Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


Lessons from Gandhi

By The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

My wife, being a prolific reader of novels, is always going with me to return books to the local library.  At the very front of libraries is a section for recommended new books.  While there, I was pleased to find a brand new book Gandhi Before India.  It was news to me that Gandhi was excommunicated by his own Bania caste from daring to go to England to become a lawyer: “For his transgression, the boy would be treated as an outcaste; anyone who spoke to him or went to see him off would be fined.”[1]  Gandhi’s family sacrificed greatly to send him to England, even pawning the family jewels.    While in England, Gandhi for the first time read the Bible, finding the New Testament compelling, especially the Sermon on the Mount. [2]  As Gandhi commented,  it ‘went straight to my heart’.   The lines about offering one’s cloak to the man who had taken away one’s coat touched him greatly.[3]  Gandhi demonstrated that the  Sermon  on the Mount will radically change one’s life and one’s society if put into practice.

After completing his law degree in England, Gandhi returned to India for a short while before moving to South Africa.  While there are numerous books on Gandhi, many skip over Gandhi’s foundational twenty-one years in South Africa.  Even the excellent Gandhi movie by Richard Attenborough doesn’t do justice to the prolonged complexity to Gandhi’s time in South Africa.  Dr. E Stanley Jones commented that South Africa provided the rehearsal for the real drama of India: “He might have floundered had he tried India straight off.”[4]  Sadly in South Africa when Gandhi was most interested in the Gospel, he encountered the greatest restrictions: “To allow Gandhi to sit along white worshippers was impossible.  The vicar’s wife, out of solidarity and sympathy, offered to sit with him in the vestibule, from where they heard the service.”[5]  One of the people who had the greatest impact on Gandhi was Leo Tolstoy, especially his book The Kingdom of God is within You: “he was ‘overwhelmed by the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness of this book.”[6]  Gandhi purchased and gave out even to his jailers countless copies of Tolstoy’s ground-breaking book on peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount.[7]

Upon returning to India, Gandhi was initially rejected by other Indians who feared that they might become ritually polluted by even offering a cup of water to someone of the wrong caste.[8]  When Gandhi successfully stood up for their rights, he became hailed as a hero and liberator.  Gandhi campaigned nonviolently for the independence of India for numerous decades, spending 2,089 days in Indian jails (almost six years).[9]

Dr. E Stanley Jones described Gandhi as the architect of the new India.[10] In many ways, Gandhi was like an Abraham Lincoln bringing freedom to hundreds of millions of his fellow citizens.  Louis Fischer compared Gandhi to David standing up to the Goliath of racial discrimination.[11]  Gandhi went from being an initial supporter of caste discrimination to being a campaigner against its divisiveness. Jones commented:

…in his life, (Gandhi) breaks all the rules of caste, transcends them, adopts an outcaste as his daughter, and in the end does more to break down the system of caste than any other man, living or dead.”[12]

Jones held that “in Gandhi the word of freedom became flesh. When he spoke, freedom spoke. Gandhi was India.”[13]  Most people believe in democratic freedom.  Not many are willing to sacrifice over many decades to obtain such goals.  Before Gandhi, it was mostly the Indian intelligentsia campaigning for democracy.  Because Gandhi humbled himself and unselfishly served the poor and untouchables, both rich and poor awoke to the vision of an independent India.[14]  Gandhi made room for all regardless of race, religion and wealth.  Albert Einstein said regarding Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”[15]  In reading Jones’ book Gandhi: Portrayal of a Friend, Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired to launch the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement.[16]

Jones described the complexity of Gandhi’s personality as like Mount Everest:

Gandhi was simple and yet very complex amid that simplicity. You thought that you knew him and then you didn’t.  It was intriguing. There was always something there that eluded your grasp, that baffled you. And yet out of that many-sidedness which amounted to complexity, there arose simplicity, a unified character, simple and compelling.[17]

In an India full of racial, religious and economic division, Gandhi brought people together, giving them a vision for an independent democratic India.  Gandhi , whose favorite hymn was ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross’, chose the costly way of the cross, of sacrificial love even for his enemies.[18]  On the wall of his mud hut was a black and white picture of Jesus Christ under which was written ‘He is our peace’.[19]  Gandhi was a peace-maker who chose to forgive those who despised him and rejected him.   Every day he would read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, motivating Gandhi to peacefully love his adversaries.   Jones, who had been a friend of Gandhi in India for many years, said once to him: ‘You understand the principles. Do you know the person?’  Gandhi was very drawn to the person of Jesus Christ.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we may embrace both the principles and person of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-an article for the June 2015 Deep Cove Crier

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback andebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[1] Ramachanadra Guha, Gandhi Before India (Random House Canada, Toronto, 2014), p. 34-35.

[2] Guha, p. 45.

[3] Guha, p. 45.

[4] E Stanley Jones, Gandhi: Portrait of a Friend (Abingdon, Nashville, 1948), p. 18.

[5] Guha, p. 83.

[6] Guha, p. 85.

[7] Guha, p.308: “Before he left Volksrust Prison (in 1908), he presented a kindly warder with an inscribed copy of Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is within You.”

[8] Guha, p. 225 “Raj Kumar Shukla took Gandhi to Champaran and Patna the capital of Bihar. …since no one knew their caste, even the servants shunned them. The maids refused to draw from the garden well when Gandhi used it, for fear that even a drop of water from Gandhi’s bucket might pollute them.”

[9] Guha, p. P.160.

[10] E Stanley Jones, Gandhi: Portrait of a Friend (Abingdon, Nashville, 1948), p. 1.

[11] Louis Fischer, Gandhi: his life & message for the world (Signet Classics, New York, NY, 1954, 1982), p. 20.

[12] Jones, p. 6; Arthur Herman, Gandhi and Churchill (Bantam Dell, New York, NY, 2008), p. 120-121 The early Gandhi in 1921 supported caste discrimination: “Prohibition against intermarriage and interdining (between Hindu castes) is essential for the rapid evolution of the soul.” By 1932, he rejected such prohibitions. By 1946, he only permitted inter caste weddings on his premise.

[13] Jones, p. 32.

[14] Jones, p. 22 “…it was Gandhi who aroused (the rural people), made them shed their fears, and made them conscious of their destiny. Before the advent of Gandhi, the nationalist movement was among the intellectuals.”

[15] The Words of Gandhi, selected by Richard Attenborough (Newmarket Press, New York, NY, 1982), p.9.

[16] http://www.estanleyjonesfoundation.com/about-esj/esj-biography  King: “…it was his (Jones’) book that triggered my use of Gandi’s method of nonviolence as a weapon for my own people’s freedom in the United States.” (accessed May 4th 2015)

[17] Jones, p. 5.

[18] Guha, p. 582 “(At the end of his final fast) the girls sang his favorite hymn When I survey the Wondrous Cross.”; Jones, p. 39, p. 141.

[19] Fischer, p. 141.


1 Comment

William Carey: Educational Pioneer

By the Rev.  Dr. Ed HirdWilliam Carey1

Who was William Carey, and why has he had such a major impact on our global culture?  On May 26th , I graduated with my Doctorate from Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus.  While at Carey College, I often walked past a painting of Carey, showing his humble beginning as a village shoemaker in Paulersbury, England.  Carey was fascinated with reading books about science, history and travel journals of explorers like Captain Cook.  His village playmates nicknamed him Christopher Columbus.  Carey said that he was addicted as a young person to swearing, lying, and alcohol.  A major turning point happened when he was caught by his employer embezzling a shilling.  Fortunately his employer did not press charges.  For such petty larceny, Carey could have easily paid the price of imprisonment, forfeiture of goods and chattel, whipping or transportation for seven years to the plantations of the West Indies or America.  Facing his own selfishness, Carey had a spiritual breakthrough by personally meeting Christ that had a lasting impact on his values and lifestyle.

Carey had a quick mind and a natural love of learning. He would have normally become a farm labourer, but suffered from a skin disease that made it painful for him to go out in the full sun. If Carey’s face and hands were exposed to the sun for any lengthy period, he would suffer agony throughout the night.  So instead he became a cobbler, making shoes.  While making shoes, he was able to read and pray.  Through this, Carey developed a conviction that he was to go to India.  His unimaginative friends and colleagues tried to talk him out of this fantasy.  His five-month pregnant wife Dorothy was also dead-set against it.  His own father Edmund wondered if his son had lost his mind.  Carey said to his dad: “I am not my own nor would I choose for myself. Let God employ me where he thinks fit.”

William CareymapWith unshakable determination, Carey went to India in 1793 which was under the control of the East India Company.  He later ended up becoming a Professor of Bengali and Sanskrit in Calcutta, India.  Through teaching at Fort Williams College in Calcutta, he was investing in young civil servants from England, helping them to have a good start in India.  Carey believed that the future was as bright as the promises of God.  He had an exceptional natural gift for languages.  Carey called himself a plodder; whatever he started, he always finished.   Unlike a number of his family members and closest friends, Carey survived malaria and numerous other tropical diseases.  His first wife Dorothy however had a nervous breakdown before later dying.  Carey was heartbroken.

Some bureaucrats from the East India Company did their best to expel Carey and his team from India.  Anything that might affect financial profit was seen as a threat.  William Wilberforce however, having finally abolished the slave trade, presented 837 petitions to the British Parliament representing over half a million signatures, requesting that ‘these good and great men’ be allowed to stay in India.  Carey’s enemies attacked him in Parliament for being a lowly shoemaker.  Wilberforce won the day in the Charter Renewal Bill of 1813.

William Carey collegeCarey’s motto was “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

            Entirely self-taught, Carey impacted the emerging generation of Indian leaders that birthed the burgeoning modern democracy of India.  Serampore College was founded by Carey and his colleagues in 1818.  He produced six grammars of Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, Panjabi, Telugi, and Kanarese, and with John Clark Marshman, one of Bhutia.  He also translated the whole Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages or dialects.  Scholars say that Carey significantly contributed to the renaissance of Indian Literature in the nineteenth century.

While an ordained preacher and a church planter, Carey was fascinated with all aspects of daily living.  In 1818 Carey founded two magazines and a newspaper, the Samachar Darpan, the first newspaper printed in any Asian language. He was the father of Indian printing technology, building what was then their largest printing press.  Carey was the first to make indigenous paper for the Indian publishing industry.  He brought the steam engine to India, and pioneered the idea of lending libraries in India.  Carey introduced the concept of a ‘Savings Bank’ to India, in order to fight the all-pervasive social evil of usury at interest rates of 36% to 72%.

William Carey StampCarey introduced the study of astronomy as a science, teaching that the stars and planets are God’s creation set by him in an observable order, rather than astrological deities fatalistically controlling one’s life.  He was the founder of the Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.  Carey was the first person in India to write about forest conservation. In 1823, he was elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, one of the world’s most distinguished botanical societies even today.  As Carey’s favorite flowers were lilies, he had the honour of having one (Careyanum) named after him.

Having a strong social conscience, Carey was the first man to oppose the Sati widow-burning and female infanticide.  Sati was finally banned by the Government of India in 1829.  He also campaigned for humane treatment of lepers who were being burned or buried alive because of their bad karma.  The view at the point was that leprosy was a deserved punishment in the fifth cycle of reincarnation.

 william-carey grave           Carey loved India and never returned home to England, dying in 1834 at the age of 73.  Near the end, he said: ““You have been speaking about William Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about William Carey-speak only about William Carey’s Saviour.”  My prayer for those reading this article is that we too would have the passion for learning and making a difference that William Carey once had.


Video: William Carey – A Candle in the Dark (click to view)

Ed processing

The Rev.  Dr. Ed Hird, Rector, 

BSW, MDiv, DMin

 St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-an article for the June 2013 Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback andebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

1 Comment

A Response to Anton Drake from Reverend Ed Hird



A Response to Anton Drake from Reverend Ed Hird

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 23:50

(Before It’s News)

Hollywood, CA — Last week I wrote a press release to promote the new book Atheist Yoga by Anton Drake. As part of that press release, which can be foundhere, I conducted an interview with Mr. Drake, and one of the topics of discussion was a recent article by Reverend Ed Hird that centered on the idea that the practice of yoga is something unsuitable for Christians. Anton had read that particular article, and had several comments about it; Reverend Hird subsequently contacted me and requested a chance to offer a rebuttal, feeling that some of what he had said had been misconstrued.


Here is Reverend Hird’s response to the Atheist Yoga press release:

[ Having read Anton Drake’s new book ‘Atheist Yoga’, I am fascinated by the extent to which so many atheists are focused on a God that they ostensibly don’t even believe in; many of them seem to think more about God than most Christians do, and I can’t help thinking that it’s almost as if they are obsessed with this allegedly non-existent God. When I think of God, I see the face of Jesus.  Anton is correct when he said “if someone is an atheist, they lack a belief in God.” This is undebatable. Many people don’t realize that Buddha, as a reformed Hindu, was an atheist who continued to do Hindu yoga; one of the most famous pictures of the Buddha shows him in the yogic lotus position. Buddhist usually call their yoga ‘meditation’, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. Buddhism was founded as an atheistic religion. In this sense Anton Drake is clearly right—there is no incompatibility between Anton being an atheist and doing yoga. Anton, like his fellow atheist Buddha, is clearly involved in a spiritual/religious practice.


In an interview released May 9th 2013, Mr. Drake made some comments about my article “Culture Wars: Yoga, More than Meets the Eye” that clearly demonstrate the extent to which he has completely misunderstood the meaning and intent of the article. In the interview, Anton stated that “although I am what you might call a dogmatic atheist, I find the reverend Hird’s ideas on this matter to be quite prejudicial, and even somewhat racial and xenophobic” While I enjoyed reading the interview, I find it unfortunate that Anton will dismiss someone as racist and xenophobic simply because they have reservations about syncretistically mixing two different religions. My hero E. Stanley Jones, who lived for 50 years as a Methodist missionary in India and wrote a book about Gandhi called ‘Portrait of a Friend,’ actually started the United Christian Ashram movement, of which I have served on the international board. My main point here is that I have always had great respect for the East Indian people, just as my friend Stanley Jones did.


In the same interview, which was titled “Ed Hird, Encinitas, and the Fear of Yoga, An Interview with Anton Drake Part 2,” Anton mentioned that “Many of the Hindu friends I’ve had through the years have actually kept a picture or a statue of Jesus on their altar or puja, right next to the other pictures of gurus and deities they revered. That always impressed me.” It is a good thing to show respect to other religious traditions; however, because Hinduism allegedly has 330 million gods, adding Jesus to the Hindu pantheon does not really respect the integrity of the Judeo-Christian heritage. To serve two masters, as Jesus cautioned against, is not showing true respect for other religious traditions. I do not question the prerogative of new-agers, atheists, or Hindus to practise yoga. I am asking for some transparency about what yoga really is about, particularly when they package it for Christians. Yoga is the very heart of Hinduism. Nine out of ten Hindus agree that yoga is Hinduism. Without yoga, there is no Hinduism. Without Hinduism, there is no yoga. Many Hindu gurus claim with no evidence that Jesus went to India and became a yoga teacher. They also hold that Jesus as a yogi was teaching reincarnation because he wanted us to be born again. Once again, this does not show respect or understanding for other important religious faiths.


Mr. Drake also seemed particularly offended by my comment that yoga ‘kills the mind’. This is merely quoting key yogis who see that as one of the key benefits of yoga. Christian meditation is about focusing on God’s Word thoughtfully rather than the elimination of thought. Sensory deprivation and sensory overload, both key aspects of advanced yoga, are proven techniques for the ‘killing of the mind’. Yoga does not require belief to alter the mind. It just requires intensive yogic practice. It is the technique that produces the effect. Yoga asanas appear to the uninitiated as if they are just stretching exercises. The more fully initiated realize that asanas are worship postures to Hindu deities. The Warrior asana, for example, is identified with the worship of Lord Virabhadra who has a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and a garland of skulls. The Cobra asana is about identification with and worship of the Kundalini snake, yogically awakened in the chakras. The yoga insiders all know the real scoop. They also know that North Americans are not quite ready yet for the full truth about the religious identity of yoga.


Further into the interview, Anton stated that “Although his [Rev. Hird’s ] article is fairly well written and seems to make some good points on the surface, if one looks a bit closer it reveals itself as absurdly, almost comically xenophobic; simply consider how easy it would be to apply the same arguments he uses to sushi, origami, or Asian forms of dance.” Among other things, I am particularly curious about Anton’s teaser comment “Good points on the surface.” I am hoping that in the future, Anton could perhaps elaborate on this. As for the xenophobic comment, this was clearly not one of Anton’s strongest arguments. To suggest that people who have reservations about yoga must also be against sushi, chai tea, and curry is comical. Anton, who has never met me, keeps saying that I am xenophobic simply because I dare to question yoga. I find Mr. Drake’s comments along this line to be unfortunate and even intolerant. I ask, is there still room within our Western democratic cultures to raise questions without being stereotyped or villified?


Anton Drake then goes on to say that schoolchildren should obviously be taught yoga: “Schoolchildren should obviously be allowed to learn yoga; restricting western children from learning yoga on the basis of religion is barbaric, and not just from an atheistic point of view.” The terms ‘should’ and ‘allowed’ go in two different directions. Public schools do not ‘allow’ religious practices, whether Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or New Age, to be mandated for the children. If yoga is in fact inherently religious, this would be violating the Encinita School Board’s own legal parameters. Is it really respectful to mandate yogic Hinduism for children attending the Public School system? What if this violates the faith perspective of the children’s parents? Should they be dismissed as barbaric, to use Mr. Drake’s words? At the core of democracy is the freedom of religion, and the freedom to question. No one will win if yoga ever becomes so culturally entrenched that our schools begin imposing it as part of their everyday curriculum, and thereby elevate it to the status of an unquestioned academic truth or authority.


Drake also says, and I quote, that “He [Rev. Hird] of course takes it completely for granted that any spiritual tradition outside of Christianity or western culture is intrinsically evil and antithetical to every form of goodness.” However, where he is wrong is that I am in no way a defender of Western culture as somehow superior to Eastern culture. I find much wisdom and value in all cultures, and in all religions. We need to be respectful to other religious traditions, especially when we do not understand them. I simply ask that Christians be not asked to compromise their religious identity in the midst of a well-packaged yoga marketing strategy. Yoga is a ten-billion dollar industry these days in North America, and we simply cannot overlook our core cultural principles in rushing to spread the indoctrination of yoga into our schools. While Anton Drake “the atheist” spoke a lot about demons and evil, you will notice that I did not, and this was not at all the focus of my article. I simply wish to affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ in one’s life. And my contention is that if Jesus is my Lord, then yoga is not. I can live without yoga, while still respecting the right of others who wish to practice it. ]


I am scheduled to do another interview with Anton soon, and I will be sure to bring this topic up to him again and ask him some additional questions as well.


Media Contact
Karen Anderson
Marketing Director
Puragreen Productions LLC
717 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA, 90024
Email: Karen@puragreen.com
Web: http://puragreen.com


Yoga: More than Meets the Eyes?


Ed Hird by tree

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

You may find this a stretching article in body, mind and spirit.  I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it might be unavoidably controversial.  To be honest, I have been waiting for someone else to write this article instead of me.  Like most pastors, I want people to like me.   With genuine reluctance, I eventually faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries.  In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga.  All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.

               To many people, yoga is just the hottest new exercise fad for younger women.  Twenty million North Americans are now doing yoga, including around four million men.  These twenty million people are currently being trained by over 70,000 yoga practitioners in at least 20,000 North American locations.[1]  Many people confuse yoga with simple stretching.  Stretching and calisthenics are good things which I participate in weekly at the local gym.  The term ‘calisthenics’ comes from the combination of two Greek words ‘kallos’: beauty and ‘sthenos’: strength. Calisthenic exercises are designed to bring  bodily fitness and flexibility of movement.  Yoga has not cornered the market on healthy stretching and calisthenics.  Physical fitness does not begin and end on a yoga mat.  I am convinced that we do well when we take care of our bodies as part of our Christian stewardship.  God wants us to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit. We all need to get back to the gym on a regular basis, whatever our views of yoga.  Your body will thank you.

Science of Yoga Book

I unknowingly participated in yoga, in the form of martial arts, for twenty years before renouncing it.[2]  Many people are unaware that martial arts is yoga in motion, and originated with Buddhist monks.  After much prayer, I reluctantly gave it up because I didn’t want any gray area in my Christian life.   It is not an easy or light thing for someone to renounce this, even as a Christian.  For many, it is absolutely unthinkable.  To even imagine giving it up may leave some feeling unexpectedly threatened or even angry.  Most of us are more defensive and more emotionally attached than we imagine.  In hindsight, I realized that the ritual motions and postures (asanas or katas) had gotten very deep into my psyche, shaping my very identity.[3]  Somehow over twenty years, they had become ingrained in me and even became part of me.  Without intending it, I was to some degree serving two masters.  This was a hard truth for me to accept. Change is never easy.  I have heard of one Christian who is so entrenched in yoga that they have vowed to never give up yoga even if God himself told them to stop.  It makes you wonder sometimes who is in charge of our lives.

              Historically yoga was only taught in secret to high-caste male Brahmins.[4]  It was very much a guy thing for the wealthy and powerful.   In recent years, North American yoga has largely stripped itself of its more obvious Eastern trappings: gurus, incense, Sanskrit, and loin cloths.[5]  It has gone through a remarkable image makeover in a relatively short time period.  Yoga classes and paraphernalia have become a ten-billion+ dollar consumer-driven industry, involving designer spandex, yoga mats, and DVDs.[6]  Old-time Yoga purists have called this new development the yoga industrial complex.  There is so much money to be made that some yoga teachers have been unsuccessfully suing other yoga teachers over alleged copyright violation of specific yoga asana postures. In some parts of North America, yoga moms are replacing the demographic of soccer moms.  Yoga has become such a strongly entrenched cultural fad that in some parts of North America it is being taught to children, often using tax-payers’ money, in otherwise strictly secular public school systems.  Spiritually speaking, yoga has replaced the Lord’s Prayer which, you will remember, was bounced from our children’s classrooms for being too religious.  The unquestioned assumption is that yoga has no religious connection.

             This North American yoga industry has registered thousands of copyrights, patents and trademarks, sometimes resulting in threatening lawsuits.[7]  The Indian Government is so concerned about the yoga copyrighting that they have set up their own task-force to protect yoga from being pirated by Westerners:

“Yoga piracy is becoming very common, and we are moving to do something about it,” says Vinod Gupta, the head of a recently established Indian government task force on traditional knowledge and intellectual-property theft.

‘We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan,’ he says. ‘These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own.’ In an effort to protect India’s heritage, the task force has begun documenting 1,500 yoga postures drawn from classical yoga texts — including the writings of the Indian sage, Patanjali, the first man to codify the art of yoga.”[8]

Bhagavita                 There are seven main kinds of yoga: Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Karma Yoga (action), Jnana Yoga (wisdom), Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga, and Raja Yoga (royal).   In the 15th Century AD Hatha Yoga Pradipika, its first three verses teach that the ignorant masses are not yet ready for the lofty Raja Yoga, and so Hatha Yoga has been developed as a “staircase” to lead them to Raja Yoga. [9]   The most popular yoga offered in one’s local Recreation Center is Hatha Yoga, so-called physical yoga involving numerous yoga techniques called asanas.  These yogic asanas appear to the uninitiated as if they are just stretching exercises.  The more fully initiated realize that yogic asanas are actually worship postures to Hindu deities.   The yoga insiders all know the real scoop.  They also know that North Americans are not quite ready yet for the full truth about the religious identity of yoga.  My question is this: Is it really honest and respectful to pretend yoga is just a physical activity without any spiritual implications?[10]  More importantly, should people get themselves bent out of shape over Christians doing yoga?

              For many Westerners, all that matters is that something seems to be working.  We rarely look under the hood of our cars.   Our practical bent is both a great strength and a greater weakness.  We naively think that we can arrogantly detach anything from its heritage, and snatch its alleged benefits without any downside.   Yoga has been carefully repackaged to appeal for North Americans to our strongly pragmatic side.  The yogic philosophy is initially minimized.  Some yoga advocates claim that  asanas are just poses, and mantras are just words.   Context becomes everything.  To argue that asanas and mantras have no inherent meaning is itself an unquestionably reductionistic statement.  It is ultimately meaningless to suggest that yoga is meaningless.  Is it really as easy to secularize yogic Hinduism as we individualistic North Americans may think?

                I.K. Taimini, Indian scholar and chemist, wrote that there is no subject like yoga which is so wrapped up in mystery and on which one can write whatever one likes without any risk of being proved wrong.[11]  The religion of Hinduism however is more than just cows, karma and curry.  Yoga is the very heart of Hinduism.  Yoga is the Hindu word for salvation.  Nine out of ten Hindus agree that yoga is Hinduism.[12]  Without yoga, there is no Hinduism.  Without Hinduism, there is no yoga.  There is no historical evidence for the popular New Age belief that yoga predates Hinduism and was originally non-religious.

In yoga asanas, one re-enacts the story of a particular Hindu deity, identifying as that specific deity.  According to Sanskritist Dr. N. Sjoman, verses from the 19th century yoga text Maisuru Maisiri  clearly indicate that “the asanas are assumed to have an inner nature that is associated with their specific name.”  The hand postures (mudras) in Hatha Yoga are a replication of the same hand postures in the statues of Hindu gods.  Yoga is spiritual embodiment.   Is it mere coincidence that yogic asanas and mudras re-enact the exact shape and position of Hindu graven images and deities?  The mudras are used to channel psychic energy through the body to alter consciousness.  They facilitate the process of yogic Self-Realization, and are designed to awaken and activate the root yogic chakra (psychic wheel).

Unlike Judaism, Christianity and Islam, one does not have to believe in  or worship something in order to be impacted by Hinduism.  This systemic religious difference is hard for many westerners to comprehend.  Because all in Hinduism is seen as maya or illusion, belief for yogic Hinduism is nice but not initially necessary.  Nothing is what it appears to be.  The actual belief or meaning structure is often introduced much later at a deeper level of initiation.  Because Hinduism is technique-based, the mere performance of the yogic asana, with or without belief, is sufficient to open up the chakra energies which produce the psychic interaction.[13]   Similar to the way that psychoactive drugs have mental, emotional and even spiritual impact regardless of what one knows about them, yoga also has a chemical impact regardless of one’s yoga knowledge or belief.  The initial irrelevance of belief and worship is one of the reasons why yoga practitioners often promote yoga to North Americans as either non-religious or religiously neutral.[14]  Transcendental Meditation, a form of Mantra yoga, initiated countless westerners with Sanskrit puja rituals that were never explained to them, but still had a significant impact on their core identity.[15]  Yoga is inescapably religious in a way that most North Americans will not notice.[16]   This is why many well-meaning North American Christians have uncritically or unwittingly opened their spirit to yogic Hindu philosophies that clash with  Christ’s teaching.

The term ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yug’, which means to yoke.  Few people in community centre yoga classes ask what they are yoking themselves to.  Yogic practice is designed to yoke or bring psychic union with Brahman, the highest of the Hindu deities.  What looks to us like simple stretches are in fact powerful psychic techniques that have been shown to change the very core of our consciousness.  The purpose of yoga is to produce a mind-altering state that fuses male and female, light and darkness, good and evil, god and humanity.[17]  As the best-selling author Deepak Chopra said in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga:

“Krishna teaches Arjuna (in the Bhagavad Gita) the essence of yoga, telling him that good and evil, pleasure and pain, and loss and gain are two sides of the same coin of life.   The solution that yoga offers is to go beyond the realm of duality and become established in the state of being that is beyond time, space and causality….Krishna tells Arjuna, ‘Go beyond the realm of good and evil where life is dominated by beginnings and endings.   Enter into the domain of yoga where all duality finds its unity…”[18]

  nataraja            Good and evil in yogic philosophy are ultimately just two sides of the same coin. All is one. The term ‘Hatha Yoga’ refers to the union of the sun (ha or male) and moon (tha or female) into one monistic whole.  Some scholars translate Hatha Yoga as ‘violent union’.[19]   The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraj asana, known as the dancing Shiva who ‘dances’ destruction upon any distinctions (avidya) between the Creator and creation, good and evil, male and female.[20]  Yoga philosophy believes that all matter and differences are illusion, and that all illusions can be overcome by the performance of yoga rituals.  Yoga  works systemically  to alter biochemical functions, including our hormones and endocrine system.  The so-called physical activity in Hatha Yoga is meant to achieve a changed state of consciousness, eliminating the distinction between subject [self] and object. Yoga is designed to gradually disconnect one’s thoughts and sensory perceptions from one’s sense of self and identity.  The result is a profound loss of personhood and individuality in an age when many people are already very confused about who they are.  Advanced yoga produces the impression that one no longer exists.  This perception can be very convincing.

               Yoga is the primary technique used by the yogis in attempting to become gods themselves.    Through mantric yoga chanting and asanas, the mind experiences both sensory deprivation and sensory overloading, causing a shutting down of the mind.  Unlike Christian prayer and meditation on God’s Word, the purpose of Eastern yogic meditational practices is to ‘kill the mind’.   Mantra or breath yoga causes one to enter into a meditational trance state in which the mind is first silenced and then emptied.  The ‘killing of the mind’ produces the experience of differences disappearing and all becoming one.   Yoga was crafted and developed to enable an escape from rational thinking and a direct access by nonverbal means to a specific psychic state.  Many would hold that yogic Hinduism produces a trance state through self-induced hypnosis.   Is it fair to wonder if intensive yoga has effects similar to psychological brain-washing techniques?  Is it merely accidental that yoga has the ability to cause a blanking of our minds, an actual cessation of our thought processes?   Will community centre yoga classes in the future be required to alert prospective candidates to  such risks, similar to warnings on cigarette packaging?

               While yogic philosophy is polytheistic, it is also monistic, in the sense that it holds that, through yoga, we become the universe and/or god.[21]  Yoga is the primary way that yogis attempt to be liberated from the karmic bondage of endless reincarnation.  While these tenets are rarely taught at community center yoga classes, they are often held by the community center yoga instructor who has gone to a deeper level of yogic initiation.  The further one enters into yoga, the greater the hold that this ‘other master’ has in one’s life. Those yoga instructors reading this article will have a greater sense of what I am referring to.

                Yoga promoters realize that most North Americans are not yet ready to hear about the deeper secrets of yoga.  Community Center yoga is largely drip-feeding lower-level yoga practices during this time of cultural shift.  Hatha Yoga is itself derived from the very secretive tantric yoga.  According to William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga, Tantric Yoga developed in India around 600 A.D:

“(Tantric yoga) worships female deities, roots its ceremonies in human sexuality, seeks supernatural powers for material gain, and cloaks its rites in secrecy.”

  India            In around 1200 A.D., Gorakhnath, a Hindu ascetic of western India, merged the traditions of Tantra and  body discipline, forming Hatha Yoga.[22]  Broad teaches that the path of enlightenment towards the ecstatic yoga union was known as Tantra.[23]  Hatha Yoga is designed to bring a tantric awakening of Kundalini, the Hindu goddess having a serpent power.[24]  The Sanskrit word kundalini means “she who is coiled”.[25]   The cobra asana is not mere stretching, but is a mind control technique that has been developed over many centuries with proven psychic results.  Few community centre yoga buffs realize that the cobra asana was developed to awaken the kundalini cobra chakra.  The Kundalini snake is said to reside in the lowest chakra at the base of one’s spine:

“When (Kundalini) is aroused by Yoga practice, she uncoils and travels up the spine toward her lover, Shiva. Traveling the spine through psychic centers called chakras, Kundalini reaches the top chakra to merge with Shiva and there receive divine enlightenment through the union with Brahman….”[26]

I was unaware for many years that there is a Lord of Yoga.  According to the Bhagavad-Gita Hindu Scripture, Shiva the Hindu god of destruction is the Lord of Yoga (Yogeshwara) and the first Hatha Yoga teacher.  The Bhagavad Gita used the word “Yoga” in chapter six where the deity Krishna declares, “Thus joy supreme comes to the yogi … who is one with Brahman, with God.”[27]  For many generations, the Hindu texts like Hatha Yoga Pradipikia has described yogis as “able to fly, levitate, stop their hearts, suspend their breathing, vanish, walk through walls, project themselves into other bodies, touch the moon, survive live burial, make themselves invisible, and die at will.”[28]  The magical and sexual aspects of Tantric Yoga have both embarrassed middle-class Indian Hindus while intriguing many Western New Agers.[29]  The Tantric aspect of Hatha Yoga has been linked to a number of high-profile New Age yoga scandals.[30]  Dr. Carl Jung, the father of the New Age movement,  remarkably concluded after two decades of study that advanced yoga can loose a flood of suffering of which no sane person ever dream.  In his advanced yogic awakening, Gopi Krishna said: “It was variable for many years, painful, obsessive…I have passed through almost all the stages of…mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; for some time I was hovering between sanity and insanity.” [31]

SwamiYoga came to North America in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of the famous Guru Ramakrishna, taught about yoga at the Chicago World Fair.  Laurette Willis, an ex-yoga teacher, calls yoga the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement.  In “An Open Letter to Evangelicals”, Swami Sivasiva Palani wrote:

“A small army of yoga missionaries – hatha, raja, siddha and kundalini – beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the western world. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes.”[32]

As Yoga Guru B.K.S Iyengar notes in his book Light on Yoga, “Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power.”[33]  Because the Hindu deities rode on animals, many yoga asanas are devoted to these deified animals.[34]  In the Sun Salutation asana, one is yogically paying direct homage to Surya, the Hindu Sun deity.  The Cobra asana is about identification with and worship of the Kundalini snake, yogically awakened in the chakras.  The fish asana (Matsyasana) is the yogic worship and reenactment of the Hindu deity Vishnu who turned himself into a fish to rescue people from a flood.[35] The Half Moon asana involves the yogic identification with and worship of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god who threw part of his tusk at the moon.[36] The Tortoise asana is dedicated to the yogic worship of Kurma the Tortoise incarnation of the god Vishnu.[37]  The Downward Dog asana reenacts the Hindu worship of the dog as happens for five days each November.[38]  The Hanuman asana is dedicated to the yogic worship of the Monkey god, Hanuman.[39]

The Warrior asana is identified with the yogic worship of Lord Virabhadra who is described as having a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and a garland of skulls.[40]  The Corpse asana is the death or extinction of the person when yogic unification with the Hindu deity Brahman wipes out one’s own identity and existence.[41]  The Lotus asana is identified with the yogic worship of the Hindu deity Lakshmi who sat on a lotus.[42]  The Marichi asana is dedicated to the yogic identification with and worship of Marichi, one of the seven Hindu Lords of Creation and the Grandfather of the Sun god Surya.

A number of well-intended Christians have been recently promoting Christianized yoga in North America.  In their classes, they usually do the same hatha yoga asanas as the new-agers, but add scripture quotes and Gospel music.  Subhas R. Tiwari, a Hindu University of America professor who has a master’s degree in yoga philosophy, comments: “Such efforts [to Christianize yoga] point to a concerted, long-term plan to deny yoga its origin. This effort . . . is far from innocent. It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers.”[43] Tiwari holds that efforts to Christianize yoga are unjust “encroachment” and thinly veiled Christian proselytism of Hindus.

Some Christians claim that 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 gives them the right to christianize yoga, saying that because Paul ate meat sacrificed to idols, then we can similarly do yoga that has been dedicated to idols.  They claim that because they are strong, Spirit-filled Christians, they can do yoga with no downside.  Paul however never encouraged Christians to participate in idolatrous Greek or Roman temple rituals as a way of proving how protected they are by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13, Paul stated that Christians needed to flee idolatry and syncretism.  Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to simply say no, and remove ourselves from a compromising situation.  Never did the Bible encourage us to christianize idolatry or to hang around the idolatrous temple to prove how strong we are.  Not everything can be redeemed.  Some things need to be renounced.  It goes without saying that sacrificing animals to the  local temple statue would have been unthinkable for New Testament Christians.

What Paul was encouraging in 1 Corinthians 8 was the practice of saying grace before eating meat at dinner.  He knew that most meat would have been sacrificed to idols at the local temple before making it to the butcher.  Rather than becoming vegetarian, Paul advocated saying grace as a cleansing prayer.  The parallel passage in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 says that saying grace is not just a nice religious thing we do before Sunday dinner, but rather is a significant act of thanksgiving (in the Greek, eucharist), which actually consecrates or sanctifies the meat through prayer and God’s Word.

Saying grace at dinner, however, is radically different than adopting ancient yogic mind-altering techniques.  Because yoga physically embodies the spiritual philosophy of Hinduism, it inhibits the Lord’s command to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.  It also  disregards Paul’s encouragement in Colossians 2:8 to not be “taken captive by philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  This is not at the same level of whether or not one chooses to have a Christmas tree in one’s living room, or what kind of worship music one prefers.   Yes, there is great freedom on non-essentials for Christians.  But on more essential issues like idolatry or  immorality, the bible is clear that we are to have clear boundaries.  Some, coming out from legalistic church backgrounds, defend yoga in the name of freedom.  But does christianized yoga bring freedom or bondage? Syncretistically dabbling in things that the bible cautions against leads to great confusion.

JesusUltimately from a biblical perspective, the deities of yoga are no deities at all, and their devotees have no power to proscribe or limit what Christian believers may do with their bodies.  Jesus is Lord of our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  That is why many Christians make use of their bodies in worship, kneeling , arms elevated, or even prostrate.   How we use our bodies is an expression of our identity in Christ.  We need not be afraid that through involvement in stretching and calisthenics, we may accidentally be stretching in a way that might look like yoga.  Even with its 1,500 asana poses, yoga does not own the world of calisthenics and stretching.

             With yoga and Hinduism, nothing is what it seems.  This is why it has been described as the embrace that smothers.  Trying to separate the so-called physical from the spiritual in yoga is like attempting to remove arsenic from a bowl of sugar.  Yoga has always been shrouded in illusion and secrecy, and can intentionally look like whatever you want it to in the short term.  Hindus are well aware that yoga is an ancient form of divination.  The bible does not encourage us to see how close to the line we can get before we fall in, but rather to flee idolatry.   In the end, the yogic road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters.   The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake.

Yoga and Christianity go together like ice cream and beach sand.  Just as there is no Christian Ouija board, no Christian astrology, and no Christian tarot card reading, there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian.  I invite you to do the stretching, perhaps unthinkable thing of turning from Yoga towards healthy stretching and calisthenics.  This will not be easy for you, but it will be life-giving.  Please pray about it, like I did.  Ask Jesus to reveal to you the truth about yoga.  Does he want you to renounce it?  Prayer is the way forward.  Have you ever prayerfully asked Jesus whether he wants you to give up yoga?  Why not ask him now? You will not regret choosing to serve one master.  Jesus is Lord.  Yoga is not.

p.s. For those who would like to do healthy stretching, I recommend your checking out these two websites: Mayo Clinic Stretches and Sport Injury Stretches.  Another healthy option would be to check out Praise Moves with Laurette Willis, a Christ-centered alternative to yoga.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

 -award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback andebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[1] Colleen Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga (MaranGraphics, Wiley Publishing Inc, New York, NY, 2003), p. 33.; William J. Broad, The Science of Yoga (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2012), p. 2 “twenty million in the USA…more than two hundred and fifty million (yoga practitioners)…”; “Yoga in America Study 2012”, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america  “82.2 percent are women; 17.8 percent are men.” (Accessed April 28th 2013)
[2] Nathan Johnson, Zen Shaolin Karate, “Ch’an (zen) monks of the Shaolin Temple” (Ch’an comes from an Indian word dhyana meaning meditation.)
[3] Taekwondo and other martial arts can be traced to a 6th century Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China and established Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin temple of Ko San So Rim.  There he taught them both sitting meditation and the martial arts (moving meditation) to enable his disciples to free themselves from all conscious control in order to attain enlightenment. The karate equivalent to the poomse is the kata patterns.  As the Taekwondo author and instructor Eddie Ferrie puts it, “Many of the patterns of taekwondo are rooted in semi-mystical Taoist philosophy and their deeper meaning is said to be far more important than the mere performance of a gymnastics series of exercises.  This is not immediately obvious, either when performing or watching the poomse being performed…”
[4] Timothy McCall, Yoga as Medicine: a Yoga Journal Book (Bantam Dell, New York NY, 2007), P. 112 “At one point yoga was only taught to the elite of Indian society, male Brahmins, and then only to those who dedicated their life to it. The teachings and practice of yoga were kept secret from the rest of the world.”
[5] John Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga (Health Communications Inc., Deerfield, Florida, 2003), p. xiii “No chanting, no incense, no gurus…”
[6] Cain Carroll and Lori Kimata, Partner Yoga (Rodale Books, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 2000), p. 21 “Unlike their predecessors, modern yogis now wear spandex and nail polish and practice postures on thin purple mats.”; “Yoga in America Study 2012”, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america “The previous estimate from the 2008 study was 5.8 billion dollars.” (Accessed April 28th 2013)
[7] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 3.
[8] “India makes moves to reclaim heritage from ‘yoga piracy’”, David Orr, Washington Times, September 22nd 2005, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/sep/22/20050922-114821-4035r/
[9] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 7.; Svatmarama, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Sacred Books of the Hindus, ed. Major Basu, I.M.S. (retired) (Bahadurganj, Allahabad: Sudhindranatah Vasu, 1915), http://www.geocities.com/kriyadc/hatha_yoga_pradipika_chapter1.html.
[10] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 11 “…Yoga is not simply a system of physical exercise or a means of releasing psychic stress, as so many in the West have come to believe…”
[11] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. ix.
[12] Laurette Willis, “Why A Christian Alternative to Yoga?” http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga (Accessed Dec 14th 2012).
[13] www.yogabasics.com  : “More than just stretching, asanas [yoga postures] open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body. Asanas purify and strengthen the body and control and focus the mind.” (Accessed Dec 12th 2012)
[14] Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, p. xiii “Yoga’s not some weird Eastern religion. In fact it’s not a religion at all.”; Capouya, p.xvii “He’s not looking for a religious experience, and hasn’t found it. You don’t have to sit around and say ‘Om’ to do yoga…It doesn’t have to be all Eastern and mystical.”; Pat Shapiro, Yoga for Women at Midlife & Beyond (Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, 2006), p. 15 (Yoga) “is not connected with any particular religion and does not require a specific belief system.”; Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, Encinitas School Yoga Lawsuit,  p. 5, “Many Americans fail to recognize non-Christian (e.g. Hindu) religious practices as ‘religion’ and fail to understand the inseparability of certain bodily practices from spiritual purposes.”  http://bit.ly/11HChls
[15] “Transcendental Meditation”, http://biblefacts.org/cult/tm2.html
[16] According to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, yoga (coming from an east Indian Sanskrit word which means “union with god” or “to yoke”) is “a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through meditation, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines yoga as “Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.”
[17] Carroll and Kimata, Partner Yoga, p. 227 “In these moments of absorption, it is said that we are ‘yoked’ to the underlying force behind all creation. In this place, there are no questions, no opposites, and no struggle; there is only union. This is the essence of yoga.”
[18] Deepak Chopra and David Simon, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (John Wiley and Sons Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2004), p.197.
[19] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 17 “The Sanskrit root of Hatha is hath – to treat with violence, as in binding someone to a post…” P. 17 …a number of scholars translate Hatha Yoga as ‘violent union.’…
[20] http://www.theyogatutor.com/natarajasana The Yoga Teacher, “The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraja, otherwise known as the Dancing Shiva.”; http://bit.ly/TNFTRV Tirusula Yoga, “Nata= Dancer. Raja = King / Lord” (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012)
[21] David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) “Hindu View of Nature”, Hindu Voice UK, http://www.vedanet.com/2012/06/hindu-view-of-nature “Ultimately for the Hindu as the Upanishads say, ‘Everything is Brahman’ Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.” (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[22] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. xxv.; Broad, p.16 “In truth, Hatha is a branch of Tantra.”
[23] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 15.
[24] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 16.
[25] Lee Sannella, The Kundalini Experience (Integral Publishing, Lower Lake, California 1987, 1992), P. 8.; Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, P.7 “Two popular forms of Tantra Yoga are Kundalini and Kriya Yoga.”
[26] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 26.; Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, p.89 “In the yoga tradition…there’s a ‘chakra’, or an energy center, around the solar plexus…”
[27] Laurette Willis http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga “…according to Hatha Yoga Pradipika.”; Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 12 (Bhagavad-Gita is) “a classic Hindu text believed written between the Fifth Century B.C. and the Second Century A.D.”
[28] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 17.
[29]Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, P. xv (yoga) “…recharges your sex life.”; p.172” …in the Kundalini tradition, the perineum is where energy supposedly enters the body. The more energy you take in there, it’s believed, the hornier you get…”; Carroll and Kimata, Partner Yoga, p. 27 “…contrary to popular belief, not all Tantric yoga is sexual.”; Broad, The Science of Yoga, p.24 “Middle-class Indians found (yoga’s) its obsession with sex and magic to be an ’embarrassing heritage,’ according to Geoffrey Samuel, a yoga scholar…”; Broad, p. 26 “Throughout his career, Gune maintained a virtual taboo on the word ‘Tantra’- the parent of Hatha which Hindu nationalists had come to abhor.”;
[30] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 164 “…modern yoga throbs with open sexuality ranging from the blatantly erotic and the bizarrely kinky to the deeply spiritual.”; Broad, p. 164 “…the discipline (of yoga) itself began as a sex cult …”; p. 175 “Even Kripalu came under fire. Former devotees at the Berkshires ashram won more than $2.5 million after its long-term guru–a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity- confessed to multiple affairs.”; McCall, Yoga as Medicine, p. 109 “Kripalu: This system is perhaps the most New Age in feel of the Yoga styles common in the West.”
[31] Broad, Science of Yoga, p. 10; Gopi Krishna, The Awakening of Kundalini (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975), p. 124
[32] Sivasiva Palani, “An Open Letter to Evangelicals”, Hinduism Today, January 1991, http://bit.ly/10Bzxr1.
[33] http://www.hafsite.org/media/pr/yoga-hindu-origins Hindu American Foundation, “Yoga Beyond Asana: Hindu Thought In Practice”,  “Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots.” (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012)
[34] “The Significance of Animals in Hinduism” http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/animals.asp “Hindus revere many divinities in animal form.  Lord Vishnu incarnated upon earth first as a fish, then as a tortoise and then as a boar… In the Hindu pantheon, each god and goddess is associated with an animal as a vehicle.” (Accessed April 5th 2013); “Why Animal Worship in Hinduism?”, http://bit.ly/XZ4mbS  “Almost all the deities in Hinduism have animals as their mode of transport (vehicle) or are associated with animals… Brahma travels on a humongous swan Hamsa, Lord Shiva on the Divine Bull Nandi and Lord Vishnu travels on the Golden-Eagle Garuda”  (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[35]“Fish Pose”, http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/2335 (Accessed Dec 26th 2012)
[36]  History of Yoga Postures,  http://bit.ly/12puYFs (Accessed Dec 29th 2012)
[37] “Sitting like a Tortoise”, http://bit.ly/ZErk2K  (Accessed Dec 29th 2012)
[38] “Animal Worship” http://bit.ly/2ogQaB (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[39] http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/889 Hanumanasana: Pose Dedicated to the Monkey God, Hanuman, By Aadil Palkhivala
[40]   “Viradhadra” http://bit.ly/K1fK0R (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[41] Mike Stokes, “Shavasana the dead pose”, http://www.godrealized.com/Shavasana.html (Accessed April 5th 2013) “Why is it that in nearly every yoga class, no matter what the style, we end with Savasana?… Why practice death pose? …The reason lies in the fact that death brings us face to face with total annihilation of the self… the essence of Savasana and the essence of yoga, namely total annihilation of separateness and unification with the whole.  Annihilation of the self is the access to the experience of yoga.”
[42]“Lakshmi: Goddess of Wealth & Beauty!” http://hinduism.about.com/od/hindugoddesses/p/lakshmi.htm “Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families.”; “Name: Padmasana” http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/meaning_of_Padmasana.html (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[43] “Pose dedicated to Marichi” http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/939; “Urban Ashtanga Teacher Training” http://bit.ly/XZ2xf3 (Accessed April 5th 2013); Subhas R. Tiwari, “Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu,” Hinduism Today, January-February-March 2006.


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The Prayer Book: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Three addresses were given at St. Paul’s Church, Bloor Street, Toronto, on May 1, 1999 at a special event organized by
the Prayer Book Society of Canada, Toronto Branch, in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer


The (late) Revd. Dr. Robert Crouse, retired Professor of Classics at King’s College, Halifax;

The Revd. Dr. James Packer, Professor of Systematic Theology at Regent College, Vancouver

The Revd. Ed Hird, rector of St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver


    The Revd. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

The Revd. Ed Hird was ordained in 1980.  He served in the parishes of St. Philip’s, Vancouver, and St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, before becoming the rector of St. Simon’s Church in North Vancouver in 1987.   Ed is the past National Chair of Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada, and has spoken at Renewal, Essentials and Prayer Book Society conferences in Honduras and in various locations across Canada.  Inspired by the Essentials movement, he re-introduced the Prayer Book as one of the two main Sunday services in his congregation.

   We live in an age in which the knowledge of God’s will is deemed by many to be either unknowable or irrelevant.  Our society reminds me of the story of the roving TV reporter who was sent out to the shopping malls on Saturday morning to investigate the problem of teenage apathy and ignorance.  Every teenager had the same response: “I don’t know and I don’t care”!   And to be fair, teenagers are not the only Canadians suffering from spiritual ignorance and apathy.  I remember an adult coming up to me after a sermon I preached in a previous parish.  This person said, “I’m totally shocked.  I have never made it before to the end of a sermon.  I would always just doze off and wake up at the end of the message.  But this time I actually heard it through to the end.”

This problem of apathy and ignorance can be traced back to the ancient disease of Pyrrhonism.  Pyrrhonism is a system of skeptical philosophy, expounded in 300 BC by the Greek thinker, Pyrrho of Elis.1  The heart of Pyrrhonism is the denial of all possibility of attaining certainty in knowledge.  All one is left with is the classic west-coast phrase: “Well, whatever works for you”.   With the collapse of confidence in objective truth, our Canadian culture is sinking in intellectual subjectivism and moral anarchy.  We have seen a Canadian judge strike down child pornography laws while claiming that our Canadian Constitution and our Charter of Rights somehow protect the possession of child pornography.  We live in an age where there “is no king and everyone does as they see fit.” (Judg. 21:25).  We live in an age of leadership crisis.  It is not just our politicians, our police officers, our school teachers, our military leaders.  Even in the Church, yes, in the Anglican Church, there is a profound leadership crisis that is crippling our corporate ability to get on with the task of making disciples of all nations.  Perhaps the never-ending “sexual politics” in the Anglican Church of Canada is really a symptom of a deeper leadership crisis.

More than ever, we need to discover afresh what it means to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and given the power to carry out that will.  As J. John at the Canterbury ‘98 Conference put it, “We only have enough time to do the will of God”.  So many of us in the Church are like Martha whom Jesus said was distracted by many things, but missing the main one of sitting at Jesus’ feet.

One of the many things I appreciate about the Prayer Book Society is the clarion call to prayer.  The Prayer Book Society is not a Colonel Blimp English Memorial Society.2  Rather it constitutes a mobilization of God’s troops to the sacred calling of spiritual warfare through sustained and intensive prayer.  If there is anything that we know about God’s will, it is that God wills that we “pray without ceasing”.  Let’s be honest.  How many of us need to cut back on our prayer life, because it is getting in the way of doing God’s will?  Despite any fears that prayer will make us so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good, the truth of the matter is that only the prayerful and heavenly-minded are ultimately any earthly good.  The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a living testimony to the intimate relationship between prayer and resulting action.

It is not without reason that the Apostle Paul calls us again and again to “devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2).  Prayer is the backbone of all lasting renewal.  As Dr. E. Stanley Jones, the famous Methodist missionary to India put it, “there can be no great spiritual awakening either in the individual or in the group unless and until the individual or the group give themselves to prayer.”3  Dr. Jones goes on to say: “When we feel that there is something wrong and that it is all ending in futility, instead of giving ourselves to prayer, we appoint a committee!  If a monument”, says Dr. Jones, “were erected over the dead situations in Christendom, we might inscribe on it ‘Committeed to Death’.  We call a committee instead of calling to prayer.”  It has been said that the 16th century Reformation began in Luther’s prayer closet.  The truth is that all reformation, all renewal, all restoration begins in someone’s prayer closet.  Quoting Dr. Jones again, “we find sooner or later that in prayer we either abandon ourselves or we abandon prayer.  Prayer will keep us from self-withholding or self-withholding will keep us from prayer.”4

I would encourage you, if you have your Bibles with you, to turn in the book of Colossians to Chapter One, which deals with one of the greatest prayers in the New Testament.  I believe that it would be presumptuous to try to improve on the New Testament prayers.  Rather, our goal as 21st Century Anglicans should be to model all of our prayers on the biblical pattern of prayer shown especially by Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  I remember my rector, Ernie Eldridge,  telling me that one of the great strengths of the Book of Common Prayer is that something like 80% of it is straight from the Bible.  The prayers in the BCP were written by people who were steeped in the biblical thought forms, and so produced biblically sound and lasting prayers.

Paul is writing here to a formerly great and flourishing city that had been in a recession for the last three to four hundred years.  Colossae, whose name means “Monstrosity”, had become a backwater no-name town that had been left behind in the busy pace of 1st century Greek life.  Its neighbouring towns, Laodicea and Hierapolis were well-known respectively for their financial and administrative prowess, and for their burgeoning tourist and hot springs industry.  They, like Colossae, were located on the River Lycus, a river famous for overlaying its surrounding river banks with thick deposits of chalk.  As Bishop J.B. Lightfoot put it, “Ancient monuments are buried; fertile land is overlaid; river beds choked up and streams diverted; fantastic grottoes and cascades and archways of stone are formed, by this strange, capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently throughout the ages.  Fatal to vegetation, these incrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground.  Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside, they attract the eye of the traveller at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness.”5  In some ways, Bishop Lightfoot’s description seems like a parable of the Canadian Church … beautiful, impressive, but calcified and choked up by double-mindedness and fear.

Paul had never personally visited Colossae.  Rather, he preached extensively in the coastal city of Ephesus, with the result that his new converts spread the gospel extensively to many lesser-known cities and towns that were further inland.  There is a remarkable similarity between the books of Ephesians and Colossians, especially in the structure of Paul’s prayers in both epistles.  In both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul centres his prayer in thanksgiving.  You will notice in verse 3 how Paul says: “We always thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you …”.  In a structure similar to that of the Lord’s Prayer, Paul pays the debt of gratitude before he moves into his personal requests.  “Thy kingdom come” needs to come before “Give us this day our daily bread.”  In the Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel says that the three key prayers that we can pray are “thank you”, “please”, and “sorry”.   Back in 1931, Bishop Lewis Radford of Goulbourn, Australia commented regarding this passage that “a survey of the grounds for thanksgiving revives the spirit of hope, and provides fresh material for petition.”6  The Christian life is not a life of Pollyanna-style positive thinking, but rather that of eucharistic thanksgiving in all circumstances, trusting that God can turn everything that is against us to our advantage, that all things work to the good for those who love him.

Why was Paul so thankful?  Verses 4 and 5 tells us that Paul was thankful because of the great triad of Christian graces: faith, hope, and love.  So often when Paul prays, he prays according to the three-fold pattern of the only things that will remain in the end.  Faith: their faith in Christ Jesus; Hope: hope stored up for us in heaven; and Love: love for all the saints.  As Bishop J.B. Lightfoot put it, “faith rests on the past; love works in the present; hope looks to the future”.7  Does the Prayer Book Society, indeed does the Anglican Church have a future as we celebrate the 450th Anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer?   I believe that the answer to both questions is yes, if we will ground our Christian life more and more on the three-fold graces of faith, hope and love.

I will always remember Dr. Robert Crouse’s presentation at the Montreal Essentials ‘94 Conference when he spoke of “despair, that most dangerous of all sins.”8  Satan, the ultimate deceiver and seducer of God’s people, is a past master at the use of discouragement and despair in crippling the saints.  He would love us to believe that Anglicanism is beyond hope, that there is no point in praying and working for the restoration of biblical orthodoxy.   We can thank our Lord Jesus Christ that he will always have a faithful Anglican witness in Canada, even if someday it may require missionaries from Africa and Asia to come and re-establish the gospel in our own homeland.

The good news found in verse 6 of Chapter 1 of Colossians is that “all over the world the gospel is producing fruit and growing”.  Lambeth ‘98 was a powerful reminder of that truth with the hundreds of Asian, African, and South American bishops making their presence felt in unforgettable ways.  The gospel, as Bishop Lewis Radford put it, is both a transforming force and a travelling fire.9  It is a fire that cannot be stamped out no matter how hard secularists and revisionists may try.  Verse 7 tells us about Epaphras, the founder of the Church at Colossae.  Some early church traditions make him the first bishop of Colossae.10  Verse 7 describes him as “our dearly loved fellow servant”, as a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.  Both Paul and Epaphras were passionate that the Colossians should be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  Epaphras was so passionate about this that Paul commented in Colossians chapter 4, verse 2 that Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”  The Greek word for wrestling is agonizomenos which means to agonize.  It is God’s will that each of us agonize in prayer for the restoration of faithful Anglicanism in Canada.  Wrestling in prayer is the key to being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.

That is why the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, the Anglican priest who wrote the “12 Steps” and helped to found Alcoholics Anonymous, quoted Colossians Chapter 1 in writing step 11.  What does Step 11 encourage us to pray for: “… the knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out.”

What is the use of knowing what to do, if we haven’t the power to do it?  What is the use of studying the Bible if we never do the Bible?  What is the use of praying the Prayer Book if we never live out the Prayer Book?  The key to doing the Bible and living the Prayer Book is Colossians chapter 1, verse 8: “love in the Spirit”.  It is not the love of power that will set the Anglican Church free, but rather the power of love.  Dr. Gordon Fee, the well known New Testament Scholar from Regent College, notes that virtually everywhere that the word “power” is used in the New Testament, it is referring to the power of the Holy Spirit.11  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to change.  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to love.  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to forgive.  Verse 8 tells us the secret of lasting renewal: “love in the Spirit”.

In the early days of Anglican renewal, a bishop in northern B.C. fired his dean because some of his parishioners had had the nerve to pray that the bishop be filled with the Holy Spirit.  If only they had just prayed forthe bishop to be filled afresh or anew, the Dean might have kept his job.  Why do all of us need to be filled with the Spirit again and again? (Eph. 5:18).  The reason, as D.L. Moody put it, is that we leak.  It is always touchy to pray for one’s bishop without sounding like one is trying to give his bishop advice.  It is so easy for us to dump all our unmet dreams and frustrations on the back of our bishops.  Yet God calls us to bless and not curse.  God calls us in verse 9 to never give up praying for each other, and that certainly includes our bishops.  Verse 9 is a wonderful way to pray for your bishop, your rector, and your wardens in a way that none of them could possibly object to.  Just pray that God will fill them with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  All of us need to be filled up, to be more full of God’s grace, peace, joy, hope, and faith so that we will be more full, more grace-full, more peace-full, more joy-full, more faith-full.  The point of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) is to fill us up inside with more of the character of Jesus Christ.

What will being filled with the knowledge of God’s will really do for us?  Paul tells us in verse 10 that such filling will result in our walking worthy of God, in our pleasing the Lord in every way, in our bearing fruit in every good work, in our growing in the knowledge of God.  Being filled with the knowledge of His will is the key not only to living in the Spirit but also to walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).  As our AA friends remind us, it is not enough to talk the talk; we also need to walk the walk.

Yet all of us are powerless in ourselves to change our lives.  In fact, no change is possible until we admit in the words of Step 1 that “We are powerless over our (addictions and sins) and our lives have become unmanageable”.  The reason why “12 Step” people talk so much about a Higher Power is that our own power, our own resources, are never enough to make a lasting difference.  We need, in the words of Luke 24:49, to be clothed with power from on high, the very power of the Holy Spirit.  That is why Acts 1:8 says that “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”.  That is why Colossians chapter 1 verse 11 talks about our being strengthened with all power: in the Greek, “being powered with all power”, with all dunamis, all dynamite.  There are logjams in Anglicanism that nothing but the power, the dynamite, of the Holy Spirit can possibly remove.  All of us know many faithful Anglicans who have given up in despair and left our church, perhaps returning occasionally for their Communion “fixes”.  When we think of the mother/father God/Goddess apostasy that the new ACC “Common Praise” hymn book is leading us into, only the power of the Holy Spirit will be able to lead us out of that syncretistic swamp.  Yet with God, nothing is impossible!  Would anyone like to become the founders of a Blue Hymn Book Society of Canada?

Dr. E. Stanley Jones holds that “the difference between a river and a swamp is that one has banks and the other has none.  The swamp is very gracious and kindly, it spreads over everything, hence it is a swamp.  Some of us are moral and spiritual swamps.  We are so broad and liberal that we take in everything from the shady to the sacred.  Hence we are swamps.  A river has banks – it confines itself to its central purpose.  The civilizations of the world organize themselves not around swamps, but around rivers.”12

To me, the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible are rivers.  The new Common Praise hymn book in contrast is a gracious and kindly swamp.  The river that is the Holy Spirit confines Himself to His central purpose, which is to fill us with the knowledge of the Father’s will and to give us the power to carry that out.  The Colossian Christians were a tiny, faithful minority living in a “new-age” spiritual scene.  As with the original Colossian church, one of the greatest challenges facing our Anglican Church is well-meaning interfaith syncretism.  In our worship of newness and inclusiveness, we are rushing to replace the riverbanks of our BCP with the neo-gnostic swamp of centering prayer/mantra yoga, enneagram workshops, labyrinths, Jungian-based MBTI personality tests, and invocations of “God our Father and our Mother”.13  Lord, forgive us for our naïve worship of the seemingly new and trendy, and for our disrespect for the wisdom of our Anglican forebears.  Genuine renewal is actually about renewing the riches of our inheritance in Christ Jesus, not about uncovering secret “new revelations”. (Eph. 1:18)

Most renewal movements in the past few centuries, including the various holiness, pentecostal, charismatic, and third-wave expressions, can be traced back to the influence of two Anglican priests, John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism.  Canadian Methodism was the largest of the bodies which came together to form the United Church of Canada in 1925.  Few people realize what a high view the Wesleys had of the Anglican prayer book and of the Anglican Church in general.  Even on the verge of being forced to ordain his own preachers, John Wesley commended the Church of England to his leaders as “the best constituted national church in the world”.14  John Wesley also taught his followers that “there is no LITURGY in the World, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational Piety, than the COMMON PRAYER of the CHURCH of ENGLAND”.15  John Wesley did not just appreciate the Prayer Book theology.  He even loved its language, language which he described as “not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree.”16  John and Charles Wesley experienced manifestations of the Holy Spirit that would make the Toronto Airport Fellowship look tame, yet the Wesleys still held up the Prayer Book as a vital tool for orthodoxy and renewal.  And John Wesley was even radical enough that he advised all his clergy to administer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday at the main service.17

As Dr. Bard Thompson put it, “It was the way of John Wesley to espouse extempore prayer, yet esteem the prayer book; to give free expression to evangelical power, yet prize the structures of the church …”18  Yet sadly Wesley’s wisdom was largely ignored.  His followers decided that they could pray better and with more devotion when their eyes were shut, than they could with their eyes open, praying from a book.19  So they cast aside the Prayer Book and produced the United Church of Canada instead.  Wesley drew the balance between the stability of tradition and the dynamism of the Spirit.  His followers, however, became progressively less rooted generation after generation.  It is so easy to cast aside “the riches of our inheritance”.  It is much harder to humble ourselves enough to go back home and start afresh.  I remember how hard I tried to convince my Grandma Allen to “get with it” and give up on the Book of Common Prayer.  But she was so “stubborn and inflexible” that she died with the Bible and the Prayer Book by her bedside.

Our parish of St. Simon’s had not used the Book of Common Prayer at its main service for over 25 years.  When I came back from the Montreal ‘94 Essentials Conference and suggested that we might try doing the Prayer Book on fifth Sundays, some of my leadership secretly wondered if I might have lost my mind.  But eventually they came to see in unity what I was talking about.

Reintroducing the Prayer Book as one of our two main services has brought 30% growth in average Sunday attendance over the next two years.  I am not saying that it was easy to reintroduce the Book of Common Prayer.  Many Anglicans don’t like change, even if it means restoring the riches of their inheritance.  There are many well-meaning Anglican clergy out there who would rather die than admit they may have made a mistake in abandoning the classic Book of Common Prayer.  Many clergy have battle scars from liturgy wars in the 1970’s and early 80’s.  They have finally achieved relative liturgical calm in their parishes and they are reluctant to “open up old wounds”, and disturb the relative truce.

But God’s will for us as clergy is not merely for us to preserve the peace or to be keepers of ecclesiastical aquariums, but rather to be fishers of men and women.  Our greatest desire as Anglican leaders must be our desire to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and to have the power of the Holy Spirit to carry it out.  Why else do we pray every day “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”.  What is God’s will?  The Bible is clear that God’s will, among other things, is that we go into all the world, preaching the gospel to all creation, and that we make disciples of all nations (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19).  1 Timothy chapter 2, verses 4 and 5 tells us clearly that God’s will is that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, and that there is only one mediator, one bridge between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.

The leadership crisis in Anglicanism is directly linked to a growing fuzziness of vision regarding God’s will that the lost be found.  Many church leaders are beginning to publicly question whether the lost are really lost after all, and whether God really wants to find them.  Unless we are convinced that the man Christ Jesus is the only mediator between God and humanity, and that he really gave himself as a ransom for all, not just for those raised in the church or in the west, we will not have the power to carry out this great and lasting commission.  As Dr. John Stott put it at an Vancouver Anglican Essentials gathering, we claim uniqueness and finality in Christ alone.

If all we do is squabble about liturgical preferences and do not reach the lost, we are a people most to be pitied.  The Book of Common Prayer is not an ingrown book.  It is a book with a passion that the lost might be found.  In contrast to the BAS, the BCP is clear that God wants us to win the world for Christ.  The BAS, if you read it carefully, is written in a way that it can either encourage you to do evangelistic mission work for Christ or merely to affirm God in all cultures.  The BCP, however, is uncompromising in its biblical stance that “God is not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)  As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said at Kanuga, “Evangelism is not a matter to be debated but a command to be obeyed.”  God’s will, as expressed in Colossians 1 verse 13, is that he might rescue (many) from the dominion of darkness and bring (them) into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we might have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  We say each Sunday in the Creed that we believe in the forgiveness of sins.  Are you sharing that forgiveness with your lost neighbour, family member, co-worker?

I pray in conclusion that God may fill each of us with the knowledge of His will, that none should perish, that all may come to repentance, and that God may give us the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out his will to the very ends of the earth, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Anglican Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

Past Chair, Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide


  1. The Oxford Dictionary of the Church, F.L. Cross, ed. (Oxford University Press, 1957), p. 1128.

  2. Colonel Blimp was a humorous anachronistic figure in the British WW2-based television series “Dad’s Army”.

  3. Dr. E. Stanley Jones, Pentecost: the Christ of Every Road, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1930), p. 247.

  4. Ibid., p. 248.

  5. The Rt. Revd. Dr. J.B. Lightfoot, as quoted in Dr. William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible: the Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Toronto: G.R. Welch Co. Ltd.), p. 91.

  6. The Rt. Revd. Dr. Lewis B. Radford, Colossians (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1931), p. 3.

  7. Ibid., p. 151.

  8. Anglican Essentials, George Egerton, ed. (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1995), p. 289.

  9. Radford, op. cit., p. 153.

  10. Ibid., p. 154.

  11. Dr. Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), p. 35.

  12. Dr E. Stanley Jones, op. cit., p. 227.

  13. As done in the Canadian Anglican “Common Praise” hymn book (1999), which tragically alters the much-loved “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” hymn from “God our Father, Christ our Brother” to “God our Father and our Mother”.

  14. Liturgies of the Western Church, “The Sunday Service”, ed. Bard Thompson, (Cleveland and New York, Meridan Books, The World Publishing Company, 1961), p. 416.

  15. Ibid., p. 416.

  16. Ibid., p. 416.

  17. Ibid., p. 416.

  18. Ibid., p. 416.

  19. Ibid., p. 410.

This booklet is published by the Toronto Branch of the Prayer Book Society of Canada.  Additional copies can be ordered at a cost of $2 each from Dr. Diana Verseghy, 16 Capilano Court, Concord, Ontario, L4K 1L2.
E-mail: Diana.Verseghy@ec.gc.ca


Taekwondo and the Martial Arts: Mere Exercise or Trojan Horse??

By the Rev. Dr.  Ed Hird

I was personally involved in Martial Arts, Karate in particular, for a number of years between the period of 1971 to 1991.  My enthusiasm for martial arts even led me to successfully recruit other Christians to join me.  Through the prayer ministry of the group Wholeness Through Christ, I chose to renounce my previous involvement in the martial arts.  Previously, I was opposed to some of my friends dabbling in community centre yoga, but had rationalized my involvement in the martial arts as something innocuous.

In the spring of 1999, my sons discussed with me the expectation that they would take part in Taekwondo as part of their Christian school gym class.  In discussing our concerns with their principal, it was agreed that my sons would be exempted from this expectation.  It was also agreed that I would do some research regarding our concerns about Taekwondo, and present my findings in a paper to the principal and the school board.

As a renewal-oriented Anglican, I believe that it is vital that the charismatic gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10) not be neglected in this neo-gnostic, confused age.  As part of the discernment process, I carefully researched dozens of pro-martial arts books, with a special emphasis on taekwondo books.  I also consulted extensively with a good number of taekwondo and Martial Arts instructors from North America and around the world.  My research led me to believe that taekwondo and the Martial Arts (MA) are far more than just physical gym exercises.  Rather Taekwondo and MA are Zen Buddhist meditational techniques designed to bring a person into the experience of satori or Buddhist enlightenment.[1]  As Buddhism essentially is reformed Hinduism, so too the Martial Arts are essentially Martial Yoga.  Few westerners have enough experience with Zen Buddhism to initially notice the hidden religious nature of martial arts.  Chuck Norris, famous for his role as Walker on the TV show Texas Ranger, holds unreservedly that ‘the ancient system of Zen (is) the core philosophy behind the martial arts.’[2]  It is no coincidence that the occult circular symbol of Ying-Yang constantly appears on even many innocuous-looking Taekwondo websites and brochures.[3] One of the goals of Taekwondo and other martial arts is to enter a zazen meditational state so that ‘the everyday experience of the dualism of subject and object vanishes.’[4]

In the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs , John Ankerberg and John Weldon state that “Because most (martial arts) methods incorporate eastern teaching and techniques, the martial arts are easy doorways into Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and other non-Christian religions.”[5]  They went on to comment that “Traditionally, martial arts are forms of spiritual education that function as means towards self-realization or self-enlightenment.  It is true that the spiritual dimension of martial arts can be downplayed or ignored, but that is not consistent with their ultimate purpose historically.”[6]

Taekwondo and other martial arts can be traced to a 6th century Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China and established Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin temple of Ko San So Rim.  There he taught them both sitting meditation and the martial arts (moving meditation) to enable his disciples to free themselves from all conscious control in order to attain enlightenment.[7]

Since Taekwondo’s Olympic debut in 1988, its popularity has spread like wildfire across the world.[8] Taekwondo means ‘ Hand (Tae) and Foot (kwon) Way (do).  According to the official WTF Taekwondo book, Taekwondo ‘is now the national sport of Korea.’[9]  Eddie Ferrie holds that ‘every child in (Korean) school is compelled to practise Taekwondo…’[10]  David Mitchell notes that Taekwondo ‘is taught to all members of the Korean armed forces’.[11]  It is estimated that 20 –30 million people worldwide now have been initiated into Taekwondo.[12]

One of the major concerns by Christian researchers is the sitting meditation commonly done in Taekwondo and most Martial Arts.  The Fighting Back Taekwondo book describes the Chung Shin Tomil or sitting meditation as ‘another essential part of your taekwondo training’.[13] “Before and after any taekwondo class, the students meditate…first, you may be asked to clear your mind of all thought and to relax completely…The 2nd method of meditation is related to visualization.”[14]  Mitchell claims that ‘…the empty mind (is) needed to master taekwondo.’[15]  Key to both Buddhist and Hindu occult meditation is manipulation of one’s breathing, which is described as Hohup chojul and Jiptung (synchronized breathing) in Taekwondo.  In contrast, biblical meditation is meditating on God’s written Word the Bible, rather than meditating on the empty mind by using occult breathing and visualization techniques.

Another area of concern relates to the ritual forms or poomse used in Taekwondo.  The karate equivalent to the poomse is the kata patterns.  As the Taekwondo author and instructor Eddie Ferrie puts it, “Many of the patterns of taekwondo are rooted in semi-mystical Taoist philosophy and their deeper meaning is said to be far more important than the mere performance of a gymnastics series of exercises.  This is not immediately obvious, either when performing or watching the poomse being performed…”[16] The eight Taegeuk poomses performed in taekwondo are derived from the eight triagrams of the occult I’Ching.[17] Richard Chun holds that ‘the forms of Taekwondo…are more than physical exercises: they are vehicles for active meditation.’[18]

One of the most questionable poomse patterns is the Ilyo or Ilyeo poomse.  Ferrie teaches that the “Ilyo is a pattern which has a spiritual orientation containing 24 movements.  The title of the pattern refers to the development of a state of spiritual enlightenment which is one of the ultimate aims of the disciple of taekwondo.  The student who has attained Ilyo is capable of completely spontaneous reaction without any interference from the conscious mind.”[19] I was surprised to find out that the Ilyo poomse is done in the shape of an actual swastika.  Hitler stole this ancient occult symbol from the Buddhists and Hindus who had used it for centuries as a symbol of monism (all is one, and all is God).[20]  The Taekwondo Textbook teaches that ‘The line of poomse symbolizes the Buddhist mark (swastika) in commemoration of Saint Wonho (or Won Hyo), which means a state of perfect selflessness in Buddhism where origin, substance, and service come into congruity.’[21] The Buddhist swastika in Taekwondo ‘teaches that a point, a line, or a circle ends up after all in one.  Therefore the poomse Ilyeo represents the harmonization of spirit and body which is the essence of martial arts.’[22] The swastika in Taekwondo has the occult (i.e. Hidden) purpose of teaching the higher-level students that all is one and all is God.

In conclusion, my research and personal experience has led me to the conviction that Taekwondo and the Martial Arts are not merely physical exercise, but in fact are Zen Buddhist meditational practices, both in their sitting and moving forms.  Taekwondo and MA are a Trojan Horse in the House of the Lord, eroding the spiritual barriers between Zen Buddhism and the Christian Gospel, and potentially leading vulnerable children and teens into the early stages of eastern occultism.  As a result of this research, our Christian School Board decided to no longer offer Taekwondo or other Martial Arts.  The good news about religious syncretism is that it is never too late to repent and start afresh, serving one Master and one Master alone, Jesus Christ our Lord (Matthew 6:24)

 p.s. To explore more about the Yoga connection, click on my article Yoga: more than meets the Eyes?

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Anglican Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

Past Chair, Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada

   -previously published in the February 2,000 Anglicans for Renewal Canada Magazine

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback andebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[2] Chuck Norris, The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems, Top Kick Productions, 1996, inside cover; ‘…Zen is integral to the Oriental martial arts…(p. 23)’

[3] Taekwondo Textbook, Oh Sung Publishing Company, Kukkiwon Edition, p. 235; The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Taekwondo, Karen Eden & Keith Yates, Alpha Books, New York, 1998, p. 22

[4] Encyclopedia Brittanica, 15th Edition, ‘Martial Arts’, p. 886

[5] John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House, 1996, Oregon, p. 351

[6] Ankerberg and Weldon, Op. Cit., p. 356

[7] Richard Chun, Tae Kwon Do: The Korean Martial Art, Toronto, 1976, p. 2

[8] Fighting Back: Taekwondo for Women, YH Park Publications, 1993, p. 8

[9] David Mitchell, Official WTF Taekwondo, Antler Books, London, 1986, back cover

[10] Eddie Ferrie, , Taekwondo: Traditional Art and Modern Sport, The Crowford Press, UK, 1989, p. 101

[11] Mitchell, Op. Cit., p. 9

[12] J.S. Eldon, Essential Taekwondo Patterns, Paul Crompton Ltd, London, 1994, p. 5; The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Taekwondo, Op. Cit., p. 18

[13] Fighting Back, Op. Cit., p. 150

[14] Op. Cit., p. 150

[15] Mitchell, Op. Cit., p. 12

[16] Ferrie, Op. Cit., p. 99

[17] Ferrie, Op. Cit., p. 99, p. 100

[18] Chun, Op. Cit., p. 34

[19] Ferrie, Op. Cit., p. 100

[20] Taekwondo Textbook, Op. Cit., p. 235, p. 506

[21] Taekwondo Textbook, Op. Cit., p. 506 “Won Hyo is a 28 movement form or poomse which is named after the 7th century monk who purportedly introduced Zen Buddhism to Korea. (Ferrie, p. 101)”

[22] Ferrie, Op. Cit., p. 506