[email sent:
on 28/03/07]

Dear Archbishop Pascal Topno,

Since late last year, there have been several reports in the newspapers, on the internet, and on television, about various proposals for introducing Bills to make the
practice of Surya Namaskar, Pranayama, and Yoga mandatory
in educational institutions
throughout India. They were proposed by the central and some state governments, by political parties, and by prominent individuals.

The move is across the entire political spectrum- from the BJP/Hindutva combine in Madhya Pradesh through the supposedly minority-friendly UPA-Congress alliance at the Centre which includes the Communist Party of India, to the atheistic DMK party currently ruling Tamil Nadu.

Other states pushing for making the use of yoga obligatory
in schools are Karnataka and Delhi.

Karnataka is also considering introducing yoga compulsorily
in hospitals.


In the Constitution of India:

Article 30 states, “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”

Article 28 states, “No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds”.

The respective governments are violating the spirit of the Constitution, if not the letter.

India may be theoretically- and Constitutionally- a secular state, but for all practical purposes, it is well on its way to becoming ‘saffronised’- an intolerant Hindu nation.


Terming the move “anti-Islamic” and “encroaching on our right to religious freedom“, and adding, with reference to Surya Namaskar, that “Islam does not permit its followers to bow before anyone but Allah“,
Muslim leaders filed a complaint against the MP government and took the matter to court. The Catholic Church was, predictably, slower to react, and far from dogmatic in its protest.

The Jesuit Archbishop of Bhopal, Most Rev. Pascal Topno, was reported in the secular press as “echoing the views from Islamic organizations”, and was always quoted starting his objection with the word “similarly“. Since when does Christianity play second fiddle to Islam in combating error?


Worse still, the Archbishop says, “We have no problems with yoga. It is taught in our school. The issue is the idea of ‘worship’ in ‘Surya Namaskar.’ The term is loaded and too much importance is attached to it when in fact there are other more pressing issues that the government should deal with.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. Yoga is taught in scores of Catholic institutions!!!

So then, what’s the difficulty in Catholics doing the Surya Namaskar too?

While the Muslims are specific in their refusal to bow down to “a creation of Allah, so worshipping it would be sacrilegious”, the best that the Church can do is to describe the term as “loaded”, and then obfuscate the whole issue by suggesting that the government deal with more pressing issues.


The problem is that the Bishops are caught in a dilemma. On the one hand, through the aberrations of an inculturation gone awry, yoga is part and parcel of life in our seminaries, ‘ashrams’, parishes, media [check the Bombay Archdiocesan weekly The Examiner, EVERY week!]. And of course, our schools and colleges.


On the other hand, the Bishops are well aware, even if they are unwilling to be truthful and admit it, that the philosophies of yoga are ‘Hindu’, coming as they do from Vedic teaching, and that there is a very thin line [THERE REALLY ISN’T] separating the postures, the exercises, the breathing and the meditation from the RELIGIOUS and SPIRITUAL aspects and objectives of the system of yoga.

Permitting the government to control the teaching of yoga in our institutions [an army of yoga instructors is being readied] would be like letting the proverbial camel’s nose into the Catholic tent- not that it hasn’t been welcomed in as yet, but it would mean- and the Bishops are aware of it or why the fuss- that more overtly Hindu worship practices would not be far behind:

‘Now, they will ask us to do surya namaskar, and after sometime they may ask us to start worshipping Hindu deities,’ [the Archbishop]
predicted,” says UCAN.


Not surprisingly, the Catholic media has buried the news reports which appeared in all the dailies for the last three months. Not one Catholic magazine or newspaper, to the best of my knowledge, reported this most alarming situation. Forgive me. One did- the New Leader [NL] from Chennai.

The NL reproduced a news item that was published by UCAN – A TRUNCATED VERSION OF IT that mentions only Surya Namaskar and the Archbishop’s relief over the favourable court order but completely omits the reference to yoga which is in the balance 75% of the original UCAN article.


The Bishops may not realize it, but knowledgeable and devoted Catholics have long since decided that the Church is running scared and is in appeasement mode. One cannot even decide on a name to a seminar without the Bishops’ interference. I have evidence of two national level seminars whose original titles the Bishops objected to. To protect the organizers who, in both cases, shared with me that ‘the Bishops do not want to antagonize the RSS’, I cannot divulge details.

UCAN reports that “the archbishop earlier joined Muslims and a tribal front to oppose the government move”. No more leading from the front, the Church has become a fearful follower, hiding behind the skirts of Muslims and tribals who we should in fact be fearlessly witnessing to.


Surya Namaskar is considered as part of the Hindu worship system and hence “a Christian can not do it,” UCAN reports the Archbishop as saying. So, thanks to the learned Archbishop, we are not exactly in the dark. But what do Bishops believe about the practice of yoga ? After all, yoga operates out of diocesan pastoral centres, houses of religious formation, NGOs, CBCI-initiated organisations… the list is endless. Prominent and powerful priests have founded huge centres dedicated to the practise of yogic meditation- and I am not talking here of the Catholic Ashrams.

Almost every single Bishop I have talked to believes that yoga is a harmless physical exercise. Cardinals and Bishops have written forewords to Catholic books [lay as well as priest authors] on yoga, and even termed the propagation of yoga as an ‘apostolate’. One Cardinal who favours yoga is responsible for the founding and existence of ashrams where it is part of the daily routine.

Another Cardinal spent the last three years of his life in a yoga ashram now named after him. The founder of the largest charismatic retreat centre in India regularly visited here for treatment!!!!!


After years of research and several articles on the subject, this writer concurs with the Archbishop that “Surya namaskar is part of the Hindu worship system”. Surya Namaskar is a prelude to the art of yoga. Pranayama is a ‘limb’, an integral part, of yoga. And yoga is ‘Hindu’ to its very core.

Intensively researched and very detailed articles on these issues will be available on this ministry’s website shortly. Our Bishops are invited to study them, and it is hoped that they will be a source of information that will assist the Bishops’ Conferences and Commissions to elucidate a doctrinally correct policy on the philosophy and practice of yoga, for the benefit of Catholic Christians.

Yours obediently,


NOTE: The original of this letter was personalized for submission to Most Rev. Pascal Topno SJ., Archbishop of Bhopal.

Individually addressed personalized letters were sent by email to the approximately 170 bishops of India [excepting 12 as noted in Posting No. 1]. This includes our 2 Cardinals, and 27 Archbishops and Metropolitans. Similar e-letters were sent to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Bishop-Designate of Nepal, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Hong Kong, the Directors of the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC] and Pontifical Mission Societies [PMS], the National Secretary of the Conference of Religious, India [CRI], and the Executive Secretaries of 12 of the 13 CBCI Commissions and Offices, and to the CCBI Laity Commission. Individual letters were posted first to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Bishop of Nepal, the 2 Cardinals, all 27 Archbishops, to 30 Bishops, and to 3 CBCI Commissions, then to all the remaining.


Categories: Eastern Meditation, Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India, new age

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