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West meets East: Christians Embracing Eastern Practices

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

When I was an atheist, a prime reason I gave for rejecting God was the violent mess his "children" had created on earth. In my view, the world's religions spent too much time warring over who really holds the VIP backstage pass to God's show. If God was real, why would he sit back and let that happen? Why not appear as a burning bush again, or thunder from the sky, "Hey you kids cut that crap right now! Don't make me come down there!"

Since becoming a believer, I now understand that the Lord is just as saddened by this behavior as many humans are. But like any parent, he doesn't control what his grown children do. He creates them, loves and guides them, but because he created them with free will, he will not force them to listen to his guidance or to act as he wishes.

Nor does he want to force them, although it pains him to see his children hurt each other. He wants them to follow him of their own choosing. He doesn't want a world of slaves who obey him because he revealed himself in the sky for all to see. Just like a father wouldn't move into his grown son's college dorm room and control his every move to make sure he does right. If a father did that, the son wouldn't be learning anything. He wouldn't be growing a mature heart and serving his brothers and sisters out of sincere love.

[sigh...] "They're at it again. When will they learn?"

An encouraging trend is that leaders of the world's major religions are acknowledging we have much in common.

The definition of awesome: Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders working together.

History shows that the ancients often borrowed practices from other places as world religions developed. Then we hit a snag when certain dominant religions coalesced and developed doctrines to establish their unique identities. Soon enough, it became a "my way or the highway" situation. This began happening long before Jesus was born, but Christianity is also certainly, profoundly guilty of it. For too much of the western world's history, if you weren't a follower of Jesus Christ, at best you'd be written off as a lost soul going to hell. At worst, you'd be strongly encouraged to follow Jesus upon pain of death.

Inquisitors "converting" Jews to Christianity. Somehow I doubt Jesus would be on board with this.

Thanks to the Internet and ease of international travel, we're returning to the days of faith being a practice; a living part of you that grows with where life takes you. A Christian who is secure in his faith can travel to India and participate in Kirtan singing or yoga, and discover this practice moves the Holy Spirit through him in a new way. He can visit China and learn Buddhist meditation, feeling a beautiful peace that transforms him into a calmer, gentler person. He may visit Tibet and feel inspired by the sound of singing bowls.

A Christian who is secure in his faith can enjoy these experiences and know that they take nothing away from his own salvation in Christ. In fact, he may find his faith enriched by incorporating "foreign" practices into his own worship. Surely, we can't think that over half of earth's population is ignorant of God's love and incapable of holy union with Him. Sikhs singing Kirtan and Benedictine monks singing Gregorian chant are sharing similar practices with ancient common roots, and neither needs to fear that the other can somehow diminish their own personal relationship with God.


Image: American-Sikh

We're all God's children. Let's harmonize together.

Most religions have fundamentalists who display fear and aggression when faced with the idea of sharing spiritual practices, or even acknowledging the validity of religions besides their own. That is their choice, but I find it unfortunate. In the case of fundamentalist Christians, I can attest that their views are a primary reason non-believers reject Christianity. Warning that meditation, yoga, or even Christian contemplative prayer, are dubious Eastern practices that invite demons into our lives, is a sure way to reduce the number of ears willing to hear the good news of Jesus and His love.

There is also no real evidence for that claim. If meditation and contemplative prayer provide a doorway for demons to manipulate us, then demons aren't very efficient; people who practice it tend to be the most peaceful, kind, forgiving human beings you'll meet. For me personally, it was meditation that led me from atheism to new life in Christ. If you don't want to believe what you hear from proponents of meditation and contemplative prayer, all you have to do is look into faces; look into the eyes. The eyes tell you all you need to know about the soul within. Look at these faces... all Christian practitioners of meditation or contemplative prayer:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk

Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal Priest

Do they look tormented by demons? Deceived by Satan? Of course not. They radiate peace, joy, and love. They are secure in their faith. Only people who are insecure perpetuate fear and separateness. Look into their eyes and you may see something not so peaceful. All we can do is pray for them, and speak out honestly when beneficial practices are falsely maligned as being dangerous.

Give contemplative prayer, or centering prayer, a try. Here is a link to the Contemplative Outreach organization, which may be of some assistance to you:

If you are interested in trying meditation, here is a fun 5-minute video with great tips.

Prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening to God. Give new practices a try, and trust that your relationship with God cannot be diminished by doing so.

Wishing you sound spirit, sound mind, sound body.


Note to reader: I use the pronoun "He" because it is traditional and convenient. However, although I take comfort in terms such as "Our Father..." I do not personally feel that God is of any gender. God is infinite and cannot be limited by human constructs such as gender identity. Thank you for reading.

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