The Jesus Prayer is Not a Form of Eastern Meditation or Yoga
The practice of the Jesus Prayer is not the same as a far Eastern yoga, Hindu or Sufi practice. In Buddhism the use of a mantra that is constantly repeated is a common practice. One is “Om mani padme hum” which is important for its sounds and means “Jewel in the center of the Lotus.” The aim of Buddhism is to free oneself from all suffering and attain what the Buddha called Nirvana or the perfect peace of mind. This peace of mind is achieved through various meditation techniques. The Buddha never taught about any form of God. Many practice this form of meditation to gain calmness in their lives. Sufism is a branch of Islam that also employs forms of meditation. Sufi scholars define Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God." In meditation they aim to reach an awareness of their oneness with the universe, believing that in doing so we can attain fundamental truths that are within us, but often remain hidden. They do not believe that Jesus is God, but view Him as only a prophet. In Hinduism the chief aim is to gain release from the cycle of reincarnation caused by karma--the consequences of past actions, in this or in previous lives! This is achieved though meditation techniques. This release leads to some kind of absolute Truth. Many of these approaches have been adapted by our modern culture to serve as means of relaxation or ways to lessen the stress of our over active lives. They form the basis of the “New Age” spiritual movement. They are taught without any specific aim of repentance, nor to do the will of God, or to seek union with Christ. In the practice of the Jesus Prayer with an attitude of repentance and humility we seek an encounter with the living Christian God, Jesus. We may gain benefits of relaxation or reduced stress, but this is not the aim of our effort. Union with God is.
A Gerondas from the Holy Mountain Athos enumerated the following points about the difference of the Jesus prayer from Yoga.
1. The Jesus prayer express faith in God through His Son Jesus as part of a trinitarian God. It emphasizes that salvation is attained through God which is why we ask for His mercy. Salvation cannot be attained by our own efforts.
2. We are not attempting to find some impersonal God or absolute truth through the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer focuses on a personal relationship with the God-Man Jesus.
3. We cannot fall into the sin of pride through the unceasing prayer of Jesus because in the prayer we continually seek mercy for our weaknesses. We consider ourselves unworthy of God’s grace and recognize our sinfulness in His eyes.
4. Salvation is about union with God. In this union we do not eliminate our personality. The human factor is not denied as it is in some Eastern yoga practices. We are not assimilated in this union, but retain our personhood.
5. As we progress in the prayer we gain the ability to discern error. We learn the movements of the devil and enhance our ability to distinguish between good and evil.
6. The struggle in the practice of the Jesus Prayer is connected with the cleansing of our body and soul from the negative effect of passions. We do not seek apathy or to destroy our passions, but to transform them into help to seek a relationship with God. Our salvation depends on this struggle of transformation, which requires the help of God’s grace.
7. We do not try and attain absolute nothingness, but seek to turn our heart so it brings the grace of God into our soul, so it can be spread throughout our body. We make no effort to negate or destroy the body, but see it as the temple of the Spirit. We practice the prayer because we want to live with God eternally.
8. We are not indifferent to the world. We continually pray for all beings. Salvation is a union with Christ, while we are in communion with other persons. It is not an individual goal.
9. We do not put great emphasis on psychosomatic methods or on body postures. They can only assist us in concentration.
The difference from “New Age” practices or Eastern yoga meditation has been described by using the analogy of a framed masterpiece. We can admire the beautiful frame of a masterpiece, but the frame is not the masterpiece. The similarities between the Jesus Prayer and various meditation practices can be considered to be like the frame of a masterpiece. The masterpiece in the practice of the Jesus Prayer is union with Jesus Christ. The frame is only the methods used. There may be similarities with postures, techniques and other acts of the outer form of this prayer, but the content and aim is totally different and uniquely Christian.
See article The Jesus Prayer and the Hindu Mantra by Dionysios Farasiotis