(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)