Yoga not a Catholic meditation technique


SEPTEMBER 2013

 

Yoga not a Catholic meditation technique

By Marta Alves, www.faithleap.org
faithleap@att.net,

2003

http://faithleap.home.att.net

 

This Catholic apologetic paper has been written in answer to the following email message:

Peace be with you! I am a high school youth minister at a Catholic church. Recently a debate has arisen among members of our parish staff about Yoga. The basic debate is thus: is it possible to separate the movements and positions of yoga from the spirituality? Several members of our staff do yoga at the church once a week and they claim that it’s just exercise — totally separate from any sort of religious ties. I’d be interested in reading your treatise and hearing the results of your research in this area. Thanks! In Christ, Janet. 1
The question is complex and not easy to answer. There are many components to the question: What is yoga? Why is it so popular in today’s society? Why is it finding disciples among our Catholic faithful? Is it Catholic? Is it just an exercise? Is it right for the Catholic faithful to practice yoga?

The concept of alternative health treatments and the freedom of relating to people of other religions, have led some Catholic faithful into areas of individual exploration. Yoga is popular today, among Catholics and the general population.

I have a Catholic friend, Ana 2, who years ago started practicing yoga, and today believes that God is energy, that we are all part of God, that there is no devil, that there is no hell, and that there is reincarnation. I wonder, if what happened to Ana could happen to Janet?

What are we doing when we do yoga? The urgency of answering Janet is compounded by the responsibility I feel as a Christian not to be prejudiced and to look at situations and people through the eyes of Christ.

I do not want to sound judgmental or closed minded. I recall Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator.”

Yoga originated as one of the systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy. In Sanskrit it means “union” and it seeks the union of
the individual with the divine by means of exercise, breathing, posture, diet and meditation.

The effects of yoga are similar to hypnosis. Have you ever seen a magician hypnotize someone and make them act out at their command without the person being conscious of their action? In being hypnotized by the magician, the individual is giving up his or her free will and conscious control. When the individual goes into a trance brought about by yoga, who or what is in control? The person is giving away its mind to something. If a person was compared to an airplane, it has just given away the controls of the plane to another person or entity. What is that something to which the free will of the individual is surrendered? It is not God as we Christians know it. The person may never know. One is dealing with the occult powers of the mind. Our mind is the “pilot” at the “control” of our will. When we let go, who is doing the “piloting”?

What are we doing? We are experimenting with an unknown. Hypnosis is an area not completely understood. When we empty ourselves of every human desire and search into the “depth” of our souls… what are we looking for? I fear the loss of a soul to pagan practices, because Colossians says, “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.” 3

Yoga in our American culture is marketed as a way to exercise the body and mind by relaxing and toning the muscles. It is fashionable. It is up to the individual to make it happen. You do not need community.

It is offered in churches, in Country Clubs, at work, sometimes it is even covered by insurance as an alternative medical treatment. In the Church’s bazaar in my parish, gift certificates to yoga classes in the Dharma Institute 4 were auctioned. We are practicing techniques devoid of Christianity thinking that we are “just” exercising. How did it happen?

Western Christianity has brought humanity to the point of development that it is today. Yoga and Eastern philosophy sinks the human soul into hopelessness, neglecting the world we live in and sinking the human mind into unknown territories.

The product of the Eastern culture can be seen in the countries where it has been practiced for centuries. The picture is one of poverty and sorrow. Eastern yoga places the responsibility of salvation on the individual disregarding Jesus sacrifices for us. We have been misled by yoga exercises to believe that the physiological feelings brought about by our own actions are of a spiritual nature.

In “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” is stated:

Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life.

Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations. 5

The Christians who want to justify yoga as compatible with Christianity may quote Saint Paul, “In him we live and move and have our being.” 6They also may quote Jesus saying, “The Father and I are one.” 7They proceed to say that Jesus was a Yogi, an enlightened one, a person in union with God. In yoga the ultimate goal is to be one with god, but the god they define is not the God we know. Yoga is a pseudoscience, defining God as an energy that permeates everything, and we are all part of that energy. The way it attracts Americans to its ritual and exercises is talking in terms attractive to our culture.

It promises physical health and mental health, muscle tone, spiritual enrichment but the methodology is one of the Hindu religion.
Yoga is not a Christian practice and can lead individuals away from the Catholic Church first and then away from Christ.

In today’s society there is no generic religion, but yoga could be said to be one. It describes itself like a way to be in harmony with one’s own body. Its marketing techniques convey the idea that it is a way of reducing stress and improving the mental well being of an individual. Where is the error? Yoga is a religious practice that will lead Christians astray. It yokes the individual to self-search into the psychic powers of the mind.

It is a practice without the divine revelation of Christ trying to make sense of the world and what it is all about.

We are in need of a Savior. Without Christ we cannot work our own salvation.

Through Christ alone there is salvation. “The theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church’s faith.” 8

The “God” that yoga talks about is an energy. If you are able to tap into that “energy” you will be like “God.”

You will be enlightened which is what the Hindus believe Christ to be. The God we worship as Christians is a personable9
God, a Triune God. We are the creature, He is the Creator.

How can a Catholic be lead into yoga thinking it is a spiritual rich method? By thinking of the inner “God” which yoga is trying to approach as the Holy Spirit. That is not what yoga is talking about.

The misunderstanding of what yoga is, promotes the practice of yoga among the Catholic population. Well meaning Catholics are introduced to elements of Gnosticism which the Early Fathers fought to eradicate. In this case “ignorance is hazardous to the faith.” The solution to the problem is to learn what Christ’s message of salvation is all about. God is the creator. We are His creation redeemed by Jesus Christ.

There is a need to remember that “Man’s nature calls him to seek the truth while ignorance keeps him in a condition of servitude.” 10 “Indeed, the whole Church, as the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’ (cf. Mt 5:13 f.), must bear witness to the truth of Christ which sets us free.” 11

My friend Ana wandered away from Christianity practicing yoga. I realized that, when she told me that she believed in Jesus like a prophet, but like any other prophet; and in her home, next to the picture of Jesus, I saw the picture of Paramahansa Yogananda. 12
To her the yogi and Jesus were at the same level as persons in union with God.

But, “What was God to her?” I asked, and Ana told me that we are all god. How can a Catholic like her, wander away from the faith and be so deceived? The concept of yoga practiced by Ana was an exercise that searched union with the Infinite.

In words from the Autobiography of a Yogi: 13

Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonated and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues. The advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to dematerialize at will. 14

The above quote from the book by Paramahansa Yogananda, 15 equates our Lord Jesus Christ to the prophet Elijah, and echoes what Ana said about who Christ was. The statement sounds scientific without scientific basis. What is wrong with the picture?

The Hindu religion from which Yoga originates is a pluralistic religion and it believes in many deities. To them, any religion is okay. Religion is viewed as a way to God.

The Catholic Faith is not a pluralistic religion. In
Dominus Jesus16
we read, “The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle).” The secular expression, “I’m okay. You’re okay,” is not a Christian concept. Our God is a jealous God as Exodus 34:14 says, “You shall not worship any other god, for the LORD is ‘the Jealous One’; a jealous God is He.”

The American culture sometimes judges religion only as a social function. The standard idea in the American society is that as long as you believe in something you are okay. Any religion is fine as long as it believes in God. You have to be open minded enough to keep religion to yourself, “after all it is a private matter – You and God and that is it!” That sounds like the Greco-Roman culture. Have we forgotten why the Christians were persecuted by the Romans? They were persecuted because they would not worship other gods and condemned the worship of other gods. The Greco-Roman culture condoned pluralism in their religious fervor. Christians did not and do not.

Catholics have fought and died to preserve the Christian faith for two thousand years. Are we diluting the truth with unwanted pollution? Was the blood of the early martyrs shed in vain?

Ecumenism has been interpreted at times as the freedom to experience any faith and culture. After all, some Catholics may say, the Second Vatican Council encouraged dialogue among different religions. That is true as we read in theDeclaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions“: 17

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” 18

The above quote taken out of context seems to reaffirm that any religion outside of Christ has some part of the truth. What the statement really says is that these religions may have an incomplete part of the truth. This is clarified if we read the statements that follow: “Indeed, she proclaims and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19).” 19

The Catholic Church encourages us to establish dialogue with other religions, and to foster peaceful coexistence among all, but it does not say that the Catholic Church is equal to other religions. The Declaration
Dominus Jesus20
reaffirms that the Church is necessary for salvation. In life we are not in the market for the truth. We already found it. The truth of Christ is revealed in His Church: The Catholic Church.

As we study the history of the Western civilization, we learn that Christianity has brought humanity to the point of development that it is today. Yoga and Eastern philosophy sink the human soul into hopelessness, neglecting the world around and dismiss it as an “illusion.” The product of the Eastern culture can be seen in the countries where it has been practiced for centuries. The picture is one of poverty and sorrow. Eastern philosophy practiced in yoga places the responsibility of salvation on the individual disregarding Jesus sacrifices for us.

The marketing technique used to promote yoga may sound scientific, but there is no basis in science for what is stated. Yoga is not a science, but a pseudo-science. 21
In today’s society, the danger of yoga is that it can mislead innocent Christians to believe that it is an alternative way to getting healthier and obtaining relaxation in this busy world. The reality is that yoga is the initiation of an Eastern religion that does not believe in Christ as the savior of the world.

A religion based on man’s way of trying to explain God through human understanding alone. It makes the sacrifice of Christ worthless. It ignores the reality of Jesus Christ when He says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 22

In today’s health issues, we can see how hypnosis can use the mind to manipulate body rhythms and lead people in ways that are not usually possible. In 1957, Pius XII describes
hypnosis, “Here a lowering of consciousness is intended to be brought about that the higher faculties might thereby be dulled in such a way as to paralyze the psychic control mechanism which men constantly use for self-mastery and self direction…” 23

Yoga exercises are geared toward detaching the mind from “reality.” We do it to ourselves. We need to protect our ways and practices. The mind can be disturbed by tampering with it. In yoga, we are dealing with the mind. Our body and soul are so closely knitted that it is hard to separate them. Our human body is made-up like one of body, mind and spirit.

The body is similar to my computer hardware; the mind is the program that runs it; and the spirit or soul is the hand that guides it. When you tamper with the body you affect the way the mind may see things and impair the spirit to guide it.

Can we separate yoga exercises from the spiritual make up of yoga? Can we alienate the action from what is intended to do? Let us look at it from a Catholic point of view.

When talking to someone in the Hindu religion, who practices yoga, it is easy to conclude that they are trying to obtain salvation by their own efforts outside of Christ. They see Christ as a good person, an enlightened one, even a good prophet but that is it. The Hindu belief from which Yoga originated believes in reincarnation and predestination.

It lessens the value of life. To put it simply, it makes life a recyclable commodity. In reincarnation, if your life doesn’t work this time, there will be another chance in another life. There is no sin. There is no devil. According to yoga, God is an energy. It interprets humanity without the divine revelation of Christ.

I heard Bishop Vasquez of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston describing a Catholic and saying that being Catholic is being in community. We are in community when we remain in the Church. Even monks and mystics, who yogis like to compare themselves to, lived in communities.
St. Theresa of Avila24
in her life time rejected “certain methods” which did not take into consideration the humanity of Jesus and were tempting her to submerse into the abyss of the divinity.

We are to worship God with our free will, not giving up our free will. We align our will to God’s will, but we never lose our identity. If we were to seek unity with God, like a yogi aspires to do, we would be looking for equality with God, something that not even Jesus looked for on this earth. 25

Our attitude in our every day lives should be as Philippians 2:5-8 describes it: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

If you search for “yoga” in the Vatican site26
nothing turns up. Yoga is so foreign to the Catholic faith that there are no specific documents to address the issue.
In reference to Hinduism, the Catholic Church has adopted a spirit of reconciliation with it and with different religions through out the world. Annually, it gathers leaders of different religions from around the world to pray for world peace. In the
Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, in 196527, it acknowledges that Hinduism leads men to contemplate the divine mystery “through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry.” They do that searching for freedom from the human condition through ascetical practices or profound meditation.

Nostra Aetate28
also affirms the knowledge that: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.” 29

Without the horizon of God, searching within by the use of yoga, a human being can get lost. With limited mental resources searching for the divine outside of Christ is dementia. It is a sin, because it is sinful to disregard the wondrous sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to try to reach salvation, health and redemption outside of Christ.

With Christ’s word ever present, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. 30

Yoga is the taste of the “tree of knowledge.” 31 It promises health and peace to the troubled soul and the only thing that it asks in return is total abandonment of one’s free will to something or someone that is quoted as universal energy.

Yoga is non-Christian practice. We need to be aware of the danger of yoking ourselves with pagan practices. As Paul says in 2 Cor 6:14: “Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?”

Humans are hungry for a closer relationship with God, but we have to remember that a relationship has to be nurtured and is not a “drive-through lane service” on which we decided what to get and when to get it. In the department of mystical experiences, God is in control, time and the place at His own choosing. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” 32
To grow in our spirituality we cannot trust every experience as from God. We need to remember 1 John 4:1-3: “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh be longs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world.” 33

As the baby-boomers begin to age, they search for new ways to health and inner peace. Ponce de Leon embarked in the same search when he came to Florida in 1513 searching for the Fountain of Youth. He did not find it, as the people who are looking for a “new way” in yoga will not find it either. When we wander away from our Catholic faith and begin experimenting with other religions searching for false promises, we are acting against the law of God as St. Augustine said
“Love of self to the point of contempt for God.
34
Good and evil, good and sin are no longer discernable because everything goes. It is not possible to separate the movements and positions of yoga from its spirituality. We cannot separate the yoga exercise from the yoga beliefs. They go hand in hand. Just ask a yoga instructor where does it all lead to. They will tell you that yoga is just the beginning of a journey to “revitalizes and nourishes the mind, body, and spirit.” 35

You can defend yourself against temptation if you know it is a temptation. You can stop yourself from sinning if you know that it is a sin. The danger of yoga it is that it seems harmless and it is not. It seems different, mysterious in many ways. It reminds me that the occult has always existed and the realm of the kingdom of the evil one is real on this earth. My experience is that once in yoga the self-sufficiency of the individual kicks in, and the individual creates its own way of finding “God” and ends up walking away from the Church and the sacraments. We need to know what we are getting into and it is not from the Triune God.

On a television program the other night, I heard a reporter say that “what made the attack on Pearl Harbor a total Japanese success was that the Japanese managed to keep it a total secret.” What is making yoga a success in the American culture, it is that it has kept the secret that is a religion and leads its followers to believe that it is alternative health practice. It is attacking the Christian beliefs and the Christian churches do not even know it.

I will say about those who are introducing yoga to the Catholic faithful the same that Paul said about the prophets in the region of Achaia: “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” 36

The reality of God’s love for us is such that we never lose our own identity. God wants us to love Him but He respects our identity and in heaven we will have our identity. When we die, we will not blend into the essence of God. We will not become God. We will remain as individuals to worship God eternally and we will experience a joy that no human feeling can compare to. If we are able to give over to God all that we are and all that we have, our physical and spiritual well being will improve. The secret of happiness and peace is to say like Mother Theresa of Calcutta: “I am nothing but a pencil in God’s hand” and leave everything to the Lord.

What can take the place of yoga? I think there are many alternatives. The one I would place at the top of the list is to go to daily Mass and to pray, talking to God as a friend. Walk for fifteen minutes each day while praying the rosary and then sit quietly thinking of the mysteries of our faith, giving thanks to God for every one of them. Instead of turning off your inner light of faith, shine the light of Christ to others. Make your life one of helping others, of showing genuine interest for the lives of your family members, of your friends, of your community. Make your life one of service. Begin by relating better to your loved ones. Call your husband and your children once a day and pray with them. Live each day as it was your last in love and service of Christ.

Mystical experiences are a gift from God which God initiates. In the Bible the vertical experiences with God gave great spiritual fruit for the community, for example Abraham and Moses. The encounter of Abraham and God which God initiated made possible a covenant between God and His people. 37 The encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush with God initiated compelled Moses to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments38

A true experience of God in Christ Jesus is shown by its fruit. If the Spirit is poured upon a soul the fruits of the Spirit will show through the actions of the individual.

In the Eastern religions and exercises, the body is the instrument by which we escape from the distractions of the outer world, seeking God within ourselves. Can we by technique or exercise achieve mystical experiences? No. God cannot be commanded to act. Your body can be commanded to act but only God or your free will can command your soul.

We are part of a greater picture. We can share our gifts. We are part of a reality not an illusion. In that reality of life, Christ has given us the Church and the sacraments but we cannot command the Lord to act upon our command. To desire or try to be like God is a sin against the first commandment. We, Catholics, believe that there is One Truth, Jesus Christ, and the best document to clarify that statement was written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith: “Declaration ‘Dominus Iesuson the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.” 39 Its content stands in defense of Jesus Christ which yoga is in direct opposition to.

In summary, answering Janet’s question: When we talk about separating the exercise of yoga from its spirituality, one thing comes to mind, can we separate the intent and the instrument of an action? For example, the gun from the person who pulled the trigger? The exercises of yoga are designed to detach the mind from the concentration of its surroundings. If you give away your alliance to Christ for the sake of your body is it worth it? I do not think so.

“May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 40

Click on the underlined title and it will take you to the source of the hyperlink.

Notice: A few months after writing this article the Vatican published a document on New Age:
I am including the link for it, because of its importance:

Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue,
Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the New Age,

Vatican City, 2003.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carrera, Archbishop Norberto Rivera. “A Call to Vigilance -Pastoral Instruction on New Age”      

Mexico City, Mexico. January 7, 1996 in the August/September 1996 Issue of Catholic International.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
“Declaration ‘Dominus Iesus’ on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.”  www.vatican.va
The Vatican Sept. 2000.

Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith,
“Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.”  www.vatican.va
The Vatican. May 24, 1990

Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith,
“Letter for the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation”
 www.vatican.va
The Vatican October 15, 1989.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr. Anthony De Mello, S.J.”
Vatican
Information Service, August 22, 1998.

Dreher, Rev. John D. “The Danger of Centering Prayer.”
http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0005.html

Gessy, Rev. Lawrence J.
The Basic Conflicts between Maharishi and Christianity.”  Today’s Destructive Cults and Movements, Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington, IN.

Gormley, William J., C.M., S.T.L.  Medical Hypnosis, Historical Introduction to Its Morality in the Light of Papal, Theological and Medical Teaching – A Dissertation.  The Catholic University of America Press: Washington, D.C. (1961)

Hardon, Fr. John A. S.J.  “Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism?  – Ask Father Hardon” The Catholic Faith 4, no. 2.  Ignatius Press: San Francisco, CA. (March/April 1998)

Nostra Aetate – Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions
www.vatican.va
The Vatican (1965).

St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei

The New American Bible
 at
http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/index.htm

Tweed, Thomas A. and Prothero, Stephen A. Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History, Oxford Univ. Press, 1999.

 

NOTES

1 Janet is not her real name.

2 Ana is not her real name.

3 Col 2:8

4 THE DHARMA CENTER, 13817 Southwest Freeway, Sugar Land, TX 77478 – It offers yoga, T’ai chi, Pilates, massage therapy, healing touch, aromatherapy, etc.

5Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. October 15, 1989.

6 Acts 17:28

7 John 10:30

8 “Declaration ‘Dominus Iesus’ on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican. September 2000. #6

9 Cf. Dreher, Rev. John D. “The Danger of Centering Prayer.” From
http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0005.html

10 “Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican. May 24, 1990.

11 Ibid.

12 Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. Paramahansa Yogananda. First Edition 1946.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public the “DeclarationDominus Iesus’ on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church” on September 2000. It is available at the Vatican sitewww.vatican.va.

17
Nostra AetateVatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Oct. 28, 1965) #2.

18 From
Nostra Aetate: “Religions… that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus, in Hinduism men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry.

 

They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism in its various forms realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men in a devout and confident spirit may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life and sacred rites.”

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).”

19
Nostra Aetate
#2.

20 Refer to footnote #17.

21 False science.

22 John 14:6

23 Gormley, William J., C.M., S.T.L. Medical Hypnosis, Historical Introduction to Its Morality in the Light of Papal, Theological and Medical Teaching– A Dissertation. The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, DC. (1961) pp 126.

24 From the
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church “On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” by the Congregation of Faith – October 15, 1989. Footnote #12.

Pope John Paul II has pointed out to the whole Church the example and the doctrine of St. Teresa of Avila who in her life had to reject the temptation of certain methods which proposed a leaving aside of the humanity of Christ in favor of a vague self-immersion in the abyss of the divinity. In a homily given on November 1, 1982, he said that the call of Teresa of Jesus advocating a prayer completely centered on Christ “is valid, even in our day, against some methods of prayer which are not inspired by the Gospel and which in practice tend to set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity. Any method of prayer is valid insofar as it is inspired by Christ and leads to Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. John 14:6).” See: “Homilia Abulae habita in honorem Sanctae Teresiae:” AAS 75 (1983), 256-257.

25 Phil 2:5-8

26
www.vatican.va

27
Nostra Aetate.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

30 Cf. John 8:32

31 Cf. Gen 2:9, 17.

32 John 15:16

33 1 John 4:1-3

34 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIV, 28: CCL 48, p. 541.

35
http://www.arlingtonyogacenter.com/aboutyoga.html

36 2 Cor 11:13-14

37 [Gen 17:8] I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.” [Gen 17:9] God also said to Abraham: “On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.

38 [Ex 34:27] Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” [Ex 34:28] So Moses stayed there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

39 Refer to footnote #17.

40 1 Thessalonians 5:23

 

Yoga is not Catholic

By Marta Alves, December 28, 2004

http://faithleap.home.att.net/yoga.pdf

 

God is the creator of all. Jesus is homoousios with the Father. He is one in being with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.  We are created by God. We are creatures and God is the creator. When we pray, we pray in a relational way. God is other than man. We retain our identity, so much so that the day we die on the last day of judgment the body will rise and will be reunited to the soul for all eternity. We will not lose our identity. God created us good and it is what we do that is good or bad. We have a “tool box” of talents and gifts to use for the glory and praise of God. Eastern religion denies the individuality of every human being and places salvation not in Jesus the Christ but in the individual’s efforts.

A practice that takes Jesus out, it is not Christian, and Yoga takes Jesus out of what it calls meditation. We need to understand that only through Christ there is salvation. Ours is a Christ centered prayer, not a self-centered prayer.

Read the debates of the Early Church Fathers.  E.g. The Council of Nicea, of Constantinople, of Ephesus, of Chalcedon.

The first ecumenical councils had to do with Jesus, with his divine and human nature.  

[John 3:16] For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. [John 3:17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [John 3:18] Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [John 3:19] And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.

[John 3:20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. [John 3:21] But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. Do not be deceived by Yoga practices that search for new revelations, like the gnostic did. Do not walk away from Christianity in search of better techniques. The way to the Father is Jesus. Keep Jesus in Christianity.

Nostra Aetate said that in every religion there is an element of truth but it did not say that every religion is truth. 

The truth is in Jesus Christ. We respect all religions and their right to exist, but it does not mean that we deny our own. 

We cannot deny Jesus Christ. We have the full revelation of God is Jesus Christ. Every human being longs for God and left alone will search for God in its own way. The search is over for Christians. Christ is the full revelation of God. 

We do not need to search any further. As Catholics, we have it even sweeter. The holy Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ and Eastern meditation should be replaced by Eucharistic adoration. Instead of moving in, we need to move out in adoration of real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

 

Yoga is not a Catholic meditation

http://www.faithleap.org/what_about_meditation.htm

By Marta Alves, April 25, 2012

 

Catholics need to be aware of the dangers of yoga and how it can lead us away from the Catholic faith.   If we do not know our own identity, we risk losing it.

In today’s society, we see people turning to yoga to relieve stress without knowing that they are dealing with a religious practice outside of the Christian faith.  Meditation using yoga, and Christian meditation are two different things.  Christians are deceived when they think that meditation is the same in both realms. For example take the word blue.  “Am I blue?”  “Do you mean if I’m sad?” or “Do you mean the color blue?”  So it is with meditation. It is different as a Christian than meditation as the follower of a yogi.  The word is spelled the same.  It sounds the same but they are not the same thing.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. … To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?'” (CCC 2705-2706)

God never asks us to give away our will and reason.  He is a jealous God and He wants us for Himself.  In every area of our lives we need to be careful of what we feed our souls and minds. Prayer is talking to God and keeping our reason.  “Christian prayer is the meeting of two freedoms, the infinite freedom of God with the finite freedom of man.”1

When we meditate, we are pondering how what we learned can apply to our every day lives.  Our prayer to God is always a state of conversation and exchange.  We do not imagine God or pretend to see Him.  We talk to the living God when we pray, and whenever He desires: He may reveal Himself to us.

“Genuine Christian mysticism has nothing to do with technique: it is always a gift of God, and the one who benefits from it knows himself to be unworthy.” 2

Christians believe in one life and then judgment.  As Pope John Paul II expresses in the Encyclical Letter – “Coming of the Third Millennium” – Christian revelation excludes reincarnation, and speaks of a fulfillment which man is called to achieve in the course of a single earthly existence. Man achieves this fulfillment of his destiny through the sincere gift of self, a gift which is made possible only through his encounter with God. It is in God that man finds full self-realization: this is the truth revealed by Christ. Man fulfills himself in God, who comes to meet him through his Eternal Son. Thanks to God’s coming on earth, human time, which began at Creation, has reached its fullness. “The fullness of time” is in fact eternity, indeed, it is the One who is eternal, God himself. Thus, to enter into “the fullness of time” means to reach the end of time and to transcend its limits, in order to find time’s fulfillment in the eternity of God

In Christianity time has a fundamental importance. Within the dimension of time the world was created; within it the history of salvation unfolds, finding its culmination in the “fullness of time” of the Incarnation, and its goal in the glorious return of the Son of God at the end of time. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal. With the coming of Christ there begin “the last days” (cf. Heb 1:2), the “last hour”  (cf. 1 Jn 2:18), and the time of the Church, which will last until the Parousia.

From Coming of the Third Millennium – Encyclical Letter by Pope John Paul II- TERTIO MILLENNIO ADVENIENTE II. The Jubilee of the Year 2000

Yoga is one of the systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy.  It is the initiation of an eastern religion that does not believe in Christ as the savior of the world.  A religion based on man’s way of trying to explain God from a human understanding alone.  In Sanskrit it means “union” and it seeks the union of the individual with the divine by means of exercise, breathing, posture, diet and meditation.  

The effects of yoga as it progresses into advance practices by repeating phrases and emptying the mind of all distraction is similar to the effect of hypnosis.  The person is giving away its mind to something…  What is that “something?”  They may never know.  Our mind is the “driver” at the “wheel” of our bodies. When we let go, who is doing the “driving”?  Evil is real in this world.  Jesus should be the center of our meditation and our lives.  We need to be in control of our minds.  Mental problems can develop in innocent people led into false practices.

Prayer and Christian meditation can foster spiritual growth; as a result we will increase in virtues and the love of God and neighbor.  A self-centered system of meditation can lead to isolation and mental illness. 

Hypnosis can use the mind to manipulate body rhythms and lead people in ways that are not normally possible.  Yoga does the same thing.  We are to protect our ways and practices.  The mind can be disturbed by tampering with it. In dealing with the physical mind and not understanding what is happening, we can open ourselves to trouble. – From yoga straight into a psycho-therapist’s office. 

There is no generic religion; and yoga is trying to convince the public that it is just another way of reducing stress and improving the mental well being of an individual. – A marketing technique in a hectic world. 

Yoga is a religious practice that can lead Christians astray.  It can produce physiological feelings due to exercise of the body which can be interpreted as spiritual experiences.  In “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” is stated:

Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.

There is no “Christian” Yoga.  It is not a physical exercise but a teaching originates from Hinduism and it excludes Christ as the Messiah and Savior of the world.  Do not be misled to self-sufficiency outside of Christ.  Do not trust every spirit that says it belongs to God.  As the apostle John says:

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3

Learn your Catholic faith and traditions.  Experimenting with forms of prayer foreign to our faith may lead you away from the faith with false promises.  Avail yourself to the Sacraments and attend Mass daily.  Pray the rosary.  If you stop your daily routine and take time to pray the rosary, you may come to know a peace that is hard to describe.  The national news has reported that people who pray the rosary can see a drop in their blood pressure.  It can reduce stress.  I carry the rosary in my pocket as a reminder to pray.  Through the years, I have recommended the rosary to people who had trouble falling sleep at night, and it works.  We meditate on the mysteries of Christ passion, death and resurrection and on the assumption and coronation of the Virgin Mary. The repetitive prayer of the Hail Mary and the Our Fathers sounds like a lullaby of peace to our souls. It quiets our souls giving us peace.  Put it to the test. – Try it.

In daily prayer, we need to bring all of our burdens, physical, spiritual and emotional, to the Lord.  We need to talk to our Father in heaven in daily dialogue.  As you walk in life take the Lord’s hand and let Him guide you.  Come to the Lord Jesus in prayer with an open heart and in complete humility.  He is everything.  We are nothing but a pen in His hand with which if we let Him, He can use to do His will for blessings to shower upon our lives.

Catholics come together with all religions to hope and pray for world peace but we need to maintain our identity.  In sharing with other religions if we do not know our own identity we risk losing it.  We need to acknowledge the truth that Hinduism is a religious belief and yoga is an expression of it.  Do not be misled by false doctrines.  Stay focus on the message of Salvation of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  If Christ is in the center of our prayer life, we are on the right track proclaiming the message of Salvation, of Christ our Lord and Savior:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

References:

(1) “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  n. 3  October 15, 1989.

(2) “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  n. 23 October 15, 1989.

 

 

 


 

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