Should Christians dabble with Yogic exercises? Fr. Conrad Saldanha

(I was compelled to write this article in keeping with the urgency of the situation and the sham response of the hierarchy in India and Mumbai to the issue that is eating into the church like cancer)

The world will celebrate world yoga day.  While Muslims in India have raised their voice against the imposition of yoga, the voices in the government have managed to appease them by removing the suryanamskar from the routine.

The Catholics seem to have welcomed the World Yoga day minus the day chosen, which is a Sunday; a sacred day for Christian.  Otherwise they don’t seem to have any objection to the practice of yogic exercises.

Why would the Catholic Church in India not object to Yoga and the world yoga day?

It is solely because the hierarchy themselves, in search of the concealed “ray of that truth” (Nostra Aetate, Vat II) and in seeking to separate the good elements from the bad are indulging in yogic spirituality.  Unfortunately it is part of the formation in many of the seminaries in India too.

Could it be true that even the Catholic Church at the UN voted in favor of the world yoga day without assessing the deceptive claims? (Some of these false claims have been answered in this article without explicitly highlighting them)

Besides the practice of it, many of from the hierarchy seem convinced and are promoting it in someway for the other.

How compatible is yoga with Christian spirituality? We need to especially look into what seems to be the most innocuous part of it: The physical exercises.

Unlike some other religions which is free to adapt to a dual or even a multifaceted spiritual lifestyle, a Christian is supposed to be singular in his focus and cannot be dual in his ways, thinking and action. There are well defined moral standards too for a Christian, whether he puts it into practice or not. One is supposed to do so without any duality.

All this, for a striving Christian, is made possible on account of the Salvation which Christ Jesus has accomplished on the cross. Jesus offers one the hope, the healing, the health, consolation and courage and above all the eternal salvation.

Therefore, Yoga in any form is unacceptable to a Christian who believes in Christ Jesus, whether it is the meditations or the exercises thereof because Christ Jesus offers us the fullness of salvation and not a partial one.

The reason why yogic exercises have a growing popularity is on account of its many positive claims; some of which could be true but many are deceptively false, especially from a Christian world view.

Yoga, it is claimed has nothing to do with religion: From a purely Christian point of view it has everything to do with religion, if one finds it difficult to understand that then let me put it differently: “Yoga and the exercises along with its goals and aims opposes the Christian understanding of Man created in the image and likeness of God.”  And hence any such opposition to the Christian faith, and which is the standard, is a new religion or cult.

Secondly, for a Christian it is important to identify the source for further and right action. In the scripture, in the temptation narratives of Matthew and Luke when Satan comes to Jesus with the pure written word from the Bible, Jesus could have adopted the new principle of modern man in search of the “ray of that truth in other religions” and separated the written word of God from him and observed it diligently but instead rejects it because the source and the application of it is not in God’s interest and thus in the interest of humanity.

Thus the Catholic Church in its document in 2003 makes this element of argument clear: “It is difficult to separate the individual elements of New Age religiosity – innocent though they may appear – from the overarching framework which permeates the whole thought-world on the New Age movement. The gnostic nature of this movement calls us to judge it in its entirety. From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others.” (Chp. 4:1; Jesus Christ the bearer of the water of life)

Hence anyone claiming that the church has not taken a stand is only abusing his office to deceive the ignorant laity.  Similarly those suggesting that it can be safely practiced apart from its philosophy are already walking in deception and if they are shepherds then they should humbly step down for acting to be wise in the ways of God.

In the same vein yoga is considered scientific too. Though there are some verifiable facts about yoga and certain things about yoga can be verifiably affirmed but some the psycho-social benefits can be disputed about it. What is apparent or may be initial benefits or a deceptive feeling of well being on account of partial difference may be claimed as achievements.

For example: India should have been a sporting giant on account of its roots in yoga and practice of yoga in sports but it is definitely a great giant in corruption and creating an index of unhappiness.  We still need foreign coaches and trainers to train our sports personals.

The practical reasons why one gets into yogic exercises and how compatible is it with the truth and with the Christian world view:

To lose weight/ slim down: On the one hand it is claimed that yoga brings about harmony between man and nature and deal with climate change and on the other hand it does encourage the reduction of weight through exercises; which means indulge yourself and then exercise to lose weight.  Compare this with the ascetics living on frugal meals.

To remain young and youthful: The new self is self-confident, seeks to achieve, believes in oneself and adopts a spirituality that helps them in their selfish ambition to be achievers at any cost. There is very little of the moral principle at work.

For better performance: Indeed yoga could help one perform better in rote learning and may be alertness and in concentration minus the moral principles and emotional control!  Unless one has brought their sense of morality along on account of their family or school background one is lost in the maze of a deceptively glorified idea.

The immense evil in Yoga vis-à-vis the human being is remarkable: Though yoga may offer some of the benefits which I have acknowledged and described above but in keeping with its tall claim it ignores the moral principle in human nature and even the emotional nature of man.  The claim of peace, de-stressing, equanimity, etc is at the cost of ignoring of the human conscience. What sets human beings apart from the animal world is their conscience which at times even needs to be formed so that he may respect the other, not cheat or give false hopes and promises and make lofty statements of assurances and not fulfill them and give different value or meaning to the same word of assurance given.

(For a more detailed article on the subject go to: http://frconradsaldanha.blogspot.in/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights. Hab. 3:19 (Bible)

About The Voice Of Bombay's Catholic Laity

Bombay Laity Ezekiel’s Chapter 3 Task as Watchman 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
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6 Responses to Should Christians dabble with Yogic exercises? Fr. Conrad Saldanha

  1. As touted Yoga seems to be a way of life — therefore attempting to alter / change what Christianity teaches — Here in Lonavla we have what is perhaps the best Yoga Institute in India — unlike many of the sham / newly sprouted so-called Yoga institutes.
    I really wonder if it is possible to keep separate the religious aspect of Yoga — there have been a few Catholic priests as well as Muslims as also atheists who have enrolled in the Yoga teacher’s course. — I am told that they are exempted from attending the religious part of the course which entails some chanting and doing some sort of PUJA / Prayers conducted by the resident GURUJI / spirtual mentor —
    As far as the exercises and diet for the food go — I have personally seen the benefits — which many have got — what is actually the main point where ambiguity exists — is the part where the turn to Hinduism is concerned — I do not think that those who espouse the cause of Yoga are doing enough to separate the two. All wish to trumpet the cause of their OWN RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. Till the distinction is clearly defined — between religious practices and exercises for bodily good — this debate will continue.
    I personally feel that if it is as far as only the various exercise / poses / asanas go — it has been proven that they DO help a lot in the alleviating many bodily ailments– which medical science has been unable to treat or cure for centuries
    For the religious part I firmly believe that stubborn and fanatical people exist everywhere and will remain a fact of life till the end of time.
    So to each his own — but let us not swallow what we read — it MAY NOT be the RIGHT WAY !!!!.

  2. Frankly I believe our Cardinal Oswald Gracias and/or his bishops or the office spokesperson of The Archdiocese of bombay and the CCBI/CBCI needs to give a white paper on this issue.There is a lot of turning and twisting and game of words being played by the Catholic church administration on this issue. of course its to please the ruling Govt. yet once the issue is cleared and tabled, it would depend on each individual to make his/her choice. The church administration then needs to clarify if not following what is said is a sin or not.
    I hope our “Dharma Gurus” will have the spine and B**2** to come out in the open on this issue.

  3. John Menezes says:

    Two states without frontiers are in the making: The Islamic State, or ISIS, which is visible and violent, and the Hindu State, or HS, which is opaque and non-violent and is far more diffused in Western Europe and North America. A case study of the HS is that of Yoga Day in Portugal which was graced by the Indian Ambassador there and is shown interestingly on India’s Ministry of External Affairs website at: http://www.mea.gov.in/Portal/CountryNews/1074_World_Yoga_Day.pdf.
    Has World Yoga Day given a boost to the HS ? Fr. Conrad Saldanha’s theological approach to yoga is brilliant and timely.

  4. Dindi Aneco says:

    Saturday not Sunday should be a sacred day for the Christians: Saturday is the day of Sabbath, a day of prayer for Jesus (he was a jew). The sacredness of Sunday comes from the pre-christian Roman practice of worshiping the Sun.
    By the way where was “Catholic Church at the UN” when country after country was bombed by NATO and the only ones to oppose were the communist Vietnam, Venezuela, Cuba, China, North Korea and ex-communist Russia?
    I find it laughable that some in the “hierarchy” find Yoga “evil” and “unchristian” but do not find anything bad in the betting and speculation in stock exchanges, usury in banking industry, the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons, destroyer ships, nuclear submarines and armed forces of countries like US, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, Canada, Australia and Italy, which by the way is the home of the Vatican. Not to mention the lavish lifestyles of “god’s interpreters”.
    I would prefer to bow and exercise in the Sun and get some vitamin D.

  5. ralphcoelho says:

    The problem is not with Yoga or the Catholic faithful. It is with the administrative highest levels of the Catholic Church – the two Episcopal conferences.
    The Church encouraged and extensively used Fr Tony D’Mello in its “development programs for religious”. It fell to the Vatican to discover the dangers of his teaching and Notify his books and programs. But there are still many religious who swear by him.
    Outwardly Yoga is a series of stretching exercises set in daily life. It is not acknowledged that the setting, the culture is that of a Hindu believer and incorporates faith beliefs that subtly guide the life of the practitioner. Worse, local Bishops have not banned the teaching of Eastern Religions bodily and mental exercises that are intertwined with faith beliefs.
    Michael Prabhu has done extensive research and is a reference.

  6. Pingback: Bishop’s Sin of Apostasy: In India | Heresy and Apostasy

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