Is Practicing Yoga Unchristian?

Is Yoga Unchristian?

Is Yoga Unchristian?

A question i’m often asked is: “is yoga a religion?”

In a single, emphatic word, No.

In the ancient history of India, none of its faiths have claimed exclusive ownership of yoga. It’s been open to all, to be practiced by all – Jains, Buddhists, and Hindus. Currently, Christians, Jews, and Moslems in India practice it, too.

Like milk, yoga is generic. People from all faiths benefit from it.

How? Because all these seekers have found that yoga and meditation improves their health.

Secondly, they find they take them closer to their own beliefs.

Like a pen, yoga is faith neutral. You can write the Bible with it. Or the Tipitaka, Koran, or Vedas. Like water fills and takes up the shape of the vessel it’s poured into, yoga fills the seeker with the wisdom and personal spiritual experience of her own tradition. Like sunlight illuminates all lands, so yoga illuminates all minds.

In its most authentic and malleable form, it’s a generic tool, an instrument for all noble pursuits and passions. It showers benefits on anyone who uses it, whichever background they belong to. It nourishes your body, mind, and soul. It takes you towards a better present moment and future in a single swoop. You may even look at your past differently.

You can’t help but experience something wholesome when you practice yoga. Whichever faith you belong to.

Yoga is non-judgmental on matters of theology. Everyone is free to worship or not worship in any way they wish.

Also, if you so wish, yoga offers you an opportunity to experience the Divine within yourself. Directly.

Yoga is about going beyond thought and theory into personal experience, however minimal. It’s about going deeper than concepts, into Reality, however unfathomable. Meditation offers the seeker that opportunity to experience their true selves – the true you – within.

See how your yoga or meditation experience is not only stretching, but connecting. See how ancient yoga wisdom is latent within your soul and connects you with all blessed things in the world.

See how your yoga or meditation experience is not only stretching, but connecting. See how ancient yoga wisdom is latent within your soul and connects you with all blessed things in the world.

Thoughts take you into the past or future. They’re usually about desires, tribulations, and anxieties that are gone or yet uncertain of  arrival. They consume your time and energy.

The Bible recognises this wastefulness of thoughts and recommends a concept similar to yogic meditation.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises the congregations to shun their anxieties of the past and future, and to live in the present.

“Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ … But seek first God’s Kingdom … .” [1]

But where is this kingdom?

Jesus explains, “The Kingdom of God doesn’t come with observation; neither will they say, ‘Look, here!’ or, ‘Look, there!’ for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” [2]

These are the same basic guidelines as yoga.

Many mystics of Christianity have discovered a similar truth. God, said St. Catherine of Siena in the 4th century, is the center of your soul.

So close is divinity, yet as far as the stars if you don’t delve within. It’s an experience that transcends all words and notions. All languages ancient and modern collapse before this immeasurable and ineffable experience.

Say the ancient yogis, “From where all words, along with the mind, turn away unable to reach it.” [3]

Meditation connects you directly to your inner core. As the 19th century French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin famously said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

All ancient roads, East and West it seems, are similar.

All the ancient teachers of the world’s faiths invite you to discover your true Self and untapped abilities.

Yoga Hugs All Faiths

Yoga Hugs All Faiths

You are as a rose bud, closed, but laden with color and fragrance. A little light from the Sun is all that it takes to awaken you.

Yoga can take you from bud to flower, from physical existence to spiritual essence. But even while you evolve towards it, yoga enriches your physical existence and makes your journey more manageable, rewarding, and meaningful.

Remember, yoga is non-dogmatic.

In fact, it’s so non-dogmatic that it can accommodate almost any theological or philosophical worldview – including atheism! [4]

Yes, atheism. Though it doesn’t recommend it but emphasizes the opposite, ancient yogis were still broad-minded enough to give complete freedom to their students.

Indeed, a central teaching from the two thousand year old Yoga Sutras (a major text on yoga principles) gives the following hugely important instruction:

“Meditate according to your preference.” [5]

The word preference is enlightening.

The earliest and most authoritative teachers of the Sutras thousands of years ago explained that this statement means you can meditate according to any faith or theology that suits you. Or, you could discard those and meditate on your body or any sensory physical experience.

This is remarkable. You didn’t even have to be spiritual.

The only limitation the ancients placed on yoga is that a practitioner should always remain non-hurtful to others. Apart from that, you’re pretty much free to do or believe anything you want.

This has been the grand, all-inclusive, all-accommodating spirit of yoga since ancient times.

It is friendly, respectful, and compassionate to all.

Let's live in a compassionate world

Let’s live in a compassionate world

Millions of people have still not taken up yoga. And the fear implanted by religious leaders isn’t doing much to encourage them. The millions who regularly visit an orthodox church, synagogue or mosque – about 30 percent of Americans – will likely be receiving their instruction from dogmatic teachers.

Since yoga has grown in popularity, many people are now hearing in orthodox places of worship statements like these:

‘Christians must not practice yoga.’

‘Jews should not meditate.’

‘Moslems cannot practice breath control.’

‘You’ll go to hell.’ ‘It’s unchristian.’ ‘It’s satanic.’ [6]

These are the baseless sermons of ignorant leaders. They educate no one and deprive their flock of something transformational.

All religions and sciences are stepping stones to the Truth.

In this spirit, yoga encourages everyone to follow their own faith and scientific discovery together. But yoga, itself, however, is not a faith. It’s a broad and open ended spirituality. It encourages you to become your own teacher and guide. You can fine-tune your beliefs according to your experiences.

Yoga doesn’t hand this power to preachers. It hands it to practitioners. It hands it to people prepared to walk the walk.

 

 

This new book discusses material from ancient Yogis and other great Teachers rarely heard of in the western world.

This new book discusses material from ancient Yogis and other great Teachers rarely heard of in the western world.

THE YOGA MIRACLE – How Yoga and Meditation Bring You Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Wellness

Review from scientific writer for the CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY

Monograph Series and the fine journal

THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN – “REALLY LIKED IT … AUTHENTIC.”

Prof Pankaj S. Joshi. Expertise: general relativity, cosmology, stellar evolution, naked singularities, black holes.

We value hearing your feedback and reflections through your online reviews.

 

Share your feedback with us on Sanjay’s Facebook Page

 

References

1 Matthew 6:31-34

2 Luke 17:21

3 Taittiriya Upanishad, 2:9, The Upanishads, Part 2, Sacred Books of the  East, 15, translated by Max Müller, 1879.

4 Yoga is part of an even more ancient tradition of Indian thought called Sankhya. Some of its schools were atheistic.  Yoga’s connection with Sankhya is so inextricable that it has also been called Sankhya-Yoga. Yes, India and yoga have had a very colorful past.

5 yathaa abhimata, The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, 1.39, translation by Manilal Nabhubhai Dvivedi, Samaladas College, Bombay Theosophical Publication Fund, 1914, Digital Library of India, http://www.new.dli.ernet.in/

6 Nick Squires, ‘Harry Potter and yoga are evil’, says Catholic Church exorcist, 25 Nov 2011, The Telegraph, Retrieved Sept. 8, 2014,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/8915691/Harry-Potter-and-yoga-are-evil-says-Catholic-Church-exorcist.html

 

 

Share Button
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: