Yoga in philosophy and practice is incompatible with Christianity
As a Catholic Christian born in a traditional Catholic family in Kerala, India, but lived amidst the Hindus, and now as a Catholic religious priest and charismatic preacher in 60 countries in all continents, I have something to say about the bad effects of Yoga on Christian spirituality and life. I know there is a growing interest in Yoga all over the world, even among Christians- and this interest is extended to other esoteric and New Age practices like reincarnation, reiki, acupressure, acupuncture, pranic healing, reflexology, etc. which are therapies against which the Vatican has cautioned and warned in her document “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life”
(February 3, 2003).
For some, Yoga is a means of relaxation and easing of tension, and for others it is a form of exercise, promoting fitness and health, and for a few is a means of healing of sicknesses. There is much confusion in the mind of the average Catholic – lay and cleric – because
Yoga as promoted among Catholics is neither entirely a health discipline nor entirely a spiritual discipline, but sometimes one, sometimes the other, and often a mixture of both.
But in fact,
Yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline
and I know even priests and nuns in the seminaries and novitiates who promote Yoga as help to meditation and prayer. It is sad that nowadays, many Catholics are losing trust in the great spiritualities and mysticisms for prayer and discipline handed over to them by great saints like Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Francis of Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, etc. and are now going after the Eastern spiritualities and mysticisms coming from Hinduism and Buddhism. It is in this regard that a sincere Christian should inquire into Yoga’s compatibility with Christian spirituality, and the wisdom of incorporating its techniques into Christian prayer and meditation.
What is Yoga? The word Yoga means “union”, the goal of Yoga is to unite one’s transitory (temporary) self, “JIVA” with the infinite “BRAHMAN”, the Hindu concept of God. This God is not a personal God, but it is an impersonal spiritual substance which is one with nature and the cosmos. Brahman is an impersonal divine substance that “pervades, envelopes and underlies everything”. Yoga has its roots in the Hindu Upanishads, which is as old as 1,000 BC, and it tells about Yoga thus, “Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman”. “The absolute is within one self” says the Chandogya Upanishads, “TAT TVAM ASI” or “THOU ART THAT”. The Divine dwells within each one of us through his microcosmic representative, the individual self called Jiva. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes the Jiva as “my own eternal portion”, and “the joy of Yoga comes to the yogi who is one with Brahman”.
The yogi Patanjali explained the eight ways that leads the Yoga practices from ignorance to enlightenment – the eight ways are like a staircase – They are self-control (yama), religious observance (niyama), postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), sense control (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), deep contemplation (dhyana), enlightenment (samadhi). It is interesting to note here that postures and breathing exercises, often considered to be the whole of Yoga in the West, are steps three and four towards union with Brahman! Yoga is not only an elaborate system of physical exercises, it is a spiritual discipline, purporting to lead the soul to samadhi, total union with the divine being. Samadhi is the state in which the natural and the divine become one, man and God become one without any difference (Brad Scott: Exercise or religious practice? Yoga: What the teacher never taught you in that Hatha Yoga class, Watchman Expositor Vol. 18, No. 2, 2001).
Such a view is radically contrary to Christianity which clearly distinguishes between Creator and creature, God and man. In Christianity, God is the “Other” and never the self. It is sad that some promoters of Yoga, reiki and other disciplines and meditations, had misquoted some isolated Bible verses to substantiate their arguments such as, “You are the temple of God”, “The living water flows from you”, “You will be in me and I will be in you”, “It is no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me”, etc. without understanding the context and the meaning of those words in the Bible. There are even people who portray Jesus as a yogi as we can see nowadays such pictures of Jesus in convent chapels and presbyteries – Jesus presented in yogic postures of meditation!
To call Jesus a “yogi” is to deny His intrinsic divinity, holiness and perfection and suggest that He had a fallen nature subject to ignorance and illusion (Maya), that He needed to be liberated from the human condition through the exercise and discipline of Yoga. Yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality because it is pantheistic (God is everything and everything is God), and holds that there is only one Reality and all else is illusion or Maya.
If there is only one absolute reality and all else is illusory, there can be no relationship and no love. The centre of Christian faith is faith in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God-Head, the perfect model of loving relationship. Christianity is all about relationships, with God and among men, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).
In Hinduism, good and evil, like pain and pleasure, are illusory (Maya) and therefore unreal. Vivekananda, the most respected icons of modern Hinduism, said “good and evil are one and the same” (Vivekananda: The yogas and other works, published by Ramakrishna Vivekananda Centre, NY, 1953).
In Christianity the vexing problem of sin as an offence against the Holiness of God is inseparable from our faith, because sin is the reason why we need a Saviour. The Incarnation, the Life, the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus are for us means for salvation, that is to set us free from sin and its consequences. We can not ignore this fundamental difference in order to absorb Yoga and other Eastern meditation techniques into Christian spirituality. The practice of Yoga is pagan at best, and occult at worst. This is the religion of antichrist and for the first time in history it is being widely practised throughout the Western world and America.
It is ridiculous that even yogi masters wearing a Cross or a Christian symbol deceive people saying that Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism and say that it is only accepting the other cultures. Some have masked Yoga with Christian gestures and call it “Christian Yoga”. Here it is not a question of accepting the culture of other people; it is a question of accepting another religion which is in conflict to our religion and religious concepts.
It is a pity that Yoga has widely spread all over from kindergarten to all form of educational institutions in medicine, psychology, etc. calling itself as a science while it is not a science at all; and it is sold under the labels ‘relaxation therapy’, ‘self-hypnosis’, ‘creative visualisation’, ‘centering’, etc. Hatha Yoga, which is widespread in Europe and America for relaxation and non-strenuous exercises, is one of the six recognized systems of orthodox Hinduism, and it is at its roots religious and mystical, which is the most dangerous forms of Yoga (Dave Hunt, The Seduction of Christianity, page 110).
Remember the words
of St. Paul, “No wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (II Cor 11: 14).
It is true that many people are healed by Yoga and other Eastern ways of meditation and prayers.
Here the Christian should ask themselves whether they need healing and material benefits or their God Jesus Christ in Whom they believe, Who is the source of all healings and good health.
The desire to become God is the first and second sin in the history of creation as chronologically recorded in the Bible, “You said in your heart, I will scale the heavens, above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my sit on the mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14: 13-14).
The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God who knows what is good and what is bad” (Genesis 3: 4-5).
The philosophy and practice of Yoga are based on the belief that man and God are one. It teaches one to focus on oneself instead on the One True God. It encourages its participants to seek the answers to life’s problems and questions within their own mind and conscience instead of finding solutions in the Word of God through the Holy Spirit as it is in Christianity.
It definitely leaves one open to deception from God’s enemy, who searches for victims whom he can take away from God and the Church (I Peter 5: 8).
For last eight years, I have been preaching the Word of God mainly in European countries, which once were the cradles of Christianity, producing evangelisers and missionaries, martyrs and saints. Now can we call Europe Christian?
Is it not true that Europe has erased all its Christian concepts and values from lives? Why is Europe ashamed to say that it has Christian roots? Where are the moral values and ethics practised by Europeans from down the centuries and handed over to other countries and cultures by the bold proclamation of the Gospel of Christ? From the fruits we shall know the tree! I believe that these doubts and confusions, apostasy and infidelism, religious coldness and indifference came to Europe ever since the Eastern mysticisms and meditations, esoteric and New Age practices were introduced in the West.
In my charismatic retreats, the majority of the participants come with various moral, spiritual, mental and physical problems in order to be liberated and healed and to have a new life through the power of the Holy Spirit. With all sincerity of heart I will say, 80 to 90 % of the participants had been to Yoga, reiki, reincarnation, and other Eastern religious practices where they lost faith in Jesus Christ and the Church. In Croatia, Bosnia, Germany, Austria and Italy, I had clear instances where individuals who were possessed with the powers of darkness cried out “I am Reiki”, “I am Mr. Yoga”, identifying themselves to these concepts as persons while I was conducting prayers of healing for them. Later, I had to pray over them by the prayer of deliverance to liberate them from the evil possessions.
There are some people who say, “There is nothing wrong in having the practices of these, it is enough not to believe the philosophies behind”. The promoters of Yoga, reiki, etc, themselves very clearly state, that the philosophy and practice are inseparable. So a Christian cannot, in any way, accept the philosophy and practice of Yoga because Christianity and Yoga are mutually exclusive worldviews.
Christianity sees man’s primary problem as sin, a failure to conform to both, the character and standards of a morally perfect God. Man is alienated from God and he is in need of reconciliation. The solution is Jesus Christ “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, God reconciled the world to Himself. He now calls man to freely receive all the benefits of his salvation through faith in Christ alone.
Unlike Yoga, Christianity views Salvation as a free gift, it can only be received and never be earned or attained by one’s own effort or works. Today what is needed in Europe or elsewhere is the powerful preaching of the message of Christ coming from the Bible and interpreted by the Church in order to remove the doubts and confusions wildly spread among the Christian in the West and to bring them to the Way, the Truth and Life: Jesus Christ. Only the Truth can set us free.
NOTE: Father James was this writer's spiritual director and teacher at the Father Francis Rebello School of Evangelization in Mangalore, 1997-1998.
CHRISTIAN OR NEW AGE? PART X
The Exercise of Religion: Yoga
By Susan Brinkmann, Special to the Herald November 16, 2007
Father James Manjackal, a popular retreat master in India, described yoga to Catherine Maria Rhodes of the Catholic Media Coalition in this way: “It is a spiritual discipline purporting to lead the soul to samadhi, the state in which the natural and divine become one.”
“It is interesting to note that postures and breathing exercises, often considered to be the whole of yoga in the West, are steps three and four towards union with Brahman in the East,” Father Manjackal said.
Ignorance of the non-Christian religious disciplines and beliefs that underpin the practice of yoga can lead to further variance from Catholic teachings. In fact, the Vatican document, “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life,” lists yoga as one of “the traditions that flow into New Age.”
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