being added. The intent is to stretch this out to a 17-part series on yoga. So you can watch or support the work of Ivan in this field by going to yogaunboxed.com. And when you get there, you'll know what to do. Ivan, let's talk about the philosophical underpinnings of yoga. Where did it come from? Who were the movers and shakers? How did it get started? How did it develop? Let's talk about that.

Sure. So, as I mentioned, "yoga" means "to unite". And so then we have to ask a question, unite with whom?

Exactly.

With what? So yoga is to unite with the source of yoga. Then we have to ask the question, who is the source of yoga?

That's right.

I mentioned there are three main deities in Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, right? So the word "Shi-va" means "that which is not," "that which is not"; "it's not," that's what they say. So they also say, "He's everywhere and nowhere at the same time". He's also called as "the universe". A lot of people in the west say, "The universe helped me. I move and talk to the universe".

Sure.

That is Shiva.

Mmm.

Most of the Shiva temples are built facing south all over the world. So the Shiva devotees have to worship Shiva facing the sides of the north.

Oh, how interesting.

Yeah, and he always...not always...in some of his forms, one of his forms actually, he has a serpent around his neck. And he carries a trident or pitchfork. And on it is a tablet, a drum.

Mm.

And to mesmerize a serpent, there's a pipe; the snake charmers use a pipe. So pipe and timbrel are part of his instruments. And he's also called in Sanskrit language, the ancient Indian language, as Ardhanareeswara, which means half male and half woman. So, androgynous.

Yeah.

He's also depicted as an androgynous god. And there are also images of him in a Nataraja form. He is the lord of the dance; he's the lord of acting; he's the lord of music, according to Hinduism.

So, make the connection here between Shiva and yoga.

Yeah. So when a person practices yoga, eventually their mind will be drawn towards Shiva. They'll connect with the universe, which is Shiva.

That's the point, huh?

That's the point of it, yes. And you become one, other person, practitioner becomes one with Shiva. When it happens, then the person loses their identity. The "I" is erased. Now, what I'm saying is not just from my mouth. All major yoga gurus teach that "I am not my body. I'm not my mind". So that means I don't know if I'm a male or a female. I don't know who I am anymore 'cause I'm one with the universe. I mix up with the universe, Shiva.

Now, if someone were to roll into a yoga-yoga class, not something that some dear lady at the local church is doing in the church basement...

Yeah.

...if you were to sign up for...real yoga, whatever that means, as real as it can be, the instructor would tell you, "Okay, the reason you are here is, what you are gonna experience is"...what would they tell you?

They will say that you will experience peace of mind after this, you'll be relaxed, and people will be relaxed.

Sure.

It does happen. But what happens is after they come out of the yoga studio, again their regular mindset comes back.

Sure.

So the person has to go back over and over and over to get that type of relaxation. And what happens is...so the frontal lobe is shut, gets shut eventually. So the person will say, "Come, you're going to get relaxation". And people will experience deep sleep, relaxed. The body will be very relaxed and calm. Those things will happen. So that's what people use as a pitch to invite attendees.

Philosophically, what's the intent? "I'm the yoga guru. You're my student. My intent from a philosophical or religious perspective, I'm to impart" what? Or what's the point of this?

Sure, two things: "Aham brahmasmi"..."I am God". Second: "I will not surely die".

Who says that?

That is the purpose of yoga.

Explain that because everybody walks into a yoga studio and knows they're gonna die. So what's that philosophy?

Yeah. So they teach reincarnation.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, sure.

So what they say is when a person keeps on doing this practice, eventually they will not be reincar... I'm sorry, they will not die. They will not surely die. They're gonna become divine. So the purpose of yoga is to extract the divinity that is within the human; at least that's what the teaching is.

Yeah. So that's the purpose of yoga...

Mm-hmm.

...to connect the human with the divine and to bring out the divine in you.

Yes.

You are God.

Yes. Yes.

Well, that's very interesting. But someone's screaming at the TV screen right now. They're saying, "But that's not what we do. That's not what we do at church. We don't do that". Why should anybody be bothered or care or object to the idea of a yoga class taking place at church?

Sure. Bible tells us "the author and finisher of our faith" is Jesus Christ. So who is the author of yoga? Not Jesus Christ. So if, as a Christian, I continue and pursue teaching or learning yoga, practicing yoga, that means I'm saying that Christ is not adequate for me.

But Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Lee or Mrs. Washington or somebody is saying, "But I'm not saying that. But I'm not saying that". They're doing it, but they're not saying it. Is that a legitimate approach?

No, no, because yoga, again, yoga stretches are rooted in...so there are six schools in Hindu philosophy.

Okay.

Out of the six schools, one school is called "Sankhya," which means "numbers". And it is a theory part. And the other one is yoga. It is the practical part of Sankhya, which is from Hinduism.

Okay, so what you're telling me is that yoga doesn't exist in a vacuum?

[Ivan] No, no.

It's the practical part of a certain philosophy.

Yes, yes, a Hindu philosophy.

John Bradshaw: Explain that.

Yeah. So, there are like magic... like how to make magic potions and how to make natural remedies. Those are all different philosophies in Hinduism, like Ayurveda, for example.

Sure.

Ayurveda is rooted in Hinduism. Martial arts is rooted in Hinduism.

Mm-hmm.

So anything that comes from the East is rooted in Hinduism from India. Anything that comes from the East, whether China, Japan, Korea, doesn't matter, they all...for example, if you take Reiki. Reiki...the founder of Reiki was a Japanese man, professor, I believe. And he was a Buddhist, and Buddha was Indian.

Yeah.

Buddhism is from India. So, all of these have roots in Hinduism, all the Eastern religions, and all of these religions have these two concepts: "You will not surely die. You are divine".

Yeah, I'm fascinated by this, that... look, it mystifies me that a Christian would wanna...

Mm-hmm.

I mean, I get it. You wanna get together with your girl friends or your boy friends, whatever they might be, with your friends...

Yeah.

...and stretch and have a happy time. And it's time to get together. I keep talking about the church basement, and that's all good, but this isn't Christian.

This is not.

Talk to me about some of the key figures in yoga over the years, what they stood for, what they taught.

Yeah, so the first man that actually brought yoga into the United States, his name was Swami Vivekananda. But actually before all of that, I also wanna mention about the serpent that is around the neck of Shiva.

Yeah.

So according to Hindu philosophy, the source of yoga is Shiva, but the main guru or the founder... also some people say father...some people say is the serpent. And the serpent, according to Hindu teachings, mythology, serpent took the form of a human being. And he wrote 195 aphorisms, means "wise sayings".

Mm-hmm.

So all of yoga will fit into that 195 wise sayings that supposedly this wise serpent wrote. And that is a foundation of all yoga practice. So if I'm a Christian and I'm reciting, let's say, Psalm 23 or Psalm 91, and I keep doing yoga stretches, then the stretches, I'm attributing it to serpent and the source, Shiva. But verbally, I'm just lip service; I'm just reciting the Bible texts. So it's a mingling of Christianity and Hinduism in one. So Christ doesn't want that to happen. Christ tells us to yoke with him, to unite with him.

As you were doing this study, and if you get to 17 parts, that means there's an enormous amount of information here. Was there something that surprised you along the way? You said this was mind blowing or unexpected as you studied about it.

Yeah. So according to Hinduism, the origins of yoga is actually found in the Bible, Genesis, chapter 3, verse 1-7.

According to Hinduism?

Yeah, in Hinduism, the mythology says that Shiva taught yoga to a woman. A woman was a first yoga student.

Oh interesting.

Yeah. And the teachings are, "You will not die. You will be like gods".

There's some very, very strong parallels, at least in the minds of the Hindus and the yoga practitioners.

Mm-hmm.

They are convinced this is worship. And this is inextricably linked with Hindu deities.

Yes.

There's no way around that.

There's no way around that. No way, no way. Also on a different note, yoga stretching, like the limbs, the way the postures are, the human body is not designed to do such things.

Sure.

So, I have friends who are fitness trainers, and they tell me that when people keep on practicing yoga and the yoga postures, eventually they're gonna have a lot of physical issues. And people do have physical issues first as they keep doing yoga postures.

Hmm. Yeah, very, very interesting, and I know there's a lot to learn, and I think this is a really very important subject because when Hinduism marches into the front door of the Christian church and sets up camp...

Yeah.

...I don't know that anybody could believe that that's benign...

[Ivan] Mm.

John Bradshaw: ...in any way. We'll cover this more in just a moment. With Ivan Raj, I'm John Bradshaw. We'll be back with more from our conversation in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "Conversations," brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is Ivan Raj. To see his work, his in-depth study on yoga, I would encourage you to visit yogaunboxed.com. You can watch the programs, you can support the work, and you get an education into yoga like you might not have even thought possible. Ivan, a few moments ago, we were talking about the key players in yoga, speaking about the origins of yoga, who delivered this to following generations. Tell me what you can about that.

[Ivan] Yes. So there was this gentleman named Swami Vivekananda, who was a guru in India. And he was invited by some American religious leaders. So he came from India to the US in late 1800s. And he was also part of this Freemasonry as well. And so he was the first promoter of yoga in the US. And after that, there were a couple of others also who came, but each person who came to the US were instructed by Shiva personally, to take yoga to the US.

John Bradshaw: Mm. Shiva, we're talking about a god, Shiva?

[Ivan] Yeah, he appeared in different forms to different Hindu gurus.

John Bradshaw: So why do you think it was important to Shiva or to the powers of darkness to have yoga intentionally brought to the United States?

[Ivan] So the way I look at it is we have eight laws of health established by God at creation. Hinduism in yoga, there are eight limbs of yoga.

John Bradshaw: Hmm.

[Ivan] So instead of a person in a Christian country subscribing to these eight laws of health, which God established, so there's another option that is given to people, and it is heavily funded, and people make a lot of money having a yoga studio or teaching yoga. So, one by one, each of these yoga gurus were brought or sent from India to the United States to teach yoga so that...and what they did was, these yoga gurus also wore crosses, a crucifix. So a Westerner: "Oh, look, he's wearing a crucifix. And he's talking about Jesus Christ". They did talk about Jesus Christ. They did write about Jesus Christ in their books. However, the Jesus mentioned in their books is not the Christ in the Bible.

John Bradshaw: What's the difference?

[Ivan] The difference is this Jesus that they talk about does not subscribe to the Ten Commandments.

John Bradshaw: Oh.

[Ivan] The Christ, as per the Bible, the Creator, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he told us that he has fulfilled the law, and he told us to keep his commandments. "If you love me, keep my commandments," right? So that doesn't exist with this Jesus.

John Bradshaw: Okay. So I'd expect that many people would be surprised to know... some might even dispute the claim; I don't know how, because Hindus make the claim themselves...

[Ivan] Yes.

John Bradshaw: ...surprised to know that yoga is a religious practice and is an expression of worship. Worship of who? And I'm saying this...I don't mean the, the underpinnings, but the yoga teachers or the theory would say this is worship of...who exactly?

[Ivan] Yeah. Shiva.

John Bradshaw: Of Shiva?

[Ivan] Shiva. So, there are certain Hindu writings which state that all of the gods are actually Shiva. Sun is Shiva. "Lucio," light, sun is also Shiva. So, people say sun salutation; it's a common term in the west these days, sun salutation. So a Westerner would not know that is actually sun worship. The actual words for sun salutation in Sanskrit is "surya namaskara". "Surya" means "sun"; "namaskara" means "worship". So...

John Bradshaw: Go ahead.

[Ivan] Yeah, but they, instead of saying "sun worship," they relabeled it, renamed it as "salutation so it'll be more palatable to the West.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

[Ivan] To the Christians.

John Bradshaw: It interests me that Westerners seem to be so vulnerable to Indian philosophies. For example, you go back to the '60s, and the Beatles made a pilgrimage to India...

[Ivan] Yeah. Yes.

...to talk to Hindu leaders. Why in the world India? There's a fascination with things Indian. I saw recently a fellow, an Indian American guy. I think he was from New York, a filmmaker who created his own bogus sect and set himself up as a guru to see if he could deceive people. And he deceived them like you wouldn't believe. People saying, "You have changed my life. I can't believe that I was able to meet you. You've done so much for me". And it was all a hoax.

Mm.

He wanted to make a film about it to demonstrate whether it was possible to do that. Why in the world are Westerners so vulnerable to Indian philosophies? What do you think that is? What's the attraction?

Yeah, so there are two angles to look at it. One is there are a lot of attractive things in India. First of all, it is very ancient country.

Yes, fascinating.

Fascinating, right? And the food is great.

The food is the best in the world. I tell everybody, "When we get to heaven, Indians will be in charge of food service". Nothing like it. And some of my other friends, we can bless the Thais and the Filipinos. They'll be, they may get called in to help. But...okay, so the food.

The food, and then the colors and the sarees...

So amazing! Until you've seen it...it's so colorful!

Yes.

So vibrant, very attractive.

Yeah. And then the different cultures that live in that land.

It's a diverse place.

Diverse place. So there's all of this history, architecture, culture, food, tradition, colors...

You mentioned the clothing. The sarees...beautiful.

Yeah.

It just looks so fantastic.

Yeah. So, in the middle of all this, there are their teachings, the philosophies. So it's like a sandwich. And the main component is sandwiched between the culture and the music and Bollywood and the elaborate wedding clothes and dresses and weddings themselves. So it is so attractive for anybody...to... listen to what these people say because they have so many attractions in their country. What are they saying? So that's one aspect. On the other angle, when truth is diluted, the human mind wants to hope for something else, look for hope elsewhere. So there are two angles. So on one end, truth is diluted. On the other hand, come here; we have so much attraction. So the person goes there, gravitates there.

You've identified something really important. People have a spiritual need...

Mmm.

...every person. And that spiritual need is gonna be satisfied somehow. And if somebody does not get to that woman or that man with Jesus, they're gonna find a "Jesus" for them.

Yes.

And that "Jesus" may be Hinduism or Buddhism or atheism or...Islam or yoga...

Yeah.

...or anything. They're gonna satisfy their needs somehow, aren't they?

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And going back to the Hindu gurus, they say, "Hey, the West, you guys came and took away all our gold. Now you're taking away our yoga".

It's interesting they would say that.

[Ivan] Yeah.

Yeah. That's interesting. Now, I don't know who remembers this, but it was done out in the open where Narendra Modi...at this time still the prime minister of India...

Yeah.

...promoted yoga to the United Nations.

Yes.

Now, that's fascinating. I don't remember the last time religions were promoted overtly out front or religious practices. What do you think is the significance of that?

So the significance, he is a big promoter of Hinduism. And so yoga is promoted. United Nations are also for children in schools these days, and colleges and anywhere, everywhere, there's yoga. Doctors prescribe yoga: "Go do yoga; it'll help you". So I would say the objective is to promote Hinduism, to promote Hinduism and say, "Look, we have these things. You guys have so many health problems. If you need a solution, come to us; we have this. And we are ancient people. There's an ancient lifestyle. So do it. It's gonna help you".

What health problems does yoga assist with? Maybe inflexibility but it is said to... or is there evidence that yoga is responsible for alleviating health problems?

There are statistics where people have stated and people have researched regarding the health issues a person will get when they keep doing yoga for a while.

Oh, you mean health issues?

[Ivan] Oh, sorry. Health issues.

Well, okay, let's get to that in a second. I'm asking, does yoga alleviate health problems?

Okay.

Does it fix anything? Is that documented?

Yes. So to some extent they have documented it, but it's not like outright, like completely scientific.

Okay.

They're branded under pseudoscience.

Yes, yes. Well, that's encouraging, at least. They've got that part right. So what you're saying is that, in some instances, yoga seems to be responsible for initiating health problems.

Many instances, actually, many instances, anybody who keeps doing yoga eventually will have body aches. Initially the body aches are like cured or healed, but as they keep doing it, it comes back. That is one. Second is people have digestion issues. Let's take Buddha, for example, meditation wise. Buddha died of loose stools after almost 40 years of meditation. And then there are other gurus also, very popular gurus. They all died of stomach problems or digestion issues, and they're all yogis.

Let me ask you about this because you mentioned meditation, and that's something I want to talk to you about. How is meditation linked, to connected with yoga? How significant a part of yoga is meditation?

So yoga has eight limbs or eight parts. One of the parts is called "asana," which is the posture.

Yeah.

And then meditation is one of the other limbs. So both are yoga. In the past, until around 500 years ago, yoga was just meditation, sitting in a corner or a place and just emptying your mind. So there's also certain postures during meditation, where the practitioner will close their eyes this way and the nostrils and the mouth and the ears. It's called "pratyahara". "Ahara," "aharam," "aharamu" means "food". "Pratyahara" means "disconnection of food for the senses".

Like fasting?

Fasting, all the senses are shut down so that the person doesn't feel anything around, and he's disconnected from this world.

Now, meditation's a very biblical concept. At least... let me clarify this.

Sure.

Meditation is spoken of in the Bible. There is a Christian form of meditation. There is a biblical form of meditation.

Yes.

But what about this Hindu yoga form of meditation?

Right.

What's that about?

Sure.

And is that comparable to biblical meditation?

Completely different. Eastern meditation is completely different from Bible meditation. Bible tells us to meditate upon God's law, upon God, right? Whereas the Hindu meditation says, "Empty your mind". Bible tells us, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus". This one, the Eastern meditation says, "No, empty your mind. Separate your mind from your thoughts; separate yourself from thoughts". So there's also breathing exercises in meditation where they say, "Just sit quietly or in a quiet place and focus on your inhalation and exhalation, inhalation and exhalation".

And the purpose of that is what?

They say then you'll be able to focus and achieve much more. That'll help your brain to be fine tuned to focus on your work. It'll help the kid if they're running around and being very bratty, so this is gonna help them, help the kid to calm down. And it will initially, it will initially, but as they keep doing it, it affects the brain negatively. It affects the digestive system. Eventually people also start having hallucinations... and become immoral.

Have you, as you've taught this, as you've shared what you've discovered about yoga, have you found there to be much pushback? And if you have, who has it come from?

Pushback? Generally, it's from Christians. Christians.

And what are they saying when they resist?

Because they say, "We are doing it. We are having benefits. Why do you want us to? You keep saying every"... they don't say, "You keep saying," but what they say is, "These Christians have no other work. They wanna say everything is not good. This is satanic. And somehow they're connecting yoga with plan of salvation. How is it possible? It is just a stretching exercise. How is that connected with plan of salvation"?

So run back through with me again...we talked about it, but it's been a few minutes. Establish again for us the Hinduness of yoga. And you mentioned it's connected to sun worship.

Yes.

And that is even... it affects the postures and the poses that people do.

[Ivan] Yes.

Recap that for me.

So, all the stretches of yoga are physical expression of worship. Let's, for example, if I do this, it's a physical expression of worship.

Sure.

And you can tell this person is a Catholic.

Yeah. Sign of the cross, sure.

Roman Catholic, right? So likewise, if I'm a Muslim, if I do this, it's a physical expression of worship to Allah.

Sure, sure, and I've been in mosques and seen people prostrate themselves on the ground.

Yes, yes.

I wouldn't see a Baptist do that. Or if I did that in a Pentec...well, if I did that in a Presbyterian church, people would say, "What you're doing is Muslim".

Yeah.

Whether they object or otherwise, they would recognize that is a Muslim thing.

Posture.

So what you're saying is...?

Mm-hmm. So there are nine postures in Islamic worship, and there's a sequence. So the Muslim does not change the sequence of the stretching when they do the "namaz". So it is nine different postures. They have a specific order. So it is a Islamic ritual, which also has health benefits. Okay, so likewise in Hinduism, there are like 300-plus million gods.

Yes.

So there's a lot of varieties of stretches. There's also a stretch called "fallen angel posture," where the person is trained to stretch and lift one leg...yeah, one leg up... and as though touching the feet of heaven, fallen angel posture. So all of these postures... are designed for Hinduism, to promote Hinduism, and eventually to marry, to yoke with Shiva.

So that's the point of yoga?

Yes. That's the path, yeah.

You enter into yoga.

Mm-hmm.

The idea of yoga is to connect you with the Hindu gods.

Yes. Yes, correct. I also wanna mention: We must stretch. Stretching is important.

Yes.

But regular stretching is completely different from yoga stretching. I notice that when I present in churches, at churches, people say, "How will I stretch, then? I need stretching". So people have completely confused or mixed up stretching with yoga stretching. So we all have to stretch. It is good for circulation. We have to stretch, but yoga stretching is completely different from a regular stretch.

The purposes of Hinduism... and of course I'm not criticizing our Hindu friends; we all have Hindu friends...but the purpose of Hinduism... Christianity? To surrender one's life to Jesus, to be filled with divinity, with God's presence, and be prepared for the second coming of Jesus, where you and the God of heaven are connected, God forgives you of your sins, and the Spirit of God inhabits you and prepares you for everlasting life. Hinduism, though...

No.

...what's the path there?

No. So the path, especially the path that is promoted now, for the most part, is that... I am...a being, and I connect with myself. So I don't have to yoke with a god. Even if I yoke with, for example, let's say, yoga, yoga is to yoke with Shiva. So when I yoke with Shiva, what it means is I am accepting Shiva's teachings. He's my master. And I become one with him, and I lose my identity, right? So in Hinduism, what they teach now is that you become one with the universe, and you just mix up with the universe, get mixed up, and you extinguish, your body gets extinguished, but your thoughts will come back in a different life.

That's very different to what the God of heaven offers people through faith in Jesus. Extremely different.

Yes. There's no confession of sins and pardon and...

Is there such a thing as sin?

No, because there are no laws, actually. There are no commandments. There are rituals. You have to do this. You have to do this. You have to do this. There's no commandments.

I can see why people would be attracted to this because there's no accountability before God.

Yeah.

And you can be saved by your works and in your sins, and that's the foundation for all false religions.

Yeah. And also when we take Buddhism, Buddhism teaches that Buddha is not your savior because there are no commandments in Buddhism. So Buddha has nothing to save you from.

Oh. No sin, no savior?

No, no, no, no. Just right thoughts and right actions. But they don't define exactly, then, what is wrong thought and wrong action. There's no definition for that.

Okay. So you grew up surrounded by Hindus.

[Ivan] Yeah.

You practiced yoga for some time as a kid in school; it was part of the curriculum.

Yeah.

You've come to faith in Jesus. You were raised a Christian, come to faith in Jesus. And you look at people practicing yoga, which you've studied extensively. What would your counsel be, your kind counsel be to somebody who is practicing yoga today, even in a Christian context?

Yeah.

How would you advise?

My kind counsel would be to seek the Lord for your health, because the author and the finisher of your faith is Jesus Christ. And he has all the solutions for your health issues, whether it is mental or physical issues. And if you do yoga, you're hurting Christ. If you do yoga, you will eventually be taken out of the plan of salvation... not that Christ will take you out, but you will drift away from Christ.

Because you have substituted Christ...

Yeah.

...with another god...

[Ivan] Yes.

...and chosen to serve and worship that other god.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

That's very interesting. I really appreciate your time. Hey, one other thing I wanted to ask you about is this. Several years ago, you had contact with some folks in the Middle East...

Yes.

...in a non-Christian country that we will not name... Arabic-speaking country.

Mm-hmm.

And they made some inquiries about Christianity. We only got about a minute and a half. So, the short story, we...

Sure, the short story...

...we got some It Is Written Bible studies to you in Arabic.

Yes. Yes.

What happened?

Sure. So I reached out to It Is Written asking for help. So It Is Written generously donated several It Is Written Bible Study Guides in Arabic and Farsi. And I shipped it to that particular country in the Middle East. And we did Bible studies that way. I don't know their languages, but I used Google Translator.

Oh yeah.

And out of that, two gentlemen got baptized.

John Bradshaw: Two were baptized?

Two baptized, yes.

Isn't that fantastic?

Yes.

In a Middle Eastern country that we would recognize is closed to the gospel.

Yes.

That's a great work you did... or God did through you.

God did.

I'm grateful that you made yourself available.

And thank you for your support as well in this ministry.

Of course. We appreciate you and what you're doing and very encouraged by what you're doing and teaching about yoga because this is Hinduism.

Yes.

The Bible says, "Come out from among them and be clean".

Yes. "Be separate," yeah.

"Be separate," yes.

Mm-hmm.

We have been counseled to, not to be involved in false worship, particularly Christians who believe in true worship. My, we don't wanna be mixing up with false worship. So I know this might be challenging for some people, eh? Because some folks hold these things very dear, but I'm sure you would agree it's always better to be faithful to Jesus...

Yes.

...and stand firmly on God's side.

Absolutely.

Ivan Raj, thank you. I wanna remind you: yogaunboxed.com. That's where you can go and find out much more and watch much more of Ivan's scholarship and research into the subject of yoga. I'm so glad you have joined this It Is Written presentation. He is Ivan Raj, I am John Bradshaw, and this has been our conversation.
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