YOGA – 02



YOGA – 02


This is a compilation of information on yoga from data that I saved over the last three and a half years.

It contains informative or controversial articles that are pro-yoga for academic purposes, and also Catholic and other Christian information that exposes the Hindu meditation system as a dangerous New Age spiritual exercise. Due to the large number of items, I am not able to reproduce them either chronologically or in any other way [as I normally attempt to do] that makes searching and reading easy for the visitor to this page.

There are already a number of reports and articles on yoga at this ministry’s web site. The list of these is copied immediately below.

The present compilation may be considered as a continuation of the 114-page 2007-2009 compilation YOGA serial no. 3
in the ARTICLES section below.




















































The articles reproduced below are interspersed with my comments in green. They have not been used in any of the documents listed above. In the case of the few “EXTRACTS“, the complete articles are mostly available elsewhere at this ministry’s web site. An attempt has been made to group some authors’ works together.





1a. Yoga passes the test of secularism in the West

Editorial, The New Indian Express, July 6, 2013

As the world becomes more integrated, old-timers are only playing a losing game when they insist on keeping out certain aspects of life by labelling them as alien. It is a matter of satisfaction, therefore, that a California judge has described yoga as a “distinctly American cultural phenomenon” while dismissing the complaints of some parents who argued that teaching it to school children amounted to “an unconstitutional promotion of eastern religions”. The fact that yoga had originated in India had evidently persuaded the not-very-well-informed parents to deem it as an esoteric faith, presumably because the practice entails longish periods of contemplative silence and various formulaic bodily postures.

However, those with greater awareness of yogic movements would know that they are a form of exercise aimed at toning up the body and even relieving the mind of tension. These were formulated by the sage, Patanjali, in 150 BC. As Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in The Discovery of India, this “typical Indian method of preserving bodily fitness is rather remarkable when one compares it with the more usual methods involving rushing about, jerks, hops and jumps which leave one panting”. It is the soothing effect which yoga has on the mind that explains its popularity in the consumerist West.

Hence, the popularity of yoga in America which now has 20.4 million practitioners compared to 15.8 million five years ago. From celebrities to corporate honchos, homemakers to the elderly, yoga is attracting a strong following with even the US military introducing it for the veterans, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies have shown that yoga increases patience, attention span, competitive spirit and cognitive abilities of schoolchildren. It is after all these achievements of yoga that has enabled it to cross the seas.


1b. Yoga passes secularism test in US/Court: Yoga now a secular American Phenomenon

By Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN July 4, 2013

WASHINGTON: Yoga enthusiasts in the US got a big boost this week when a California judge ruled that the practice which originated in India is now a ”distinctly American cultural phenomenon,” while dismissing complaints from some parents that teaching it to school children amounted to ”an unconstitutional promotion of Eastern religions.”

Weeks of testimony from yoga practitioners and opponents, including live demonstration in courtroom of poses taught to children, came to a convoluted finale on Monday when Judge John Mayer agreed that yoga ”at its roots is religious,” but pronounced that the kind introduced by a school district near San Diego, which was the subject of the litigation, passed the test of secularism. “A reasonable student would not objectively perceive that Encinitas School District yoga does advance or promote religion,” he said.

Parents of some children had sued to stop the school district from teaching yoga maintaining it is a religious practice that surreptitiously promoted Hinduism. Funded with $533,000 from the K. Pattabhi Jois Foundation, which is backed by Jois acolytes, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II and his wife Sonia, the school district introduced a three-year pilot yoga program in 2011, with twice a week classes in addition to regular physical education.

While some 30 families pulled their children out of the classes, saying teaching of yoga in schools blurred the line between church and state and “represents a serious breach of the public trust,” many parents backed the program, which the school said was also aimed at curbing aggressive behavior and bullying. School authorities said in court that they had removed all religious elements from what was taught to the students, including the use of the word Namaste and substituting Sanskrit name of asanas with English ones. For instance, Padmasana, usually called lotus pose in English, became ”criss cross apple sauce” in Americanese to appeal to children.

In fact, Judge Meyer, who had told the court early in the case that he himself had taken Bikram yoga classes, went so far as to observe that the yoga taught in Encinitas schools was no different from exercise programs like dodgeball. He was also irritated that some of the plaintiffs were not really informed about yoga as taught in the Encinitas schools and had simply got their information from dubious sources on the internet. ”It’s almost like a trial by Wikipedia, which isn’t what this court does,” he observed.

The petitioners have said they will appeal against the court’s ruling, but for now, yoga enthusiasts are celebrating the victory because it sets an important legal precedent for expanding yoga in school programs. In fact, some observers seemed pleased at the judge’s seeming cultural appropriation of yoga while observing that it was as American as apple pie, noting that yoga came to the US more than a century ago with the arrival of the first Indian mystics and spiritual figures.

Paramahamsa Yogananda lived in the US in the 1920s, and is in fact, thought to be the first Indian pubic figure to be entertained at the White House in 1927 – by President Calvin Coolidge.


Yoga is a Spiritual Discipline and a verified System of living a Harmonious Life and not just an Eastern Religion. In fact Yoga is not any Religion but a Master Science of Tomorrow for a Better Holistic Living! –Ashok Sharma

Exactly! It is “spiritual” by nature. Hence it is to be shunned by Christians [says the First Commandment].

U.S. courts have also ruled that partners of the same sex may marry and have all the rights of a heterosexual couple. That does not make it acceptable for Catholics. Catholics follow what the Bible and the Church teach.





2. Yoga and the Christian Faith

By Dr. Christine Mangala Frost, June 19, 2013



Dr. Christine Mangala was born a Hindu, a Brahmin, and the highest and priestly caste in India. She was brought up on yoga. Her grandfather, in fact, was a personal friend of one of the expounders of modern yoga and Vedanta philosophy, the well-known Swami Sivananda, who is the founder of the Divine Life Society. She became a Christian at age 22, and later converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. She received her doctorate in English literature from Cambridge University, and has authored articles on literature and books of fiction, of which she has written several, as well as various spiritual subjects, including yoga and Christianity. She is married to Dr. David Frost, the director of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, England with whom she has four children, and she attends St. Ephraim’s Russian Orthodox Church in Cambridge, UK, England.


I was born a Hindu, became a Christian at the age of 22 and have been an Orthodox Christian for ten years. I was brought up with yoga. My grandfather was a friend of one of the founders of modern yoga, Swami Sivananda, who used to send his books on yoga to my grandfather along with a vitamin-rich sweet herbal concoction we loved to eat. As children we were encouraged to do certain postures and breathing exercises, always with a clear warning that there are different ways of breathing for men and women as their bodies are differently shaped. When I got married and had children, I passed on to them some of the ideas I had found useful from my childhood yoga lessons. We lived on top of a hill, and as the children walked daily to school (we did not have a car), they had to climb up a steep incline. At times, they would complain about how their legs hurt. I would say, without thinking for one moment how odd it might sound, “Breathe through your knees.” Somehow they seemed to understand what that meant and did as told, and soon found it less of an effort to climb. Later on, as they grew up, they learnt to do postures from modern western manuals and benefit from the exercises. They were brought up in a Christian home and were in no danger of being led astray by esoteric Hindu spiritual ideas, such as “self-realization”, which often accompany modern yoga. On a visit to India, when they met such ideas in an ashram, they were rather repelled by them as they were by the idolatrous, cultic atmosphere that prevailed in that ashram.

I recount this chiefly to emphasize that there is more to yoga than mere exercise and that we need, more than ever, the gift of discernment when we attend yoga classes or read about it in books. We need to have a clear idea of what we are dealing with if we want to use it without compromising our Christian faith.

Yoga was once regarded with awe in India as an esoteric branch of Hindu spiritual discipline that required great physical and psychological daring. It was sought by the solitary spiritual seeker eager to ascend the higher rungs of a Hindu ideal of spiritual perfection. Such a seeker would undertake an austere regimen of physical and mental discipline strictly under the guidance of a revered master, a guru of spiritual discernment who would monitor his disciple’s progress vigilantly. The ultimate goal of yoga was nothing short of experiencing the divine within oneself.

Since the nineteenth century, largely due to the relentless propaganda efforts of Hindu missionary gurus such as Swami Vivekananda, yoga has been stripped of its mystique and complexity. It has been re-moulded in the idiom of American schools of self-help and positive thinking and marketed as a safe and easy pathway to bliss within the grasp of all. Both in the East and West, yoga is now a household word; a highly popular keep-fit routine taught and practiced by large numbers in church or school halls and sports-venues. While some yoga teachers promote it as a mere technique for ensuring one’s wellbeing, others advocate it as an all-purpose answer to not only the ills of modern life but to the ultimate questions of life itself. Some yoga teachers and students play down the importance of the Hindu ethos in which the psycho-spiritual jargon of yoga is anchored; others eagerly embrace that very ethos, especially those who find the creeds, rituals and demands of institutional Christianity irksome. Many Christians practice yoga untroubled by its spiritual baggage while others feel some unease, and often meet with disapproval from their priests and bishops.


As Orthodox Christians, what are we to make of modern yoga?

Is yoga safe for Christians to practice? Or, is it so counter to the Christian faith as to be shunned totally? The conundrum posed by modern yoga was brought into sharp focus by a report in The Times (Friday, 31 August, 2007) which caused a stir. “Vicars ban unchristian yoga for toddlers” so ran the headline: “A children’s exercise class has been banned from two church-halls because it is teaching yoga. The group has been turned away by vicars who described yoga as a sham and unchristian.”




The slant given in the report seemed to suggest that the vicars were being unreasonable, bigoted and unduly alarmist. The yoga teacher Miss Woodcock* is said to have been “outraged” by their ban on her “Yum-Yum Yoga class for toddlers and mums”. She claims that she explained to the church that her “yoga is a completely non-religious activity.” She does, however, concede that “some types of adult-yoga are based on Hindu and Buddhist meditation but it is not part of the religion and there is no dogma involved.” *See pages 39 ff.

“Exercise”, not “meditation”: in saying this, this yoga teacher is drawing our attention to the two major types of yoga prevalent today: Modern Postural Yoga and Modern Meditational Yoga. Realizing that meditational yoga often takes one deep into spiritual realms and goals incompatible with Christianity, Miss Woodcock is eager to keep “exercise” apart from “meditation.” Is such a defusing of yoga to make it “safe” possible?

The vicars disagree: “The philosophy of yoga cannot be separated from the practice of it, and any teacher of yoga (even to toddlers) must subscribe to the philosophy. Yoga may appear harmless or even beneficial, but it is encouraging people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through human techniques—whereas the only true way to wholeness is by faith in God through Jesus Christ.”

Any reliance solely on “human techniques” for achieving wholeness divorced from faith in Jesus Christ is understandably castigated by the vicars, one an Anglican and the other, a Baptist. Their rejection stems from a fear of nullifying the role of faith and grace in salvation and of falling into the heresy of Pelagianism. Protestant tradition in general tends to be nervous of any suggestion of “spiritual effort” despite the fact that St. Paul admonishes us to “work out our salvation with diligence”.


The concept of synergy

In the Orthodox tradition the role of human freewill in responding to the divine call to “wholeness” or “holiness” is beautifully encapsulated in the concept of synergy. The Incarnation of Christ as fully human and fully God means that we now have a way through Him for what St. Maximus calls divine-human “reciprocity”. God becoming human makes possible our participation in His life, a lifelong process which is described as theosis (deification). Our salvation is not an automatic result of an initial assent, or a legal status of being redeemed from our “slavery” to sin but an “active perfection” in love to be realized in the body of Christ, in his Church.

Therefore baptized Christians are urged to fast, pray, give alms, repent, confess, participate in the life and liturgy of the Church; all these require an initiative on our part, a willingness to prepare ourselves to receive and respond to the grace of God. Like the Prodigal Son, remembering God, “Our Father,” means setting our heart towards our journey home back to Him. There is a subtle symbiosis between human readiness or willingness and the work of the Holy Spirit. To adopt a telling image from St. Ephraim, the human person is a “harp of the Spirit.” To play well the music of the Holy Spirit our harp needs to be well tuned, its strings neither too tight nor too slack. Yoga techniques are primarily aimed at achieving a psychosomatic equilibrium or poise. So we may well ask, without falling into any heresy, is it not possible to treat yoga-techniques as means “to tune up” our body and mind so that we become better receptors of God’s grace? Can Hindu yoga help a Christian to fulfil the command heard by the psalmist “Be still and know that I am God?” What role, if any, can yoga postures and meditation play in fulfilling the commands of Christ: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mathew 22: 37-39)?


The Hindu-Buddhist Ethos of Modern Yoga

Before I attempt to answer these questions I need to sketch in brief the types of yoga one encounters today and the Hindu-Buddhist ethos they are steeped in. One writer cites four types: Hollywood Yoga, Harvard Yoga, Himalayan Yoga and Cultic Yoga. [1]

1. Hollywood Yoga, as the name implies, aims at beauty, fitness and longevity.

2. Harvard Yoga sets its sights on mental clarity, concentration and psychic calm.

3. Himalayan Yoga goes way beyond the other two and aims at a mystical state known as samadhi (absorption).

4. Cultic Yoga centres round a charismatic guru. Enlightenment is said to be imparted by the mere touch of a guru to a disciple who worships him or her as God.

5. Purist Hindu practitioners claim to follow the guidelines provided in the original Sanskrit text, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; their teaching follows the “eight-limbed” (ashtanga) yoga. Doing postural exercises is a relatively minor matter in an agenda that lays stress on mental and moral purification and a harnessing of psychic powers for spiritual perfection. The “eight-limbs” consist of:

“five restraints” (yamas)

“five disciplines” (niyamas)

“physical postures” (asanas)

“regulation of vital force” (pranayama)

“sense organ withdrawal” (pratyahara),

“concentration” (dharana),

“meditation” (dhyana)

“absorption” (samadhi).

The first two “limbs” aim at cultivating virtues such as truthfulness, selflessness and non-violence. Some Hindu teachers of yoga regret that the third, “physical postures”, is now widely taught without any reference to moral perfection. They insist that the poise attained by the practice of postures is meant to set the yogi on a journey whose ultimate goal is spiritual, a state of permanent bliss known as samadhi or “absorption”.

Absorption into what? This meets with different answers depending on what you believe.

If you are a Hindu who believes that there is no difference between his Self (atma) and the Supreme Self (brahman), “absorption” means arriving at an experience of undifferentiated oneness with brahman. Such a Hindu sees the ultimate spiritual reality as Impersonal and strongly contends that belief in the Impersonal is superior to any belief in a Personal God.




If you are a Hindu who worships God as a deity, a theist who cultivates a personal relationship of love with his or her god or goddess, and seeks liberation by the deity’s grace, “absorption” means a drowning of self in the Godhead.

If you are a Buddhist and do not believe in a Creator-God (as the Dalai Lama reiterates often) “absorption”, means entering nirvana, a “blowing out”, an ultimate extinction of self.

Though the ambitious spiritual program of Patanjali’s Yoga morphed into keep-fit routines in Western Yoga classes and manuals, one still meets some mutation or other of the complex, inter-dependent psycho-spiritual concepts from the original author. Underlying them all is the view derived from a system of philosophy known as samkhya. According to samkhya, our ordinary psychosomatic self is a by-product of biophysical processes and that by the disciplines of yoga, one peels oneself like an onion to reach the core where one finds “pure consciousness.” As one yoga teacher explains: ‘once the individual grasps that he is essentially pure consciousness different from and separate from psychophysical processes, he is disunited from his false notions. At the same time the individual is also united in his thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions to his real self.'[2]


“Pure Consciousness” or Kingdom of God?

It seems a questionable claim that a systematic severing of contact with the external world creates an integrated human being. On the contrary, as R.D. Laing has shown in his The Divided Self, embarking on a radical withdrawal from external reality may well render one schizoid. Not only does the yogic inward journey run the risk of mental illness, but the goal of such yoga raises some serious problems for a Christian. Jesus admonishes us to seek the Kingdom of God within, not “pure consciousness.” When a Christian prays, “Thy Kingdom come,” he is paradoxically envisaging the reign of God as an external as well as an internal happening. Even in the Christian monastic traditions, which recommend withdrawal from the world, from the objects of sensual experience, the monk is in search of an “inner kingdom” (cf. Metropolitan Kallistos’ choice title for his writings). In this “inner kingdom”, God the Holy Trinity, our God who has “revealed” Himself to us in Jesus Christ reigns supreme. We recognize Him and commune with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the same Spirit we call upon God as “Our Father.” In countless parables, Jesus describes what that phrase, the “Kingdom of God” means. Among other things it stands for a “life abundant” here and hereafter; and it encompasses the whole of creation. As Patriarch Ignatius IV reminds us, ‘The Kingdom of God is nothing other than the glorified Body of the risen Christ, in which each day humanity enters into communion.'[3] The Christian goal of “the Kingdom of God” is a far cry from whatever one understands by “pure consciousness.”

Influential Hindu missionaries like Vivekananda and his followers deploy certain yoga techniques to promote a pop-mysticism based on the notion of “Self-realization.” which has become a yoga buzz-word. The path to “Self-realization” through yoga is presented as of universal appeal, free from dogma and strictly non-denominational. However, a close scrutiny of Vivekananda’s writings reveals a strong bias in favour of one specific Hindu tradition, that of the non-dualist, (advaitin) Vivekananda bowdlerized the subtle metaphysics of Hindu non-dualism (advaita) and championed its cause in the marketplace with the ardour of a philosophical imperialist. Random quotes from his writings illustrate his reckless syncretism and the audacious, often preposterous claims he made for his mode of “Self-realization.”[4]

“All is my Self. Say this unceasingly. ”

“Go into your own room and get the Upanishads out of your own Self. You are the greatest book that ever was or ever will be, the infinite depository of all that is.”

“I am the essence of bliss. ” “Follow no ideal, you are all that is. ” “Christs and Buddhas are simply occasions upon which to objectify your inner powers. We really answer our own prayers. ”

“We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Jehovah, Allah, Agni, but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”

“The universe is thought, and the Vedas are the words of this thought. We can create and uncreate the whole universe. “[5]

When Vivekananda realized that he needed something more than loose philosophical talk for his brand of “Self-realization,” he wrote his seminal work, Raja Yoga, which is a practical manual for those seeking the so-called “Self-realization.”


“Know thyself”: in Yoga and Christianity

There are many reasons why the spiritual ethos underpinning modern yoga is incompatible with Christianity, chief among them being the inordinate focus on self. Self-deification, from a Christian point of view, is at the very root of evil.

In Christian understanding, the very Fall of Man is a turning away from God towards a misguided, rebellious reliance on self. This rupture of communion with God results in sin and death. Commenting on the Socratic dictum, “Know Thyself,” (which is also a message of modern yoga), Orthodox theologian Mantzaridis writes: ‘If there exists something that man can and must seek and find within himself, it is not the self which deviated but the new man in Christ, born through baptismal grace and the other Church sacraments. Man’s return to himself can only truly exalt him provided it takes place within the life in Christ.'[6] The Christian goal and the means to that goal are succinctly put by the same author in his explication of St. Gregory Palamas: ‘Direct and personal knowledge of God is achieved through a mystical communion with Him. Man gains true knowledge of Him once he is visited by deifying grace and united through it with God. The more man accepts the divinizing transformation worked within him by the Holy Spirit, the more perfect and full is his knowledge of God.'[7]

St. Paul reminds us, to know God is to be known by him, that is, to be loved by Him. Love implies a relationship, a communion, not annihilation nor “absorption”, least of all “self-absorption”.


Christian Yoga?

Given that the spiritual ambience and goals of yoga, by and large, are incompatible with Christianity is there any way a Christian can disengage it from its Hindu ethos, use its techniques and still remain a committed Christian?




Some Christians believe that this is possible. A notable example is the Benedictine monk, Dechanet*, who argues that yoga can do a great deal for Christians, well beyond improving our physical wellbeing. He believes that yoga can help us to be better Christians, provided we practice it within a framework of Christian prayer. In his book Christian Yoga Dechanet takes up the challenge of Christianizing yoga. This he does, with an acute awareness of the counter-Christian ethos of traditional yoga. He states emphatically how the two are dissimilar: ‘The Christian starts from faith, and reaches a certain experience, in divine charity, of the God of Revelation, experiencing “Emmanuel”, God with us, God with me. The Hindu has only empirical data to guide him and at the end of his road discovers a sublime but almost savage isolation.'[8]

Dechanet gives careful guidelines as to how one can do yoga to be a better Christian: in prayer, worship, in one’s love of God and love of one’s neighbour. He presents a set of yoga exercises and advice on breathing as ways of presenting ourselves to God with integrity and sincerity: ‘Our whole aim is to bring calm and peace to the whole being; to make a good and faithful servant of the body; to free the soul from anxieties and problems that are all too common; and to finally to arouse the spirit.’ [9]


A Critique of Dechanet*

I must confess to being somewhat troubled by that last phrase, “arouse the spirit”. This is the language of a Hindu yogi who believes in “arousing” dormant powers by masterful self-effort; and therefore it is not suitable to describe a Christian experience of the Spirit. Our Orthodox prayer to the Holy Spirit, “O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth…” makes it very clear that, as fallen creatures, what we need most urgently is an infusion of new life. So we ask to be cleansed and purified by Him who is “everywhere present and fills all things.” This prayer clearly positions us as supplicants seeking the Spirit’s abiding presence within us.

When I started work on this essay, I decided to test out DeChanet’s recommendations, and practiced some basic yoga postures during my morning prayers; and I found that with some conscious effort and concentration it was possible to synchronize my petitions, praise and thanks with the postures. It certainly curbed the level of anxiety, and I could tell myself that I was able to “consider the lilies of the field”, as our Lord commanded us to do, a little better than I normally do. The breathing exercises infused a sense of wellbeing and increased my ability to deal with the turmoil of the day.

However, there was one thing that troubled me somewhat in combining yoga with prayers. I found myself much more aware of myself praying. There was a degree of self-consciousness I felt uncomfortable with: I would rather have forgotten myself while saying the words of prayer or entering silence. Instead, I seemed to be watching myself praying. I decided that the sense of well being I had experienced was genuine enough but it was the result of the exercises, which were clearly beneficial. I decided to revert to my old habit of keeping the exercises separate from prayers.

*Belgian priest DeChanet, who promoted yoga in the archdiocese of Bombay, left the priesthood. -Michael

My conclusion:

1. Incompatibility.

Christians undertaking yoga should be fully aware that its Hindu-Buddhist spiritual ethos is incompatible with the Christian faith. For example: even the Dalai Lama’s commendable guidelines on cultivating compassion focus on “self-effort,” for he frankly admits that he does not believe in a Creator God. For a Christian, love of one’s neighbour (compassion) is inseparable from love of God, and, both are kindled in the human heart by the Holy Spirit.

If a yoga teacher introduces concepts and goals incompatible with being a Christian, one needs to resist them. For this one needs to have a good and clear grasp of what it means to be a Christian. If you are well grounded in Christian thinking, prayer and Christian living, it should be possible, by the grace of God to take what is good in yoga and discard its alien ethos. Attempts to Christianize yoga are commendable but may prove distracting.


2. Yoga to keep fit

It is perfectly feasible to use yoga as a keep-fit routine to tune the body, and make it a fit instrument for Christian prayer. We should be grateful that the modern teachers of yoga have reduced it to a gentle form of exercise.

[Editors Note: Even though the respectable author of the article regards that Yoga can be used purely for exercising, there are nevertheless other Orthodox students and authors who disagree and believe that even in such a case, it can still create problems in a person. Further down, you will see that even “Gurus” assert that Yoga has negative side effects on the body. On the basis of this and everything else that you will read further along, we would recommend that the reader resort to other kinds of physical exercise… after all, there are several other kinds, which do not have religious roots. –John Sanidopoulos]


3. Caution

I would, however, sound a note of caution. It is important to make sure that you are in normal health before you undertake postural yoga. A medical check-up is a good idea. For example, if you have blood-pressure problems certain postures should be avoided. Some postures stimulate the thyroid, and if you have any problems relating to that gland, again, you need to be careful. Some difficult postures like the headstand should be done only for short spells. One Indian guru, who rejects yoga, mocks its claim to enlightenment with the remark that too many headstands damage the finer blood vessels in the brain, even cause partial brain damage, and the consequent stupor is hailed by some Hindus as a state of enlightenment!

Even greater caution is necessary with what is taught as “meditation.” Some advanced forms of meditation-exercises change one’s brain rhythms and lead to a sense of euphoria, which can be addictive. As with other addictions, when the effect wears off, one may end up in depression.


4. Psychic Danger

Breathing techniques aimed at rousing what is called kundalini, dormant sexual energy, which is sublimated into spiritual energy, are particularly dangerous, as they expose one to psychic forces beyond one’s control. Here it is well to remember Jesus’ parable about the unclean spirit (Matthew 12: 43-45). A purified, heightened consciousness without the presence of God is a dangerous state to be in.


5. Mantras and Jesus Prayer

Some yoga teachers encourage chanting of mantras as a means of eliminating disturbance. Mantras are abbreviated invocation of Hindu deities; a mantra’s sound vibrations are said to activate unexplored levels of consciousness. Christians need no such mantras. Rather than enter unknown and potentially dangerous psychic realms through such chanting, we can stabilize ourselves by saying the Jesus Prayer. We have in the Jesus Prayer the most perfect invocation of the Divine Name, which we are called to “hallow,” that is hold holy. Moreover, our cry is grounded in a sober awareness of our own spiritual poverty as sin-prone creatures; hence, like the blind beggar we say, “Lord Jesus, Have mercy!”

Vocal or silent repetition of the name of Jesus acts like a mantra yet the Jesus Prayer is not a mantra. The Jesus prayer, unlike a mantra, contains in a nutshell the basics of the Christian faith. Unlike a mantra, which works more like self-hypnotism, the Jesus prayer marks a movement to and from God as it embodies a relationship in faith and love. Unlike Hindu mantras, whose ambit is what Christians would see as the “old Adam”, the ultimate aim of the Jesus Prayer is, to quote St. Paul,”to put on the new man.” In the writings of the Desert Fathers, of St. John of Damascus, especially in the Hesychast tradition so soundly defended by St. Gregory Palamas, and in the works of modern commentators like Bishop Brianchaninov, Metropolitan Kallistos, monk Porphyrios, we have invaluable guidelines for the practice of the Jesus Prayer. As Bishop Brianchaninov puts it, “In the name of the Lord Jesus quickening is given to the soul deadened by sin. The Lord Jesus Christ is life. And His name is living; it revives and quickens those who cry by it to the source of life.'[10]

Having sounded these warnings, I still believe that a modest yoga regimen can help us to stay supple in body and mind, spiritually alert and vigilant and ultimately live a Christian life with greater zest and joy. We can take our cue from the early Church Fathers. The Cappadocian Fathers were trained in pagan schools of rhetoric and logic but discarded the pagan ethos and deployed the techniques of their learning to brilliant effect in their Christian spiritual theology. Similarly, we too can deal with yoga without being swamped or led astray by its alien ethos, provided we entrust ourselves to Christ our Lord, and our God.



[1] Ashok Kumar Malhotra, An Introduction to Yoga Philosophy: an annotated translation of the Yoga Sutras, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2001, p. 15

[2] Ibid., p.4

[3] Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch, The Resurrection and the Modern Man, translated by Stephen Bingham, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York 1985, p. 71

[4] For a informative and penetrating analysis of the hybrid origins of modern yoga see, Elizabeth DeMichelis, A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism Continuum , London, 2004.

[5] All these quotations from Vivekananda’s Complete Works cited above are from DeMichelis, A History of Modern Yoga, pages 121-122.

[6] George I Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man: St. Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition, translated by Laidain Sherrard, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York, 1984. pp 82-83. Italics mine.

[7] Ibid., p.114

[8] Dechanet, Christian Yoga, London, Burns & Oates, 1956, 1964, p.121

[9] Ibid., p.85.

[10] On the Prayer of Jesus, translated by Father Lazarus, London: John M. Watkins, 1965, p.27.

Christine Mangala Frost
may have made many true statements about yoga but she has also made several grave erroneous conclusions which will be rebutted by Christian and Catholic apologists in section B.


3. What Is the Church’s Teaching on Yoga?

Ask a Franciscan, By Father Pat McCloskey, OFM

Q: Last May, Christopher Heffron’s article “Holistic Care: Treating Mind, Body and Spirit*,” cited the benefits of yoga. Speakers whom I greatly respect have said that Catholics should not do
yoga or
Pilates™. Does the Catholic Church allow this?

A: Although some Catholics consider yoga as “New Age” because of its pre-Christian origins in Hinduism, the Catholic Church has not forbidden it because it does not require a single religious meaning. Pilates™ is an exercise program, not a religious statement. Indeed, there are agnostics and atheists who use yoga and/or Pilates™ to improve their breathing, posture, coordination and concentration.

Yoga began among people who believed in many gods and had no contact with God’s revelation contained in the Bible. When Catholics meditate and pray, they do so as members of a faith community that recognizes Scripture as the word of God and that celebrates the sacraments given to us by Jesus.

Possible misuses of yoga and other non-Christian forms of meditation and prayer are addressed in the October 15, 1989, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” The letter was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is available through its section of

That document cites Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions that the Catholic Church “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions” (#2). I think most Americans who use yoga or Pilates™ do so for exercise. There is nothing wrong with that.

Father Pat McCloskey, OFM does not speak the truth. Check out the starred link in a Catholic magazine:


*Holistic Care: Treating Mind, Body and Spirit

By Christopher Heffron



Holistic health seeks to preserve or restore the health of the whole person. A “Living Legend in Nursing” explains this proven method of care.

LEAH CURTIN, R.N., ScD(h), F.A.A.N., director of communications for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Cincinnati, Ohio, and executive editor of American Nurse Today—the official journal of the American Nursing Association—greets me with a very warm hug on a very cold February day.

Leah gives me a tour of the Centennial Barn, a 19th-century structure on the grounds of the Franciscan Sisters’ compound in Cincinnati.

Though the facility hosts meetings, retreats, weddings and fund-raisers, it’s primarily dedicated to “community building and empowerment featuring holistic therapies, opportunities for spiritual exploration and community involvement, health education and wellness classes,” as its brochure states.

It’s a calming environment, despite the pounding of a carpenter’s hammer. The Barn is in the process of an extensive renovation. Yards of exposed brick, authentic, well-cared-for woodwork and a flow of natural light make for a centering experience.

Besides more than one fully functional kitchen and large, feng shui-friendly meeting rooms, the Barn also provides instruction in yoga, meditation and Pilates, as well as acupuncture and other forms of holistic health.

It is also a very Catholic place to be: Prayer and faith are integral to this facility and its people, both staff and visitors.


Defining Holistic Care

“Holistic care involves addressing the whole person—body, mind and spirit,” says Leah, a practicing Catholic. “One of the things I’m often asked about is the spiritual aspect of holistic health care. Being a writer, I like to look at where words come from. Religio indicates ‘to link back.’ Spiritus indicates ‘to give life.’

“Religion,” she continues, “is the tradition with which we have learned to access the spiritual world.”

Leah, a graduate of the Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing and the University of Cincinnati, has master’s degrees in health planning, health administration and philosophy. She was also declared a “Living Legend in Nursing” by the American Academy of Nursing in 2009 and has an honorary doctorate in the field. She asserts that people are, in essence, bodies of energy.

“We are all made of energy—varying densities and combinations of energy. Whether it is you, me or children in Croatia—we are all made of energy,” she says. “If we are all made of energy, and energy in its very nature moves, then it can be transferred.”

But holistic care, despite its healing properties, is still a touchy subject in some Catholic circles. Is it New Age fluff: a world of crystals, chanting and incense? Is it voodoo: a hodgepodge of unorthodox methods aimed to remedy the body while corrupting the soul?

Holistic health, put simply, seeks to link body, mind and soul for optimum health and wellness. Some of the most popular methods of this approach are:

Meditation/Prayer: “I like to spend at least 30 minutes in meditation every day,” Leah says. “For me, meditation is a peaceful connection with the Divine. It is among the most comforting and uplifting things.”

Yoga: Yoga is a series of movements, stretches and poses designed to tone the body and clear the mind, without the strain of intensive exercise. “Even the best runners get hairline fractures,” Leah says. “With yoga you can exercise every muscle in your body with hardly any danger. It’s meditation using the body instead of the mind. It’s exercise without the sweat.”

Massage: “Chris, may I touch your hand?” Leah asks me. She then gently presses her finger against the top of my hand. “Just that touch lets loose a cascade of hormones in your body. Something like massage not only feels good but also will literally press certain chemicals out of your muscles,” says this nursing expert. “It comforts you. It helps clear your body of toxins.”

Acupuncture: This Chinese medical practice involves needles to puncture certain points on the body to fight disease or ease pain. “We know that our nerves operate on energy,” Leah states. “We know our nerves are electrical. If there is a problem in the body and that energy is disrupted, [an acupuncturist] can open up that block and the body will feel better.”


Not New Age

Though the benefits of meditation/prayer, yoga, massage and acupuncture can improve our health, many feel the holistic approach is too close to the fringe to be Catholic. Leah has a quick answer for the doubters.

“There is nothing contrary to Catholic Christian teaching when it comes to holistic health,” she says. Leah theorizes the origins of this mistrust.

“Initially it was associated with ‘New Age,'” she says. “The secondary reason has to do with misinformed people. I don’t mean just Catholics—sometimes it’s the therapists, the people who don’t understand because its scientific foundation is still being formed. It has been associated with a multicultural approach to healing of the body.

“When Jesus said, ‘Do unto others,’ he wasn’t just saying something sweet. He meant it. When he engaged in healing, he was literally transferring his energy and the Father’s energy to the person who was ill,” Leah says.

“As we look at what science is telling us, we find ourselves coming full circle to the teachings within our own tradition, the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is so clear.”

Instead of being in opposition to Catholic teaching, Leah says that holistic care affirms the Catholic faith. “It is a confirmation of Christ. It is an affirmation of the teachings of Christ and an understanding that when he said, ‘Do this,’ he meant it. He didn’t just mean it for his apostles. He meant it for all who believe.”

Many in the medical profession are starting to believe as well. “There is growing acceptance of holistic health and a growing legitimacy,” Leah says. “In fact, there is the American Holistic Nurses Association’s Journal of Holistic Nursing. And more medical and nursing schools are including holistic concepts in their curricula.”




But the medical community, even those who practice holistic care, can only do so much. Our own accountability is crucial in maintaining good health.


Personal Responsibility

Five years ago, everything changed for this writer when I turned 30.

Prior to that, I could eat whatever I wanted, exercise as frequently or infrequently as I pleased, drink and smoke with (terribly) foolish abandon. When I left my 20s, the benefits of young adulthood all but left me, too. My body simply couldn’t function and rebound as it did in youth.

Not long after I turned 30, I developed myositis, an inflammation of the skeletal muscles. For days I ached from chin to ankle. After consulting my physician, who urged me to make lifestyle changes, I decided to clean house: I curtailed my drinking. I quit smoking and implemented an exercise routine, which I’ve maintained.

Personal responsibility is crucial to holistic health. What we put in our bodies and how often we move them play an integral role.

“In many ways, you are what you eat,” Leah says. “What you eat can affect your moods and your blood-sugar levels. This affects every cell in your body, including brain cells. If you fast and you don’t eat anything, your blood sugar bottoms out. You can literally die from it. Your diet affects every part of your body.”

In this hectic world, it’s become too easy for busy Americans to choose quick, high-fat meals over healthier alternatives. Obesity in America is an epidemic.

According to a report produced by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 58 million Americans are overweight, 40 million are classified as obese and three million are morbidly so. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that obesity in this country is over 30 percent, declaring America the most obese nation on the planet.

Leah, as well as other professionals, can advise patients on what to eat but, ultimately, it’s a matter of discipline, focus and personal responsibility. They cannot decide what we put in our mouths.

“If you choose to live on fast-food junk, you will do so. Nothing is going to change that,” she says. “If you choose to be a couch potato, there is nothing I can do about it. I can tell you that you’ve got to move around because your muscles are turning into flab. That means you have less vitality, less energy; your level of metabolism goes down and you will gain weight. The muscles control our level of metabolism.”

Leah says the human body wasn’t designed to be sedentary, though technology has encouraged us to move as little as possible. Even something as common as a remote control has done us few favors.

“I can sit in my big chair, go click, click, click and the only muscle I have to use is my thumb,” she says. “We were not meant, physically, for the indolent lifestyle that technology has enabled.

“I think technology is a wonderful thing,” Leah continues. “I love knowledge. But, in general, we have made our lives so soft we’re getting sick from it.”


Take a Hike

A healthy lifestyle isn’t only possible—it’s fully achievable for most of us. Even if we can’t run a mile, simply being outdoors can enhance our mental well-being which, in turn, aids in our overall wellness.

“It’s very good for your mood to be outside for 15 minutes each day,” Leah says, “though some depressed people may need medication so their progress toward health will be significantly improved.”

But not all who suffer depression need medication. Leah feels exercise can alleviate those symptoms for many. “Some people only need exercise. They need to make it a matter of course to be outside. I don’t care if it’s snowing or raining. Go outside every day. Experience the natural light. It does improve your mood.

“One of the best things you can do for a friend or loved one who is depressed is to get them outside every day—even if you’re just working in the garden. It doesn’t matter. Go outside. Take a walk.”

Depression can wreak havoc on our bodies and our spirits. Prolonged emotional stress can be a killer.

“One of the things we know for a fact is that, when you are depressed or unhappy, not only does your personality change but the strength of your immune system also changes,” she says. “Your mental status has a direct effect on your immune system, as does your nutrition, as does your level of exercise.”

Leah emphasizes that our bodies love a dare. “It’s a matter of nature. The body will respond to the stresses put on it. If you use weights, you’ll get big muscles. If you don’t, your muscles wither away. Why? Because you’re giving that muscle a challenge and it grows stronger.

“Walking will make your bones and muscles stronger whether you are a five-year-old or an 85-year-old. The more you take to your bed or chair, the weaker you become.”


Choosing a Doctor Carefully

According to the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), choosing the right physician should not be taken lightly. AHMA’s Web site ( lists these five key components for patients to keep in mind:

• The physician should be trained in holistic medicine.

• The visit should address the whole person, not just the symptoms.

• The appointment should be open, honest and comfortable.

• Medication is not the only form of treatment.

• Would the patient recommend this physician to a friend or loved one?

But there are preliminary measures that we can implement before searching for a physician. Leah believes that our attitudes—and our spirituality—are huge motivators.




“It’s important to cultivate an attitude of gratitude,” she says. “Every morning, I recommend spending just a couple minutes thanking God for what you’ve been given. In good times and in bad, thank God.

“We know that our thoughts affect the levels of hormones and chemicals in our bodies,” Leah continues. “If you have an attitude where you are grateful, your body chemistry changes, just as it changes dramatically when you’re angry, when you’re frightened, when you’re anxious. Gratitude addresses all of those things.”

Good health involves more than physical exercise. Leah feels the entire entity must be cared for.

“The brain needs stimulation just as the body needs stimulation. And the soul needs stimulation, too. This is where prayer, meditation, spending some quiet time with God each day stimulates the development of the soul. And as we get older, it’s important to read and remain active. When we participate in life, the brain remains sharp.”


Critical Conditions

The holistic approach seeks to do more than treat a damaged or diseased body. It also aims to mend a broken spirit. Leah poses a series of questions that she keeps in mind when working with patients holistically.

“How can we effectively pray for your recovery? How can we deal with the damage done to your psyche? How can we keep the rest of you well cared for while whatever is broken in you is being healed? Much of what you find in holistic health is looking at this, looking at your mind,” she says.

Leah and other professionals within this form of care aim to remedy the entire person. “Perhaps you’ve been hit by a truck and, by golly, you feel bad about it. Or you’re facing a divorce and your heart is broken. You could use some help with these stressors. What we can do is help you deal with those issues while you’re healing.”

Leah paraphrases a story of Jesus Christ, a model of holistic care.

“Jesus said, ‘When someone is ill, take him to the elders and they will lay hands on him.’ He said this because prayer of healing is a transferring of energy from healthy people to those who are not.

“This is not anti-Christian,” Leah says. “If we begin to look at who and what we are and put it all together, holistic care is one of the most stunning things in the world.”


The 10 Commandments of Holistic Health

1. Buckle up. Always wear seat belts.

2. Put it out. Don’t smoke—anything!

3. Waist management. Keep your weight under control.

4. Food for thought. Avoid fast, fatty foods and lots of food additives.

5. Get movin’. Even a little bit of exercise helps.

6. Get out. Be outside at least 15 minutes every day.

7. Pray each day. Take time every morning to speak to God.

8. Lots of love. Good relationships, family and friends have been proven to help extend life, improve health and increase happiness. Jesus told us, long before the researchers proved it, to love one another, to honor our parents, to avoid at all costs calling our brother a fool.

9. Believe. Study after study confirms that those who have a deep faith live longer, healthier lives.

10. Good upkeep. Treat your body like the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us that we are one with him: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you” (John 14:20).

—Leah Curtin, R.N., ScD (h), F.A.A.N

Not New Age? The above is as New Age as New Age can get. I am not going into detailed explanations and arguments in my comments as the issues have already been addressed in the list of reports, articles and testimonies provided on the first two pages of this compilation and in dozens of others at this ministry’s web site, and will be further addressed in scores of articles in section B. Also check out what the February 2003 Vatican Document on the New Age says about “Holistic Health”, acupuncture, “massage”, etc.

Don’t be fooled by what you read in so-called Catholic magazines/web sites even if the authors are priests.


4. Art


Christ the Guru Oil painting by M. P. Manoj, based on the original drawing by Joy Elamkunnapuzha, CMI


Representations of Jesus Christ in yogic postures of meditation, like the above, are becoming more common in the Indian church and even overseas, exported by inculturationist priests and nuns.




“Was Jesus a yogi?” A yogi is one who practises yoga with a view to achieving its stated objective. The objective of yoga is the realisation, the awareness, that one is divine, sharing identity with the ultimate reality, the impersonal Absolute.

Jesus is not a yogi [yogi: one who seeks “self-realization”, “enlightenment”, a monistic union with the Absolute through withdrawal from the physical and mental senses as in Hindu religious teaching]. He is the Son of God, the Enlightened One, not a yogi who sought and attained enlightenment to become one with God, His Father.

If one has to “realize” that one is God, one cannot be God.

The celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000 in India was called “Yesu Krist Jayanti.” An “Indian” logo design was prepared, which featured a nail-pierced right hand in the “upadesa mudra.” A mudra is a hand-gesture that denotes a Hindu philosophical or religious concept, and is found in virtually all Indian temple carving and iconography. A Hindu deity depicted in any art form usually has one hand expressing something through a mudra.

The nail-mark in the palm of the hand identifies the hand as that of Jesus. The problem is the use of the upadesa mudra. While it is the common pose of a guru or a teacher in Hindu art, there is an important difference. Jesus Christ is the eternal word of God, and God has always taught and directed His people by His word. The clear distinction between Creator and creature means that divine truth cannot be reached by human effort, but requires rev- elation. But in most eastern religions, truth is arrived at through a form of instruction that comes in meditation, by intuition and not through words, thought process, reasoning. An Encyclopedia of Hindu Art published by the reputed Marg Publications, describes the meaning of the upadesa mudra as “instruction through meditation and contemplation.” The upadesa mudra equally denotes the yogi receiving enlightenment as it does the yogi imparting it. In both cases, it is not done through word.

The widespread use of the “Yesu Krist Jayanti” logo with the hand of Jesus in an upadesa mudra actually misrepresented Jesus, equating the divine Wisdom of God with one who meditates in the hope of attaining divinity. This misrepresentation was further compounded by the printing and release of a special postage stamp featuring the same logo by the Indian government on December 25 1999.


The “art” depicts Jesus the yogi sitting in the lotus or padma asana [padmasana] posture.

In the eight stages of yoga, asana or right posture instructs how the body should be prepared for meditation [Yoga Sutra 2, 46].
It is the first stage of physical ascetism. Its aim is to immobilize the body with the only goal of helping concentration.

The purpose of asana is NOT, as is commonly believed, to confer health, fitness and relaxation to the body but to be a physical support for meditation.
Each asana has a fundamental purpose.

Padmasana (the lotus posture) for instance, ensures that the spiritual cord, the sushumna, is in a vertical position to facilitate the upward movement of the subtle female kundalini energies [shakti] awakened in the muladhara
chakra at the base of the spine, through five other psychic energy centres to unite with the male power centre [Shiva] located in the forehead chakra, climaxing in the sahasrara or crown chakra at the top of one’s head in a cosmic orgasm.

Once kundalini reaches the last chakra, it returns to its primordial union with the impersonal Ultimate Reality.

Jesus was no socialist, guru, or hippie, but rather the Son of God, says Venezuelan bishop (Catholic News Agency, 13/3/07)]




5. May a Christian Practice Zen or Yoga?,

By Ama Samy, SJ, from Bulletin 39, October 1990

Ama Samy is an Indian Jesuit Zen master and has a special interest in Korean Buddhism. The article appeared first in “Inculturation” a journal published in Korea by the Columban Fathers.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has sent out a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation” (hereafter Letter) which delineates the Christian doctrine of prayer, and cautions against possible errors and abuses.

Summary of Vatican Document
The Letter defines Christian prayer as “a personal, intimate and profound dialogue between the human person and God . . . implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from self to the You of God.” (3) The prayer of Christians has been entrusted to the Church, and must be based on Scriptures and rooted in the sacraments, particularly Baptism and Eucharist.
The Christian way to union with God is the way of Christ—obedience to the will of the Father. The Christian is privileged by grace to share in the divine nature and become a “son/daughter in the Son.” But the so-called “divinization” of the human person never abolishes its creaturehood; there cannot be an absorbing of the human self into the divine Self.



Errors and Dangers
In the light of this vision, the Letter describes two errors. One is Pseudo-gnosticism, which aims to liberate the soul from matter and body into a state of superior knowledge, allegedly the original condition of the soul. The other error is Messalianism, called after the fourth-century charismatics who identified the grace of the Holy Spirit with the psychological experiences of His presence in the soul. Both groups display an improper attempt to overcome the distance separating creature from Creator, and to bypass the humanity of Christ and the sacraments of the Church.

No Technique for Union
The Letter then points out some more of the dangers involved in trying to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian: the use of different techniques in order to generate special and mystical experiences; equating the Buddhist absolute without concepts and images to the Majesty of God revealed in Christ; the use of “negative theology” leading to a form of meditation that abandons the salvific words of God and also the very idea of the Triune God. Several times the Letter points out the error of the notion that one can achieve union with God through some technique.
Mentioned as one of the positive aspects of the Eastern methods is the humble acceptance of a master in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. Such a master must be an expert in “sentire cum ecclesia” (thinking with the mind of the church) and the master has to lead the pupil in a dynamic way, heart to heart.
After this the Letter gives a long description of the traditional threefold division of the Way: purgative, illuminative and unitive. The objective beginning of the union of the Christian with God takes place in the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist. Based on this foundation, one can be given special mystical graces but one should not try to imitate or aspire to the fullness of the mystical graces of the founders of ecclesial institutes. The Christian call to mystical experience, as a living experience of God, is not to be confused with the extraordinary, inimitable forms not meant for everybody.

Relaxation and Warmth
After describing the general course of the way, the Letter makes some comments on the psychological corporal methods which form part of the Eastern ways: it is the whole person who enters into relation with God; the position and demeanor of the body affects the spirit; fasting opens one to an encounter with God; the “Jesus Prayer” uses the natural rhythm of breathing as well as particular body postures, and can be of help to many.
Psycho-physical symbolism of gestures and postures is virtually absent in Western forms of prayer but can, in accordance with cultural and personal sensibilities, be integrated into Christian prayer. But there is the danger of absolutizing symbols and developing a cult of the body. Particularly dangerous is mistaking the effects of some physical exercises—feelings of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations of light and warmth—for authentic consolations of the Spirit.
In the journey to the Father in Christ one will go through wanderings in the desert of emptiness. However one must not interpret these trials as the “dark night” in the mystical sense. Here one will be tested and shown whether one is seeking oneself (just relishing one’s own experiences!) or seeking God alone.

The Letter reflects the crisis in the Church and is written with compassion for the faithful. It is filled with solid doctrine and guidelines, which are timely and of great help to spiritual directors and others. Nevertheless, it is an inadequate treatment, seemingly composed of many disparate parts and so lacking in flow and harmony. I shall discuss its major positive points first.

Official Acknowledgment
The Letter is, first of all, an official acknowledgement and sanction for the use of non-Christian methods and ways by Christians. The opening paragraph states:

The interest which in recent years has been awakened also among some Christians by forms of meditation associated with some Eastern religions and their particular methods of prayer is a significant sign of this need for spiritual recollection and a deep contact with the divine Mystery.

And it goes on to say:

these ways should not be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian. On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian concept of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured. (16)

While cautioning against exercises which may lead to psychic disturbance and moral deviations, the Letter hastens to add:

That does not mean that genuine practices of meditation which come from the Christian East and from the great non-Christian religions, which prove attractive to the person of today who is divided and disoriented, cannot constitute a suitable means of helping the person who prays to come before God with an interior peace, even in the midst of external pressures. (28)


Guides and Gurus
In almost all the Eastern ways, the guru or master is essential, and only in the relationship to the master can the journey of the spirit be trodden with surety. The Letter also recommends “humble acceptance of a master who is an expert in the life of prayer” as the first requirement of integration of the Eastern ways for the Christian. It even talks of leading the apprentice “in a dynamic way, heart to heart,” language which echoes the Zen tradition as well as that of the Christian East.
But I wonder whether the Congregation will be at ease with the authority and command of the Zen roshi or of a Hindu guru. And it is saddening to see that it only talks of the master as a “he” there have been and are many eminent “spiritual mothers” in the Christian tradition as well as among roshis and gurus.




Helpful Gestures
Of the threefold way of purgation, illumination and union, the first is given most space.

The Eastern ways are acknowledged to have an important place in purifying and preparing one to encounter God. However, the second and third stages seem to belong only to Christian grace, according to the Letter.
The body, breathing, gestures and postures and the psycho-physical symbolisms are accepted into Christian prayer. This is a far cry from the “prayers with the three powers of the soul” and the dualism of body and soul, which characterize much of the Western Christian modes of prayer. Chanting and bhajans, mudras and dancing, fasting and dieting, incense, flowers, lights and symbols can be taken up and integrated, keeping in mind the nature of Christian prayer.

Head Level
On the other hand, the Letter has serious inadequacies. It comes from the “head level” and seems to have been composed by those who have not had a deep experiential realization of an authentic Eastern way. Thus it fails to speak to those who are on the way and have had a spiritual experience. The Eastern ways are primarily existential and experiential ways, and they use doctrines, propositions and theologies only as upayas or skillful means for liberation, mukti or nirvana. The Buddha steadfastly refused to speculate on metaphysical matters and was concerned primarily with the liberation of suffering humankind. What is needed are not merely dogmatic statements and cautions, but a phenomenology of the way when practiced by a Christian.
Prayer is defined as personal dialogue between the human and God. But the terms personal and dialogue need clarification. Dialogue seems to imply more a conversation than a relation; and personal seems to imply autonomous, independent individuals. There is nothing wrong with these, provided we realize that an essential part of Christian and non-Christian prayer experiences—the suprapersonal dimension—may fall outside of these parameters. Presence, awareness, mystery, silence, resting are better terms to deal with the phenomenology of prayer.

One-sided Quotations
The selection of authors quoted in the Letter is rather one-sided. Evagrius, Cassian and other such great writers on prayer are left out. Maybe this is inevitable. But one would have expected John of the Cross to have been given more prominence, since his teaching seems to be so helpful to those following the Buddhist ways. And he is an orthodox Doctor of the Church! Meister Eckhart is quoted in an unfavorable light, unfairly. Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila are emphasized because they focus on the humanity of Christ.
The Letter‘s focus on Christ’s humanity is needed, but the suspicion of the apophatic or negative way is unwarranted. Non-conceptual prayer—prayer without images or thoughts—does not by itself imply bypassing the humanity of Christ. There is a phase in the spiritual life when Christ is not the object but the subject. The one who prays is standing within the Trinitarian circuminsessio, one with the Son, towards the Father in the Spirit.
Negative theology is not all of theology but, without it, the positive theology and spirituality is only human projection and image-making. God is mystery; no words can ever adequately express His reality. Even the beatific vision does not put an end to mystery.

The Limitation of Propositions
The underlying weakness of the Letter is its reliance on the propositional model of revelation. This model equates revelation with communication that can be expressed in sentences or propositions. This, of course, is woefully inadequate, even inappropriate for the task at hand.
There seems to be an assumption in the Letter that proposing, upholding and repeating correct statements and definitions is a guarantee of truth and authenticity. But what sort of propositional theology can capture the meaning of the following experiences: encountering the face of the Crucified on the cross and in the million faces of innocents and the oppressed; being in love or receiving self-sacrificing love; experiencing a freedom which gives the lie to all human conditioning and determinations; or facing the darkness of suffering, loss and dying?
Since the sense of mystery, paradox, dialectics and polarities is almost absent from the Letter, it is no wonder that it has no place for the non-conceptual form of prayer. It fails to articulate the critically needed passage from the discursive to the non-discursive mode of being and presence. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila are eloquent witnesses to this problem.
There is place here, moreover, for many believers for whom God has “died” in their own tradition, and for whom the “passing over” into another tradition becomes the passover into the very heart of the mystery that is God, as well as a rediscovery of their own roots.

Beyond Methods
It is true that one cannot come to grace and love by techniques or methods, and one cannot equate experiences of the divine with the reality of God. Any authentic, spiritual tradition will uphold this truth. The Letter might also have mentioned that even the church’s sacraments and devotions, even the Bible and the church itself, can be absolutized or turned into magical techniques. Here is the place for emptying, for renouncing of concepts, ideas and images of self—God and reality.
A word must be said in defense of techniques. There are methods and techniques that go against nature’s rhythm and do violence to the spirit; and there are methods and techniques that concur with nature and help to open the spirit. In the latter category are the Jesus Prayer, the Rosary, and Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. The Letter fails to make this distinction and seems to condemn all use of methods and techniques.
A proper method is like a language. Learning its grammar and its usage demands discipline and attention but, for true communication, one must go beyond rules and logic and grammar. Therefore, the method used on the way should be such as to call forth the depths of the spirit, give guidance along the way, create an environment for its flowering and eventually bring one to the brink where one will be challenged to transcend the method and move into the freedom of the Spirit. The way must have within itself the dialectics of self-transcendence.

Inadequate Theology of Religions
The Letter seems to envision the use of a few particular Eastern practices, such as breathing and posture: “bits and pieces should be taken up and expressed anew” (16). Master–disciple relationship is accepted and recommended, but it is not situated in the whole context of the way—it is simply uprooted and adapted to the model of a “spiritual Father.” True inculturation and integration take place only when Christians can submit themselves to the discipline, in entirety, of an authentic Eastern way and walk with the master to the end.
The Christian is not asked to become a Hindu or a Buddhist;
he is only asked to
let go his possession and securities and take the plunge into the mystery…
[Incomplete; continued and completed in serial no. 81]

Ama Samy, a Jesuit priest, is India’s only certified Zen master. He runs the Bodhi Zendo Ashram
near the hill-station of Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. Under the influence of the late Fr H. M. Enomiya Lassalle SJ, he trained in Zen meditation with Yamada Roshi for many years, in Japan. He teaches regularly in Australia, Europe and the USA. He would obviously disagree with and critique the October 15, 1989
Vatican Document [Letter] which warns Catholics of the spiritual dangers in practising the meditations of T.M., Zen and yoga.

May a Christian Practice Zen or Yoga? CONTINUED ON PAGE 172


6. Light on Christian Yoga

This blog is to discuss yoga for Christians – the lights and connection between the spirituality and philosophy of yoga and the spirituality of Christianity.

“The majority of the ‘great religions’ which have sought union with God in prayer have also pointed out ways to achieve it. Just as the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions, neither should these ways be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian. On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured. It is within the context of all of this that these bits and pieces should be taken up and expressed anew…” – Excerpt from “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian Meditation” by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)


New Yoga Classes, Poses and Prayer
By Katie Zezima, New York Times, September 17, 2005
When Cathy Chadwick instructed her three yoga students to move into warrior position, she did not remind them to watch their alignment or focus on their breath. Instead Ms. Chadwick urged them to concentrate on the affirmation each made at the beginning of class after she read aloud the prayer of St. Theresa of Avila. ”Good Christian warriors,” Ms. Chadwick softly said as the women lunged into the position. Ms. Chadwick is one of a growing number of people who practice Christian yoga, incorporating Biblical passages, prayers and Christian reflections. Occasionally, teachers rename yoga postures to reflect Christian teachings or, as Ms. Chadwick did with warrior position, include religious metaphors.
Some, like Ms. Chadwick, had taken yoga classes and enjoyed the physical benefits but were uncomfortable with the fact that yoga is a Hindu practice. Others said that yoga allowed them to connect with their spiritual sides, but that it should be filled with their own religion.
”I feel more comfortable practicing yoga in conjunction with my faith,” said Ms. Chadwick, whose class meets at Christ Church in this town 30 miles north of Boston. ”When I practiced yoga before, I felt I was being asked to open up to a deity, and that deity to me is a Christian deity.”
A similar movement is taking place in Judaism, with teachers merging teachings or texts into yoga classes. Many who take part said Christian and Jewish yoga made the physical discipline more accessible to those otherwise unwilling to take a class for religious reasons.
Centers that teach only Christian or Jewish yoga are popping up across the country. Most classes teach hatha yoga postures, gentle enough to be performed by novices.
But critics of the alterations say that yoga is inherently Hindu, and that it is not possible to truly practice it without embracing that element. ”There is an element of superficiality or hypocrisy there,” said Subhas R. Tiwari, a professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla. ”To try to take Hinduism or aspects of Hinduism outside of yoga is an affront. It’s an act of insincere behavior.”
Douglas R. Groothuis, a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, said that yoga was a Hindu practice structured to help people attain a higher spiritual state within, and that was incompatible with Christian teachings. ”I don’t think Christian yoga works,” he said. ”It’s an oxymoron. If it’s truly Christian, it can’t be truly yoga because of the worldviews.”
The Vatican has also expressed misgivings about yoga. In a 1989 letter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, said practices like yoga and meditation could ”degenerate into a cult of the body.”
Even so, the number of people who practice Christian yoga is rapidly growing, said the Rev. Thomas Ryan, a Paulist priest in Manhattan and editor of ”Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality.”
Father Ryan, who developed many of the Christian yoga techniques adopted by others, said yoga postures were vehicles for people of all faiths to invite spirituality into the heart and body.
”It is better seen as a hardware to which one brings his or her own software and one’s own faith understanding to transform the practice from within, so the intention is always critical,” said Father Ryan, who is assembling a database of Christian yoga instructors.




Myriam Klotz, a reconstructionist rabbi and co-founder of the Yoga and Jewish Spirituality Teacher Training Institute at Elat Chayyim, a Jewish spiritual retreat center in Accord, N.Y., said she used yoga as a way to integrate the body into Judaism. ”I would like the Jewish experience to be more full-bodied,” Rabbi Klotz said, ”and yoga is one of the best ways I have found to live a more full-bodied life. I don’t mean to create a new Judiasm. It’s being respectful of the yoga tradition and integrating the Jewish tradition and letting them befriend one another.” For example, if Rabbi Klotz is teaching about the Jewish principle of people being grounded on Earth but stretching their souls up, she has students stand in mountain pose as a physical expression of that teaching.
Stephen A. Rapp, a Boston yoga teacher, developed Aleph-Bet yoga, a series of postures meant to represent Hebrew letters. Mr. Rapp said he saw the connection between poses and letters one day when, after he had shown his children yoga postures, he watched a scribe repair a scroll at synagogue. For example, Mr. Rapp expresses the Hebrew letter bet in the posture Dandasana, where one sits on the ground with legs and arms straight out in front. Mr. Rapp believes postures are part of a physical yoga system into which spirituality is incorporated.
”It’s the thinking about the shape and thinking about the symbol and what it means while also doing this form of exercise,” he said. ”It gives you a focus, an intention. You really have to have the intention correct in yoga.”
But Swami Param, head of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy in Manahawkin, N.J., said that if people could not acknowledge the Hindu element of yoga, they should not bother studying it.
”As Hindus we have no problem studying other religions,” Mr. Param said, ”but we give them the respect they deserve.”

Fr. Thomas Ryan is one of the U.S.’s leading ‘Catholic’ yogis. Swami Param refutes him as well as the notion of “Christian yoga”. So does Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (Swamiji, Swami J) who posted the only comment on the above blog:

Would one say that people drinking wine are necessarily practicing the Christian rite of communion? Would one say that people eating bread with a meal are practicing the Christian rite of communion? Of course not.
If one does physical postures outside of its context as a 100% spiritual practice, you cannot call it Yoga, any more than you can call merely drinking wine and eating bread Christian communion.
Here is a brief video entitled “Can a Christian Practice Yoga?”


7. The Hostile New Age Takeover of
Yoga –
There’s nothing worse than narcissism posing as humility

By Ron Rosenbaum, March 21, 2007

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against yoga—or Eastern disciplines in general. In fact, I’ve done tai chi exercises for many years.

No, it’s the commodification and rhetorical dumbing-down of yoga culture that gets to me. The way something that once was—and still can be—pure and purifying has been larded with mystical schlock. Once a counterweight to our sweaty striving for ego gratification, yoga has become an unctuous adjunct to it. There is the exploitative and ever-proliferating “yoga media.” The advent of yoga fashion (the yoga mat, the yoga-mat carrier, and yoga-class ensembles). And worst of all, the yoga rhetoric, that soothing syrupy “yoga-speak” that we all know and loathe.

It all adds up to what a friend recently called the “hostile New Age takeover of yoga.” “New Age” culture being those scented-candle shrines to self-worship, the love-oneself lit of The Secret, the “applied kinesiology“-type medical and metaphysical quackery used to support a vast array of alternative-this or alternative-that magical-thinking workshops and spa weekends. At its best, it’s harmless mental self-massage. At its worst, it’s the kind of thinking that blames cancer victims for their disease because they didn’t “manifest” enough positive vibes.

One “manifestation” of this takeover is the shameless enlistment of yoga and elevated Eastern yogic philosophy for shamelessly material Western goals. Rather than an alternative, it’s become an enabler. “Power yoga”! Yoga for success! Yoga for regime change! (Kidding.)

And then there’s what you might call “Yoga for Supermarket Checkout Line Goals.” Or as the cover story of Rodale’s down-market magazine YogaLife put it, yoga to: “BURN FAT FASTER!” (Subsidiary stories bannered on the YogaLife cover: “4 WAYS TO LOSE 5 POUNDS”; “ZEN SECRETS TO: HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS … INSTANT CALM.”)

Gotta love “Zen Secrets to Instant Calm,” right? It goes right along with other cover lines like “Double Your Flexibility Today!” and “Heal Winter Skin Now!”

Clearly what the ancient inventors of yogic wisdom had in mind: Now! Instant! Today! Very Eastern, calm, and meditative right?

But even more insidious than the easily satirizable but at least down-to-earth and honest magazines like YogaLife—or ethereally serious ones like Yoga + Joyful Living (which coaches readers in “The Breath of Self-Understanding”)—are the mainstream yoga publications such as Yoga Journal, one of the most popular, prosperous, and respectable yoga magazines.

In fact, my impetus for this examination of yoga media came from a sharp-witted woman I know who practices yoga but frankly concedes that—for her, anyway—it’s less about Inner Peace than Outer Hotness. She called my attention to what she called an amazingly clueless—and ultimately cruel (to the writer)—decision by the editors of Yoga Journal to print a first-person story that was ostensibly about the yogic wisdom on forgiveness in relationships.

The story, which appeared in the December 2006 issue, was titled “Forgive Yourself.” It’s by this woman who tells us about an “intense” friendship she once had with a guy nearly 20 years ago, when they were 16. She says it was “never romantic,” and it clearly wasn’t—on his part.



Somehow she picked a fight with him—remember, this was 20 years ago. She defaced some “artwork” he’d done on the back of her jean jacket and danced with some other boys in an attempt to make him jealous.

She claims he gave her a “stricken” look.

Then, 20 years later, she starts to hound the guy. She claims she just happened to be going through some boxes and found a journal of his. She claims the journal convinced her that what she needed to do was apologize and ask his forgiveness. So she Google-stalks him, or, as she puts it: “With the help of an Internet search engine, I tracked him down and sent an e-mail. I told him I was sorry and that I hoped we could talk.”

She “got no response but figured the e-mail address was out of date.” Right.

Anyway she doesn’t let that stop her. “After more digging”—by what methods we’re not told—”I found a phone number and left a message on his machine.”

Her message: “Wow, what a trip to hear your voice! … I missed you!” He didn’t call back. But no response doesn’t really mean no, to her. So, “a month later, in desperation, I sent him a short letter,” in which she tells him, “You deserved better. I betrayed your love and friendship and I’m sorry. I made life worse for you and I regret it.”

Doesn’t regret it enough to stop pestering him now though. And notice how at first she’d disclaimed there was anything romantic, but now she’s all “I betrayed your love.” And then there’s the poem: “I hope you can forgive me,” she concludes the note, adding: “I included a poem I’d written for him some years earlier.”

Restraining order time!

Instead he makes the mistake of responding. “About a month later an envelope arrived,” she writes, “addressed in that familiar handwriting. I opened it with trembling hands and found a short note wrapped around my letter and poem.”

“What part of no don’t you understand?” his note said. “I never want to hear from you again.” Cruel, true, but maybe “cruel to be kind.”

“What part of no” does she not understand? Just about every single part of no there is.

What does this have to do with yoga wisdom and its Western use? One might think yoga would counsel acceptance of his feelings. Instead, she takes it as an invitation for further intense inward gazing. Her interpretation: He’s afraid of being hurt again. He just doesn’t understand her: He thought “I clearly hadn’t changed if I was expecting him to give me something (forgiveness) along with everything I’d taken from him.” (Don’t worry, it took me several readings to figure this out too.)

“I sat down and started to cry. I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. What could I do now? How would I ever be able to move on?”

So, using her deep yogic intuition again she decides there is one way of “moving on”: She can write a several-thousand-word article for Yoga Journal about him and her and how we all can learn something from this about “forgiveness.”

“Moving on”? Somehow one wonders if she sent the article to him, perhaps with another poem. And an invitation to “journal” their way to a mutual understanding. Or maybe meet to discuss “closure”?

But look, it’s not really her fault; we’ve all been there. As my sharp-witted friend, who is herself an editor, points out, it is here one has to question the deep yogic wisdom of the editors of Yoga Journal who don’t seem to be able to—or want to—see what is going on and instead encourage the writer’s “journey”—her quest, her stalking—of “self-discovery.”

Thus, we get the classic Western women’s magazine “relationship story” translated into Eastern yoga-speak. Indeed they give it prominent placement in the issue and subject their readers to the endless New Age clichés of pablum-dispensing yoga-wisdom “experts” who further encourage the hapless writer not to move on but to dwell endlessly, excruciatingly, on the microanalysis of the situation.

Instead of counseling her just to leave the poor guy alone, they direct her to dwell on her need to forgive herself: Some “research associate” at Stanford tells her “when people can’t forgive, their stress levels increase which can contribute to cardiovascular problems.”

The poor young woman! All she wants is help, and now she’s told she’s going to have a heart attack.

Another yogic savant, a “clinical psychologist with Elemental Yoga in Boston” even disses the poor guy and further encourages the writer’s obsession, clearly getting the whole thing wrong: “He’s the one that can’t let go,” the “yoga therapist” opines. Right. I guess he wrote that poem to himself.

More yogic “experts” are brought in to prescribe even more “work” on herself. Instead of advising her to leave the whole thing behind, and perhaps perform some act of compassion for someone who needs real help (the admirable Eastern tradition), the yoga experts advise her to enmesh herself in a tediously obsessive spiral of self-examination, which the magazine compounds by prescribing a five-step forgiveness ritual for achieving—you guessed it!—”closure.”

The interminable ritual, which is the work of the purportedly steeped-in-yogic-wisdom editors, not the unfortunate writer, begins with “a ritual bath” complete with “scents” and “candles.”

Then there’s the inevitable “journal” in which you must write down all your “thoughts, feelings and memories.” … “What you learned … what you’ll change … anything that comes into your head.” It’s a full-time job!

But that’s not all there is to the endless forgiveness ritual (which, remember, is not about forgiving him but forgiving herself because he won’t forgive her), there’s the semi-demi witchcraft aspect: “Write down the patterns you seek to change in yourself; then burn what you’ve written.” (They neglect to add, “Use this as reminder to change the batteries in your smoke detector.”)

But it’s not over, the endless ritual. You must next and last, “Send yourself flowers when you’ve completed letting go.”

No premature floral deliveries, mind you. Only when you’ve “completed” letting go, which sending yourself flowers certainly signals. OK maybe one more poem, but that’s it! This is the kind of misguided narcissism (it’s always all about you; metaphorically, it’s all sending flowers to yourself) that gives yoga, an ancient, honorable tradition, a bad name.




This is what is meant by the “hostile New Age takeover of yoga.” All this hectoring about the right way to feel. Yoga and other Eastern disciplines are supposed to work from the inside out and not depend on product placement candles, scented bath oils, and “yoga therapists.”

And it’s still not over! If the ritual bath and flower-sending don’t do the trick, there’s a “four-step practice rooted in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy that can take us through the process of making amends.” You could spend a lifetime “moving on” from some imagined 20-year-old incident. Then move on to the next incredibly elaborate “Moving On” ceremony. You never get to move in, or move out.

The final step in the great journey of self-understanding the Yoga Journal editors have force-marched her on is realizing it’s all about her “relationship with herself.” Whitney Houston yoga: I found the greatest love of all—Me! It’s the return of New Age Me-generation narcissism. And there’s nothing worse than narcissism posing as humility.

Hey, if Buddhism and other Eastern traditions are about compassion, why not skip the scented bath, skip making amends with the self, skip realization of “the opportunity to embrace aparigraha or non-grasping.” Instead, go down to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter and help some people who don’t have the resources to send flowers to themselves, people who actually need help. Rather than continuing the endless processes of anointing yourself with overly scented candlelit self-love.

After all this self-indulgence, it’s almost refreshing to turn to a yoga magazine that offers stuff like, “BURN FAT FASTER!”

Swami Param of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy comments:

Throughout history there have always been arrogant invaders and the same is true of the modern phony yoga. Factually, real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion; taught by Hindus and not for a fee. The new-age “yoga” strikes out on all three counts and yet they are very successful–go figure. 


8. Yoga…
Union with Reality

Ramakrishnananda Swami,
Ramakrisnanda Yoga Vedanta Mission

…That is to say, it is not the same as to shout one, two, and three as we jump, practicing exercises of aerobic training, and he who tries to present it in a similar way will be sinning either in ignorance or in lack of honesty.

To put it in the words of Father James Manjackal, who was born in Cheruvally, Kottayam, Kerala South India, and knows yoga as well as Catholic religion, thinks the following:

It is ridiculous situation that masters of Yoga wear a cross or even some Christian symbol, they deceive people saying that the Yoga does not have anything to do with the Hinduism and say that is only question of accepting other cultures. Others have tried to mask the Yoga with Christian names calling it “Christian Yoga”. This is not a matter of accepting the culture of another people, is a matter of accepting another religion…

Therefore, I agree with that opinion, because it is impossible to deny the religious roots and essence of yoga, which after all forms part of the Sanatana—Dharma or Hinduism, or the Vedic religion, being not more and not less than one of its six Darshanas, or principle orthodox schools. That is to say, not only Yoga is religion but it forms part of a very specific religion.

Sometimes I am asked whether yoga is a philosophy, I reply with a yes and with a no… Yes, in the sense that there is not the slightest doubt that the ancient rishis or Vedic seers developed one of the most incredible philosophies that have been known to mankind. But at the same time I keep a no, because yoga is not a philosophy in the sense that it is not a subject to speak and discuss about or to get involved in long mental and intellectual speculations, yoga is a not about information but transformation…

That is, the objective of yoga is not to change or expand our storage and warehouses of knowledge, but that yoga will have the power to change our lives.

Yoga is to create a space in you… The pure consciousness will flow through every expression… every movement… every look… every feeling and emotion… every word…

The thing is that the human being is much more than a body and a soul, it is a no end of different aspects, that when not harmonized, they confront with each other, creating inevitable conflicts. These different aspects become simultaneously harmonized and integrated on the level of action with Karma Yoga, on the level of feelings with Bhakti—Yoga, in the mental aspect, when we refer to Raja—Yoga, and of course we cannot exclude the observation and self—inquiry that we are offered by Vedanta… 

The human being is like an instrument composed of different cords that have to be tuned in perfect harmony, if only one of them will not be there, it will not be possible for the melody to stay unaffected.

Many times our imbalance is due to complete abandonment of one or some of our aspects. Just like a bird needs two wings to fly, if we want to create the proper situation for yoga to occur, health and harmony between all the different aspects would be indispensable, as well as to go beyond repressions and abstractions in the physical, mental, energetic, sentimental and intellectual levels.

Unfortunately we ignore many of our aspects and a proof is that when we hear about yoga, in general, our attention is concentrated in the physical aspect alone. This is one of the reasons why Hinduism is integrated from a no end of Ishta Devatas or different aspects of The Divine, Siva, Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesha, Durga, Kali. Different attitudes, Vaishnavism, Saivism, Shaktism, Smartism. Because not all of us are equal, we are so different flowers, although from the same garden. The difference, the variety and diversity in unity is the theme of life…




Even if you observe yourself the different hours you see that you are so different from yourself, in the morning you are one, in the noon another… and at night you are a completely different being… this is why I love Hinduism, because in the public I am a vaishnava, with my closer friends — a saiva, and in my intimacy, a shakta…

My message can be defined as “Yoga Sampoorna”, it is just that my Integral Yoga does not pretend to be one and the same for everyone, it is directed to the individual, it is indispensable that every disciple accepts the individual sadhana with the adequate dose of every one of the different yogas, in a sadhana that is especially adapted by the spiritual master, here resides one of the main reasons for the necessity of a spiritual master…

I do not believe in religions for the masses, religion is of the individual, groups and organizations are only for madness, for war, for politics, enlightenment is only for the individual…

The world of the primitive man was not more than a cave, and his limits were the woods and the river. The modern man, in his great efforts to conquer and govern nature and the entire creation, has stretched out his frontiers up to the stars. The problem is that together with the technological development, man has drawn farther from his divine essence. In the scientific aspect he has advanced to levels he had never dreamt of, but he got stuck in the spiritual aspect, and the humanities development has become totally unbalanced. These days we have achieved such a level of development that man can reach the moon or maybe even Mars, but we cannot do anything so that this man will be happy…

As an example we can take that scientist whose last time to touch a bible was for his first communion or his Bar-Mitzvah. He studied for many years in University, he has developed to become an expert physician or chemist. As a scientist, he has accumulated 2,000 years of knowledge, but in the spiritual aspect he remained in his childhood. An unbalanced development like this one is what puts biological and chemical bombs and ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads in the hands of a man who is internally undeveloped, completely immature, who would have used a stone and a lance in the Stone Age, and who can now make thousands disappear just by pressing a button. An electric handsaw can be an expression of great advancement, but if it falls into the hands of a monkey, it can become something very dangerous. The marvelous productions of technological advancement can be dangerous if they remain only on the superficial level.

The ego is incoherency… we are incoherency…

Disharmony between our behavior, our thought, our action, or feeling…

The totality, the whole, is coherency… We speak about various different types of yoga which appoint toward the same intention… coherency… union… The human being lives trying to satisfy his innumerable desires and superficial interests, in the surface, but loneliness, pain, sorrow, misery, dissatisfaction, parade inside us…in our core… We live with the pain caused by the division, our egoistic interests divide us, converting us to beings who stand against the bull—fighting and the torture of animals, but eat meat in restaurants. We act very differently than we feel, and we feel very different than we think, and we think very different than we behave… That is to say, we live in a completely incoherent way…

Yoga is integrative in the sense that it is a movement that searches for coherency, and in this way, for example, we should not understand the Yamas and Niyamas with a calculative attitude, as a group of laws, that failing to fulfil them will definitely lead us to hell’s eternal punishment, or that if we satisfactorily comply with them, we will become worthy of attaining heaven. Such attitude will lead us to this so commercial mood of religiosity of trying to buy God with the coins and bills of our “good” actions. Yama and Niyama have to be accepted within our attempt for coherency between our feeling, thought and action…

Question: Can you tell me clearly what is obtained by the practice of yoga?

Answer: Well very honestly, I have to tell you that… nothing is…

In the sense that yoga is not a method to obtain or achieve anything, it is not a method meant to stick something on your personality that you did not possess, something that you did not have before… when we speak about yoga, we actually refer to a cleansing, a movement of getting rid of something, and not acquiring something… 

The real spiritual process is not about reaching to where you are not, or being something that you cannot be yet… rather, it is about to be conscious and to observe that you are exactly where you have to be and that you are… the only think you can really be…

The real spiritual process is about being conscious that for bliss nothing is missing, the problem is what there is in excess...


9a. Yoga

You asked Fr. J., Our Sunday Visitor

Q: My Mom and I were talking about it, and is Yoga against Church teaching or not?

It’s supposed to be good for your body, but it also has some prayers that you’re supposed to do too. And supposedly it’s an offshoot from Buddhism. So what’s the deal?

A: Let me unfold me legs and turn off my relaxation music before I answer your question.

Man, the reality is that the days of my being able to fold my legs have long since moved into the realms of fantasy and pretty sure Creed is not considered relaxation music.  Still I don’t think that there is anything contrary to our faith for anyone who wants to try to do Yoga. I asked a friend of mine who is a Yoga instructor and also a very strong Catholic what the deal was with Yoga and he told me that if Yoga is taught authentically, it is not against Church teaching. It is not an offshoot of Buddhism or Hinduism; it’s a nonsectarian (that means it’s not attached to any particular religion) practice that can help you remove the distractions in your mind that can turn you away from your faith.  My friend went on to inform me that anyone who is looking into a Yoga instructor they need to make sure that they aren’t someone who got into Yoga because they were upset with their own religion and now lives Yoga as pseudo-religion that they want to inflict on you.  A good instructor should use a person’s own faith experience and spiritual practices to help them be more at peace with meditating within their Church.


Now, this is not an endorsement of Yoga. Hey man, Fr. J said we gotta go out do that Yoga thing! Whoa man, Fr. J wants us to go hang with the little green guy from Star Wars? NOT!

All I’m saying is that if you are doing Yoga and it’s not a distraction to your faith, go for it.  But be aware, ask questions and make sure that any meditation that’s done is focused on Jesus Christ.

When asked how he became a priest, Fr. J started at the beginning: I was born in 1965 and grew up in Largo, a town on the sun-drenched west coast of Florida. Being raised by a single parent was no doubt tough. Fr. J still feels that he has been… Read More
Link not opening -Michael

So, even the supposedly very “Catholic” Our Sunday Visitor roots for yoga. See more:


9b. Stretching toward God: Do yoga and Catholicism mix?

By Mary DeTurris Poust, January 12, 2011

Today, over at*, I tackle the subject of yoga — something I love — and how it benefits my Catholic prayer life — something some people find impossible or frightening. I’ll start the post here and take you to the full post at that site.

When I took my first yoga class more than twenty years ago, I was in a bit of a crisis in terms of the Catholic faith of my birth. My mother had recently died and I had moved out of my family home and across the country. I was searching in so many ways and came upon yoga through a friend who knew a teacher who held classes in her home. There, on a mat in an empty living room, I learned how to stretch and settle my body in new ways, ways that allowed me to more easily enter a spiritual realm that has always beckoned to me.
So began my odyssey into an Eastern world that some would have us believe is not only incompatible with Roman Catholic faith but dangerous to it. Of all the posts I put on Facebook, anything having to do with yoga is sure to stir up ominous warnings. I have been told, on more than one occasion, that it is the work of the devil. And yes, I have read what the Vatican has warned about “New Age” religions (FYI: Yoga isn’t even remotely new). Quite frankly, someone who is inclined to make an idol of yoga, turning it into an obstacle rather than a pathway to God, is probably just as likely to turn certain devotions within the church into idols or superstitions—from obsessing over the trappings of the faith, to burying a statue to sell a house, to leaving slips of papers in pews as a guarantee that a prayer will be answered. Idolatry comes in all forms; it doesn’t take yoga to make that happen.
Permit me, then, to take you into my world of yoga, a world where Amen and Om happily coexist. Continue reading HERE*.



I am copying a comment here that I’ve already posted at Patheos* in response to a reader. I want to be sure no one else misunderstands the Scripture quote that was mentioned. Here’s my reply:

@Benjamin (and at least one other commenter) — I want to be clear on something. That quote — “Be still, and know that I am God” — is from Psalm 46:10. I should not have assumed people would know that, so thank you for allowing me to clarify. The full quote continues…”I am exalted among the nations, exalted on earth.”
It is meant… to call us back to a place of resting in God, at least that’s what it does for me. Reminds me to still my thoughts, my endless worrying and trust in what God has in store for me. This Psalm speaks to me in much the same way the passage from Exodus does, when God speaks to Moses and says, “I Am Who Am.” Or later in Matthew 28:20, when Jesus says, “I will be with you always, until the end of the age.”
For me all these passages challenge me to stop trying to be in control and let God be in charge of my life, something I struggle with daily. They fit with my yoga because I see them as a call to relax in the Lord and let God be God instead of trying to do the job myself. 🙂
I hope this clears this up. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that Scripture quote and twist it into something about self, which it is absolutely not!
Thank you for being open-minded about this subject. And thank you for your comment because I think I needed to say more on this. Peace, Mary DeTurris Poust, Author

The problem for Catholics is that every yoga position is a form of worship to a pagan deity. Whether you are consciously aware of that or not you are acknowledging & giving worship to a pagan god when you practice yoga, just like the Sign of the Cross is worship to the One True God. There is only one pathway to God and that is Jesus Christ. I hope OSV is not endorsing yoga that would be a shame. –Mary

Well, Mary is right! There is nothing Catholic about pagan practices! It doesn’t matter how you try and sugar-coat it: IT IS STILL PAGAN. I am shocked and greatly sorrowed that more people – especially Catholics – don’t know the dangers of such things, not to mention that some parishes allow it!! More like gently stretching your way to hell…New age isn’t about “new” vs. “old”. If the Vatican says to NOT to do something, or to not participate in certain acts or movements, then to turn around and do otherwise is pure disobedience and is un-Catholic! (Not to mention that you already know that you’re not supposed to be doing new age things!)
There are good reasons not to get mixed up in pagan crap: because it is spiritually dangerous on many fronts! a) sin, b) demonic issues. There are reasons not to play with ouija boards and try your hand at voodoo or angel cards and yoga! Because they can open pathways to doors that need to stay shut. Curiosity killed the cat, remember? Same goes here for your soul. I may be harsh, but I say this out of love for my fellow Catholics and through my own personal experience with the occult. Stay away. Besides, Satan’s biggest ploy with this pagan crap is that it seems SO GOOD! –Miriam Dominica Pia, OP




The Church is very clear on where it stands with Yoga in the Vatican document on New Age spirituality called “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life” There is no such thing as Westernizing or Christianizing Yoga. It is still Yoga and incompatible with our Christian faith. –New Evangelization Catholic


Pose by Pose: Amen and OM

By Mary DeTurris Poust, January 11, 2011

Many traditional Catholic devotions don’t work for me. But the physicality of yoga as a way to enter into meditation? That feels as natural to me as breathing.

In 1989 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith delivered a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation. In Section V of that document, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote: “Just as ‘the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in [the great religions]’ neither should these ways be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian. On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured.” As an increasing number of Catholics are exploring the health benefits of yoga, there is a growing debate among church members that suggests a need for additional teaching and clarification from the Bishops. With that in mind, Patheos will occasionally present on the question, from a variety of perspectives. Here Catholic writer Mary DeTurris Poust shares her thoughts.

When I took my first yoga class more than twenty years ago, I was in a bit of a crisis in terms of the Catholic faith of my birth. My mother had recently died and I had moved out of my family home and across the country. I was searching in so many ways and came upon yoga through a friend who knew a teacher who held classes in her home. There, on a mat in an empty living room, I learned how to stretch and settle my body in new ways, ways that allowed me to more easily enter a spiritual realm that has always beckoned to me.

So began my odyssey into an Eastern world that some would have us believe is not only incompatible with Roman Catholic faith but dangerous to it. Of all the posts I put on Facebook, anything having to do with yoga is sure to stir up ominous warnings. I have been told, on more than one occasion, that it is the work of the devil. And yes, I have read what the Vatican has warned about “New Age” religions (FYI: Yoga isn’t even remotely new). Quite frankly, someone who is inclined to make an idol of yoga, turning it into an obstacle rather than a pathway to God, is probably just as likely to turn certain devotions within the church into idols or superstitions—from obsessing over the trappings of the faith, to burying a statue to sell a house, to leaving slips of papers in pews as a guarantee that a prayer will be answered. Idolatry comes in all forms; it doesn’t take yoga to make that happen.

Permit me, then, to take you into my world of yoga, a world where Amen and Om happily coexist. During my early days of yoga, I threw myself into the practice. I even managed a yoga center for a while and began training to become a teacher, something I regretfully never completed.

I read the Bhagavad Gita and Pantanjali’s [sic] Yoga Sutras. I chanted. And yet, when it came time to meditate on a mantra, I didn’t want anything Sanskrit. I wanted Christian scripture, because that is my core. As I sat in half-lotus position with many other yogis-in-training, I breathed in and out to the words: “Be still, and know that I am God.” At a time of personal confusion and chaos, yoga gave me a peaceful place to reconnect with God, a way to listen to what He had to say above the din of my life, and an open door that led back to the richness of my own Catholic faith.

Over the years, my practice has waxed and waned, but inside me beats the heart of a Catholic yogi. When I recently returned to yoga class at my local YMCA, I was not on my sticky mat five minutes before I could feel myself smiling, my shoulders relaxing, and my heart singing. Different types of prayer methods work for different people and, for me, one thing is clear: Yoga is my entry into prayer, even in a sweaty, crowded YMCA studio.

Most people in this country don’t do yoga as a spiritual practice. They do it because it helps their backs, or makes them more flexible. But I always hope for the daring YMCA teacher who inserts spiritual elements into a class. I don’t do yoga to lose weight or get stronger, although those are surely side benefits. I do yoga to find that still, silent space at my center, where God can enter in.

Think of your own prayer life for a moment. Does kneeling help you enter more deeply into prayer? Does lying prostrate before an altar convey a sense of total surrender before God? In much the same way, yoga uses physical positions to help us reach spiritual heights, whatever our faith tradition.

As I stood on my mat last Sunday, listening to my teacher walk us through some difficult poses, he reminded us that we need to look at ourselves with compassion when we can’t get something right, and he urged us to let that gentleness emanate outward when we left class. Yoga is about compassion. My Monday night teacher, who belongs to my parish, starts each class by asking us to bow our heads and think about the “intention” we have for our practice. How beautiful and perfectly complementary to the intercessory prayer we practice as Christians. She always ends the class by saying: “Shanti (peace), Shanti, Shanti. Peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace on our planet.” Yoga is about peace.

Finally, every yoga class ends the same way, with hands held in prayer position over the heart as we bow slightly to each other and say, “Namaste,” which means, “the divinity (or light) in me bows to the divinity in you,” not so dissimilar to the way Benedictine monastics have always bowed to “the Christ in each other” as they process in and out of choir. Having grown up believing that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, this practice echoes my own Catholic beliefs. In fact, I should take that posture and attitude toward more people in my life, not just those on the mat next door. Yoga is about recognizing the presence of God, in ourselves and in the world around us.



I think a lot of fear and confusion stem from the unknown. People don’t know what to make of the strange Sanskrit words, the poses with animal names, the chanting. There is a sense that if you do yoga, you must be exploring Hinduism or at the very least looking for something outside Jesus Christ. But nothing could be further from the truth for faithful Christians who use Eastern traditions to strengthen our prayer lives. We are not there to be converted away from our faith but to grow stronger in it through methods that influence our Catholic spiritual lives in powerful ways.

Many traditional Catholic devotions don’t work for me. I’m really not that good at saying the Rosary. I struggle with the Liturgy of the Hours, even though I continue to pray it as often as possible. But the physicality of yoga as a way to enter into meditation? That feels as natural to me as breathing. And as I breathe in and out and bring my body to a point of stillness, I can feel myself inching closer to God, pose by pose.

Mary DeTurris Poust is a Catholic blogger, author and columnist. Her most recent book is Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship (Ave Maria Press). Visit her blog at



Give Lucifer an inch…he will take a Mile! You are treading on thin ice. Follow Jesus, not a false non-existent god. Follow Jesus! -Kathleen Champion

You may be a very good Hindu but I don’t believe you are Catholic! -Ted Timmis


9d. Is it too much of a stretch?
Our Sunday Visitor Is it too much of a stretch? – Our Sunday Visitor

Yoga’s popularity is growing among Catholics, but it calls for a focus on things other than God.

By Marianna Bartholomew

It’s an ancient religious practice full of meaning and significance. At the same time, it’s a hip workout touted by celebs and everyday exercisers alike. As many as 20 million Americans practice yoga, according to the Yoga Research and Education Center in northern California. Hospitals, YMCAs and park districts offer classes; dance studios blend ballet and yoga, even at the preschool level.

Sixty schoolteachers in San Francisco received yoga training through the nonprofit U. S. Yoga Association based there. Seven public schools offer a ‘yoga break’ along with “typical school rituals like recess and the Pledge of Allegiance,” writes Patricia Leigh Brown in a March 22, 2002, article in The New York Times.

Catholics even find yoga at church. One Chicago-area parishioner helped organize a “Yoga Night of Rejuvenation” for her Catholic Council of Women. Asked whether this Eastern, non-Christian tradition should come to her otherwise orthodox church, she laughed. “We’re not out to make people Buddhists,” she responded. “We’ll have an evening of stretching — and I have wonderful exfoliating cream to share.”
As yoga’s popularity increases, however, the Church urges caution. Along with exercise, yoga blends non-Christian meditation. New Age ideas often permeate classes. A new Vatican report (see sidebar) joins other Church resources in helping Catholics to discern when these New Age influences are detrimental to Christian life.

What is yoga?

Some people take up yoga as a hobby or for exercise, only to encounter instructors promising “greater unity with the divine.”

“I loved yoga, and people said I never looked better,” said one Catholic woman from New Lenox, Ill. As she deepened her faith through Bible study and a prayer group, however, she “began feeling strange” when her yoga class assumed its lotus position to meditate. She dropped the class and began walking for exercise instead. Another instructor’s discussion of astrology and horoscopes prompted a 70-year-old piano teacher from Hinsdale, Ill., to quit.

Certain types of yoga downplay the mystical elements and focus on the physical workout. “Power yoga” is one such vigorous American adaptation.
Still, underpinning yoga is the “Srimad Bhagavad-Gita,” Hindu writings describing creation and 27 incarnations of the four-handed deity Vishnu, in particular the Lord Krishna. The teachings of yoga “are infused with many concepts that have a Hindu, Buddhist or Jaina flavor,” writes Yoga Research and Education Center founder Georg Feuerstein on the group’s website. Concepts such as karma — the Hindu teaching that one’s present life is the result of an action from a former existence — reincarnation and belief in many gods often can be a “stumbling block for Westerners,” writes Feuerstein.

Finding the god within

Hindus not only worship many gods, they believe all things are god. The goal of Hinduism is “an inward quest to discover the ‘true self,’ who is god,” writes Johnnette S. Benkovic, a Catholic author and television producer who appears on Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network. In her book “The New Age Counterfeit: A Study Guide for Individual or Group Use” (Queenship, $7.50), Benkovic describes the Hindu view of yoga as a path leading to “god-realization.”

Yoga styles seek altered states of consciousness through manipulating the body and central nervous system, chanting a mantra and exploring psychic experiences and powers through six psychic centers along the spine called “chakras.”

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is “true and holy” in non-Christian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, explains Benkovic, citing the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra Aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.

However, while this document acknowledges that “a ray of truth which enlightens all men” may be found in non-Christian religions, “the declaration does not state that Catholics are free to engage in religious practices and rituals of these religions, nor adopt aspects of their religious beliefs and philosophies,” Benkovic writes.



Mainstreaming New Age

Worldwide, “New Age has seeped into mainstream society and even figures in some Catholic Church groups and seminaries,” writes Father Roy Cimagala for The Freeman newspaper in Cebu, Philippines. “It’s a strange creature, this New Age,” he mused. “Despite good and legitimate elements, there are dangerous and even clearly erroneous things in it.”

It is hard to argue against a yoga program that makes schoolchildren calm, focused and physically flexible. Yet a telling story in Brown’s New York Times article describes what one girl advised her mother after the mother had received bad news in the mail. “Do your cocoon,” said the girl, referring to a yoga position learned at school. She instinctively turned to a yoga technique instead of prayer in a time of crisis. In an age when prayer is banned from public schools and yoga is seeping in, this seems a logical development.

Christian faith “flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself,” states the 1989 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” from the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. “Position and demeanor of the body” do have a place in prayer, states the letter, and Eastern Christian mysticism addresses this well. For example, repeating the name of Jesus in rhythm with one’s breathing can help in entering into prayer. However, physical exercises “automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation . . . which resemble spiritual well-being,” says the letter. Gauging one’s intimacy with God based on such feelings is a mistake even first-century Christians made. Erroneous methods of prayer led people to a “cult of the body,” instead of a focus on Christ, the letter said.

Problem: education

Few think they are stepping into dangerous territory when they attend yoga classes. Many say they are just “stretching the stress out.” Others like the mind-body-spirit connection of yoga. They may feel let down by Church institutions, so are seeking something new, says the 1989 Letter on Christian Meditation. And many Christians are “caught up in the movement towards openness and exchanges between various religions and cultures.” While dialogue between cultures is good, people are accepting elements of these cultures with a non-discriminating eye.

Pope John Paul II cautions “those Christians who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East” in his book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (Random House, $15).
“First, one should know one’s own spiritual heritage well,” he writes, “and consider whether it is right to set it aside lightly.”

Part of the problem is education. People might not know their faith thoroughly because parishes are not effectively teaching them, states “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life,” a Vatican document released in February 2003.

Written primarily to educate pastoral workers, the report explains how New Age differs from Christianity and appeals to people’s “spiritual hunger.”
Parishes and church groups may not be covering issues on people’s minds, the report says, such as integrating spirituality into every aspect of life, exploring the link between humans and creation and seeking personal and social transformation.

The Church’s heritage

As the third millennium dawns, people are unusually open to how Christianity addresses such issues, asserts the report:
“Emphasizing what is lacking in other approaches should not be the main priority. It is more a question of constantly revisiting the sources of our own faith, so that we can offer a good, sound presentation of the Christian message.”

One important tool is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the report advises. The faithful should also explore the Church’s heritage, including artistic and musical traditions, and saints and mystics.

In a November 1982 homily, Pope John Paul II spoke of St. Teresa of Avila’s rejection of prayer methods that “set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity.” St. Teresa did not seek mystical experience through technique. She remained focused on God, and mystical experiences occurred because God willed them. Like St. Teresa, Catholics seek union with God in each moment, whether paying bills, visiting a neighbor or flexing in an exercise class.

The Church is calling Catholics to firm up their faith and consider whether New Age influences like those in yoga are subtly eroding their intimacy with God.

Marianna Bartholomew writes from Illinois. 

Yoga blurs lines

Although yoga is said to date back some 5,000 years, it is also part of the so-called New Age movement. A 90-page provisional report from the Holy See released last February explores aspects of New Age and how it affects Catholics.

Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age” lists traditions that flow into New Age, including ancient Egyptian occultism, medieval alchemy and yoga. As such practices are “imported piecemeal” and “reinterpreted to suit Westerners,” says the letter, a new culture and spirituality emerges:

—Meditation becomes self-contemplation instead of a dialogue of love with our Creator.

—The reality of sin and salvation through Christ is rejected and replaced with the morally neutral language of addiction and recovery.

—Titles such as “Holy Spirit” and “Christ” are used differently. For example, “Christ” refers to someone reaching the state of consciousness of an “enlightened master” and becoming divine.

— Jesus Christ is diminished to the ranks of one of many “universal masters” such as Buddha.

—Concepts such as harmony and understanding are used to promote an anti-Christian vision of a one-world government and one global religion.




9d. OSV | OSV Newsweekly Related Articles yoga

OSV | OSV Newsweekly Related Articles yoga

Is it too much of a stretch?

By Marianna Bartholomew

Yoga’s popularity is growing among Catholics, but it calls for a focus on things other than God.

Read More…

Is it too much of a stretch?

By Marianna Bartholomew

Yoga’s popularity is growing among Catholics, but it calls for a focus on things other than God.

Read More…


10. Spiritual Perspectives: Healing of Mind, Body and Spirit

Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola at The Independent: (505) 863-6811 ext. 218 or

Larger source:

By Sister Mary Matthias Ward, Special to The Independent, August 2007

For this time I choose to write on Healing of Mind, Body, and Spirit. I choose to do it because in our society, among both Protestants and Catholics, there are such misunderstandings. I choose to write this article because as I write this, we, the people of the Diocese of Gallup, need healing.  With the accident of Bishop Donald Pelotte, SSS, we are in crisis and we need an inner healing. Bishop Pelotte needs both a physical and an inner healing.

When there are areas of the unknown, we readily jump to labeling things as “New Age” as “being of Satan” and criticizing without asking for an explanation. Here at Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Gallup, we have a Reiki Retreat. We have a labyrinth, yoga, and Centering Prayer. Every one of them is positively New Age -Michael

All of these from time to time have been labeled as “New Age”, and we have received our share of criticism.

Our center’s mission statement declares that we strive for wholeness and holiness. Is there anyone among us that doesn’t need an inner healing? How many of us pray daily for the healing of others as well as ourselves?

It does seem that attitude toward health, spirituality, our way of life and our place in society has changed dramatically.  People search for answers to daily problems. During these times of chaos, we humans suffer from physical and psychological stress. The environment struggles for survival as well. We have no power to control these developments, but we can face them. We need to own our healing gifts (God’s power within us) and look at what blocks God’s power and what diverts God’s power. As we walk our journey carrying our crosses, we can experience God and find inner healing.

For myself, I’m able to find an inner peace by walking among nature, by walking the grounds of Sacred Heart Retreat Center, and from seeing and appreciating God’s artwork from every direction. I am able to balance my life by taking the time to communicate with my God, in prayer, in meditation, in spiritual reading, and in contemplative living.

As unique as each of us is, so is our finding inner healing. On Wednesday evenings we offer Centering Prayer. For some this contemplative prayer is what they need to sustain them. For others there is a Thursday night prayer group that finds praying together, reflecting together, sharing faith together is what is needed to sustain them.

St. Paul says that healing is one of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12: 28). Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). So, why do we fear healing? Why do we fear the laying on of hands?

Here at the retreat center on the last weekend of August, we will offer a retreat entitled “Journeying with our Angels through Reiki.” This retreat will highlight how our angel guides us on our journey to healing, balance, and harmony. What an experience of inner healing!

Reiki provides a marvelous way to make use of God’s power. The Reiki Master will call upon God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the angels… especially Michael, Raphael and Gabriel – to work through the person and to heal the person.

Yes, I know I’ve been accused of bringing Satan into the Diocese of Gallup. Satan tempts people to do evil. Satan does not heal. Reiki is not a religion. Reiki is not a cult. Reiki can be a religious experience which brings one closer to God. Reiki is in alignment with the teachings of the Bible.

I dare to say, not all of us will be attracted to Reiki. That is all right. But, let us not “down” persons who are attracted to the process of healing. We don’t all communicate the same way with our God.  But, hopefully, we all do communicate with God.

During this chaotic time in our diocese, within our world, let’s try to be open to how each person chooses to communicate with their God, how each person seeks to sustain inner healing, an inner peace. St. Paul says “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2). I pray this for myself and for each of you as you may read this.

Sister Mary Matthias Ward, Ursuline Sister of Maple Mount, KY, is the director of Sacred Retreat Center in Gallup. This column is written by area residents, representing different faith communities, who share their ideas about bringing a spiritual perspective into our daily lives and community issues.


11. Yoga practice in the Roman Catholic Church

Franz Hartmann, Adyar Pamphlets, No.91, May 18, 2008 [The Theosophical Society which is New Age]




Reprinted from The Theosophist, February, 1911 Theosophical Publishing House Adyar. Madras. India July 1918

Using the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius de Loyola [Founder of the Order of the Jesuits]

[Page 1] The study of comparative religion being one of the objects of the Theosophical Society, it may be of some interest to compare the yoga-practices of the Roman Catholic Church with those described in the Oriental writings. We will then find that they are to a certain extent identical, consisting principally in meditation (prayer), shakti, self-control, abnegation, faith, concentration, contemplation, etc, or what Shankarâchârya describes as Shâma, Dama, Uparati, Titîksha, Shraddhâ and Samâdhâna, not to forget bodily posture and the regulation of breath (Prânayâma).

The most detailed instructions are contained in the writings of Ignatius de Loyola, a Catholic Saint, and founder of the (later on ill-reputed) Order of Jesuits. He was an officer in the Spanish army, born at Guipozcod in 1491], as the son of a nobleman. After [Page 2] having been severely wounded in battle, his mind took a religious turn; he abandoned his military career, became an ascetic, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, studied afterwards at Salamanca and Paris, and became in 1541 General of the Order of Jesuits. His writings have been translated into German by B. Kohler, and the following pages contain some extracts from the same.

The exercises prescribed by Loyola are calculated to develop the powers of the soul, especially imagination and will. The disciple has to concentrate his mind upon the accounts given in the Bible of the birth, suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth, as if these were actual historical facts. He thus regards them, as it were, as a mental spectator, but by gradually working upon his imagination he becomes, so to say, a participator of it; his feelings and emotions are raised up to a state of higher vibrations; he becomes himself the actor in the play, experiences himself the joys and sufferings of Christ, as if he were the Christ Himself ; and this identification with the Object of his imagination may be carried on to such an extent that even stigmata, or bleeding wounds corresponding to those on the body of the crucified Christ, will appear on his body. In this way compassion and love are awakened and developed within the soul, and as the love of a divine ideal is something quite independent of the correctness of the scientific opinion which we may have concerning the actual existence of that ideal itself, this way of awakening divine love by the power of imagination [Page 3] may be very well suited for those for whom love without an object is at first unattainable. Therefore the spiritual exercises of Loyola consist principally of regularly prescribed and gradually ordered meditations and contemplations of the passion of Christ. If properly executed, they may produce freedom from the illusion of self and awaken the power of discrimination (Viveka) between the eternal ego and the temporal self.

The exercises and penances which Loyola taught to his disciples he practiced himself, and they were by no means easy. He spent seven hours in prayer, and scourged himself three times every night for the purpose of subduing the desires of his flesh. Some of the Catholic Orders still practice such severe exercises. The Trappists, for instance, have to work very hard, and their only recreation is prayer. Each brother receives at his entrance to the Order a gown as his only garment, which he has to wear until the hour of his death, without ever being permitted to take it off, whether in daytime or at night, unless it should become so dilapidated as to have to be replaced by a more solid one. Their Matins begin at midnight, lasting for one hour, and one being followed at short intervals by others, so as to allow very little time for rest. They are exposed to the summer heat and have to do without fire in winter, being permitted only a hard bed to sleep on and barely sufficient cover. Moreover they are not permitted to speak with each other or with anybody, and the food they receive is hardly sufficient to keep up their strength.[Page 4]
The Catholic Church, as a whole, may be regarded an as exoteric school of religion, and the different Orders therein as esoteric schools for practicing Yoga. How far some of these Orders have become degraded and have lost the right to be called schools for Yoga, is not our purpose to investigate at present. Certain, however, it is that the Mysteries contained in the Catholic Church are far too high to be grasped by everybody, be he priest or layman, and that the greatest danger which threatens the Catholic Church is the great number of its followers who are incapable of understanding its true spirit, in consequence of which its doctrines are misrepresented and misunderstood. Nevertheless, in some of the Orders practicing the above-described austerities, some of these Mysteries are still alive. These people lead a life of great hardship, and there are probably only few among our parlor-yogîs and would-be magicians willing to exchange places with them; but we meet smiling faces and joyous hearts among them, and the fact of their having voluntarily taken upon themselves the Cross of Christ testifies to their intrepidity and sincerity,

Loyola objects to theoretical explanations regarding the divine Mysteries, as they would only gratify scientific curiosity in unripe minds and disturb them; he only gives instructions concerning the practice of meditation, etc., because, if this practice is properly carried on, the Mysteries will reveal themselves in the natural course of time. [Page 5]
The states of mind under consideration are in their progressive order as follows:

1. Cogitation. The state in which the mind is moved and swayed by influences coming from without. These emotions have to be subdued.

2. Concentration. The ego assumes power over the thinking process, regulates his thoughts according to his will, and uses them accordingly.

3. Meditation. The ego closely examines the object upon which his mind is concentrated.

4. Contemplation. The mind enters the object of its meditation; it becomes an indweller of its sphere.

5. Sanctification. The mind becomes pervaded and sanctified by this association with the holy object; it becomes penetrated by its divine influence.

6. Unification. The contemplating mind becomes one with the object of its contemplation. To this may be added:

7. Mortification. or the entire disappearance of the illusion of separateness; there is no separate self which knows, because the knower, the known and the knowledge are one.



The object of meditation is, as has already been stated, the life and suffering of Christ. This is divided into different periods for contemplation, from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. At first only the memory is called into action by studying the supposed historical facts; next comes the imagination, associating itself with the actors in the divine play, and finally the mind becomes the actor itself; [Page 6] i.e., Christ is born, lives, becomes crucified and resurrected within ourselves.

There are numerous instructions given as to how these practical exercises are to be carried out, of which we will mention the following:

The first thing is to free oneself from all sinful thoughts and sensual emotions, and to seek to realize the direct action of the divine will; one should not seek to pry with one’s intellect into the divine Mysteries, but wait in humility for their interior revelation. This is far more useful in the end than lengthy explanations on the part of the teacher.

The disciple should, while engaged with one object of meditation during one week, not be informed of what will be the object given to him for the next period; but he should be warned against the aggressions of evil spirits, and have their nature explained to him.

He should meditate for five hours every day, beginning at midnight, each meditation lasting at least one hour, and he must not let his mind wander from the object of his meditation.

He should never make a solemn promise or vow until he is perfectly certain that he is able to keep it; that is to say, until God (the Master) Himself reveals to the soul His readiness to receive her. Then he does not follow his own selfish desires, but obeys the divine will.

The teacher should not seek to pry into the sins and innermost thoughts of the disciple; nevertheless he should observe him, so as to be able to give [Page 7] him such guidance and instruction as his case may require.

Ignorant and uneducated persons cannot be guided in the same manner as those who have more intelligence. No one should be offered spiritual truths which he is not yet ripe enough to grasp or comprehend.

Each meditation should begin with prescribed prayers (the Lord’s Prayer, Ave
Maria, etc.).

The candidate should go to confession once in every week, and take every fourteen days the holy sacrament of communion.

He should separate himself from all his friends and acquaintances, and avoid all external disturbances, directing his mind solely to the service of God. The more he frees himself from all external attractions, the more will he become ready to receive the light, the grace, and the blessing of God.

The disciple should be instructed, according to the degree of his capacity to understand, about the origin and the real object of his life, which is to praise God and to serve Him. He ought to be made to see the relative worthlessness of all earthly things, and the value of that which is of eternal duration.

He should examine himself carefully every day, and compare the results of each examination with those of the previous one, in the same way as a father watches his child to see what progress it makes.

He should carefully avoid all doubt and despair and also all spiritual pride, and not dwell upon his own personal merits, but sacrifice them to God. [Page 8]



Upon rising in the morning the disciple should at once firmly resolve to avoid all those sins of which he wishes to purify himself, and hold fast to that resolution during the day. Before retiring to rest he should examine himself again, to see whether he has been steadfast in his purpose, and it is useful to note his failures in some diary.

Resist and suppress every evil thought as soon as it arises.

Avoid all useless talk and gossip.

Look upon all worldly possessions with contempt; desire nothing for yourself, neither bodily comfort nor mental consolation, neither riches nor fame.

The disciple should be indifferent to wealth or poverty, honor or disgrace, suffering and death, and always be ready joyfully to accept martyrdom for the glorification of Christ.

Here follow certain rules which may be found somewhat objectionable from our point of view, namely:

He should never think of agreeable things, such as the joys of Paradise, but always have his mind dwelling upon grief and repentance for his sins, and think of death and the Last Judgment.

He should always keep his room dark and exclude all light, keeping doors and windows closed, except while he is praying, reading or eating.

He ought never to laugh, nor say aught that may cause hilarity in others. [Page 9]

He ought never to look at anyone, except at receiving and taking leave of a visitor.

He ought to avoid in eating or sleeping not only that which is superfluous, but even as much as possible of what is considered necessary.

He ought to castigate and lacerate his body by means of lashes, applied with rods or ropes or in other ways, but without injuring the bones. This is for the purpose of doing penance for past sins and for conquering the lusts of the flesh, and also for entering into sympathy with the tortures suffered by our Lord Jesus Christ. [It is hardly necessary to remark that these ascetic exercises have fallen generally out of use, and are only practiced by certain religious Orders at certain times, or by some especially fanatical persons]






The first method or step is to meditate successfully upon the seven mortal sins, the three powers of the soul, and the five senses of the body. This may be done while standing, sitting, kneeling, or in a recumbent position. While meditating upon the seven deadly sins, compare them with the seven cardinal virtues.

The second step is to meditate about the meaning of each separate word of the prayer, sitting or kneeling, and keeping the eyes either closed or gazing steadfastly upon some selected spot, and not letting his thoughts or eyes wander around. [Compare Bhagavad-Gîta VI, 13]
[Page 10]
Thus he ought to remain for one hour or more, always beginning his meditation with an invocation, and ending with repeating the Lord’s
Prayer, Credo, Anima-Christi and Salve Regina. He ought not to proceed to meditate about another word before he has found in the previous one full satisfaction.

The third method consists in regulating the breath according to a certain measure of time. While drawing each breath some word of the prayer ought to be spoken within the heart, so that between each inhalation and exhalation, and during the whole time that this lasts, only one word is inwardly spoken. For instance, if you meditate about the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with “Our Father, which art in heaven,” let your whole attention be directed only to the word our and its meaning, and then proceed to the next word, etc.



These Mysteries cannot be satisfactorily explained to the human intellect; but they can be spiritually grasped by identifying oneself with the events historically described in the New Testament, and mentally participating therein.

In this way the imagination acts upon the will and the emotional nature, causing the higher vibrations of the soul to enter into action, to lift the mind up to the region of spiritual perception, and the love [Page 11] of God to enter the heart. It is then necessary to learn to discern between good and evil influence. Only God has the power to illuminate the mind without any preceding cause; but if there is such a cause, the good angels, as well as the evil ones, may send comfort to the soul; the first ones with good intentions, the evil ones with an evil object (such as to incite vanity or spiritual pride, etc.) in view, and the evil spirit may assume the shape of a messenger of light for the purpose of leading us to perdition. We therefore ought to examine the origin, current, and object of our thoughts. If the beginning, the middle and the end are good and the object the highest, it is the sign of a good influence; but if the thoughts are disturbed by doubts and turned to inferior objects, it is a sign that an evil spirit is at their back. Moreover the touch of a good influence is mild and sweet, and that of an evil one at first harsh and disturbing; but if the heart is inclined to evil, the evil spirit also enters silently, as if it were into his own house through the open door.

Finally it may be of some interest to hear what Loyola says in regard to the Church:

We must never use any judgment of our own, but be always ready to obey in all things the orders of the true bride of Christ, our holy mother, the Church.

If I see that a thing is white and the Church calls it black, I have to believe in its being black.

We must always approve of and praise the sayings and doings and manners of our superiors, whatever they may be; even if they are not such as can be praised [Page 12] publicly, because to do so would lower these persons in the estimation of the crowd.

One ought not, to the ignorant, to say much about predestination (Karma); because, instead of working for their own improvement, they will become lazy and say: “Why should I trouble myself? — If it is my predestination to be saved, I will be all right, and if I am predestined to be damned, I cannot prevent my damnation.” One ought also not to speak about the divine grace of God as if it were a gift, rendering all our own works unnecessary. The highest truths are frequently misunderstood, and the best medicine becomes a poison if misapplied.

Some of the rules given by S. Ignatius de Loyola may be objectionable, but nowhere do we find among them the often quoted Jesuitical maxim that the object sanctifies the means. Moreover there is no doubt that while an object, be it holy or unholy, cannot sanctify its means, a holy purpose can and will sanctify the means, provided they are neither holy nor unholy, but indifferent. Thus for instance, the using of a knife upon a man’s body may be a holy or unholy act. If it is done for the purpose of cutting his throat, it is unholy; but if the surgeon uses it for saving a person’s life it is holy, and the purpose sanctifies the means.

The Roman Catholic Church has originally derived its doctrines and practices, and even its ceremonies, from the Northern Buddhistic School. Loyola is a true representative of its spirit. His spiritual exercises are in many ways identical with the instructions given in the East for the practice of Raja-Yoga, and a comparison of the two systems may be useful [Page 13] for those who do not merely desire to gratify their curiosity in regard to the astral plane, but desire to become more spiritual by letting the divine powers within their soul become awakened and developed through the influence of divine Love, divine Wisdom, and eternal Life.

This document is a publication of the Canadian Theosophical Association (a regional association of the Theosophical Society in Adyar) 89 Promenade Riverside, St-Lambert, QC J4R 1A3 Canada


12. Yoga more than a Physical Exercise

By P. Gopakumar, April 29, 2007

Yoga is closely related to the spiritual or sacred science rooted in the Vedic tradition of the subcontinent.




Yoga is the Vedic science of self-realisation that depends upon a well-functioning body and mind. Yoga is more than physical exercise, as we tend to view it today. Yoga is one of the most extraordinary spiritual sciences that mankind has ever discovered. Yoga understands the natural and interrelationship of the physical, subtle and formless universes with the boundless infinite beyond time and space, and shows us how these also exist with each human individual.

Wisdom: Yoga is the first of the teachings of the Himalayan sages, going back to what yogics regard as the beginning of this particular world age or cycle of civilisation some ten thousand years ago. Yoga is a distillation of wisdom from the myriad of sages throughout the ages, the ongoing legacy of the spiritual urge of humanity, as adapted to the particular requirement of each age and person.

Most people identify yoga with the physical postures or asanas that are the most evident side of the system. Yoga as a therapy or exercise was traditionally prescribed in an ayurvedic context. Classical yoga therapy was ayurvedic, both in theory and application. Yoga can be called dharmic spiritual practice, yogic dharma. All the great spiritual and healing traditions of the ancient Indian subcontinent are based on the concept of dharma or natural law.

Yoga is the best means of controlling our physical and mental movements of prompting the cause of concentration and meditation, and uniting the individual self to the greater self (Brahman). Its greatest exponent, Patanjali, defines it as ?the controller of human psychoses?. Whether one practises it through involvement in action or through detachment and renunciation, whether one walks on the path of knowledge or the path of devotion, one is sure to attain greater harmony within oneself and create an atmosphere of peace and prosperity and understanding in the world around.

Yoga is that science or philosophy which enables an individual to acquire health and happiness with the bare minimum requirement. Material affluence or physical bulkiness is not conducive to it. Hence, one must develop a moral and spiritual outlook upon life before embarking upon any kind of yogic activity.

Yoga is practised today all over the world for its medicinal and curative usefulness. Chronic disorders can be corrected and cured with its regular practices. Asanas are intended to make the body active and supply and enable a yogi to maintain perfect health. Although the practice of these asanas is taken up for an excellent physical build-up, it automatically provides excellent mental health, too. In fact, a sound mind lives in a sound body. These asanas have several benefits. Even foreigners have accepted its medicinal and practical utility.

Yoga is an art and a science in itself, beyond the reach of physical sciences. The educated people accept it as the best form of nature cure and better than any other system of exercises. Other exercises consume energy, but yoga is designed to preserve it. There is no sweating, no running out of breath, no hardening of muscles in it. The asanas are designed to improve the functioning of every organ of the body, including the eyes, heart, liver, lungs and the kidneys.

According to Dr. K. K. Datey, a famous cardiologist of India, the Shavasana is most beneficial for people with high blood pressure and cardiac disorders. Controlled breathing and meditation can soothe the nerves, reduce hypertension and release many persons from dependence on tranquilizers and drugs. It is these benefits that have prompted people to accept and popularise yoga more and more nowadays.

The yoga form of healing is aimed at bringing us back into harmony with our true self. Patanjali defines yoga as controlling the mind in order to realise the Purusha. One of the hallmarks of yoga is balance, and thus practitioners of this ancient art and science must pay proper attention to both the body and the mind. Sometimes overzealous yoga enthusiasts seek to cultivate meditation and higher states of consciousness apart from physical body, but the body is the ground for realising enlightenment. If we do not take care of the body, it is likely to succumb to illness sooner or later.

Mental disturbances: In yoga, illness is considered one of the obstacles to the successful completion of the yogic process. If you question this, try meditating with a toothache or falling sick to your stomach. It can be done, of course, but it presupposes considerable skill in concentration. Stomachic imbalances readily give rise to mental disturbances. Therefore, cultivating a strong, healthy body and training the mind should go hand in hand, and both pursuits should ideally be powered by a desire for self-realisation. Today the world is torn asunder with tensions, doubts and distractions; the practice of yoga becomes all the more significant for the modern man.


13. Eastern Spirituality: Work of the Devil or Shortcut to Fulfillment?

By Thomas J. Reese, Senior fellow Woodstock Theological Center, Jesuit priest, April 12, 2007

As editor of the Catholic weekly magazine “America” (, Rev. Thomas J. Reese promoted discussion on current issues facing the Catholic Church and the world. The “On Faith” panelist is author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. He is frequently quoted as an expert on Catholic issues.*

Christian interest in eastern spirituality must avoid two extremes. One extreme sees eastern spirituality as the work of the devil, while the other sees it as an easy shortcut to peace and fulfillment.

For centuries, millions of good people have sought holiness through eastern spirituality. I do not believe God would be deaf to their pleas; I believe that the Holy Spirit can breathe where he wills. On the other hand, I don’t believe in spiritual shortcuts. Our biases blind us and mislead us, and it is no easy task to overcome our personal and cultural biases.

A more serious approach to eastern spirituality has been taken by William Johnston, S.J, and Robert Kennedy, S.J., both Jesuits and Catholic priests. Kennedy, who gives Zen retreats, is a recognized roshi or Zen teacher who has mastered the teaching of his lineage. He in turn has recognized Ken Hunt, a Trappist monk, as a roshi, who has been practicing Zen for a long time at Spencer Abbey in Massachusetts.




You’ll find all sorts of variations on how eastern practices are incorporated by those who pursue Catholic monastic life and the discipline of meditation. The Trappist Thomas Merton wrote commentaries on Zen, Sufi, and Taoist practices. More recently, the Paulist priest Thomas Ryan has written Prayer of Heart and Body. Father Ryan attended the Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA, and then incorporated yoga practice into his prayer life as a Christian.

The question that comes up is the relationship between practice and doctrine, and this is still greatly debated. First of all, there are non-European Christians who are a generation or two removed from conversion to Christianity. Part of their identity as Indians, Japanese, Native Americans is involved in how they follow certain practice and they seek to preserve those practices. At the same time, they recite the creed and believe in what they should believe in.

There are certain incommensurables when it comes to doctrine–the dharmakaya (Buddha as the absolute all encompassing emptiness or fullness, depending on your doctrine school of Buddhism) is not God fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Reincarnation and life followed by final judgment are not reconcilable. Christ and Krishna are not the same. Incarnation and becoming an avatar or divine descent are not the same.

The adept who teach and practice these methods borrowed from other traditions know the boundaries, and their advice is the substance of spiritual reading—Thomas Merton, William Johnston, Henri Le Saux or Swami Abhishiktananda** are examples. Some speak of a sharp distinction; others speak of living in two worlds; some speak of having their Christian beliefs illuminated by the spiritual encounter from such a borrowing.

All of this can be helpful to the spiritual life, but at the same time I would first ask Christians whether they have ever delved into the riches of Western spirituality: Ignatius Loyola, Theresa of Avila, John Vianney, etc. Or more basically, have you read the gospels?

Until you experience and know your own tradition, you can not be enriched by another’s.

*This is rubbish. Fr. Reese was removed by Rome as publisher of the liberal/dissenting “America” magazine.

**These are infamous as influencers and promoters of Eastern meditations. The last is an ashram founder.


57. The Pursuit of Self-Discovery
– Not a religion but it is spiritual

By Mark Dawes,
Staff Reporter, March 27, 2004

Jamaica – Yoga is not a religion but it is spiritual, says internationally renowned yoga instructor, Amrit Desai, as he described this way of life that is increasingly gaining in popularity around the world, especially among people who are highly health conscious.

Yogi Amrit Desai, 71, is in the island at the invitation of the Shakti Yoga Centre in St. Andrew. He will deliver seminars today and tomorrow – both of which will be convened between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the centre. Today he is scheduled to address the topic: ‘Awakening to the Sacred Source.’ Tomorrow he speaks on ‘Redesign Your Destiny: Dissolving Karma through Yoga Nidra.’

Originally from India, Yogi Desai has lived in the United States since 1960. He operates his own yoga training school – The Amrit Yoga Institute – in Salt Springs, Florida.

Yoga, because it was born in an Indian and Hindu culture, has been influenced by those cultures. Despite these cultural influences, Yogi Desai argued, “You don’t have to believe in God or goddesses or any of the other approaches in order to practice yoga. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can realise the essential truth of life.”

For some Christians, however, yoga has satanic links and these connections are sometimes evoked by the chants uttered in yoga rites. But the chants, said, Yogi Desai, date back to ancient days when in India, persons “used to call certain deities that represent certain energies that work in our bodies. So they are not deities that we connect with religion. They connect with the body. So when you chant certain mantra, they awaken certain energies in your body. That is where some people can misunderstand this as a religion because symbolism in those days was used that way. But symbols are universal, they are not Indian or American or Christian or Hindu. They are just symbols– that represented something for our health for our wellbeing.”

He traced yoga’s origins to about 6,000 years ago in India. But he insists it is not Hinduism or any other Indian religion. “It is the science of self-discovery, that applies to everyone equally regardless of nationality, religion or social background If people can learn to get in touch with their health, their well-being, their peace of mind, they can actually follow whatever religion they are following more closely…”

‘Yoga’ means integration, and all human suffering, he said, comes from internal conflict as different parts of the individual’s composition are not experiencing harmony. Where harmony is absent, stress results. This stress, he said, is at the core of human physical, mental and emotional inhibitions, limitations and sicknesses.

How to enter a particular state of relaxation using various techniques such as yoga-postures, stretching one’s body, lengthening one’s muscles, increasing the circulation in your body, removing the toxins and also using certain breathing controls, constitute some of the main techniques of yoga to manage one’s thoughts, emotions, fears, and various emotional states, Yogi Desai said.

“Yoga is about being flexible from your belief systems, your self-concepts, fears, habit-patterns. It is to become flexible on all levels: physical, emotional and mental levels. Being more open and receptive to the reality of life. The yoga that I teach is about flexibility at all levels. I don’t ask people to push themselves to such an intensity where they would hurt themselves — Yoga is not about (physical) flexibility. There are many (physically) flexible miserable persons in this world–it is about mental discipline.




“In yoga you can realise the human potential that lives within you. If you call that God that is up to you. If you don’t call that God, that is up to you. But that is within each one of us and is dormant and unrealised. When you practise yoga you realise it. Some people call it God, some people call it divine potential, some people call it spirituality. If you call none of it and you just practise, you will realise it,” the visiting guru said.

The person practising yoga, he continued, will be able to diagnose his/her problems without the benefit of being told. “If you recognise (the problems) yourself you can correct it better than when someone shows you what your faults are. So it gives you the unique ability to see what are your drawbacks, what are your inhibitions, why is your health so bad, why are you so easily irritable, why are you easily frustrated, why are you so angry and revengeful, why are you rejecting yourself. So a person begins to realise this and so when he goes into a deep relaxed state, he has an access to make the alterations that he cannot make if he thinks of himself in negative terms like ‘I am wrong, I am bad, I hate myself’ and adopt ideal behaviour, you can adopt a self-righteous behaviour but it doesn’t change the real you. Yoga teaches you how to change it from the where it is caused,” Yogi Desai said.

“In order to do that you have to go to a deeply relaxed state. If you are agitated and if you are frustrated and even if you are thinking ideal thoughts, you can’t go there to change your behaviour. Your prayers will not answered and your affirmations will not be actualised. In order to change all that, you have to go into a meditative state – a very relaxed state, where you can connect with the core, the source, and the spirit within you. That is when you can make the changes. And that is available regardless of what religion you practice. That is why it (yoga) is not religious. Because it is just the techniques. If you practise it, you will be able to connect to the infinite source of potential that is always present within you. Then you can actualise your potential,” the yoga master said.

For Yogi Desai, there are no universal rights and wrongs as such are man-made constructions. So he argues: “If you make yourself right you see others as wrong. If you see yourself as wrong and see others as right then you still haven’t solved the problem.” He advocates the reaching within oneself to a point where one can exist beyond right and wrong and thereby attain unity and integration with everything in the world.

Yoga, he stressed, is more than the exercises but it is wellness directed at a person’s emotional and mental being. Body, mind and spirit, he said, are connected by a life-energy, which works through the human breath. When the breath stops at death, the body and mind stops functioning, but the spirit leaves the body – but where it goes, the famed Yogi had no answers.

The Christian can refute each of Amrit Desai’s beliefs line by line. They are unadulterated New Age-ese.

For one, the “awakened energies” are neither physically detectable nor quantifiable nor do they follow any natural/scientific law. They are spiritual energies. And they are exactly what the Vatican Document on the New Age warns Catholics about.


14. Heidelberg exercise class like yoga but Bible-based

By Nancy Montgomery, , Stars and Stripes, European edition, Monday, May 14, 2007

Heidelberg, Germany – Since January, the gym at Campbell Barracks has been the scene of a religious skirmish of sorts, with dueling poses — and mantras versus psalms. In the Vinyasa yoga class, members breathe a certain way and try to move smoothly through poses with names like the “Sun Salutation.” But there is also a class where members do similar or identical poses with names like “Mount Zion” and “The Angel.” That class, called “PraiseMoves,” is billed as a “Christian alternative to yoga.” Its founder says that yoga is bad for Christians’ souls.

“Yoga’s breathing techniques may seem stress-relieving, yet they can open one to psychic influences,” writes Laurette Willis*, the Oklahoma-based founder and marketer of PraiseMoves, a name she has trademarked, in a booklet sold to students. “I remember numerous instances of ‘traveling outside my body’ during yoga relaxation periods. I wonder who — or what — checked in?” *See B25b, B27 ff.

Willis is backed by some conservative Christian theologians. And 18 years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote in a letter to his bishops that if good feelings from such exercise were confused with “authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” that might result in “psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.”

Natalie Hannans, Heidelberg’s PraiseMoves instructor — a friendly, energetic 46-year-old former soldier and military wife who started teaching the classes in January — says she has nothing bad to say about yoga or whether it’s compatible with Christianity. What she’s interested in, she said, is providing an experience that helps people feel healthy, strong and relaxed, partially through quoting Bible verses. “It’s just another option,” Hannans said. “Like the aerobics class or the spin class. I think yoga teachers think I’m trying to take their classes. But I’m not.” Hannans said that for her the Bible quotes in the class “just sets the pace for how I live my life.”

According to Willis, who charges about $16 for an exercise video and some $300 for PraiseMoves instructor certification, instructors are conducting a “fitness ministry” and a sort of evangelism. “Friendship Evangelism in the form of inviting an unsaved friend or neighbor to a fun ‘alternative to yoga’ class is a wonderful way to introduce them to fellowship with believers,” Willis writes on her website. “They’ll hear the Gospel in a relaxed atmosphere. I believe many will be won to the Lord.” A recent class at Patrick Henry Village had three women who had already been won. They sang along to the music, did the poses as best they could and recited their Bible verses. “What attracted me to it was I’m getting older, and I don’t want to jump into anything too fast,” said Brie Hill, who was taking her fifth class. “And the fact that it was Christian-based was definitely a plus for me. It gets in you, the Scripture does.”

PraiseMoves uses many of the same poses as yoga but calls them different names, and, like yoga, focuses on stretching, movement and breathing to improve flexibility, strength and balance.




“It’s exactly the same postures with different names,” said Guru Deva Kaur, at Naad Yoga Center near Campbell Barracks, as she looked through the PraiseMoves booklet. She had no problem with that, though. “It’s fine. I wouldn’t judge it,” she said. “I think it always becomes problematic if you get dogmatic.”

Kaur, who also is known as Annette Wallmeyr, said she was familiar with the argument that yoga, because it’s part of the Hindu tradition, is actually a religion and should be avoided by Christians. She disagrees, however, noting her own Catholic background and the fact that the center has Christian yoga teachers. “It’s a way of living. It’s not a religion,” she said, “It’s a technique, an ancient one, a proven one. We just feel it has so much to offer the people of the west.”

U.S. Army Europe chaplain Maj. Mark Nordstrom said he’d never thought much about whether yoga was bad for Christians. “I think a lot of it is it’s just an exercise,” he said.


15. How to be still and know that you are God

There is divine power in every human being. Kriya Yoga is the shortest, quickest and most scientific way to be one with the almighty

Paramahamsa Hariharananda, May 20, 2007

Having created everything, God has entered into the creation. So all are the children of God. In the Upanishads, it is written: srunvantu sarve amritasya putraah “Hearken thou, O sons of immortal bliss”. Human beings are immortal sons of God. They have descended from him. They have to return to their original state i.e. they have to realise God, to be one with him. Only then all their aspirations will be fulfilled and they will be truly happy. They will get peace, bliss and divine happiness. This is possible by the sincere and regular practice of Kriya Yoga.

The supreme mystery of Kriya Yoga came to man with his creation. In ancient times, thousands of years ago, in Satya Yuga, the era of truth, there were no Rama, Krishna, Kali, Durga etc. Even the Vedas, Bible, Koran were not there. But there were many powerful monks and rishis who had marvelous miracles and truth in them. At that time people used to practise this ancient Kriya Yoga technique. By the special breathing technique of Kriya Yoga, they used to get peace, bliss and calmness throughout the day and night. Only by breath control they were getting self-control, since breath mastery is self-mastery, breathless stage is a deathless stage.

Now, though almost all the people are religious, they are busy only with religious play. Many people go on chanting mantras and follow various puja techniques. In spite of all these, they are unable to calm down their restlessness and remove selfishness, cruelty and viciousness. So, they are not getting any benefit by such religious practices.

For example, if a person drinks nectar in a poison pot, what will be the result? Similarly, though people are religious, going from one guru to another doesn’t help them because they have not been able to overcome their negative traits. Hence, they are unable to bring any spiritual improvement in themselves. One has to go to a realised guru, who has unveiled nature’s splendour and the veils of all religions, and reached the divine goal. Such a guru can infuse the divine power into a disciple in a short time.

There are many ways to reach the divine goal, but Kriya Yoga is the shortest, quickest and most scientific way. It is the common highway of all religions. It is the essence of all faiths. But Kriya Yoga is neither a religion nor is it sectarian. There are four major techniques in Kriya Yoga. They are simple easy and short. No hardship is faced in practising them. You are not to hold your breath with your head down and leg stretched in the air. Generally when a person sits for puja or meditation he experiences restlessness. Thoughts, worries and anxieties cross his mind. So, his puja or meditation becomes useless. This difficulty can be easily overcome by the practice of the first technique of Kriya Yoga. By the practice of this technique you forget your ego and body sense and get extreme super-consciousness and cosmic consciousness. You can immediately change your life force into an radiant all-accomplishing divine force which in turn, hastens your physical, mental and intellectual upliftment. Your brain will be fertile, your memory will be sharp, and you will feel the divine change. The second technique is a panacea for all diseases. It cures many diseases. It gives you a healthy and lustrous body. It retards the ageing process. By the third technique you can offer your whole system to God. Your hands are not your hands.

They are the hands of God. God works through your hands. Your heart is not your heart, it belongs to God. God is pulling breath into you, so that your whole system is acting. You have appetite because you are alive. A dead man has no appetite.

We are not eating food; it is God who is eating through us. We are not earning money; it is God who is doing so. We must offer everything we have to God, and realise that our system is actually the system of God.

We are usually not able to perceive this because of some defects. We have two nostrils. So long as the breath will not come with equal pressure from both the nostrils, our spiritual field will not be cultivated. We have to cultivate our own spiritual field, which is our own body.

All our anger, pride and insincerity centres are in the right lobe (cerebrum right side of brain), and our speech centre is on the left side of the brain. Also we have another part called pons. Above and behind pons is the mid-brain; where the aggregated balance sheets of our lives are stored. Good and bad thoughts are also stored here. So, in a moment we can become bewildered and furious. By the practice of Kriya Yoga, our thoughts become balanced.

By the help of the fourth technique we will be able to feel that it is only the power of God that is activating us. It will bestow upon us extreme calmness. It is when we experience this calmness, that we hear the mantras. Anybody, who has been initiated in the ‘Mantra’ of Rama, need not chant Rama, Rama, Rama. His indwelling self is Rama. In Kriya Yoga, he can automatically hear the Rama mantra … as if coming from a distance. Any other person worshipping Shiva, Kali, or Durga need not chant. He can automatically hear the divine sound. He will even feel the divine vibrations in his whole body and also see the divine light. He will feel the power of God rising up to infinity.

Also, in his fontanelle he will feel the sensation of floating, swaying and rocking. With help of this, all his negative and bad qualities will disappear; he will feel that the power of God is always with him.






In the Bible, it is written: “if your eyes do not seek God you should pluck them out. Your mouth is not made for bread only, but the word that proceeds from your mouth is the talk of God”. In Kenopanishad, the same thing is written: “yad vacha anavyuditem yena vagvyutuate tadeva Brahmetwam viddhi nedam yadidam upasate” or ‘What speech cannot reveal but which reveals the speech know that alone is God’. “Yanmanasaa ne mennte yenhurnano matam tadeva Brahmatwam viddhi nedam yadidem upasate” or ‘What mind cannot comprehend, but what cognises mind, know that alone is God.’

Once more, I emphasise the most important thing. It is only the power of God, which is pulling the breath from the seventh junction of every being. So, we are alive and doing so many things. We are the children of God. The marvellous power of God exists in each one of us. In the eighth chapter, tenth verse of the Bhagavad Gita it is said: “bhruvor madhye pranam avesya samyak sa tam param purusam upaiti divyam” or ‘If one can fix the prana shakti, with the help of breath, at the mid point of the eyebrows (pituitary), he can perceive the self effulgent divine self.’

The scriptures say: Yabannaiva pravisati charnmaruto madhyamarge Yabad bindurnabhavati drldhah pranavaata prabandhat. Yabaddyaane sahajasadrisa jaayate naiva tattwam taabat gyaanam vadati tadidam dambha mithyapralap or ‘So long as your mind does not calmly seek Him there, your spiritual achievement is completely nil’.

Meditation means freedom for the mind from worldly objects. You are in knowledge, consciousness and super consciousness. In the Bible it is written: “Be still and know that you are God”. By the practice of Kriya Yoga meditation you can still your mind and feel the living presence of God. God is sweet, kind and loving; If anybody practises this technique for five to ten minutes every day, he will acquire all these qualities.

(Prajnana Mission is celebrating the birth centenary year of Paramahamsa Hariharananda this year. The article is excerpted from a talk delivered by him in 1986)


16. Author examines yoga as more than exercise

June 11, 2007

Rather than focusing on posture positions, Stephen Cope examines the psychology behind yoga in his latest book, The Wisdom of Yoga“.

The book centers on a small group of friends and their struggles through life. Each person has a destructive pattern: Compulsive lying, overeating, phoniness and perfectionism. According to Cope, the purpose of yoga is to observe how the mind works. Through awareness, the mind can be observed neutrally and the destructive patterns interrupted.

As the characters practice yoga regularly, they use this awareness to observe their behavioral patterns. From despair to quiet resolve, they unwind patterns that bind them.

Cope uses each story as an outlet to discuss common pitfalls while practicing yoga. He draws upon a variety of sources for his points, including traditional psychotherapy, philosophy and his own yoga practice. He adopts the tone of a trusted friend, guiding the reader through snags and solutions.

While meandering at times, the book is accessible for people of all philosophical and religious backgrounds. The appendices include a version of the Yoga-Sutra, along with a comparison of yoga and Buddhism. Unlike other authors, Cope directly addresses the role of God in yoga practice. He clearly believes that Yoga is for everyone.

Advanced yoga practitioners will benefit from Cole’s wisdom. Beginners considering yoga as an exercise regime will discover the power behind the scorpion pose. Laura Axelrod —

Amazon review:

Book Description
For modern spiritual seekers and yoga students alike, here is an irreverent yet profound guide to the most sophisticated teachings of the yoga wisdom tradition–now brought to contemporary life by a celebrated author, psychotherapist, and leading American yoga instructor.
While many Westerners still think of yoga as an invigorating series of postures and breathing exercises, these physical practices are only part of a vast and ancient spiritual science. For more than three millennia, yoga sages systematically explored the essential questions of our human existence: What are the root causes of suffering, and how can we achieve freedom and happiness? What would it be like to function at the maximum potential of our minds, bodies, and spirits? What is an optimal human life?
Nowhere have their discoveries been more brilliantly distilled than in a short–but famously difficult–treatise called the Yogasutra. This revered text lays out the entire path of inner development in remarkable detail–ranging from practices that build character and mental power to the highest reaches of spiritual realization.
Now Stephen Cope unlocks the teachings of the Yogasutra by showing them at work in the lives of a group of friends and fellow yoga students who are confronting the full modern catastrophe of careers, relationships, and dysfunctional family dynamics. Interweaving their daily dilemmas with insights from modern psychology, neuroscience, religion, and philosophy, he shows the astonishing relevance and practicality of this timeless psychology of awakening.
Leavened with wit and passion, The Wisdom of Yoga is a superb companion and guide for anyone seeking enhanced creativity, better relationships, and a more ethical and graceful way of living in the world.

THE WISDOM OF YOGA Written by Stephen Cope Philosophy | Bantam Trade Paperback May 2007 | $16.00 EXCERPT






During the summer of his “breakdown,” all Jake knew was that he couldn’t go backward, and apparently he wouldn’t go forward. The experience of direct involvement with the present moment was just the place in which he had previously been unable to dwell. He was determined now to stay put. He knew that, paradoxically, some great success was buried within his failure. He sensed that he had had some kind of awakening. But what was it?
Yogis call this state samvega–a complex state involving a kind of disillusionment with mundane life, and a wholehearted longing for a deeper investigation into the inner workings of the mind and the self.1
Samvega, as described by the contemporary Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu, involves “at least three clusters of feelings at once”:
the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.2
Samvega is a developmental state not mentioned in Western psychological texts. It brings with it a realization that objects of grasping (money, fine things, titles, fame, even people–when seen as objects) cannot supply any true satisfaction. It involves a radical realization that all objects are intrinsically empty of the capacity to feed us in the way we really want–or need–to be fed.
A classic Buddhist teaching story describes this realization:
A dog stumbles across a bone that has been exposed to the elements for many months, and is therefore bleached of any residual flesh or marrow. The dog gnaws on it for some time before he finally determines that he is “not finding” any satisfaction in the bone, and he thus turns away from it in disgust. It is not that the bone is intrinsically disgusting; it is rather the case that the dog’s raging desire for meat just will not be satisfied by the bone . . . when he wakes up to the truth that the bone is empty of anything that will offer him satisfaction, he becomes disenchanted, and spits it out in disgust.3
Of course, the symptoms of samvega arise only after extensive experimentation with “the bone.” Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche says it elegantly: “The shoe of ego is only worn out by walking on it.”4 For many of us, objects of longing gradually reveal themselves to offer no real happiness. No matter how hard we gnaw on them, we find no meat on the bone. Samvega then arises with a linked complex of symptoms, many of which Jake was now experiencing. These can include:
A puzzling failure of previous sources of satisfaction
A heightened concern with authenticity
A deepening pull toward an intuited interior world
A sense of urgency about realizing deeply hidden gifts and talents
A global and diffuse sense of internal disorganization–equal parts psychological and spiritual
A deeply felt internal imperative to stop business as usual–or, as Jake said, to “get quiet”
A call to explore a path that might give transcendent meaning to the enigmas of life
One of the harbingers of the developmental imperative of samvega is that we–like Jake–begin to hear ourselves muttering about our Old Life and our New Life. Out of the blue, we begin to feel like captives in our lives–lives which may have fit comfortably for years. Our well-known world begins to feel stale and dead. Gradually we start hankering to leave for the New World. We begin to feel imbued with the spirit of our Seeker ancestors. We want nothing more than to leave the Old Country. This internal movement presages a profound reorganization of the psyche, a redirection of the energy of longing, and a completely new relationship with the world of people, places, and things.
Even though this developmental stage is as common in human life as adolescence, one will search Western psychology books in vain for a clear description of its causes and trajectory. We ordinarily attempt to fit the complexities of samvega into our old, usually pathological, categories. We trivialize it as “midlife crisis,” or we wonder if it is not really just neurotic depression, or regression–as Susan Goldstein did when encountering Jake’s version of samvega.
But contrary to the typical Western view, the kind of “breakdown” in which Jake found himself is not a regression into the past. It is not a pathological state. It is not a move backward at all. It is, rather, a step toward the possibility of a vastly expanded way of living in the world.
In yogic texts, the word samvega is often translated as “vehemence,” because it brings with it an unshakeable resolve to develop into a fully alive human being. Patanjali introduces the term samvega in the first chapter of the Yoga-S¯utra–using the word to indicate a “wholehearted” (or “vehement”) determination to find a way out of suffering.
For those who seek liberation wholeheartedly, realization is near. How near depends on whether the practice is mild, moderate, or intense.
Yogis found that even though this state of “vehemence” carries with it a tremendous amount of feeling and power, it does not disturb the mind–rather it calms the mind. (In the summer of his breakthrough, everyone noticed that Jake was not disturbed. He was calm and profoundly “resolved.”) Samvega is a kind of passion that does not create suffering–but, rather, generates the happiness that comes with the sure knowledge of freedom. Because the state of samvega is so full of possibilities, it is often referred to as a state of “emergence.” Through the practice of yoga, says Patanjali, we can emerge from the traps of ordinary suffering. How quickly this emergence takes place depends on the intensity and persistence of our practice.
When samvega emerges, it brings with it an altogether new hunger: the hunger for internal quiet. We seek this quiet not just because we’re exhausted by living at right angles to life–as Jake certainly was–but also so that we can see more clearly. It becomes obvious that in order to know our true nature, we will have to stop the world. Stop the world! The Native American shaman Don Juan gives precisely this advice to his student Carlos Castaneda. “In order to become a man of knowledge, a warrior-traveler, you will first have to learn to stop the world.”5
What does this mean? In order to see clearly, to examine how things work, we will have to stop our lives, slow things down, look carefully–like the person who has suddenly discovered she has created the mother of all knots in the shoelace of her boot. We must stop. Slow down. Look. Examine. How did this happen? How does this work? How can I reverse this? We will have to deconstruct the very way we perceive and rebuild it again from the ground up.


Stop the world. The impulse toward stillness is the central movement of the contemplative life. Monastics through the ages have described it: One intuits some precious new interior self. One sneaks off into the woods like an animal, builds a nest for the birth. Guards it ferociously. And waits in silence.
Says Thomas Merton, one of the great Catholic contemplatives of the twentieth century:
The true contemplative is not one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but is one who remains empty because he knows that he can never expect to anticipate the words that will transform his darkness into light. He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and, when he is answered it is not so much by a word that bursts into his silence. It is by his silence itself, suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God.6
Jake had an urgent need to stop the world. And he discovered, as all strivers do, that when the mind is still, our true nature begins to reveal itself. Out of stillness, like the early morning mist on the lake, emerges a thinking that is not thinking–a wisdom beyond thought. Out of stillness emerges, effortlessly, a subtle world of experience for which we had only longed until now. It is real. It rolls itself out in waves as we get still, quiet, concentrated, and settled.
The path of classical yoga is organized around the relationship between inner stillness and wisdom. The first two sutras in Patanjali’s Yogasutra are:
Now, the teachings of yoga.
Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.
The Sanskrit word nirodha, which Patanjali uses in the second sutra, means “stilling, cessation, or restriction.” This stilling is both the path and the goal of yoga. Its appearance at the beginning of the treatise signals its centrality in Patanjali’s technique. “Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.” Yoga is to still the thought waves of the mind. Yoga is to bring a natural quiet to the mind and body–so that we can, for the first time, see clearly. And in this stillness–miraculously, outrageously–the knots undo themselves.
Inner realities emerge.
As both Merton and Don Juan understood, inner stillness opens a doorway in the mind. A little trapdoor we have rarely noticed. A secret escape hatch for the mind that is not even in the Western psychological user’s manual. Merton’s prayer suggests that in order to be found, we must first acknowledge the radical degree to which we’re lost. Then, as the poet David Wagoner suggests, we must pay very close attention:
Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.7

This teaching captures the essence of the yogic view: what we are searching for is also searching for us. The way is to stop. To let ourselves be found. Stand still.
The Sanskrit word marga means “the way” or “the path.” It is often used to refer to the yogic system for uncovering Reality. But interestingly, the word originally referred to “the hunter’s path.” This image of the hunter underlies much of the practice of yoga. Practice is seen as a kind of hunt for the real–for the lurking wild game of our true nature. Author and Zen practitioner David Chadwick suggests that hunting is one of the experiential origins of contemplative practice. “Hunters,” he points out, “have had to sit and wait motionless, even for days at a time. The course is unknown ahead of time to the hunter, who must sniff and look for signs and watch and wait.”8
In order to understand the path of the strivers, we will have to convince ourselves of the necessity, the magic, the absolute brilliance of stillness. Over and over again we will have to do this. We will forget. Farther down the path, tomorrow, or perhaps later today, we will forget about stillness. And when we do, we will have lost the thread. Without this central practice, none of it will make any sense.
In the wisdom of the strivers, we find an answer for those of us overheated by the search for the elusive Firebird. Stop. Become still and quiet. Stop the world. Stand perfectly still and listen. Kafka said it so well:
You don’t need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, simply wait. Don’t even wait. Be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.9
During the summer of his breakdown, Jake sought true contemplative stillness for the first time in his life. His resolve astonished me. Some days he would sit on a bench behind the old colonial church on the hill in Lenox, gazing at the eighteenth century graveyard. For Jake, experiencing the state of samvega, the cemetery seemed just the place to be–an excellent vantage point from which to ponder the meaning of life.
Jake and I spent a lot of time together that summer. He had become to me a newly fascinating human being. We met regularly in the cemetery behind the church–which was just across the street from my house (and Maggie’s). When wandering the cemetery Jake and I spoke a lot about death. I recalled for him the teaching that Yaqui shaman Don Juan had given to his student, anthropologist Carlos Castaneda: “The thing to do when you’re confused,” instructed the shaman, “is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is watching you.”10



Jake wandered among the stones sometimes for hours at a time, perhaps hoping to get a glimpse of his own death. Or a longer perspective on his life. And so, that summer, Jake sat and peered and wandered and prayed and listened–like a hunter who wasn’t sure if he was hunting or being hunted. Looking to his left.
From the Hardcover edition

Excerpted from The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope

The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living

An excerpt from Stephen Cope’s new book

In his new book, The Wisdom of Yoga, Stephen Cope investigates the sophisticated wisdom tradition of yoga from the point of view of six contemporary characters—modern yogis struggling with issues of love, work, addictions, careers, and unfulfilled longings of many varieties. Each chapter weaves together narrative story and expository teachings to bring alive the rich, and very relevant, applications of yoga’s ancient teachings. The following is excerpted from Chapter 6, “The Roots of Suffering.” You can read the entire chapter and other excerpts by clicking here.



The phone had rung just as I was getting ready for my early morning walk to the cemetery to meet Jack. It was Susan. She sounded out of control.

“Can you come to the house?”

I was not prepared for the scene I found at Susan’s house. Phillip, Susan’s husband, had taken their daughter, Monica, to Belize on a birding trip, and had left Susan at home. The place was a mess—and this was utterly out of character for Susan, whose interior worlds were so well-ordered. I wondered: was Susan eating compulsively again?

I found Susan on the sun porch in her oversized terrycloth bathrobe. She was sitting in fetal position on a corner of the porch swing in a pool of sunshine with Boots the cat curled up next to her. She lifted her head and looked at me, then covered her head with her arms. “Oh God. I cannot believe you’re seeing me like this. Such a pretty picture.”

I sat next to her, picked up Boots and put him in my lap.

“The hair. The bathrobe,” said Susan, wincing.

“OK, Susan. Forget about that. I’ve seen it before.”

“Oh, it’s just so pathetic,” she said, drawing a deep breath.

“I was in the parking lot of the Stop and Shop with a goddamned cart full of pastries. Last night. About eleven.” Susan looked up. “Tried to call you on my cell. Tried to call my OA sponsor. Nobody home. Finally I just sat in my car and prayed.”

After praying, Susan had found the strength to start the car and drive away. She had slept poorly. She’d just spoken with her OA sponsor when I arrived. “I left the goddamned cart full of food right in the middle of the parking lot.”

We looked at each other for a moment, and something between a grimace and a smile began to flicker across her face. The image was irresistible: A lonely shopping cart filled with Sara Lee cheesecakes and chocolate truffles. Fully paid for. Adrift in a sea of empty parking spaces. Susan got up and walked to the window, looking out on her manicured garden.

“Just before I got into the car to drive to the Stop and Shop, I was standing right here. It was like standing on a bridge deciding whether or not to jump.”

She turned back to me. “You know what I wanted? I just wanted complete oblivion. I wanted to get totally lost. In chocolate cake. To bury my face in it. To devour about ten of the fucking things.”

Susan had been shaky for weeks. I had seen it. She had been distracted. Uncharacteristically irritable, and barely present. We had all noticed it at yoga the previous Saturday morning, when she had snapped angrily at Jack, and then at Maggie.

Susan was pacing now, rolling up the wide terrycloth collar to cradle her face. “There’s something going on here that I just can’t bear. Just can’t bear.”

Slowly the story spilled out. Susan had been home to spend some time with her parents in New York City. “I had another huge scene with them.

“I swear to God, Steve,” she began, shaking her head. “We went out to eat. First of all, my mother showed up looking like Astor’s pet horse. Ridiculously overdressed. Then it started. They’re in my food. She’s got her fork in my Cornish hen. He’s got his fork in her profiteroles. She’s criticizing my weight. They’re all over Monica for not visiting them.” Shaking her head now, as if in astonishment, she says, “I got up and stormed out.

“Shit. And I said some very nasty things.”

She picked up Boots. “Steve, this is pathetic. They’re old people now. But I just cannot bear who they are. Jesus, they’re completely enmeshed.”

Susan gave me a slightly desperate look and walked back to the window.

I understood exactly how Susan felt standing on that imaginary bridge: The aversion to being present with the moment. The craving for a different moment, a different mind-state.

Susan’s voice began to shake. “I thought I was beginning to set better boundaries. To take better care of myself. All that yoga. Oh, Steve, I just feel so discouraged. I’m so fucked up.”

She sat back down on the swing. “I hate my life. This is hell.

“And now I’m a middle-aged fat person. Just like them.”

She flung herself back on the porch swing dramatically. “Shit. They won.”

Susan was having a “multiple affliction attack”: craving, aversion, and delusion all at the same time. Talk about the War With Reality. Susan was at war with everything. Her parents. Her career. (She confessed that she’d been refusing to return phone calls from clients for weeks.) She was at war with her own moment-to-moment experience of life. With pain. With sensation. She couldn’t get comfortable in her own body.



The Chaining of Thoughts, Feelings, Impulses, and Actions

Each of us has had an experience like Susan’s—hijacked by a state of craving or aversion that we did not understand. These experiences can be bewildering. Susan felt captive—bound to an invisible chain of events which she could not fathom, much less control. She could see the pattern in this chain of events. She had lived it out over and over again. But she felt powerless over it. Alas, a good deal of human life is characterized by this sense of loss of control to patterns driven by inscrutable motivations. All systems of human transformation are compelled to notice this problem. St. Paul noticed it in his own life: “The good I would do I do not; the evil I would not do, I do.” Freud spent his life studying it, and postulated an unconscious which is the repository of these hidden motivations.

How do yogis understand these unseen forces at work in the human experience? I had a personal reason for wanting to know. Not long before Susan’s meltdown, I had had a food hijacking myself. It came with the same feelings of powerlessness as Susan’s had. Since that event, I had begun to study precisely how these unconscious reactive dramas unfold—and particularly how Patanjali might work with such a situation. How would his view differ, say, from St. Paul’s or Freud’s—or Susan’s OA sponsor’s?

I had been teaching a morning seminar in the Sunset Room at Kripalu—which is located just adjacent to the bakery. Almost every day the Kripalu bakery produces fresh bread, along with a steady stream of scones, muffins, and cookies. I was teaching a seminar on yoga philosophy when I became mildly aware of the scent of freshly baked banana muffins, wafting through the open windows of the room. “Banana muffins,” I thought vaguely when I smelled them.

At the mid-morning break, I found myself in the bakery eating banana muffins. As we all stood around the bakery table and gnoshed on muffins, I said to myself, “How did I get here?” How did I end up in the bakery eating a muffin at ten thirty am? For the previous three months, as an experiment, I had been observing a diet with no wheat or sweeteners. These muffins were loaded with both. At what point did I decide to ditch my diet? When was the moment of choice? Or was I choiceless in the matter? Am I powerless over muffins? Am I powerless over these dense states of craving and aversion? Do we have free will, or don’t we?

It turns out that yogis adopted these hijackings—and the allied questions about will, power, and choice—as a central object of their intensive meditative scrutiny. They were compelled to. After all, these dense experiences of craving and aversion seem to be a universal part of human experience. The good I would do, I do not. The evil I would not do, I do. These moments of hijacking by afflictive forces seem to be central stumbling blocks to happiness.

The first response of the yogis was, as always, Stop the world! Stop the world. Quiet down. Investigate. Look closely. How, precisely, have we created this particular knot in our experience? This theme of self-investigation, self-scrutiny, self-study is perhaps the central theme in the great symphony of yoga. Patanjali and his peers were interested in investigating these states closely in their meditation laboratories—using themselves as the objects of their scrutiny. Quite by accident, they found that investigation itself is the first part of a highly effective strategy to attenuate these densely afflicted states. As we shall see, the power of investigation to expose and end suffering will become another major theme in Patanjali’s work.

In the Yoga-Sutra, Patanjali recommends the strategy of observing these afflicted states so closely that the hidden volitions that drive them are fully exposed.

In their subtle form, these causes of suffering are subdued by seeing where they come from. (2.10)

When foiled by afflictive patterns, says Patanjali, trace them back to their source. Expose their roots! So, yogis investigated. They looked carefully at the chain of events that leads to these dense states of craving and aversion. They saw precisely how craving and aversion first emerge in the stream of consciousness, and how they influence behavior. And finally, as Patanjali suggests, they were successful in tracing these tendencies in the mind back to their origins.

[Here follows a longer, more technical description of the precise chaining of events that leads to our sense of being “hijacked” by unconscious motivations and patterns. Interestingly, both ancient yogis and contemporary scientists have described a similar series of highly patterned mental and physical events that lead to these hijackings. These can be described, in shorthand, as “appraisal, impulse, and action.” Yogis, in their “meditation laboratories,” studied this chaining of events and discovered precisely where the links between appraisal, impulse, and action can be broken, so that we might be free to make discerning choices—and not feel entirely bound to our own hidden motivations.]

Pain or Suffering?

Several days after her near slip, Susan and I were investigating her experience together, looking at each moment in the chain of events that had led to the parking lot.

“Go back to the moment just before you left for Stop and Shop,” I suggested. “You were standing by the window in your sunroom. You wanted to jump off the bridge. What were you feeling?”

“I wanted oblivion. I just wanted to get lost.”

She looked up for a moment and studied my face. “And, actually, I still do. Right this minute.”

There was a moment of quiet. It had begun to rain, and the only sound now was a steady plinking of drops on the metal roof of Susan’s sun porch.

Susan was breathing fast, almost panting. For a moment she seemed overwhelmed by feelings. But she was staying with them—not moving away from the feelings, but toward them. Into them. Investigating them. The chain was breaking apart.

Finally, Susan took a deep breath and settled back into her chair. She sat staring out at the birdfeeder. “You know,” she said finally, “no matter how painful it is, it’s a relief just to feel it.”

Yogis discovered that the possibility of freedom from impulsive, driven behavior exists in every single mind moment—but only through the practice of being present for experience. This requires that we familiarize ourselves with precisely how thoughts, feelings, and impulses arise in the stream of experience. This is, indeed, precisely what meditation is for.


In fact, one word for meditation in Tibetan means familiarization. Meditation is a process of getting to know the mind. It turns out, as we shall see, that this “knowing” itself interrupts these chains of reactive thoughts and feelings.

We are freed from the prison of reactivity only when we can begin to be present for the sensations in the body that result from the stimulus of thoughts or senses. And in order to know the sensation before the whole chain of reaction and action has started, we must hone a subtle awareness at the level of the body.

Mere presence interrupts the “chaining” of thoughts and feelings as they tumble toward action. If, for example, as I was teaching my class that morning, I had noticed, “Ah, pleasurable sensation in the body—muffin,” and felt that sensation fully, observed, allowed it to be present—the attraction would have passed away eventually. The chain would have been broken right there. And I could have chosen more consciously. The stage would have been set for me to explore my reality. How is it, really, right now, in my body? What are these sensations like? What does this craving feel like? I could then have asked the all-important question: Do I want to choose the muffin? Or not?


17. A Hindu Christian Priest, a Christian Ashram?

By: Claude Fernandes, Team Mangalorean UAE, Abu Dhabi July 14, 2007

Rev. Fr. Joe Mary Lobo, popularly known as Guruji (Guruji means Teacher/Priest) has served as a  priest for 49 years, with various portfolios as a Pastor, Chaplain, Teacher, Diocesan Director in various parishes, schools,  and other institutions  in the diocese of  Chikmagalur in Karnataka India.   He is the founder director of Sri Christa Sharan Social Development Society (SCS) Regd. (SCS) and Sri Guru Sharan Charitable Trust (SGSCT) Regd. Both these voluntary organizations work for the holistic development and the growth of rural villages surrounding Birur – Chikmagalur District. Their main goal is to work with the economic and social, political resource poor and be a guide in the process of their entire being i. e. enhance their Self-Thinking, Self-Deciding, Self-Reliance, and Self-Governing levels through:

Integrated, holistic rural development; Development of rural women and children, specially the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, gypsy types Lambanis and the Dalits (the marginalized and exploited); Education and organization of people;  Watershed development – Agriculture, Horticulture, Silviculture and Animal Husbandry development; Biodiversity and environment; Joint Forestry Planning and Management; and Fostering good Health, with greater thrust on prevention of ill health, through hygiene, nutrition, balanced diet, herbal medicine & other native systems like Yoga, Naturopathy etc.

Rev. Fr. Joe Mary Lobo is a post graduate in Social Development Work from the Coady International Institute of St. Francis Xavier University in Canada, and a PG Diploma in Alternative Economics from Washington D. C. and has Post Graduate Diplomas in various Social Sciences and Development fields both from India and abroad. He is the first to publish Catholic Kannada hymnals and audio cassettes with music. He has more than thirty years of experience in rural development.  He is a simple and down to earth personality who believes in simple living and high thinking. We had an opportunity of meeting him in Abu Dhabi, UAE and having a tête-à-tête on his social service activities.

What motivated you to start Christa Sharan?

During my tenure as a priest, something always disturbed me deep within. In all the above mentioned roles and capacities, I served mostly Catholics. The words of Christ “I have OTHER SHEEP too, to whom I must go.” disturbed me. What about those that did not know of Christ’s love for them? What about the thousands and thousands of illiterate, ignorant, the so called low caste, untouchable, unhealthy, oppressed people, especially exploited Women and Children? Are not these the poor, Christ speaks of Evangelising?  “The gospel should be preached to the poor by setting an example of Christ’s love for his entire flock,” says Fr. Joe Mary with a radiant smile on his face. 

So I dived into the deep ocean of poverty of every kind, physical, moral, social, financial and spiritual, to help the unfortunate and helpless people to help themselves and started this institution in the year 1978, with the kind approval of my bishop to help the poor, oppressed and the helpless people and called it Sri Christa Sharan (It means, ‘In the service of Christ’ and ‘Christ at your service.’ Both these meanings are relevant).

What are the main objectives of Sri Christa Sharan? Could you please highlight some of them to our readers?

The Sri Christa Sharan Society has been rendering selfless service to the most marginalized people, especially oppressed women and children from the past 29 years. It has been helping people with education, health, child care, maternal care, herbal and native medicine, yoga, literacy, savings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, watershed development and management, animal husbandry, poultry farming, vermiculture, organic farming and boosting self esteem and self image especially in women. With assistance and support from some people of good will, it has helped some of the poor with potable water facility, housing, a goat, a sheep, a cow or bull, a few rabbits, etc., as their meager means allowed.

How do you envisage the goal of educating and uplifting the rural villages?

Msgr. Coady of Canada had said: ‘Give a man a fish; he would live for a day. But teach him to fish; he will live all his life.’ We do just that. We believe in developing the skills and capacities of every individual and empowering them to be Self thinking, Self reliant, Self deciding and Self governing, with Self respect and Self confidence.

What is it that enhances the effectiveness of your social work and the development of rural villages? Do you think women play an important role in Christa Sharan?

When I initially visited the villages in Birur, I realized that a community, especially the rural community can be educated only through women. “Educate a woman, and an entire family is educated,” goes an English saying.

We have learnt by experience that when women are involved, development is quicker and more effective.  It is easier for a woman to understand another woman, interact and educate her. If this strategy is implemented, then it will enhance the speed of educating and developing the rural areas faster.



Around 50% of the Nation’s population consists of women.  Hence, despite the unwillingness of the politicians to give our women even 30% reservation in the Government, I feel that they should be given at least 50% role and responsibility in all the spheres of the development of the Nation. This is one of our aims and effort. SCS lay women missionaries prepare women to achieve this goal.

Do you have any definite plan for these lay women missionaries?

Some of the women in SCS have served for more than 23 years. It’s a long period and needs a lot of sacrifice and dedication. Some of them have joined other organizations, or become nuns, or got married and are rendering great service in their respective parishes or wherever God has placed them.  There is still a band of these Lay Women Apostles, who neither want to get married, nor become nuns, but find joy in serving the poor all their life, and remaining single for the love of Christ. This band of women missionaries should be supported and encouraged because, in my opinion when day by day the number of priests and religious is decreasing, it is such lay missionaries that will take up the role of leadership in the church. I further think that there can be a true and long lasting development only when women are involved at every stage of development from planning to implementation and evaluation, in the world and in the Church. 

What have you done for the development of children in the villages adjoining Birur?

In these villages, where hardly any child, especially a girl child, went to school, we motivated them to go to school. From 5 -10% that were attending school, now the number has gone up to 80%, and we are proud to say that even the percentage of girls going to school has risen from 2 – 5% to 70%. Praise the Lord! Yet, there was the need and popular demand for a really good school, especially for the village children.

With great difficulty, we have started one, under the Sri Guru Christa Sharan Trust (Regd), a branch of Christa Sharan. God be praised! The name of the school is SRI GURU CHRISTA SHARAN VIDYALAY.

Fr. Lobo, If you have to name just one personality that has made a real mark in the field of social work who would it be and why?

Of course, it would be Blessed Mother Theresa. Someone once asked her whether she would eradicate poverty completely. Her answer was “If each one of us tried to help those whose suffering that our eyes could see, then that would be the biggest contribution each one of us could make. If this happens we need not worry any more about poverty.” It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness around us. If each of us lighted one candle how many billions of candle power this would give and what brightness there would be in this dark world. ASATHOMA SADGAMAYA!  THAMASOMA JYOTHIRGAMAYA!! MRITHYORMA AMRITHAMGAMAYA!!! Lord, lead us from darkness to light.

Guruji, you demeanor and dress resembles that of a Sannyasi. Why is that?

I am a Hindu Christian Priest or a Hindu Christian Sannyasi. I am Hindu because of my birth in Hindustan (India). I am a Hindu because of our Indian culture but I am a Christian by my faith and belief in Jesus Christ. When Christ God became man, he was born as a Jew and donned the dress of a Jew to be culturally one with them. In Rome, be a Roman – this is the only way to identify yourself with the people that you work with and for.

Guruji, I have one last personal question to you. You, as a Catholic Priest, are expected to be in a Church, School or Institution. But you are working in more than 60 villages where there is not a single Christian in any of them. Why are you spending yourself for these Hindus? Do you intend CONVERTING THEM?

Yes, I very much want to convert these people. But, CONVERSION, not in the common, popular sense of the word, changing from one religion to another. This is left to God and any individual. For me, conversion means a CHANGE. I tried to change the life of these people, which, due to ignorance, poverty, exploitation and superstition, is worse than that of animals, into HUMAN LIFE, a life worthy of human beings. Conversion here means a change from sub-human life to human life. When Christ asked me to love my neighbor and wash his feet, as He had done, He did not ask  me to love and wash the feet of only Christians, but of all those who needed me.

Who is my neighbor? The one who needs me is my neighbor, and therefore, these poor people are my neighbors. CHRISTA SHARAN means, not only we at the service of Christ. It also means Christ at our service. Therefore, I, as His disciple must serve these people. The Christa Sharan Ashram stands for service of the downtrodden, irrespective of caste and creed, for service especially of the Dalits. ‘I have come to serve the sick not the healthy, the sinners not the holy’ (Jesus Christ).

Christ’s love and compassion are to be shared with all.

Poojya Guru (Fr.) Joe Mary M. Lobo Director, Sri Christa Sharan Ashram, Sri Christa Sharan Road, Birur, Chikmagalur Karnataka, India 577 116


18a. Ban on yoga evokes sharp reactionYoga un-Christian: two U.K. vicars

September 2, 2007

New Delhi/London: Reacting sharply to the ban on yoga classes in two churches in England,
yoga exponent Baba Ramdev and a Catholic priest
said on Saturday the decision stemmed from “ignorance.”

“To relate yoga with religion is nothing but ignorance. There is nothing to suggest in the yoga texts that it is against Christianity,” Baba Ramdev said.

Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson [Fr.] Emmanuel Dominic said that the action was owing to “lack of sufficient knowledge about what yoga is.”

On Friday, two vicars banned a children’s exercise class from their church halls because it was teaching yoga, describing yoga as “sham and un-Christian.”




Louise Woodcock (41), who was looking for a new home for her ‘Yum Yum Yoga Class’ for toddlers, was turned away by Silver Street Baptist Church and St. James’s Anglican Church in Taunton, Somerset. Ms. Woodcock told The Times that the ban was ridiculous as the classes merely involved music and movement with no religious content. “I explained to the church that my yoga is completely non-religious. Some types of adult yoga are based on Hindu and Buddhist meditation. But it is not part of the religion and there is no dogma involved,” she said.

Ms. Woodcock was given permission originally to use the hall at Silver Street Baptist Church for a children’s activity group. Rev. Simon Farrar withdrew his consent after discovering it was for yoga. She was then turned away from St James’s Church for the same reason. Defending the decision, Rev. Farrar said, “We are a Christian organisation and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in line with our Christian ethos. Clearly, yoga impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we as Christians do not believe is the same as our ethos.” “If it was just a group of children singing nursery rhymes, there would not be a problem but she called it yoga and, therefore, there is a dividing line we are not prepared to cross,” he said.

Rev. Tim Jones, Vicar of St. James’s, said, “Yoga has its roots in Hinduism, and attempts to use exercises and relaxation techniques to put a person into a calm frame of mind – in touch with some kind of impersonal spiritual reality. The philosophy of yoga cannot be separated from the practice of it, and any teacher of yoga, even to toddlers, must subscribe to the philosophy.” — PTI


18b. Indian Priest Slams British Clergy for Yoga Ban
By Kodiyattil Varghese, Christian Post Correspondent, September 22 2007

After a church’s ban on yoga classes sparked an uproar in the United Kingdom, a Roman Catholic priest and school principal in India weighed in, claiming that the British clergy who described yoga as a “sham,” a “false philosophy” and “unchristian” are ignorant about the practice.

“They know nothing about yoga,” commented Father John Ferreira*, the principal of St. Peter’s College in Agra, one of India’s oldest educational institutions. “They should first study and experience the benefits of India’s ancient science before commenting,” the 57-year-old priest told the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) during an interview.

A few weeks ago, the Silver Street Baptist Church and St. James’ Anglican Church in England rejected a children’s exercise class because it teaches yoga. Although the Baptist church originally granted Louise Woodcock’s Yum Yum Yoga class for toddlers use of its hall for a children’s group activity, the Rev. Simon Farrar withdrew his consent after discovering it was for yoga, according to London’s The Times newspaper. “We are a Christian organization and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in line with our Christian ethos,” the Baptist priest explained.

Catholic principal Ferreira, who claims Yoga healed him completely from his sickness since 1981, conducts a half-hour yoga class attended by over 1,500 students, teachers and office assistants everyday.

“When I started these yoga exercises a month ago, there were natural reservations and opposition from students as well as parents. But I persisted. Now they all congratulate me because some have stopped suffering from colds and allergies while others are feeling more energetic,” said the priest, who dislikes when students have stooping shoulders, obese or sickly postures. “I want them to walk straight, with chest out, shoulders raised and head held high. At their age they should be a bundle of energy. Unfortunately, parents have no time for their kids and there is nobody around for guidance,” he said, according to IANS.

Ferreira said schools need to focus on the body and mind of students, who should maintain a good shape. The Catholic leader has fervently appealed all schools in the country to make yoga mandatory, wishing for the practice to be made basic and necessary for studying youths in the country.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, yoga instructor Woodcock has defended her classes, saying that they had no religious content at all, and only involved music and movement.

“I explained to the church that my yoga is a completely nonreligious activity. Some types of adult yoga are based on Hindu and Buddhist meditation but it’s not a part of the religion and there is no dogma involved,” she said.

“This is a class for mums and children, which has yoga-inspired moves – but as soon as I mentioned the word yoga, the church staff completely changed their attitude. They have completely misunderstood and are being narrow minded.”

Farrar, however, said yoga “clearly … impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we as Christians don’t believe is the same as our ethos.” “If it was just a group of children singing nursery rhymes, there wouldn’t be a problem but she (Woodcock)’s called it yoga and therefore there is a dividing line we’re not prepared to cross,” the Baptist priest added.

The Rev. Tim Jones, vicar of St James’, has supported Silver Street’s decision, noting that yoga “has its roots in Hinduism and attempts to use exercises and relaxation techniques to put a person into a calm frame of mind – in touch with some kind of impersonal spiritual reality. The philosophy of yoga cannot be separated from the practice of it, and any teacher of yoga, even to toddlers, must subscribe to the philosophy,” the Anglican priest asserted. “Yoga may appear harmless or even beneficial, but it is encouraging people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through human techniques – whereas the only true way to wholeness is by faith in God through Jesus Christ.”

The comments by Farrar and Jones have drawn criticism from groups including the Hindu Council UK (HCUK), the largest national network of Hindu organizations in the United Kingdom, which expressed its disappointment over the churches’ “medieval-like irrational prejudice.”

Christian Post correspondent Daniel Blake in London contributed to this report.

Related Hindu Council May Challenge Church’s Yoga Ban




The comments below are readers’ personal opinions and are in no way intended to reflect the editorial opinion of Christian Today.

This priest can say this but I’d like to remind there are a lot of Catholic priests that are really against Yoga.

For example the Indian Catholic priest Fr. James Manjackal MSFS
Or you can read the Encyclical
Jesus Christ the Bearer of Water of Life.
Or this great document written by a Catholic Indian New Age expert

Or just read the Vatican Document, Letter to the Bishops… on Christian Meditation which warns of the dangers of yoga:

Javier Rodriguez, Munich – Germany, September 25, 2007

There’s nothing wrong with speaking the truth. Hindus use Yoga as a recruiting aid for their religion therefore it would be wrong to allow this teaching which goes against the bible into a church. The exercises themselves are not wrong but just like many martial arts teach oriental philosophy so much of yoga has a slant towards Hinduism. It in no way can be seen to glorify god. However there is one type of yoga called Christian yoga** that I would endorse especially as it shows clearly why any other kind of yoga would clash with a Christian way of life.

As to traditional yoga – when the yoga teacher who taught me several years ago started talking about out of body experiences – it was very clear that this was completely against the Christian way of life.
Further the churches involved are not attacking Yoga they are simply saying your teaching something which goes against the word of god in this our place of worship. I wonder how many Hindus would be happy for Christians to start holding regular church services and Christian out reach programmes in their places of worship.

Ben, London, England, September 25, 2007

Many Christians are extremely clear about Yoga being spiritual in nature (though their specific descriptions may be quite inaccurate), while many, if not most so-called Yoga teachers are quick to deny the spiritual nature of Yoga.

Yoga is 100% spiritual; it is not a physical fitness program.
Please see this video entitled Can a Christian Practice Yoga?

Please see this about Modern and Traditional Yoga:

Yoga and Christianity:

Christian Yoga:

Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati, Florida, USA September 24, 2007

Matthew 7:22-23 (NASB95) 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Joe, USA, September 24, 2007


*Father John Ferreira: A sample news item 18c follows the three related links below. Details are at:




**This web site as well as the present collation furnishes plenty of evidence that there is no such thing as “Christian yoga” or “Christianised yoga“.


18c. Yoga need of the hour, says Catholic priest

September 16, 2007

Agra: Catholic priest Father John Ferreira, principal of St. Peter’s College in Agra, one of India’s oldest educational institutions, says Christian priests in Britain are completely ignorant about yoga. “They know nothing about yoga. They should first study and experience the benefits of India’s ancient science before commenting,” Ferreira, 57, told IANS in an interview. He was commenting on the uproar in Britain after some British priests called for a ban on yoga classes for children, terming it “unchristian activity”.
Not sex but yoga education is the need of the hour, Ferreira said, speaking after a half-hour
yoga class at an assembly attended by over 1,500 students, teachers and office assistants. The yoga session is held every school day.
“Morning hours are pure hours,” says the father as the students do “pranayam” and “kapal bhati” (breath control and other exercises in yoga). For a moment, it looks like Baba Ram Dev’s class, but with a difference. The mentor is clad in a priestly gown and speaks in soft, chaste English.
“When I started these yoga exercises a month ago, there were natural reservations and opposition from students as well as parents. But I persisted. Now they all congratulate me because some have stopped suffering from colds and allergies while others are feeling more energetic,” says Ferreira, who dislikes students with stooping shoulders, obese or sickly postures.



“I want them to walk straight, with chest out, shoulders raised and head held high. At their age, they should be a bundle of energy. Unfortunately, parents have no time for their kids and there is nobody around for guidance,” he says.
Denying charges that students have been regularly fainting during the assembly workout, Ferreira said: “Yes, some students had tried to fake fainting, but I called them over along with their parents. Now, they are positively responding to yoga exercises.”
Ferreira is against the introduction of sex education in schools. And he wants yoga education to be made compulsory.

“They will learn about sex when the time comes. It is nature’s design. But at school, we must see that their bodies and minds are in fine shape and they are spiritually strong to face the world. We must go for holistic lifestyles in tune with the rhythms of nature,” he said.
According to him, humans can be compared with the six strings of the guitar. The six strings are body, mind, spirit, family, work and social life. “If one string snaps, all others would be affected. Nature has given us so much. Look around. Sickness can be controlled through fasting, eating fruits and vegetables. Fruits can detoxify the body,” he said.

Unconcerned about what his fraternity thinks about him, Ferreira is on a mission.
“I have personally benefited a lot from yoga. Till 1981, I was a sick man regularly visiting doctors and hospitals. Now, after rigorous training and studies in yoga, I am as fit as a teenager ready to take on anyone,” he says.
His fervent appeal is to make yoga compulsory in schools. “Forget sex education. First develop the mind and body, increase powers of mind control and concentration!”
No wonder over 3,000 students of his college coming from elitist backgrounds have begun listening to him. Even the doubting Thomases among the teachers are getting involved – slowly but surely.


18d. ‘Sanyas’ lessons for Christian clergy

By Ananthakrishnan G., Thiruvananthapuram, October 21, 2007

While the Anglican Church may shun Yoga, in Kerala the Syro-Malabar church – regarded as the oldest in the country – has decided to embrace the Hindu tradition of sanyas. This and other cultural aspects like bhajans are becoming a part of new curriculum for training the Christian clergy in the church.

“Priests have to work in the Indian milieu. So it’s necessary that they learn about India’s strong spiritual foundations like the Gurukul system, Sanyas, and Varnashram” church spokesman
[Fr] Paul Thelekat told TOI. The curriculum, which is called the “Charter for priestly formation in the Syro-Malabar church”, has been reformed and promulgated and is going to be applied in every seminary, he said. “We were taught the basics of Indian philosophical systems as part of theory,” says Thelekat, but now there’s focus on practical learning.

The clerical curriculum includes an introduction to Hinduism. Although the usual training is given by Indologists, of late seminaries are being advised to take direct assistance of sanyasis, to prepare students for ascetic life. “Undoubtedly, there are a lot of good ideas in the Indic way of life which we must incorporate and use. Priests must imbibe the rich Indian traditions and be open to new ideas,” said Thelekat.

But then why all this fuss about Yoga in the UK?
“That’s absolute nonsense. Even we were taught Yoga during our training. It’s a method by which you can recollect yourself. I do it everyday. It’s good not only for the body but also for the mind,” said the priest.

Early this year, a church was opened at Pariman in Kollam district with Jesus seated in padmasana and was called ‘Jagat Jyoti Mandir’. While the church calls this Indianisation, critics are wary of all the changes, suspecting it to be an attempt to confuse people.


18e. In 2007, UCAN had interviewed me on the subject of Yoga. The interview was never published. On request, I also submitted a synopsis of Yoga which was not published by UCAN. UCAN have regularly carried news items that glorify the practise of the Hindu art of yoga.

Michael Prabhu
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2007 6:44 PM Subject: UCAN INTERVIEW ON YOGA

Dear friends,

This evening I was contacted and interviewed at home by Mr. Leo Fernando, UCAN’s Special Correspondent, for my views on the Yoga Controversy that is raging after two British Protestant vicars banned yoga on their church premises August 31 onwards.


On September 1, 2007, Headlines Today TV Channel conducted a panel discussion titled: POSTURING ON YOGA.

The panelists were:

Enos Das Pradhan, General Secretary, Church of North India

Fr. Babu Joseph Karakombil SVD, Spokesperson, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India

Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, Spokesperson, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese

Suneel Singh, Yoga guru

I was late in tuning in, and while I missed the first few minutes, I also could not take any notes of the rest, except

Enos Das Pradhan: Many of our priests and bishops practise yoga but not as a religion.

Suneel Singh: Yoga will benefit one SPIRITUALLY also.

What I heard from the two priests was, in essence, that the Church finds no problem with yoga.



Here is a brief printed synopsis on yoga which I gave to UCAN correspondent Leo Fernando, along with the interview:

September 14, 2007

This ministry has engaged in researching, writing, and speaking on the errors of New Age practices since 1999.

These practices include ‘holistic’ eastern meditational systems, and alternative therapies or alternative medicine.

The system of yoga is the most popular of the meditations, others being T.M., Vipassana and Zen.

February 3, 2003, the Vatican issued the Document “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, a Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’‘.” Yoga is listed as a New Age discipline in sections #2.1 and # The present Pope Benedict XVI signed the October 15, 1989 Document “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” which warns of the dangers involved in the practise of yoga, T.M. and Zen.

Yoga is not simply a regimen of asanas [physical exercises and postures] and pranayama [breathing exercises].

The asanas prepare the body for ‘breathing’ and for meditation. Pranayama is not the breathing of air as is commonly thought, but the control of the flow of prana, the advaitic [monistic, all is one] universal energy that is in all and is all.

Yoga commences with two stages of external and internal control. The next stages, asanas and pranayama are designed to still one’s mind for three steps of withdrawal of the senses, concentration, and contemplation or meditation to enable one to unify oneself in the final stage with the impersonal ‘supreme consciousness’, the goal of yoga. Christian mysticism maintains the distinction between the meditator and a personal God. They can never be ‘one’.

Yoga therefore, like all New Age disciplines, is ‘holistic’: its practise involves body, mind and spirit. While the physical component of yoga might be beneficial, it can never be completely isolated from the mental and spiritual aspects – and therefore the dangers associated with them – which the Vatican Documents warn Catholics about.

The origin of yoga is found in the ascetic practices of a religious group called the Vratyas in the Atharva Veda; in its present meaning it was first used in the Katha
Upanishad and was developed in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, later formulated as ashtanga [eight-limbed] yoga by a sage named Patanjali in his treatise called Yoga Sutra.

The goal of yoga is spiritual: self-realisation, enlightenment, or liberation [mukti, moksha]. The religious presuppositions of these pre-Christian philosophies are incompatible with the Biblical revelation of the nature of God, creation, man, sin, salvation, and Christian eschatology.

The Bishops and Theological Commissions of Croatia, Korea, Spain, Ireland, Malaysia, Slovakia, Mexico and the US are among those who have issued unambiguous official condemnations of the discipline of yoga, calling it a non-Christian religious practice which comes in the guise of physical exercises. Catholic ministries like EWTN TV, and renowned priests like the Vatican’s chief exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth have said the same on their programs or in their writings.

A Catholic may beneficially engage in performing breathing exercises while exercising or adopting healthy postures without insisting on the use of the terms yoga, meditation, asanas or pranayama – which might lead to an exploration of, and possible subscribing to, the philosophies underscoring them.

For those who insisting on using yoga as prayer, or as an aid to prayer, the Documents remind us that Catholics do not need techniques for effective prayer in a personal relationship and communication with God.

As a number of Christian researchers and writers on New Age themes have concluded, “There is no such thing as ‘Christian Yoga’.”


19a. Seminary as gurukul: church quietly going ‘swadeshi’ in BJP’s bastions–swadeshi–in-bjp-s-bastions/231404/

By Milind Ghatwai, Bhopal, October 23, 2007

In Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, churches teach yoga and meditation, ask worshippers to take off footwear before entering in bid to meld.

The Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh is slowly but surely taking a swadeshi hue, an idea RSS chief K S Sudarshan advocated in Nagpur seven years ago. The process began irrespective of his advice, of course, but the swadeshikaran, or Indianisation, has been on for quite some time without attracting much attention in this BJP-ruled state. It has also been happening in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, also ruled by the BJP.

Consider this. The church’s seminary in Dewas is called Satchitanand Gurukul, a very Indian name. Here novitiates live with their preceptors in the guru-shishya tradition. Many other Christian institutions are similarly named in Indian style — Christ Premalaya, Purnodaya, Seva Sadan.

When the Archbishop of Bhopal, Leo Cornelio, was installed recently, his feet and that of his predecessor Dr Pascal Topno were washed and they walked on leaves in the Indian tradition.

Bishop Cornelio, on his part, asked guests to give him saplings as gifts, the symbolism having to do as much with his concern for the environment as with the importance Indian culture attaches to trees.

Fr Rajesh of Satchitanand Gurukul [seminary] says, “The Indian idea of Sat-chit-anand*
(truth, consciousness, bliss) and the Christian concept of the trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) gel in a way. The philosophies of all religions converge at some point. We have also realised that when we adopt Indian names it helps us gain acceptance among locals.”

At the seminary, yoga and meditation are very much part of the curriculum. So it is in many churches.




Fr Anand Muttungal, spokesman of the Catholic Church of Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh, says it’s common for Christians to sit on the floor in churches. Earlier, there used to be a huge gap between the altar and the faithful, but no more. Even the size of the altar has been reduced to make people sitting on the floor comfortable.

While some churches carry notices prohibiting footwear during Mass, the faithful take off their shoes and chappals before they enter a church in Bhopal’s Jahangirabad locality, where no such notice is on display.

Former member of Madhya Pradesh’s State Minority Commission Indira Iyengar says that in tribal areas like Jhabua, the priest comes to the altar for the mass to the accompaniment of dhols and the singing of tribal hymns.

Such Indianisation of the church started decades ago in southern India, but has taken a long time to spread to central India and beyond. Now several Indian and tribal customs and rituals are followed.

In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, many tribals touch the feet of the pastors and priests, and the wedding ring is replaced by a mala in urban areas.

On the occasion of the Feast of Mother Mary, the idol is draped in a sari. On each of the nine days of the feast, the sari is changed. The festival culminates in a mela. The priests drape shawls around their bodies, and like Fr Rajesh, no longer take English names. Except for one non-Indian priest in Madhya Pradesh, the rest are all Indians. In fact, five out of 14 bishops in these two central Indian states are tribals. Dr Topno, who was archbishop for 14 years, is a tribal.

But does taking Indian names and adopting local customs insulate the church from the wrath of Hindu organisations? No. In fact, they accuse the Christian organisations of using it as camouflage. VHP leader Nandkishore Dwivedi is not impressed by the name Satchitanand Gurukul. “I don’t trust them,” he says.


*The statement of Fr. Rajesh and all the Indian theologians and bishops who propound the Hindu idea of sat-chit-ananda as being the same as the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity is a blatant falsehood.

Sat-chit-ananda is used by Catholic Hinduizers variously as Saccidananda, Satchidananda, etc. I visited the Saccidananda Ashram, also called Shantivanam, at Kulithalai for seven days in
December 2004, and that resulted in my October 2005 report

According to ashram literature,
they christened the ashram

SACCIDANANDA which literally is ‘Pure Being – Consciousness [Awareness/ Knowledge] – Bliss’ or SAT-CIT-ANANDA. Or, the Absolute Joy that proceeds from the Absolute Self-Realization of Absolute Being. This concept is equated with the Christian understanding of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, with SAT being the Father, CIT the Logos or Word, and ANANDA the Holy Spirit that proceeds from them.

In naming the ashram as such: “a Hindu term for the godhead used as a symbol of the three persons of the Christian Trinity,” ashram literature explains that “they intended anticipating [!] the Second Vatican Council and the All-India Seminar, to show that they sought to identify themselves with the Hindu ‘search for God’… and to relate this quest to their own experience of God in Christ in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.”

Brahmin convert to Catholicism
Brahmabandhab Upadhyay
[1861-1907], regarded as a pioneer of the ashram and inculturation movement, was the first to propose that “the Christian doctrine of God as

is exactly the same as the Vedantic conception of Brahman as
Sat-Chit-Ananda” as explained by Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ in ed. Vandana’s Shabda Shakti Sangam, page 294.

In the CATHOLIC ASHRAMS report, I wrote about Saccidananda Ashram, “The church building is called the temple or mandir. Ashram literature continues: “The church is built in the style of a South Indian [Shaivite] temple. At the entrance is a ‘gopuram ‘ or gateway on which is shown an image of the Holy Trinity in the form of a ‘trimurti‘, a three-headed figure, which according to Hindu tradition represents the three aspects of the Godhead as Creator, Destroyer and Preserver of the universe. This is taken as the symbol of the three Persons in one God of the Christian Trinity. The figure is shown as emerging from a cross, to show that the mystery of the Trinity is revealed to us through the cross of Christ.

The de facto guru of the ashram, Bro. Martin Sahajananda, commented thus on the Trinity at one of his “satsanghs”: “The language used is old and dogmatic, and does not
appeal to us or have any meaning for us today.

One of the contributors to Shantivanam’s golden jubilee commemorative Saccidanandaya Namah
Francoise Jacquin
wrote that, while still in France, the “only thing” Fr Jules Monchanin, one of the ashram’s co-founders, wanted was to contemplate the mystery of Sat-Cit-Ananda
“in a Hindu ashram.”

Further on in the same report, concerning the
Trinity and Sat-Cit-Ananda, and quoting from Jules Monchanin: Pioneer in Christian-Hindu Dialogue, ISPCK, 1993
, I wrote,

Sten Rodhe on pages 67-68 quotes Fr Bede Griffiths OSB [the late guru of the ashram] ‘on the problem of the relation between Christian Trinitarian faith and Hindu advaita, which was at the centre of Monchanin’s thinking’ and comments, “Griffiths does not mention here that towards the end of his life Monchanin more and more found Hindu advaita and Christian Trinitarian faith, which according to Griffiths are complementary, separated by an abyss.”

From the above we see that after his life-long search at the well-springs of advaitic Hinduism, Monchanin found it, along with its two flagships
and the
, irreconcilable with Biblical Christianity, in fact separated from it by an ‘abyss’ in the words of two different biographers. Yet Bede, and Shantivanam and the Ashram Movement’s protagonists have doggedly continued to tread the advaitic path towards that abyss.

I cite a passage from
The Swami From Oxford:
Bede Griffiths Wants To Integrate Catholicism and Hinduism

by Robert Fastiggi, an associate professor of religious studies at St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas, and Jose Pereira, a native of Bombay and professor of theology at Fordham, the translator and editor of ‘Hindu Theology: A Reader‘ (Doubleday), Crisis, March 1991, Issues – heresies, www.catholicculture:





The dubious quality of Griffiths’ attempt at a Hindu-Christian integration is also revealed in his attempt to explain the Trinity in Hindu terms. In his book The Marriage of East and West Griffiths equates the Trinity with the Hindu triad of Being-Consciousness-Bliss (sat-chit-ananda). As he writes: “we could then speak of God as Saccidananda, and see in the Father, sat . . . we could speak of the Son as the cit . . . we could speak of the Spirit as the ananda.” While there might be some apparent similarities between the Christian Logos and Hindu Consciousness and between the Christian Spirit (who is Love) and Hindu bliss, the differences between Saccidananda and the Trinity
are so pronounced as to discount any attempt to equate them

For Hinduism, the triad of Being-Consciousness-Bliss refers to nothing other than three aspects of the same reality, which are distinguished only in concept but not in reality. There is no question of any of them originating from either or both of the others as in the Christian Trinity. These Hindu qualities are better identified with scholasticism’s three transcendental attributes of being– unity, truth and goodness–to which they largely correspond.

If Griffiths persists in equating the Trinity* with the Hindu Saccidananda, then he is either distorting the meaning of the Hindu triad, or he is promoting a view of the Trinity which is unacceptable in Christian orthodoxy.

Griffiths is also guilty of theological distortion in his attempt to identify God the Father with the Hindu concept of nirguna brahman, the Qualitiless Absolute, and God the Son with saguna brahman, the Qualitated Absolute. He describes the Father as the “infinite abyss of being beyond word and thought” and the Son as the “Self-manifestation of the unmanifest God.” However, from the Hindu viewpoint, the Qualitated Absolute is an inferior aspect of the deity, an illusory deformation of it projected by an ontological ignorance. If Griffiths is serious about his equation, he has made the Son less than the Father in a way destructive of Christian orthodoxy.


19b. Ashram People Claim Their Lifestyle Links Christianity to Other Religions

By Nicholas Lakra, November 14, 2007

VARANASI, India (UCAN) – Catholic priests and nuns who follow Indian spiritual methods claim their life connects Christianity to other religions. Some 70 people who follow an ashram style of life met Nov. 1-4 to share experiences and garner mutual support. They met in Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, 750 kilometers east of New Delhi.

The meeting was the 15th gathering of the All India Ashram Aikya Satsang, a federation of Catholic spiritual centers that incorporate a traditional Indian approach to spirituality. The federation began in 1978.

Participants later told UCA News how following Indian spiritual methods has enriched their life and society.

An ashram is an “easy meeting place of Hindu-Christian thoughts, hence interreligious dialogue becomes easier,” said Father Anil Dev, who heads Matridham (friendship house) Ashram, where the meeting was held.

“When we imbibe values of Indian spirituality, such as ahimsa (nonviolence), satya (truth), simplicity and God centered-ness, our own Christian life becomes deeper and fruitful,” said Father Dev, who carries the title acharya (teacher).

For Hindus, an ashram is the dwelling place of a spiritual guru who has attained a high level of renunciation. In ancient India, ashrams were set in secluded and tranquil places.

Among Christians, the ashram movement began in the early 1970s as part of the renewal inspired by the Second Vatican Council (1963-65). Several theological research papers
supported it, and the Church in India welcomed the movement as another way to promote contemplation, inculturation and interreligious dialogue.

Today some 80 Catholic and 20 Protestant ashrams operate in India, but not all in secluded places. They promote spirituality, meditation and prayer using Scriptures of other religions as well as the Bible, and conduct retreats and interfaith dialogue sessions. Their members live an austere life of prayer and meditation, wear Indian ascetic dress and eat only vegetarian meals. Father Dev claimed, “In the Indian context, the Bible is better understood and Christian spirituality is better lived through the ashram way of life.”

For Jesuit Father Sebastian Painadath, ashram “is a movement in the spirit and a radical evangelical way of life within the Church.” He heads Sameeksha (discernment), a Christian spirituality center in Kerala, southern India. The priest said ashrams each have a unique life and mission, but share common characteristics such as simplicity, closeness to people, harmony with nature, genuine hospitality, openness to religions, and an atmosphere of study and contemplation. He also said ashrams function as spiritual refueling stations for social activists, theologians, parish priests and those in formation.

Another participant at the gathering, St. Anne Sister Jaya J. Victor, serves at Vardan (blessing) Ashram in Nainital, a northern Indian hill station. She said 13 years of ashram living has “simplified” her life and helped her become more “compassionate to the poor” and people of other religions. It also has deepened her spiritual journey. “It is another phase of dedicated Religious life,” she added.

Destitute Sister Augusta said she has practiced ashram life in Kerala for the past 10 years. She practices yoga and meditation, and instructs others.

“I feel comfortable with myself, others and nature. My relationship with others and my outlook have widened,” she testified.

Father James Maria Susai, a parish priest in Andhra Pradesh, practices ashram methods and Bharatnatyam, a form of Indian classical dance, as part of his personal prayer. In the morning, he dances alone. Dance, he explained, awakens the “totality” of his body and “helps me to be in communion with the Lord.”

Most participants denied their methods resemble practices of the Hindu priestly Brahmin caste.




Father Korko Moses, who manages a dialogue center in Tamil Nadu state, said Catholic ashram people take whatever is good in other cultures and traditions.

“There is nothing Brahminical (about Christian ashram life), but an impression was created about it,” he added.

The meeting discussed the life and teachings of Brahma Bandhav Upadhyaya, a 19th-century Brahmin convert to Christianity who tried to find Indian ways to live the Catholic faith. He set up a monastery and tried to synthesize Christian theology with Indian spirituality. Father Moses, who presented a paper, hailed Upadhyaya as the father of Indian Christian theology and an inspiration for people who live ashram life.

Between the ashram leaders — one of whom, Fr. Anil Dev, is a leading figure in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal — and the compulsory use of yoga in the seminaries, the Hinduisation of the Church is complete.

However, the inculturationists insist on calling it inculturation or Indianisation.


20a. American college students learning Yoga in Chennai

(ANI) For a group of American students visiting India on an education tour, one of the biggest charms has been learning Yoga at a Chennai college here. Belonging to the Elmhurst College, this group of 20 students along with their two college professors has enrolled themselves for the yoga classes at Madras Christian College*. *A Protestant-run college

Under the stewardship of Yoga instructor Gopinath, these American students are finding the Yogic exercises and postures very attractive. These students spend three hours a day practicing various techniques and movements taught by their Guru.

“It’s quite an amazing experience. We get up early in the morning and a group of us get instructed by the yoga master. It is very rejuvenating. It’s a great start to the day and keeps us energetic throughout the day,” said Hoshua Reonman, one of the students.

These students say that yoga sessions are a great rejuvenating experience that have helped them relieve themselves from physical and mental stress. They lament that ignorance about Yoga in the U.S.

“It’s just a great experience for all of us and its something most of us will be taking along to the U.S. We will try to spread knowledge about Yoga because it’s something that most of our friends, family and relatives don’t really grasp. They don’t understand it out there. So it will be a good experience for us to take this to our families in the U.S.,” Reonman added.

Every day, the yoga class commences at 6 o’clock.

These enthusiastic students have already learnt almost 20 yogic postures. Their Yoga instructor is also happy teaching them some of the advanced yogic exercises which include– Sarvangasana, Dhanuasana, Pujangajana, Pavanamuktasana and Chakrasna. “All the 20 students have taken out time to be here. In the two beginning sessions, I taught them basics. When I found out that they were more advanced in learning, I taught them Saravanasanas, Bhujangasanas, Dhanurasanas and Halasanas. All these are very difficult asanas,” said Gopinath, the Yoga instructor. The accompanying teachers of these students said that besides learning yoga, the Indian tour has offered them an opportunity to understand the culture, its traditions and diversity. All of them are delighted to learn the physical and spiritual practice on the land of Yoga’s origin.

“The students got an opportunity to learn yoga and to practise yoga in the land of its origin. They can understand people of the country, its diversity and how yoga and India has really influenced the entire world,” said Paul Parker, American teacher.

Yoga has emerged as one of the biggest captivation for a large number of people from across the India and abroad. It could happen due to widespread awareness about positive impact of the ancient Indian practice on the physical and mental faculties of a large number of people.

Famous Indian monk Swami Vivekananda first introduced yoga to American society in late nineteenth century.


20b. Youth attracted to new age spirituality

By Aamir Abdullah and Saswata Ghoshal, September 4, 2007, New Delhi

Spirituality seems to have made a big comeback in urban India, especially among the youth.
In fact, there is a whole new spirituality that has mushroomed along with the traditional.
For instance, the Buddhist Vipassana, or spiritual getaways in the hills, has been transformed into detox holidays for the body and the mind.

Similarly, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living classes help people bust stress, Reiki heals, and Feng Shui arranges people’s living space in harmony with nature. While remaining true to their core ancient philosophy, these methods they have found ways to reach out and resolve modern dilemmas.

”I think there was always a sense of connection with religion, but it was deep down because for sometimes in between a lot of people felt disconnected from the ownership of religion. Also people were not sure whether this was just superstition or something that was very important to them as people in terms of their identity.”
”And now I think having seen all the political mess that can be made in the name of religion when wrong people grab it, I think regular Indian are now out there saying that well this actually belongs to me,” said Renuka Narayanan, Editor, Religion & Culture, Hindustan Times.
Moreover, 21st century spirituality has no religious bars – neither does it have too many customs and rules.
Interestingly, renunciation is also not a part of them; so one doesn’t t have to quit his/her job and material belongings or to go to Rishikesh. No wonder the old and young, especially the young, are flocking to new-age spirituality.



”Faith is rocking in the 21st century in India. It’s like the return swing of the pendulum. The 20th century was about putting away faith and running away from it. Now inevitably it’s come right back.”
”And a lovely thing I find about the younger people is that they are more chilled out and that they don’t have the hang-ups of the people in their 40s and 50s about identifying their faith and are fine with: It didn’t work for you, it has worked for me and I am not afraid to take it,” added Renuka Narayanan.
For example, 21-year-old Komal Seth – a new recruit in Buddhist satsangs – says that the new age spirituality has transformed her life. ”I always knew I could dance. But I never knew if I was dancing for myself, or the people watching me. What was I dancing for? I could never get that out. Now I know that I am dancing for God. I am dancing for union with him which is nothing but union with myself,” said Komal Seth, Dancer.
Not just Komal, it’s an entire SMS generation is seeking out soul doctors.
”Everybody wants to enact somebody. Be it Shah Rukh or whoever. You should be yourself. That’s the coolest thing. Spirituality makes you realise what you are,” said one youngster.
”One thing that changed was my relationships. Initially the kind of relationship that my mom and me had was pathetic. It used to lead into these late-night fights. Our neighbours had big time entertainment.”
”I was just suffocating. That’s one kind of a relationship I didn’t want. After undergoing the workshop I realized how special she is to me and I am to her,” said another.
Stress, competition and too many choices along with an everyday tango with wants and desires have added to the complexities of modern life. While this throws up many problems, it offers few solutions and even little direction, and that is where this growing quest for the spiritual comes in.


21. Grand Yoga Show

The Kerala Catholic Association (KCA) is organising a Grand Yoga Show and Cultural Programme on Friday at 6pm at its Segaiya premises.

The event is being held to celebrate the 90th birthday of internationally acclaimed yoga legend Padmasree B K S Iyengar.

One of his former students and a well-known yoga master in Bahrain Yogacharya Bandi Ramulu will present yoga demonstrations with his students. Mr Ramulu teaches yoga in KCA every Saturday and Tuesday.

His students include Indians, Japanese, Americans, Bahrainis, Germans, South Africans, Italians and those from other GCC countries.

Ramulu and his pupils will present basic and advanced postures in yoga.

All yoga enthusiasts are invited to attend the event.

“Yoga is the complete science of life that originated in India many years ago,” says Mr Ramulu.

“It is the oldest system of personal development in the world encompassing the entire body, mind and spirit.

“It is the union between a person’s own consciousness and universal consciousness.

“The ancient yogis had a profound understanding of men’s essential nature and what he needs to live in harmony with himself and his environment.” The event also includes patriotic dances, Western and folk dances. Everyone is welcome to attend the free event and for more details, contact 39881232 or 39867041.


22. Catholic yoga: A Hail Mary with your Halasana

By Mark I. Pinsky, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, USA, December 16, 2006,;

In 1996, when Richard Galentino walked into a Georgetown University gymnasium for his first yoga class, he was not sure what to expect. For Galentino, raised in a traditional Italian Catholic home and educated in church-affiliated schools, this breathing-and-exercise discipline long identified with Hinduism
was entirely new.

“I read it in the course catalog and thought it would be interesting,” recalls Galentino, now director of Catholic Volunteers of Florida, based in Orlando. “I’ve always been interested in health and fitness.”

The experience was profound, if not life-changing. A decade later, Galentino, 32, has synchronized the strands of his life — the Western, Catholic tradition of saying the Rosary, with the Eastern religious breathing practice called praynayama. He is the author of Hail Mary and Rhythmic Breathing: A New Way of Praying the Rosary (Paulist Press, $6.95).

Along the way, he has become a man of disparate parts: Harvard graduate, marathoner; fluent speaker of French and Swahili; Jesuit volunteer in Africa and Honduras. And, yes, yoga instructor.

Galentino first became interested in yoga during his academic class work at Georgetown, reading about Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, and the various physical and meditative disciplines that Gandhi followed. Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, had a particularly deep impact.

“It sparked a real, true education beyond the course,” he says. Then a senior at the university’s prestigious school of foreign service, and seriously considering becoming a Jesuit priest, Galentino found the yoga class a “reprieve” from the stress he was going through.

“I loved the class instantly,” he says, but he found it to be much more than relaxation.

His instructor, Victor Vyasa Landa, talked about the importance of following your heart, says Galentino, but nothing Landa said threatened the student’s Catholic theology.



The instructor brought up the Virgin Mary and St. Francis, and “presented them in a yogi perspective,” Galentino says.

The idea of combining yoga and the rosary came to him in late 2002 while he was working on an Advent calendar. One window said “Do Contemplation.” Another said, “Pray the Rosary.”

“It happened in prayer,” he says. “Sometimes in contemplative prayer I would just try to rest in the presence of God.”

Conventional Catholic breathing and praying traditions, such as saying “in God” while inhaling and then “out me” while exhaling, inspired Galentino. The idea of incorporating Hail Mary occurred to him almost by accident.

“I found myself combining the two,” he recalls, “contemplative prayer with the rosary.”

Some Christians have long been critical of yoga because they believe it emphasizes the physical self, to the exclusion of Christian spirituality. Pope Benedict XVI even weighed in on the subject in 1989 when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he warned that some Eastern practices, including yoga, “can degenerate into a cult of the body.” Catholics, he said, should not confuse yoga’s “pleasing sensations” with “spiritual well-being.”

That concern is well-founded, Galentino says.

“I would agree,” he says, “and I think most yoga masters would too. In our contemporary society, it is easy to turn yoga into a materialistic `cult of the body,’ in which image and physical experiences become more important than relationships with others and God.”

In the same letter, Galentino says, then-Cardinal Ratzinger “also states that we can use the methods of other `great religions’ to achieve union with God as long as it is consistent with Christian logic. This is what I am doing with yoga.”

Orlando Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Wenski seems to have no problem with Galentino’s book, saying that Western traditions also use similar breathing practices.

“Breathing isn’t unique to Easterners,” Wenski says. “Everybody breathes.”

“He’s a fine man,” Wenski says of Galentino. “He’s a good Catholic leader.”

The road to publication for Galentino’s slender paperback was not straight. He sent the manuscript, originally titled Hail Mary and the Art of Yoga Breathing, to 50 publishers. Some rejected it outright — several dubbing it heretical.

Then, while visiting the Catholic shrine at Lourdes, France, he got an e-mail from Paulist Press, a Catholic publisher, saying it wanted his book.

“That was my miracle,” he says.

The only thing the publishers wanted to change was the title.

Galentino’s primary job, though, is serving as head of Catholic Volunteers of Florida, where he supervises 14 people who give a year of service around the state, sometimes en route to a career in ministry.

He practices yoga regularly, and it shows on the job, co-workers say.

“He’s generally a pretty calm and patient guy,” says Sister Florence Bryan, placement director for Catholic volunteers, who has worked with Galentino for three years. “He’s a forthright but gentle mentor.”



23. Gurucool

Suman K. Jha, The Week, March 16, 2008

New Age soul mates are attracting crowds and rewriting the Hindutva script. With elections in the offing, can politicians afford to ignore the new saffron wave?
A group of about one hundred IT professionals braves the morning chill and goes through a drill in a sprawling park in downtown Bangalore. Every Sunday, these ambassadors of India Inc. gather here to connect with ‘India’s past glory’. “We may be driving India’s economy, but it’s Bharat Mata’s vibhavam (glorious past) that drives us,” says a software manager with an IT major. These IT whiz kids, in their Nikes and Reeboks, are part of the software shakhas – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s blue chip face.
The February IT milan (another name for software shakha) began with an ode to spiritual gurus. “Our value system is under attack from all quarters. It is gurus like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Mata Amritanandamayi who are holding the fort. We must not forget our roots even as we conquer the world. Social evils like conversions must be fought,” says the mukhya shikshak (team leader).

With a drop of more than 5,000 shakhas in one year, the RSS is forced to reach out to newer groups. IT milans have become common in Bangalore and Pune; Gurgaon is next on the list. The RSS’s famed political clout seems to be on the wane. The Bharatiya Janata Party logged its worst performance in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections despite the RSS marshaling all its resources, and Narendra Modi won Gujarat without RSS assistance. So it has become imperative for the Sangh to keep Hindu thought leaders by its side.
The Bangalore group listens to the team leader’s part-English, part-Kannada speech in rapt attention. The gurus, after all, also double up as friend-philosopher-guides to the 24×7 generation. Apart from following Ravi Shankar and ‘the hugging saint’ Mata Amritanandamayi, many are devoted to Swami Ramdev, Asaram Bapu and even newer gurus like Paramahamsa Nithyananda.
Explains Morari Bapu whose ram kathas are a rage in Gujarat and America and Europe: “For vikas (development) you need vigyan (science). For vishram (way of life) you need adhyatam (spiritualism). It is only natural then that people are flocking to the mahatmas in large numbers.” Agrees RSS sah baudhik pramukh (intellectual cell deputy chief) Dattatreya Hosabale: “These gurus have brought about a spiritual movement in the last one decade or so.” Hosaballe may be taken in by their spiritual quotient, but these gurus may well be scripting India’s second Hindu wave.


If the first wave of the early 1990s mobilised Hindus around Ayodhya, the second wave stresses on the “all-accommodating Hindu worldview that promises a life full of ananda (bliss)”. The first used the Muslim as the archetypal ‘other’; the second uses yoga, ayurveda and sacred texts as the visible symbols in its quest to bring back ‘India’s golden Hindu past’.

The first yielded immediate political dividends – the BJP grew from a two-seat wonder to a ruling party in less than a decade after Ayodhya. The second uses soft power to universalize the Hindu philosophy.

BJP’s PM-in-waiting L.K. Advani confirmed as much in Singapore recently: … India’s new-age gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amritanandamayi and others are re-projecting the universal relevance of our cultural and spiritual values…”
Not surprisingly, many in the RSS find networking with the gurus an investment. Parivar ideologue S. Gurumurthy recently sought to use Hindutva’s soft power to hard sell ‘Hinduism’s inclusive philosophy’. In his team were two more pro-Advani names-former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval and former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vijay Kapoor. While Gurumurthy is Advani’s trusted friend and strategist, Doval is consulted on internal security matters, and Kapoor on governance-related issues.
A leader close to the group said: “We were worried about the Hindutva family’s inability to rise to the 9/11 challenges. The RSS failed to see beyond the clash of civilisation thesis, whereas the group felt that only India could offer the world the confluence of civilisations option. We thus hit upon the idea of Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (GFCH).” Media magnate Subhash Chandra was asked to come aboard while the Tatas, Birlas, Ruias and Dalmias were asked to institute fellowships to study the subject.
The leader added: “The gurus have industry captains and media barons as their followers. Their sudarshan kriya, pranayam, yoga and discourses have brought solace to millions. Their courses are a must in top-notch business schools and organisations. Politicians of all hues visit them. With this constituency, they become the natural torchbearers of the Hindu cause.”
The GFCH’s recent seminar on ‘Transcending Conflicts: Indian and Eastern Way’ was a big draw. The RSS stayed away from the spotlight with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Dalai Lama, Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev, Amritanandamayi’s representative and others speaking on the occasion. Ravi Shankar spoke about globalising wisdom while Ramdev called for a ‘common minimum programme’ for religious leaders.
But who is a Hindu? Answers Ramdev: “A Muslim cop from Maharashtra, Rafi Ahmed, told me that all the inhabitants of India, Pakistan, Myanmar have common ancestors. So even if many of them might have changed their way of worship, either on their own or under coercion, they remain Hindus. The British, too, tried to poison the Indian mind by spreading the Aryan-Dravidian divide myth.”
If the RSS finds this music to its ears, it shows in its engagements. A host of spiritual gurus participated in the yearlong Guru Golwalkar birth centenary celebrations that concluded recently. While Amritanandamayi met the RSS national executive in Nagpur, Ravi Shankar participated in the celebrations in Bangalore and Ramdev showed up at a couple of places. Explains Amritanandamayi: “I told them about the importance of cherishing and revering the lofty culture of our country and the greatness of the soil.”
While Ramdev’s yoga shivirs are said to have “directly or indirectly impacted 100 crore lives so far”, Amritanandamayi’s camps are a big draw in all parts of the country. Ravi Shankar’s sudarshan kriya has swayed the swish set and life-term convicts alike, and studies are being undertaken to study its effect on life-threatening diseases.
The spiritual congregations are often peppered with subtle or not-so-subtle socio-political messages. When one of his activists recounted his narrow escape from Naxalites during a trip to conduct Art of Living classes, Ravi Shankar, in a rare emotional moment, told the evening satsang at the Bangalore ashram: “The Naxalites and Communists are the nation’s and people’s enemies. The only way to defeat them is through the ballot.” On another occasion, Ramdev took an apparent dig at the Bahujan Samaj Party, “One party treated upper castes as untouchables; the same party is courting them today because it suits their politics!”
While the spiritual leaders have come together on issues like female infanticide, and caste discrimination, it is the religious symbols that unite them, making them a potential political powerhouse. All of them, for instance, expressed outrage at the Ram affidavit row. Says Ramdev: “No country that does not take pride in its past can ever progress.” Asserts Morari Bapu: “Karunanidhi doesn’t know that the Lord himself is known as karunanidhi.” Adds Ravi Shankar: “Only because they are tolerant, the majority community should not be taken for granted.”
On conversions, another pet theme of the Hindutva brigade, the gurus speak in unison. Says Amritanandamayi: “Conversion has always been a curse to humanity and culture. It will not bring about any positive and creative change in people.” Adds Ramdev: “While atrocities were committed in the past, certain groups want to keep the wounds alive for their political gains. I was born in a non-Brahmin family but I became a saint by giving respect to others and getting the respect of others.”
After the recent Ram affidavit row broke, Asaram Bapu was among the first to be consulted by RSS strongman Mohan Bhagwat. He had also lent his might to the agitation protesting the arrest of the Kanchi Shankaracharya a couple of years ago, after the BJP-RSS attempts came a cropper. So, do the spiritual and the temporal meet too often? Not really, say the gurus.
Gujarat, however, showed how gurus could sway the political mood.  With the RSS keen to downsize Modi, it was the backing of Morari Bapu and Pramukh Swami (of the Swaminarayan sect) that more than compensated for it. Says a top Gujarat BJP leader: “People outside the state may not have noticed, but gurus did play a very important role. A couple of years ago, Morari Bapu’s shabri kumbh in the Dangs to bring back converted tribals to the Hinduism fold had drawn tremendous response. Narendrabhai just kept up the momentum.”


The gurus’ following cuts across the political divide. Similarly politicians often go to more than one guru. Advani has been seen with Ravi Shankar, Amritanandamayi and Asaram Bapu. Congress leader A.K. Antony is known to visit Amritanandamayi’s ashram. His party colleague, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, sought Ravi Shankar’s assistance for crisis-ridden Vidarbha farmers. Ramdev gets everyone including Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav (the duo is driven by the common Yadav lineage). In mid-March Ravi Shankar will share the dais with Modi, Deshmukh and Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai to honour a war hero and open an exhibition on Shivaji.
The RSS may gloat that whether it is Hindu symbols or conversions, historiography or nationalism, it sees shades of saffron in the gurus’ worldviews. This, however, may be too simplistic. Ravi Shankar has attracted followers in countries like Pakistan and Iraq. He called for the ex-communication of the Gujarat riot perpetrators (caught on camera in a sting operation) from the Hindu fold. Ramdev has been a rage in Islamic countries, too. People of all religions flock to Amritanandamayi’s congregations. She says: “I do not want to divide our society into Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Whatever one section does should benefit the whole.”
Says French academic Christophe Jaffrelot, who has been tracking the Hindutva trajectory, “The RSS uses these men in ochre for mobilising crowds, but is not prepared to be displaced by them.” Agrees sociologist Ashis Nandy: “Faith gets strengthened with the onset of globalisation. But it will be premature to say that the RSS cannot regroup.” Adds Marxist scholar Tanika Sarkar, who has studied women in the RSS: “My worry is that the Congress’s slogans of poverty alleviation and growth do not fetch votes. The RSS may not be getting newer members, but it is targeting new groups of professionals.”
The theme of growing religiosity in society figured recently in the Congress training camp for state spokespersons where party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi held forth on “religion and secularism”. Asserts Congress Working Committee member Devendra Dwivedi: “The RSS is not in tune with today’s India. It will have to change, and so will the BJP. Counters a top RSS ideologue: “Look at the diversification and the offshoots of the RSS  and you will realise why numbers do not count much.”
So can the gurus swing popular votes in the Lok Sabha elections? Says a volunteer with one of the leading gurus: “I will vote for the party that comes closest to my samskaras (values).” This is the uniform reaction across various gurus’ ashrams, even as they vouch for their ‘apolitical nature’. Explains a well-known psephologist, who has worked closely with the BJP in the past: “They can directly influence the elections if the mobilisation is done on Ram, conversions and similar themes.”
In the 1970s and 80s, Jai Guru Dev, then commanding a huge following, was approached by Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee-Advani duo alike for electoral support. The guru later formed a party, but all his candidates lost their deposits in the general elections. The gurus today, however, will not like to put all their eggs in one basket but their wish list will only strengthen the Hindu agenda. The techies, being vigorously wooed by the RSS to augment their software shakhas, will vouch for that.


24. Spreading Indian Flavor in Samba Land – Brazil

By Florine Roche, Mangalore, April 7, 2008

The South American country of Brazil is no doubt famous for its soccer, beaches, coffee, volleyball, carnival and those hot women who sashay the international modeling scene with aplomb. This former Portuguese colony no doubt boasts of a unique and flamboyant culture of its own as its carnival festivities are famous across the world attracting thousands of people. Despite the distance that separates But Indian dance, yoga art and culture is finding its flavour in Brazil thanks to the efforts of a few Indian missionaries and other smitten Brazilians who have been instrumental in spreading Indian flavour in this coffee land. 

Today about 5 million Brazilians are practicing regular yoga and several dance and art schools have mushroomed all over Brazil, says Fr Joachim Andrade, a Mangalorean SVD priest who has been working in Brazil for the last 17 years. “Major Hindu influence began in Brazil to be exact was in 1953, when yoga was taken by a French man, who took the Indian name as Shivananda, who started a yoga academy in one of the towns of Brazil. Later, many other forms have entered such as Hare Krishna Movement, Vedanta Philosophy, Indian classical music and finally Indian classical dance.  The Brazilians got hooked to Indian music, vegetarianism, food and culture and there has been no stopping its popularity”, Fr Andrade declares.   

Indian way of live has penetrated deeply among the people and some of the Brazilians have great admiration towards Indian culture. Many have ventured out to take a trip to India visiting several ashrams and gurus. They have taken back to Brazil a kind of Indian culture which has created a deep rooted impact among Brazilians. 

This receptiveness among Brazilians prompted Fr Andrade to make a deeper study on the phenomenon of the diffusion of Hinduism in Brazil. Born in Vamada Padavu in Bantwal taluk, he joined seminary and was initiated to Bharathanatyam during his college days in Mysore.   Fr Andrade gave a public stage entrance in Pune in 1991 in Bharathanatyam and left for Brazil in 1992 after his ordination.  He continued his passion in Brazil and did his masters in Anthropology choosing the topic “Dance as a ritual: a case study of Indian Dance” for his dissertation. For his doctorate he chose the topic of “diffusion of Hinduism in Brazil and used Bharathanatyam as the medium for diffusion

As Fr Andrade worked in southern part of Brazil where the church activity is mostly pastoral and was compelled to make a slight shift in his missionary work and concentrate on ecumenical as well as inter-religious dialogue activity. Because of his close involvement in inter-religious dialogue activities, he has been appointed as the coordinator of the Ecumenical and Inter-religious dialogue dimension of the arch diocese of Curitiba.



Responding to public enthusiasm Fr Andrade has opened an academy of dance in Brazil recently where Brazilians learn the Indian dance and propagate it to the Brazilian people. “My motive behind this is to utilize the art form to diffuse Christian themes and combine the art and spirituality to the Brazilian culture” he says modestly.

Recently his pupil Ivanilda Maria Moreira Da Silva, a yoga teacher for the last 20 year hailing from Curitiba in Brazil was in Mangalore to add perfection to her Bharatanatyam dance which she has been learning in Brazil from Fr Andrade for the last four yearsIvanilda spent two months at Sandesha College of Fine Arts fine-tuning her skills in Bharathanatyam and left back for Brazil with a promise to come back against next year with her 13 year old daughter Yane to learn more about Indian dance.

“I learnt the techniques and perfection of the movements of the Indian classical dance.  I am greatly impressed by the visuals, the grace, the music and the expressions of Bharathanatyam.  Having stayed here for two months and learning dance I feel dance comes from within and it is very satisfying to make the movements, articulations and gestures.  It is made me what I am”, Ivanilda confesses.  

Ivanilda came to be associated with yoga just by fluke.  Her husband wanted to learn martial arts and yoga formed a part of martial arts.  She had accompanied her husband to the university and when her husband got specialized in Martial arts Ivanilda got a tryst with yoga and since then as the cliché goes there has been no looking back for Ivanilda.  A few years back she was exposed to Indian dance and got enamored by it prompting her to join the academy as Fr Andrade’s student. 

Apart from learning dance Ivanilda toured around Dakshina Kannada savouring Indian cuisine and the diverse culture of the land.  A strict vegetarian she was fascinated by the colourful clothes people wear, and liked the six-yard wonder – the saree.  She greatly relished the coastal cuisine especially the crunchy papads and the pickle.  She left for Brazil last week with the promise to propagate Indian dance in the samba land. 

No doubt Indian culture has crossed the seven shores to find routes in the distant land of Brazil. It only goes to prove that art and spirituality makes a great combo to make a striking impact.




25. Yoga Challenge for the Pope

April 9, 2008

Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the U.S. is sure to provoke unfavorable comparisons to his more charismatic predecessor, John Paul II. So it’s time for him to change his image. How? The cerebral theologian needs to interrupt his schedule, put on sweat clothes, and drop in on a yoga class when he’s in town! He’d accomplish more than an image upgrade. There, sweating in exercise clothes and sneakers, he’d find growing numbers of Americans who have turned to the ancient Hindu practice for both physical and spiritual centering. The Pope would do well to understand the yoga students and their spiritual lives if he is to be fully successful at communicating the message of the gospel to this nation.

Benedict is said to have a special affection for the United States. We are, after all, a nation that is thoroughly modern and yet religious; highly educated and yet open to the divine. Unlike his native Europe where the churches are all but empty, the U.S. remains a nation where large numbers of citizens value prayer and worship. On Sunday morning, a greater percentage of us are in church than in any other industrialized nation.

Nevertheless, the yoga students might seem unfamiliar to Benedict. They’re less interested in creeds and more interested in feelings and physical health. They’re less tuned into the metaphysics of heaven and hell and more focused on finding joy and reducing fear. They might not accept concepts like the Trinity, but they’re eager to belong to communities of compassion and trust. In short, they’re looking for spiritual experiences that make an impact on their hearts rather than their heads. And in that, despite their small numbers, they’re representative of a much larger group.

For increasing numbers of us, it’s all about connecting with the inner life. The explosion of self-help books, spiritual guides, and Eastern religious practices are all indications that we are becoming a nation of seekers, less interested in the teachings of religions and more in the experiences of the spirit. The question for Benedict is this: can he make traditional religion and theology come alive for these spiritual seekers?

The Pope’s recent writings suggest he understands the challenge. He’s a lifelong student of the existential struggles of the 20th century. And he has something to offer. In a word: love.

Yoga students tend to finish class tired but calm. If he caught them before they left, he could ask them to pause for a moment and reflect on the meaning of love in their lives. In his first encyclical, he wrote that “love is indeed ‘ecstasy’, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery.”

He could ask the class to reflect on his definition of theology as “an effort to understand that which we find ourselves loving.” Perhaps he could paraphrase his Easter homily of 2008. There, he described faith as an experience where “the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart . . . He comes to you and joins His life with yours drawing you into the open fire of His love.”

If Benedict could establish a connection with the seekers, he’d be able to challenge them not to let an inward search turn into a search only about self. He’d be able to remind them that love’s search always invites a turn to the transcendent. He’d be able to connect the sweaty release that many feel doing “downward facing dog” to the need for a confessional release that comes from a full recognition of our weakness, our failings, our need for God.



In the weeks ahead, we’ll see whether Benedict can make religion relevant to the spiritual age. The truth is that there are two languages being spoken, and Benedict’s challenge is to make them one. On this visit, a stop at a yoga class would be an ideal test to see if he can make his understanding resonate.


26. Kundalini is an occult energy represented as a snake

This information is retrieved from a site which promotes Yoga. See the Christian response below, B 23d/30.

Kundalini is defined in Yogic terms as “a coiled female snake, the latent energy at the base of the spine.” When it awakes or uncoils, in the classical model, via spiritual practices or spontaneously, a subtle energy can be felt streaming upward in the body, emanating from the base of the spine and flowing into the head. Physical and spiritual sensations often accompany the surge of inner energy: spontaneous movements of the body, shaking, heat, spasms, visions, sounds like ringing, bells, drums, and many other symptoms (see the Kundalini Information section of this website for more about symptoms and other models of Kundalini awakenings).

The destiny of this mystical force is said to be an evolutionary leap in one’s spiritual consciousness; i.e., full enlightenment (it is claimed by some authorities that it will lead to genius and supernatural powers, though this is conjectural); the initial rising is often preceded by white light in meditation, in dreams, or in the waking state. In some Kundalini awakenings this light can be like “the light of a thousand suns”; to see it suddenly and unexpectedly can jolt one’s senses into a state of panic as one feels the familiar boundaries of their consciousness begin to melt into the heart-stopping, radiant immensity of the Absolute.

The initial awakening is usually only a starting point that will not flower fully for most individuals in their lifetimes. Except in rare cases, it takes decades, for the body to be rewired to handle the high-powered wattage of a full-blown Kundalini awakening. All of the physical and spiritual manifestations are said to be the result of the Kundalini energy working it’s way through stress blocks and fears that are believed to stand in the way of the completion of this transformational process.

This basic description of Kundalini does not begin to probe the complexity of this subject, or the hazards of trying to force an awakening, but it will give you some idea of what Kundalini is. Explore the rest of the Kundalini information and articles on this website for deeper knowledge–you will find many informative articles at the Kundalini Links webpage, and maintenance suggestions for people undergoing challenging risings in the
Kundalini Survival Guide.


27. Stretching for Jesus,8816,1098937,00.html 

By Lisa Takeuchi Cullen/Mahtomedi, August 29, 2005

The yoga teacher sits in a lotus position atop a polished wooden platform. Behind her, verdant woods are visible through panoramic windows. Gentle music tinkles from overhead speakers. Two dozen students in spandex outfits, most of them women, settle onto purple and blue mats to begin the class with ujjayi, a breathing exercise. Their instructor, Cindy Senarighi, recommends today’s mantra. “‘Yahweh’ is a great breath prayer,” she says. “The Jesus Prayer also works. Now lift your arms in praise to the Lord.”

The platform is an altar, the tinkly tune is praise music, and the practice is Christian yoga. Senarighi’s class, called Yogadevotion and taught in the main chapel of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minn., is part of a fast-growing movement that seeks to retool the 5,000-year-old practice of yoga to fit Christ’s teachings. From Phoenix, Ariz., to Pittsburgh, Pa., from Grand Rapids, Mich., to New York City, hundreds of Christian yoga classes are in session. A national association of Christian yoga teachers was started in July, and a slew of books and videos are about to hit the market. But the very phrase stiffens yoga purists and some Christians–including a rather influential Catholic–who insist yoga cannot be separated from its Hindu roots.

Still, the boom, say its backers, is just beginning. Books on Christian yoga were published as early as 1962, but in recent years, as yoga has become as ubiquitous as Starbucks, more Christians have decided to start their own classes. Susan Bordenkircher, a Methodist from Daphne, Ala., is one. She discovered yoga in 2002. “I knew right away I was getting something out of it spiritually and physically, but it felt uncomfortable in that format,” she says. So Bordenkircher prepared a vinyasa, or series of postures, with a biblical bent. Meditations focus on Jesus. She calls the sun salutation, a series of poses honoring the Hindu sun god, a “warm-up flow” instead; other Christians call it the “Son” salutation.

At first, Bordenkircher and other yoga teachers encountered skepticism. Officials at Bordenkircher’s church asked her if she could call her exercises something other than yoga, and she has had to convince potential students that meditation is not anti-Christ.

John Keller, a pastor at St. Andrew’s, tells doubtful parishioners that the Bible describes many postures for prayer and that “yoga is just another way to pray.” Also, says Keller, it draws potential converts through the church’s doors; about a quarter of Yogadevotion students are not churchgoers.

Yoga purists, while encouraging people of all faiths to practice yoga, recoil at the Christian co-opting of its ancient traditions–especially when used as a tool for evangelizing. “We shouldn’t use yoga to sell our students anything,” says Patricia Walden, a renowned disciple of hatha yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar. Moreover, others argue, Hinduism is not like a recipe ingredient that can be extracted from yoga.

Says Subhas Tiwari, professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla.: “Yoga is Hinduism.”



“Christian yoga is an oxymoron,” agrees Laurette Willis* of Tahlequah, Okla. She says yoga led her to dabble in a rootless New Age lifestyle until she became a Christian in 1987. Willis now speaks to Christian groups against yoga, offering instead a series of poses called PraiseMoves.

Catholics face a more formidable skeptic. In 1989 the Vatican issued a document saying the practice of Eastern traditions like yoga “can degenerate into a cult of the body,” warning Catholics against mistaking yoga’s “pleasing sensations” for “spiritual well-being.” It was signed by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger–now Pope Benedict XVI. In a 2003 document the Vatican further distances itself from New Age practices, including yoga.

Even so, Father Thomas Ryan**, a Catholic leader of the Christian yoga movement, says he interprets the church’s position not as a denunciation of yoga but as a reminder to “respect Christian logic” in its practice. “And that’s what we’re doing,” he says.

For Judy Arko, 43, the logic behind Christian yoga is simple. “It gives me time alone with God,” she says. “As a mom of two small kids, I don’t get that–even in church.”

*See B25b, B27 ff.

**Fr Thomas [Tom] Ryan, CSP, a Paulist priest in Washington, DC is a “Christian yoga” enthusiast

From: Sent: Wednesday, 3 July 2013 11:34 PM To:;
Subject: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?

Rev. Fr. Tom Ryan,

Greetings from India

I have read an article about you below in the American Catholic.***

Reiki as an alternative therapy has been banned by the USCCB below.

Is there an official ban by the USCCB on yoga or has the USCCB allowed it?

According to Bishop Porteous of Sydney* below, yoga is incompatible with Christianity. What are your thoughts? Prakash *See page 374, B41a ff.


Tom Ryan <> Date: Thu, Jul 4, 2013 at 8:36 AM To:

Subject: Re: Query on whether Christian yoga is acceptable or not?
Dear Prakas, 

We certainly do want to teach our church members traditional Catholic practices. The question is, however, if we want to take the new evangelization seriously, what do we do when we find millions of our church members engaging in a practice like yoga and finding value in various ways? That there are some beneficial aspects to the practice is indisputable scientifically as various studies have shown. 

First, there are so many different kinds of yoga “out there” today that one needs to at least recognize a broad distinction between “contemporary” yoga which focuses on the fitness aspects, and the classical tradition of hatha yoga which essentially developed certain physical postures to strengthen people’s backs and knees and focus their minds to enable them to meditate better. 

In general, for those interested in the spiritual dimension, my response has been to try to help them work with this practice in a way that is coherent with their Christian faith. What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source but its intent. Intentionality, working in tandem with intelligence and freedom, is key. 

As Bishop Porteous has noted, one of the effects of yoga is the quieting of the mind. Consistent with what I have expressed above, we teach people a form of Christian meditation to engage in during this time of quiet sitting, taking up the names, for example of Jesus/Abba, and praying them with faith and love. 

As Christians, we have the highest theology of the body among the religions of the world as expressed in our religious festivals of the Incarnation, the bodily Resurrection and Ascension, the outpouring of God’s own life into the vessels of clay that we are at Pentecost. But we also have one of the lowest levels of actually attributing any significant role to our bodies in our spiritual practice. The physical practice of yoga which, like it or not, has gone mainstream in our culture, presents us with an opportunity/challenge to help our own people to wake up to the incarnational dimension of our faith, inviting them to work with this practice in ways consistent with their faith, seeing it it a way to go to God the way God came to us: in and through a human body. 

We can take an adversarial approach of condemnation, or an approach of mutual enrichment, noting, as does Nostra Aetate, that there are positive things to be found in other spiritual practices, but we will need to work with them selectively, focusing on what is consistent with our own faith understanding. 

I leave today for some summer holidays hiking in the mountains, so if you don’t hear from me, that’s why.

Grace and peace,

Fr. Tom


***28. Yoga Can Help Catholics Connect More Deeply With God

By Sara Angle, Source: Catholic News Service, July 05, 2011

WASHINGTON (CNS)—Sister Margaret Perron, a Religious of Jesus and Mary, trades her habit and rolls out her mat for Father Tom Ryan’s yoga and Christian meditation class at St. Paul’s College in Washington.


Carefully choreographed yoga-prayers allow participants to “embody a prayer,” Father Ryan tells his classes. He said that they may have been praying a prayer their whole life, but by saying the prayer in conjunction with different postures, they can more fully understand and appreciate the words they are saying.
Participants in Father Ryan’s class go through a series of yoga poses inspired by prayers as they pray and listen to traditional liturgical songs.
Sister Margaret was searching for a new form of exercise when she learned about Father Ryan’s class from a friend. “It really spoke to me on the spiritual level,” she told Catholic News Service.
Father Ryan, a Paulist priest and author of several books that connect Christian spirituality to the body, is one of the nation’s foremost proponents of yoga as a tool for Christian prayer and spirituality. He has also produced the DVD “Yoga Prayer,” which is described as, “praying with your whole body.”
“This is the first time I have been encouraged to bring body, mind and spirit to prayer,” said Sister Margaret. Yoga allows her to let go of some things she has been carrying throughout her day. “I think I have learned to pray in a very different way. You don’t need a lot of words to pray; it’s not all about words and formulas,” she said. “The practice of yoga is an avenue to prayer, a way to pray,” explained Sister Margaret. “I see it as a way to being with God and stilling all those inner voices. I don’t see it as being apart from Christianity; I just see it as a way of entering into prayer.”
For years Catholics and other Christians have had qualms about practicing yoga, and conflicting information on its origins and meaning could be to blame. Although it has Eastern roots, many scholars say yoga existed on its own before being used in any religion.
“Yoga is not a religion,” states the American Yoga Association’s website. “It has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed godlike figure to be worshipped in a particular manner. The practice of Yoga will not interfere with any religion.”
Georg Feuerstein, a well-known scholar of the yoga tradition, wrote in his book “The Deeper Dimension of Yoga,” that “practicing Christians or Jews (or practitioners of any other religious tradition), should take from yoga what makes sense to them and deepens their own faith and spiritual commitment.”
Still, many Catholic clergy and laypeople think that doing yoga can conflict with Catholicism because of yoga’s perceived connections to Hinduism and other Eastern religions.
A 1989 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,” signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, offers an answer to the question of conflict between yoga and religion.
It states, “The majority of the ‘great religions’ which have sought union with God in prayer have also pointed out ways to achieve it. Just as the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions, neither should these ways be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian. On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured. It is within the context of all of this that these bits and pieces should be taken up and expressed anew.” [This is a convenient and blatant twisting of the intended message and meaning of the words of the Document –Michael]
Christine Hobbs
has been taking a Christian yoga class in Triangle, Va., for a little more than a year and told CNS it helps her calm down and connect with her Catholic faith in a different way. Hobbs, who is originally from India, is familiar with yoga’s Eastern connections, but does not believe there is a disconnect between Catholicism and yoga.
Hobbs said the words used in the class she takes at St. Francis Church from Donna Kocian, a Catholic and registered yoga teacher, are “totally found in Christianity” and “they are about life.” Hobbs especially enjoys the way Kocian recites the Our Father and St. Francis of Peace Anthem in her yoga class. “I walk by faith; it’s really important to me,” said Hobbs.
In response to yoga’s Eastern roots, Father Ryan wrote in his book “Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice” that “contrary to popular belief, the practices are not inseparably tied to the concepts peculiar to Hindu theology. The best practical proof of this is that so many yoga teachers in the West provide instruction in the postures and breathing techniques without ever going into concepts of Hindu religious belief.”
In a conversation CNS had with Father Ryan, he stressed the importance of drawing a distinction between classic and contemporary yoga.
Contemporary yoga is practiced most commonly today as a form of exercise. It has a focus on the physical, but leaves out the spiritual element. [We will later see that one can NOT “leave out the spiritual element” of Hindu yoga –Michael]
Father Ryan practices a more classic version, based on meditation rather than solely focused on fitness. The goal of classical yoga is to center, ground and make one present and aware, although practitioners still reap benefits that include flexibility and being more mindful of one’s health. “Physical exercises are but the skin of yoga,” wrote Father Ryan in “Prayer of Heart and Body,” “its sinews and skeleton are mental exercises that prepare the way for a transformation of consciousness which is always a gift of God and a work of grace.”
Amy Russell took over Father Ryan’s class at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan after he relocated to Washington. She was first introduced to yoga in 1972 by a friend, but considered it just a fun, calming practice. In 1989, Russell began attending a Christian yoga class. “I had just delivered twin babies and I was full of God and motherhood, and being on bed rest and feeling out of shape,” she recalled. It wasn’t until later that Russell began teaching. “I was living in Manhattan and 9/11 happened, and I was just profoundly moved that the horror of those events had been so deadly to human bodies … not only the ones that died but the ones that lived.” Russell felt a deep calling to commit her life to living in a way that honors the sacredness of the human body. “Right after that I got a postcard in the mail about yoga teacher training. I went with the intention that I would use that certification to bring yoga as a prayer form into the Christian church.”


Yoga has played an important role in her life. “I gained myself,” she said, “knowing a deep connection with God and me in my body and in the pew.” “For a lot of Christians that whole connectedness does not always get connected. God may be out there, and my body is over here,” she told CNS. “That sense of wholeness and unity is really what yoga is meant to unlock. For me as a practicing Christian I get to realize this is what God is trying to say. It’s a deep connection to the reality of Jesus Christ that’s with me in my body. It’s not just a theoretical thing.”

That Catholic News Service publishes this pro-Christian yoga stuff shows the extent of New Age corruption in the Church. That “Christian yoga” is an oxymoron will be clearly established in Section B. -Michael


29. Swami Yogeshwaranda visits Tallahassee

By Sharon Kant-Rauch, Democratic Faith editor, April 25, 2008

People’s purpose in life is to find their way to God. But don’t look to religion for help — it often gets in the way.

So says Swami Yogeshwaranda, a hermit monk from the Himalaya Mountains who will be visiting Tallahassee in May to deliver a series of teachings at FSU, Namaste Yoga Center, the Tallahassee Buddhist Center and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

“God has no religion,” said the Swami during a recent stay at Gita Pitter’s house in northern Tallahassee. “There isn’t a Hindu truth, or a Buddhist truth or a Christian truth. There is only one truth.”

During his talks he will expound on the Bhagavad Gita, part of the Hindu scriptures; the teachings of Buddha; Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; and the writings of Meister Eckhart*, a Christian mystic from the 14th century.

“I take in good teachings from everybody,” said Yogeshwaranda, who has written several books including “The Yoga of Understanding” and “Wisdom in Action.”

Yogeshwaranda’s ability to relate to the mystical aspects of all religions, his refusal to start an ashram or school, his down to earth manner and his ability to listen to students are reasons he has a small following in Tallahassee, where he has visited periodically for more than 20 years. His last visit was six years ago.

“He doesn’t encourage disciples,” said Pitter, who first heard about the swami from her parents who knew his family in Sri Lanka. “He thinks everybody should find their own path.”

Yogeshwaranda’s reticence to establish an organization makes him “less visible,” said Jayaram Sethuraman, a statistic professor at FSU, who has attended many of the swami’s talks.

“You have to seek him out,” Sethuraman said. “We need to make the best use of the opportunity when he comes here.”

Phyllis Hytnen followed him to India to study with him one-on-one, spending several months a year there for three years. She would visit him every day for a couple of hours going over specific texts, with him teaching and her listening, meditating or asking questions. What stood out to her was how approachable he was.

“So often teachers have something they want to impart to you, and there’s no place for a student to present what’s going on for them experientially,” she said. “He really listens and draws you out. He has a gentle sense of humor and a tolerant and accepting demeanor. He doesn’t tell you what to do. He suggests practical ideas that might be useful.”

Yogeshwaranda, 67, didn’t care much for religion as a child growing up in Sri Lanka. It left him cold. When he was 12, he stopped going to the temple.

Instead, he immersed himself in sports such as soccer, cricket and tennis. But he was also interested in gaining knowledge, so he read voraciously — English literature, science books, anything that would give him insight into life.

When he was 20, however, he had a spontaneous moment of awakening, where the things of the world no longer mattered and all he wanted to do was dedicate his life to God. Yogeshwaranda credits this spontaneous awakening with the preparation he had done in previous lives. When he was developmentally mature in this life, it just happened, he said.

Within a few years he had moved to a hut in Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalaya mountains where about 1,000 other swamis lived. (Swami means “master” and is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “owner of oneself.”) His hut was very primitive and he lived on alms for food — usually chapatis (flat, unleavened bread) and lentils. Every day he would meet with other swamis to study Sanskrit and the scriptures. He did this for 10 years.

In his 40s, he decided to start teaching and today he travels to Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the United States to give talks. When he returns to India, he still lives simply in Rishikesh, on the second level of a family home. Although there are no longer hundreds of swamis living in primitive huts, the city has many ashrams and yoga centers.

Although he lives in a Hindu culture and teaches Hindu scripture, Yogeshwaranda said that Hinduism, like other religions, tends to focus more on ritual and social aspects than on a direct experience of God. He found more relevance in mysticism often found in the different religious scriptures.

In Christianity, for instance, the verses in the Gospel of John — “I am the way, the truth and light” and “I and the Father are one” are often interpreted as meaning Jesus is the only way to God, the only way to salvation. But read mystically, they take on a different meaning. “It’s a statement meant for each person,” Yogeshwaranda said. “Each person has to say, ‘I am the way, the truth and the light.’…’I and my Father are one’ is also in me.”

However, realizing that there is no real separation between us and God, actually experiencing that realization, is not easy, said Sethuraman. That’s where the swami comes in. He can be helpful in getting to that point.

Pitter said just being in Yogeshwaranda’s presence has an enormous impact.

“There a deep serenity, a very powerful presence that he has that undergirds everything he teaches,” she said. “He’s spent 40 years in practice and studying scripture … and can offer insights that might not be readily available to people living in Tallahassee.” Sethuraman agreed. “He helped me to understand the philosophy more, to follow it and to take some steps.”

*German theologian, philosopher and mystic but who was actually tried by the Church for heresy



The following inclusion is an unbeliever’s critique of leading British Catholic exorcist Fr Jeremy Davies:

30. I’m possessed by evil spirits – and so are you!

Editorial by Terry Sanderson, May 30, 2008

Did you know that atheism is becoming a key cause of demonic influence in the world? Well, that is the claim of the personal exorcist* to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, leader of Catholics in England and Wales.

Father Jeremy Davies* official evil spirit remover in the Diocese of Westminster, says that the “spirits inspiring atheism” were those who “hate God.” In a new 56-page book called In Exorcism: Understanding Exorcism in Scripture and Practice, published by the Catholic Truth Society, Father Davies writes that Satan has blinded secular humanists from seeing the “dehumanising effects of contraception and abortion and IVF (in vitro fertilisation), of homosexual ‘marriages,’ of human cloning and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research.”

The result, he said, was that Europe was drifting into a dangerous state of apostasy whereby “only (through) a genuine personal decision for Christ and the church can someone separate himself from it.”

Father Davies also said atheism was largely to blame for entrapping people in states of “perversion” (by which he means not only homosexuality – which goes without saying, him being a Catholic and everything – but also heterosexual sex outside of marriage). The book raised concerns about “some very unpleasant things” that endanger young people especially, and the priest said, “We must do what we can to protect and warn them.” I wonder what Father Davies thinks possessed Cardinal Murphy O’Connor to repeatedly conspire in the cover-up of a known paedophile priest? Perhaps this is what he meant when he talked about the “very unpleasant things” endangering young people?

Father Davies also had warnings about the practice of yoga and massage, which he equates with astrology and séances on the scale of demonic importance. He said fortune tellers and those spiritualists who attempted to contact the spirits of the dead were issuing “direct invitations to the devil which he readily accepts.” He said such practices involve the abandonment of self-control, making them as corrupting an influence as hard drugs, demonic music and pornography.

“Beware of any claim to mediate beneficial energies (e.g. reiki), any courses that promise the peace … Christ promises (e.g. enneagrams), any alternative therapy with its roots in Eastern religion (e.g. acupuncture). They are not harmless,” said Father Davies, a former medical doctor who was ordained in 1974 and has been an exorcist since 1986. “Sanity depends on our relationship to reality.”

Father Davies also said it was not uncommon for people who later turned away from sinful lifestyles to undergo periods of supernatural oppression as the devil fought them for their souls.

The priest, who is based in Luton, said that key among the transgressions that have a “special affinity” with Satan was “rebellion against God” — which included the sins of blasphemy, atheism and attacks on Christ and the church — as well as sins against the light, when people resisted God’s grace. He also warned Catholics to be wary of what he called the “idolatrous demonic side” of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and the druidism that had its origins in ancient Britain.

It seems, for Father Davies, everything but the Catholic Church is part of Satan’s great plan. The exorcist denounced “new revelations” and, rather rashly, criticised Mohammed, founder of Islam; Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. He called them “heretical prophets and false messiahs” who led their followers to a “demonic bondage of conscience.”

Father Davies’ strongest condemnation, however, was reserved for the pride of modern atheistic scientists. “Pride is the specific trait of Satan,” he said. “There are two kinds of Satanism: ‘occultic,’ in which Satan is worshiped as a person; and what is said to be even more terrible and certainly is even more deceived, ‘rationalist,’ in which Satan is regarded as an impersonal force or symbol and the glory belongs to the Satanists. How close to rationalist Satanism, without realising it, is atheistic scientism – the hubris of science going beyond its proper sphere and moral boundaries – the tree of knowledge presently spreading its branches throughout our Western culture, which is rapidly becoming that of the whole world,” he said.

His book also spells out the degrees of demonic influence a person may experience, ranging from temptation and sin to obsession, then possession, with perfect possession being the gravest and rarest form that usually entails a deliberate commitment to evil on the part of the person involved (and then results in a Hollywood film that makes everyone involved very rich).

The book includes sections on the “rites and means of exorcism and deliverance”, including those of buildings and places as well as people. Father Davies advises readers of his book to visit their bishop if they feel in need of having a little devil evicted.

Myself, I’d recommend they go to the local asylum, but then I would because I’m really possessed by a demon so whatever I say comes straight from hell. And if I say that people really can be possessed by demons and should seek help from their bishop, Father Davies would probably say it is a demon of deception speaking. You see, you can’t win with this kind of medieval thinking. It equates to the old ducking stool method of determining whether someone is a witch. Once you’re ensconced in the ducking stool, there is no way you can survive. You can only be a guilty corpse or an innocent corpse. Only the witch-finder (or, in this case, the exorcist) can say what the truth is in these circumstances, (and given that he has invented the circumstances in the first place, and can change the “truth” to fit his convenience, no-one else’s opinion can possibly matter).

For instance, if I say that eight-year old Victoria Climbié was killed by people who believed she was possessed by a demon, the pastor would say that I was trying to turn people against God (because I’m possessed). And if I point to the priest and four nuns who killed a known schizophrenic in a violent and prolonged exorcism ritual in a Romanian convent, and said that they were probably more mad than she was, Father Davies would again point to Beelzebub as the source of my information (rather than Reuters – which is probably also in league with the devil).




Father Davies and the fools who take him seriously (are you listening Cardinal Murphy O’Connor?) need to seriously consider their state of mind. When you get into the casting out of devil’s business you can see devils everywhere. Everywhere, perhaps, except in your own imagination.

The author is a secular humanist and probably an atheist.

*See Section
B, 32a – 32e.


Here we have a Korean-born priest and Maryknoll congregation vocations Director, yoga-trained in India, who blends Kundalini yoga and chakra meditation with Zen Buddhist meditation.

31. ‘Jesus Was a Grand Zen Master’

Korean-born Maryknoll priest recognized as an “honorary” Seon (Zen) Master maintains that Seon is a way of praying rather than a religion, and Jesus was a “grand Seon master.”
According to Father Kim Alfonso Hak-boum, who has been learning and practicing Seon meditation in Japan and Korea since the mid-1990s, Seon can also be an effective tool for inculturation and interreligious dialogue.
In an interview with UCA News, Father Kim says that Christianity can be inculturated through Seon practice, especially in East Asia where many people regard the religion as “foreign.” He also asserts that Jesus was a grand Seon master in that he maintained the state of being enlightened all the time through deep prayer and unity with God.
Father Kim was born in 1961 in Seoul. He migrated with his family to Argentina when he was 10, and to the United States six years later.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in physics from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., he joined the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in 1990. He was introduced to Seon while in pastoral training in Kyoto, Japan, 1993-1996. He was ordained a Maryknoll priest in 1997, and then served as a parish priest for Kyoto diocese until 2001.
In 2002, Father Kim was certified in India to teach yoga. A U.S. citizen, he served 2003-2007 as Catholic representative from the United States in the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). During that time, he was also a Maryknoll vocation director.
The interview UCA News conducted with Father Kim in late July while he was on a visit in Seoul follows:
UCA NEWS: You have degrees in physics but you chose to be a priest. Why?
Father Kim Alfonso Hak-boum: I had a weak heart since I was a kid and had to have a heart operation when I was 16. Then I prayed sincerely that if God saves my life I will become a priest. I couldn’t get this out of my head even when my girlfriend and I talked about getting married. I did not believe God would abandon me even if I broke the promise, but I kept it nonetheless.
How did you learn about Seon?

After I joined Maryknoll, I went to Kyoto, Japan, for pastoral training from 1993 to 1996. My spiritual director taught me how to combine Seon meditation with Christian prayer. We did it as morning and evening prayer for one month.
That was the first time I got to know about Seon. It was a very precious experience for me. Due to the sudden death of that senior Maryknoll priest, however, I couldn’t continue to practice it.
I complained to God about his death but it was no use. I decided to practice alone. After a few months, I realized Seon practice cannot be successful by depending only on books, without a teacher or guide. Fortunately, I could resume Seon meditation (with Japanese Seon masters in Buddhist temples) while serving as a parish priest for several years (in Kyoto).
Isn’t combining Christian prayer with Seon meditation religious syncretism?

When I lead a retreat, I recommend that participants contemplate a phrase from the Bible while practicing breathing. Through concentrating on the phrase and seeking “who I am” endlessly at the same time, they go deep into their heart, where they meet their “self.” If they “accept” their self, they get power to “empty” themselves and fill this emptiness with God. But this is a very difficult process, especially for beginners who easily lose concentration. They should go back to focusing on their breathing.
The biblical phrase and Seon meditation do not conflict with each other. Rather, this leads to the experience of unity with God. If someone is afraid of this, it means they don’t have a deep experience of God. They are afraid because they don’t really know such deep prayer.
It has nothing to do with syncretism. Rather, it is a way of practical interreligious dialogue, finding the commonality between Christianity and others — in this case, Seon meditation or prayer.
You are aware that the Vatican and the local Church are very concerned about relativism and syncretism.
I am well aware of that. But I am convinced that Seon is very helpful to my prayer and faith in God, so I don’t worry. Last April, I led a 10-day retreat in Los Angeles (United States) in which some 60 Korean nuns took part. Their reactions were very positive. I told them they must experience God’s love and power by themselves. It is quite difficult to describe God’s love in human words. Seon practice leads us to a deep experience in silence, not words.
Isn’t Seon a Buddhist denomination? Why do you practice it continuously?

Yes, it is a Buddhist denomination. But on a practical level, it is a way of praying. In the early Church’s tradition, there were the Desert Fathers who practiced deep meditation like Seon, imitating Jesus’ words and deeds. But we have lost such a tradition today. It is good for us to forget the prejudice that Seon belongs only to Buddhism.
I believe Jesus himself was a grand Seon master. He was the enlightened and the enlightener. Through deep prayer, he could empty his “self” and fill it entirely with God. Jesus knew such unity with God and lived it by being always enlightened through deep prayer. We can also be a Seon master like Jesus.



I practice it continuously simply because I want to pray deeply, so that I can experience God more intimately. That led me to become an “honorary” Seon master last year.
Can you elaborate about becoming a Seon master?

I stayed at Songgwang-sa Temple, a historic Buddhist temple in Korea, during my six-month sabbatical leave. I joined a Buddhist winter meditation retreat there for three months. After total silence in the retreat, I told the monks I want a deeper level of meditation. They recommended I meet the grand Seon master, Hwalan, living in a small hermitage on a mountain a few kilometers from the temple. I met him twice and told him who I was and what I wanted. When I met him the second time, he conducted a brief “initiation” in which he laid his hands on my head and touched my shoulders and hands. After that, he wrote Chinese words on two sheets of paper as a “certification” for Seon master.
Surprised at what happened when I met with Hwalan, the monks told me it was a very special case they never heard before. They said the grand Seon master officially recognized me as a Seon master, so they should call me a Seon master. But I am a Catholic priest, so they call me an “honorary” Seon master.
Do you think Seon can help inculturate the Church in Asia?
Very much, especially the Church in East Asia. The Church in Asia has not yet been rooted in its soil. In fact, the Church has become “Romanized” in its way of thinking, language and liturgy.
East Asians are familiar with the image of silence, emptiness and nothingness that are all in the Seon tradition. To those Asians, God is emptiness itself in total silence where, paradoxically, God fills it.
East Asian Christians can feel God as great emptiness, which is peace and light, at a deep level. Through Seon meditation, therefore, they can go to a deeper level where they closely experience God.
We have to take the fixed image of God, residing “somewhere out there” in heaven, out of the box. To inculturate God’s image, experiencing God inside us is more recommendable for Asians.
You also practice yoga. Is it different from Seon? What do they all mean to you as a Catholic priest?

Thanks to the great help and support of Indian Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss*, I went to India and practiced yoga in Chennai 2000-2001. Though the Indian government did not extend my visa, fortunately I could finish studying Kundalini (energy) Yoga and healing yoga, two different kinds of yoga, and got certification to teach yoga.

Briefly speaking, yoga focuses on chakra (energy centers in the body) for meditation, while Seon usually uses a critical phrase for meditation. Both help me get into deep prayer through meditation.
Yoga and Seon practices promote interreligious dialogue. If one wants to dialogue with other religions, one should first know one’s own religion well, and then make an effort to know other religions.

As an executive council member of the World Conference of Religions for Peace from 2003 to 2007, I realized that laypeople, not clergymen, should lead interreligious dialogue today. The role of clergymen like me is to help or support laypeople to have genuine dialogue among religions — not by many words but practicing each other’s prayer.

Jesus has been designated “Jesus the yogi” by the hierarchy of the Indian church. Now we have an India-influenced Korean American priest assert that Jesus is the ultimate “grand Seon [Zen] master“.

“Anointed” by the laying of hands from a Buddhist monk, the priest’s replies to UCAN reveal his deception.

*Father Michael Amaladoss SJ is a highly-acclaimed Indian theologian and author!


32a. Yoga and meditation on the timetable as first state-funded Hindu school opens

By Alexander Frean, Education Editor, The Times, September 15, 2008

Britain’s first state-funded Hindu school will open its doors in London today, offering its pupils yoga, meditation and prayer as well as lessons in an outdoor amphitheatre. The Krishna-Avanti school in Harrow is expected to be vastly oversubscribed. Although there are an estimated 15,000 Hindu children living in the borough, the school will initially admit just one class of 30 four and five-year-olds. It hopes to build up to a total of 236 places by 2014, including a nursery.

Naina Parmar, the head, described the school as “a huge step forward for Britain’s one million Hindus”. Some 587 secondary and 6,253 primary schools in England, representing around a third of the total, are faith schools. The vast majority are Christian. A handful are Muslim and Jewish. As yet there are no state-funded Hindu schools.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Critics of faith schools said that the new school could be divisive. Rabbi Jonathan Romain, chairman of Accord, a new coalition of religious and nonreligious groups that seeks the reform of faith schools policy, said: “It is vital for the good of both the children and wider society that the Krishna-Avanti teaches appreciation of all traditions, does not opt out of local religious education syllabus, does not discriminate against employing nonHindu staff or bar children of other faiths from having the right to attend.”

Ms Parmar said the school would place an emphasis on “developing the whole child, including through integration with the wider community”. “I want our school to be a haven of peace. Hinduism is a very inclusive faith which promotes a calm, caring and cooperative learning environment. This will be reflected in the curriculum, which will include prayer, yoga and meditation alongside usual subjects, and in the school’s ethos and environment,” she said.

Anjana Patel, Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for schools and children’s services, said: “We are one of the UK’s most diverse boroughs. We recognise the value of faith education in the excellent results already being achieved in our numerous existing faith schools. We are delighted to be able to extend that choice of a faith education to our many Hindu residents as well.”

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: “Now Hindus, like all the other communities, have a choice and can decide whether or not to send their children to a school based on their faith.”

Lessons will at first take place in temporary classrooms. The £10 million new building is to open next year.





32b. UK opens first state-funded Hindu school

By Akanksha Banerji, September 16, 2008

Britain’s first state-funded Hindu school opened its doors to its first batch of 23 students. – aged four to five years – started their term in a temporary building. For the one million strong Hindu community in Britain, this school is a significant step. Admission to the school will require a referral from a local temple to ensure that priority is given to practicing Hindu families. The students will study the national curriculum, but Hindu ethos and philosophy will be included into all aspects of teaching. Students will have yoga and meditation classes as well as lessons on the Bhagwad Gita. There are sceptics who say faith schools are divisive. But Britain has over 6,500 faith schools of which a large majority are Church of England and Roman Catholic schools. There are plans to open another Hindu school in Leicester in the near future.


33. Yes to Yoga – Can a Christian breathe air that has been offered to idols?

By Agnieszka Tennant, May 19, 2005



In. Out.



Inn … Outt …

Innn …

It’s 7:45 p.m. on a weekday and for the first time today, I consciously slow down my breathing. I send the air deep down into my belly, letting it rise and fall like a wave. Inn … Outt …

Along with a group of 30 people in a darkened exercise studio at a Lifetime Fitness gym near Chicago, I use the unhurried cadences of the air filling and leaving my lungs to lull my muscles and joints into daring postures. My body becomes a mountain. An eagle. A warrior. A pigeon. A downward dog. A cobra. Finally—my favorite pose that comes at the end of each workout—a corpse, during which I lay down and relax every muscle.

Oh, and I’m an evangelical—mostly, a proud one. Proud of Christ, of Mary Magdalene, of G.K. Chesterton, of the way the Bible cuts through all cultures and all times and all hearts, and of smart evangelicals like historian Mark Noll at Wheaton College who have pried open the collective evangelical mind.

Sometimes though, I admit, I’m a tad embarrassed to be a member of the diverse evangelical family. Like yesterday, when I heard on NPR that the National Association of Evangelicals had led a charge at the Supreme Court opposing out-of-state wine shipments. May the finest wine maker have mercy on us!

Also yesterday, shame rushed through my face as I read on The Huffington Post, the hot, new, militantly liberal website, a reference to an article on yoga published by Christianity Today‘s sister publication Today’s Christian Woman. In it, Max Blumenthal rightly pokes fun at the admiring article’s main voice, which belongs to Laurette Willis, who believes yoga is pretty much of the devil. “Yoga’s breathing techniques (pranayama) may seem stress-relieving, yet they can be an open door to psychic influences,” Willis says.

Willis, who used to be a yoga instructor, believes that the practice opened her mind to New Age spirituality and led to her depression and alcoholism. After she was born again, she’s remade herself into a PraiseMoves instructor (and skilled marketer). She wouldn’t say this, but let’s face it: she’s still a yoga instructor—thus acknowledging yoga’s healthful benefits—but now offers biblical explanations and biblical-sounding names for the poses.

Now, Willis and other Christians may have good reasons to feel uneasy about yoga. With her background in New Age, which was clearly an oppressive force in her life, I could be weary of what yoga reminds me of, too.

But it bothers me that people like Willis demonize a healthful exercise regimen, and engage in fear mongering (or is it fear marketing?) among evangelicals. The stereotype of evangelicals they reinforce I’d rather live without. We can leave the spreading of wrong-headed stereotypes about evangelicals to the more experienced bashers—some columnists at The New York Times, for example.

To dispel the stereotype at hand, let me witness that yoga has never had any negative influence on me, and it doesn’t trigger any harmful religious impulses. Just the opposite is true. The three hours a week I spend doing yoga not only make me more flexible, tone my muscles, and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ. They are my bodily-kinetic prayer.

Need I say that it was Alpha and Omega who first thought of and then created the common graces of oxygen, stretching, flexibility, breathing, and soothing music?

My natural response to any deep-breathing exercises is an emotionally felt love of God. Soon after I take off my socks and do a couple of poses, spontaneous prayers soar to Christ. Give me five minutes of yoga, and my mind immediately goes to the metaphor of God’s spirit being as omnipresent and as necessary as the air.


34. Spiritualist worries about India’s spinal health

New Delhi, September 29, 2008 (IANS)




For spiritualist and mind healer Anoop Shukla, the human spine is a biomechanical marvel that controls moods, mobility and the general flow of good living. “Spinal problem is a universal problem. They affect 80 percent of modern society. Sedentary and hectic lifestyles are the contributory factor,” Shukla, in his 30s, told IANS.

The diminutive spiritualist with a wavy mane and quiet manners is working on music as an effective therapy tool. But it is the spine and the back which keep him occupied. “Back pain affects eight out of 10 individuals at some point of their lives. Back sufferers who do not respond to conservative treatment may require surgery. Emotional stress also aggravates back pain,” Shukla explained. He has written a book, which he says is meant for those people – both young and old – who are suffering from corporate stress. “Youngsters may become impotent because of this stress, unhealthy lifestyles and back problems.” Sexual glands, says the therapist, do not work properly when a person is stressed.

India may be the country with the highest number of impotency cases in the next 20 years because the bulk of the youngsters are opting for jobs in business processing centres, which have unhealthy working hours. “The situation is alarming. It is one of the reasons why I have picked this topic for my book ‘Spine and Mind Management’,” he says.

Shukla was born in Allahabad and earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Allahabad University. He has been influenced by the writings of Maharishi Patanjali and the great poet-saint Kabir, and has read and imbibed a lot from thinker Jiddu Krishamurthy. “I have carried forward the ideals of Maharishi Patanjali and have modified his sutras to suit the needs of the day,” Shukla said. His spiritual guru Abhilash Das of Allahabad introduced him to various schools of yoga. He culled elements from each and used them in a daily practice that works very well to lead a happy, healthy and harmonious life.

He has been practising yoga for 18 years and claims to have cured those suffering from lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes and spinal disorders. Shukla has five centres in New Delhi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kathmandu (Nepal) and Karachi (Pakistan).

Shukla’s yogic solutions are simple and easy for all to follow. “Yoga actually is an antidote for problems of body and mind such as fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, insomnia and short temper,” he says.

The spine healer recommends a regimen of standard exercises like neck rolling, shoulder rotation, stretching or tadasana, kursi asana (chair posture) and trikona (triangle) asana to start with. It can be followed by an hour of yoga depending upon the time schedule.

He also suggests meditative solutions like “pranayam” or breathing techniques, energy control or “bandh” and muscle crunching intermittently or after work to relieve stress. “But one must be careful while doing paranayam.”

A person suffering from spinal injuries should take a few precautions. “Before starting pranayam, the bladder and the bowels should be emptied. Pranayam should be practised on an empty stomach. Give at least four hours gap between meals and the practice,” Shukla says.

The spine therapist, who is married to a classical vocalist, is working on a new mind therapy with the help of his wife. It works on the inherent healing powers of music. “I am composing new notations that can accompany the meditation and the guru’s discourse to heal the mind from depression, disorders and lifestyle-related stress,” he says.


35. India’s tech hub Bangalore is a stressed out city


August 31, 2008

India’s technology hub is being racked by more and more suicides. Over 200 people, including youngsters between 10 and 14 years, commit suicide every month in the city as they suffer from stress or financial insecurity or loneliness, say police, social workers and doctors. Bangalore police records show that in the first seven months of this year 1,444 people in the city killed themselves. That is an average of 206 suicides a month. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), Bangalore, says 10 per cent of suicides in Bangalore is by youngsters between 10 and 14 years. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that 17 out of every 100,000 people commit suicide in Bangalore, the highest number in the country. In New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, the suicide rates are respectively 10, 12 and 11 per 100,000. A recent Nimhans study on reasons for the increasing number of suicides in the city showed that severe stress, competition at workplace and lack of economic security were among the causes of most suicides. The study was conduced in collaboration with Bangalore city police and 12 major hospitals. According to Nimhans, 57 per cent of suicides are sudden acts of frustration and thus most of the families are hardly aware that a member of their family had been contemplating suicide. Suicide deaths in the city have increased astronomically after the IT boom in Bangalore, say experts. Work-related insecurity, extended working hours and stringent deadlines contribute to rising number of suicides in the city. No one has time for anyone. We are all becoming very, very self-centric, severing us from all human bonding and love. Thus a sense of insecurity is driving many to end their lives.

The rising stress level of IT professionals has prompted several top corporate houses to introduce yoga and meditation sessions in office, celebration of festivals in offices and increase in vacation period to help employees beat the stress. Last year 2,430 cases of suicides were reported in Bangalore which, WHO says, is highest in the country. In 2006, the number of suicides was 2,008. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 10 per cent of suicides in the world occur in India. NCRB states that almost 100,000 people commit suicide in the country every year.


36. Yoga: A conflict of religion?

Millions practice it, but some claim it violates the principles of their faiths

By Jeff Brumley, December 17, 2008




Avondale’s Kim Mason is a Christian who takes her faith seriously. She also practices yoga several times a week.

Conflict? No way, said Mason, who scoffs at the notion that yoga is an overt or subliminal homage to ancient Indian gods or spirituality. “You don’t have to worship anything” during yoga, Mason said. “You can worship a Gucci purse if you want to – you have to look at your motive.”

Mason’s motive? Glorifying Christ. “It is a form of praise and worship, in my opinion.”

Given that nearly 16 million Americans practice yoga and spend $5.7 billion a year on classes and related products, Mason isn’t alone in embracing the practice. But there are also many who view it as spiritually suspect at best and spiritually corrupting at worst. The issue was thrust into the spotlight in November when an Islamic
religious council in Malaysia banned Muslims there from practicing yoga because it includes postures, rituals and chants with ancient Indian origins.

That ruling mirrors the concern of some Jewish and Christian leaders who warn their followers against participating in any activity violating the biblical prohibition on idolatry and that tends to claim that all religions are equally valid paths to salvation. And the issue is on the minds of studio owners and others as doctors, psychologists and other health professionals are increasingly recommending yoga as a way to combat everything from depression to stress.

Is yoga a religion?

Yoga teachers and studio owners draw a distinction between “spiritual” and “religious” when describing the practice: It’s spiritual because it can do as much to strengthen existing faith as it can muscles, they said.

“It’s a spiritual path,” said Shri Hamilton-Hubbard, owner of Bliss Yoga in San Marco. “It works very well if you practice a religion along with it.”

Yoga postures are more effective in both the physiological and spiritual realms if a practitioner is focused on what is most sacred to them during a session, whether it’s Buddha, Jesus, Ganesh or simply “spirit,” she said.


“Spirit for you can be connecting with your breath,” said Kate Cordell, director of Ocean Yoga in Atlantic Beach. “Spirit could be connecting with a particular deity – maybe you’re a Christian, and Jesus is who you honor.”

Hamilton-Hubbard, Cordell and other teachers and studio owners said they never push a particular deity or agenda in their classes – just the principle of connecting with the sacred through practice.

Clergy advice: ‘Be careful’

Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov said he’s no yoga expert, but he knows for Judaism some forms are acceptable and some are not.

Kahanov, spiritual leader of Mandarin-based Chabad Lubavitch of Northeast Florida, said he’s often asked if it’s OK to participate in yoga. He reminds people that Judaism prohibits worshipping or honoring other deities in any form.

“I tell them it’s OK when it’s just trying to help people focus and meditate properly,” Kahanov said. “But when it starts becoming religious in any way, I advise them not to be involved in that.”

The Rev. Pradeep Thorat said he advises people to stay away from the practice, period. Even yoga that’s completely devoid of Sanskrit spiritual terms should be avoided because some of the postures originate from Hindu worship. “If it comes from a spiritual background, it does carry some sort of spiritual effect,” said Thorat, pastor of First Baptist Church of India in Jacksonville.

‘Gateway to New Age’?

For Laurette Willis, there is no middle ground on yoga. She describes it as a gateway to the occult or New Age religion, and, at best, a diluted, one-size-fits-all spirituality. The Oklahoma resident and author spent more than 20 years practicing and teaching yoga before reconnecting with her Christian faith and inventing PraiseMoves, a Bible-based exercise program that pairs individual verses with postures, some of which are similar to yoga poses.

In those two decades, Willis said yoga opened her to astrology, metaphysics, crystals, channeling, psychic readings, out-of-body experiences and other practices. “You hear all this bandied about in the classes,” Willis said. “Yoga has this skewed idea that there are many paths to God -and that’s what New Age says.”

As far as the Malaysian claim that the practice is inherently Indian in origin, Willis presents the dictionary as evidence.

“Webster’s dictionary . . . calls it a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through prescribed postures.” She advises people to stay away from yoga, no matter how much instructors and studios play down those spiritual components.

‘Strange’ to first-timers

Yoga studios and instructors are aware of, and often sensitive about, the issue. Some declined to be interviewed for this story. The fact is, the seemingly exotic sights (such as Buddha statues), sounds (chanting) and smells (incense) can alienate someone entering a yoga studio for the first time, said Siddie Friar, the manager of M Body Yoga on the Southside. Friar said she was very turned off the first time she walked into a studio a couple of years ago and was asked to chant “Om“, a Sanskrit word whose sound is said to foster inner peace. “We went through some postures, put our hands at heart center and the teacher called for us to ‘Om’,” Friar said. “I said, ‘What is this?’ It was very strange.”

That’s why some studios, including M Body, go easy on the Sanskrit and minimize or avoid the concepts and statuary denoting Eastern spiritual and physical concepts, Friar said. “Saying ‘open your heart chakra, feel your kundalini energy rising’ – that’s not going to make any sense to some people,” she said.

That’s why instructors teach differently depending on the setting, Cordell said. If she’s teaching at a YMCA, church or a community center, Cordell said she drops the Sanskrit words for poses and any spiritual terminology. “I don’t ‘ohm’ and I use the word ‘breath’ instead of ‘spirit,’ ” she said. “I want to be careful not to make them feel uncomfortable or that I am confronting their beliefs.”




Back in the studio, it’s also about respecting people’s faith, said Sara Torbett, owner of Yoga Life in Southside.

The music played at her studio tends more to be non-vocal and, because she’s a Christian, Torbett said she stays away from chants that invoke the names of deities, even if they are meant only as spiritual principles instead of actual personalities. There are also no statues, but instructors do lead students through saying “Om” and “namaste” (pronounced nah-mahs-day), Torbett said. ‘Om’ to her is a “neutral spiritual principle” and namaste can easily be translated into “the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.”

But using those words in a studio is not meant as a challenge to belief, she added. Sanskrit is used in studios much as Latin is used in medicine or Italian in classical music.

“Whether it’s ‘Om,’ ‘amen’ or ‘shalom,’ we’re all saying the same thing – we’re saying peace.”


YOGA IN AMERICA: Billions spent, mainly by women
$5.7 BILLION: Spent by Americans on yoga classes, equipment, clothing, vacations, DVDs, books.
15.8 MILLION: U.S. adults participate in yoga, 6.9 percent of the population.
72%: Of yoga practitioners are women.
71%: Of yoga practitioners are college educated and 27 percent have post-graduate degrees.
14 MILLION: Americans report that a doctor or therapist has recommended yoga to them.
45%: Of Americans say yoga would be helpful during treatment of a medical conditions.
Source: Yoga Journal’s 2008 “Yoga in America” market study


37. Yoga has changed my life: Govinda

November 9, 2008 [Posted by Ancy D’Souza, moderator, in Mangalorean Catholics, a liberal yahoo list]

IANS, Mumbai: Having made a career out of comic roles, Govinda now wants to switch to action. He is really working hard on his physique and has got himself a martial arts and physical trainer. ‘I’ve done action films in the past like ‘Hatya’ and ‘Shola Aur Shabnam’. But they weren’t full-on actioners. I now want to do an action film with stunts of an international calibre. I don’t want to just plunge into it without being fully prepared. I’ve already lost a lot of weight. But it isn’t enough. I want to lose some more,’ said Govinda. The actor recently discovered yoga and he says it has changed his lifestyle completely. He said: ‘Yoga has changed my life. No matter what my schedule, I’ve to do yoga every morning. I feel the difference within me. It’s not about just losing weight. I lost a lot of weight earlier this year when I was shooting in Bangkok with Suniel Shetty for ‘Loot’. No, yoga is about self-discipline, about toning the body. I feel myself losing inches around my waist. I fill fitter. I can get into tight clothes without cringing.’ So what is his fitness target? ‘To look as healthy, handsome and fit as Dharam-ji (Dharmendra) did in his heydays. He has always been my role model. And now when I look at myself in the mirror I see glimpses of him in myself. That makes me feel really good,’ the actor said. ‘I might soon get together with David Dhawan to make ‘Handsome No.1′,’ he laughed.


38. Catholic priest in saffron robe called ‘Isai Baba’

December 24, 2008

Dressed in saffron robe and sporting long hair, he comes across as a sadhu but what differentiates him from others is the fact that Aji Sebastian is a Catholic priest and has donned this look to promote the “Indian Christian identity.”

A pass-out of the CMC Seminary, Sebastian, who hails from Kerala, has now become an Ayurvedic medic, yoga instructor and teacher for the Fazirpur Kadia village in Faridabad district of Haryana.

Known as the ‘Isai Baba’ (Christian sadhu), he says, “The saffron dress helps me to connect with people easily as they regard me as a religious person after seeing my robe.”

The popularity of the Isai Baba is such that the villagers even have set up an ‘ashram’ for him. “It is an old village Panchayat building, which has now been refurbished into an ashram or what I would call a local hospital,” says Sebastian.

He says that several people visit to his ashram daily, many of them, however, come for the Ayurvedic medicines that he gives out.

Sebastian says that he does not preach the gospel and believes it is only his work that matters. “People know me as an Isai baba and they respect me for that. I tell them that their body is the temple of god just like what the Bible says, but I don’t preach the gospel as a whole. I prefer my way of life to be a role model for others,” he says while attending a Christmas celebration at a seminary run by Marthoma Syrian Church in the village.

About his practice of teaching Yoga to the villagers, Sebastian says, “Yoga is about meditation. It relaxes one’s body and I have been doing it for many years. Teaching Yoga has nothing to do with being a Hindu or a Christian.”

He adds, “I am least bothered about structural formations of religion. What I follow probably is the Indian Christian way.” Sebastian, who also sponsors education for children in the village, says he has been able to send 112 students to schools and their fees are being paid by the ashram through the farming that he does.

The ‘baba’ also visits Hindu pilgrimage sites to interact with sadhus to enhance his knowledge of Ayurvedic medicines.

“I keep going out to Hindu pilgrimage places like Badrinath where I barter my knowledge with other’s knowledge. It works perfectly for me,” he says.




39a. Catholic priest killed in Meerut diocese

By Nirmala Carvalho
[As below]

39b. Ashram priest killed, cathedral burnt in India

September 23, 2008

Ascetic priest Fr Samuel Francis better known as Swami Astheya has been found dead in the chapel of his ashram 400km south of New Delhi while the Catholic cathedral in Jabalpur in central India has been badly damaged in a fire lit by Hindu militants.

AsiaNews reports that the priest clergyman lived like an Indian ascetic in an ashram, preaching peace and promoting inter-faith dialogue. Fr Astheya was found dead at his ashram in the village of Chota Rampur with his hands tied behind his back, his mouth gagged and injuries to his forehead.

The 50-year-old clergyman dressed like an Indian Sanyasin ascetic Hindu monk and taught yoga and meditation.

How and why he was murdered is not yet clear, but police will not exclude the possibility that it might have been a robbery gone badly wrong. The ashram was in fact ransacked and a woman suffering from psychological problems was also found dead in the ashram’s warehouse.

Fr Davis Varayilan, professor at Samanvayan Theological College, said he knew the slain priest and had nothing but words of praise for his generosity, good heart and intelligence. “This is a great tragedy for the Church in India,” he said. “We used to send our seminarians for an experience to his Ashram, and in the early 1980s he was in charge of the youth in Meerut Diocese.”
His ashram had become a beacon for inter-faith dialogue and harmony among people.

“He was much loved and respected by all: Hindus, inter-faith harmony and unity, He was a holy person and his spirituality was well respected by all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, the poor and the marginalised.”

Catholic priest killed in Meerut diocese (Agra) (AsiaNews, 22/9/08)


1. What does it mean that he lived as a Hindu monk and taught yoga and meditation? Was he for Christ or karma? Did Fr. Swami believe that he would join the Lord in heaven at death or reincarnate in another body? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what some Catholic priests — and Catholics — believe. Posted By: Joe

2. Hi, Joe. Good questions. I am a Catholic apologist, speaker and writer. I am also a crusader against the doctrinal deviations of the theologians, New Age practices [eastern meditations & alternative medicines (holistic health therapies)], liturgical abuses increasingly practised and propagated in the Indian Church, and the so-caled Indianisation of the Church in the name of inculturation, but which is only its Hindu-isation.

The latest issue is a so-called Bible — the New Community Bible — filled with reference to pagan deities, non-Christian religious texts and parallels drawn with mythologies of pre-Christian religions. It is a tool and a vehicle of the Catholic Ashrams movement. The Catholic yogi who was killed is a part of that circuit. They are moving towards a breakaway autonomous Hindu “Church” chanting OM, meditating, doing yoga and “praying” in Sanskrit.

Catholic evangelization has come to a standstill in India decades ago.

Many good priests and laity are with this ministry in our struggle. You will find these issues and more documented at our website: We welcome your comments. Michael Prabhu, Chennai, India


Posted in the liberal Mangalorean Catholics digest no. 1001 of October 6, 2008

Why the murderers of Sadhu Asteya and Mercy Bahadur are being shielded?

By Fr. Anand IMS*, Delhi, September 26, 2008

One week has passed since the most cruelsome and double murder of Sadhu Asteya (Fr. Samuel Francis) and Mercy Bahadur in Dehradun. The murders took place of Saturday 20th Sept. in Samarpanalaya Ashram founded by Sadhu Asteya 15 years ago in Chota Rampur village, on Deharadun – Vikas Nagar Road…

Sadhu Asteya lived a very simple life. He had a God given charism for healing. He did exorcism over ‘possessed’ (psychic) cases and also spent days and nights fasting and praying with the people who were affected with various ailments. Hundreds of people, mostly Christians from other denominations and some Catholics from Vikas Nagar and Dehradun and a few Hindu families from Dehradun and Delhi were benefiting from Sadhu Asteya`s service of prayer and healing…

Samuel Francis was born in a Punjabi Catholic family in 1952. His parents were natives of Multan in Pakistan. His father was in the Indian Air Force.
Samuel did his school studies in Kanpur and Sardhana. In 1967 he joined the minor seminary to be a priest of the diocese of Meerut. He did his Philosophy and Theology studies in St. Charles’ Seminary, Nagpur. After his ordination he worked in Moradabad church. As a young and dynamic priest, he also rendered his services to the UP Regional Youth and Vocations Bureau. Along with Chottebhai**, Sr. Jaya Victor SAP and Brother Anil Dev IMS***, he went around preaching retreats in the entire region of the then undivided UP and Rajasthan. He came in close contact with Swami Augustine Deenabandhu, a venerable Capuchin priest of Jeevan Jyoti Ashram, Bareilly.


Fr.Samuel decided to become a Christian Sanyasi like Swami Deenbandhu. His life style changed radically. He took a new name Sadhu Asteya. He spent his time in learning meditation and Sanskrit in Shivananda ashram, Rishikesh. He put on Indian Sanyasa dress and grew hair and beard like any other Indian mendicant.
Father Amalorpavadas, the renowned founder of Anjali Ashram, Mysore had requested Sadhu Asteya to be his successor. He had also written this in his will. At the unfortunate tragic death of Fr. Amalorpavadas, the church authorities asked Sadhu Asteya to take charge of Anjali ashram. Sadhuji went to Anjali Ashram and stayed there for six months and returned with a decision to open an ashram in his own diocese. He searched for a suitable land between Dehradun and Roorkee.
After a long search, with the help of his Bishop he purchased a six acre land at Chota Rampur on Dehradun – Vikas Nagar Road, developed it into a beautiful place with provisions for retreats and hermitage. Although he could not get his co-priests to live with him, he relentlessly worked for a great cause, the incarnation of the Church into the Indian milieu…


1. Sadhu Asteya and Mercy Bahadur became martyrs in Samarpanalaya Ashram. Why Sadhuji`s body was taken to far away Meerut out of the state? As he spent his life and energy in Samarpanalaya with a great vision and determination for the cause of inculturation why was he not given a solemn burial in the ashram premises? Was there a pressure from the BJP Governement?
2. Why was Mercy’s body buried in a very private manner in Dehradun? Why was it not brought to Meerut? Is it not diluting the very serious double murder case?
3. While the cruelly murdered body of Sadhu Asteya was lying in the Cathedral church, the Diocesan School in the same compound was functioning normally. Why the educational institutions in the diocese were not closed as a sign of protest against this extreme cruel murder?
4. Why the Meerut diocese did not ensure the presence of people from other Christian denominations and other faiths to be present for the funeral of this martyr?
5. It is evident that that the murders were part of a well designed national campaign on the Christian community. Why the Bishop who was the presiding over the funeral ceremony, never mentioned about the violence on Christians all over the country. Even if there are no final conclusions why the cruel double murders were not called as an attack on Christian community?
6. Why did Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in its news website ( on 22nd Sept. write that the murders are committed by insiders? Why is the Church leadership arriving at destructive and negative illogical conclusions, thus siding with the civil and police administration in shielding the real culprits, evidently the national and international Hindutva forces?
7. Why are the diocese of Meerut, CBCI and other Church and civil organizations silent over the whole issue?
Sadhu Asteya and his devoted disciple Mercy have become martyrs for their Christian faith. They became victims in the hands of cruel communal forces who are lashing terror all over the country. Christianity does not believe in seeking revenge or worldly justice. But the souls of Sadhu Asteya and Mercy cry for truth, so that their shedding of blood does not go in vain. The Church and the enlightened civil society should pressurize the state and central Governments to expose the facts behind the murders. Obviously these murders are part of a wider campaign. The entire nation should demand the Government to nab the forces behind the murders in Dehradun, the massacre in Orissa and the violence and vandalizing of homes, places of worship and institutions of service in Karnataka, Kerala, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country. So that harmony, peace, brotherhood and love prevail in the Indian nation.

The above further reveals the extent to which yogic meditation has pervaded the Indian church. A man who promoted Hinduism with the open support of bishops is touted as a Christian “martyr”!

It also confirms my often-repeated statements that yoga is part of the Catholic-Hindu-ashram nexus.

*Fr Anand, IMS is is one of those pro-yoga priests. The Indian Missionary Society [IMS] ashrams promote everything from Eastern meditations to New Age alternative therapies.

**Chottebhai is a disciple of New Ager and Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths of Saccidananda Ashram

***Anil Dev IMS is the head of the Matridham Ashram in Varanasi which blends charismatic spirituality with yoga and “Om” chanting. He has served at the very top of the national charismatic renewal leadership team.



40a. Priest advocates use of yoga to combat HIV-AIDS

TNN, February 19, 2009

Panaji: Fr Joseph Pereira, the first Christian priest to be awarded the Padma Shri for social work this year, has said that in India where anti-retroviral treatment is beyond the reach of most people, yoga can delay the onset of full-blown AIDS by five to ten years, depending on the age of the person.
Popularly known as Fr Joe, the 67-year-old founder of Kripa foundation
has done pioneering work in the field of yoga for alcohol de-addiction and HIV-AIDS in India and abroad for the last 27 years.



A native of Vasai, the priest attended the anniversary celebrations of Kripa Rehabilitation Centre at Anjuna on February 15 and is presently teaching yoga to a group of Britishers. He is a certified instructor in the B K S Iyengar school of yoga.
Fr Joe has established several Kripa centres in Goa, including the Kripa counselling centre at Mapusa and the Kripa rehabilitation centre at Anjuna. “I teach yoga for alcohol addiction recovery and for HIV-AIDS. Yoga is a very powerful means for strengthening the immune system of a person,” Fr Joe said.
Kripa also runs a employee assistance programme to optimise employee performance at the Goa Shipyard Limited, Vasco. Kripa has 48 facilities in 11 states in India and six collaborative centres in Zurich-Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Canada, USA and Sao Paolo-Brazil.
Reminiscing, Fr Joe said it was in 1981 that he first treated three patients from Mother Theresa’s Home in Mumbai for addiction, and all three got cured. Mother Theresa was so happy that she called him to Kolkatta and offered him her male orphanage to open his second and one of the largest rehabilitation centres in Kolkatta.


40b. A Catholic and a lotus-seater

By Ashley D’Mello, February 20, 2010

Madonna swears by it. So do Geri Halliwell and Sting. That’s just the celeb brigade. Now, it’s the turn of the Catholic church to mix prayers and pranayams.
Kripa, a de-addiction centre at Bandra in Mumbai, is proof of yoga’s growing popularity with the clergy. Here, inmates practise their asanas every morning and leading the class is Father Joe Pereira, a Catholic priest and Kripa founder who is a firm believer in yoga’s ability to combat alcohol and drug addiction.
He isn’t the only one who finds this 5,000-year-old system of exercise beneficial. From schools in
Agra to institutions in Kerala, yoga is putting many Christians on the mat. In fact, several Catholic seminaries in
have started using yoga in their meditation classes to help candidates prepare for priesthood.
Yoga instructors across the country have always attracted their fair share of Catholics over the years but that’s been purely for fitness reasons. Now, seminaries are showing they’re not averse to its spiritual side.
So why the acceptance? After all, the discomfort with yoga’s associations with Hinduism goes back a long way.
countries like
have even seen fatwas being issued against yoga.

Father Julian Saldhana*, who teaches theology at the St Pious** College, an institution where Catholic priests are trained, traces the winds of change to the Second Vatican Council held in the mid-1960 s.” Local cultures and languages began to be given greater importance. Before Vatican II, there were individual attempts by priests to practise yoga; some also wrote about their experiences but this did not have any major impact,” he says.

*Author of “Inculturation” **Pius X Seminary, Goregaon, Mumbai
Despite the easing up of restrictions, many were still wary. When Father
Joe Pereira began teaching yoga at the Fort Convent Hall in Colaba in 1974, there was a section of Catholics who complained to the then Cardinal Valerian Gracias that ”yoga was satanic and against the tenets of Christianity”. But the Cardinal supported him.” They were unaware that yoga could be taught in a manner which could appeal to people of all faiths. I was teaching Iyengar Yoga which was a combination of asanas, pranayama and prayers to the god of your own understanding. There was no prayer to a Hindu God.”
Another reason for yoga being accepted in Catholic seminaries is the fact that some of its practices are similar to some older traditions of Christianity, says Fr Saldhana.” For instance, there has always existed a tradition of using ”Hesychasm,” a breathing technique in which the name of Christ is repeated hundreds of times. This is similar to ”Nam Jap” used in the yogic tradition,” he points out.
According to church circles, strains of the yogic tradition were also contained in the writings of well-known Catholic priest and author, the late
Fr Anthony D’Mello***, who penned Sadhana, A Way to God in 1984***. His concepts, which drew from yoga and zen Buddhism, are widely used by Christians for mediation****. Fr DMello*** died in 1987 but his writings continued to be popular inspite of severe criticism by the Vatican’s faith watchdog, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. ***de Mello. His writings were banned by Rome ***1978 ****meditation

In Kerala, which has a Christian tradition going back 2,000 years, yoga is very much in demand. Fr Paul Telecatt*****, editor of a Catholic paper Satyadevam and spokesperson for the Ernakulam diocese, says many priests have mastered the art. *****Fr. Paul Thelekat
But while some are bending over backwards to embrace yoga, there are voices of dissent.
Gee Varghese Dionisious******, Syro Maolankara******* rite bishop of Bathery in
in Kerala, points out that yoga in its entirety isn’t in keeping with the Church’s teaching. ”In the final stages of yoga, the yogi becomes one with God and this is where we differ from yoga. Any Christian has to keep this in mind when he does yoga.”

There are different kinds of yoga and these shouldn’t be lumped together, explains Fr Joe Pereira. ”The BKS Iyengar school which I teach caters to the mind and the body. As for the spirit, he leaves us free to choose the God we understand .But there are other schools of yoga that restrict the practice within a particular faith bias.” He cites Bhakti yoga which has a lot of singing of hymns to Hindu deities and is difficult for people from other religions to follow.
”In the 1950s, I used to use a chain around my thigh for penance. This went out of practice in the Church, but through yoga I can understand self denial, penance and mortification,” says Father Joe who runs over 25 de-addiction centres.

******Geevarghese Mar Divannasios *******Syro-Malankara




Some denominations of the Church are wary of yoga though they have not come out against it openly. Mainstream Protestant groups have not taken to it like the Catholic Church. Pentocalist
******** Christians are not fans either. Shekhar Kallianpur, an international speaker with the
New Life Fellowship International Church which is a large grouping in the Pentecostalist******** fold, says they do not promote yoga. ”We ask our followers to meditate on God’s word. If they want to keep fit there are regular exercises which can be followed. You have to look at the root of yoga before you begin to follow it,” he says. ********Pentecostal


-Michelle (Mumbai) 20/02/2010 at 09:38 pm
Yoga is strictly Hinduism

21/02/2010 at 12:06 am
Religion or faith is a medium between humanbeing and God. Yoga enhances one’s ability of self control of mind and body. It is a welcome gesture that chatholics encourage yoga.
(Mumbai, India)
30/04/2010 at 03:52 pm
Yoga is way of life just like Faith is. It’s great that Fr.Joe has the spirituality and wisdom to absorb these 2 great tenets and bring them together to heal people. The world needs more people like him.


It took me more than 30 minutes to correct the punctuation errors in Ashley D’Mello’s story. I have also corrected SOME of the factual errors. It is apparent that Ashley knows little of his own faith or the Church.

The TOI article was posted in the liberal MangaloreanCatholics digest no. 1910 dated March 5, 2010:

Posted by: “Bombay Catholic Sabha, Kalina”

Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 5:39 PM

Subject: Re: A Catholic and a lotus-seater



1. Excellent play of words in the title, but too many spelling errors in the names of key places and persons cited.

Fr Joe had better put back that chain on his thigh, both of them for good measure, and TIGHT.

Yoga is a no-no for Catholics says Rome in TWO Documents.

Michael Prabhu, Chennai

2. If the Vatican says yoga is a no-no for Catholics and if Bishop Geevarghese Mar Divannasios [now retired] says so too, who’s gotta be wrong? They, or Father Joe?

Check out YOGA at for the answer.

Angela Prabhu, Chennai

Our comments were posted in
MC digest no. 1911 dated March 6, 2010.


Fr Joe Pereira, backed by a large coterie of Cardinals and bishops, is the Indian Church’s leading protagonist of yoga.







Edited by James Arraj and Philip St. Romain, 2007

The material here came originally from and  

PART III: Christian Mysticism in Dialogue with the East 
Chapter 5:
Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality

Phil St. Romain: “Kundalini energy” is a term that will likely not be found in writings on Christian spirituality prior to the end of the 20th century.  It is also difficult to point to a conceptual or even experiential equivalent in the classical Christian literature on the spiritual life.  Although one will surely find, there, reports of energy phenomena of all kinds (inner light, sound, heat, pressure in the brain, etc.), these are usually considered phenomena concomitant to contemplative experiences or inner transformation.  It quite likely that the process we are describing in this chapter as “kundalini” was experienced by a number of Christian mystics (e.g. St. Teresa of Avila), but that they understood it in the context of deepening union with God and so didn’t study it any further.

Increasing contact with Eastern spiritual disciplines through the 20th century brought to the attention of Westerners are wide array of practices that we were unfamiliar with.  Some of these – such as the Hindu/yogic traditions emphasizing kundalini – have elaborate, detailed descriptions of what we might call our metaphysical anatomy.  Teachings describing subtle bodies with their unique energy passageways (nadis, meridians) conducting the primal life force (prana, chi, ki)  inform practices whose aim is to unblock these passageways, thus enabling the life force to more fully energize all the levels of our humanity.  That is what is meant by the awakening of kundalini.  Retreats, workshops and books on this topic are now widely available.

But what is going on, here?  Kundalini teachers often state that what they teach is just another way of baptizing one in the Holy Spirit.  Some Christian groups would beg to differ, holding that kundalini is a demonic force and so one ought to stay away from any teachings that speak of awakening kundalini, opening the energy centers (charkas) and so forth.  In this chapter, we address some of these concerns, and attempt to provide an understanding of the kundalini process in the light of a traditional Christian anthropology and attempt to assess its place in the spiritual life.

Jim Arraj: The word kundalini is often used in a somewhat general and undefined way in order to describe various upheavals of psychic energy. This prompted one person to write:

“I am not happy with your indiscriminate use of the word kundalini. This word has a history and a background. It is the serpent power that lies dormant at the base of the spine and can be awakened. It is related to sexual energy. It is a mysterious power. I am not sure that it is a good idea for a Christian who begins to experience energy (and I know what it is like and experience it myself) to immediately call it kundalini. Is it not enough to call it energy? And then we can begin to dialogue with kundalini. There is a lot of energy and light and fire in St. John of the Cross. I would not call it kundalini.

“Something similar can be said about Zen. If a Christian practices Zen under a recognized teacher, then he or she can claim to be practicing Zen. But for anyone who sits in the lotus in absence of thought – for such a one to say that he or she is practicing Zen is not a good idea. The Zen people don’t like it. And perhaps (though I cannot state this dogmatically) the kundalini people would not like us to claim that our kundalini is awakened. Is it not better to stick with dialogue until we find out what is what?”

Fair enough. Let’s try to get a better idea of just what kundalini is and how it relates to Christianity. Our first contribution comes from a person who experienced an awakening of kundalini energy before becoming a Christian, and has spent a great deal of energy searching the world for information on how to cope with this awakening.


A Story of Kundalini Struggles

In 1969, when I was initiated into transcendental meditation, I felt tremendous peace and heard a soft snapping sound in the crown of my head. I now believe this was a knock at the door through which kundalini would eventually enter into my life.

A little over a year later, after a series of unusual inner experiences, an unimaginably brilliant white light burst upon my being. I was startled and sensed I was on the verge of merging with the universe and leaving behind forever everything in the world near and dear to me. I jolted out of the medi-tative state and, trembling, phoned the local TM center. I made an appointment that day to see a TM teacher with the hope of finding some answers for what was to me an otherworldly and confusing occurrence.

When I arrived at the center I described what had happened to me to the teacher. “That’s nothing, just celestial perception,” he said. Inwardly I had to laugh. Here I was having had the most astounding spiritual experience of my life and he says, “That’s nothing, just celestial perception.” Looking back this was probably the best response I could have received; it dismissed the anxiety and reduced the awesome encounter into merely a glimpse into the heavens.

The next day, in the midst of activity, kundalini energy began to stream slowly up into the crown of my head as it had in the past during meditation, and as I closed my eyes at night before falling asleep. In the following days it flowed up continuously. I knew I had reached a point of no return – I felt I was entering into a permanent state of higher consciousness. It was a little unnerving, yet at the same time extremely exciting.

With the passing of a few years, many of the advantages of kundalini flowered in the garden of my spirituality. I often had sensations of almost unbearable joy. Peace beyond belief sometimes seeped into my awareness. On occasion, expansions in consciousness seemed to reveal “the heaven within.” Along with these enjoyable, but fleeting experiences disadvantages began to emerge: when I attempted to do extensive reading or studying, too much of the current would build up in my head, causing me to awaken throughout the night and be exhausted during the day. Physical exercises done daily had the same effect. I also had to drop out of college due to overpowering amounts of the energy surging into my head from all the necessary hours of reading and concentration to complete the courses. Had I attempted to persist, the relentless intensity of the energy would have led to a mental breakdown.

I was deeply disappointed at this unexpected turn of events. It ran contrary to all I had read and been told about meditation enlarging the capabilities of the mind. In my case it had stunted my intellectual growth and the opportunities higher education could have afforded me.

After 20 years of meditation, and no cure for my kundalini condition, I left TM and took initiation with a highly respected guru, Dr. Rammurtimishra, who had helped people with kundalini problems. I had some extraordinary spiritual experiences under his guidance and, for a while, the upward flow appeared to be balanced, but after 2 months away from him, the problems resurfaced. If I had been able to visit him on a weekly basis, the current may have remained stable, but this was not possible.



Two years went by and after a never-ending plane flight, I started wondering what would happen to me when I died. Who or what would be there for me? I began to long for the comfort of a personal relationship with God as opposed to seeking oneness with an impersonal being. I was also disturbed at the increasing accounts of prominent gurus in America sexually abusing their students. I had read the spiritual histories of some of these adepts and by their inner experiences, they seemed to have attained full enlightenment – a state where according to their scriptures, “sin would avoid an enlightened being as deer would avoid a burning mountain top.” At this time I read books by Christians (Death of a Guru, Lord of the Air, etc.) which reinforced my discontent and introduced me to the Lord of Love.

In some of these Christian writings, I read of people steeped in Eastern mystical experiences who, upon conversion to Christianity, had all the effects of their practices delivered out of their minds and bodies by the power of the risen Christ. I began to believe Christ would do this for me, and the thought of meeting him one day at the doorway of death touched me in the deepest recesses of my heart. A devotion I did not think I was capable of began to grow and blossom within me. It grew so strong and undeniable that one day I fell to my knees, confessed my sins, and invited Jesus Christ into my heart. I did not feel His presence; there were no “celestial perceptions.” I just felt elated and in the caring hands of a loving God.

I ceased my Hindu meditation practices; attended Church; read the Bible, and prayed daily. Although the conversion had not removed the kundalini energy, I had faith Christ would take it away in time.

This was not to be. Prayer began to activate the energy. Reading the Bible intensified it like reading the writings of spiritual masters whose subtle energies flow out of their written words. This was incomprehensible to me. From what I had read in the Christian literature, I expected reading the Bible would either quiet down the current or have no effect on it. Instead, it increased it to such a degree that daily Bible reading became impossible – too much energy began to build up in my head with the attendant limitations.

Reading the books of some “spirit filled” Christians with national healing ministries highly stimulated the energy. Prayers to the Holy Spirit charged it up even more. Once while praying to the Holy Spirit in Church, I felt subtle energy gently pouring into me from above my head. That night when I went to bed, I closed my eyes and kundalini energy erupted like a volcano, though accompanied with reassuring feelings of peace and joy. This lasted two more nights as I slept little, but enjoyed the blessing. This episode perplexed me, however. Why had prayer to the Holy Spirit ignited kundalini energy? According to some Christians, it should have driven the energy out of me. Yet, here it was supercharging it like a guru’s shaktipat (energy transmission).

As I continued in my Christian walk, kundalini became as unmanageable as it had been prior to my conversion. Minimal prayer or Bible reading created excessive energy increases and the sleeping difficulties. I was frustrated at not being able to spend more time in devotion to God. Every day I prayed to Jesus to remove the kundalini current and lift the limitations from my life. I prayed to Mary and the saints for intercession. I visited local shrines. I wrote to national Christian healing ministries. Anointed Christians laid hands on me and prayed for my deliverance. I pleaded the blood of Christ. I surrendered it to God, etc., etc., all to no avail.

Then I started coming into contact with Christians in whom kundalini had awakened purely within the Christian tradition. This flew in the face of all the Christian writings that referred to kundalini as a demonic force – a serpent-like spirit that needed to be cast out by the power of Christ.

How, then, I asked myself, could kundalini arise in devoted Christians under the love and protection of Christ? Does this energy exist in everyone and is it the driving thrust behind all impulses toward God, as some spiritual adepts claim? These and other questions simmered in my psyche until my doubts about the nature of the energy gradually dissolved in the light of reason.

Today, 4 years into my Christian journey, I still struggle with kundalini symptoms, but have come to the conclusions that: (1) it is a natural spiritual energy in all of us; and (2) it will ultimately bring me closer to my Creator and, in some way, enable me to be of greater service to others. In the meantime, I await the day when at the doorway of death I will meet Jesus Christ, not as a mystic, but as an individual who attempted to lead a life of love.”


An Interview with Philip St. Romain

After the publication of his book,
Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality
in 1991, Philip St. Romain heard from people around the country, many of them Christians, who are trying to understand the nature of their own kundalini-like experiences.

Jim Arraj:
Could you say something about your own kundalini experience?

Phil: All day and all night now, there is an energy pushing “upwards” in my system. Its course runs through the heart, which it fills with bliss and good-will toward all creation. From here it flows through the throat, then along the sides of the face, pushing through the ear pinnae, where the most extraordinary sensations of pressure and release are experienced at times. After pressing through the ears, its streams from both sides of the head converge in the middle of the brain, creating a most pleasant “knot” of pressure in the center of the forehead. A new way of seeing is possible from this center. When, for a number of possible reasons, the passageways through which the energy flows become blocked, there is pressure in this area, and a gnawing away by the energy until the block is removed. If I do not consciously cooperate with the “intent” of the energy to work through the block and flow freely, the pressure and pain become so intense that I eventually do cooperate. These are very real experiences to me, now a common occurrence in my everyday life. I have forgotten what it was like to live without this energy, its blocks, its gnawings and breakthroughs. To ignore the reality of this energy would be more difficult than to ignore the reality of my body. It is just that real!

Just what is kundalini energy?

Phil: It is easier to say what it is not than what it is. Quite frankly, I don’t know what it is. What it feels like, however, is pure life energy, uncolored by emotion or passion. This life energy is of a strange quality, however. Unlike emotional energy, which I know most definitely belongs to me, the energy I have been describing does not seem to belong to me. There is an impersonal quality to it which at first seems quite strange, but later becomes most satisfying. In saying that it is impersonal, I do not wish to imply that it is anti-personal. It is not. It seems to be completely non-subjective, that is all. How to describe the reality of life energy that is neither personal nor antipersonal is most difficult.

What are some of the physical consequences of awakening this energy?

Phil: Here are some of the most basic ones:




1. Inner vision illuminated when the eyes are closed, especially during times of prayer and meditation. Visual background turning blue, purple, ultraviolet, gold, silver, or white, sometimes forming circular, amoeboid, or tunnel-like patterns. 2. Sensations of heat and/or cold in different parts of the body, especially the shoulders and the top of the head. 3. Tingling sensations in the brain, ears, forehead, spine, and other parts of the body. Feeling like an electrical current is shooting through these places, often snapping or popping through nerves. 4. Sensation of a warm, energized fluid slowly pushing its way around the brain and/or up the spine. 5. Perception of inner sounds – ringing, chirping, buzzing, ringing in the ears. 6. Strong compulsion to close eyes tightly, especially during quiet prayer. 7. Alteration of breathing patterns – sometimes slow and shallow (especially during meditation), short and choppy, or deep and smooth. Growing preference for abdominal breathing. 8. Sensations of electrical energy rippling through reproductive organs. 9. Sensations of gaseous bubbles arising from the area of the reproductive organs. 10. Compulsion to move facial muscles and bodily limbs in yoga-like postures. 11. Sense of an inner eye seeing with the two sensory eyes. Sense of warmth and strength emanating from the center of the forehead.

What about the psychological consequences?

Phil: The first is the healing of emotional pain. There is no longer a background of anxiety, shame, guilt, and resentment in my consciousness. With the healing of emotional pain has come a stabilizing of my moods.

The second major psychological consequence is the diminishing of my false self ego. Something of my self experience was once acutely attuned to the emotions of shame, anxiety, guilt, and resentment. This dimension of my self experience was inherently defensive and controlling, intent on making my life meaningful by doing the right kinds of things. It made me restless and desirous, robbing me of the beauty of the NOW. Since it was a compensation for emotional pain, this dimension of ego was lost when emotional pain was healed.

What is the goal of this process?

Phil: The healing of emotional pain, the diminishment of the false self ego, and the purification of the body are all beneficial. They are not the real goal of this energy process, however. The goal seems to be the awakening and embodiment of the true self. The consequences described above are prerequisites for this awakened embodiment.

Listed below are a few phrases from my journals which attempt to state some of the most characteristic features of the true self.

1. A direct, non-conceptual realization “That I am.” 2. Non-interpretive attention, awake to the fact of self as the subject of attention (not the object, as is the ego.) 3. Being awake to myself prior to any thought, act of will, or movement of my consciousness. “Before I think I am, I am.” Knowing this. 4. Knowing without a doubt that “I am here,” looking out of my eyes. 5. Knowing that the “I who am” is one with all that is, and feeling this in the heart.

The body center in which the true self awakens is the center of the forehead, sometimes called the third eye in occult literature. When the energy flows freely into the third eye, the true self is realized. As the energy flows to the top of the head and beyond, the cosmic dimension of the true self is seen. Without making intellectual judgments, one can clearly see that there is a level from which all things arise, and all things are one at this level. Although the senses continue to perceive the distinct separateness of things, the intuition of oneness can be so strong as to eclipse the information of the senses. When the cosmic sense is strong and I gaze upon an object, I feel its existence in my heart as though it is somehow within me. This holds true even when gazing at people, although with people and higher animals, I am intuitively aware of the existence of another freedom separate from myself.

It is my belief that the realization of the true self is the goal of our human development. I see the energy process we have been talking about as directly related to this goal. Indeed, it may well be that this energy is none other than the energetic dimension of the true self, and that the awakening of this process signals the dawning of the true self.

If kundalini is such a central human reality, why is it that many people who appear integrated and devoted to the interior life don’t seem to experience it?

Phil: This may be explained in a number of ways:

1. The energy has risen to the 4th or 5th chakra, but not much higher. They would certainly be moved at these levels to do many great works, but they would not be experiencing the fireworks that come with a fuller awakening. 2. They laid such a good foundation that the fully awakened energy was hardly noticeable to them. 3. They are moved by extraordinary graces to do these works, but it has not resulted in personal transformation. They have not integrated their own body-mind with these movements of the Spirit through them. As we know, some of our Catholic saints seem to be of this type: not much personal integration, but lots of willingness to be used by God. 4. The awakening has been so gradual that it was imperceptible. 5. Elements of all of the above, in combinations.


Kundalini: The Hindu Perspective by Philip St. Romain

Previously I attempted to convey the raw data pertaining to the experience I eventually came to call kundalini. Because I perceived that this process was related somehow to the deepening of my experience of Christian prayer, it was only natural that I would search my own Catholic mystical tradition for some kind of understanding and validation. This search was fruitless. Although I felt close to the writings on “dark nights of the soul” and other references to psycho-spiritual transformation, there was very little to be found in the Christian literature concerning energy, energy centers, and the physiological implications of spiritual transformation. Experienced spiritual directors did not know what to make of my experience. This was disappointing, for the process had been awakened in the context of Christian faith, and I had hoped to find some account of it in my tradition.

On several occasions, I was told by priests and nuns with experience in contemplative prayer that my searching for an explanation of some kind was an attempt on my part to force the experience into some kind of conceptual framework, and so try to control it. That was not the purpose of my inquiry, nor is it my purpose in writing.

At a practical level, I was learning how to cope. But at an intellectual level, I was confused, and it was entirely inappropriate to be told that such understanding was unimportant, or even harmful. Maybe understanding would not change my response on a practical level, but it was nonetheless important for me to know what was going on in my life. Toward this end, I found something of what I was looking for in the Hindu literature on kundalini. It was there that I found my experience described, and so came to an intellectual understanding of the process that facilitated deeper acceptance and serenity.



From the Hindu literature, I learned that what I was calling the true self, they called enlightenment, advaita, or Self-realization (sat-chit-ananda). This awakening is the goal of Hinduism, and the various kinds of yogas are disciplines to lead one to realize this goal. I came into contact with a very deep, holistic understanding of human nature and its various systems of energy and intelligence which helped me to understand myself better. Hinduism teaches one how to work with these various levels to come to the experience of enlightenment. This is the over-arching context for grasping the Hindu understanding of kundalini. What follows will be a brief presentation of the Hindu teaching.


Yogic Anthropology

We begin with the yogic understanding of the soul. My primary source will be Swami Vishnu-devananda, whose book, The Complete, Illustrated Book of Yoga, has served to introduce thousands of Westerners to Hindu ideas and disciplines. About the soul, he writes: “Spirit or soul as such is the whole without any division. Mind and bodies, being the active power of the spirit which springs from it and brings individual consciousness, are parts of that whole. Thus consciousness or spirit, while remaining unchanged in one aspect, changes in another aspect into active power, manifesting as mind and body. In the final stage, the spirit becomes aware again of its real nature through the negation of the veiling principle, the mind-body.”

From this teaching we learn that the soul is one spirit with various dimensions of manifestation, which the Hindu calls bodies. These bodies or sheaths contain different intensities of soul energy, enabling the soul to be manifest on different levels. Swami Vishnu-devananda describes these levels as follows:

1. Gross Level (Stula)

This is the material body, contained by the food sheath (annamaya kosha). Its energy and intelligence is governed primarily by genetic factors. The experiences of earthly, sensate existence, birth, death, change, sickness, and decay belong to this level. The gross body decomposes after death.

2. Astral Level (Sukshma)

a. Vital Sheath or Etheric Body (pranamaya kosha). This sheath includes etheric particles and energy called prana, or life force. This body animates the food sheath and is responsible for governing the physiological processes. It is sensitive to hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and other physiological experiences. It can partially separate from the material body, but it is not immortal. After death, it may linger near the corpse for awhile, visible to those with clairvoyance; eventually it disintegrates.

b. Astral or Lower Mental Sheath (suckshma sharira, manomaya kosha). In this body is the energy and intelligence of emotional life and desire. It also includes lower mental processes related to emotional desire and sensory life. After death, it decomposes.

c. Intellectual Sheath (vijnanamaya kosha). Rational consciousness and the experience of thinking belong to this level. Here we find the Mental Ego and its powers of discrimination and decision- making. This level is considered immortal.

3. Causal Level (Karana). This is the bliss body, the source of our experiences of joy and happiness. Its intelligence is purely spiritual and intuitive. This body transcends the knowledge of the intellectual ego, being more cosmic.

Some writers refer to even higher, spiritual bodies which infuse the causal. Most agree, however, that the lower sheaths issue from the higher, rather than vice versa.

In speaking of these different levels as bodies, the yogis intend to express the integrity of these different levels of energy and intelligence. Each has its own domain of governance, but not in isolation from the other levels. According to the yogis, these bodies interpenetrate and influence one another. The interpenetration is possible because each body is of a different energy frequency, increasing in intensity from the gross level to the causal. Therefore, the energy of the vital level is capable of existing within the frequency of the physical body even while it transcends this frequency. The same relationship exists between the astral and vital, intellectual and astral, and causal and intellectual levels. The higher frequencies exist within the lower, but also transcend them, emanating beyond the physical body in such a manner as to create an aura of energy around the body. Many people are capable of seeing this energy field and its levels of emanation.

Because the various bodies interpenetrate, they are capable of occupying the same space and directly influencing each other. Generally, the influence is most noticeable between two “adjacent” levels. For example, alterations in the functioning of the etheric body have the greatest effect on the physical body, and, to a lesser extent, on the astral. Emotional desire in the astral body influences the functioning of the etheric body, and, to a lesser extent, the intellectual. A higher level is capable of influencing the operations of a lower level, but the converse it also true. If the etheric body is filled with disharmony, it will affect the higher levels. This is why practitioners of hatha and kundalini yoga pay great attention to the health of the physical and emotional levels. If the spiritual consciousness of the causal level is to be realized in this life, then the intellectual, emotional, physiological, and physical levels must be prepared to receive this energy and live in harmony with it.


The Chakras

Given such a view of multiple, interpenetrating bodies, one is led to inquire about how these bodies communicate with one another. After all, the chemical energies of the physical body are one thing, the etheric life force another, emotional energy different yet, and so forth. How does emotional energy affect intellectual life and etheric energy, for example? The answer to this question is that the different bodies communicate through energy transformation centers called chakras. A chakra is a “wheel” of energy roughly corresponding in location and function to the nerve plexus regions on the spinal cord and brain. There is general agreement among the yogis that the etheric, astral and intellectual bodies each have their own systems of energy vessels, which converge on seven major chakras in each subtle body (I have never seen references to chakras in the causal and higher spiritual levels). These seven chakras interpenetrate each other, making it possible for the energies in one level to influence the energies in another. Chakras are also said to act as centers in which energy is stepped up or down.

Psychologists do not know what a thought is, nor do they understand how thought influences emotional states and the physical body. Yogic anthropology explains this common experience in terms of the operations of the various bodies through the chakras. Thoughts arising from the intellect move through the mental chakras into astral, etheric, and physical energy centers, influencing each level depending on the kind and strength of the thought. Hence, a thought is capable of impacting the emotional, physiological, and even cellular systems. Energy is also capable of being transmuted from the lower to the higher levels through the chakras. Food energy can affect thoughts and emotions, for example.


The chakras are also considered centers of consciousness. What this means is that a particular motive of attention seems to infuse more energy into one particular chakra than it does others. A thought about sexuality, for example, will more significantly affect the second chakra than any other. The chakra system explains how it is that we have different bodily experiences of different states of attention. Some of our most common sayings reflect this insight: “I had butterflies in my stomach.” “I didn’t know what to say; I had a lump in my throat.” “My heart went out to her.” “He gives me a pain in the neck.” “She turns me on.” Each of these sayings attests to the reality of body centers associated with different motives of attention.

Characteristics and attentional motives associated with the seven chakras are described below following Swami Vishnu-devananda and Dr. Richard Gerber:

1. Mooladhara Chakra
a. Body center is the base of the spine, coccygeal plexus.
b. Associated with motives of survival and security.
c. Sensory association is smell.
d. Color association is red.
e. Is considered the site where kundalini energy lies dormant in most people.

2. Swadhishatana Chakra
a. Body center in the genital region and sacral plexus.
b. Associated with motives of pleasure and emotional life.
c. Sensory association is taste.
d. Color association is orange.

3. Manipura Chakra
a. Body center in the solar plexus.
b. Associated with motives of power, control, and assertiveness.
c. Sensory association is sight.
d. Color association is yellow.

4. Anahata Chakra
a. Body center is the heart, and cardiac plexus.
b. Associated with motives of compassion and self-responsibility.
c. Sensory association is touch.
d. Color association is green and pink.

5. Visudha Chakra
a. Body center is the throat, and cervical plexus.
b. Associated with motives of self-expression and conceptual discrimination.
c. Sensory association is hearing.
d. Color association is blue.

6. Ajna Chakra
a. Body center in the center of the forehead, and brain core.
b. Associated with motives of intuitive awareness.
c. Sensory association is the “third eye,” or pineal.
d. Color association is indigo.

7. Sahasrara Chakra
a. Body center on top of the head, or above the head.
b. Associated with cosmic consciousness, unity.
c. Sensory association is the whole brain.
d. Color association is purple, or white.

It should be noted that many other characteristics are associated with the chakras, such as endocrine functions, numbers of lotus petals, sounds, and bodily organs. Variations exist from author to author. Hindu writers also associate the powers of various spiritual guides with each chakra. A detailed presentation of all this information is not considered relevant to this discussion on Hinduism and kundalini, however. What we find described in the literature on multiple bodies and chakras is primarily a kind of metaphysical physiology which attempts to lead to and account for various states of consciousness. The practice of yoga–Hatha Yoga in particular–is designed to help the individual become more aware of his or her own various energies and chakras, and to facilitate a safe, conscious assent up the chakras. It may well be that the various characteristics associated with each chakra have more to do with spiritual formation than with subtle anatomy per se. Indeed, this seems to be the intent of such writers as Swami Radha Sivananda. Her discussions of the chakras are designed to encourage students to develop their many human powers and so to grow, step by step, unto the higher states. Without denying the reality of metaphysical anatomy, Swami Radha discusses the chakras as developmental stages, each of which has its own issues which must be mastered before the next stage can be safely experienced. This treatment is also popular among New Age writers.

Given the very brief treatment of the yogic views on multiple interpenetrating bodies and the chakras described above, we are ready now to reflect on the nature of kundalini awakening.


The Awakening of Kundalini

The standard teaching that one will find is that the energy called kundalini lies dormant in the first, or Mooladhara chakra, coiled three and one half times therein around a lingam. When awakened, the kundalini energy uncoils and begins to rise through the chakras, transforming the subtle bodies as it does so, bringing more energy, awareness, and understanding to the recipient.

The various kinds of yoga attempt to awaken this energy, each in its own way. Some, like Hatha yoga, work directly with the chakras and subtle bodies, and attempt to awaken the energy through yogic postures, breathing exercises, and mantra meditation. Others, like Raja and Jani yoga, work primarily with the intellectual and causal levels; as these higher levels are developed, the lower are transformed accordingly so that the kundalini is drawn up spontaneously when the obstacles to its awakening are removed.


Another method popular in the United States is Siddha Yoga, where the yogi awakens the energy in a disciple through a special touch called shaktipat. In speaking of the awakening of kundalini, then, one will find a great variety of methods and descriptions even in the yogic literature.

To bring some order to the discussion, it will be helpful to distinguish between a full-blown kundalini awakening and a kundalini arousal. The latter, as John Selby writes, is experienced by everyone at some time. “Jogging, for example, recently became an extremely popular way to regularly shift into higher levels of kundalini consciousness. Pleasureful walking with the mind at rest accomplishes the same end.” Selby also recognizes singing, chanting, alcohol, and drugs as gateways to kundalini experiences, however distorted they may be. Similarly, Swami Vishnu-devananda acknowledges that yogic meditation can result in kundalini arousals where the energy rises to the top, then eventually falls back into the lower centers. Most likely, kundalini is the energy at work in what Maslow called peak experiences. In all of these cases, the experience is short-lived. For a few moments or even hours, a door is opened unto higher states of consciousness, only to close again. An imprint of some kind remains in the memory, but for the most part, life returns to “normal.”

Not so with a full-blown awakening of kundalini: people who experience this will never again know normal, everyday consciousness presided over by the intellectual ego. In cases of full-awakening, the energy is constantly at work, pushing its way toward the top of the head. This was what I described before. Another description of kundalini awakening may be found in Gopi Krishna’s autobiography, Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. In such cases, the subtle bodies become transformed to manifest the consciousness of the causal and higher spiritual levels, and this is what “normal” comes to mean. The intellectual ego must learn to cooperate with this process, and this can be most painful indeed! In those who experience the awakening of kundalini, the intellectual ego can no longer claim to be the privileged center of consciousness.

Kundalini awakenings can happen spontaneously, as the fruit of living the spiritual life. They can also occur as the result of deliberate ascetical practices, drug experiences, or shaktipat transmissions, as mentioned above. It is generally acknowledged that spontaneous awakenings are easier to integrate, for the very fact of the awakening attests to a level of preparedness and receptivity in the subtle bodies. If the subtle bodies have not been properly prepared, however, the strength and power of this energy can bring such severe disturbances as to result in mental, emotional and physical illnesses. This is the great danger in using ascetical practices and drugs to force the energy out of its dormancy into the higher chakras. Kundalini is an energy that is to be respected. Indeed, it is even reverenced and worshipped by many Hindus.


Kundalini and Hindu Theology

But what is kundalini? Is it the energy of the higher spiritual bodies breaking through into the lower levels?

According to the yogic literature, it is at least that, and much more. Kundalini is none other than Shakti, the female consort of Shiva, who is one with Brahmin and Vishnu in the Hindu trinity. Hence, kundalini is considered a divine energy, and its awakening is interpreted as awakening to the divine. Small wonder Hindu writers see this energy as the counterpart to the Christian experience of the Holy Spirit! About this matter we shall have much more to say later in this work, but for now, let us examine more closely the ideas on Hindu divinity described above.

In the Hindu trinity, Brahmin is usually considered the creator and source of all that is. Vishnu is given the attributes of preserver, as exemplified in his incarnations as Krishna, Rama, and Buddha. Shiva, on the other hand, is accorded many attributes, the most common of which are destroyer, yogic ascetic, and pure consciousness. What Shiva destroys, however, is not the really real, but all that is false, illusory, and subject to corruption and rebirth. The active energy by means of which Shiva accomplishes this work is to be found in his wife, Shakti. Like Shiva, she has two faces, one as destroyer, exemplified in her work as Kali, and the other in her role as divine mother and nurturer of the really real in all that is.

Kundalini, then, cannot be discussed apart from Shiva, for the two are inseparable. The problem in most individuals, however, is that they are separated. It is believed that in the individual, Shiva resides in the seventh chakra as pure consciousness itself. Shakti, on the other hand, lies dormant in the first chakra. The divine consciousness of Shiva is not known in the individual because it is alienated from its active power or energy, which is Shakti/kundalini. When the energy awakens and rises through the chakras, Shakti unites with Shiva, and the individual lives in the unitive embrace between the two. The nature and power of their divine consciousness is known by the individual, who realizes his or her Atman, or spiritual soul. Atman is not separate from Brahmin; indeed, it is none other than Brahmin itself, manifesting as the individual soul. All illusions of duality and separateness begin to fall away with this realization, and the Atmanic condition called advaita (non- duality) begins to grow.

The awakening of kundalini, then, is considered a very special grace in Hinduism. It represents the beginning of the realization of the life of the divine as the essence of the soul itself. Nevertheless, the aspects of Shakti and Shiva as destroyer also attest to the painful purifications which accompany this awakening. Everything in consciousness which is ignorant of the Atman will be burned away– especially the false notions of individuality. In the end, however, the realization of the Atman as being, knowledge, and bliss (sat, chit, ananda) will more than compensate for the pain. Such is the hope which sustains the Hindu.


Personal Reflections on Hindu Anthropology

I found all of the above most helpful in understanding the meaning of the transformation process which had been awakened in me. The account of the soul and its multiple, interpenetrating bodies, chakras, and energies gave me a new understanding of the manner in which spirit and matter come together. The advaitic consciousness of the atmanic state also validated my experience.

As reassuring as this validation was, it nonetheless left me with many questions which I have found impossible to set aside as irrelevant. What, for example, would be the Christian equivalent to the Hindu explanation? Here are a few related issues:

1. Does the Hindu experience of Shakti correspond to the Christian idea and experience of the Holy Spirit?
2. Does the Hindu trinity correspond to the Christian trinity?
3. How does Christian metaphysics or theology account for the advaitic or enlightenment experience? Is this the same kind of consciousness described by the Christian mystics? If not, then how is it different?
4. Finally, and on a practical level: should Christians be encouraged to pursue the kind of experience I had come upon?




It took centuries to integrate Christian theology and Greek philosophy, and so I have little hope that this present work will conclusively respond to the questions raised above. I believe these issues to be among the most important facing Christian spirituality today, for East and West are coming together, and there is no reversing the process of encounter.

Significant challenges, however, stand in the way. Take, for example, the distinctions between personal and impersonal. For some, personal refers to anthropomorphism, and so they reject this in favor of impersonal language regarding the divine. Any mature Christian must know that there is more to it than that, however! In Christianity, the word personal refers primarily to the realm of relational, intentional being. When we say that God is personal, we mean that God is intentional Being, and not merely a static force underlying all things. The encounter between the human and God is, then, understood to be an encounter between two Freedoms who can mutually affect one another. Christian faith is the means by which a human becomes open and receptive to encountering the personal God. In the context of prayer, this encounter may be mediated through words, images, ideas and emotions (kataphatic prayer), or it may take place in the emptiness of deep, somewhat arid silence (apophatic prayer). Frequently, one begins with words and moves into silence; eventually, the silence prevails. In either case, Christian faith enables and mediates the encounter with God by holding the Christian in an attitude of loving surrender and receptivity to the intentional God. We say that this faith is a gift from God precisely because it sustains in us an orientation to God in spite of our ignorance and selfishness.

Ascetical practices that move toward impersonal experiences are lacking in this kind of faith. One might make use of a non-theistic mantra, count breaths, observe thoughts as from a distance, rest in the silence between thoughts, etc. When such practices are utilized outside of a relational faith context, they generally give rise to the kinds of experiences people call impersonal. These experiences are also frequently called natural, existential, or metaphysical, since we can achieve them through ascetical practices. This is not to say that God is not encountered, only that the nature of the encounter with God is different from the kind of experiences that develop in a personal faith context.

As the reader can see, the deciding factor in this discussion on personal vs. impersonal, or natural vs. supernatural mysticism, is the kind of faith held by the mystic. Although the same God is surely encountered by all mystics, Christian faith enables one to “tune in,” as it were, to the love-intentional heart of God. The bhakti tradition in Hinduism opens one to similar experiences, as do the devotional aspects of Buddhism, Judaism and Islam. Faith in an intentional/personal God usually develops in a tradition that communicates a revelation of God as personal/relational. Although the fact of our own intentionality suggests an intentional God, human experience does not let on that God’s will is Love itself. This we see most clearly in the life of Christ.

Having made these distinctions, we can now say something about the experience of emptiness and non-duality in prayer. This is most common for those who are drawn into apophatic prayer, so much so that many Christian mystics have actually wondered whether God disappeared (or they disappeared). The perdurance of faith, however, enabled them (usually with the help of a spiritual director) to recognize that this emptiness is actually a very deep state of union with God. The reason one no longer experiences God as an-Other is because the human and divine intentionalities have become one. Intellectually, we know that two freedoms still exist, but experientially, we do not feel any separateness at all. Such a one might feel closer to Buddhist or Hindu descriptions of non-duality than to the devotional expressions of Christian meditators. One might even feel tempted to say that, at this level, all religions are the same, or that the differences between them are merely semantical. This is where matters seem to be “stuck” in many dialogues between Christian contemplatives and mystics of other traditions.

The critical question, it seems to me, is whether or not Christian faith contributes anything to one’s experience of God aside from it being a dynamic that leads to nondual states of consciousness. From the foregoing discussion, I have stated that I believe it does because it promotes a receptivity to God as Love-become-present to us in the person of Jesus Christ. The intellectual dimension of faith also leads to a recognition of unity-in-duality, or two-become-one. This is an interpretation, to be sure, but it is one that is integral to faith itself. Without something like Christian faith, it is easy for nondual experiences to become interpreted in pantheistic terms. The consequences of this are many, none the least of which is a devaluation of the reality and uniqueness of the individual. Christian faith, on the other hand, promotes individuation even while leading to deeper and deeper experiences of union.

It is simply a truism, then, to say that the different expressions of mystical experience among the world religions are a matter of semantics, or interpretation. This position does not get at why different expressions and interpretations are used, and tends to minimize the significance of the kind of faith motivating the different mystics. My sense is that it is precisely the different faiths among the mystics of the world religions which account for the differences in not only their expressions and interpretations, but in their experiences, as well. Because these different faiths also have much in common (openness to mystery, surrender of self, etc.), we should not be surprised to find similarities in both experience and expression.

To emphasize the pivotal role of faith in relation to mystical experience is not likely to be a popular position these days, however, for to speak of faith is to invoke religious language. The awakening and formation of faith is also the responsibility of religious traditions, and there are many today who seek mystical experience while holding themselves apart from a religious tradition. Although the God of the mystic does, indeed, go beyond the dogmas and rituals of religions, the intellectual, affective, and volitional dimensions of the faith of the mystic are both nurtured and supported by such beliefs and practices. Indeed, it is doubtful that mystical experience can flower and be integrated apart from the wisdom of religious traditions. (The New Age and Transpersonal mysticisms, for example, generally degenerate into pantheism.) On the other hand, it is easy to understand the disgust with which many today view religion, especially in the West. Apart from a mystical tradition, the exoteric dimension of religion makes little sense, producing instead ideologies, liturgists and dogmatists. This is not true religious faith, however, only a counterfeit. Many Churches are more aware of political developments in the world than of the mystical aspect of Christianity, which is frustrating to those who seek spiritual growth. The best situation, of course, would be for the Church to view mystical union as the goal of religion itself, and to provide formation for all unto this end. This day is coming, but we’ve a long way to go.


Jim Arraj: Some Psychological and Philosophical Reflections on Kundalini Energy

After these two discussions of kundalini, it is time to ask about the relationship between Christian spirituality and kundalini energy. Is a Christian understanding of kundalini energy possible? I think that it is not only possible, but necessary.




As more Christians begin to experience this process, it becomes more and more crucial that a renewed Christian spirituality help them understand what it is, how to deal with it in practical terms, and how to integrate it into their Christian practice. This is obviously a tall order, but one that definitely belongs to the future of Christian spirituality.

Let’s begin to sketch the approach that a Christian spirituality could take. First, two extremes have to be avoided. It is not appropriate to immediately write off kundalini as some sort of demonic or alien force that Christians should exorcise from their lives. This is not only insulting to our Hindu brothers and sisters, but it is simply not true if – as the experiences recounted here indicate – kundalini is a naturally occurring energy of the soul.

Nor does it seem correct to demand that we immediately and without discussion identify kundalini energy with the Holy Spirit as if any other solution would be an insult to Hindu sensibilities, and the erection of some kind of two-tier system of mysticism with Christians inhabiting the upper regions.

The discussion of what kundalini is and how it can be related to Christian mystical experience is not identical with the question of who is holy or close to God. As a Christian I believe that God calls every human being to divine union. This is a concrete call, present in the depths of the heart of every person regardless of their religion or lack of it, and we respond to this call by our love. It is entirely possible that someone who is without any conscious religious belief is closer to God than we as Christians are. It is even more possible that Hindus who have devoted their lives to seeking the Absolute – whether they wish to call it God or not – would be just as close or closer to God than devout Christians. The exercise of kundalini yoga in such a situation would become the means by which they draw closer to God. But even if we grant this, and I do, it does not mean that we have to identify the awakening of kundalini with Christian contemplation. Let’s say, then, that every person is in the same existential context called to the same supernatural destiny, but responds to this call in and through the concrete circumstances they find themselves in.

Ah. I have used the word supernatural. I don’t think that we as Christians should automatically flinch when the word supernatural comes up despite the misuse it has suffered at the hands of Christian theologians. It is a perfectly good and even vital word that points to a fundamental distinction that I would not want to try to do without. In essence it says that God’s nature is not the same as my own. I have been created. There are two fundamentally distinct ways in which I can be united to God. In the first I am united to God by the very fact that God has created me, and sustains me in existence moment by moment. In this case, the more I become myself and realize the potentialities of my own being, the more I am united to God Who is the author of my being. My very existence is the bond that unites me to the source of existence. At the very center of my soul, or heart, there is a point where God touches me by sustaining me in existence. We could call this a natural union with God.

In actual fact, as Christians we believe that God has from the beginning destined us for a supernatural end, or union, in which we will share in God’s own life and nature. But this kind of union must be a free gift of God because it is above – but not opposed to – the capacity of our created natures. If it were not above our own capacity, that would mean we would already be God by nature. This supernatural destiny, or union, doesn’t take away the natural union we have with God, but transforms it.

When I read accounts of the awakening of kundalini, they don’t sound the same as the accounts of the Christian mystics, and I don’t think that this divergence can be ascribed simply to differences of language and culture. The Hindu experience of kundalini seems to lead to an experience of union with God as the intimate author and sustainer of our existence in the depths of our being. It appears to be a natural energy of the soul that is meant to lead us, both body and soul, to the center of our being that is in contact with God. While at first glance the experience of kundalini and the way it is described seems alien to a Christian world view, I believe that a Christian philosophical and theological explanation will eventually be fashioned, and I will simply indicate some of the elements that I feel belong to that kind of explanation.

1. The Hindu system of chakras, or energy centers, that stretch from the lowest and most material center at the base of the spine to the highest and most spiritual one at the top of the head are a reflection of their understanding of the different levels of the soul. Christian philosophy, following Thomas Aquinas, has developed a similar picture in which the human soul contains vegetative, sensitive or animal, and spiritual dimensions.

2. The awakening of kundalini is a process of transformation by which the energy that was in the lower centers moves up to higher ones, and is transformed, causing a spiritualization of the personality.

For Christian philosophy the vegetative and animal dimensions of the soul are rooted in the spiritual dimension. The soul is not in the body, but the body is in the soul. The soul is not hindered by having a body, but the body is the way in which the soul becomes activated and fulfills its spiritual potentialities. Therefore, the activation of the vegetative and animal levels of the soul are the way the spiritual dimension realizes itself. Seen in this light kundalini looks like a conscious awareness of this natural process of spiritual activation.

3. But what is most important in all this is an understanding of the goal of this process. In kundalini the energy reaches the highest center and causes union with the Absolute. How this is described varies according to different Hindu schools of philosophy. Some are more theistic, while others, like the Advaitan school, identify the soul with the Absolute.

Christian philosophy in the person of Jacques Maritain has begun to develop its own explanation of this kind of union. It is as if we were to voyage to the center of the soul, and there encounter the point where God is pouring existence into it. Then we would experience the substantial existence of the soul as it comes forth from the hand of God like a powerful spring of fresh water. We would experience God in and through the existence of the soul. Therefore, we could call this experience a natural union with God, or even a natural mystical experience, or an experience of the Self, meaning an experience of the existence of the soul as it comes forth from God, the source of existence.

4. But why, then, do some Hindu schools of philosophy identify the soul with the Absolute? The way in which we travel to the center of the soul is by putting aside all limited ideas, feelings, sensations, and so forth. But when we arrive at the center in this way we experience God in and through this emptiness which was the means we had to take to come to this center. Therefore, it becomes very easy to identify the existence of the soul with God as the source of existence and with the existence of all things, for they are, indeed, experienced in a night that does not allow them to be distinguished. From a Christian point of view, however, they are distinct.




5. This kind of mystical experience should be of the highest interest to Christians because it is a foretaste of what appears to be the natural goal of the human spirit, and it can teach us about the nature of the soul and what its destiny would have been if it had not been elevated by grace. This kind of understanding is a wonderful foundation for grasping the nature of Christian mystical experience. This does not make this kind of mystical experience identical with Christian contemplation. The one could be called a natural metaphysical mysticism, and the other a supernatural interpersonal mysticism. But ideally they should both go hand in hand, and this, indeed, seems to be happening more and more as Christians seriously undertake various kinds of Hindu and Buddhist kinds of meditation.

It is worth going into these matters in more depth.


A Jungian View of Kundalini

The basic elements of the Hindu view of kundalini, that is kundalini energy itself, pictured as a serpent coiled sleeping at the base of the spine, chakras or energy centers strung like beads along the spine, the energy channel through which the energy ascends and the ultimate goal at the crown of the head towards which this energy tends, find counterparts in C.G. Jung’s psychology. He, too, knows of a fundamental energy that he called psychic energy, centers of psychic activity that he named archetypes and a final goal of psychological development that he described under the heading of individuation. Let’s look briefly at each one of these Jungian concepts in order to better compare it with kundalini.

Jung, following the physical sciences, conceived of the psyche as a closed system endowed with a fixed amount of psychic energy. The energy in one part of the soul did not differ qualitatively from that in another part, but the psyche as a whole possessed a definite quantity of energy that flowed through both the conscious and unconscious. After carefully observing the psyche Jung framed what he called the law of equivalence. Since there is a fixed amount of energy in the psyche, if energy is expended or disappears from one area of the psyche, we can expect it to appear somewhere else. If, for example, I was to devote my energy to a form of meditation in which the discursive mind is quieted, that energy would flow elsewhere and I might find myself suddenly daydreaming about the dinner I was going to have when my period of meditation was over, or it might give rise to the kinds of illusions that are familiar to Zen meditators. The important point is that this energy is never destroyed, but flows throughout the psyche activating now this part and now another.

Jung founded his natural science of the psyche on an intensive observation of psychic images and the energies attached to them, and this intensive observation led him to what he called archetypes. He noticed that all over the world, whether in ancient myths or modern dreams, certain basic patterns seemed to organize different images in similar ways. The actual images were different but the pattern was the same. For example, I might dream of climbing the stairs in a tall building, another person might be climbing a mountain, and an ancient shamanistic ritual might call for the shaman to ascend the pole of his tent. Yet all three sets of images could have the same underlying meaning. This pattern Jung called an archetype and compared it to the axial system of a crystal which somehow guides the formation of the actual structure of the crystal. Put in another way, the hypothesis of archetypes allowed Jung to begin to describe the underlying structures of the soul. The myriads of psychic images that he examined were not simply random debris cast off by the psyche, but point to the very nature of the psyche that gave birth to them. The psyche, then, could be said to be in some way made of archetypes.

But these archetypes are not simply static parts of the psyche. Psychic energy flows from one of them to the next and the more energy that an archetype possessed the more it attracts our interest and attention. Further, both archetypes and psychic energy aim at a goal that Jung called integration or individuation. In simplest terms this meant that the whole personality, both conscious and unconscious, has to be given its due. Consciousness or the ego is not the only part of ourselves and not even the center of our psyches. Our real center, which Jung called the self, manifests itself in a dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious. The self is the realization of the whole being of the psyche.

It is tempting to identify Jung’s psychic energy with kundalini energy, the archetypes with chakras, and individuation with realization. Both psychic energy and kundalini are depicted as energies intrinsic to the soul, and they both have a built-in sense of direction and purpose. Archetypes and chakras have close affinities, as well. They are the articulations of the soul and manifest its structural complexity. Although less overtly than chakras, archetypes invoke the different dimensions and layers of the soul and body. In fact, on occasion Jung identifies the farthest reaches of the unconscious with the body. Both are the focal points where energy gathers and is transformed. Both the chakras and the archetypes are interconnected among themselves and form purposive energetic systems.

Could these similarities be accounted for by Jung’s knowledge of Eastern thought and kundalini in particular? It is certainly true that Jung was well acquainted with kundalini. In the fall of 1932, for example, he gave a series of seminars on kundalini. But these notions did not play a formative role in the creation of his psychology. What Jung does in regard to Eastern thought is to create a Jungian-style interpretation of it. The convergence we see is that of two very different and independent ways of thinking about the deeper aspects of the psyche, and all the more eloquent for that. Despite these deep analogies I really don’t think it is possible to identify the two systems. The process of individuation is intimately connected with kundalini realization which appears to be a form of enlightenment, for they both are fundamental processes taking place in the depths of the same psyche, and there is no doubt they strongly influence each other. But when we read modern accounts of kundalini awakening and similar ones of the journey to individuation it just doesn’t sound like they are talking about identical experiences in different vocabularies. Growth in individuation is not necessarily accompanied by the arousal of kundalini energy in the classical sense even though it is surrounded by powerful transformations of psychic energy. The attainment of some degree of enlightenment can coexist with serious psychological problems, and thus a lack of integration. Nor is there any immediate correspondence between the chakras and their rather precise localization and the various Jungian archetypes.

This lack of identity in no way diminishes the important role that Jungian psychology can play in our understanding of kundalini energy. This can happen in two ways. In the first there can be a dialogue between Jungian psychology and Eastern thought, and in fact this dialogue began with Jung and has continued to today. The other possibility for dialogue is much less known but potentially very fruitful for a Christian understanding of kundalini. In it the philosophy of nature of St. Thomas enters into dialogue with kundalini and is aided in this process by its attempts to understand Jung’s psychology in the light of St. Thomas’ teaching on the soul. Any progress that can be made in understanding Jungian psychology in this way will help our understanding of kundalini because of the close interrelationship between them.



A Philosophical Explanation of Kundalini Energy

God and the intuition of being. St. Thomas Aquinas saw with an exceptional clarity into the very depths of things, into the heart of their being, and this insight Jacques Maritain, one of his greatest followers, later called the intuition of being. We are intimately familiar with the differences among things. We say, “This is an apple.” or “This is a rose.” And we tend to take these differences as the deepest level of things, for they make things be what they are, or so it seems to us. But St. Thomas saw that it was possible to probe deeper. There was another fundamental aspect of things which was the very fact of their existence. No matter how different things are, they all exist. He saw that the very differences, or whats, of things were certain capacities to be, to receive existence. Existence revealed itself to him as richer and denser than how it appeared in this or that thing. It was as if both the apple and rose manifested different faces of what it meant to exist. They existed but with a limited existence which was limited by their very nature which made them to be what they are, and these natures or essences could be seen as certain capacities for existence.

Once Thomas saw this, the very depths of things became transparent to him, and shimmering in those depths was the mystery of Existence itself. Existence as received and limited demanded Existence unlimited and unreceived. All things pointed by their very being to Existence as uncontracted by this or that limited capacity for existence which makes a thing to be what it is. This fullness of Existence transcends all the limited things of our experience, and in this way it is no thing, not in the privative sense of nothing, but without the limits that come from being the existence of this or that thing. This intuition of being became the heart of St. Thomas’ metaphysics, and it leads to a metaphysical contemplation in which all things point to the abyss of Existence that we call God.

God as Creator and End. Therefore all things are partial reflections of existence itself. They are a rainbow of creatures that come forth from the fullness of existence and are meant to find the fullness of their meaning and purpose by returning to God. How do we return? By becoming what we are most fully, for our deepest natural bond with God is our very being. The more we are ourselves the more we are united to God. God did not create us for God’s own benefit, for God was already the fullness of existence. God did it for our sakes so we could enjoy existence: our own, that of all creatures, and God’s. It takes the whole of creation to express as fully as possible the mystery of existence, and all creatures have as their deepest goal to return to God by achieving the full development and activation of their natures.

The ladder of being. Let’s imagine, in a somewhat anthropomorphic way, God at work creating the universe. God decided it would be fun to see all the different kinds of things that could be made, starting with those closest to God’s own nature, which would be the highest of purely spiritual beings. To be a pure spirit means to have an interior transparency of being that expresses itself in self-awareness and choice. As soon as God created these purely spiritual beings they immediately grasped themselves in knowledge and love. Their whole nature was present to them, and this was so true that God discovered that it was not possible to create more than one being at each rung of the ladder of being for each of these beings, because each one was purely spiritual, filled up completely that certain kind of possibility so that there would be nothing to differentiate it from another creature of the same kind. Purely spiritual beings could only be one of a kind.

However, since spirit is very deep and rich, God was busy for a long time filling these spiritual rungs. But finally God was done, and since the process had been so enjoyable God looked around to see what to do next.

The human soul and the material universe. What to do next was a real puzzle. Was if possible to make something that was not spiritual? And even if it were, what would be the point, for it would not truly know it existed and could not blossom in knowledge and love. God pondered this for a long time and then the inspiration came for a bold experiment. It was true that every rung in the ladder of spiritual beings was filled, but what if it were possible to use the bottom side of the lowest rung? The result would not be an active spiritual being – all those places were filled – but a new sort of spiritual being, one in potency to become a spiritual being. It would not have an immediately fully activated intellect, but a passive one that had the capacity to become activated. This idea created even more problems. What could activate it? It could not be the higher spiritual beings, for it did not have the capacity for such rich messages. It could not be itself for it was starting off in potency. God thought and thought and finally discovered a way out of this dilemma. What if the ladder of beings could be extended so that there could be an entirely new kind of being which was not spiritual, but found an ultimate expression in knowledge and love, not in itself, but in virtue of its relationship with this new kind of spiritual being in potency, and this spiritual being, in turn, would be nourished by these other kinds of beings so that it could activate itself.

Whew! This posed a whole new set of problems. If a creature was not spiritual, then that meant its very essence or nature was such that it was not transparent to itself. It could not immediately become what it was meant to be, and it could never reach spiritual awareness. God saw that below the threshold of spiritual beings, then these new material creatures would have a new kind of fundamental capacity to lose their existence and become something else. Their natures or forms were too weak to immediately express and activate themselves. This was no longer the fundamental capacity that all things had by the fact that their natures were certain capacities for existence. This was a new kind of capacity, a capacity we can call matter.

Matter, space and time. All this was very puzzling. God saw that creating this lowest spiritual being in potency was going to be quite a complicated task. If it were to be stimulated in order to activate itself, it would need some sort of stimulus that was as active as possible and as close as possible in nature to it, something as digestible as possible, as it were. It would need the highest and most active form of this whole new class of non-transparent beings. Unfortunately, this highest material form could not exist if it, in turn, were not aided to full development by the next highest form, for it, too, was very much a being in potency to become what it was. And this next highest form demanded the one immediately below it, and so forth down the whole new ladder of material beings. So God saw that it was necessary to start at the very bottom rung of this ladder and create the most elemental forms of this new kind of material being.

God created this kind of being and was amazed at what it was like. By nature it had no capacity to be present to itself like spiritual beings did. It simply lacked the necessary ontological density. Therefore if it could not be partless, it had to express itself in part outside of part. It had to exist as a material body. And since it could not be all at once fully what it was meant to be it could not completely fill this lowest rung of the ladder of being. It needed other beings of identical nature to try to express what it meant to be this particular kind of thing.





Thus was born a multiplicity of bodies, and the relationship between these bodies is what we call space. And all these bodies in virtue of their common nature were dynamically bound together and interacted and moved each other to realize their potential, and this change and motion are what gave rise to time. In this way God created the material universe, and inscribed in it was a primordial urge to reach up in ever greater complexity toward consciousness, which was its own way to return to God.

Stages in the journey. Naturally St. Thomas in the 13th  century did not know about evolution, but if he had I doubt he would have been disconcerted. He would have plotted the main stages of that journey something like this. First came the basic elements which arranged themselves into systems of greater and greater complexity, and after a very long time they reached the threshold of vegetative life. This life could not be the simple outcome of a random association of minerals, but demanded, according to Thomas, a life principle or soul. He reasoned that life was more than being a body, for not every body is alive. There must be a vital principle that makes something be alive and organizes and directs that life. This new vegetative life had within it its own instinct to develop in the direction of greater self-awareness, and finally it reached the threshold of animal life with its motion and sense knowledge, rooted in an animal soul. Animal life, too, continued the long ascent toward genuine spiritual consciousness until it had reached the very threshold of the lowest of spiritual creatures. There was no way a material being could cross this threshold and give rise to spirit, for it was a different kind of being, but its own inner instinct had brought it to a peak of receptivity, and when this happened God infused in it the lowest of spiritual beings which is the human soul.

The union of body and soul. Finally, all the rungs of the ladder of being were filled. The creation of the lowest of spiritual beings had demanded the creation of the whole material universe. The human soul was at once the crown of this material universe and the recipient of all its riches which it needed in order to activate itself. And it would be wrong to imagine that the human soul was somehow added to a physical body, a vegetative soul, and an animal soul as one more principle of organization or life. Its union with the universe was much more intimate than that. Thomas insisted that the human soul took up in itself and virtually contained these other principles. They were now contained within it in order that the unity of the human being would not be impaired. They became dimensions within the higher density of the spiritual soul and thus were present to it from within to help it activate itself. Our bodies then in all their richness of elemental forms, vegetative life and animal awareness, do not contain the soul, but rather they are contained in the soul.

As human beings we straddle the very boundary that divides the universe into pure spirits and material beings. We possess the material part of the universe within us and it stimulates us to become aware of our spiritual natures, and the bond of being that unites us with all material things. The human soul is one of the strangest of creatures. It is spiritual but it is meant to be united with the whole universe through the body, and since it starts out as spiritual being in potency and is so united with material creation, one soul does not fill its rung in the ladder of being. A multitude of human beings are necessary in order to express what human nature is really like. And because all human beings are partial expressions of this same human nature, we are drawn to each other and are meant to help each other find full expression of what it means to be human.

Enlightenment. We are now in a position to begin to create a philosophical explanation of kundalini energy. The first step is to examine the nature of enlightenment itself, for kundalini appears to be a particular kind of enlightenment, a direct non-conceptual seeing or awareness that I am and that all things are, that we all exist. It is an experience of the unity of things that they have in virtue of their existence, their common isness. In enlightenment there is an almost overwhelming sense of the oneness of things and our interior bond with all creation. Yet there is no explicit awareness of God as separate from this experience.

What is enlightenment from a philosophical perspective? It is the counterpart to the intuition of being. If St. Thomas’ metaphysical insight starts with the essence face of creation, the sense of the profound differences among things, and then works its way to their common isness, enlightenment bypasses this conceptual process. It is a direct perception of the existence face of creation. Everything is perceived just as it is with a vibrant richness and depth of being that comes from the very fact that it exists, and this face of existence is the bond of unity among all things.

In the intuition of being we go conceptually from an understanding of essence as the source of difference to essence as a capacity for existence, and the beings around us as limited and received existence to unlimited existence. We don’t have an experience of this unlimited existence, but we see that all things in virtue of their very being demand its existence. In enlightenment, non-conceptual means are used to experience the existence of things more deeply and directly. Everything is seen with the freshness with which it has come forth from the hand of God, but since there is no reasoning present, there is no explicit pointing to the existence of God. Rather, each thing shines from within with the infinite mystery of existence, and since this happens in a non-conceptual way it does not lend itself, in the experience itself, to reflection about the distinction between God and creatures.

While awareness of and reflection on the experience of enlightenment is new to Christians, the intuition of being opens the way to do it. Enlightenment is the culmination of a natural process of development in which we experience our true natures as sharers in the mystery of existence, and as such it is a precious part of what it means to be a human being. It can only enrich Christianity and allow it to enter into deeper dialogue with those religions of Asia that hold this experience so much to heart. Enlightenment allows us to experience the wondrous mystery of existence that embraces all things, and as such it must be seen as the flowering of that instinct that is in all things to return to God by becoming what they were meant to be, and in the case of the human soul this instinct has blossomed into a spiritual experience of the highest intensity.


Kundalini as an Integral Form of Enlightenment

Kundalini is meant to lead to enlightenment but it does so in a highly distinctive way, for it is a thorough-going activation not only of the mind but the body as well. From the Thomistic perspective we have just reviewed, is it possible to make sense of this energy? Does such a process of development contradict what St. Thomas had to say about the union of soul and body? Not at all. Rather, they can mutually illuminate each other. Kundalini is that fundamental energy or instinct of the soul that is inscribed in its very being which urges it to become fully alive and activated so that it can be and see its own existence and that of all things, and experience in them the radiant mystery of existence that we call God. But if the human soul contains within it all the riches of elemental, vegetative and animal levels of existence, then this fundamental soul energy is animating all the levels of the human organism from within.



But this presence of the soul is in some sense dormant, lying like a seed in these depths. In order to realize itself it must realize each and every level of its being. In short, the human soul is the inmost animator by which these levels exist and by which they become activated. In a certain way each of us contains the whole evolution of the material part of the universe, and our physical, psychological and spiritual growth is the activation of that heritage. Kundalini is not some strange freakish force coming from without, but it is a striking visible manifestation of an energy that is ceaselessly at work in all of us, both unconsciously and in our conscious strivings. Kundalini is the bursting forth of that soul energy that urges us to fulfill our destiny, but now becomes visible to us either because of our particular temperament or certain psychological gifts or traumas, or as a natural response to some supernatural gift of God’s grace. The whole purpose of this energy is to make each level of our being, starting from the most elementary, fully alive and fully nourishing of the next highest level so that at the end of the process the deepest intuitive powers of the soul are awakened and we can see who we really are and that we are. Kundalini can appear as an impersonal energy because it is not something under the control of the ego. It is very personal in the sense that it is an energy of the soul, but this energy must activate those levels of our being which are far from our conscious control. The human soul is present to the entire body, for it gives it existence. But its lower operations operate through various parts. The Hindu chakras and their associated nerve plexuses are fitting symbols of different levels that exist within the human soul. The traditional picture of kundalini lying dormant in the lowest chakra at the base of the spine is a symbol of the human soul as a being in potency that needs to awake, and this is an awakening that proceeds from the bottom upwards, for the activation of the lower levels is necessary for the activation of the higher. And the activation of each level is the intensification of the powers belonging to each level and their orientation and transformation so they can best serve the human soul, which soul is deeper in them than they are in themselves, for it is what gives them existence. Further, in a highly analogous way, just as the soul is at the heart of these lower levels, God is at the heart of the soul giving it existence. Therefore, the more the soul experiences its own existence the more it is united to God even if in the actual experience the word God may not be used, for the experience happens non-conceptually. God is present in and through the existence of the soul which God constantly sustains.

Proceeding in this way, it would be possible to try to explain some of the other phenomena that are part of the kundalini awakening. If this energy is thwarted in its ascent by physical or psychological blocks it can cause physical pain and psychological disturbances. Its very activation will slow the mind’s constant desire to conceptualize, preparing it for non-conceptual ways of seeing. The whole physical organism is activated in a new way leading to altered patterns of breathing and spontaneous gestures. And the psychological level of the soul is being transformed, as well, with alterations of the flow of psychic energy, the loss of affective memory, and so forth. And finally, the spiritual level of the soul, itself, is activated, leading to the kind of seeing that is called enlightenment.

If these reflections are correct, at least in their general direction, then we stand at the beginning of a fascinating dialogue between the philosophy of St. Thomas and the natural phenomenon of kundalini, and through kundalini with those traditions which have studied it for so long. Thomistic philosophy can only be enriched by such a dialogue which would awaken it to its own resources which, in turn, could shed a new light on kundalini.

Conclusion. The key points for understanding kundalini from a Thomist perspective are the nature of the human soul as a spiritual being in potency which needs to be united to the material universe in the body in order to activate itself, and how the human soul contains and animates these lower levels of material being. We can sum up this perspective in the following questions and answers.

What is kundalini?

It is a fundamental energy of the soul that activates all the levels of the soul, from lowest to highest, fitting it for enlightenment.

If kundalini is such a fundamental energy, why don’t more people experience it?

I think we have to distinguish between this energy in a general sense which all of us have and which is operative in our development, from kundalini in a dramatic and manifest form which is limited to a few people. This fundamental process moving us toward enlightenment can take place even if we are not consciously aware of it, but kundalini in its manifest form gives us an invaluable picture of what is at stake.

How important is this kundalini form of enlightenment? Doesn’t Buddhism aim at enlightenment without dealing with it?

Certain schools of Tibetan Buddhism have a very deep understanding of this energy and its physical embodiment, and detailed programs to awaken and direct it. Even Zen puts great importance on breathing and a posture in which the spine is straight, even though it doesn’t emphasize the physical underpinnings of enlightenment.

Isn’t it misleading to equate the outcome of the kundalini process with enlightenment, for one comes from Hinduism while the other comes from Buddhism?

Though there are great differences between these two traditions it is possible to argue that they both aim at the same core experience. David Loy, in his Nonduality, has made this case quite well in regard to the Advaitan school of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism.

It still seems strange that you would call kundalini, which seems so physical, an energy of the spiritual soul.

We tend to think of our bodies and souls as two separate things, with our soul somehow in our body. St. Thomas took a very different approach. When, for example, the spiritual soul is created by God and infused in the human embryo it is not somehow in the body, but it becomes the very principle of life by which the whole human being lives. The animal soul of the embryo is rooted in the spiritual soul and receives its existence from it, and the other lower levels of being, as well. This unlocks the mystery of kundalini from a philosophical point of view, for it allows us to see that the spiritual soul is present to every level of our being, and its own full activation in enlightenment demands the activation of all these levels of being.


Shalom Place Discussion Forum on Kundalini Energy and Spiritual Emergencies

Phil St. Romain: Introducing the topic

1. There are two “directions” that interplay in the spiritual life:
a. the human reaching for God.



b. God reaching for the human.

2. It seems to me that Eastern religions build upon the dynamism of the human reaching for God, while the Judeo-Christian-Islam traditions emphasize God reaching for the human. These are generalizations, of course, but I think they have merit.

3. The kundalini experience of an energy latent in most people, which becomes awakened/ignited, opens the metaphysical energy centers (chakras), and culminates with union with God in the 7th  center is a superb expression of the Eastern dynamism. The kundalini process is an “ascent” from almost sub-human levels of concern and intelligence to “super-human” levels. As such, it has been called an “evolutionary energy” by Gopi Krishna and others, who view kundalini as the key to awakening and developing the fullness of our human potential and awakening us to a sense of cosmic consciousness and union with God and creation. The essay by Jim Arraj on a Christian philosophical understanding of kundalini explores this line of thinking much more fully and proposes kundalini to be a form of enlightenment, or natural union with God.

4. The Christian description of the Holy Spirit is of a “descent” from above mediated by Christ, Who gives the Spirit to transform a person unto his own Blessed consciousness. As one of the Persons of the Trinity, this Spirit is also present in all of creation, flowing through the Word and returning to the Father, and so it is present in all the world religions and responsible for the fruits of the Spirit wherever they are manifest. Flowing through Christ, the Incarnation of the Word, the Spirit works to build a new humanity in the likeness of Christ.

5. The intermingling of the human evolutionary spirit of ascent (kundalini) and the descending Spirit of blessing (Holy Spirit) are sure to intermingle in Christians who are eager for growth in the Spirit. We shouldn’t be surprised to find an ignition/awakening of the kundalini dynamism in Christians who generously open themselves to grow in the Spirit through charismatic prayer, centering prayer, and other prayer forms that invite the Spirit to work.

6. It is possible at times to be in touch with the kundalini dynamism without sensing much of the Spirit. The converse is also true. Obviously, both are often experienced together, and can be mutually complementary. But in my experience, at least, there is a difference between the two that is possible to discern.

7. The gift of the Spirit might be viewed, then, as a means by which the kundalini process is awakened in some Christians, and the Intelligence by means of which the kundalini dynamism is integrated so that the Christian grows into the fullness of his/her evolutionary destiny in Christ. This can be experienced in the life of individuals, to some extent, but more so in the human family through time.

8. Therefore, it is easy to see how Christians who experience kundalini process during the course of their growth in the Spirit can often conclude that kundalini and the Spirit are one and the same.

9. However, one must note as well that there are many who evidence kundalini awakening without manifesting the fruits of the Spirit, and others who manifest the fruits of the Spirit without kundalini awakening.

10. Christians have much to learn from the yogic traditions on kundalini in Hinduism concerning how this energy works and how to integrate it. Care must be taken, however, to avoid viewing the differences in teachings on the Spirit and kundalini as merely semantical. As tempting as it is to equate the Hindu teaching on Shakti with the Christian teaching on the Holy Spirit, for example, such a conclusion might not be accurate. One key criterion is to ask whether the other tradition would agree with one’s assessment: e.g., would a Hindu agree that the way Christians describe the Spirit is the same as their understanding of kundalini? Would Christians (the Church) agree that the ascent of Shakti through the chakras and central channel to union with Shiva above the head is a good way to understand the working of the Spirit in a Christian’s life? Clearly, more dialogue between these traditions is needed before these questions can be answered.

Marilyn: I think the analysis you’ve provided is very astute, but I can only approach this conundrum from an experiential standpoint. In wrestling with seven painful years of an imbalanced kundalini awakening and its aftermath, all I can say is that I’ve never felt much similarity between the Holy Spirit and the spiritual energy of the various eastern paths I’ve experienced. Over the years, I’ve been in small prayer groups with leading Christian and Catholic charismatics as well as in small meditation groups (including prayer and chanting) with renown eastern spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Songyal Rinpoche and Guru Maya. Since my kundalini awakening has left me incredibly energy sensitive, I do seem to have the ability to discern the energies much like the noises made by instruments in an orchestra. (I’ve had confirmation of my insights by others, so I’m not saying this of pure egotism.) Keeping with that metaphor, I’ve found the vibratory quality of the Holy Spirit beyond anything, for humans, the equivalent of a dog whistle which we can’t hear, with a healing frequency so high that it can’t even be discerned, except for the sweetness that almost everyone feels and sometimes white lightening quality that is the gift of some Christian healers. I truly feel as if, through the Holy Spirit, we are linked to a community of saints in some incredibly higher realm, truly dimensional. The eastern energies, which vary, seem much denser and stickier in comparison, sort of like an obo, and also with a more metallic feel than the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is the density of the eastern path of humans reaching up to God, as in your analysis, versus the Christian analogy of God reaching down.

This is why it is also dangerous to mix the energies of the various paths through following a mish mash of practices and rituals. The subtle energy centers in most people’s bodies won’t be able to handle it.

I know that the politically correct position is that there are many paths to God, which is true, i.e. Matthew Fox’s “One River, Many Wells.” But Mother Mary has told the Medjugorje visionaries that while that is true, some paths led us closer to God than others, with Christ bringing us closer to God than ever.

True Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think they need to even think about an upward rising kundalini experience. For those of us who have had to wrestle with the kundalini, there are all kinds of reasons why this other energy has come into our lives, egotism, I believe, a common factor on our spiritual path being one reason. For me, the kundalini has been a form of punishment. I look fondly back on the days when I was sealed and not dealing with any of the purification elements I am forced to deal with now.

Phil: There was a time in my life when I was involved in charismatic renewal, and that’s when I developed some of my own understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in Christianity. One of our big struggles in renewal was to not give the message that we were the only way Christians could experience the Holy Spirit even as we invited people to “come and see.” I ran into some good teaching in renewal, and some very bad ones, too. Some, as you know, are quick to condemn all things Eastern, but that seems extreme, and it’s not even what the Church (Catholic) teaches.



Marilyn, it sounds like you’ve had a rough time with kundalini and that you’ve come to some experiential distinctions between kundalini and the Holy Spirit. Do you think some of your Hindu/ yogic friends would agree with these distinctions–especially with kundalini being more “sticky” and “dense”? It seems to me that there’s a lot written about White Light in the kundalini literature, which resonates with your description of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the energies you’re calling “dense” and “sticky” are some lower vibrational forms of chi, or prana, which have been intensified by the kundalini process, but not yet integrated? Just a thought.

I’m not sure what you mean by “egotism” being a reason why some Christians have had kundalini awakenings. As others have expressed, it’s been a great blessing to them. Others like myself who’ve experienced kundalini as a “mixed blessing” have not gone looking for it and didn’t know a thing about it for quite awhile. Perhaps you can tell us more about this.

My sense, Marilyn, is that if you have been sealed by the Spirit, then that seal remains, even if there are other energies to wrestle with. God is with you in your struggles.

Marilyn: Yes, Phil, other yogic practitioners have also described the energy of various eastern traditions as more dense or “sticky,” very much a part of the group energy, lower chi, etc. that may be a part of it. However, in the smaller, meditation sessions that I’ve described with various eastern teachers, I’ve noticed that the energy is still very different than my experience with the Holy Spirit. The color “white” of the light has very little to do with it; it is the frequency or vibratory rate of the energy (which, by the way, is quite the rage in western medicine right now, studying the vibratory rates of the body and diseases and various treatments.) I have watched, and then discussed with some eastern practitioners, how the frequency of the energy coming into them and the group changes, and how it impacts their own body and consciousness. I have also discussed this with two charismatic Catholic priests who regularly conduct healing masses and are conscious of how the energy changes running through their body as they recite mass. I saw the changes in the energy around them at specific points during the services and made notes and then discussed it with them afterwards and our results concur. All I can say is that the eastern and western traditions are very different in the vibratory rate that I’ve experienced. And when you talk about the lower chi, just think of your average healing mass, with the sick and elderly. Not exactly a high chi rate, for the most part, or boasting participants following the physical purification that the eastern traditions stress? Yet, I’ve seen the higher frequencies sustained easier and longer during those masses, and with more miraculous results, than I’ve ever seen in any eastern group.

Re the ego issues – frankly, and I’m not being politically correct again (and may I remind anyone reading this board that I’m a professional journalist, and spoken to medical and spiritual leaders around the world re kundalini), I think we’re rewarded according to our efforts. Our culture in particular is particularly willful in our attempts to become more spiritual, almost obsessive in some sects. That can result in unhealthy ritual and practice that can lead to an imbalanced kundalini awakening. Mine was a result of ignorance, being exposed to shaktipat and never being told that I was actually asking a new energy into my life, and that the purification process would happen, without my consent. I was never told to practice any form of spiritual protection, ritual or renewal. That, combined with a traumatic physical event, triggered the kundalini and I was not given good advice or spiritual guidance in the beginning months or years, I should add. (I’m not sure it was there to be found outside of a Sanskirt mantra and some light yogic positions), which made the situation even worse. As a result, I was spiritually, physically and mentally unprepared for a kundalini awakening. I completely disagree with you Phil about the sealing of the Holy Spirit no matter what. Of course, God and higher guidance are always with us. But when the etheric body becomes unbalanced and the kundalini shoots through various pranic pathways, you get all the weird and sometimes painful imbalances that are described in other message boards on your site. I know, I’ve experienced both the bliss and the hellish aspects. I’ve rarely read, except for some of the medieval Christian mystics, of someone with a Christian “Born Again” charismatic experience going through such physical and emotional trials. I suppose the only counterpart in the Christian tradition has been recounted in “The Dark Night of the Soul.” I believe – and have seen – the Holy Spirit as a seal that works healing through the mind body and spirit in a much more balanced and loving way than the rising kundalini.

The kundalini – which I’ve heard some practitioners actually coin as a “nuclear” force – can trigger wild pranic energy that actually can tear through the chakras, destroying the protective screens over those subtle energy bodies. (These configurations are recounted in various books. I refer western readers to “Vibrational Medicine” by Gerber, a western MD on the cutting edge, as one source.) This is the reason behind the imbalances and well as emotional and physical blocks and the pounding of the kundalini energy through the pranic pathways, known as nadis. There’s over 600,000 of them in the body, so this accounts for a lifetime of various symptoms. I refer you to past issues of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, which recounts plenty of cases where people with kundalini awakenings have ended up in straight jackets in mental hospitals. This is not a benevolent energy if it isn’t guided correctly. Do you ever think of the Holy Spirit as anything other than benevolent?

Yes, it can be a grace if you have been steadily preparing for a kundalini rising, or, taking a different tact, if that grace is part of your karma. More power to anyone for whom that is the case. For many of us (particularly I think of discussion groups I’ve attended at various KRN conferences where people have described enduring years of horrendous physical and mental symptoms as a result an imbalanced kundalini awakening), the kundalini results in a complete upheaval and is far from a blessing most of the time as far as our earthly existence goes. Sure, I’ve probably picked up some bonus points on the soul level, but day to day, this has been a complete struggle that has challenged my well being on every level. And the biggest problem is so little is really known, particularly in the west. I found reading Gopi Krishna’s account one of the most depressing times of my life. This is what I was going to have to live through?

Nor am I living proof that complete allegiance to the Christian path is the healing one. It is currently taking the joint inputs and efforts of a Tibetan Buddhist holy man who practices with the Dalai Lama, a charismatic Catholic priest who has been trained in Rome, and a well regarded kundalini yoga teacher to get me through this. I have been forced to embrace elements of all traditions, no answer lies in just one from my experience.

Phil: Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us. As I don’t have your experiences working with Eastern traditions, it’s difficult for me to comment on the density and “stickiness” of various energies, but, as I indicated in my opening post, I do discern a difference between the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the movements of pranic energy associated with kundalini awakening.



The Christian mystical tradition abounds with examples of people struggling with a wide variety of energy phenomena, many of which strongly suggest kundalini arising/awakening. I have a chapter in my book Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality on this, but would be happy to provide specific examples, if needed. I bring this up because such struggles are by no means indicative of a lack of being “sealed by the Spirit,” at least as I understand the term in sacramental theology. It means that one is claimed for Christ and given to share in His Spirit. This sealing does not by any means shield us from the sufferings of this world, whether self-induced or otherwise. People sealed by the Spirit suffer like anyone else – including those with unbalanced pranic energies – only we do so with the assurance that God is with us and that, in the end, all things will be made new! This assurance is claimed through faith, and doesn’t depend on whether or not we feel so good. That’s all I meant.

I can certainly understand why people raise the question about distinguishing between kundalini and the Holy Spirit. As I noted in one of my points in the opening post on this thread, for some the two blend so imperceptibly that it’s probably impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. Others like myself and Marilyn have shared that there are times when we can distinguish a difference between the two.

In some of the conferences I’ve been to on kundalini, where I gave talks on this from a Christian perspective, I was chided by the audience and even some of the conference leaders for suggesting a need to be careful about jumping to quick conclusions about whether these are the same.

Consider, for example, the following:

1. Some of the radical differences in how people who have kundalini awakenings describe their experiences compared to people who receive the Holy Spirit in Christianity.

2. The witness of Taoism, which works with this same energy, only in a thoroughly de-mythologized and de-personalized context. There are no references to Shakti, Shiva, devas of all kinds, and other features which are so present in the Hindu descriptions. Yet can we really doubt that the Taoists and even Buddhists are working with the same energy process? I don’t. But there is nothing in their descriptions which tell of a deep love relationship with God and reverence for Christ as always accompanies the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I know several people who were adepts in Taoist mysticism, then converted to Christianity, and who give strong testimony to the differences. They still do some of their Taoist exercises, but not to develop their relationship with God.

3. There is the testimony of many who’ve gone deeply into Eastern religions and discovered something there radically different from a God of love. The Spiritual Counterfeits web site describes some of these experiences. The site is somewhat fundamentalist, but it meets a need. Some of these stories also come out of the TM movement, and even from students studying Zen. This is not to deny that many also find God on these Eastern pathways. Obviously, that is the case.

4. The issue of mediation. Eastern teachers on kundalini stress the importance of having a Master, and in some yogic branches, receiving shaktipat or energy touch from a guru is considered a very important way to awaken and integrate the energy. In Christianity, mediation of the Holy Spirit comes through Christ, and so has a reference to Him. Some Christians who have studied under Eastern masters and received shaktipat from them attest to a profound disordering of their energies–almost a conflict between the movements of what they had discerned as the Spirit, and what they are told is kundalini.

All these and many other factors raise questions for me about the wisdom of saying these are the same things. I’m open to exploring the issue in the interests of discernment, and am baffled, quite frankly, by the resistance I find among Christians on the one side, and Easterners on the other hand to do so. Sure, it would be simple to say that these are all the same things, just using different terminology. But is that really true? That is my question.

Kristi: Within me there is a refusal to believe that the kundalini process has to be a painful/traumatic experience…

Phil: That’s the ideal, for sure. Same with Dark Nights of various kinds. Sometimes it’s our “kicking against the goad” that makes things worse.

In the case of Christians with awakened kundalini process, some like myself have benefited greatly from the Eastern wisdom concerning this energy. It has helped me to know about the chakras, how the energy flows, how to cooperate with it, what kinds of ordeals people usually face, etc. When I came upon the teaching that you needed some kind of kundalini master to help you integrate it, however, I never could go there, even though some of the literature promises calamities of all kinds for this omission.

Since then, I have come to know several Christians who did go on to work with kundalini masters. Some reported benefits, especially since the masters (a yogini in one case) respected their Christian faith and did no shaktipat. In other cases, however, where shaktipat was given, it didn’t go so well.

All of which leaves me questioning, wondering, thinking . . . What’s really going on here?

Marilyn: I was definitely a victim of a kundalini yogi who wasn’t in the Holy Spirit, and the result has been a disaster, so I agree with you there. It’s taking years to unwind the damage he did. Moreover, in regard to some of the Sanskirt mantras and positions that have been recommended by another kundalini yoga practitioner whom I respect to balance my kundalini, I’ve noticed after taking that advice, they have had some weird consequences energetically. I know what the mantras mean (and this isn’t a personal mantra only assigned to me, but a series of phrases used with specific poses, the sound of which is supposed to help balance certain nadi/electromagnetic centers and knit back together, supposedly, the damage in my subtle energy bodies), and in themselves aren’t anything particularly anti Christian or ungodly, but I didn’t like the energetic impact at all. Very different than if I recite, for example, the full rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Those kinds of “round” prayers have indeed a mantra effect and for me, are very calming to the kundalini, particularly if they are combined with the typical prayer hand pose where the palms are pointed upward and the fingertips are touching and are combined with abdominal breathing. Moreover, bending at the knees is a pose in the yogic tradition that opens the crown chakras, so adding that really does open the body to the Holy Spirit.

In short, I think the Christian church, as it developed, kind of integrated things well all along through the centuries. There’s so much we don’t know and a lot of those traditions, i.e. even kneeling, aren’t observed well enough today to help people bring the Holy Spirit more into their physical beings.

That isn’t to say that I think the eastern traditions are in any way Satanic. As Mother Mary said, there are many paths to God.




In my experience, chanting in Sanskirt for hours on end, added to yogic poses, is a lot harder work on that path than any ritual offered in traditional Christianity. (I refer anyone to Romans – St. Paul, I’ve discovered through my kundalini process, was more right than I ever suspected prior to this, given my own doubts about how the Bible has been edited through the ages by church councils.) Of course, my kundalini imbalance has settled down a lot compared to the early days, when I experienced a lot of the really weird stuff, like clairaudience described on one of the other message boards, as well as much more discomfort in parts of my body (like my brain!) than I do now. I don’t know if reciting the rosary, etc. would have helped at all at that point.

What a journey…. but I would personally discourage any Christian going through kundalini to readily embrace any of the eastern rituals without skepticism and a healthy period of trial and error. What works in one tradition doesn’t necessarily bode well in another. As I posted in a prior message, each tradition, even within specific sects, boasts a different energy frequency and it can be very dangerous to the subtle energy bodies to mix those energies and various ritualistic practices.

Phil: Marilyn, we’ve both been to Kundalini Research Network conferences and heard some of the stories from people there, you know you’re not alone in what happened to you.

Lest you think that Christian mystics have not shared in some of these woes, however, I can assure you that the literature has many examples of them undergoing severe struggles with energy ordeals. They didn’t have the compounded problem of a disordering through shaktipat from another spiritual master, however, so there’s not much we can learn from them about how to deal with that. It sounds like you’re working on that as best you can and even making some progress.

Then there is the question of what could be called an “overflow to the senses,” or something like that. This resonates with something the great Catholic mystical writer, William Johnston, S.J., told me a few years ago when he came to Wichita. We were taking a nice long walk, talking over kundalini (he knows the experience) and other issues, and he stated that he thought it was an overflow of spiritual energy into the senses. “Senses,” here, in the classical view which Fr. Bill knows so well, means the physical body. What he was saying is that the spiritual part of our nature becomes so highly stimulated that it affects the other levels of our being (emotional, intellectual, etheric, and physical), accounting for the emotional unloading that takes place, the increase of pranic flow, and the sensations we notice in the body.

I can go along with that: we know it’s true that when we overly stimulate the emotions, the mind and body are effected, so why not the spiritual (causal body) level affecting the others as well?

Of course, this brings us back to our question concerning the source of this stimulation to the causal body/spiritual soul? We can trace it to that level, and sometimes beyond to the Holy Spirit as the cause, but could it not be that the vibration might originate in the Causal Body/Spiritual Soul itself? Once this level is awakened and seeks full embodiment could this, too, not account for all this energy movement? And given the disorders in the various levels of our being because of sin, could it not be that these are the reason why some of us experience such discomfort? Shaktipat from others could affect the manner of vibration of this level, further influencing the flow of energy.

This view leaves the question of the Holy Spirit and kundalini open, recognizing that the causal body/spiritual soul can be vibrated for any number of reasons, and that this vibration will have a profound effect on the “lower” levels of our being. I’ve been inclined toward it from the beginning as it seems to be able to account for all kinds of experiences–positive and negative. It’s the best explanation I’ve been able to come up with, thanks in no small part to Jim Arraj. But I’m not attached to it as ideology and would certainly entertain other viewpoints. [FOR 41b SEE PAGES 111 to 117]


Margaret Anne Feaster comments in “A Closer Look at Centering Prayer”

Ralph Rath says in his book, Mantras [South Bend, IN: Peter Publications, 1993, p. 25], “In a forward to the book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality by Philip St. Romain, [Thomas] Keating calls kundalini “an enormous energy for good” and does not point out that uncontrolled kundalini can kill or drive a person mad or that some cults use kundalini in a extremely debased way.


42. Yoga is HOT in Finland!

August 22, 2009

Yoga seems to be becoming a rage in Finland.
Various yoga centers-studios have reportedly popped up in cities across Finland and besides regular yoga classes, retreats, workshops, and even teacher training courses are held in Finland.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which claims over 80 per cent of Finns as its members, states on its website: “Courses in yoga are offered in every part of the country, and it is practiced by tens of thousands. The central organization for yoga practitioners has its own training institute in the countryside, in which yoga leaders are trained and special yoga courses are given.”
In view of its popularity among the Finns, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has urged the Government of Finland to open a national yoga academy for its preservation, research and promotion, with centers in all major cities of Finland, and also introduce yoga in public schools.
A unique Midnight Sun Ashtanga Ecological Yoga Retreat is organized in Finland at an isolated island of Kadermo where the silence is only broken by a ‘woodpecker hacking away at a pine tree.’ Here ‘toilets are ecologica’ as there is no running water and there is little electricity on the island. Typical day starts at seven am with yoga-asanas and ends in meditation and pranayama at ten pm.
Although Ashtanga appears to be the most popular form of yoga in Finland, other forms of yoga are also practiced, including Ananda Marga yoga, Sahaja yoga, Nada yoga, etc. Various weekend and weekly retreats and workshops are also held, including a retreat at Houtskar Island. There was even a 5-day certified ‘Laughter Yoga Teacher Training’. Sahaja yoga reportedly has even been tried in jail also.



Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, asked yoga fascinated Finns to explore the spiritual dimension of yoga also, because actually yoga was a mental and physical discipline by means of which the human-soul (jivatman) united with universal-soul (parmatman).
According to Patanjali, author of the basic text, the Yoga Sutra, who codified yoga after being founded by Yajanavalkya, yoga is a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical. Yoga is one of the six schools of orthodox Hindu philosophy, take a look at the rest of the five schools also, Rajan Zed suggests to the Finnish yoga fans.


43. Is Yoga Kosher?

How a Modern Orthodox Jew struggled to reconcile her yogic practice with her Judaism

By Taffy Brodesser-Akner, January 5, 2010

A few years ago, freshly moved to Los Angeles, I started practicing yoga. I was feeling anxious and worried, and if I were still a New Yorker, I’d have gone on anti-depressants. But I’m a big believer in doing what the Romans do, and, as it turned out, yoga helped a lot. Now, in class, as I take my first bow—a stretch upward, followed by an open-armed dive to my toes—I am no longer thinking about survival. Instead, with room to breathe and think, I instead wonder about the implications of bowing, of doing yoga in the first place. Yoga, with its meditation, with its mysterious secrets and ties to Hinduism and Buddhism, isn’t just a physiological practice; it’s a spiritual one. And I am a Modern Orthodox Jew. By practicing yoga, I’m now forced to wonder, am I practicing a religion outside my own? Am I sinning before God?

When I first took up yoga, this question never occurred to me. I was dealing with a difficult time, but I had also abandoned my religion upbringing. I was at peace with a secular life that included some high-holiday observance and crippling guilt when I didn’t observe Passover. Now, married to a man who converted so that we could be together, I find myself running an Orthodox home. (You know the old joke: don’t date a non-Jew unless you want to end up really religious.) I’m surprisingly happy in my lifestyle, but I’m also realizing that a true immersion in yogic practice may very well be a violation of my Jewish one.

There is a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu diety, in the yoga studio I attend. At the end of the class, my instructor says, “Namaste,*” and bows toward the class. In turn, we bow back. I am bowing toward the teacher, but also toward the status. Namaste means, “The Divine in me salutes the Divine in you.” During many of the meditation sessions, we are asked to put our hands in “prayer position,” which is what it sounds like: hands joined together at the heart. The more I thought about it, the more I worried that yoga might be its own religion, and that I might be committing a sin—worshipping an idol, even—by practicing it.

This might seem like a niggling question of minutia, but Judaism, especially Orthodox Judaism, is a religion filled with niggling questions of minutia—how an animal is slaughtered, at what angle, exactly, a mezuzah should be affixed to a door post. There are serious implications to committing idolatry, whether you do so accidentally or not. In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 74), it states that there are only three sins in which a person is commanded to die rather than commit the sin: the second and third are incest and murder. The first is idolatry.

That was the Lubavitch rebbe’s rationale when, in 1977, he forbade his followers from practicing yoga, transcendental meditation, and the like. “In as much as these movements involve certain rites and rituals, they have been rightly regarded by Rabbinic authorities as cults bordering on, and in some respects actual, avodah zarah,” he wrote, using the Hebrew term for idolatry. “Accordingly Rabbinic authorities everywhere…ruled that these cults come under all the strictures associated with avodah zarah, so that also their appurtenances come under strict prohibition.”

But, of course, I’m not a Lubavitcher. So I asked my yoga teacher at City Yoga in West Hollywood, Linda Eifer, a Conservative Jew, what she thought. “Yoga is not a religion,” she said, emphatically. “It’s a spiritual practice that combines the body, the mind, and the spirit. It’s based on an ancient Indian tradition that includes inspiration from statues, which are a mythology that combine human and divine characteristics.” But, aside from the statues, that’s pretty much what my religion is to me.

David Adelson, a Reform rabbi in New York who is enrolled at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, a two-year program that includes yoga retreats and text study, offered a distinction. “If I’m in a church around Christmastime, I sing and even say ‘Jesus’ in the hymns. I know that I am just singing because I like singing, and in no way praying, so it doesn’t worry me,” he said. “Yoga feels just a bit dicier because I am a full participant in the experience, not an observer. But I believe in general that to constitute avodah zarah, you probably need some kavana,” or intention.

Kavana is an interesting thing. Intuitively, it would seem that a religion demanding absolute morality would be concerned with intention. But, actually, that’s not really the case. If you eat bread on Passover, even accidentally, you have sinned. If you give charity but grudgingly, the charity still counts for the good. On Yom Kippur, we repent for sins we didn’t even know we did. And then there are Hannah’s sons—seven Jews who chose to die rather than bow to Antiochus, the Greek ruler who tried to forcibly convert Jews in 167 BCE.
Bowing but not meaning it wasn’t an option.
*Judaism is concerned not just with your actions but also very much with how your actions appear to others. Bowing is the physical manifestation of idolatry, whatever your intention. “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves,” says Leviticus 26:1, “and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it.”

But let’s ignore that for a second, and accept Adelson’s argument that intention does matter. Even so, don’t I intentionally practice yoga? And while Eifer, my yoga teacher, had said she doesn’t find yoga incompatible with Judaism because her status as a Jew wasn’t compromised by her practice of yoga, I have a more literal view of Judaism and what it expects from me. I believe that I’m supposed to practice only Judaism. I don’t believe the practice of another religion makes me an adherent of that religion, but I do believe that I choose to only practice Judaism. The rituals and chanting that was expected of me in yoga seem like another religion to me—and practicing another religion is practicing another religion.


But Srinivasan, the senior teacher at the worldwide Shivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, says I have it backwards. “Yoga is not a religion, but a science of religion,” he explained. “It applies to all religions. It’s not that yoga comes from Hinduism. Hinduism originates in yoga. Buddhism comes from yoga, too.” Srinivasan doesn’t see how spiritual yoga practice and Judaism are incompatible. “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to come to our Ashrams,” he said. “He understood we were talking about the same thing. Hasidic mysticism and Kabbalah are very much in line with yogic thought.”

I explain to Srinivasan that the approach may be similar—even some of the text and ideas may be similar—but that only proves my point that yoga is a religion. “There is yoga in every religion,” he responded. “Yoga means ‘union’ or ‘absolute consciousness’ with God. Don’t look at the differences; look at the similarities. Yoga is beyond words or institution. When you use the word ‘religion,’ people want to know what books you read, what language you speak.” He also says that though some sects of yoga won’t even use the word God, the tradition is similar to monotheism. “We’re all talking about the same God,” he said. To him, the statue of Ganesh at the front of many yoga studios is the same God to whom Jews pray. “Don’t confuse the map for the actual place,” he said. “God is everywhere. There is no conflict here. There is respect for that diversity. To explain God is to limit God.”

So could I just be bowing in front of this statue without bowing to the statue? I asked Pinchas Giller, an Orthodox rabbi who practices yoga at the same studio I do. “Many Hindus argue these days that their deities are just archetypal principles,” says Giller. “But any third-grader in Hebrew school will tell you that those are idols. Veneration and offerings are unacceptable. I avoid classes where the teacher is too into the mythos. It’s hard to escape the impression that if you take some of the practices too seriously then it could be avodah zarah.” Giller practices yoga for the exercise and only for the exercise, he’s careful to say.

Chanah Forster, a Hasid and yoga teacher in Brooklyn, may have found a solution. “Yoga absolutely is a religion,” she says. Before she became religious, Forster lived on an ashram, where she became certified to teach yoga. She still teaches it, but with an approach tailored to her current audience. There is no chanting in her class—not even Om, the vibrational sound recited at the start of most yoga classes. She describes poses, but won’t use their traditional Sanskrit names. She also won’t say their English translations, like Downward-Facing Dog. “Instead, I’ll say to raise your hips to the ceiling,” she explained to me. “The Sanskrit names have a spiritual meaning. If you don’t call these poses by their Sanskrit names, it’s just exercise.” Forster believes that when you do any of these things—chant, say Om, speak in Sanskrit—you are opening yourself up spiritually to outside influences. “These aren’t just words,” she said. “They have meanings and repercussions to your neshama“—your soul—”and they are at odds with Jewish spirituality.”

But despite all these things at odds with Judaism, yoga seems to have a strong pull on Jews. In the past few years, several yoga minyans, prayer services in which yoga stretches accompany liturgy, have gotten underway. At least half of the people who frequent my yoga studio, as well as many of its teachers, are Jewish. India is a hotbed of Israeli tourism and the great Hindu leader Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert, a nice Jewish boy. (The author Rodger Kamenetz wrote a whole book, The Jew in the Lotus, about Jews struggling to understand and relate to Eastern spirituality.) But though unresolved, it’s a debate that’s new to me and that has new urgency for me as I’ve returned to religious observance.) The Kabbalistic viewpoint asserts that we are born with a pintele yid, a Jewish spark always searching for spirituality. If you live in America in 2010, your pintele yid may be a little malnourished, and whether because of assimilation or a lack of Jewish practice, some Jews seek to feed this hunger outside of the synagogue.

And the question of yoga’s compatibility with Judaism might just be an unanswerable one. In Adelson’s Reform world, it’s the Jew’s intention that matters. But in the Judaism I know, the one I have chosen to participate in, intentions, or even wishes, are not the only things to consider. My Judaism is a Judaism that is preoccupied with my physical life as much as my spiritual one. It has laws for when I eat, what wear, how I wash my hands. The problem isn’t what yoga might ask me to think or believe; it’s what it asks me to do. And despite my physical flexibility—you should see my frog pose—I don’t have the same spiritual agility.

Further practice of Judaism has not, historically, helped me become more open-minded. But perhaps that is where yoga can be an asset, not a detriment, to my religious practice. Yes, yoga walks a fine line (verboten to some; certainly not to all). But maybe my uptight approach to religion requires yoga and its nuances of illicit practice to help me remain flexible in my spirit, as well as my body. Maybe having something that isn’t so easy to reconcile, a gray area, is good for me.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a writer living in Los Angeles, has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, and the Daily Beast


44. Lawsuit calls yoga chain a cult

By Kyra Phillips and David Fitzpatrick, CNN, January 5, 2010

A full investigation into the allegations against the Dahn Yoga centers on tonight’s Campbell Brown, 8 ET on CNN.

Cottonwood, Arizona (CNN) — The cheering was raucous and the applause thunderous for a man who makes few public appearances. As he made his way gingerly across a gravel park, where he had just dedicated a nearly 40-foot statue representing the “Soul of the Earth,” a voice shouted out: “I love you, Ilchi Lee.”

Lee, a South Korean businessman, is the founder of a national chain of yoga and wellness centers called Dahn Yoga. The company teaches that its physical exercises “can restore the vibrations of the body and brain to their original, healthy frequencies,” according to a video introduction on its Web site.

But Dahn Yoga is now defending itself from allegations by former employees that it is “a totalistic, high-demand cult group” that demands large sums of money from its followers and enshrines Lee as an “absolute spiritual and temporal leader.”

A lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Arizona, says that recruits “are unknowingly subjected to an intensive program of psychological manipulation, indoctrination and various techniques of coercive thought reform designed to induce them to become Ilchi Lee’s disciples and devote themselves to serving him and his ‘vision.’ ”




Video: Lawsuit targets Dahn Yoga

Video: Dahn Yoga under fire

Jade Harrelson, one of more than two dozen plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said Dahn leaders “prey upon people like me who are ignorant about the way money works.”

The company denies the allegations and calls the plaintiffs “disgruntled former employees.”

“In our 30-year history, we have helped millions of people lead healthier and happier lives,” corporate spokesman Joseph Alexander told CNN.

Dahn Yoga set up its first shop in the United States in 1991, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It now has 127 storefront centers in the United States, more than 1,000 worldwide, and Forbes magazine estimates the company’s 2009 profits at $34 million.

Dahn Yoga teaches that what it calls brain wave vibration can ease some of the debilitating symptoms of illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis. Its publicity materials feature praise for Lee from a variety of sources, including Oscar Arias, Costa Rica’s president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner; and Broadway producer/choreographer Tommy Tune. In addition, Elkhonon Goldberg, a clinical professor of neurology at New York University’s medical school, praises the work of the International Brain Education Association, a group Lee founded.

“IBREA is in a unique position to disseminate knowledge and to serve as a very effective platform for numerous worthwhile projects,” Goldberg is quoted on the Dahn Web site as saying. “Ilchi Lee should be applauded for his pioneering creative vision in conceiving and launching this innovative organization with a truly international outreach.”

Goldberg did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.

Harrelson and other former employees say Dahn Yoga instructors coerced them into taking out student loans, then transferring the funds to the company. Payments began in small amounts, she said, then progressively increased as fees for training and courses became more expensive. Harrelson said she eventually paid about $40,000 to Dahn.

Alexander said no one was ever coerced into giving money to Dahn Yoga. The former employees “have misinterpreted natural business cycles, natural business goals, as some type of undue pressure,” he said.

“We make no excuses and no apology for the fact that we are a business,” Alexander said. The plaintiffs, he said, “are after one thing — they are after money.”

And Dahn Yoga attorney Alan Kaplan added, “Let’s make it clear. My client, Mr. Lee, is not a cult leader. Dahn Yoga is not a cult.”

But Ryan Kent, the lawyer who filed suit on behalf of Harrelson and 26 other former employees in May, said Dahn Yoga leaders indoctrinate followers, then “take advantage of you and take all your money.”

Harrelson also said Lee singled her out for special attention and eventually sexually assaulted her while she was living and working in Seoul, South Korea. She said she trusted Lee and saw him as a father figure, eventually following him to Seoul — where, she says, he assaulted her one night in 2007 at his apartment. “In my mind, there was no possible way I could have physically or verbally resisted him,” Harrelson told CNN. “To say no to him was to say no to his soul. I became numb, and so what happened, happened not at my consent.” Harrelson said she never filed a police report. The first time she publicly made the allegation was when she and other former employees filed suit in early 2009.

Dahn Yoga’s U.S. operations are now based in Sedona, Arizona, about 20 miles from Cottonwood — where Lee appeared in December to dedicate the 39-foot statue of “Mago.” The name is Korean for “Soul of the Earth,” the mother figure in a seventh-century creation legend Lee cites as his inspiration.

It was a rare appearance for Lee, who is seldom seen in public and routinely travels with a retinue of bodyguards.

CNN requested an on-camera interview with Lee through his representatives, but was turned down. When approached at a dedication ceremony in this small Arizona town, he was surrounded by bodyguards, one of whom said the Dahn Yoga founder needed a translator to understand the questions. When a CNN photographer who speaks Korean translated, Lee said it was the first time he had heard of the sex assault allegation. Then his bodyguards forced the camera lens to point toward the ground, and Lee continued to the ribbon-cutting. Later, his attorney said any claims of sexual assault were not true, and “We are confident we will get those claims dismissed in court.”

Harrelson, who goes by “Jade,” and college friend Liza Miller also say they were strongly urged to undergo extreme physical training at Dahn Yoga’s retreat center in Sedona — training they say left both women at the brink of exhaustion.

One of the exercises, known as “bow training,” involved deep knee bends to the floor to a prone position and back up again, with hands raised high over their heads. Miller, who has joined the lawsuit, says once she had to do 3,000 of the exercises — “Which took about 10 hours, and we didn’t eat or drink during that time.” “People were screaming, people were throwing up, people were running away,” Miller said. “People were rolling around, moaning, crying, wailing — there was a lot of emotional distress. We were taught that because of this bow training, we were cleaning what was blocking us, to connect to our soul.”

Dahn Yoga calls Miller’s description of the exercise inaccurate. “These are meditation practices,” Alexander said. “They are common throughout Asia, especially in Korea. Generally, people do a smaller number of bows, and they build up to more. I know of no one who does 3,000 bows on a regular basis.”

And Dahn Yoga instructor Genia Sullivan told CNN, “The practices that we practice are very helpful.” “They empower people to really use everything they have to become the best person they can be, and I’ve benefited greatly from it,” Sullivan said.

Other Dahn employees sent CNN e-mails supportive of the organization and its leader while this report was being prepared. All praised Lee, with one woman saying she had given her life to him and to the organization. The writers all condemned their former colleagues who have gone to court, and they deny the company is a cult.



By all accounts, Dahn Yoga is a booming business. Lee is revered by most of its adherents. But some former employees who say they once loved the organization are now saying far different things. “The problem was way at the top, at the very, very top, things are completely dishonest,” Miller said. “And that information trickled down so that everyone is believing one thing, which is a total lie.”

To see the videos:


45. What kind of a man practises Yoga?

By Dean Nelson April 2, 2010

What kind of man waits at dawn for one with washboard abs to order him into impossible positions? I have to confess it’s the kind of man some commentators on this blog might call a ‘pantywaist’: me. There is nothing manly about doing Yoga, and it has been my secret shame now for getting on for two years.

Every other day, Prithvi the Yoga man, comes to my house at 6 am to force me through a series of what began as impossible asanas – sun salutations, down-dogs, plough postures and spine twists. They are followed by violent and messy nasal ‘pranayam’ exhalations and finally the calm relief of alternate nostril breathing.
I can’t tell you how ashamed I feel just describing this to you. It began a few years ago when a friend recommended it as a cure for headaches I suspect were caused by years of bad posture, working stooped over a small laptop. Within a week the headaches had gone.

So a sense of wellbeing is the reward, but what to do about the Man-shame? Where I grew up (Poplar, in London’s Docklands, when it was populated by dockers in the late sixties and early seventies), even rugby was considered a game for sissies. It was ok to play cricket in the street with a rough bat made by one of the joiners from the wood factory opposite, but it was only played in whites by those who took a bus to school and were, therefore, strange.

The only manly sports were football and boxing, and in my heart, if I’m honest, I still feel the same way – which is why it’s hard to reconcile sitting cross-legged with erect spine, eyes closed, hands on knees with thumbs and index fingers pinched upwards and chanting ‘Om’ with any sense of manly self-esteem.
Yoga was what my mum and her plump friends did on the front room carpet to lose a few pounds when we later moved to Essex, and I’m still haunted by memories of wobbly thighs crashing left and right on the shag pile.

And yet reconciled I am after the unlikely intervention of Prachanda, the leader of Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas, who is so manly he formed his own jungle army which defeated some of the toughest troops in the world and deposed the country’s ghastly king. Prachanda has commanded his followers, guerrillas included, to practice yoga, and with that my two year shame as a yogic pantywaist is over.

Dean Nelson is the Telegraph Media Group’s South Asia editor. He has been based in New Delhi for four years. He is @DelhiDean on Twitter.


Fr. Paul Poovathinkal, C.M.I., Chetana Sangeet Natya Academy, Thrissur, Kerala [also spelt as Poovathingal]

46a. Profile

Dr. Fr. Paul Poovathingal, CMI, Director, Chetana Sangeet Natya Academy, C. R. Iyyunni Road, Thrissur – 680020 Ph: (Off) 0487 – 2336667 (Mobile) 9447736667;

Rev. Dr. Paul Poovathingal CMI, popularly known as ‘Paadum Paathiri’, disciple of Padmabhushan Dr. K. J. Yesudas and Chandramana Narayanan Namboothiri, is an ordained priest in the congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a religious order founded by blessed Cyriac Elias Chavara. He is the first Christian Priest who has completed Ph.D. in Karnatic music in India. He has shown great aptitude in music right from his child hood. Though he was initiated into Karnatic music at the age 17 by Sodharan Bhagavathar, it is only after his priestly studies he started learning Karnatic music seriously. Nevertheless, during his studies in philosophy and theology at Dharmaram College, Bangalore, he continued his music education under the tutelage of vidwan Bangalore V. K. Krishnamurthy.

After having graduated in English and Psychology from Christ College Bangalore, in 1992, he joined the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts in Delhi University and passed Sangita Shiromani course (B.A. Music) with first rank and passed M.A. Music with gold medal. In Delhi he learned music from Prof. T. R. Subramaniam, Dr. Guruvayoor T. V. Manikandan and Dr. Vasanti Rao. Later, he passed M. Phil Degree with first rank from the University of Madras. In 2003 he submitted his Ph.D. thesis ‘Karnatic music and Christianity – a critical study of the influence of Karnatic music on the Christian music of Tamilnadu and Kerala’ at the department of Indian music, University of Madras under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Karaikudi Subramanian.

In 2004 March 19 he did his Arangetram at Madras Music Academy with the blessing of his guru Dr. K. J. Yesudas and other musicians like Padmabhushan T. N. Seshagopalan and Padmasri Sikkil Sisters. One of the unforgettable moments in his life is the golden opportunity that he could sing before the legendary singer M. S. Subbhalakshmi. For a period of four years he had undergone training at Brhaddhvani, Chennai. In Chennai, he also learned music from Smt. T. M. Prabhavati, Smt. Sankari Krishnan and Vaikom Jayachandran. In 2003 May he went to Columbia University, New York and received training in Vocology under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Jeannie Goffi. Right now he continues his music studies under Vidwan Chandramana Narayanan Namboothiri.




Fr. Paul has traveled widely and performed concerts in India and abroad. In 1998 he participated in the international music festival organized by the University of Durban, South Africa. In 2003 August he performed at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, New York and the University of Princeton, New Jersey. He has composed 400 songs and released 15 albums. He has 10 research papers to his credit. At the moment he is the Director of Chetana Sangeet Natya Academy, a center for training and research in performing arts, in Thrissur, Kerala, India. He is a visiting faculty at Dept. of Indian music, University of Madras, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore and National Institute for Social Communication, Research and Training (NISCORT)*, New Delhi. His repertoire includes Hindu, Christian and Muslim themes.

Fr. Paul is a pioneer and leading Vocologist (Study of Voice) in India. He is the General Secretary of the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) Voice Foundation, Thiruvananthapuram. He is a ‘B’ high-grade artist (Light Music) of All India Radio and a regular performer in TV.

Languages known: Malayalam, English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu, Latin and Greek.

One of his research papers:

‘Inculturation of Music’ January 2004, Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, Kochi

Some of his Lecture demonstrations:

Yoga and Music meditation, NBCLC**, Bangalore November 2004 and November 2005

Yoga and Spirituality of Indian Music, NISCORT*, New Delhi, March 2006

Fr. Dr. Paul Poovathingal CMI, Director of Chetana Academy, Thrissur received a special mention from the President of India Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam during a classical concert held by him before a group of special invitees at Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Fr. Paul is the first Catholic priest to be invited for a performance at Rashtrapathi Bhavan. He is the disciple of both Padmasree K J Yesudas and Chandramana Narayanan Namboothiri. Fr. Paul started his concert with the famous keerthana ‘Vatapi
Ganapathim*** Then ‘Salathulla Salamulla’ taken from the Holy Koran set to ‘Anandabairavi’, ‘Sree Yesu Nadam Bhaje'(Aabhogi), ‘Jai ho jai ho'(kalyani) ‘Loka samastha’ (Madhyamavathi) were presented.

As soon as the performance was over the first citizen of the country was so impressed by the performance that he called Fr. Paul for a personal meeting and congratulated him on the unprecedented performance. He went on to describe his performance as ‘one which is opening new vistas in the tradition of Carnatic music‘.

Fr. Paul was accompanied by Prof. Abdul Azeez [violin], Guruvayoor Sanoj [Mridangam], Shornoor Rajesh [Ghatam]. They were all given personal gifts by the president Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam.

*NISCORT is a National Centre of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [C.B.C.I.]

**NBCLC, the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre, is under the aegis of the C.B.C.I.

***An Intro to Indian Dance by Sangeeta,

Ganesha [GANPATI] is traditionally worshipped at the beginning of any endeavour. He is the remover of all obstacles and is known to be very wise. He is the son of Shiva and Parvati and the brother of Murugan.

-Watch this YouTube video sung by Yesudas, and another by M. S. Subbalakshmi at

Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham is a favourite choice for singing at the commencement of any Hindu religious programme to obtain the blessings of the Hindu deity, the elephant-god Ganpati or Ganesha.

About 125 Bishops of the Latin Rite in India, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) held their biennial meeting 6-12 January 2011 at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee, Chennai. “Catechetical Education” was the theme of the meeting. The seven-day plenary began January 7. On January 9, the prelates attended a public reception by the Madras-Mylapore archdiocese at which Tamil Nadu state Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was invited to preside. Karunanidhi is an avowed atheist. The Bishops are the successors of St. Peter and owe sole spiritual allegiance to Jesus Christ. But guess who welcomed the atheist and the disciples of Christ at the public reception at St. Bede’s School grounds in Santhome? Ganpati did.

The procession of Cardinals and Bishops led by the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Salvatore Pennacchio, moved to the Salesian venue from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Thomas to the unmistakable Carnatic
music of Vathapi Ganapathim Bhajeham!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Carnatic ragas from the pulpit

By K. Santhosh September 14, 2004

Fr. Paul Poovathinkal has devised a new training method combining music, yoga and meditation.


The detrimental influence of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI]’s National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC] on Liturgical Music

46c. Unique Meet Discusses Music and its Positive Effects on Human Life
[SAR News] The Examiner, January 1, 2005

“According to Indian tradition, music is ”Brahma Sakti’ (Creator’s power) and
it can awaken the latent powers lying dormant within a person,” said Fr. Paul Poovathinkal the first Indian priest to obtain a Ph.D. in Carnatic music for his paper on ‘Nadayoga: A Meditative Approach towards Absolute Music’. “Whether it is pure ‘raga sangeet’ or ‘bhava sangeet’, whenever it is pursued in the true spirit of ‘Yoga’, music will manifest its supra-mundane powers in many ways and in different situations.”




Herein, the priest refers not to Indian tradition as he claims, but to Hindu tradition, which two are quite distinct from each other if one is precise in one’s delineation of the two. In the spiritual tradition of Christian music, which is directed vertically to God from one’s heart, and not inwards as in the Hindu tradition, there is no concept of “awakening” any “latent powers lying dormant within a person“.


Fr. Saju George Moolamthuvuthil, S.J., Kolkata, Trichy, Chennai

Jesuit dancer wows Chennai audiences

Jivan, the Jesuit monthly, July 2003 EXTRACT

Fr. Saju George SJ, a trained Bharatanatyam dancer
who resides at
Satya Nilayam, Chennai, kept a packed house spellbound for 2 hours on 4 April 2003. In a performance at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium, he judiciously mixed classical repertoire with Christian themes…

Saju George entered the Society in 1985 and was ordained a priest in 2001. He began learning Kuchipudi in 1988 under Naryacharyaguru M. C. Vedanta Krishna (Derric Munro), a senior lecturer of Kuchipudi at the Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata… He took a rigorous training in the Kalakshetra genre of Bharatanatyam under many illustrious gurus.

He is a disciple of Sangeeta Vidwan Sri Reji George in Carnatic vocal music. His love for Indian performing arts has led him to take up short-term training in Kathakali, Manipuri, Kalaripayattu [a form of martial arts], Yoga and theatre.


Fr. Charles Vas, S.V.D., Sangeet Abhinay Academy, Gyan Ashram, Andheri, Mumbai

48. Dr. Fr. Charles Vas SVD, Director, Sangeet Abhinay Academy, 263 Casablanca 1/2, Opp Shree E-Punjab Gymkhanna, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri (E), Mumbai 400093. Tel.: (022) 28221709, 28380525. Mobile: 09820342448. Email:

A bhajan singer, he directs an institute where priests teach and perform temple dances like Bharatanatyam and Odissi and conduct Enneagram retreats and eastern meditations such as yoga
and vipassana.

Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam dancing, and yoga are seen once again united by the pursuits of our singing and dancing Hinduised priests.


49. Catholic ashramvasis’
occultic/yogic concept of music and its effects

In 2003, Asha & Russill Paul of Concord, USA published a pilgrim’s guide, a “JOURNEY TO FIND THE OTHER HALF OF THE SOUL”. It is a sort of preparation for potential pilgrims, with material and spiritual recommendations, for an ashram- and temple-circuit trip to India centred on the late Bede Griffiths’ Saccidananda Ashram, Shantivanam.

This guidebook devotes an entire chapter devoted to Sound in Yoga and the Spirituality of Music from which
I quote:

Yoga of course is unity, integrity and total fulfilment of being on every level. It is a practical way of experiencing and becoming one with the great cosmic mystery… Mantras are powerful spiritual sounds that communicate spiritual experiences beyond the rational mind. I find that the mantric effects of Latin act only on the upper chakras, that is, from the heart upwards. This is somewhat indicative of the disregard and negation in Christianity of the value and spiritual power of the lower chakras which involve sexuality and the primal energies; they are considered to be ‘of the flesh’…. Fortunately we realize today, through the efficacy of Eastern mystical practices, that there are systematic methods such as yoga that can be used to consecrate, transform and sublimate these energies. The complex consonants of mantric Sanskrit for instance affect these ‘lower’ energy centres quite dramatically. It was wonderful that Fr Bede included these sounds in the prayers and liturgies at the ashram, for they help stimulate the entire chakra system during prayer

Having substituted the vernacular, to the almost complete expulsion of Latin, the Western Church today lacks the power of transformation and the aura of mystery that is so essential for it to be a genuinely spiritual force at work in the world…

India’s music was born out of her profound spiritual heritage…

The seven musical notes called swaras… represent the seven energy centres that govern the human being. Thus, using the swaras in various combinations, one can awaken our chakras and stimulate them to their maximum potential. The chakras are vortices of energy located in various parts of the body… The nadis in the body… channel these energies from the depths of one’s being to the top of the head. Along the way, they meet and dance in the chakras awakening them to their full power. The bliss of this unity is offered to the Divine consciousness at the level of the highest chakra, located at the crown of the head. Finally, the effects of this process are allowed to penetrate every level of one’s being from the top of the head to the base of the spine.

Against points 46 through 49, see



50a. Om-schooled: How Yoga can influence your Catholic prayer

By Meghan Murphy-Gill, August 22, 2010

Catholics can take a lesson from the Hindu tradition of yoga when it comes to praying with body, mind, and spirit



Walking into the dark chapel, gothic arches soaring overhead and didactic glass staining the pews with jewel-toned light, I tried to calm my mind. Papers, classes, work, broken relationships, my future. The thoughts sparked in rapid succession, a finale-on-the-Fourth-of-July-show in my mind. I dropped a knee to the cold floor, blessed myself, and slumped into the nearest pew. Slouched against the pew’s hard back, I tried to quiet the thoughts stumbling over themselves. Ineffective, I finally sunk to the floor, struggling to disregard the slush and sand that seeped into my pants. The hardwood brought my attention all too readily to my knees. My back ached from the weight of my pack, my neck tightened around a crick, and every muscle complained from the laps I had done in the pool the day before.

But never mind. I drew my attention past the aches and pains, past the unyielding floor beneath my knees, past the cold wetness of my jeans. Unfurling my hands in front of me, I finally raised my eyes to the only lit object in the room: a gold-plated tabernacle brilliant with the reflection of a single spotlight. A candle flickered behind red glass in the corner.

Finally, I found silence.

That ritual in the dark campus chapel defined my years as an undergraduate. It was not that I was overly prayerful-more like chaotic to the point of self-detriment. Only in those moments passed in that cold, beautiful room could I find a peace that would draw me beyond my concerns. I could rarely initiate those blissful silences myself. Too many frustrations, anxieties, responsibilities plagued my mind. Over the years, though, I found an unexpected weapon in my arsenal against all of the daily stresses that obliterated peace. It was through the discomfort of kneeling, the humiliating and unappealing process of lowering myself to a dirty floor, that my mind could wrap itself around what I was doing. My prayer was made possible through my posture.

The notion that my body’s position impacted my prayer was nothing new. It all began nearly a decade earlier with the inspiration of a very rotund Franciscan friar. Shuffling back and forth in front of our youth group, Brother John gave us a challenge. “Next time you’re praying, I want each of you to try it with your hands clasped in your laps.” He showed us what he meant, his knuckles white with intention. “Then, try praying with your hands open, face up, on your knees.” He added to his list: hands placed over one’s heart, arms crossed over the chest, and limbs waving in the air. “Pay attention,” he instructed, his voice boiling up from deep within his frame, “to what your mind does each time. Do you find it easier to focus? Harder? Which works best for you?”

Taste-testing those postures alone in my room, I remember marveling at how drastically they affected my prayer. With my arms crossed in front of me, I couldn’t talk to God with any kind of authenticity. When I crossed them behind my back, suddenly I was open and honest. With each position, my prayer looked very different.

Providentially, it was at that time in my life that I began to practice yoga at the local gym. The appeal of yoga lay in the benefits to my posture and the definition added to my abs and arms. Considerations of the real meaning of the spiritual exercise never crossed my mind. That is, until I found myself in a Hindu theology class five years later.

As a theology major with a focus on comparative studies, much of my undergraduate career circled the lessons diverse religious traditions could teach one another. Hinduism especially entranced me. It was fascinating in its foreignness. As a devout traditional Catholic who grew up with a healthy spattering of New Age, I appreciated the newness of the lessons I learned by studying Hinduism, with its meditative self-knowledge, exotic festivals and flavors, eclectic practices. It all caught my fancy. So when I was given the opportunity to study Hinduism firsthand, I found myself on a plane faster than I could say “Bhagavad Gita.”

The yoga I encountered on that first journey to India was far removed from the yoga of flexibility and muscle tone. The yogi, a bird-like man with bushy eyebrows shadowing his coke-bottle glasses, sat before our class with his knees beneath his body and raised his arms above his head. “I want you all to inhale when you raise your arms like this.” Then he rapidly thrust his arms down-a pantomimed motion of a weight-lifter lowering his weights-exhaling a loud hrumph.

“You should exhale out your nose. I want to see snot flying,” the yogi explained, showing us the action once more to confirm for everyone exactly what he meant. I looked at my classmates, trying to stifle a laugh. What was this? This wasn’t yoga. Where was the warrior pose? Downward facing dog? Sun salutations? I inhaled and exhaled exactly as instructed, embarrassed when the requisite snot did fly.

Later, while consulting the professor who had brought me to India, I learned that the exercise we practiced was indeed yoga. “It’s a new type of yoga evolved from a very old form,” she explained with a smirk, acknowledging that my confusion was to be expected. “It’s meant to focus on the breath,” she explained. “Remember, that’s vital to yoga-the breath. You’re always supposed to focus on the breath. Be mindful of the breath.”

Mindful was exactly what I became. Never in my life had I spent more time working to breathe. My entire thought process began to center upon how to make my lungs inflate and deflate in new ways. Suddenly I was extraordinarily present; when you’re spending so much time focusing on how to breathe, you can’t help but be present to every moment.

That, it turns out, was exactly the point.

In the months following my experiences in India, I learned that the practice of yoga comes in many variants. Stemming from assorted religious books of Hinduism, the most comprehensive yogic text is the Yoga Sūtra by Patañjali. Within this text, Patañjali explains that “yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations.” That is, it is complete control of thoughts for a singular purpose: Realizing liberation is the ultimate pursuit of Hinduism. “Which requires the greater strength,” asks Patañjali, “letting go or restraining? The calm man is not the man who is dull.... The calm man is the one who has control over the mind waves.”

To gain this control, Patañjali explains, one must practice assorted exercises ranging from adherence to nonviolence (ahimsā) to-yes-postures. Forming those exotic contortions with one’s body is not the goal. The goal is to be able to focus one’s mind while forming those exotic contortions. The postures of yoga are meant to lead the mind beyond the postures. They’re the method, not the goal.




As I investigated these yogic teachings, I found myself reconsidering the postures Brother John had introduced. Weren’t they methods for becoming mindful of what I was doing? Wasn’t I more receptive when I prayed with open hands? Didn’t my thanksgivings feel more fervent when I placed my hands over my heart? Intrigued, I began to pray with my entire body.

After reading Matthew’s account of the Passion, I lay on my back with my arms stretched out on either side; the struggle to breathe in that position embodied for me Christ’s time on the cross. Going into the adoration chapel, I lowered my head to the floor asking for the humility that would let me worship more fully. In Mass I knelt, bowed, genuflected-engaging every traditional bodily attitude in the hopes that I would learn something altogether new from them.

And an amazing thing happened: I couldn’t help but pray.
Just as shooting snot out of my nose with intentional breath had brought breathing to mind, so had prayer postures made me mindful of praying. Kneeling during the consecration suddenly made me consider why I knelt. Bowing my head to the floor brought to mind what I adored. Meditating on my arms outstretched rendered thoughts of how redemption came. Yoga had completely transformed my Catholicism.

Perhaps this only makes sense. As Catholics we believe that externals matter. What we do with our bodies impacts what we experience within our souls. We might not be trying to rein in unruly thoughts so as to reach liberation, but we certainly can benefit from a physical response to those things we point to as sacred. Our bodies can be used to bring our thoughts into line.

Now I don’t advocate a blind process of folding our limbs, bowing our heads, or opening our hands; postures are only as useful as our consideration of them is authentic. Each practitioner should approach a practice with a skeptical and self-critical eye. And I don’t support the syncretism of religions or New Age. Our differences make us unique for valid reasons, and to pick and choose and assimilate selectively only ever diminishes the value of every religion.

But perhaps by learning from our Hindu brothers and sisters we can rediscover an element of our tradition that is as old as the religion itself. Whether it’s leaping with joy during worship or extending our arms during a benediction, letting our bodies form our prayer can breathe a freshness into our faith. I may not be thinking of the mountain pose when I’m standing during Mass, but through my study of yoga I’ve come to rethink what I’m standing for.

M.M. Hubele is a freelance writer and editor. She is currently working on a Masters in Fine Arts for creative writing at the University of Arizona. This article appeared in the September 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 9, pages 32-34).


50b. Hindus welcome endorsement of yoga in a Catholic publication

August 23, 2010, ANI

Hindus have welcomed an article in “US Catholic” magazine which said: “Yoga had completely transformed my Catholicism“.

Titled “Om-schooled: How Yoga can influence your Catholic prayer”, this article, appearing in the September 2010 issue of the magazine, further says: “Catholics can take a lesson from the Hindu tradition of yoga when it comes to praying with body, mind, and spirit”.

Noted Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Yoga, referred as “a living fossil”, introduced to the humanity by Hinduism, was a world heritage, and we were pleased when it helped other faith traditions achieve their goals.

Article, written by MM Hubele, further states: “As Catholics we believe that externals matter. What we do with our bodies impacts what we experience within our souls. We might not be trying to rein in unruly thoughts so as to reach liberation, but we certainly can benefit from a physical response to those things we point to as sacred. Our bodies can be used to bring our thoughts into line…But perhaps by learning from our Hindu brothers and sisters we can rediscover an element of our tradition that is as old as the religion itself. Whether it’s leaping with joy during worship or extending our arms during a benediction, letting our bodies form our prayer can breathe a freshness into our faith. I may not be thinking of the mountain pose when I’m standing during Mass, but through my study of yoga I’ve come to rethink what I’m standing for.”

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that yoga, whose traces went back to Indus Valley civilization, was one of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy. Codified in Yoga Sutra by Patanjali around 300 BCE, yoga was actually a mental and physical discipline by means of which the human-soul (jivatman) united with universal-soul (parmatman). Swami Vivekananda reportedly brought yoga to USA in 1893.

Rajan Zed points out that some sages have described yoga as the silencing of all mental transformations, which leads to the total realization of the Supreme Self. Some have used yoga attempting to gain liberation by removing all sensory barriers.

According to Patanjali, yoga is a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical. Yoga is based on an eightfold path to direct the practitioner from awareness of the external world to a focus on the inner.

Ancient Hindu scriptures Upanishads were the first yoga writings and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), which is a comprehensive yoga-sastra (treatise on yoga), talks about karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga, Zed adds.

“US Catholic”, with Rev John Molyneux as the editor, is an award winning magazine published by Claretians, a Roman Catholic religious community of priests and brothers who are dedicated to the mission of living and spreading the Gospel of Jesus. Claretian Publications in Chicago (USA) claims to be one of the country’s most respected Catholic publishers of magazines and newsletters.





51a. What is yoga?

By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.), July 8, 2010

Despite its very ancient origins, yoga has experienced an explosion of popularity in America in the last few decades. Literally millions of people have tried yoga to different degrees. Famous celebrities like Madonna, Carlos Santana, Sting and even Chelsea Clinton are known to be avid yoga practitioners. Mothers and fathers, lawyers and college students are all doing yoga. Yoga’s recent surge in popularity is due to the fact that it offers a very easy, rational and enjoyable way to achieve deep levels of relaxation and physical reinvigoration.
Despite its amazing growth in popularity, though, even many serious practitioners of this ancient art see yoga as nothing more than a series of powerful physical exercises designed to give one a perfect body. While yoga will certainly give us the physical health, energy, stamina and strength that we’re all seeking, this is not the primary goal of yoga. Yoga is infinitely more than just the “aerobics of India.”

First and foremost, yoga is a systematic process of spiritual unfoldment. Yoga is a 5000-year-old system of self-knowledge and God-realization, the aim of which is to unleash our full human potential–including our physical, ethical, emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. Yoga is an active philosophy and practical discipline that brings about a harmonization of all these various aspects of the human experience.
The Sanskrit word yoga means “to unite.” Accordingly, the path of yoga teaches us how to integrate and heal our personal existence, as well as harmonize our individual consciousness with the greater Self that is God. The practice of yoga spirituality brings about a greater sense of harmony between self, God and the world around us. As a direct result of this harmony, we then experience the peace, fulfillment and joy that we have always craved. Moreover, yoga is a system that has the state of meditative awareness as both its means and its goal.

Above all else, the aim of yoga is active, focused and conscious meditation on the Absolute. Devotional meditation upon God is at the very heart of any good yoga practice. For this reason, yoga has often been called “meditation in motion.” All the other aspects of yoga exist in order to ensure that the yogi can achieve a deep state of meditative communion with both her true self, as well as with the Absolute. Indeed, even if we were to do all the various physical poses of yoga perfectly, unless we are also doing these poses in a meditative frame of mind, then we are not really doing yoga at all. Meditation on God, with love and devotion, is the foundation and goal of all yoga practice.
While the physical component of yoga is certainly of importance, it is only one of the eight traditional limbs of yoga practice, all of which have meditation on God as their purpose. These are the eight limbs of the complete yoga system as they are found in the famous yoga textbook known as the Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali in approximately 200 B.C. Briefly, they are:
Yama: These are five positive ethical guidelines (restraints, or abstinences) that include non-violence, fidelity to the Absolute, non-stealing, truthfulness and non-attachment.
Niyama: These are five positive behaviors, including cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and devotion to God.
Asana: These are the actual physical exercises that people usually associate with yoga. These powerful poses are designed to give our bodies strength, flexibility and energy. They also contribute to the deep sense of relaxation that is necessary in order to lovingly meditate on the Absolute.
Pranayama: These are the energizing breathing exercises that produce vitality, overall health and inner calm.
Pratyahara: This is detachment from the ever-present fluctuations of life. Through this practice, we can transcend all the trials and sufferings that life often seems to throw our way and begin to see such challenges in a positive and healing light.
Dharana: This is the practice of powerful and focused concentration.
Dhyana: This is devotional meditation on God, designed to still the agitations of the mind and open the heart to God’s healing love.
Samadhi: This is blissful absorption of one’s individual consciousness in the essence of God. In this state, the yogi experiences the direct presence of God in his or her life at all times. The yogi does not “become” God, which is logically and existentially impossible, but rather comes to the point of having nothing but God as the very center of his consciousness. The result of samadhi is peace, bliss and happiness without end.



These eight limbs together constitute the complete system known as classical ashtanga yoga. When yoga is diligently practiced under the guidance of a well-trained spiritual teacher (guru), it can lead to liberation from all illusion and suffering. By sincerely and patiently following the path of yoga, you can achieve peace of mind, health of body, and the bliss of soul. If you’ve ever tried a yoga class, I encourage you to go that next crucial step and explore the spiritual dimensions of yoga. Come back to the wholeness that you naturally are. Come back to your true self. Aum Shanti.

This article by Sri Acharyaji was originally published in the April, 2002 issue of “Yoga Chicago” Magazine under the title “The Eight Limbs of Yoga.”
About the Author
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya is universally acclaimed as one of the world’s most respected and qualified Dharma teachers and Hindu spiritual leaders alive today. He personifies what it means to be a true and authentic guru.
Dr. Deepak Chopra* has exclaimed in 2002: “You’ve done truly phenomenal work teaching the pure essence of Yoga“. In a similar manner, Dr. David Frawley has said about Sri Acharyaji, “Dr. Frank Morales represents the Sankalpa [the will] of the Hindu people and the cause of Sanatana Dharma. I urge all Hindus everywhere to give him your full support, assistance, and encouragement in his crucial work. He needs and deserves our help.*Leading New Ager
Sri Acharyaji began his personal spiritual journey over 35 years ago at the tender age of ten when he read the Bhagavad Gita for the very first time. He coupled his decades of intense spiritual practice and study with advanced academic achievements, earning a B.A. in philosophy/theology from Loyola University Chicago, as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He has lectured on Dharma at dozens of top universities, such as Harvard, Columbia, Rutgers, Cornell, and Northwestern. He has also served as a consultant for such Fortune 500 companies as Ford Motor Corporation and Lucent Technology.
Explaining to his doctoral advisor that “I don’t want to just study the history of religion…I want to make religious history”, Sri Acharyaji eventually left academia to devote himself exclusively to spiritual teaching and to the preservation of the great tradition of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).
Today, Sri Acharyaji occupies his full time teaching Dharma spirituality to diverse audiences. In addition to leading classes, satsanghas, seminars and lecturing on Sanatana Dharma widely, Sri Acharyaji is a renowned author, as well as a personal spiritual guide (guru) to a rapidly increasing following of enthusiastic students from both the Indian and the non-Indian communities.
Sri Acharyaji was the Resident Acharya (Spiritual Preceptor) of the Hindu Temple of Nebraska (2007 – 2009), which represents the first time in American history that a Hindu temple has ever made such an esteemed appointment. He is the Founder-President of the International Sanatana Dharma Society, a global movement dedicated to teaching Dharma in its most authentic form.
Sri Acharyaji is the real thing: an enlightened guru with the ability to deliver the highest wisdom and spiritual liberation to his sincere students.
Sri Acharyaji’s teachings stress the achievement of enlightenment through the practice of meditation, Yoga, and directly experiencing the presence of the Divine. Another overarching aspect of Sri Acharyaji’s teachings focuses on the importance of love, compassion and service toward all living beings.
Whether speaking to an audience of thousands, or having a heart-felt discussion with only one person, Sri Acharyaji vividly conveys a deeply moving sense of compassion, peace, humility, and spiritual insight that has endeared him to thousands of students and admirers throughout the world.
Some of his books include:
“Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way”
Living Dharma: The Teachings of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism Teach that All Religions are the Same?
Taking Refuge in Dharma: The Initiation Guidebook
The Vedic Way of Knowing God
The Shakti Principle: Encountering the Feminine Power of God
The Art of Wisdom: Affirmations for Boundless Living
His latest book Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way, is scheduled for publication in 2011.
For more information on following the life-transforming path of Sanatana Dharma, please visit his website:


51b. When God sings: The yoga of the Bhagavad Gita

By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.), July 8, 2010

The dramatically stirring philosophical landscape of the Bhagavad Gita has inspired the imaginations of thinkers, poets, philosophers, and spiritual seekers across the spans of both history and cultures. For over 5,000 years, the Bhagavad Gita has been considered by most scholars of religion and philosophy to be one of the most important philosophical/religious dialogues ever written in world history.
The Sanskrit word “gita” can be literally translated as “song”. The term “bhagavad” refers directly to the Absolute. The Bhagavad Gita is, therefore, known in English as the “Song of God.” This is the case because God literally sung these beautiful and profound teachings to His disciple and friend, Arjuna.




This ancient work, which is often described as the “Bible” of Yoga spirituality and Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma), has directly influenced and inspired a large number of eminent Western intellectuals, in addition to innumerable generations of yogis and sages in South Asia.
Included among these important European and American thinkers who were inspired by the profound words of the Gita have been Schopenhauer, Emerson, Thoreau, Huxley, and Einstein. When experiencing the awe-inspiringly horrific wonder of the first atomic explosion, J. Robert Oppenhiemer, the father of the atomic bomb, is known to have quoted aloud from the Gita – “Death am I, the destroyer of all worlds”. So profound and thought-provoking are the contents of this classic of world literature considered to be, that it has been translated into nearly every language on earth, with over 600 translations in the English language alone. Multiple thousands of commentaries have been written in an ongoing attempt to uncover the true purport of this short work; and myriad cultural, literary, and philosophical allusions have been made, both directly and indirectly, to this great work in many of the world’s diverse cultures. There was even a recent major motion picture called “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, starring Will Smith and Matt Damon, that was based directly on the themes of the Gita. How has this ancient work of philosophical thought, written so long ago, come to be considered of such profound importance by so many of our contemporary intellectuals, cultural icons, and spiritual seekers? We will explore the precise reasons for this phenomenon of the Gita’s importance in the coming pages of this work.
Despite its overwhelming influence over so many people throughout history, the Bhagavad Gita is itself, surprisingly, not a very large work. It’s only 700 verses in length, and can probably be read in a good sitting of about 3 hours or so. Contained within the Bhagavad Gita’s brief 700 verses of text, however, are several closely interrelated paths of Yoga which, if systematically and sincerely understood and practiced, have the ability to lead you to liberation(moksha) from the pangs of suffering (duhka) and ignorance (avidya) so seemingly common to the human experience. The goal of this short, yet powerful, work of philosophical literature is spiritual freedom!
Yoga is a unitary and comprehensive system designed to awaken its practitioner to the reality of her true self. There is in reality only one Yoga system, though this one system is often seen as multiple in accordance with what the particular emphasis might be. As we encounter the stunningly diverse reality of the world Yoga scene today, however, there appear to be a myriad of different schools of Yoga. Some of these emphases are quite ancient and authentic in nature, such as Kriya-yoga, Hatha-yoga, Raja-yoga and Bhakti-yoga. Others, such as the modern schools of K. Pratabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and other innovators with large Western audiences, are of much more recent and dubious origins. Of the many different branches of the traditional and authentic discipline of Yoga, only four are discussed at any great length by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. We will now closely examine the different approaches, philosophical outlooks and aims of these four Yoga systems of the Bhagavad Gita.

The speaker of the Gita, Shri Krishna, describes four types of Yoga, or spiritual disciplines that ensure liberation. These four dimensions of Yoga are 1) jnana-yoga, or the Yoga of wisdom, 2) karma-yoga, the Yoga of dynamic meditation 3) bhakti-yoga, the Yoga of devotional consciousness, and 4) the formal classical Yoga system, also known as ashtanga-yoga or raja-yoga. While these various systems of Yoga are all intimately allied as ultimately different spokes of the one wheel of Yoga, they are not presented in the Bhagavad Gita as being all of equal value. After giving a detailed description of the fourth type of Yoga (ashtanga-yoga) in the sixth chapter, for example, the Bhagavad Gita seems to then imply that this form of Yoga may be too difficult and demanding if it is practiced in a vacuum, unaided by the other three dimensions of Yoga. Indeed, the vast majority of the verses in the Gita, both previous to, as well as proceeding this chapter, focuses primarily on the practice of the other three aspects of Yoga (jnana, karma and bhakti) as being of necessary importance for a proper understanding of, and a practical technical grounding for, the classical ashtangayoga system.

While these four Yoga paths differ slightly as far as their respective technical emphases, they are all similarly oriented in their over-all approach and goal, and are thus really only one path. All of the Yoga systems taught in the Bhagavad Gita are in complete agreement that devotional mediation on, and realization of, the Absolute is the central overriding activity of any real importance in human existence. The Bhagavad Gita presents us with a unitary system of Yoga, one clear and systematic path, wherein all four Yoga techniques of jnana, karma, bhakti and Classical ashtanga are – together – all considered crucial for spiritual realization. These four supposedly different paths, in actuality, represent four aspects of one, unified, integral Yoga system. They are akin to the four sides of a square. If one of the sides of the square is missing, then the very structural integrity and being of the square is itself compromised. Indeed, it no longer is logically qualified as a “square” at all. Similarly, the complete and authentic path of Yoga spirituality must include all these four components of Yoga in order to be fully appreciated.
It is true that these four Yogas are linked by their common emphasis on devotional meditation upon, and the ultimate absorption of our awareness in, the Absolute. However, it is also inarguably clear that Krishna considers Bhakti-yoga, or the discipline of focused devotional consciousness, to be not merely one component of these four branches of Yoga, but as the very essence and goal of all Yoga practice itself. Unlike the other aspects of the Yoga path, bhakti (devotional meditation) is distinguished by the fact that it is not only a means (upaya) for knowing God, but it is simultaneously also the goal (artha) of all human existence. At no time does one abandon the practice of bhakti, even upon achieving liberation. Rather, devotional consciousness focused with one-pointed awareness upon the Absolute represents the very goal of the entire Yoga system. This is not true of any other system of Yoga.

The Unity of Yoga
The Bhagavad Gita’s ultimate conclusion is that it is the integration of all four Yogas, with bhakti being both the unifying factor, as well as the goal of all forms of Yoga, that represents the highest form of Yoga. Krishna insists repeatedly that it is through this bhakti-based integral Yoga system presented by Him in the Bhagavad Gita, through the yogic path of devotional contemplation, that one can attain knowledge of, and union with, the Absolute. He says:
bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva visate tad-anantaram



“One can understand Me as I am only by devotional contemplation. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into My truth.” (18:55)
The great importance of devotional contemplation as the primary means for attaining realization of the Absolute is stressed repeatedly throughout the entirety of the Gita.
Further evidence of the primacy of bhakti as the unifying factor underlying all four Yoga systems can be seen in regard to the vishva-rupa vision of Arjuna in the eleventh chapter. After revealing to Arjuna the beatific vision of His wonderful universal form, Krishna tells him that:
bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya aham evam-vidho’rjuna
jnatum drastum ca tattvena pravestum ca parantapa
“…only by devotional meditation can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. In this way you can enter into the mysteries of My being” (11:54). The beatific epiphany of the transcendent Absolute as the source and ground of all existence was revealed to Arjuna, not because he was a great ascetic, philosopher or renunciate. Rather, Krishna showed Arjuna this divine vision for one reason alone: because of the advanced level of the bhakti, or devotional yogic absorption, that Arjuna had achieved. (11: 53-55) Thus, again, one’s inner contemplative state takes precedence over one’s external ability to perform physical asanas.
In the Gita, bhakti is seen to culminate in the final, supreme stage of total self-surrender to the Absolute. In the last chapter of the Gita, Krishna informs Arjuna that He is now explaining “…the most confidential part of knowledge” (jnanam guhyataram). (18:64) This certainly seems to indicate that Krishna is about to reveal to Arjuna His most definitive statement thus far on the subject of Yoga. He then proceeds to illustrate the kind of thoroughly theocentric consciousness necessary for one who wishes to know the Absolute:
manmana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo’si me
“Always think of Me and become My devotee,” declares Krsna, “worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (18:65). According to Krishna, the yogi’s consciousness is to be completely absorbed in devotional contemplation upon the Divine. With her mind intently meditating on God, the yogi will achieve final liberation, coupled with all the freedom, peace, knowledge and fulfillment that such liberation implies. Complete, loving self-surrender to the Absolute – in sincere faith and trust – is the highest path to be traversed by the yogi, explains Krishna:
sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of lesser dharmas [duties, lesser paths] and simply surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (18:66)
With this culminating verse, the Bhagavad Gita declares bhakti, or devotional meditation on the Absolute, to be the highest and foremost of all Yogas. In his commentary on this verse, Sri Ramanuja Acharya (1017–1137), the greatest philosopher in Sanatana Dharma’s very long history of religious and philosophical attainment, interprets the advice in this verse as calling for “…the complete relinquishment of the sense of agency, possessiveness, fruits, etc., in the practicing of karma,
jnana and bhakti yogas in the way instructed, and the realizing of …[God]…as the agent, object of worship, the means and the end” (Ramanuja, 1991). Thus, for the yogi nothing less than full surrender to the Absolute, in all of her words, thoughts and actions will suffice if self-realization is her goal.
All four of the Yogas discussed in the Bhagavad Gita are intimately united in that they all involve different degrees of mediation on the Absolute. Indeed, meditation, and the requisite mental discipline necessary for its practice, are integral elements of any Yoga process (Yoga Sutras, 1.2). This similarity, however, must not allow us to overlook the important distinctions in emphasis between the integrated path of the ashtanga/jnana/karma/bhakti yoga system. The ashtanga system described in the sixth chapter focuses on the important mechanics of practice. The jnana system helps the yogi to acquire the wisdom and intellectual acumen necessary to guide the yogi safely along the path. The path of Karma-yoga transcendentalizes the yogi’s every action. Finally, bhakti provides the meditative content, as well as reveals the goal of the very practice of Yoga itself. It seems quite apparent that Krishna considers bhakti, the state of loving devotion, to be both the underlying essence and goal of Ashtanga-yoga, Karma-yoga and Jnana-yoga. All four Yoga systems are thus united into one integral path, having bhakti as both their essence and goal.

The Bhagavad Gita’s recommendation is that the yogi should develop a loving, devotional state of consciousness toward the Absolute, finally culminating in full self-surrender (sharanam) to that Absolute, Bhagavan Sri Krishna. It is the final conclusion of the Bhagavad Gita that if one truly desires real happiness, peace and fulfillment, one must know one’s true self. And this is to be done in conjunction with knowing the Supreme Self. As paradoxical as it may at first appear, it is as a direct result of this surrender of self that one realizes the self. If the goal for the yogi is self-realization, and if this is to be achieved only by reducing the seemingly insatiable demands of the ego, then what faster and more powerful way is there to eliminate all sense of false possessiveness that to relinquish control over even her very self by surrendering that self to the mercy and loving care of God, the Supreme Self (paramatman)?
The yogi must be prepared to plunge deeply and fearlessly into the ecstatic reality of the sweet Absolute. Nothing less than this sweetness of devotion will suffice. Nothing greater than this sweetness is to be attained.


51c. Does Sanatana Dharma have a future in America?

By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.), July 8, 2010



1.0 Introduction
The mutual histories of both Sanatana Dharma (commonly called “Hinduism”) and that of the United States of America have been intimately intertwined for the last two centuries. Though the two cultures have been so different from one another in many important ways, the profound and continuing influence of the world’s most ancient spiritual culture on one of the earth’s youngest nations cannot be denied. Vedic culture, ideas, philosophy, spirituality, and practices have found an eager audience in America since at least the early 19th Century. While today, in the dawn of the 21st Century, Hindu influence has continued to mold the American cultural psyche in many ways, surprisingly, Sanatana Dharma finds itself increasingly in danger of becoming assimilated into the greater American mainstream, and of losing its own sense of identity as a unique and vibrant religious tradition. Many important elements of Sanatana Dharma have certainly had a powerful presence in the making of American history and culture. The question now is whether or not Sanatana Dharma itself has a secure place in America’s future.


1.1 Turning East: America Discovers Dharma

The Hindu presence in America is longstanding and deeply pervasive. The first instances of these influences can be seen in the writings of several important 19th Century American intellectuals. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), two of the most important writers and philosophers of the New England Transcendentalist movement, were quite vocal in their admiration of Sanatana Dharma, the Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishadic philosophy. Having first read the famous Bhagavad Gita in 1832, Emerson wrote the following about his profound experience with this most important of Hindu scriptures:
“It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered over and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”
Thoreau, too, inspired by his first reading of the Bhagavad Gita, wrote the following about his admiration for Sanatana Dharma: “Beside the vast and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat-Geeta, even our Shaksespeare seems sometimes youthfully green… Ex oriente lux [Light from the East] may still be the motto of scholars, for the Western world has not yet derived from the East all the light which it is destined to derive thence.”
Similarly, many other important figures of 19th Century America bathed themselves in the “Light from the East”, and incorporated many elements of Sanatana Dharma for their own purposes. Many of these American intellectuals borrowed liberally from Sanatana Dharma, but often without giving proper credit and acknowledgement of their dependence upon Sanatana Dharma. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Church, is known to have derived much of her theology from her readings of the Upanishads. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, was likewise wholly dependent upon her knowledge of Sanatana Dharma for the formulation of her world-view and teachings.


1.2 The Light of the East Comes West

While many of 19th Century America’s leading intellectuals, writers, theologians and artists turned to Hindu India for wisdom and insight, it was not until “the East” itself came to America that Sanatana Dharma truly gained widespread appreciation and acclaim. Without doubt, the most significant 19th Century event responsible for America’s deep admiration of Sanatana Dharma was the momentous arrival of Swami Vivekananda on American shores in 1893.

A Hindu sannyasi (mendicant monk) who was steeped both in knowledge of Vedic truth, as well as Western philosophy and religion, Vivekananda was, without doubt, one of Sanatana Dharma’s greatest heroes and ambassadors to the nascent global civilization of modernity. Previous to Vivekananda’s arrival in the U.S., all American intellectuals’ knowledge of Sanatana Dharma was absent the important element of a living Hindu voice. Americans had up till now experienced a Hinduism devoid of Hindus, a theoretical Vedanta without the breathing presence of a Vedanta Acharya, a Yoga without the experiential insight of living Yogis. Vivekananda’s historic speech before Chicago’s World Parliament of Religions in 1893 is the first instance in American history of a living representative of Sanatana Dharma being allowed to represent Sanatana Dharma in its own voice, on its own terms, and from its own intrinsic perspective. Sanatana Dharma, as beautifully portrayed by Swami Vivekananda, set ablaze in the American imagination an interest in Hindu philosophy and religion the likes of which America had not seen previously.
Swami Vivekananda was one of the greatest heroes and ambassadors of Sanatana Dharma to the West. It would be very difficult to overestimate the extremely important and positive impact that he had in the furtherance of the cause of Hindu renaissance. Swami Vivekananda will always be remembered throughout history for his courage, strength and determination to have the entire world understand the greatness of Sanatana Dharma.
Along with the neo-Vedanta of Vivekananda, early 20th Century America witnessed a dramatic growth of interest in such elements of Sanatana Dharma as Yoga, meditation, and bhakti. Such appeal was sparked by the presence of yet more Hindu teachers who came to the States in the first few decades after Vivekananda’s momentous speaking tours. These historic figures include: Premananda Bharati and Swami Yogananda.

Without doubt, however, the explosive interest in Sanatana Dharma that we are witnessing today owes its antecedent momentum to the 1960s.




In the 60s, America witnessed several concurrent trends that starkly marked the spiked growth of Sanatana Dharma in the West. In the early 60s, Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the African-American nationalist movement, openly acknowledged his dependence upon the ideas of Mohandas Gandhi for the success of his own movement. In the mid-sixties, immigration policy was altered so as to allow the influx of hundreds of thousands of new arrivals from India, the majority of whom were at least nominal Hindus. This is a trend that has continued today, and has resulted in the presence of roughly two million people of South Asian origin currently living in the United States. Along with their hopes of sharing in the relative prosperity of the American Dream, many of these Hindu arrivals have brought with them important sacred elements of their precious Hindu heritage.
The most important development that began in the 1960s, however, was the beginning of the influx of dozens and hundreds more living representatives of Santana Dharma. Gurus, swamis, yogis and acharyas from India arrived in America, many of whom started movements that would ultimately be responsible for introducing tens of millions of Americans and Europeans to a taste of Sanatana Dharma. Such latter-day Vivekanandas include: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Swami Rama, Swami Satchidananda, and many others too numerous to mention.

Without doubt, the most revolutionary and important representative of Vedic culture in the 20th Century was Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada introduced the ancient Vaishnava tradition, along with bhakti-yoga, orthodox temple and deity-worship, elaborate yajna (fire ceremony), strict Vedic etiquette and ethics, traditional Vedic dress and tilaka, and the highest brahmanical standards to non-Asians for the very first time in over two-thousand years. Indeed, Prabhupada was the very first guru in recorded history courageous enough to ever offer brahmana (Vedic priest) initiation and brahmana threads to thousands of American and European followers to whom he personally introduced Sanatana Dharma, thus challenging the perverted “caste” system that had crept into Hinduism in the last millennium, and re-establishing the orthodox Vedic concept of brahmana in its pristine varna form (i.e., varna by personal qualifications, not merely by supposed genetic inheritance). America witnessed the explosive growth of things Vedic in the 1960s as a result of such selfless gurus as Srila Prabhupada and others.
Today, in 2011, we are witnessing the mainstreaming of Sanatana Dharma. NRI success in America has become legendary, with the Indian Hindu community now representing the most successful minority community in the nation. Over 800 traditional Hindu temples have been built in America, with another 20 or so being built every year. In the post-911 geopolitical scene we are seeing a dramatically increasing rapprochement between India and the U.S. in the War on Terror, as well as on economic, military and political cooperation – a trend that can only increase the admiration of the general American public toward both India and Sanatana Dharma.
Most significantly, however, many of the most important practical elements of Sanatana Dharma have been gaining increasing acceptance and popularity with a very large number of Americans. In 2011, roughly 18-20 million Americans are practicing Yoga. In multiple polls of American religious beliefs and attitudes, up to 25% of Americans believe in the Vedic principle of reincarnation. Tens of millions of Americans meditate. Over 20 million are vegetarian. Almost half the population has turned to alternative health systems, such as Ayurveda, herbal medicine and massage. Looking at the widespread acceptance of these many elements of Sanatana Dharma, it would seem that we are almost experiencing a “Hinduization” of the American cultural milieu.


1.3 Vivid Examples of American Hindus

While admittedly, the vast majority of these Americans tend to be interested exclusively in the various practical elements of Sanatana Dharma, such as Yoga, to the exclusion of overt Hindu identification, many Americans have openly and proudly embraced Sanatana Dharma itself as their own religious tradition of choice. Indeed, many have become respected authorities and globally recognized spokespersons for the tradition. Dr. David Frawley, Steven Knapp, Georg Feuerstein, and I myself represent only several of the many better-known American converts to Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism Today magazine, by far the highest quality and most widely circulated periodical on Sanatana Dharma on earth today, is created and staffed primarily by American converts to Sanatana Dharma. Multiple hundreds of famous celebrities, such as Julia Roberts, David Lynch, Heather Graham, Arlo Guthrie, J.D. Salinger, and Alfred Ford (grandson of Henry Ford) all identify Sanatana Dharma as their religion.


1.4 Taking the Cross out of the Crossroads

Still, despite the increasing popularity in America of many isolated elements and practices of Sanatana Dharma, most Americans are seemingly more interested in the immediate benefits of these useful individual facets of Sanatana Dharma than they are in Sanatana Dharma itself. Americans are interested in the physical benefits of Yoga asanas, but are not as interested in become self-realized Yogis.
They are interested in meditation for its calming effects, but not necessarily as a means to achieve samadhi and enlightenment.
They are primarily interested in the many goodies that Sanatana Dharma has to offer, but without taking the next logical step of becoming Dharmis (followers of Sanatana Dharma), or in many cases without even acknowledging the purely Vedic origins of the many practices that they have derived so much benefit from.
Thus, while many useful aspects of Sanatana Dharma have become increasingly popular, today Sanatana Dharma finds itself standing at an important crossroads, certainly in America, but also in South Asia and globally. With profit-driven Americans increasingly exploiting Hindu elements for their own financial gain, we are beginning to see Sanatana Dharma, as a unique and vital religious tradition, being slowly eclipsed.

While elements of Hinduism become more popular in America, Hinduism itself is in danger of being assimilated into the greater cultural milieu, as just another ingredient – albeit a nicely spicy one – of the great American melting-pot. We face the very real possibility of authentic Sanatana Dharma becoming co-opted into the greater American cultural matrix as nothing more than a menagerie of disparate elements used to market New Age, consumer and profits oriented spirituality.




We are in danger of losing the very heart of Sanatana Dharma itself, as a unique and separate tradition of its own. And more, as these elements of Sanatana Dharma rise in popularity in America, they are tragically declining in India.
For the sake of this present paper, however, I will be focusing primarily on the American scene for now. The situation of Sanatana Dharma in Bharat (India) will be saved for a future paper.

1.5 The Challenges Sanatana Dharma Faces Today
There are several concurrent factors that are responsible for the dangerous situation that Sanatana Dharma currently finds itself in:
A) A Lack of Systematically Trained Hindu Leadership.
The greatest challenge by far that Sanatana Dharma is facing in the world today is a distinct crisis of leadership. Every other major world religious tradition has systematic, comprehensive, and well-formulated means of training their religious and lay leaders. Such training usually includes (but is not limited to) training in the religion’s theological tenants, critical thinking skills, debating/speaking/writing skills, comparative analyses of what other religions believe juxtaposed to the main philosophical tenets of the Vedic world-view, principles of effective leadership, administrative training, etc.
The Catholic Church, for example, gives its priests years of such training in the seminary before they are seen as proper stewards for their congregations. Priests of the Catholic Jesuit Order, as one case in point, often rarely have anything less that a Masters degree, with many of these priests having Ph.D.s. Protestant / Evangelical Christian missionaries, Muslim Imams, Jewish Rabbis, and even Buddhist monks, undergo similarly rigorous training to lead their respective communities. When I was studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, there were no less than 6 Buddhist monks and nuns working on their Ph.D.s in my department. Their plan, upon graduation, was not to enter the halls of academia as professors, but to use their education to serve their respective Buddhist communities. I, as an American convert to Sanatana Dharma, was the only self-identified Hindu in the entire Ph.D. program. There should have been a half-dozen Swamis studying with me. Other religious communities have understood that having a trained and educated leadership is the greatest assurance of community survival. We need to recognize this truth as well.
The modern Hindu community, as it is currently situated, is severely lacking such effective leadership-creating institutions. Today, there are almost no traditional training facilities left that are designed to create a strong, knowledgeable, confident, and courageous Hindu leadership. Thus, modern Sanatana Dharma is lacking a well-trained leadership that can help defend Sanatana Dharma properly, and guide the Hindu community into the 21st century. The reasons for this current state are multiple: The primary reason has been due to the systematic eradication of our intellectual, spiritual, and kshatriya (warrior) leadership during the last thousand years of anti-Hindu oppression. While leadership training institutions did exist for thousands of years in Sanatana Dharma in the form of gurukulas, traditional ashramas designed to train leaders in Vedic ritual, thought and philosophy, as well as diverse networks of Hindu educational facilities, these traditional institutions have been systematically destroyed over the last 1000 years during the Hindu Holocaust.
Another reason for the current crisis of leadership in Sanatana Dharma is the zealous overemphasis on economic development at the expense of religious development on the part of Indian Hindu families. Truthfully, encouraging our children to become courageous Hindu leaders has taken a back seat to forcing them instead to become engineers, doctors, IT professionals, and making as much money as possible. Unfortunately, more engineers and doctors and industrialists are not going to ensure the survival of our religious tradition – well-trained and committed religious leaders will! Another factor has been a lack of economic, academic, technological, and strategically visionary resources. Most importantly, however, the reason why we are lacking the institutions necessary for creating a future wave of Hindu leaders is a complete lack of will.
Without a well-trained leadership, no community can survive.

B) Radical Universalism
Radical Universalism is the false teaching that “all religions are the same, that all religions are equal, with no important differences between them“. That Sanatana Dharma teaches such a preposterous notion is one of the greatest myths of the last century. Yet despite the fact that this dogma is not actually Hindu in origin, we hear it endlessly parroted by innocent, but unknowing, Hindu parents; by Hindu community leaders; and often even by badly-trained and popularity-seeking gurus who come to the West with a greater yearning to gain wealth and a following, than to represent pure and authentic Sanatana Dharma. Without going too deeply into the social, philosophical, theological and historical problems posed by this false notion, suffice it to say that the dogma of Radical Universalism has philosophically weakened Sanatana Dharma to its core, has forced Hindu youth to question the maturity and rationality of Hindu teachings, has made Hindu “philosophy” look silly in the eyes of qualified intellectuals, and have left us open and defenseless to attack by Christian missionaries, Marxist terrorism, and Islamic aggression. I would ask that you please read the book that I wrote on the subject, and which Hinduism Today Magazine published in summary form as its chief feature in its July, 2005 issue. Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism teach that all Religions are the same?
[On an important note, Radical Universalism is not to be mistakenly confused with Hindu universalism, as some commentators have erroneously stated. Hindu universalism is the correct idea that Sanatana Dharma is a philosophy and religion that is open to all people regardless of their national or ethnic origin, and that Dharma is a universal Truth that applies to all people at all times. This is correct.

The dogma of Radical Universalism, on the other hand, makes the fanatically sweeping claim that there are no fundamental differences between religions. Radical Universalism is a modern doctrine that is not found in Classical Sanatana Dharma.]

C) Anti-Hindu Defamation
There is a tightly-controlled academic/media/government matrix in America (and now duplicated to sinister perfection in Bharat) that consciously fosters rabidly anti-Hindu stereotypes, and has done so very successfully for decades.




Rather than standing up and fighting against such anti-Hindu portrayals of Sanatana Dharma (as every other previously stereotyped group in America has forcefully, loudly, and successfully done), the Hindu community has been so slow to respond to these attacks in the past that many of the anti-Hindu bigots in academia feel they have a free reign to propagate any lies about Sanatana Dharma they wish. They also know that if the Hindu community ever even responds at all, it is usually much too little, much too late, and in a purely reactionary manner. We need to counter any and all bigoted attacks against Sanatana Dharma immediately, forcefully and professionally.
Some of us have, in fact, have responded forcefully to anti-Hindu defamation in academia – including Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Koenraad Elst, Dr. Subhash Kak, Vishal Agarwal, Dr. Yvette Rosser, and myself, among others. However, the majority of instances in which Hindus are engaged in the market place of ideas tends to be only when we need to respond to the attacks of others. Our interactions with academia, and other power-wielding institutions in America, have been almost purely defensive and reactionary in nature. The time has now come to go on the intellectual offensive, and to engage in a conscious campaign of ideas, and more, to proffer the world-view of Sanatana Dharma as possessing the most logical, effective, comprehensive and sane answers to all the problems that our world is now experiencing, whether in the political, economic, cultural, social, philosophical, scientific or spiritual realms. The world knows what the Christian perspective is; and what the Islamic perspective, the Marxist perspective, and the Feminist perspective are. Now is the time to vigorously educate the world on the precise nature of the Dharma perspective.
Such positive Hindu intellectual activity includes creating comparative analyses of Vedic philosophy versus other thought systems (i.e., comparing Sanatana Dharma versus Christianity, Sanatana Dharma versus Marxism, Sanatana Dharma versus Atheism, Sanatana Dharma versus Post-modernism, etc., etc.). This category of positive Hindu intellectual activity also includes the creation of original critiques, commentaries, and position papers giving the Dharma perspective on the most important issues of the day: the Dharma perspective on the environment, on fiscal policy, on ethics, on terrorism, on women’s rights, on race, on poverty, on euthanasia, on geopolitics, etc., etc. Unless we come to this crucial stage of positively and assertively projecting the Dharma perspective into the current realm of ideas, Sanatana Dharma will not be taken seriously by either the non-Hindu world, or by our increasingly intelligent and cosmopolitan Hindu youth themselves.

D) Disaffected Hindu Youth
Too many young Hindus today feel completely alienated from their religion and from their cultural roots. A large part of this problem is certainly due to the problems mentioned above. In addition, others have pointed to a) the lack of proper education for children about Sanatana Dharma, b) the inability of many Hindu priests and leaders to answer their questions properly, and c) the overwhelming influence of popular American culture as additional reasons for why many Hindu children question the validity of their religion. While these and many other causes have certainly contributed greatly to Hindu youths’ confusion about Sanatana Dharma, however, the main problem for why Hindu youth so often feel disconnected from their spiritual roots is one that I feel has rarely been addressed. The primary reason is actually a deeply psychological one:

A complete lack of healthy assertiveness, pride, and fearlessness in today’s Hindu culture – and especially among contemporary Hinduism’s leadership – has left many Hindu youth ashamed of their culture’s supposed timidness, lack of self-respect, and lack of courage. Due to the lack of such models of Hindu strength in today’s Hindu society, Hindu youth feel disaffected from their very own religion and culture. Hindu youth have become ashamed to be Hindu.
Hindu youth living in America have observed throughout their young lives every other group, religion, race, ethnicity, etc. around them proudly and assertively celebrating their own respective religions and cultures. Christians are proud to be Christians. Muslims insist on receiving respect from the greater culture. Jews display self-pride in their religion and culture. African-Americans celebrate their history and heritage. Hispanics hold on tenaciously to their language, culture, religion and roots. Only the Hindu community, the typical Hindu youth observes, is afraid to assert itself proudly as an ancient, glorious, and relevant culture, worthy of the greatest respect and admiration. Only the Hindu community has chosen to relegate itself to the shadows of contemporary American society in the delusional fear that Hindu pride will be misinterpreted as aggressiveness.
America is a culture that fosters and rewards assertiveness, self-respect and pride in one’s roots. When Hindu youth look back upon their own families and culture, however, rather than seeing a community that is brimming in a healthy pride in who they are, they often see, instead, a community that is scared to death of making itself known to the outside world, and a community that is often even ashamed of its own religious heritage. The typical Hindu youth in America thus finds herself in a position of alienation from her own Hindu culture, and forced to accept an American Christian culture which she sees as more of a reflection of her own inner need for strength, pride, and assertive self-respect than her own religion has to offer. When then faced with the personal internal choice of either A) siding with the assertive, confident, and unashamed American culture they see around them, or of B) siding with their own parents, families, and community who often seem ashamed and apologetic about anything Hindu, is it any wonder that we lose so many Hindu youth to popular American Christian culture?

Like a broken record, Hindu parents, leaders, and activists bemoan the fact that we are losing our youth. The solution to this very real problem is, however, deceptively simple. We are losing our youth because they don’t want to be like us. We have been weak; we have been ashamed; we have been reactionary instead of proactive. As a result, we have lost our youth’s respect. To regain our children’s respect, let us become the examples of Hindu strength, Hindu courage, Hindu conviction, Hindu intelligence, Hindu pride, and Hindu assertiveness that our children so yearn for us to be. Let us stand with dignity and pride, and not be afraid to proclaim to the world: “I am a follower of Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Natural Way, and a servant of the almighty God! Mein Hindu Hun!!”
And if we Hindus can learn to stand courageously in the face of our many opponents, and serve as examples of strength to our children, I guarantee that our youth will follow our example – and more, they will far surpass it.

E) Gap Between Indian Hindus and Hidden Hindus
There are two distinct Hindu communities in America today, 1) Indian Hindus, 2) what I have called the “Hidden Hindus”. Indian Hindus tend to be healthy cultural Hindus. That is, they have no difficulty identifying themselves with such terms as “Hindu”, “Dharmic” and “Vedic”, and seeing themselves as being part of an ancient religious tradition. But sadly, very few Indian Hindus actually study Vedic philosophy or scriptures seriously, or practice the all-important elements of Sanatana Dharma, such as Yoga, meditation, etc.
The Hidden Hindus, on the other hand, include at least 2-3 million non-Indian Americans (Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc.) who practice Yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, believe in reincarnation and karma, study the Vedic scriptures, etc., but who – despite the fact that they are practicing Sanatana Dharma – will not necessarily call themselves “Hindu”, and do not understand that they are part of an ancient and living religious tradition. We need to do everything in our power to bring these two disparate communities together, to bridge this gap, if we are going to have a vibrant and meaningful Sanatana Dharma thrive in America’s future.

The Indian Hindus must learn from the Hidden Hindus, and begin to seriously study the deeper philosophical teachings of Sanatana Dharma, as well as practice Yoga and meditation on a daily basis. The Hidden Hindus, on the other hand, must learn from their Indian Hindu brethren, and begin to consciously identify themselves as followers of a distinct and beautiful religious tradition called Sanatana Dharma. In this way, each of these currently distinct Hindu communities will teach each other what the other lacks…and together we can celebrate and practice Sanatana Dharma together as a vibrant and united community of faith.
Having looked at a few of the major problems confronting Sanatana Dharma in American today, there are several solutions that the Hindu community must implement immediately if it is going to preserve Vedic culture and secure a meaningful future for Hindu children.

1.6 Solutions
A) Hindus Must Develop a Formidable and Well-trained Leadership
We need to hold our present leaders – both Hindu activist leaders, as well as our current crop of gurus, swamis, and sadhus – to a much higher standard than we do at present. It is no longer acceptable for less-than-sincere “swamijis” to flock to America, gain a large and profitable following among currency-laden American devotees, to then only abandon their allegiance to Sanatana Dharma by falsely telling their American followers that what they are practicing has nothing to do with Sanatana Dharma, but is merely a “universal” teaching. Such Radical Universalist “gurus” wish to have it both ways – telling their American followers that they are not really practicing Sanatana Dharma per se, while simultaneously approaching the Indian Hindu community for donations and support by claiming that they are Hindu religious leaders. When our own supposed leaders shy away from being proud Hindus, how are we to expect our own children to behave any different? A person who is portraying themselves as a self-realized guru either is a follower of Sanatana Dharma or is not. They can no longer have it both ways. We will no longer accept such dishonesty and hypocrisy on the part of our so-called gurus and swamis. We need a stronger, more honest, and more credible Hindu leadership than this if Sanatana Dharma is going to have a meaningful future in America.

B) The Hindu Activist as a Servant of God
In their volunteer work, Hindu activists must be motivated by the insights derived from their own spiritual experience, an attitude of bhakti (devotion) toward God, and an overarching desire to serve God. They cannot be motivated merely by political ideology or ambition, or even merely by a fondness for Indian culture. Hindu lay-leaders, such as the many dedicated volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu Swamsevak Sangh, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, and other Hindu activist organizations who are active today, must themselves deeply understand, and boldly proclaim to the world, that Sanatana Dharma is a religious tradition and has a purely spiritual goal, and that goal is to know Brahman (God) and to achieve spiritual emancipation. We must no longer shy away from the overtly spiritual nature and goals of Sanatana Dharma.
It has been a source of amazement to me over the years that so many purported Hindu activists and lay-leaders whom I have met, who otherwise are very dedicated and sincere volunteers for the Hindu cause, are in their personal lives often very unspiritual people.
Several years ago, I had an eye-opening meeting with one of the most important leaders of the RSS. After at least an hour of intense discussion with him about the current state of Sanatana Dharma throughout the world, and strategies for making Sanatana Dharma a global force again, he eventually shifted the course of the conversation by asking me if I would mind receiving a more personal question from him. When I said I would not mind a personal question, this is what he asked me: “Dr. Morales. You are so passionate and enthusiastic about your work to save Hinduism…more so than most Indian Hindus I’ve known! You weren’t born Hindu; and you’re not Indian. May I ask: why are you so eager and passionate to save Hinduism? What is it that motivates you?”
My answer to him was immediate and direct: “I care about Sanatana Dharma because I want to know and serve God. Sanatana Dharma is the highest means of knowing and serving God.
The reaction that this top leader of the Hindu RSS had to my answer has amazed and haunted me to this day. At first, his eyes glazed over dumbfounded by my answer. Immediately proceeding this, his eyes then began to quickly dart around the room in a confused mental search as he tried to grasp the meaning of my answer. “What do you mean?!?” he finally thought to ask me a very long half-minute later.
A deep personal yearning to know God, and a strong desire to serve God with bhakti (devotion) and an attitude of surrender, should be the only motivation for why one is a Hindu activist“, I said to him, “Without this pure spiritual motivation…why else would one even care about the fate of Sanatana Dharma?”



Our leaders must be motivated by such a desire to serve God, and must have as the very foundation of their personal character, a deeply rooted experience of the Transcendent, fostered by a living and meaningful life centered upon sadhana (daily spiritual practice). Anyone who wishes to portray themselves as a Hindu activist most have a life filled with daily mediation, Yoga, puja and temple worship. They must be a strict vegetarian, and refrain from all alcohol and tobacco. They must be following a clear and systematic spiritual discipline of sadhana with the goal of self-realization (atma-jnana) and God-consciousness (brahma-vidya). Their highest aim must be to serve the Divine. Without such purely spiritual motivations, our Hindu activists will merely be motivated by political gain, or at best, an empty pride in secular Indian culture.

C) Distinguishing Between Dharma and Adharma
We need to create systematic critical analyses of anti-Hindu religions, ideologies, and thought-systems. Too often, when a modern Hindu encounters an anti-Dharmic ideology (like Christianity, Islam or Marxism), instead of having the courage to defend Sanatana Dharma by, not only discussing the very real differences between the respective ideologies, but going so far as to show the actual superiority of Sanatana Dharma, they will instead try to weakly appease the opponent with such silly pronouncements as: “Oh we Hindus are the best Marxists!” “We love Mohammed in Sanatana Dharma!” “Oh, I’m a Christian Hindu… I love Jesus so much.” “Karl Marx was an avatar!” etc., etc. When we adopt such tactics of appeasement, we only end up looking like foolish children in the eyes of our opponents, and like pathetic cowards in the eyes of our children. We must no longer be afraid to actively engage anti-Dharmic systems of thought, and to show how Sanatana Dharma is not only distinct from them, but has much from which they can learn.

D) A Culture of Excellence
We must be able to vigorously defend the traditional essence of Sanatana Dharma, in its most authentic, unaltered and unwatered-down form, while also learning to adopt the famed American sense of excellence and professionalism. We must seek nothing less than absolute excellence in everything that we do in the name of Dharma. In everything we do in the name of Sanatana Dharma, we must aspire to the highest degrees of qualitative excellence – whether this be in the realm of writing, Hindu web site development, organizational operations, philosophical polemics, the presentation of Sanatana Dharma to non-Hindus, in our behavior, ethics, eloquence and motivations. To merely say “It’s good enough” is not good enough for Dharma.

1.7 The Future of Sanatana Dharma in America
Sanatana Dharma, I feel, not only has a future in America, but America, more than any other nation on earth at present, is potentially the stage upon which a revitalized Sanatana Dharma as a global force can once again reemerge. America itself signals several potentially important attitudes and mindsets that Sanatana Dharma must adopt if it is to have a future at all. This is so for the following reasons:
A) Sanatana Dharma as a Multi-ethnic Community
Unlike the case in Bharat, or any other nation on earth at present, Sanatana Dharma in America is very much a multi-racial, multi-ethnic phenomenon. Only here do we see Indian Hindus, Sri Lankan Hindus, Nepali Hindus, Caribbean Hindus, Caucasian Hindus, Japanese Hindus, Hispanic Hindus, Chinese Hindus, etc. all practicing Sanatana Dharma – even if they are not always practicing it together. In America, we are beginning to have a glimpse in microcosmic form of what the world would look like if Sanatana Dharma were to be the primary form of religious expression in the world, as I believe it will be in the not too distant future. Moreover, the example and fact of a multi-ethnic Vedic culture will display for the world the truly universal nature of Sanatana Dharma as the future religion of the world, and not only of Bharat.

B) Ancient Dharma with a Modern Face
Sanatana Dharma in America will be instantiated as the most ancient religion on earth, but with a thoroughly modern face and attitude. American culture is a culture that fosters and celebrates success. It encourages a sense of practicality, excellence, a no-nonsense attitude, and high standards in every endeavor. These are all mindsets that Sanatana Dharma at one time also shared and taught when Vedic culture was historically at its greatest strength. It will now relearn these values from America.

C) Sanatana Dharma on the Cutting Edge
Here in America, more than anywhere else on earth, we will witness a revitalized Sanatana Dharma coupled with the most cutting-edge technology. Just as the IT revolution has begun to transform Bharat in ways we could not imagine only a decade or two ago, similarly the IT revolution will help to bring about a Dharma revolution globally as we begin to use the latest technology in the form of the Internet, DVDs, computer graphics, social media, etc., to get our message out. Not only is Sanatana Dharma not opposed to the use of technology, but we must and will use such technology in Dharma seva (service).

D) Revitalized Hindu Youth
Long have we bemoaned the Americanization of Hindu youth. My prediction, however, is that in America, we will soon witness a veritable army of these very same Americanized, savvy, cool, energized and very practically-minded Hindu youth coming back to Sanatana Dharma. And when they do, they will be the vanguard of a new and truly American Hinduism that will instantiate the very best of both worlds – bringing together the very best of the most ancient with the very best of the most cutting-edge.


1.8 Does Hinduism Have a Future in America?
Like two wings of the same powerful eagle, Sanatana Dharma and the best aspects of American culture must be coupled together in partnership if either is going to have a meaningful future. If this can happen, not only will Sanatana Dharma have a future in America…Sanatana Dharma will be America’s future!
Futures, however, do not merely occur. Futures are made. If Sanatana Dharma is going to once again become the meaningful and influential global force that history shows us it once was, then it is incumbent upon each and every Hindu to rededicate ourselves to our religion’s future. We must learn not to merely be what I have termed Nominal Hindus (Hindus in name alone), but to be Conscious Hindus – practicing our religion, studying the scriptures of our religion, and becoming living examples of God’s grace (Bhagavata-prasada) and compassion (karuna) alive in the world. It is up to each of us to be dedicated and loving stewards of this great religious heritage known as Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism’s future is in the hands of every Conscious Hindu.


51d. The Philosophical Divisions of the Bhagavad Gita

By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.), July 18, 2010

Yamuna and Ramanuja, two of the greatest philosophers of the tradition of Yoga spirituality and Sanatana Dharma, have taught that the Bhagavad Gita can be structurally divided into three separate, yet sequential and perfectly integrated, sections. Each of these three sections has six chapters.

The first division consists of chapters 1-6. This section is focused upon an exposition of the precise method and means of self-realization – or atma-jñana – to be used by the individual self. The stages of such self-realization are comprised of the progressive steps of a) first gaining an intellectual grasp of the nature of true self (atman), then b) a pursuit of karma-yoga, followed by c) the practice of jñana-yoga with the express aim of achieving direct non-mediated experience of the true self within. In the Classical Ashtanga Yoga system, self-realization is only the first of two ultimate goals, the second of which is brahma-vidya, or God consciousness.

Having established the dual goals of Yoga as being self-realization followed by God-realization, the last group of six chapters, chapters 13-18 of the Gita, now provide a philosophical and intellectual clarification of the various matters thus far propounded throughout the work. These chapters clarify the nature of the three ultimate Reals, or Tri-tattva. These three Reals are: a) the material nature (jagat), b) the innumerable individual selves that inhabit the world in which we live (atman), and the Absolute (Brahman). Everything that exists can be philosophically reduced down to one of these three elements.

All material objects, for example, whether we are referring to the objects we see around us such as a chair, a car, a building or even our own bodies, are ultimately composed of matter, and can thus be reduced to jagat. Our innermost essence, what in Euro-American religious expression is often termed the soul, is in actuality the true self, known as atman. For the Bhagavad Gita, in addition to these two elements, there is a third. The third ultimate Real is the source and grounding of the other two. This third Real is God, or Brahman. Matter is insentient, while atman and Brahman are sentient. Matter and atman are dependent, while Brahman is supremely independent, being the source, purpose and goal of all things. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna provides Arjuna with the most authoritative explanation the nature and inter-relationship of all three of these aspects of reality.

The discussion between Krishna and Arjuna proceeds in a progressive series of successive arguments, starting from apparently mundane appeals to Arjuna to fight, and leading rapidly to the main purpose of Krishna’s instructions: leading Arjuna from the delusion (moha) he currently finds himself in, to the liberating knowledge of Self and God toward which all living beings aim. For readers who take no more than a cursory glance at the first two chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, it is in these chapters that, more often than not, one can get somewhat easily bogged down and confused. Often such a superficial reading will convince the reader that the goal of Krishna’s discourse is rooted in no more than His desire to get Arjuna to regain his courage and fight. In actuality, it very quickly becomes apparent with a more patient reading that the war, while certainly a historical reality, is also a philosophical backdrop – a dramatic tool – to lead the reader from the superficial concerns of the war in question to a deeper inquiry of the very nature of reality itself.
Arjuna’s dilemma is not rooted in the battle about to commence around him, but rather it is rooted in the war that he finds taking place within himself. Arjuna’s dilemma is nothing less than a historic metaphor for the great war that each human being faces in his or her attempt to discern truth versus untruth, reality versus illusion – the encounter with true Self versus the façade of false persona. Rapidly, within the space of only a few verses in the second chapter, the Great Mahabharata War is quickly left behind, and Krishna and Arjuna quickly find themselves inhabiting a thoroughly transcendent realm of discourse.
After Arjuna rejects several lesser, alternate options for relieving his existential dilemma (2:26-28; 2:31-37), Krishna then explicates the Yoga system as the surest means of achieving both philosophical certitude, as well as the practical experience of self-realization that is necessary for lasting peace and happiness. It is at the point where we leave mere intellectual speculation behind us and we then begin practicing the liberating path of Yoga that the journey to the very threshold of Truth begins for us.


51e. Sanatana Dharma and New Age





By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.)

Link not opening at time of compilation; incomplete/partial information retrieved earlier -Michael

Indeed, the greatest single contributor of philosophical concepts and practices to the American New Age movement has been something neither new nor American, i.e., the ancient transformative tradition of Yoga Spirituality.

Ms. Besant further Hinduized the [Theosophical] Society by stressing the importance of Yoga and Sanatana Dharma as the foundations of all human spiritual endeavor.

Yoga was more of a philosophical concept than a practical path. With the arrival of this great Indian Yogi, Americans now began to practice the meditational and spiritual techniques of Yoga in the thousands.

Due to changes in the immigration laws in 1965, Asian spiritual teachers (gurus) found entering the U.S. much less of a challenge. During this time, many esteemed Hindu gurus began traveling about America on lecture tours, including Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Bhaktivedanta Swami, Swami Rama, Swami Muktananda, Swami Vishnu-Devananda, and Swami Satchidananda. Consequently, many Hindu religious traditions began to find new and eager adherents in America. Some of these Yoga traditions included the schools of Vedanta, Tantra, Vaishnavism and various Advaitic Hindu teachings. The contributions of these different Yoga schools of thought to New Age thinking was immense.

Possibly the most important component that the New Age movement owes to Vedic spirituality, however, is the scientific practice of meditation. Every tradition of Indian religion teaches one form of meditation or another.

While it is true that many of the beliefs and practices of the New Age movement can also be traced to other sources (for example, Platonic and Hermetic philosophy, as well as Native American beliefs), it is quite apparent that the movement owes a great deal of its ideas, as well as its historical development, to the much older tradition of Sanatana Dharma and Yoga spirituality.


52a. Anthony De Mello and Christian Yoga

Robert Joseph, February 18, 2009

Anthony de Mello, SJ, was a famous Jesuit priest, psychotherapist and seminar leader who sought to fashion a “Christian spirituality in Eastern form.” Anyone interested in Christian Yoga should definitely check out his many books — especially his seminal and fascinating text, Sadhana: A Way to God.

He was born in Bombay in 1931 into a large Portuguese Catholic family whose ancestors were converted by the early Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. He attended a Jesuit high school and joined the Society of Jesus in India in 1947. Following a typical Jesuit course of studies that included philosophy in Spain, theology in India and psychology in the U.S., De Mello was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1961.

Fr. De Mello established the Pastoral Counseling and Spirituality Institute at de Nobili College in Poona, India, which was later renamed the Sadhana Institute. Beginning in the late 1960s, Fr. De Mello tried to write about Christian spirituality using traditional yoga terminology and concepts, particularly the concept of the sadhana or meditative practice. There was nothing inherently shocking in this since Catholic spirituality is a kaleidoscope of various meditative practices, visualizations and devotions. Nevertheless, Fr. De Mello’s writings sometimes seemed to his religious superiors to be somewhat syncretistic and he drew censure from the Vatican. In 1998, some of his opinions were condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote for the Congregation.

Some editions of his books have since been supplemented with the insertion of a caution: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.” To me, that seems like a fair characterization. Fr. De Mello wasn’t always presenting orthodox Catholic doctrine in his books but rather offering spiritual seekers a new way of understanding Christian spirituality.

His writings are actually still quite popular, available in many Catholic bookstores as well as on Some of his Jesuits colleagues are attempting to carry on Fr. De Mello’s work and legacy. You can visit his official website maintained at Fordham University.

The Song of the Bird, 1984.

Sadhana: A Way to God, 1984.

Wellsprings, 1986.

One Minute Wisdom, Image, 1988.

Awareness, Image, 1990.

Taking Flight, 1990.

The Way to Love, 1992.

The Heart Of The Enlightened, Image, 1994.

Awakening, Image, 2003.

Contact with God, Image, 2003.

One Minute Nonsense

The Prayer of the Frog

Praying Naked: The Spirituality of Anthony de Mello (by J. Francis Stroud, S.J.), Image 2005.



52b. Vatican Denounces Jesuit’s Writings;Display

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, AP News Archive, August 22, 1998

VATICAN CITY (AP) –The Vatican denounced writings by a popular Jesuit author Saturday, warning of “dangers” contained in his works. A Vatican commission said several works by
Anthony de Mello, an Indian-born Jesuit priest, contradict orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine. De Mello, who died in 1987, wrote books characterized by some as New Age that have been best sellers in many parts of the world.

“Already in certain passages in these early works and to a greater degree in his later publications, one notices a progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith said Saturday.

The congregation said de Mello’s works deny the existence of objective morality and claim that religions, including Christianity, are obstacles to truth. It warned that underlying ideas hidden in de Mello’s many short stories “can cause grave harm.” Among the allegedly harmful works were: “One Minute Wisdom,” “One Minute Nonsense,” “Wellsprings: A Book of Spiritual Exercises,” and “Walking on Water.”

Officials at Jesuit headquarters in Rome were unavailable for comment. The congregation noted in de Mello’s defense that not all the translations and texts of his works were authorized by him for publication and some were published after his death. The congregation also said de Mello’s works aren’t all bad because many contain elements of eastern wisdom that can help achieve self-discipline.


52c. Yoga – A Path to God?

By Louis Hughes, OP, Mercier Press, 1997

Curiously, the term ‘yoga
hardly occurs at all in
de Mello‘s writings. However, in his work as a teacher of spirituality, he used practical methods which are little different from those used by the swamis of the Indian yogic tradition. These take a number of forms.

The exercises entitled “Stillness” in Sadhana and “The Arrival” in Wellsprings are simply a form of the classical yoga nidra or ‘yogic sleep’ as practised for instance in the contemporary school of Satyananda Swami. The practice of “composition of place” as originally developed by St. Ignatius has no connection with India. However, there are clear parallels between it and the practice of pratyahara or ‘sense-withdrawal’ which has been an active element in the yogic tradition since the time of Patanjali. The listening exercises described under the heading “Sounds” in Sadhana are evidently derived from an ancient yogic “sound and light” tradition.

The methods that de Mello use in his spirituality relate most of all to the *tantric and *nana traditions of yoga.


52d. Fr. Joseph H Pereira* awarded Padma Shri *See
40a and 40b

March 9, 2009

Academically, Fr Joe Pereira is an Adjunct Professor in Yoga Philosophy & Psychology at various Indian Universities, Catholic Institutions and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Fr Joe is the Consultant to the Archdiocese of Bombay for “Rehabilitation of the Chemically Dependent”

He constantly says that such commitment can only be through the blessings of great ones like Mother Teresa and Guruji BKS Iyengar and
his spiritual guide Rev Anthony D’Mello*.

*The writings of
Fr. Anthony de Mello
[not D’Mello] were the subject of a “Notification” dated June 24, 1998 by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was signed by the present Pope Benedict XVI. It warned that many of the priest’s “positions are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.” His books were banned by Rome.
Yet, he is Fr. Joe Pereira‘s “spiritual guide“; but naturally:

The lives and works of [Fr J M] Déchanet, [Fr] Swami Abhishiktananda, [Fr] Bede Griffiths, de Mello, [Fr John] Main, [Fr] Amalor, [Sr] Vandana and others exemplify ways of incorporating yogic practice into Christian spirituality:


52e. Christ, the supreme yogi

By Fr Joe H Pereira,
April 10, 2009  

When an Indian reads the gospels for the first time, one is impressed by
the energy that radiates from the person of Jesus
. William Johnston in his Mystical Theology says that it is a reminder of
the ‘ki’ the ‘chi’, the prana, the energy that forms the very basis of Asian Culture and religion. Energy goes out of Jesus when he heals the sick and casts out demons… Those Christians who practise Iyengar Yoga as a path way to God and as contemplative prayer, do consider Jesus as a supreme example of a Yogi who claims that the “Father and I are One” and prays that we may be one as he and the Father. This journey is absolutely yogic

Fr Tony D’Mello, who often spoke like a Sufi Mystic
would say,
“If you ‘look’ at the serene countenance of the crucified Saviour, you may see a ‘laughing Buddha’!”

It is not surprising that Fr. Joe Pereira would cite the Vatican-banned Jesuit Tony de Mello’s works to support his New Age theories. –Michael






By David Cloud, August 26, 2008

Anthony de Mello
readily admitted to borrowing from Buddhist Zen masters and Hindu gurus. He even taught that God is everything: “Think of the air as of an immense ocean that surrounds you … an ocean heavily colored with God’s presence and God’s bring. While you draw the air into
your lungs you are drawing God in” (Sadhana: A Way to God, p. 36).
De Mello suggested chanting the Hindu word “om” (p. 49) and even instructed his students to communicate with inanimate objects: “Choose some object that you use frequently: a pen, a cup … Now gently place the object in front of you or on your lap and speak to it. Begin by asking it questions about itself, its life, its origins, its future. And listen while it unfolds to you the secret of its being and of its destiny. Listen while it explains to you what existence means to it. Your object has some hidden wisdom to reveal to you about yourself. Ask for this and listen to what it has to say. There is something that you can give this object. What is it? What does it want from you?” (p. 55).

Fr. Tony de Mello taught syncretism and pantheism. He didn’t specifically write about yoga but its philosophies were there in the many books that he authored. He however openly promoted the use of mantras and especially the ubiquitous “Om”. I have limited myself to submitting a few extracts for two reasons: Fr Louis Hughes’ “Yoga – A Path to God?
will be made available at this ministry’s web site as a separate document, as will a file dedicated to Fr. Anthony de Mello.


52g. The journey of a catholic yoga practitioner

By “C”, November 30, 2008

(I learned only recently who is appropriately called a “yogini”; a “yoga practitioner” is a more apt term for me but too late to change my “blog brand” now.)

Last month, when I celebrated my second year of practicing yoga, I was asked how it has changed me. “It made my life a bit more complicated,” I wanted to answer. Since I started with my journey, I have constantly been on the lookout for the practice shirt that won’t run up while I do the downward dog, the mat that would last my lifetime, and the explanation to people whenever I get that “that’s very un-Catholic” look on their faces. These people, who have never tried yoga in their lives, warn me against conversion to another religion, which they do not even know how it is called. Had I listened to them and used my first-class intelligence (i.e. one does not have to experience something to know what it is), I would have never found my way here. Sometimes, using second-class intelligence (i.e. experiencing something to find knowledge) has its wisdom—and that’s what I also learned in this journey.

So, what’s the issue about Catholics practicing yoga?

I have always believed that no religion has the monopoly of grace, goodness, and God. I believe that God is too big to be boxed in a set of doctrines and dogmas, rites and rituals. Everyone claims his is the right way. Fine, I cannot argue with that in the same way that I cannot argue with a traveler which road he should take going to his destination (especially if I don’t know where he is going!). But nobody could claim that his is the only right way.

I am Catholic and if I were to pass judgment on non-Catholics simply on the basis of religion, my father would have been the first on my list. (Besides, passing judgment is God’s job, only His.) My father was baptized Catholic and had a Catholic burial but at some point in his life he joined an organization that had been ostracized by the Church. I also do not know what it means to be part of the group but among other things, my father believed that one’s excess is the need of another. Thus, when he was still working, a large portion of his salary went to charities. Sometimes I’d wonder if he didn’t give away his money just like that, would I have to work this hard right now. But I cannot complain. I know I am now reaping the fruits of his good deeds. I am enjoying his karma, so to speak. More so I cannot complain about how he raised us, provided for us, and loved us.

Despite his issues with the Catholic Church—whatever they may be—my father still decided to raise us his children as Catholics when he could have chosen otherwise. I see this as his way of letting us find the truth ourselves and telling us that his issues need not become ours.

Combined with the influence of my father’s liberal thinking is the entire collection of works of Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest who embraced a universal spirituality, finding the common ground among Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.  Among his teachings are the following:

·      A religious belief is a signpost pointing the way to truth. When you cling to the signpost you are prevented from moving toward the truth because you think you have it already.

·      Faith is the fearless search for truth. So it is not lost when one questions one’s belief.

·      (Paraphrased version) A guru visited a city and taught the people how to live. People in turn gave the guru honor even after he died although they failed to remember any of his teachings. Another guru visited another city and also taught the people how to live. Through generations people lived out his teachings faithfully but they did not notice when the guru disappeared. Eventually they forgot all about him but his teachings lived on. Which is the true religion?

Another influence in my life is Fr. Guido, also a Jesuit and a modern-day champion of the poor. Once he instructed the community to stop listening to scholars and philosophers who love to engage in debates endlessly. They would make a big fuss, for example, over exactly what time Jesus died. He challenged us, however, how knowing the answer would alter our faith. From then on, I have learned to filter the things I would listen to and believe in by asking the question “will knowing the answer to that question change my relationship with God?” If my answer is no, then the issue is not worth pursuing.



Yet another Jesuit priest taught me a lesson—Fr. Louie. (No, I never went to a Jesuit-run school but undeniably the Society has affected me a great deal.) He said that where there is oppression, there is no God. God cannot and will not oppress His people. So he advised us that if we find ourselves in an oppressive situation, we ought to get out of it. “If you find your workplace oppressive, leave your work. If you find a relationship oppressive, leave that relationship. If you find this Church oppressive, by all means, leave this Church.” So IF one day I change religion, you know it’s not because of yoga.

I have friends and family members who have left the Catholic Church for another Church—and they do not practice yoga—but seeing how their lives have transformed for the better makes me not question their decisions anymore. It doesn’t matter; it shouldn’t matter. If that’s where they have grown closer to God, then I could not be happier for them. Same thing with yoga, or any ritual, or any habit, or any pursuit—if it makes people closer to God, or at least makes them better persons, what’s the issue? Shouldn’t we all be doing something to enrich and nurture our relationship with God? After all, if our relationship with Him is not getting any deeper, then we must be drifting apart. There is no such a thing as steady or stagnant relationship.

In the history of the Catholic Church, many people have left it for various reasons. I am not sure what percentage of this population did so because of yoga (and so far, I haven’t read any yoga-related literature prescribing what religion to embrace). Yoga has done me good way beyond the physical dimension. The impact of my 90-minute practice is greater than that of watching a 120-minute movie or teleserye or youtube videos or social networking via the internet and the mobile technology….

Having said that…er, what’s the issue again?


53. Yoga Sutras, Chapter One – On Being Absorbed in Spirit

By Swami Shraddhananda (Maureen Dolan)

The following is the first in a series of articles on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. With nearly 20 million Americans practicing yoga, now is a good time for students to explore the roots of this evolutionary system that leads to freedom and bliss. To google “Yoga Sutras” on the Internet is to open a doorway to 176,000 Web sites, scores of translations and hundreds of interpretations of the four brief chapters in this elegant book. Each yoga teacher who finds a way to share a few of these sutras in class from time to time indeed bestows blessings to those who wish to deepen their yoga practice. And, in turn, each student with an open heart who hears or reads a few sutras receives mystical yoga grace.

Anthropological research and mystical teachings show that yoga was practiced for thousands of years before Patanjali codified it 2,000 years ago in the 196 written Sanskrit verses, or sutras, which means “transcendental threads.” Through his own experience and the accumulated knowledge of those who went before him, Patanjali defines yoga, tells what happens when we achieve the state of yoga, outlines the problems and obstacles we encounter on the way and offers solutions to overcome them. The ultimate goal is samadhi, or enlightenment.

The first chapter of the Yoga Sutras is called Samadhi Pada (contemplation chapter) and contains 51 lines or threads of wisdom. It reads like a practical guide in psychology as well as a workbook for spiritual maturation.

Patanjali begins with “now”–this present moment, the ever-present and timeless now. B.K.S. Iyengar translates the first sutra (1.1) as: “With prayer for divine blessings, now begins an exposition of the sacred art of yoga.”

In the next sutra, 1.2, Patanjali defines yoga: Yoga chitta vritti nirodha. “Yoga is the individual discipline that leads to the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Mukunda Stiles translates the next sutra (1.3) as: “When this happens then the Seer is revealed, resting in its own essential nature, and one realizes the True Self.” By studying the nature of the mind, we understand that we are not our thoughts. We can see that something much more vibrant, steady and joyous exists beyond the mind that is molded from our conditioning and habits.

Sutras 1.5-11 describe the fluctuations that occur in the minds of all humans throughout history. These are correct understanding (comprehension), misconception (misapprehension), imagination (fantasy), sleep and memory. From Sutras 1.12-15 we learn that with practice, nonattachment and a positive attitude, we can control these fluctuations rather than be controlled by them. Sutra 1.16 assures us that: “When an individual has achieved complete understanding of the true self, he will no longer be disturbed from distracting influences within and around him.”

In Sutras 1.17-22 Patanjali outlines different levels of samadhi, moving upward from analytical to differentiating knowledge, to a mental alertness of bliss, knowledge of self, subjugation of desire, brain quietness, mind quietness, skillful means and supreme detachment. In sutras 1.23-29 we learn the qualities of Supreme Being and the essence of our true nature.

In many translations the importance of chanting AUM is emphasized. Though every translation differs in subtle ways, these passages assure a transcendental experience and a more purposeful life through yoga if we are patient with ourselves and persist in our spiritual practices.

In Sutra 1.30, we discover the obstacles that scatter and disrupt the mind, thus preventing union with the Higher Self: illness, mental stagnation (dullness), doubts, lack of foresight (or negligence), laziness, overindulgence, illusions about one’s true state of mind, lack of perseverance, and instability. What an insightful description of the human condition! Apparently it has not changed since Patanjali, on the other side of the world, wrote about it two centuries ago. Each of these obstacles has interrupted my practice many times. When you think of yourself and others, does it not conjure up loving kindness for all of us who face these problems and keep trying? It is no wonder that American Mania: When More is not Enough, by Dr. Peter Whybrow, is one of the hottest new books these days.

In Sutra 1.31 Patanjali names four other symptoms that are connected to these obstacles: mental discomfort, negative thinking, the inability to be at ease in different body postures and difficulty in controlling one’s breath. The next eight sutras prescribe the practiced techniques that will keep these interruptions from taking root. When I first began studying yoga, I was attracted by the precision of a philosophy that could name my problems and then assign remedies that could be practiced and bring results.




One of the most beautiful of these is 1.33. Mukunda Stiles’ translation reads, “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward happiness, compassion toward suffering, delight toward virtue, and equanimity toward vice, thoughts become purified, and the obstacles to self-knowledge are lessened.” Sutras 32-39 give specific yogic methods to overcome the impediments. These include meditation on a single principle, retaining the prana (life force) after an exhalation, contemplating luminous light and other methods.

Let us be clear. Yoga provides a worldview that is quite different from the dominant view of our society. Yoga is love-based rather than fear-based. It is a spiritual experience that does not ignore the material world, whereas our manic consumer culture rarely acknowledges our spiritual reality.

Yoga designates a cosmology that allows us to understand the microcosm and the macrocosm. It is summed up in sutra 1.40, which has some interesting variations in translation. Desikachar says, “When one reaches this state, nothing is beyond comprehension. The mind can follow and help understand the simple and the complex, the infinite and the infinitesimal, the perceptible and the imperceptible.” Stiles puts it this way: “Mastery of tranquility extends from the most minute particle to the largest, the form of the entire cosmos.” This sutra brings to mind the great mystics of other traditions such as the Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin*, the Rabbi Heschel, the Sufi Rumi and the physicists of recent times like Einstein, Bohr, Greene and others who wax poetic in their descriptions of the tiniest and largest movements of energy in the universe and their relationships to each other. *Listed by Rome as the world’s number one New Ager

The last ten sutras of the first chapter illuminate what happens when the Self is truly known. Here the mind becomes transparent and intuitive, is steady in meditation, and merges into Supreme Beingness, where the knower, the act of knowing, and the known become one. Many of us have experienced glimpses of this state when we have mastered steadiness and delight in a pose, chanted in joy or meditated in silence. Extending and deepening this experience takes us toward bliss–samadhi. Stiles says, “When the mind becomes free from obstruction, all vacillations cease, and the mind becomes absorbed into spirit without producing future [karmic] seeds. Thus a new mind is born of this wisdom, free of ignorance.” Ah, to create that “new mind!”

To end the first part of the book with such a promise of joy invites the reader to study further. Thus, chapter two is entitled Sadhana Pada (the chapter called “Practices for Being Immersed in Spirit”), and we will address it in the next issue.

So many wonderful translations exist to interpret these sutras in ways that bring fresh meaning to our lives, mystical experience to our spirits and joy to our yoga practice. The commentaries vary in length. You can easily print the few pages of the Yoga Sutras from any number of websites. In writing this article, selections were chosen from The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar; Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by B.K.S. Iyengar, and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Mukunda Stiles.

Hopefully this brief glimpse into the wonder of these threads of transcendence will inspire curiosity and lead others to read the Yoga Sutras. It would be good to hear how others interpret and apply these strands of wisdom. Perhaps a study group could be formed. We all have something to teach one another on this journey. Namaste.

Swami Shraddhananda (Maureen Dolan) is a priest in the Temple of Kriya Yoga tradition. She teaches peace studies courses at the DePaul University School for New Learning as well as classes in yoga and meditation, builds community in housing cooperatives like the Logan Square Cooperative, is a member of United for Peace and Justice, is active in the Parliament of World Religions and has formed many circles to build community and consciousness.


54. What is yoga anyway?

By Robert Joseph, February 1, 2008

Yoga is an an ancient spiritual path, originating in India but also practiced and refined in many places in Asia, including Tibet, that aims to achieve the union of the individual with the Supreme Consciousness that lies at the very heart of reality itself. A practitioner of Yoga is called a Yogi (male) or Yogini (female). Outside India, yoga is mostly associated with the practice of asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga or as a form of exercise.

The majority of practitioners of yoga outside India are primarily interested in improving physical health and flexibility. The ultimate goals of Yoga for the spiritual inclined range from reaching liberation from all suffering to extended longevity.

In Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school. Unlike Buddhism, classical Yoga is theistic and realist in its metaphysics. Many Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.

Classified by the type of practices, the major branches of yoga include: Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, established by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Indian thought.

The Sanskrit term yoga has many meanings. It is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, “to control”, “to yoke”, or “to unite”.[5] Common meanings include “joining” or “uniting”, and related ideas such as “union” and “conjunction.” Another conceptual definition is that of “mode, manner, means” or “expedient, means in general”.

The Indian sage Patanjali is widely regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are ascribed to Patanjali, who, as Max Müller explains, may have been “the author or representative of the Yoga-philosophy without being necessarily the author of the Sutras.”

Patanjali’s yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to it as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept derived from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book became a feature of Raja yoga, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today.




The Eight Limbs of yoga practice are:

(1) Yama (The five “abstentions”): nonviolence, truth, non-covetousness, chastity, and abstain from attachment to possessions.
(2) Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerities, study, and surrender to god
(3) Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to seated positions used for meditation. Later, with the rise of Hatha yoga, asana came to refer to all the “postures”
(4) Pranayama (“Lengthening Pr?na”): Pr?na, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, “ayama”, to lengthen or extend
(5) Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
(6) Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object
(7) Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation
(8) Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation

They are sometimes divided into the lower and the upper four limbs, the lower ones being parallel to the lower limbs of Hatha Yoga, while the upper ones being specific for the Raja yoga. The upper three limbs practiced simultaneously constitute the Samyama.

In the west, the type of yoga best known and most widely practiced is hatha yoga, a system of physical exercises, stretches and postures. Hatha Yoga is a particular system of Yoga described by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage of the 15th century in India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a “bible,” of sorts, of hatha yoga). Hatha Yoga is a development of — but also differs substantially from — the Raja Yoga of Patanjali, in that it focuses on shatkarma, the purification of the physical as leading to the purification of the mind (ha), and prana, or vital energy (tha).
In contrast, the Raja Yoga posited by Patanjali begins with a purification of the mind (yamas) and spirit (niyamas), then comes to the body via asana (body postures) and pranayama (breath).
Hatha yoga was greatly influenced by the esoteric system of thought known as Tantra and marks the first point at which the concepts of energy centers (chakras) and a mysterious evolutionary bodily energy known as kundalini were introduced into the yogic canon. Compared to the seated asanas of Patanjali’s Raja, yoga which were seen largely as a means of preparing for meditation, hatha yoga also marks the development of asanas as full body ‘postures’ in the modern sense.

Hatha Yoga in its many modern variations is the style that most people actually associate with the word “Yoga” today. Because its emphasis is on the body through asana and pranayama practice, many western students are satisfied with the physical health and vitality it develops and are not interested in the other six limbs of the complete Hatha yoga teaching, or with the even older Raja Yoga tradition it is based on.


55. Yogic Mudras in Christian Imagery

By yogaphile, The Yogaphile blog, February 17, 2009

For Greeks and many Christians, Lent is a time for restraint, reverence, and reflection. In the 40 days leading up to Easter, Greeks practice fasting as a means of physical cleansing that also aids in our mental preparation for the holiest day of the year, that of the resurrection of Christ. Many of our restraints are similar to the yamas (ethical restraints) of yoga, and during Lent—ahimsa (non-harming) and bramacharya (chastity), are especially important.

As a Greek Orthodox Christian, this is a time to be pure of heart, mind, and action. During Lent, I always find myself more attuned to my innermost thoughts—the regular fasting brings thoughts about my religion, my own beliefs, my actions, other religions, the afterlife, and related topics to the forefront. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about hand mudras, and while searching for images of mudras, discovered quite a bit about my own religion in the process. Since we are in the midst of Lent, I thought it a perfect time to point out, especially for those Christians who feel conflicted about the yoga/Hinduism connection, that Hinduism, mudras, and yoga aren’t as far from Christianity as one might think.


Christian Imagery and Mudras
I’ve spent my entire life as a practicing Greek Orthodox Christian. Greek churches are breathtakingly beautiful houses of worship that are decorated with ornate carvings and Byzantine-style paintings. I’ve been looking at Byzantine imagery of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and various other angels and saints for as long as I can remember—but it wasn’t until I began practicing yoga and learning about mudras that it my eyes registered what I’ve been seeing all these years.

Prithvi Mudra
Mudras have been depicted not only in Buddhist/Hindu imagery for centuries, but in Christian as well. Christ is often painted with His right hand in prithvi mudra, in which the tips of the thumb and ring finger are joined. Prithvi mudra is said to provide stability and cure weaknesses of the body and mind.




Icons of Christ and Saint Nicholas with hands in prithvi mudra


Another interesting realization I had is that occurrences of prithvi mudra aren’t limited to Byzantine religious icons alone. To this very day, Greek Orthodox priests often hold the fingers of their right hand in prithvi mudra while making the sign of the cross during a spoken blessing, say over a meal. Prithvi mudra is also known as the Sign of Benediction or Blessing.


Pran Mudra

There are also depictions of Christ with His right hand in pran mudra (little finger and ring finger connect with the thumb), which is said to increase vitality and protect the body against disease. Of course, one can hardly avoid the most obvious mudra in Chrsitian imagery—anjali mudra—Christ with prayer hands at heart center. I don’t know about what others think of all this, but I am completely and utterly fascinated by it. Because this is yet another common thread linking Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism—three belief systems that I am increasingly intrigued by as I learn more about them.


Some final thoughts: I’ve written this before, but I have to write it again. I’m completely blown away by the fact that the more I study yoga, Buddhism, and Hinduism, the more apparent it becomes that in life, everything is connected in the most divine and mysterious way. Think me a kook if you’d like, but I tell you that the more I seek knowledge, the more it comes to me—even when the questions haven’t yet formed in my head, the answers are appearing everywhere—in my own research, through the exchange of information with others, through happenstance and circumstance. Maybe it’s the Law of Attraction, or maybe I’m finally waking up. Whatever it is, in the words of Oprah, what I know for sure is there more to this world than meets the eye. There is some wisdom well beyond us, and all our religions and beliefs and numbers are just bits and pieces of the puzzle.


If your interest in mudras and the commonalities in Christianity and other religions is piqued, there’s some very interesting writing out there on mudras, the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism, the ancient Indian/Greek relationship, symbolism, and more. I encourage you to do your own reading and exploration—but definitely check this out:

Hand Symbolism and Beliefs*

* This is pretty New Agey/occultish -Michael


56. Can Catholics do Yoga?


By Katie, March 25th, 2011 – 228 Comments

Is it possible to practice yoga as a faithful Catholic?

Every time I mention yoga here at Kitchen Stewardship, like I did in Monday’s “Get Moving” challenge, I receive negative feedback challenging me to look into the issue and find that Catholic Church teaching explicitly forbids yoga.

As I have this week, I’ve discovered a few things.

First, there is certainly controversy on this issue. Part of the reason I took time to research the subject of Catholicism and yoga is simply because I felt obstinate about it, and I remembered a quote from Christopher West that struck my whole moms’ Bible study with truth: that whatever Church teaching people feel strongly about arguing against is probably simply because they want to disobey and sin.

Was that me? I thought. Is yoga just a stumbling block to my faith? I’m not about to let Satan get a foothold by tricking me into complacency, the greatest trick in his toolbox, if there really is something spiritually dangerous here.

I struck out to find the Catholic Church’s official teaching on yoga, and found some information from the Vatican, some views from Christianity, and a lot of folks’ opinions along the way. Bear with me to the end of this one; it’ll be worth it.


Is Yoga a Pagan Hindu Religious Practice or Just Exercise?

If one is to discuss this subject with any degree of intelligence, one must first determine if the physical motions of yoga can be separated from the spirituality that often comes with it, and which may be the foundation of the practice in Eastern religions.

It is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that any dabbling in New Age or Hindu religious practice, any opening up of oneself to “Gaia” or Mother Nature or centering one’s soul with the collective consciousness or connecting with the earth, is counter to the Christian faith. Any practice that worships a pagan god, a god of “nature” or a god within oneself is intrinsically evil and against Christianity, where there is one God and one God only.



The fundamental question when a person of Christian faith asks, “Can I do yoga?” is whether this tree pose necessarily worships a foreign god in the sun, sky or otherwise, regardless of the heart of the person, or whether it is just an exercise in balance and control, one that my 5-year-old son just identified as, “Is that ice skating, or what?”


Arguments against Yoga from a Catholic Perspective

Here are some of the resources and thoughts I was sent to and found myself:

-You simply cannot separate the movements from the meditation; any pagan practice opens yourself to demonic influence.

-An analogy from this site if an atheist took Eucharist, the true Body of Christ, and simply said “I don’t believe it,” it’s still real and he still blasphemes the Body. We can’t just say “I don’t believe it” or “I’m thinking of God” and practice yoga “safely.” “Yoga is by its very nature a Hindu religious practice. Yoga is not primarily about limbering up the body; it is about using physical means to achieve a spiritual end. So the question of separating the physical from the spiritual in Yoga is really a contradiction in terms.”

This short article
is by Fr. John Hardon [see B22], of whom I’ve known for years and do greatly respect, but he really only addresses the spiritual form of yoga. “Although the psychic element is far more important in yoga than the body, the latter is more characteristic of this method of Hindu liberation. Its purpose is to secure the best disposition of body for the purpose of meditation. The practice begins with a simple device for deep and slow breathing.” Fr. John goes on to describe yoga practices of meditation, but I don’t see a clear argument against doing a posture without entering into the mindset.

this Catholic TV show Women of Grace with a priest as a guest puts forth many points, including:

-Yoga cannot fit with Christianity – we live in a world of relativism where people think they can make true whatever they believe. If you say “I can do the exercises of yoga and not believe that it’s leading to me “god” and then it’s not true or not harmful,” then the world tells you it’s all good. However, that would be like an atheist taking Eucharist and saying “I don’t believe it’s the body of Christ so it’s not,” and that’s not true. (Katie here: I can’t get behind this analogy. The Eucharist is an entity, a physical thing changed miraculously into the Body of Christ. If an atheist eats a bowl of unconsecrated hosts for breakfast, it may be weird, but not sacrilegious. It is the transubstantiation, which cannot be done on accident, which makes the Eucharist holy. If a consecrated host falls on the ground by accident, we make reparation for the disrespect to Christ. Our bodies, however, are created for many purposes, both good and ill. More on that below…

-Practitioners and teachers of yoga especially are often afflicted with demonic spirits, etc. Not everyone, but it’s like playing Russian roulette, and we’re not called to do that with our faith.

– Sometimes demons come in b/c we’ve opened the door, even if we don’t think we’ve invited them in. Fr. Gabriel, the exorcist in Rome, speaks unabashedly that Catholics cannot do yoga, that it’s dangerous stuff.

– Stretching exercises are a dime a dozen and they all work; you don’t need something that opens yourself to potential temptation.


Arguments for Yoga

The yoga I have done personally has been in two places: one at a studio that was certainly New Age and often made me think, “Well, this is frou frou junk, mother earth and all that. Better pray to the real God instead.” I imagined myself teaching Christian yoga instead of the transcendental nonsense my ears were filled with. Would I go back there? No.

The yoga I’ve done most recently was via P90X videos with Tony Horton, the buff guy making men in the armed forces kill their abs in the photo above. He says yoga is essential for flexibility and overall fitness and highly recommends it, but he’s much more likely to talk about not eating butter in your mashed potatoes or “standing on your tippy toes” than he is a heart center or a collective consciousness. He’s no Hindu shaman, believe me.

That’s my background, and here are my thoughts on Catholicism and yoga:

-Many practices have been shifted from or shared with pagan religions and made holy: the Rosary (using strings of beads to count prayers was Hindu and Buddhist long before the 13th century when Mary taught us to use it), fasting, meditation, ritual sacrifice (for Old Testament Jews), holidays and traditions like a Christmas tree and countless others that we’ve commandeered and made holy. Just because a pagan does it does not automatically make a practice or movement intrinsically evil; why can’t a Christian simply focus on God while doing yoga?

-Any motion can be done without intent – my kids can genuflect and it means nothing, if I haven’t taught them correctly. How many people enter a church and just go through the motions? Are they more holy because they did the motions or less holy b/c they were at church and not focused on God?

-I used to think that if I prayed with my hands folded instead of palms flat together, that I was praying to Satan because my fingers were pointing down, and only to God if the fingers were pointing to Heaven. This is me at about 6 or 7 years old. Someone had told me that was how it worked, and I believed. However, how one holds one’s hands in prayers has absolutely no effect on the intent of their prayer unless followed up with an act of the will and a turning of the spirit. Although our bodily posture certainly can affect our prayer, can deepen its impact within ourselves, can demonstrate honor and respect, posture is not necessary for prayer. I pray in my car. I pray while walking. I pray while kneeling. I pray while lying in bed. No form of prayer is necessarily deeper, more powerful, or more effective than another based solely on posture, but it is the focus of my mind, my soul’s communion with God, how intensely I am praying, and how open I am to God’s work in me that makes the difference.

-In Catholicism, other people’s opinions don’t really mean diddly-squat. But since I can’t nail down truly official Church teaching, I do like to talk to other people, then take what they say with a grain of salt. Here’s what friends said:

-from @Donielle via Twitter: “Ok. So I’m not catholic, but the issue with it’s background is what stopped me from doing it for years! Now I’ve come to realize (personally and for myself) that having a Godly teacher is the most important thing. The physical aspect of yoga (exercise) is not reliant on any Eastern religion. It’s abt becoming in tune w/ your body….”




-from @ekwetzel: “I agree; God can redeem yoga! ;o) A God-centered teacher can use yoga to help & heal bodies. “New age” meditation needs to have nothing to do with it. It’s a form of exercise and balancing through movement and for me in many ways has strengthened my belief on the amazing intricacies that the Lord created within bodies.

-from @milehimama: “The Church doesn’t have an “official” teaching on it yet, but many prominent Catholics speak against it. Seek the advice of a holy priest who knows you. The whole philosophy of yoga/new age is a form of theosophy/pantheism and is of course forbidden by the first commandment. I don’t think the posture is evil, assuming that you mean only the exercise, like watching a DVD and stretching. But if done with the intent of “opening the mind” or chakra or whatever, if done to find peace, happiness, etc. instead of just to stretch your back… Many many holy priests have warned against it so it’s worth taking their counsel into consideration.”

-I did ask my priest if he knew anything about the Catholic Church’s stance on yoga, and he said no, not really. He sort of scoffed and said if we brush off yoga as pagan, we might as well get rid of all exercise for the same reason.

-From @heathersolos: “Non-technical opinion here, what if you meditated on appropriate topics while doing the same movements?”

Me: “That’s 1 perspective, other is that the movements are the religious practice themselves and opening yourself to paganism.”

Heather: “But with that line of thought, we never would have adopted rosaries. I’m pretty sure they were first used by Hindu and not adopted until the 1500s.”

-And another dissenting view from @rhiamom “The physical part of yoga can’t be separated from the spiritual. The exercises are designed to induce meditative state/trance. Yoga is a pagan practice. Would you need to think twice about taking part in a Druidic tree worshipping ceremony?” (My thoughts: I wouldn’t participate, but would it be sinful to watch one on TV with the intent of understanding so as to better evangelize? There are rarely black and whites when it comes to living in the world.)


Catholic Church Teaching and Documents that Mention Yoga

Here is the important part of the post, where I find the only stuff that counts for beans when asking what God wants us to do. Clearly one cannot find yoga in the Scriptures, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church also came up empty on the subject itself. The closest I could find is this:

-Mention of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” which of course disallows the religious practice of yoga, but I still can’t tell if we can do the exercise without the turning of the heart.

-Superstition, idolatry, divination and magic are all forbidden (2111-2117). The Ouija board is clearly included in divination, because its sole purpose is to ask about the future and nothing else. I was trying to find a direct link between the occult practice of Ouija and yoga, and I just can’t make any analogies quite work.

-“Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast” refusing even to simulate such worship.” If we do a sun salutation or a downward dog, are we adoring Satan in our posture?

The document most related to the practice of yoga and its effect on the Catholic faith is called “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life,” a Christian Reflection on the “New Age” from the Pontifical Council for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue, found here. Many use the fact that it mentions yoga in a footnote as one of the Eastern religions in question to prove that yoga is intrinsically evil and should not be dabbled in.

However, a thorough reading of the entire document demonstrates that the Church is concerned about Catholics being swayed by the New Age theory that “recognizes no spiritual authority higher than personal inner experience.” Again, I simply cannot pinpoint a section that prohibits the exercise of yoga as exercise. Some key points include:

-“Some stages on the way to self-redemption are preparatory (meditation, body harmony, releasing self-healing energies). Psychology is used to explain mind expansion as “mystical” experiences. Yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and tantric exercises lead to an experience of self-fulfilment or enlightenment. Peak-experiences (reliving one’s birth, travelling to the gates of death, biofeedback, dance and even drugs – anything which can provoke an altered state of consciousness) are believed to lead to unity and enlightenment.” (I definitely didn’t participate in any of THAT nonsense when I did yoga!)

-“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. Since the New Age movement makes much of a communication with nature, of cosmic knowledge of a universal good – thereby negating the revealed contents of Christian faith – it cannot be viewed as positive or innocuous.” (This is the closest I come to being convinced that we cannot separate the movements of yoga from its religiosity. But. Read on.)

-“Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview. This only adds to the confusion. It is therefore necessary to accurately identify those elements which belong to the New Age movement, and which cannot be accepted by those who are faithful to Christ and his Church.” (Here we go. Is most secular yoga simply a New Age marketing gig and not at all related to the paganism found in true New Age practices?)

-“The following questions may be the easiest key to evaluating some of the central elements of New Age thought and practice from a Christian standpoint. “New Age” refers to the ideas which circulate about God, the human being and the world, the people with whom Christians may have conversations on religious matters, the publicity material for meditation groups, therapies and the like, explicit statements on religion and so on. Some of these questions applied to people and ideas not explicitly labeled New Age would reveal further unnamed or unacknowledged links with the whole New Age atmosphere.” (The key to asking the question: is the practice of yoga for exercise, without the Hindu or pantheistic viewpoints, really related to any of the points listed above? I certainly don’t think so. Yoga fits better into the following category:





-“There is no problem with learning how to meditate, but the object or content of the exercise clearly determines whether it relates to the God revealed by Jesus Christ, to some other revelation, or simply to the hidden depths of the self.” (It’s all about intent of heart!)


My Wonderings and Wanderings

Are you still with me? Hopefully you’ve been able to read the Church documents without my commentary getting in the way of your own decision-making process. Here are some of my evaluations:

-When mentioning yoga, it would seem important to counsel folks away from the very spiritual yoga teachers and at least mention its pagan foundations with a caution not to participate in the soul-opening sense of the practice, just the exercise.

-Is it possible that, especially for those more shaky in their faith, that the practice of yoga could be a slippery slope into loss of faith? Could just doing it for exercise, particularly if the teacher is spouting all the “one with nature” and “soul-centering” and whatnot garbage, give Satan a foothold into one’s mind, even if they don’t think it will?

-There is Christian mysticism and Eastern mysticism. How to tell the difference? Is it in a name? The Vatican’s reflection on the “New Age” even admits/warns that some practices are labeled “New Age” as a marketing technique and remain harmless.

-Both Christians and other (Eastern) religion practice meditation, our monks chant, our prayers repeat. Again, is it the form of the prayer that matters or the heart’s intent, to find union with God vs. finding union with nature or emptying oneself to join the collective consciousness of the world?


Yoga: Sinful or Just Fearful?

A sin is an act of the will, and to sin requires full knowledge of sin as well as full intent. If one’s intent is to exercise, and nothing more, and one guards one’s heart against the sort of yoga that would draw a soul away from God and open it to paganism, can there be sin? Can there really be an opportunity to give the devil a foothold?

To be so against yoga embodies a spirit of fear. Must we be fearful of anything in the world that is not explicitly of God? Must we remove ourselves from the culture to guard our faith and practice it properly (and safely)? Pope John Paul II would say no. He often talked of the importance of being “in but not of the world” in his encouragement to the “new evangelization” of faith.

We cannot share our faith with people we never encounter, and we cannot connect with people outside the world of the Church if we cannot understand the culture in which we live. We are called to live in the culture, while at the same time remaining above the culture in our faith and morals.

We can’t be afraid of falling into sin on accident, especially if it causes us to remove ourselves from a world which so desperately needs our faith. A world which desperately needs to receive our faith shared, in love, from people who can see eye to eye with them.

In The Bearer of the Water of Life, the pontifical councils say, “The beginning of the Third Millennium offers a real kairos for evangelisation. People’s minds and hearts are already unusually open to reliable information on the Christian understanding of time and salvation history. Emphasising what is lacking in other approaches should not be the main priority. It is more a question of constantly revisiting the sources of our own faith, so that we can offer a good, sound presentation of the Christian message. We can be proud of what we have been given on trust, so we need to resist the pressures of the dominant culture to bury these gifts (cf. Mt 25.24-30).”

I am not afraid of yoga. It has no power over me. I choose to believe in the power of God’s grace, to root myself in prayer, to trust that God is so much bigger than an exercise and never allows Satan control over His people, unless they choose evil.

I believe that our bodies are created for good, to image God, to demonstrate His love. I also know that any creation can be used for good or for evil. A body can be used to embrace a loved one or strike someone in anger. A body can be used to toil to support a family or plunder time away at a casino. A body can be used to image the trinitarian love of God in the marriage embrace or in the exact same action, to stain two souls in an act of extramarital lust and spit in the face of God’s beautiful plan. (See the reflections on the Theology of the Body, here for Lent.)

A body can be used to worship God, and a body can be used to worship Satan, but the difference is in the intent, in the act of will. It is not the action that defines the intent, but the intent that defines the soul and guides the action.

Catholicism is a faith that requires total allegiance to the magisterium (the pope) on matters of faith and morals. If and when the Vatican says that yoga goes against our faith, I would stop doing it, renounce any of this post, and write a rousing argument against yoga being practiced anywhere outside a Hindu temple. But I’m just not seeing it right now.

There is not an official, faith and morals based, Catholic Church teaching on practicing yoga. Many holy priests and holy people can all weigh in, but the fact remains that yoga is a matter for an individual to discern how it affects them.

Yes, practicing yoga could be a sin. Yes, practicing yoga could be a pathway down which one could fall into pagan worship and away from God. However, doing a yoga pose is not an automatic pathway to Hell.

One must use Catholic teaching about the spirit to make certain that they’re using their body and mind for the purpose of seeking holiness and not seeking spiritual enlightenment, oneness with nature, or opening their heart to anything other than the Lord, who is God.

Be a person of prayer, remain in a state of grace, and let us focus our prayers on the salvation of souls and the good of the world. May we turn our minds to Eastern religions only to pray for the Light of Christ to shine in the East, particularly in Japan, where there are so many more dire physical and spiritual needs than in an American yoga studio.

Time to weigh in: do I even need to ask what you think of all this information? Can a Christian person practice yoga for exercise without putting their immortal soul at risk?

Nice try, Katie –Michael




41b. Continued from page 81

More on Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, Including an Interview with Philip St. Romain
All emphases theirs -Michael

Focus on kundalini:
Here we focus on the much talked about Hindu notion of kundalini. What does it have to do with Christian spirituality? The word kundalini has appeared a number of times in previous newsletters in a somewhat general and undefined way in order to describe various upheavals of psychic energy. This prompted one Christian Prayer and Contemplation Forum member to write:

I am not happy with your indiscriminate use of the word kundalini. This word has a history and a background. It is the serpent power that lies dormant at the base of the spine and can be awakened. It is related to sexual energy. It is a mysterious power. I am not sure that it is a good idea for a Christian who begins to experience energy (and I know what it is like and experience it myself) to immediately call it kundalini. Is it not enough to call it energy? And then we can begin to dialogue with kundalini. There is a lot of energy and light and fire in St. John of the Cross. I would not call it kundalini.

Something similar can be said about Zen. If a Christian practices Zen under a recognized teacher, then he or she can claim to be practicing Zen. But for anyone who sits in the lotus in absence of thought – for such a one to say that he or she is practicing Zen is not a good idea. The Zen people don’t like it. And perhaps (though I cannot state this dogmatically) the kundalini people would not like us to claim that our kundalini is awakened. Is it not better to stick with dialogue until we find out what is what?

Fair enough. Let’s try to get a better idea of just what kundalini is and how it relates to Christianity. Our first contribution comes from a Forum member who experienced an awakening of kundalini energy before becoming a Christian, and has spent a great deal of energy searching the world for information on how to cope with this awakening.

An East-West Experience

In 1969, when I was initiated into transcendental meditation, I felt tremendous peace and heard a soft snapping sound in the crown of my head. I now believe this was a knock at the door through which kundalini would eventually enter into my life. A little over a year later, and a serious of unusual inner experiences, an unimaginably brilliant white light burst upon my being. I was startled and sensed I was on the verge of merging with the universe and leaving behind forever everything in the world near and dear to me. I jolted out of the meditative state and, trembling, phoned the local TM center. I made an appointment that day to see a TM teacher with the hope of finding some answers for what was to me an otherworldly and confusing occurrence.

When I arrived at the center I described what had happened to me to the teacher. “That’s nothing, just celestial perception,” he said. Inwardly I had to laugh. Here I was having had the most astounding spiritual experience of my life and he says, “That’s nothing, just celestial perception.” Looking back this was probably the best response I could have received; it dismissed the anxiety and reduced the awesome encounter into merely a glimpse into the heavens.

The next day, which in the midst of activity, kundalini energy began to stream slowly up into the crown of my head as it had in the past during meditation, and as I closed my eyes at night before falling asleep. In the following days it flowed up continuously. I knew I had reached a point of no return – I felt I was entering into a permanent state of higher consciousness. It was a little unnerving, yet at the same time extremely exciting.

With the passing of a few years, many of the advantages of kundalini flowered in the garden of my spirituality. I often had sensations of almost unbearable joy. Peace beyond belief sometimes seeped into my awareness. On occasion, expansions in consciousness seemed to reveal “the heaven within.” Along with these enjoyable, but fleeting experiences disadvantages began to emerge: when I attempted to do extensive reading or studying, too much of the current would build up in my head, causing me to awaken throughout the night and be exhausted during the day. Physical exercises done daily had the same effect. I also had to drop out of college due to overpowering amounts of the energy surging into my head from all the necessary hours of reading and concentration to complete the courses. Had I attempted to persist, the relentless intensity of the energy would have led to a mental breakdown.

I was deeply disappointed at this unexpected turn of events. It ran contrary to all I had read and been told about meditation enlarging the capabilities of the mind. In my case it had stunted my intellectual growth and the opportunities higher education could have afforded me.

After 20 years of meditation, and no cure for my kundalini condition, I left TM and took initiation with a highly respected guru, Dr. Rammurtimishra, who had helped people with kundalini problems. I had some extraordinary spiritual experiences under his guidance and, for a while, the upward flow appeared to be balanced, but after 2 months away from him, the problems resurfaced. If I had been able to visit him on a weekly basis, the current may have remained stable, but this was not possible.

Two years went by and after a never-ending plane flight, I started wondering what would happen to me when I died. Who or what would be there for me? I began to long for the comfort of a personal relationship with God as opposed to seeking oneness with an impersonal being. I was also disturbed at the increasing accounts of prominent gurus in America sexually abusing their students. I had read the spiritual histories of some of these adepts and by their inner experiences, they seemed to have attained full enlightenment – a state where according to their scriptures, “sin would avoid an enlightened being as deer would avoid a burning mountain top.” At this time I read books by Christians (Death of a Guru, Lord of the Air, etc.) which reinforced my discontent and introduced me to the Lord of Love.

In some of these Christian writings, I read of people steeped in Eastern mystical experiences who, upon conversion to Christianity, had all the effects of their practices delivered out of their minds and bodies by the power of the risen Christ. I began to believe Christ would do this for me, and the thought of meeting him one day at the doorway of death touched me in the deepest recesses of my heart. A devotion I did not think I was capable of began to grow and blossom within me. It grew so strong and undeniable that one day I fell to my knees, confessed my sins, and invited Jesus Christ into my heart. I did not feel His presence; there were no “celestial perceptions.” I just felt elated and in the caring hands of a loving God.




I ceased my Hindu meditation practices; attended Church; read the Bible, and prayed daily. Although the conversion had not removed the kundalini energy, I had faith Christ would take it away in time.

This was not to be. Prayer began to activate the energy. Reading the Bible intensified it like reading the writings of spiritual masters whose subtle energies flow out of their written words. This was incomprehensible to me. From what I had read in the Christian literature, I expected reading the Bible would either quiet down the current or have no effect on it. Instead, it increased it to such a degree that daily Bible reading became impossible – too much energy began to build up in my head with the attendant limitations.

Reading the books of some “spirit filled” Christians with national healing ministries highly stimulated the energy. Prayers to the Holy Spirit charged it up even more. Once while praying to the Holy Spirit in Church, I felt subtle energy gentle pouring into me from above my head. That night when I went to bed, I closed my eyes and kundalini energy erupted like a volcano, though accompanied with reassuring feelings of peace and joy. This lasted two more nights as I slept little, but enjoyed the blessing. This episode perplexed me, however. Why had prayer to the Holy Spirit ignited kundalini energy? According to some Christians, it should have driven the energy out of me. Yet, here it was supercharging it like a guru’s shaktipat (energy transmission).

As I continued in my Christian walk, kundalini became as unmanageable as it had been prior to my conversion. Minimal prayer or Bible reading created excessive energy increases and the sleeping difficulties. I was frustrated at not being able to spend more time in devotion to God. Every day I prayed to Jesus to remove the kundalini current and lift the limitations from my life. I prayed to Mary and the saints for intercession. I visited local shrines. I wrote to national Christian healing ministries. Anointed Christians laid hands on me and prayed for my deliverance. I pleaded the blood of Christ. I surrendered it to God, etc., etc., all to no avail.

Then I started coming into contact with Christians in whom kundalini had awakened purely within the Christian tradition. This flew in the face of all the Christian writings that referred to kundalini as a demonic force – a serpent-like spirit that needed to be cast out by the power of Christ.

How, then, I asked myself, could kundalini arise in devoted Christians under the love and protection of Christ? Does this energy exist in everyone and is it the driving thrust behind all impulses toward God, as some spiritual adepts claim? These and other questions simmered in my psyche until my doubts about the nature of the energy gradually dissolved in the light of reason.

Today, 4 years into my Christian journey, I still struggle with kundalini symptoms, but have come to the conclusions that: (1) it is a natural spiritual energy in all of us; and (2) it will ultimately bring me closer to my Creator and, in some way, enable me to be of greater service to others. In the meantime, I await the day when at the doorway of death I will meet Jesus Christ, not as a mystic, but as an individual who attempted to lead a life of… love.


An Interview with Philip St. Romain on kundalini energy and Christian spirituality

In order to clarify the nature of the kundalini experience we talked to Philip St. Romain. After the publication of his book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality in 1991, he heard from people around the country, many of them Christians, who are trying to understand the nature of their own kundalini-like experiences.

Forum: Could you say something about your own kundalini experience?

Philip: All day and all night now, there is an energy pushing “upwards” in my system. Its course runs through the heart, which it fills with bliss and good-will toward all creation. From here it flows through the throat, then along the sides of the face, pushing through the ear pinnae, where the most extraordinary sensations of pressure and release are experienced at times. After pressing through the ears, its streams from both sides of the head converge in the middle of the brain, creating a most pleasant “knot” of pressure in the center of the forehead. A new way of seeing is possible from this center. When, for a number of possible reasons, the passageways through which the energy flows become blocked, there is pressure in this area, and a gnawing away by the energy until the block is removed. If I do not consciously cooperate with the “intent” of the energy to work through the block and flow freely, the pressure and pain become so intense that I eventually do cooperate. These are very real experiences to me, now a common occurrence in my everyday life. I have forgotten what it was like to live without this energy, its blocks, its gnawings and breakthroughs. To ignore the reality of this energy would be more difficult than to ignore the reality of my body. It is just that real!

Forum: Just what is kundalini energy?

Philip: It is easier to say what it is not than what it is. Quite frankly, I don’t know what it is. What is feels like, however, is pure life energy, uncolored by emotion or passion. This life energy is of a strange quality, however. Unlike emotional energy, which I know most definitely belongs to me, the energy I have been describing does not seem to belong to me. There is an impersonal quality to it which at first seems quite strange, but later becomes most satisfying. In saying that it is impersonal, I do not wish to imply that it is anti-personal. It is not. It seems to be completely non-subjective, that is all. How to describe the reality of life energy that is neither personal nor antipersonal is most difficult.

Forum: What are some of the physical consequences of awakening this energy?

Philip: Here are some of the most basic ones:

1. Inner vision illuminated when the eyes are closed, especially during times of prayer and meditation. Visual background turning blue, purple, ultraviolet, gold, silver, or white, sometimes forming circular, amoeboid, or tunnel-like patterns. 2. Sensations of heat and/or cold in different parts of the body, especially the shoulders and the top of the head. 3. Tingling sensations in the brain, ears, forehead, spine, and other parts of the body. Feeling like an electrical current is shooting through these places, often snapping or popping through nerves. 4. Sensation of a warm, energized fluid slowly pushing its way around the brain and/or up the spine. 5. Perception of inner sounds -ringing, chirping, buzzing, ringing in the ears. 6. Strong compulsion to close eyes tightly, especially during quiet prayer. 7. Alteration of breathing patterns – sometimes slow and shallow (especially during meditation), short and choppy, or deep and smooth. Growing preference for abdominal breathing. 8. Sensations of electrical energy rippling through reproductive organs.



9. Sensations of gaseous bubbles arising from the area of the reproductive organs. 10. Compulsion to move facial muscles and bodily limbs in yoga-like postures. 11. Sense of an inner eye seeing with the two sensory eyes. Sense of warmth and strength emanating from the center of the forehead.

Forum: What about the psychological consequences?

Philip: The first is the healing of emotional pain. There is no longer a background of anxiety, shame, guilt, and resentment in my consciousness. With the healing of emotional pain has come a stabilizing of my moods.

The second major psychological consequence is the diminishing of my false self ego. Something of my self experience was once acutely attuned to the emotions of shame, anxiety, guilt, and resentment. This dimension of my self experience was inherently defensive and controlling, intent on making my life meaningful by doing the right kinds of things. It made me restless and desirous, robbing me of the beauty of the NOW. Since it was a compensation for emotional pain, this dimension of ego was lost when emotional pain was healed.

Forum: What is the goal of this process?

Philip: The healing of emotional pain, the diminishment of the false self ego, and the purification of the body are all beneficial. They are not the real goal of this energy process, however. The goal seems to be the awakening and embodiment of the true self. The consequences described above are prerequisites for this awakened embodiment.

Listed below are a few phrases from my journals which attempt to state some of the most characteristic features of the true self.

1. A direct, non-conceptual realization “That I am.” 2. Non-interpretive attention, awake to the fact of self as the subject of attention (not the object, as is the ego.) 3. Being awake to myself prior to any thought, act of will, or movement of my consciousness. “Before I think I am, I am.” Knowing this. 4. Knowing without a doubt that “I am here,” looking out of my eyes. 5. Knowing that the “I who am” is one with all that is, and feeling this in the heart.

The body center in which the true self awakens is the center of the forehead, sometimes called the third eye in occult literature. When the energy flows freely into the third eye, the true self is realized. As the energy flows to the top of the head and beyond, the cosmic dimension of the true self is seen. Without making intellectual judgments, one can clearly see that there is a level from which all things arise, and all things are one at this level. Although the senses continue to perceive the distinct separateness of things, the intuition of oneness can be so strong as to eclipse the information of the senses. When the cosmic sense is strong and I gaze upon an object, I feel its existence in my heart as though it is somehow within me. This holds true even when gazing at people, although with people and higher animals, I am intuitively aware of the existence of another freedom separate from myself.

It is my belief that the realization of the true self is the goal of our human development. I see the energy process we have been talking about as directly related to this goal. Indeed, it may well be that this energy is none other than the energetic dimension of the true self, and that the awakening of this process signals the dawning of the true self.

Forum: If kundalini is such a central human reality, why is it that many people who appear integrated and devoted to the interior life don’t seem to experience it?

Philip: This may be explained in a number of ways:

1. The energy has risen to the 4th or 5th chakra, but not much higher. They would certainly be moved at these levels to do many great works, but they would not be experiencing the fireworks that come with a fuller awakening. 2. They laid such a good foundation that the fully awakened energy was hardly noticeable to them. 3. They are moved by extraordinary graces to do these works, but it has not resulted in personal transformation. They have not integrated their own body-mind with these movements of the Spirit through them. As we know, some of our Catholic saints seem to be of this type: not much personal integration, but lots of willingness to be used by God. 4. The awakening has been so gradual that it was imperceptible. 5. Elements of all of the above, in combinations.

Philip has two videos on his experiences. For an interview with him, see Christian Prayer and Kundalini, and for a workshop see Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality.


Christian Spirituality and Kundalini Energy

After these two discussions of kundalini, it is time to ask about the relationship between Christian spirituality and kundalini energy. Is a Christian understanding of kundalini energy possible? I think that it is not only possible, but necessary. As more Christians begin to experience this process, it becomes more and more crucial that a renewed Christian spirituality help them understand what it is, how to deal with it in practical terms, and how to integrate it into their Christian practice. This is obviously a tall order, but one that definitely belongs to the future of Christian spirituality.

Let’s begin to sketch the approach that a Christian spirituality could take. First, two extremes have to be avoided. It is not appropriate to immediately write off kundalini as some sort of demonic or alien force that Christians should exorcise from their lives. This is not only insulting to our Hindu brothers and sisters, but it is simply not true if – as the experiences recounted here indicate – kundalini is a naturally occurring energy of the soul.

Nor does it seem correct to demand that we immediately and without discussion identify kundalini energy with the Holy Spirit as if any other solution would be in insult to Hindu sensibilities, and the erection of some kind of two-tier system of mysticism with Christians inhabiting the upper regions.

The discussion of what kundalini is and how it can be related to Christian mystical experience is not identical with the question of who is holy or close to God. As a Christian I believe that God calls every human being to divine union. This is a concrete call, present in the depths of the heart of every person regardless of their religion or lack of it, and we respond to this call by our love. It is entirely possible that someone who is without any conscious religious belief is closer to God than we as Christians are. It is even more possible that Hindus who have devoted their lives to seeking the Absolute – whether they wish to call it God or not – would be just as close or closer to God than devout Christians. The exercise of kundalini yoga in such a situation would become the means by which they draw closer to God.



But even if we grant this and I do – it does not mean that we have to identify the awakening of kundalini with Christian contemplation. Let’s say, then, that every person is in the same existential context called to the same supernatural destiny, but responds to this call in and through the concrete circumstances they find themselves in.

Ah. I have used the word supernatural. I don’t think that we as Christians should automatically flinch when the word supernatural comes up despite the misuse it has suffered at the hands of Christian theologians. It is a perfectly good and even vital word that points to a fundamental distinction that I would not want to try to do without. In essence it says that God’s nature is not the same as my own. I have been created. There are two fundamentally distinct ways in which I can be united to God. In the first I am united to God by the very fact that God has created me, and sustains me in existence moment by moment. In this case, the more I become myself and realize the potentialities of my own being, the more I am united to God Who is the author of my being. My very existence is the bond that unites me to the source of existence. At the very center of my soul, or heart, there is a point where God touches me by sustaining me in existence. We could call this a natural union with God.

In actual fact, as Christians we believe that God has from the beginning destined us for a supernatural end, or union, in which we will share in God’s own life and nature. But this kind of union must be a free gift of God because it is above – but not opposed to – the capacity of our created natures. If it were not above our own capacity, that would mean we would already be God by nature. This supernatural destiny, or union, doesn’t take away the natural union we have with God, but transforms it.

When I read accounts of the awakening of kundalini, they don’t sound the same as the accounts of the Christian mystics, and I don’t think that this divergence can be ascribed simply to differences of language and culture. The Hindu experience of kundalini seems to lead to an experience of union with God as the intimate author and sustainer of our existence in the depths of our being. It appears to be a natural energy of the soul that is meant to lead us, both body and soul, to the center of our being that is in contact with God. While at first glance the experience of kundalini and the way it is described seems alien to a Christian world view, I believe that a Christian philosophical and theological explanation will eventually be fashioned, and I will simply indicate some of the elements that I feel belong to that kind of explanation.

1. The Hindu system of chakras, or energy centers, that stretch from the lowest and most material center at the base of the spine to the highest and most spiritual one at the top of the head are a reflection of their understanding of the different levels of the soul.