Yoga - Is it Permissable for Christians EWTN
The Church distinguishes between physical postures and the philosophy or religion underlying them (cf: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On Christian Meditation). The adoption of a particular physical posture, even if originating in a religious or philosophical system foreign to Christianity, is permissible provided the posture is severable from the religion or philosophy that first motivated it. Its use then becomes possible in Christian freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 8), and indeed the Church has "baptized" even pagan practices that were not intrinsically linked to paganism.
The question of yoga, therefore, becomes "to what extent can yoga postures be independent of non-Christian religious motivation, as well as any intention to manipulate forces or energies described within a non-Christian worldview?" This is the same question which arises with respect to Reiki healing practices, which also depend on a non-Christian, indeed an occult, worldview.
If it is a matter, therefore, of simply using yoga positions for relaxation in preparation for Christian mediation, while not embracing to any degree the philosophy or explanation behind the posture, their use is theoretically possible.
However, many Christians who are former practitioners of yoga argue that it is not possible, that the dangers of the occult remain, especially by efforts to manipulate internal forces in order to achieve a particular physical state. That, while natural causation is claimed, in fact achieving the result depends on the existence of the very forces which the non-Christian philosophy teaches. Separating the philosophy from the posture makes possible the posture’s Christian use, but removes any value of it over any other physical posture. On the other hand, retaining the posture and seeking its purpose necessarily adopts a non-Christian worldview, opening the individual to spiritual forces, as opposed to simply material ones, who are opposed to their salvation.
While the question of yoga has not been definitely answered by the Magisterium, Christians who are considering its use, or the use of any practice derived from non-Christian philosophies or religions, should be familiar with two documents: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, and thePontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue's Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life. They should then scrupulously apply the principle of the necessity for the complete separation of a practice from any religious or philosophical system which is contrary to Catholic teaching or the practice of the faith.
Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism?
Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. “Inner” Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing.
Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. “Inner” Hinduism professes pantheism, which denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of nothing. This pantheistic Hinduism says to the multitude of uncultured believers who follow the ways of the gods that they will receive the reward of the gods. They will have brief tastes of heaven between successive rebirths on earth. But they will never be delivered from the “wheel of existence” with its illusory lives and deaths until they realize that only “God” exists and all else is illusion (Maya). To achieve this liberation the principal way is by means of concentration and self control (yoga).
Indian spirituality is perhaps best known by the practice of yoga, derived from the root yuj to unite or yoke, which in context means union with the Absolute. Numerous stages are distinguished in the upward progress toward the supreme end of identification: by means of knowledge with the deity; the practice of moral virtues and observance of ethical rules; bodily postures; control of internal and external senses; concentration of memory and meditation–finally terminating in total absorption (samadhi), “when the seer stands in his own nature.”
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.
Stopping the right nostril with the thumb, through the left nostril fill in air, according to capacity. Then without any interval, throw the air out through the right nostril, eject through the left, according to capacity. Practicing this three or five times at four hours of the day, before dawn, during midday, in the evening, and at midnight, in fifteen days or a month purity of the nerves is attained.
After such preliminary exercises, more complicated practices are undertaken, but not without the guidance of a professional yogin, called guru. The meditative phase begins with fixing the mind on one object, which may be anything whatsoever, “the sphere of the navel, the lotus of the heart, the light of the brain, the tip of the nose, the tip of the tongue, and such like parts of the body” or also “God”, who on Hindu terms is the only real being who exists.
Gradually by sheer concentration of attention; the mind reaches a state of trance, where all mental activity stops and the consciousness rests in itself. The state of samadhi is the culmination of yoga and beyond it lies release. The life of the soul is not destroyed but is reduced to its “unconscious and permanent essence.”
'Harry Potter and yoga are evil', says Catholic Church exorcist
For most people it is a way of toning the limbs and soothing the stresses of everyday life, but the Catholic Church’s best-known exorcist says yoga is evil.
Father Gabriele Amorth, the official exorcist of Vatican City
By Nick Squires, Rome
2:31PM GMT 25 Nov 2011
Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”.
Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist.
The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.
“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.
“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.
“Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations.” Science was incapable of explaining evil, said Father Amorth, who has written two books on his experiences as an exorcist. “It’s not worth a jot.
The scientist simply explores what God has already created.” His views may seem extreme, but in fact reflect previous warnings by Pope Benedict XVI, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy.
In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, he issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other 'eastern’ practises.
They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.
Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said.
Italian yoga schools said Father Amorth’s criticism was absurd.
“It’s an accusation that has nothing to do with reality,” Vanda Vanni, the founder of the Mediterranean Yoga Association, told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency.
“It’s a theory — if one can call it a theory — that is totally without foundation. Yoga is not a religion or a spiritual practise. It doesn’t have even the slightest connection with Satanism or Satanic sects.” Giorgio Furlan, the founder of the Yoga Academy of Rome, said yoga had nothing to do with religion, “least of all Satanism.” “Whoever says that shows that they know absolutely nothing about yoga,” he said.
Father Amorth has previously said that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron and have such superhuman strength that even children have to be held down by up to four people.
He has also claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries was proof that the Anti-Christ is waging a war against the Holy See.
|LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON SOME ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION|
|Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith|
27. Eastern Christian meditation32 has valued "psychophysical symbolism," often absent in western forms of prayer. It can range from a specific bodily posture to the basic life functions, such as breathing or the beating of the heart. The exercise of the "Jesus Prayer," for example, which adapts itself to the natural rhythm of breathing can, at least for a certain time, be of real help to many people.33 On the other hand, the eastern masters themselves have also noted that not everyone is equally suited to making use of this symbolism, since not everybody is able to pass from the material sign to the spiritual reality that is being sought.
Understood in an inadequate and incorrect way, the symbolism can even become an idol and thus an obstacle to the raising up of the spirit to God. To live out in one's prayer the full awareness of one's body as a symbol is even more difficult: it can degenerate into a cult of the body and can lead surreptitiously to considering all bodily sensations as spiritual experiences.
28. Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.
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 man 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.
It should, however, be remembered that habitual union with God, namely that attitude of interior vigilance and appeal to the divine assistance which in the New Testament is called "continuous prayer,"34 is not necessarily interrupted when one devotes oneself also, according to the will of God, to work and to the care of one's neighbor. "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God," the Apostle tells us (1 Cor 10:31). In fact, genuine prayer, as the great spiritual masters teach, stirs up in the person who prays an ardent charity which moves him to collaborate in the mission of the Church and to serve his brothers for the greater glory of God.35
The Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, in an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, gave his approval to this letter, drawn up in a plenary session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.
At Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, October 15, 1989, the Feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger Prefect
Alberto Bovone Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia