This article appeared on the front page of the Oct. 18th Chennai edition of the Times of India with the by-line Arun Ram. However, when Ram Narayan’s comment on the article was received at the Times of India office, the editors got cold feet and pulled the article off the Times of India websites and deleted it from the archives. The article below comes from The Telegraph in London. It was written by their New Delhi correspondent Dean Nelson. – Editor
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, is waging a campaign against the increasing popularity of yoga in sports and church halls throughout the United States, warning that it is ‘pagan’ in its roots.
“Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots?
“Totally. Yoga is demonic. If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class,” he said, according to The Seattle Times.
His comments appeared to reflect a growing concern among Christian preachers in the United States as the number of people practicing yoga has soared beyond 15 million.
Last month Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler warned his followers of the dangers of chanting ‘Om’ – the droning sound used by Hindus to praise the divine – and inward meditation.
“Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God – an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation – not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables,” he wrote.
Their campaign provoked an Indian backlash, and ridicule from Hindu and Christian leaders.
“Yoga kills stress, violence and hatred. How can it be called demonic?” asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, one of India’s leading Hindu spiritual leaders, while a Catholic spokesman said his American colleagues had misunderstood yoga.
Father Emmanuel, of Delhi’s Catholic Archdiocese, told a television channel that “many in western countries do not understand what yoga is or how it helps.”
“There is a view in some churches that yoga is anti-Christianity. While it is a Hindu practice, it is certainly not anti-Christianity or demonic. One can be a practising Christian and still do yoga,” he said.
A retired Chennai school master, Ram Narayan, commented on this article as follows:
Mr. Arun Ram
Times of India
US pastor Mark Driscoll is quite right that yoga is “a form of pantheism and totally pagan”. From his limited monotheistic perspective, all things Hindu will be by definition demonic.
Lord Shiva is the pro-generator and revealer of yoga and Patanjali is the rishi and codifier. Lord Krishna in the Bhagawat Gita is the expounder of a variety of yogas, all of which lead to union with His divine self.
The US pastor is not the first Christian priest to condemn yoga. Popes John Paul II and his successor as Cardinal Ratzinger both wrote diatribes against yoga and forbade Christian congregations to practice it.
Christianity is a belief system centered on the cult of Jesus as savior of mankind. Yoga is a profound spiritual practice that leads to knowledge of Self and the breaking of the bonds of desire that cause suffering and rebirth. Practitioners of yoga do not require the intercession of Jesus for their salvation — and herein lies the rub with Christian priests.
The confusion and ignorance among Western yoga practitioners about yoga’s Hindu roots and identity is caused by Indian yoga teachers abroad who wrongly present yoga as a secular non-religious exercise system that leads to good health and peace of mind. They do this to make money and because they are afraid to reveal yoga’s true Hindu identity in a dominant Christian culture.
Good health and peace of mind are side benefits of yoga practice, not its main objective which is moksha (liberation from the bonds of samsara). Moksha is a concept that is not recognised in the Christian theological lexicon.
However times are changing and yoga’s true Hindu identity is being revealed by Western Hindu converts and leading publications like Hinduism Today and Yoga Journal who recognise yoga as an intrinsically Hindu spiritual practice. This has caused Christian pastors to sit up and take note of their dwindling flocks, and to start demonizing yoga from their church pulpits and tv shows.
Pantheism: 1. the doctrine that god is the transcendent reality of which the material universe and human beings are only manifestations: it involves a denial of God’s personality and expresses a tendency to identify God and nature. 2. any religious belief or philosophical doctrine that identifies God with the universe.
Pagan: 1. one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks. 2. a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
Demonization: 1. to turn into a demon or make demonlike. 2. to subject to the influence of demons.
Last word: Why do Hindus take offence when a small-minded Christian preacher who is losing his flock to yoga and other Hindu practices, takes potshots at Hindu religion? From his Christian crusader perspective — which is not any different from a Muslim jihadi’s perspective — all things not Christian are demonic. Haven’t Hindus understood this point yet — even after centuries of abuse starting with the Lutheran missionary Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and continuing with the Spanish Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier and the French missionary Abbe Dubois? The list of these foul-mouthed Christian missionaries who passed as priests of God in India is very long. Why do Hindus act as if they need validation from these unclean Abrahamic fundamentalists, that Hinduism and Hindu practices are acceptable and good? — Editor