What Eastern Gurus Say About Occult Practices – Yoga

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
Perhaps the most common practice advanced by Eastern occultism is some form of yoga and/or meditation. Although many Americans practice yoga as mere exercise, few have any idea of where such practice may take them.

What Eastern Gurus Say About Occult Practices

Perhaps the most common practice advanced by Eastern occultism is some form of yoga and/or meditation. In our critique of New Age medicine, Can You Trust Your Doctor?, we have documented the multiple dangers of most meditation practice. Here, we will concentrate on yoga.

Although many Americans practice yoga as mere exercise, few have any idea of where such practice may take them. In the literature we have read numerous accounts of yoga or medita­tion-induced insanity and demonization even from seemingly innocent practice. But again, the altered states that yoga/meditation produce—even the periods of madness—are now frequently defined as positive spiritual experiences capable of leading one to religious enlightenment.[1]

For example, that yoga practice can break down the mind and body is not surprising. The true goal of yoga is to destroy the person (who is only a false self, an illusion) so that the imper­sonal Brahman (the alleged real self) may be experienced.

Yoga authorities Fuernstein and Miller identify “the Yogic path as a progressive dismantling of human personality ending in a complete abolition. With every step (anga) of Yoga, what we call ‘man’ is demolished a little more.”[2]

Moti Lal Pandit observes:

The aim of Yoga is to realize liberation from the human condition. To achieve this liberation, various psychological, physical, mental, and mystical [occult] methods have been devised. All those methods are anti-social (sometimes even anti-human) in that Yoga prescribes a way of life which says: “This mortal life is not worth living.”[3]

Because yoga is ultimately an occult practice (e.g., it characteristically develops psychic abilities), it is not unexpected that the characteristic hazards of occult practice—for example, physical diseases, mental illness, and demonization[4]—could be encountered. We believe that these hazards are encountered because yoga is an occult practice and not because yoga is allegedly performed in an incorrect manner.

Most people (including most Western medical doctors) wrongly assume that yoga is harm­less. They rarely consider yoga per se as relevant to any illnesses they may encounter in their patients. But we are convinced that many perplexing physical conditions, including some deaths, are related to yoga. For example, Swami Prabhavananda warns about the dangers of yogic breathing exercises:

Now we come to breathing exercises. Let me caution you: they can be very dangerous. Unless properly done, there is a good chance of injuring the brain. And those who practice such breathing without proper supervision can suffer a disease which no known science or doctor can cure. It is impossible even for a medical person to diagnose such an illness.[5]

Shree Purohit Swami’s commentary on Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras warns:

In India and Europe, I came across some three hundred people who suffered permanently from wrong practices. The doctors, upon examination, found there was nothing organically wrong and consequently could not prescribe [treatment].[6]

Perhaps such phenomena explains, in part, why many yoga authorities openly confess the dangers of yoga practice. As noted, these dangers are often said to arise from “wrong” meth­ods. But, in fact, no one has ever objectively identified the specific mechanics of “correct” or “incorrect” yoga; “incorrect” yoga practice in one tradition is often “correct” practice in another.[7]

Below we cite some of the hazards of yoga as noted by yoga authorities.

United Nations spiritual adviser and spiritist[8] Sri Chinmoy, author of Yoga and the Spiritual Life, observes: “To practice pranayama [yogic breath control] without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it.”[9]

Yoga authority Hans-Ulrich Rieker admonishes in The Yoga of Light: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity,” and that in kundalini yoga, if the breath or prana is “prematurely exhausted [exhaled] there is immediate danger of death for the yogi.”[10]

Gopi Krishna, another yoga authority, also warns of the possible dangers of yoga practice, including “drastic effects” on the central nervous system and the possibility of death.[11]

The standard authority on hatha yoga, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Chapter 2, verse 15), cautions: “Just as lions, elephants, and tigers are tamed, so the prana [breath; actually prana isthe alleged divine energy underlying the breath] should be kept under control. Otherwise it can kill the practitioner.”[12]

Hindu master Sri Krishna Prem cautions in The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita: “As stated before, nothing but dangerous, mediumistic psychisms or neurotic dissociations of personality can result from the practice of [yoga] meditation without the qualifications mentioned at the end of the last chapter.”[13] He warns, “To practice it, as many do, out of curiosity… is a mistake which is punished with futility, neurosis, or worse [‘even insanity itself’].”[14]

Swami Prabhavananda’s Yoga and Mysticism lists brain injury, incurable diseases, and insan­ity as potential hazards of wrong yoga practice;[15] Ulrich-Rieker lists cancer of the throat, all sorts of ailments, blackouts, strange trance states, or insanity from even “the slightest mis­take.”[16]

In The Seven Schools of Yoga, Ernest Wood warns of “the imminent risk of most serious bodily disorder, disease, and even madness.”[17]

In conclusion, those who practice the occultism of the East also warn of its dangers. This is why those who seek the so-called “wisdom from the East” frequently get more than they bar­gained for.


  1. Tal Brooke, Riders of the Cosmic Circuit (Lion Publishing, 1986), passim.
  2. Georg Feuernstein and Jeanine Miller, Yoga and Beyond: Essays in Indian Philosophy (New York: Schocken, 1972), p. 8.
  3. Moti Lal Pandit, “Yoga As Methods of Liberation,” in Update: A Quarterly Journal on New Religious Movements (Aarhus, Denmark: The Dialogue Center, Vol. 9, No. 4, Dec. 1985), p. 41.
  4. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Facts on the Occult and The Facts on Spirit Guides (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1991)
  5. Swami Prabhavananda, Yoga and Mysticism (Hollywood, CA: Vedanta Press, 1972), pp. 18-19.
  6. Bhagwan Shree Patanjali, Aphorisms of Yoga, trans. Shree Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1972), pp. 56-57.
  7. Ernest Wood, Seven Schools of Yoga: An Introduction (Wheaton IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), pp. 77, 79.
  8. Sri Chinmoy, Astrology, the Supernatural and the Beyond (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1973), pp. 53-68,87-89; Sri Chinmoy, Conversations with the Master (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1977), pp. 9-20,26-33.
  9. Sri Chinmoy, Great Masters and the Cosmic Gods (Jamaica, NY: Agni Press, 1977), p. 8.
  10. Hans Ulrich-Rieker, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika (New York: Seabury Press, 1971), pp. 9,134.
  11. Gopi Krishna, “The True Aim of Yoga,” Psychic, January-February, 1973, p. 13.
  12. Ulrich-Rieker, The Yoga of Light, p. 79.
  13. Sri Krishna Prem, The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1973), pp. xv.
  14. Ibid., p. 47.
  15. Prabhavananda, Yoga and Mysticism, pp. 18-19.
  16. Ulrich-Rieker, The Yoga of Light, pp. 30, 79, 96, 111-112.
  17. Wood, Seven Schools, p. 14.

1 Comment

  1. don salmon on December 29, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    It’s a shame that Mr. Weldon evidently has never read the Bible – or more likely, he is one of those that Jesus referred to when he said, “Let those who have eyes to see, let them see.”

    What in the world do you think Paul meant when he said, “I die daily.’ Or when he said, “I have put off the false self, and now not I but Christ lives in me.”

    Krishna Prem, by the way, is not an “eastern” guru – his name is Ronald Nixon, and he was British. He wrote at the end of his Gita commentary that one who has awakened through Yogi sees Christ everywhere, much as the Russian Pilgrim did after learning contemplative prayer from his teacher.

    Teaching just as Jesus did, to go into your “room” to pray – which if you actually understood the language spoken at the time of Christ meant, to go into the depths of your heart where even now the Father abides.

    The phrase to my right sounds like a good suggestion to you, John, “Become a Christian,” then your eyes might open and your ears awaken.

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