by Reb Gutman Locks and Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
“New Age” practices, bits and pieces of Eastern spiritual systems watered down for Western consumption, have been extremely popular in recent times. Those looking for a dose of spirituality, without a serious commitment, can pick up a bit of this or that mystical spiritual system to fill voids of meaning in their lives.
The Jewish community is no exception. Many non-religious Jews fill their soul’s yearning for Hashem with a headlong dive into Eastern systems. Unfortunately even many religious Jews get interested and involved in some of this foreign spirituality. In other cases Jews who grew up outside religious Jewish circles who become religious Jews sometimes bring their foreign experiences with them, trying to extract the benefits of foreign spiritual systems and present them in a kosher Jewish context.
The question is, are they compatible? Are Chakra’s an expression of Kabbalah life force paths? Is Chi the “life force of the blood” from the Gemora? Are the various expressions of Eastern spirituality reflections of Kabbalah and/or Torah wisdom? Natural phenomena to be taken advantage of? Or wisdom of the nations to be utilized?
It’s our position that people should stop mixing idolatries into Judaism. Further, influential people should stop mixing in and using Hindu terms. Relative to Hinduism there is no doubt that according to Judaism’s standards it’s idolatry. And while it has a health system, and exercise system, and a spiritual energy system, all of these are tightly bound with it’s underlying idolatry oriented spiritual principles. Getting involved in the least parts have a high potential to draw one into greater involvement.
But do we know what we’re talking about? Are the spiritual aspects really that dangerous, and therefore the simple wisdom and value aspects really that hard to extract? To answer that we went to two kabbalists and raised the question. Here’s their answers:
Rabbi Bar Tzadok of KosherTorah.com: “I've been following your posts on MYSTICAL PATHS regarding the idolatry of Yoga and anything related to it coming out of the India traditions. I am in full agreement with you and I give you my permission to us me as a reference if there would ever be the need to do so. I am very familiar with these practices and can explain in detail the difference between chakras and sefirot and how using one system (the sheva malachim of edom) short-circuits the kadosh [holy] system of the sefirot (olam hatikun).”
Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsberg at Inner.Org: (from his responsa, answering the question “Are Kabbalah and Buddhism in some sense related? How should one relate to Chakras?”)
Our Sages teach us, "Believe wisdom from a non-Jewish source; do not believe Torah from a non-Jewish source." The wisdom which Jews are to believe, as referred to in this passage is the holy sparks of truth within the wisdom of the non-Jews. The Torah which Jews are not to believe is a way of life expounded by the non-Jewish source.
In every method of a non-Jewish source there are holy sparks which the Jew must clarify. This is done by identifying the true source for this wisdom in the Torah. However, it is forbidden to relate to this non-Jewish method as an all-encompassing method or way of life, and to give it a name. One must only clarify the holy sparks within it, and remember that the only true method, or way of life, is Torah.
Taking symbols, sounds, images, etc. from foreign sources is strictly forbidden. They come from impure sources, and thereby have an impure effect on the soul. Any symbols, images etc. should purely and exclusively derive from the Torah. This includes the sounds of the Hebrew letters, the sounds of words, and the basic verses in the Torah such as "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad" (Deuteronomy 6:4), and also includes the forms of the letters.
Chakras are not clarified and not 100% true, being derived from foreign Eastern sources. In Kabbalah we have 15 contact points down the middle line of the body. These are true energy centers.
(from another answer of R. Ginsberg)
The very usage of the name "yoga, tai chi, etc." whether prefaced with the word "Jewish" or not, does not allow for true clarification. In fact, the juxtaposition of the two terms "Jewish yoga" is shatneiz, an improper mixture.
(end of R. Ginsberg’s answer)
This summarizes our thoughts very well! The mixing of Eastern spiritual practices with Judaism is shatnez, and improper mixture that is absolutely prohibited and cannot be made kosher.
There are some rabbis and Jewish outreach centers that use just the terminology to draw in those who have become involved in such things (or may have a casual interest in such things). Even this is of great concern as it effectively puts a kosher stamp on things that are not.
Finally, there are a number of experts who say they have kashered (made kosher) the mixture. We would remind people that in the 60’s the Lubavitcher Rebbe engaged a number of experts, including sending some special chassidim to temples throughout Indonesia and India, to find a “neutral” version of such practices that could be used for Jews heavily involved in them (to wean them off). This search, led by spiritual experts with the direct involvement and oversight of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was unsuccessful.
At best, mixing Eastern spiritual terms into Judaism confuses people and may make them think such things are kosher. At worst it mixes prohibited spiritual practices into Judaism.
Such things are a MISTAKE and an infiltration of the Yetzer Hara (the wily evil inclination) into the holy community.