From Christian-Catholic To Hindu-Yogic God

Brokers of the Lord

Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, Rafael Matsunaga - Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, Rafael Matsunaga – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

I was baptized in the Catholic belief that the One true God was actually three — a Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Ironically, when I converted to belief in a Hindu-Yogic God I embraced a new “improved” Christian-Catholic God.

Starting at age five, I went to Catholic masses, Sunday school and Wednesday night Catechism classes. Throughout my Catholic studies I could never really understand how One God could be Three: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And, besides – what was the Holy Ghost thing anyway? When I asked my parents and teachers they told me the Holy Ghost was a spirit in our hearts or that the Father revealed the Holy Spirit to faithful believers. You just had to have faith to understand, I was told.

To confuse me further about this Catholic God, my parish priests and catechism teachers encouraged me also to pray to the Virgin Mary, to Saint Anthony or to Saint Francis when I’d sinned or was sick. Heck. There are thousands of Catholic saints that I could pray to for virtually any life situation1. The patron saints could, after my earnest prayers and the grace of God, intercede on my behalf to God. My spiritual brokers.

My Christian-Catholic God consisted of:

  1. The Father;
  2. Son;
  3. Holy Ghost;
  4. Plus, 1000s of Saints who could broker a deal with the Lord for me.

Meet My Hindu-Yogic God

hindu-feb21-p_f_improf_615x500Ironically, it wasn’t until I learned about the Hindu-Yogic God that I was able to make sense of my Catholic God. It was during college. I read the Autobiography of a Yogi written by a 20th century Hindu-Yogi from India, Paramahansa Yogananda. The Yogi taught me to understand my Catholic God by embracing a Yogic God with many Sons.

With the Hindu-Yoga God, according to Yogananda, there wasn’t just one Son of God or only one Christ. Ishvara, or the Lord, created many Sons. The many Christs of a Hindu-Yogic God included Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Shankaracharya, and other saviors. Jesus, I learned in the Autobiography of a Yogi, was one of many Christs who had attained the exalted state of Christ Consciousness2. Ordinary mortal men who practiced advanced yoga-meditation techniques–Yogananda’s yoga, of course–could experience superconsciousness, a mental-spiritual state beyond ordinary consciousness.

Would I convert to this modern Hindu-Yogic God with many Christs? Wouldn’t I go to hell?

Guilt and doubt haunted me. Was I betraying my Catholic God? I had to choose either to keep my Catholic God with only one Son, Jesus, or, select my new Hindu God with many Christs, including Jesus.

Yogi Jesus, Ken Wieland, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Yogi Jesus, Ken Wieland, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Finally, after several maddening weeks of questioning my Christian-Catholic faith, I decided that a God who’d damn to hell ⅔ of the world’s population–those five billion non-Christian human beings who didn’t believe Jesus Christ was the only Son of God3,4–that That spiteful version of a god was no longer worth believing in.

My new Hindu-Yogic version of God seemed modern, inclusive, universal – more god-like. My old version of Catholic God got a major upgrade. I dropped the only one Christ feature and kept the option of praying to 1000’s of spiritual brokers — the Catholic Saints, the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ — and gained 1000s more Hindu-Yoga brokers in the bargain. This was why I “upgraded” my Christian-Catholic God to my new, “improved” Hindu-Yogic God.

My Christian-Catholic  God My Hindu-Yogic God Definitions
Father Ishvara or Shiva (Sat) Impersonal, unmanifest, outside of  Creation “Cosmic Intelligence”
Son, Jesus Christ Brahma (Tat), Sons, Christs: Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, avatars, saviors Personal, manifest, within Creation “Christ Intelligence”
Holy Ghost Aum (Om) The “Word”, Holy Spirit, Revelation Sound or Vibration Of Creation
Saints Saints, gurus, sages Intermediaries, brokers of the Lord

 
 
 

Swami Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship: A Successful Hindu Countermission to the West for a Christian-apologists argument of theological conundrums of converting from Christian- to Hindu-God belief.

Questions for readers: What was it like for you to convert from Christian to Hindu? Hindu to Christian? Or, to non-theist?

Notes
1 There are 10,000 Roman Catholic patron saints. One for virtually every life situation you could think of. Saints for Addicts, for AIDs, for Brewers and Brides, for Headaches, for Nigerians and for Wine Traders – for almost every country, every ailment, or human condition. See the official list of Catholic Saints.http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/patrons.aspx
2 Liberally, throughout Yogananda’s Autobiography he describes many sons of God or Christs. For example in a footnote: “John 8:31-32. St. John testified: ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (even to them that are established in the omnipresent Christ Consciousness).’ John 1:12. And, in Chapter 10: “In the ancient city of Benares [in India]… here too the feet of Buddha, Shankaracharya, and many other Yogi-Christs had blessed the soil”. Chapter 24, “In every age of India, yoga has produced men who became truly free, true Yogi-Christs”.
3 Christians comprise 30% of the world’s 7 billion population. Only they are taught to believe Jesus was the only begotten Son. Everybody else, the 2/3 majority who are non-Christians, were going to hell? Nonsense. What kind of god would damn everybody to hell? That’s not a god worth believing in. For Global Religious Populations see Pew Research Center, Global Religious Landscape, Dec 2012. http://www.pewforum.org/files/2014/01/global-religion-full.pdf
4 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”, John 3:16 KJV. “Therefore [say] I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father”, John 6:65 KJV.

0 comments

  1. Scott@SkepticMeditations

    Thanks David: (I recommend you use an initial or descriptor for your name-there’s also another David, “R”, in our forums here.Thanks).

    I looked at the links you shared. Are these your websites?

    I’ve added Shiva to The Father section in my post. Seems there’s several ways to interpret the many gods of Hinduism, depending on which sect is doing the interpreting (as noted in Brittanica below). Frankly, all gods are probably made-up in human minds. But, I try to be clear and correct as possible in my blog posts. So thanks again, as I appreciate constructive feedback and critiques.

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/297123/Ishvara

  2. Scott at SkepticMeditations.com

    @Sabio-
    1) So fascinating about many kinds of Hinduism. So much to learn. That’s a nice benefit/outcome I find with blogging. We can share what we’ve learned with others and in the process clarify it for ourselves.
    2) I like how you’ve created that Book “index” page. You have a placeholder or missing link for “Meditation-Free Buddhism (coming)”. Since exploring Meditation practices is my blog-thing, I’d be interested sometime in reading what you have to say on that.
    4) Index posts – Lots of helpful advice on your post. I’m looking at your post now and wonder if you anything “custom” is required. Or, do you use all the standard widgets and tools available with the free wordpress.com? Where, on what action(s), is the best way to start if you have never done this? Thanks for sharing your index structure.

    I’m learning a lot from you and appreciate our dialogues, as always.

  3. Sabio Lantz

    (1) Yeah, there are hundreds of types of Hinduism — no matter what the gurus say. Likewise, there are also atheists versions of Judaism, because like Hinduism, it is often foremost a cultural identification.

    (3) David McMahan writes about the making of modern Buddhism, pointing out similar mechanisms as seen in those Hinduism modernism — striving to be seen by Western liberals as having a progressive religion. And those liberals are affected by German Romanticism.
    See my index post here:
    http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/the-making-of-buddhist-modernism/

    (4) Concerning Index Posts, see:
    http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/index-posts-pages/

  4. Scott at SkepticMeditations.com

    @Sabio: That one (your comment) got away from me. My bad.

    1) Forms of Hinduism – I’ll have to learn more about the various forms. I’ve heard that there’re atheist forms of Hinduism.

    2) Monkey-Cat metaphor for god. Yes! I remember that one from Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings and books. He very much advocated “surrender” to the Divine like a kitten in the mouth of its mother.

    3) You are onto something when you talk about Yogananda’s Hinduism using Christianity. I don’t think he was faking it. Most progressive Indians did the same from 18th and 19th centuries.
    I’ve discovered a treasure from two scholars of religion on the “real” origins of Modern Yoga and Yogis. It’s not what most people think. Yogananda and Vivekananda (the latter was the first to develop a system for “Modern Meditational Yoga”). Both these famous Yogis grew up in Calcutta, went to the same college, and were part of a line of Neo-Vedanta intelligencia and Yogis in Bengal. The roots of Modern Yoga are in British Colonialism, Christian Unitarianism, and Neo-Vedanta/Theosophy. In 1875 the Theosophical Society relocated its headquarters from NY to India. The British Capital in India was located in Calcutta. The origins of Modern Yoga are rooted in Western “spiritualism” and it was Vivekananda who popularized the “science of yoga” starting in the 19th century to fit both Western and Eastern esoteric beliefs.

    I’ll try to create a series of posts soon about my findings on the “real” origins of yoga and yogis. I may need to create index pages to link the posts (like you do on your site). Did you use a specific structure for setting up to link posts to static index pages on your site?

  5. Sabio Lantz

    @ Scott,
    Thanx for your reply, albeit 9 days later — almost forgot what I wrote and why. 🙂
    Some forms of Hinduism, don’t have a personal god that cares for the believers.
    You read my Monkey-Cat god stuff, didn’t you?
    Thanx for adding your stuff.
    I wonder if Yogananda’s Hinduism was changed by Christian missionaries with Yogananda inventing a loving god (consciously or not) to sell his product.

  6. Scott at SkepticMeditations.com

    @Sabio: To respond to your questions –

    1) Yes, I definitely felt that god loved me – especially through personal experiences of peace, joy, and “good” fortune that I often attributed to my meditation practices. I felt blessed to have been given a “new dispensation”, the Kriya Yoga techniques of yoga meditation. Yogananda, the founder of the monastic order I belonged to, taught these things. There were many times when I attributed my “positive” experiences to god (who took personal interest in me) and times when I thought that any negative things that happened were my bad karma, my responsibility for wrong actions in the past. With that mindset, I’d either feel blessed or cursed. Blessed when all was going well. But cursed and dejected when I experienced “temptations and tribulations”. I’d be wondering how many lifetimes to be free of my past “karma”- the effects of my past actions. The Kriya Yoga meditation techniques were supposed to burn the seeds of past karma so that’d not sprout in future and I’d be free, ultimately a jivanmukta– free soul. Year ago, I stopped believing these extraordinary things that I was taught. Today, to me, these ideas seem spooky.

    2) Yep. God cared for me personally. So I thought.

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. Sabio Lantz

    Thanx for those answers Scott. But let me re-ask them in reverse order and re-phrase them:

    (2) Were you taught that the various forms of god actually cared about your personally — like your health, your finances, your happiness, safety. etc.

    (1) Define miracle as you like. Did you feel, back then, that god demonstrated her/his love for you through any interventions — interventions to help your health, finances, happiness, safety etc….

    These are all thing Christians are taught about their gods, just wondering about the parallels. Thanx

  8. Scott at SkepticMeditations.com

    @Sabio: Thanks for your probing questions and comments. Always appreciate them and you.

    Ishvara is not a name of God that Yogananda nor I used much. In fact, it was rarely used. What Yogananda encouraged, and what I practiced, was to develop a personal relationship, meditate on, whatever form or aspect of God you held dear or felt drawn to. Hindus, as far as I know, worship the One in the Many. Hindus may call God by many names (Catholics do too- though not as many as Hindus, like I intimated to in my post).

    While I was an SRF monk-follower of Yogananda, I prayed and meditated upon many aspects, forms, or Names of God and/or his spiritual brokers (Christs and Saints). One’s got to find ways to make prayer, spiritual studies/practices, devotions and meditations interesting when you’ve been doing them over 14 years for 4 hours average per day! For example, during one phase of my spiritual practice, I cultivated a relationship with God in the aspect of Kali.

    I’ll draft a post about my personal relationship and experiences with God, as Kali – Goddess of Time, Change, and Destruction. Check back soon for that post. Thanks for asking your questions. They help draw out the personal stories and experiences for future posts.

    As to your question: Did I experience miracles? Yes and no. Would you mind telling me how you define miracles? Though I believed in miracles of the advanced yogi’s– Yogananda’s writings are packed with the outrageously miraculous– I had my own personal take on “miracles” and opinions gleaned from experiences among my fellow monks.

  9. Sabio Lantz

    Interesting personal story, thanx.

    So, how was your god (Ishvara) explained to you, or experienced by you?

    (1) Did he perform miracles? I read Yogananda too and remember lots of them. But did YOU experience miracles??

    (2) Were your taught that Ishvara loved you or cared for you personally?

    You describe one small sect of Hinduism — Yogananda’s system. And actually, among self-proclaimed Hindus there are many different varieties of monotheism. So I am just anthropologically asking about your former Hindu God.

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