There is no Christian Yoga.
By Yogi Baba Prem, Vedavisharada, CYI, C.ay, C.va
It was quite astonishing to see on the flyer “Christian Yoga! This Thursday night….” I could feel the wheels spinning in my brain. “Christian Yoga”, I thought. Now while Christians can practice yoga, I am not aware of any Christian teachings about yoga. Yoga is not a Judeo/Christian word! It is not a part of the Roman Catholic teachings and certainly not a part of protestant teachings. It is not found within the King James Version of the bible. It is a Hindu word, or more correctly a Sanskrit word from the Vedic civilization. So how did we get “Christian Yoga”?
From this I could conclude that “Christian Yoga” could only indicate one of two possibilities:
1) Christianity is threatened by yoga and is attempting to take over this system that is expanding and successfully teaching spirituality to the masses.
2) Christianity is subconsciously attempting to return to the spiritual roots of civilization—the Vedic civilization.
I thought to myself, “why would they want to take over yoga?” Could it be due to the decline of members within the Christian church within the last 60 years? Is this an extensive marketing plan cooked up in some New York marketing guru’s head? Is it an attempt to water down the teachings of yoga and import their own teachings into the system? Or is it that they cannot stand not to own everything spiritual?
I think the best reason might be that yoga, and eastern spirituality, offered answers to the spiritual questions that the spiritually hungry masses had. It offered a practical, rational, logical, and truthful approach to spirituality. It did not contain any form of self-righteous condemnation, but offered love and acceptance to all. It did not prey upon victims with terms such as “Sin” and “eternal damnation”. But most importantly, it had answers! It offered a practical approach to cultivating a relationship with divinity. It offered a systematic approach and an abstract approach to meet the varying temperaments of the spirituality hungry.
The second possibility was that Christianity was itself looking for answers. Possibly the fundamentalist view, inflexibility, and condemnation was no longer fulfilling the needs of the masses or the leaders of the church. Offering yoga classes allowed the Christian to secretly practice Hinduism without having to renounce their Christian tradition.
Possibly by embracing the technology of yoga and meditation, the Christian church could finally return to the idea of love and acceptance that it believed it was founded upon. It is ironic that one religion would need to look to another religion to teach them about love, peace, harmony, and forgiveness. If successful, it could embrace these ancient teachings and save itself from what has been a steady decline in church attendence of the past few decades.
But possibly in their wisdom, the current fathers of the church realized that their time as a dominte religion was coming to a close. So within America they must absorb yoga before they are absorbed by it. This is a common religious view that has appeared numerous times within world history. Absorbing yoga would allow the church to more quickly move their resources to India. Taking over the country would allow them to own all the spirituality, and then ‘pick and chose’ which tasty spiritual treats they would share. After all they have 2000 years practice with this.
Indian being a loving, peaceful people, openly embraced their brothers from the west. They looked the other way as their temples were torn down. They accepted it as karma as their families were torn apart over differing religious beliefs. The Indians thought it was thoughtful of the missionaries to dress up just like swami’s, to be “just like them” and to share in their kindred spirit.
Modern day scholars from India frequently present the attitude of “let them have yoga, I am interested in protecting Hinduism.” I have heard this sentiment on numerous occasions, but the reality is that yoga is a part of Hinduism. Allowing one part to be taken from Hinduism opens a door for the distortion of the teachings. We must remember that the roots to modern day yoga comes from Vedic Yoga. The same Vedic Yoga that is the authority of Hinduism. Allowing one branch to be severed from the tree of knowledge will not necessarily kill that tree, but it can produce strain and have an unbalancing effect upon the tree.
Hinduism should reclaim its full heritage and not allow other groups to rename its sacred teachings under their banner, especially when they have no history of those teaching within their own system. If they wish to ‘borrow’ and say this comes from our brothers and sisters in Hinduism, then that is another thing. But frequently groups attempt to privatize the information and present themselves as the original authority. Hinduism should guard against its sacred traditions becoming distorted and taken away.
Scholars at universities should take the stand that yoga is part of Hinduism, though one is one required to be a Hindu to practice yoga. It is important to acknowledge the roots of the tradition; after all we are expected to give credit to the orginial sources within books and research papers, but yet Hindu scholars have ignored this fundamental western view when it comes to their own heritage.
One does need to be Hindu to practice yoga, but it is clear from historical evidence that Yoga comes from Hinduism.