JUNE 16, 2015
Catholic priest plans yoga event, sparks debate
By Jyoti Shelar, Mumbai Mirror, June 15, 2015
While some feel yoga is anti-Christianity, others say the June 23 event is BJP propaganda, as its posters have photos of Modi, Fadnavis.
A yoga event for recovery from addiction, organised by a Catholic priest, has created quite a stir within the community. While many members saw yoga as “anti-Christianity”, others labelled the programme as BJP propaganda, as its posters featured the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, MLA Ashish Shelar, among others.
The event, organised by Fr Joe Pereira, a promoter of Iyengar yoga who is attached to the NGO Kripa Foundation, is scheduled for June 23 at the St Andrews auditorium in Bandra.
The large-scale event will have participants from de-addiction centers from over 20 countries. Its posters announce the guests of honour as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, MP Shripad Naik, CM Devendra Fadnavis and MLA Ashish Shelar. The poster also asserts on World Yoga Day, with a picture of Modi.
Many community members have approached the archdiocese to complain against the event. “Firstly, yoga is not Biblical. If a priest wants to organise something, he should do it within the framework of the Christian world,” said Vincy Nazareth, a parishioner from Mahim. He also said it was not right to have such politicised events, as church was not affiliated with any political party.
Pereira, who has published a book called Yoga for the Practice of Christian Meditation, has many followers and an equal number of opposition, too, who have labelled him as a “non-Christian”.
“I would say Fr Pereira is not a Catholic priest. He is more of a Hindu yoga guru,” said Michael Prabhu, who calls himself a Catholic apologist or an explainer of the Catholic faith. “I am not condemning yoga for Hindus. All I am saying is yoga is not right for Christians,” said Prabhu, who said the religious philosophy of yoga lay in Hinduism. “Yoga is a Hindu spiritual exercise and not compatible with Christianity,” he added.
Meanwhile Bishop Agnelo Gracias, vicar general of the archdiocese, said, “Many members have come to us to complain about the issue. The church has never taken a stand on yoga and we consider it purely a form of exercise for better health and better life.”
According to Gracias, the archdiocese has no qualms over printing the pictures of guests of honour invited to the event.
“But Narendra Modi is not invited and his picture on the poster does give a feeling of it being a BJP event. I have already spoken to Fr Pereira about this and he is taking some measures,” assured Gracias.
Fr Pereira could not be reached for comments, as he is out of the country.
1. Who is this Michael Prabhu to tell us that yoga is anti christian.Christ was never anti anything.Vincy though is right in saying that church is not affiliated to any political party. Take it as a form of exercise n to commemorate world yoga day. –Clara Miranda
2. Christ was crucified for being “Anti “. Do you know even the basics of your faith or living on some “amby-bamy” image of Christ! If you don’t know who Michael Prabhu is, shows how little you know about the “rock” that he is to the Church in India and abroad. Get involved with your faith before watering it down on open forums. –Chris Fernandes
3. There’s nothing wrong with yoga. It is utter poppycock to say that it goes against Christian beliefs. Let us not assume that our faith is weak!! –Allan D’Sa
In Mumbai, a Catholic priest-yogi attacks Western propaganda against yoga
By Aarefa Johari, April 07, 2015
Father Joseph Pereira, who teaches Iyengar yoga around the world, believes its opponents are extremist ‘God addicts’.
Is yoga incompatible with Christianity? Conservative Christians in Europe and the US have been posing this question with growing fervour in the past few months, accusing India’s biggest export to the West of propagating Hinduism and leading Christians down the path of evil.
The controversy was in the news again last week, when an appeals court in California ruled that yoga is secular, “devoid of religious or mystical trappings” and can be taught in schools without violating students’ religious freedoms. The ruling was in response to a 2013 lawsuit filed by worried Christian parents of Encinitas town, who claimed that yoga classes introduced in a local elementary school were promoting Hinduism and Buddhism amongst their children.
But an Indian Catholic priest from Mumbai has a thing or two to say to the Christian groups in the West whipping up fears against yoga in the West.
Joseph Pereira, a Catholic clergyman and proponent of Iyengar yoga, wears both his hats with perfect ease as he teaches yoga around the world. He studied the practice directly from BKS Iyengar, the legendary founder of Iyengar yoga, and his students include everyone from Christian priests to Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Through his 34-year-old organisation Kripa Foundation, he uses yoga to rehabilitate people with alcohol addiction problems.
Father Joseph Pereira with BKS Iyengar. Photo courtesy Kripa Foundation
Anti-yoga propaganda, says Pereira, is the work of a specific lobby of fundamentalist, “born-again” Christians who he describes as “God addicts”. This may sound strange coming from a Catholic priest, but Father Joe – as most people know him – has chosen his words for a reason.
Opium for the masses
“Jesus, for me, is the supreme yogi, because he spoke about being one with God,” said Pereira, who emphasises that Iyengar yoga transcends all ideologies and philosophies with its ability to unite people. Just this year, Pereira published a book called Yoga for the Practice of Christian Meditation, connecting the practice of various yoga asanas to teachings from the Bible.
The Catholic church, he says, has actually been open to the idea of opening up to practices like yoga since the Second Vatican Council of 1962, when the church issued two documents – one about the church in the modern world and the other on its relationship with non-Christian religions.
“In both documents, we have been encouraged to imbibe spirituality from world religions,” said Pereira. It is in this spirit that Bede Griffith, a British Benedictine monk living in India, began to promote Hindu-Christian dialogue, wrote a Christian reading of the Bhagwad Gita and came to be called a yogi.
“How many people in the West know about all of this?” said Pereira. The anti-yoga propagandists, he said, not only fail to see the spiritual aspects of yoga, they also fail to delve deeper into the meaning of their own religion.
“So many people who come to church every day are lost in religion – they make a fetish out of their idea of God but don’t know what it really means,” said Pereira. “Marx was right when he said that religion can be like opium for people.”
Christian denominations like the Pentecostals, the Southern Baptist churches in the US and various television evangelists – the groups that routinely oppose the practice of yoga – are highly fundamentalist “God addicts” who Pereira likens to the Hindutva Bajrang Dal or the Islamist Al-Queda. “All these groups preach the prosperity gospel – the idea that if you follow the gospel, you will prosper,” said Pereira. “They are only in it for the money and power.”
Acrobatics versus yoga
To Pereira, yogic spirituality is primarily about healthy living, and he plans to promote the idea this year on June 23, which Kripa Foundation will mark as an International Yoga for Addiction Recovery Day. Representatives from de-addiction centres from at least 25 countries will participate, including the US.
Pereira emphasises, however, that it is mainly Iyengar yoga that he chooses to defend from opposition in the West. “All kinds of yoga are being popularised in Western countries these days, and some of them do present yoga through a Hindu religious lens,” he said. “Most, however, have just reduced yoga to acrobatics. But yoga is not just a work out – it is a work in.”
FR JOE PEREIRA-KRIPA FOUNDATION-NEW AGE ENDORSED BY THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOMBAY AND THE CBCI
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JESUS CHRIST THE BEARER OF THE WATER OF LIFE, A CHRISTIAN REFLECTION ON THE NEW AGE COMBINED VATICAN DICASTERIES FEBRUARY 3, 2003
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