In August of 2009 Newsweek magazine published an article entitled “We Are All Hindus Now.” It pointed out that many of the beliefs of an eastern worldview are now popular in our country. For example, most Americans believe that the various world religions are simply different paths to God, and that all religions are basically the same. This is a perspective that is common in the East, but a latecomer to what has been traditionally a Judeo-Christian culture. Even though most Americans self-identify as “Christians,” the reality is we are more and more Eastern in our worldview.
This is disturbing, but it is not surprising. There has been an intentional effort to transform our society for quite some time. The beginnings of this movement go back many years. In 1895 Swami Vivekenanda, while visiting America, expressed his desire that there would be an army of Hindu gurus and swamis spreading Hinduism in the West. He said, “What I now want is a band of fiery missionaries.” It took a while for this to happen, but it has indeed happened. It largely began with the Beat generation of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Alan Watts and Jack Kerouac made Zen Buddhism a known entity in the West. The movement grew through the counter-cultural revolution of the 60’s and 70’s. Many in the Hippie subculture were very involved in Eastern mysticism. Rock groups, such as the Beatles, helped popularize Transcendental Meditation and the Hare Krishna cult. Eastern spiritual leaders—Shri Chinmoy, Swami Satchinanda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Bhagwan Rajneesh, Da Free John, Guru Maharaj Ji and others—flooded America with mantras, chants, meditation and yoga. The missionaries were here!
A century ago Kipling could write: “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Sounds good. It was probably true back then. It is not true today. The East has met the West, and the East has charmed, seduced and infiltrated the West. We have generally lost the Judeo-Christian consensus we once possessed as a culture. And even in the church we are rapidly losing our Christian, biblical worldview.
It would take hours to catalog all the ways Eastern mystical practices and beliefs have spread in our nation. In fact, it has become so common that it is no longer noticed. Yoga is a case in point. A few decades ago it seemed that it was only hippies and fringe weirdos who practiced yoga. Now it is become part of mainstream America. I challenge you to watch network television for a day without seeing probably a dozen images of people practicing yoga—from TV series, to insurance commercials, to ads for laundry detergents and the newest cars out of Detroit. Yoga is everywhere. (Why is yoga something the Christian should be concerned about? Check out this previous post about yoga….)
Recently I have been doing research for upcoming seminar I will be presenting about Eastern mystical practices in our schools of higher learning. The “contemplative sciences,” meditation, yoga, Tai chi, mindfulness, and other such eastern practices are commonly taught and promoted in universities and colleges across the country. Eastern religion has been repackaged and made acceptable to a secular Western audience. And often receives government funding!
However, in doing this research I came across a trend that is even more disturbing to me than the influence of eastern religion in our schools of higher learning. What I discovered is how common these “contemplative” practices have become in K-12 schools. Across the country our young people are being exposed to eastern practices and an eastern worldview in the guise of “Wellness” programs, or some type therapeutic health program. Let me cite a few examples.
A number of school systems are using a program called “Quiet Time.” Twice a day elementary and middle school students take 15 minutes to meditate. NBC Nightly News actually featured this program as it has been implemented in San Francisco. This broadcast aired in January of 2015. What was not reported is that Quiet Time features Transcendental Meditation, a Hindu religious system. To practice TM you are given a mantra, a word or phrase, to use while you meditate. What are these mantras? They are the names of Hindu gods and goddesses.
Go to YouTube and search for “Sonima Foundation and schools.” You will find that the Sonima Foundation, an organization begun by Sonia Jones (wife of influential billionaire Paul Tudor Jones) promotes yoga in public schools in New York City, California, Texas and elsewhere. Please take note, the form of yoga that Sonima offers is Ashtanga yoga, which is an overtly religious school of yoga. A typical Ashtanga set of positions not only begins with a chanting of “Om,” but also a hymn to Patanjali, a Hindu deity who is half-man and half-serpent.
Across the country we see more and more schools using mindfulness training to help their students cope with stress and personal problems. Mindfulness has become the latest fad in the movement to indoctrinate America in the ways of the East. What is mindfulness? In short, it is Buddhist meditation, specifically Zen, that has been divested of its religious vocabulary but without removing its religious practical content. (For more, see our post on “The Muddle of Mindfulness.”) In mindfulness training it is often stated that belief is not at issue, it is the practice of mindfulness that is important. They believe this. Most probably do not realize that this is actually pure Buddhist teaching. Buddhism is less about what you believe than it is about what you experience. And what you experience through mindfulness is not Christianity.
These are only three brief, but powerfully influential examples. There are so many others. Who knows how many schools now offer other types of yoga to teachers and students. Yoga, Tai Chi, and the like are common in programs offered by the YMCA, local parks and recreational centers, and municipal youth programs. Everywhere we turn we are confronted by Hinduism and Buddhism, often disguised as health, wellness or therapeutic programs. The East has indeed met the West… and the West is losing.
Here is the final word—we need to be aware. The Scriptures say that we are not ignorant of the Devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). Consider the current spiritual climate of our country, true followers of Christ cannot afford to be asleep, unaware. We must have our spiritual antennas up and tuned in to the culture. Parents should especially be conscious of what their children are being exposed to in school. A war is raging for the hearts and mind of our young. We must be prepared for battle!