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Pope Francis’ Subtle Yoga Diss Fuels Yogaphobia in Catholic Church

in YD News
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image credit: Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

Pope Francis has caused quite a stir for being “liberal” on subjects the Catholic Church is traditionally conservative or silent about, like homosexuality and feminism. So commenting on yoga was the only obvious next step in his liberal agenda. But did he go ahead and diss it? In a January 9th Vatican Radio address, Pope Francis spoketh:

“You can follow thousands of catechism courses, thousands of spirituality courses, thousands of yoga or zen courses and all these things,” his papalsty said. “But none of this will be able to give you the freedom as a child (of God). Only the Holy Spirit can prompt your heart to say ‘Father.’ Only the Holy Spirit is capable of banishing, of breaking that hardness of heart and making it … ‘docile’. Docile towards the Lord. Docile when it comes to the freedom to love.”

The gist of his address was more or less that obstructions like vanity, narcissism and insecurities lead us to a hardened heart, and even super religious or pious devotees can seem free and open to love but they’re actually hardened of heart “religious narcissists” who are “closed in on themselves,” because they haven’t let in the Holy Spirit.

So no amount of yoga classes or meditation can open us up to love and free our hearts – only the Holy Spirit can, etc. It’s a subtle diss, but a diss nonetheless, though more or less innocuous. But some folks have taken his words and twisted them to suit their own agenda. His Popeness also mentioned that tons of catechism classes won’t do it either, but nevermind that. What some people actually heard was – The Pope says don’t practice yoga, it’s evil!

On February 8, almost on cue, a Catholic priest in Northern Ireland preached about the connection between yoga and Satanism citing the Pope’s words as his source material. Reverand Roland Colhoun told his congregation that practicing yoga would lead to the unsavory “Kingdom of Darkness.”

Quoted in the Derry Journal, Calhoun went on to expand on this Satanic-Yogaism:

“Pope Francis said ‘do not seek spiritual answers in yoga classes’. Yoga is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk,” he told the Derry Journal.

Translation: This “spiritual health risk” is basically Satanic demons seeping into your soul and damning you to hell during yoga.

“The bad spirit can be communicated in a variety of ways,” Colhoun added. “I’m not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly, but there’s always a risk and that’s why the Pope mentioned it and that’s why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear.”

Oh, we’re scared, all right. We should note we know this is not the collective thought of the entire Catholic Church and not all Christians think yoga is on par with voodoo, but when the Pope speaketh, people listen, and some will hear what they want to hear.

In response to Rev. Calhoun’s completely twisted perspective, a group of Hindus have spoken out in objection calling for Pope Francis to step in and set the record straight as only the Pope can. Led by Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, the group is combating Calhoun’s message and the general yogaphobia that’s been occurring within certain religious groups who’ve said the practice has to do with evil demons and spooky spirits. (For real.)

Mr. Zed, who is THE go-to Hindu spokesperson, noted in a statement that the Vatican Library itself actually has various yoga-related books and ancient texts. He added that yoga, “although introduced and nourished by Hinduism,” was a “world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all.”

See?

——

Earlier

Christian Evangelist Pat Robertson Warns Yoga Leads to Hindu God Worship

14 comments… add one

  • With the Yamas and Niyamas’ similarity to the Ten Commandments, it is clear we are more alike then we are different. Let’s approach the discussion from that place rather than making blanket statements about Yoga leading to satanism.

  • Chris

    Oh, if the Pope only knew the Truth about JC !

    JC journeyed to India in his youth (the missing years of JC’s life, that the Bible won’t talk about), and apprenticed himself in the Gurukuls and Ashrams of the learned Hindu sages (Rishis) of India. There, the excellent pupil JC imbibed the ancient Hindu philosophies from his Gurus, and himself became an enlightened, self-realized soul – a Mahatma, a true Yogi. The enlightened JC then traveled back to the Middle East to preach to his people the wisdom he had acquired in India.

    JC’s teachings are very much in consonance with Hinduism :

    (1) “As you sow, so shall you reap ” —> This is essentially Hindu law of Karma.

    (2) ” Let him throw the first stone, who has not sinned ”.
    This is JC’s recognition of the fact that all souls (Atmas) present on this earth are present on the earth, only because these souls are, as yet, not without sin (Bad-Karma).
    The Hindu philosophy of Reincarnation (Punar-Janam) believes that the soul (Atma) is indestructible, and undergoes several cycles of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth. Properly guided, the Atma attains a higher-state-of-being in each successive life, until ultimately, that Atma becomes self-realized and sinless, and attains Moksha ( Liberation from the cycle of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth). Thus, any Atma that is actually present on this earth is, as yet, not without sin, and is an Atma which is at only some intermediate point along this Great-Journey towards becoming a self-realized soul.

    (3) There is much evidence to suggest that JC was a vegetarian, which would be in tune with the Principle of Ahimsa.

    (4) After surviving the Crucifixion, JC sought save-haven in India, and once again journeyed to the Kashmir region of India, where he then lived to a ripe old age. JC is buried in Kashmir. ( Kashmir is the land of the ancient Hindu sage, Rishi Kashyapa. The name Kashmir comes from the Sanskrit “Kashyapa-Meru” ( Kashyapa’s Lake) ).

    (5) Being a self-realized Soul, JC recognized that there are several different Paths to Enlightenment. Thus, JC never said peevish things like, ” I am the ONLY WAY” ( meaning, I am the only ticket to Heaven). These mean-spirited statements were disingenuously inserted into the Bible, after JC’s passing, and falsely attributed to JC, by the Vatican (the Marketing Department of the Unholy Roman Empire) as part of its Empire-Building-Strategy.

  • yogamatt

    I grew up in an evangelical christian family and am all too familiar with this kind of thinking. My Mum wasn’t a fan of us doing religious studies at school looking at other religions. It wasn’t until I began studying Yoga in my twenties that I began to understand and appreciate the teachings of Jesus and (some of) the Bible. I feel a bit sorry for this priest who has dedicated his life to God and yet seems to have missed the point.

  • Colette Shand

    Swami Satchidananda proposed an equality of all religions. And yoga as one of the key paths to help people achieve their true self and equanimity. I believe the Pope is saying that you must find a meekness of spirit to achieve the best. Hardness of heart is the issue – not the pathway chosen. So keep doing your yoga and find a gentleness of spirit as well – with or without a religious afiliation.

  • Historically, ‘the holy spirit’ is equivalent to spiritus, going back to pneuma and which is cognate with prana. The life force, the healing power of nature, prana… back in the news due to the Pope.

    The father-the son-the holy spirit… transcendent-immanent-cosmic principle of Life (prana).

  • paul

    by extention we must also say, “Pope Francis said ‘do not seek spiritual answers in catechism classes’. Catechism is certainly a risk. There’s the spiritual health risk.” ..ask your doctor if basic rhetoric is right for you.

  • What is the deal recently? Pat Roberts AND Pope Francis? Are they worried about loosing their fan base? I am disappointed in Francis and just think Roberts is uneducated.

  • Self correction, Pat Robertson.

  • John

    Shock announcement! Pope is catholic!

    Robertson and Calhoun are one thing, their sects’ version of those yogis who insist yoga is Hindu. The pope’s comments are no different from those of yogis who can’t seem to stop telling us about how asana and meditation alone are not enough and how we need to “practice off the mat”.

    If we don’t want to have to deal with the likes of Robertson then we’re going to have to be much clearer about what yoga is and exactly how it’s “spiritual” and what “spiritual” means. As long as “yoga” is whatever fills the class without triggering taxes or requiring the teacher training gets regulated (and it’s amusing how much the whole “yoga is not just physical” thing has been driven by those factors) then we can hardly blame people for being confused

  • Chris

    If the Pope only knew the Truth about JC !

    JC journeyed to India in his youth (the missing years of JC’s life, that the Bible won’t talk about), and apprenticed himself in the Gurukuls and Ashrams of the learned Hindu sages (Rishis) of India. There, the excellent pupil JC imbibed the ancient Hindu philosophies from his Gurus, and himself became an enlightened, self-realized soul – a Mahatma, a true Yogi. The enlightened JC then traveled back to the Middle East to preach to his people the wisdom he had acquired in India.

    JC’s teachings are very much in consonance with Hinduism :

    (1) “As you sow, so shall you reap ” —> This is essentially Hindu law of Karma.

    (2) ” Let him throw the first stone, who has not sinned ”.
    This is JC’s recognition of the fact that all souls (Atmas) present on this earth are present on the earth, only because these souls are, as yet, not without sin (Bad-Karma).
    The Hindu philosophy of Reincarnation (Punar-Janam) believes that the soul (Atma) is indestructible, and undergoes several cycles of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth. Properly guided, the Atma attains a higher-state-of-being in each successive life, until ultimately, that Atma becomes self-realized and sinless, and attains Moksha ( Liberation from the cycle of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth). Thus, any Atma that is actually present on this earth is, as yet, not without sin, and is an Atma which is at only some intermediate point along this Great-Journey towards becoming a self-realized soul.

    (3) There is much evidence to suggest that JC was a vegetarian, which would be in tune with the Principle of Ahimsa.

    (4) After surviving the Crucifixion, JC sought save-haven in India, and once again journeyed to the Kashmir region of India, where he then lived to a ripe old age. JC is buried in Kashmir. ( Kashmir is the land of the ancient Hindu sage, Rishi Kashyapa. The name Kashmir comes from the Sanskrit “Kashyapa-Meru” ( Kashyapa’s Lake) ).

    (5) Being a self-realized Soul, JC recognized that there are several different Paths to Enlightenment. Thus, JC never said peevish things like, ” I am the ONLY WAY” ( meaning, I am the only ticket to Heaven). These mean-spirited statements were disingenuously inserted into the Bible, after JC’s passing, and falsely attributed to JC, by the Vatican (the Marketing Department of the Unholy Roman Empire) as part of its Empire-Building-Strategy.

  • porotikos

    dedicated to the pope
    pope’s yoga. by iola 11
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVS51l5EYSg

  • Dan

    Too many people commenting seem to not even have read the article! And the ones who have, are kind of proving the point of the one priest that actually spoke harshly against yoga.

    Pope Francis didn’t diss yoga any more than he diss’ed catechism or spirituality courses. He says those things won’t: “be able to give you the freedom as a child (of God). Only the Holy Spirit can prompt your heart to say ‘Father.’ Only the Holy Spirit is capable of banishing, of breaking that hardness of heart and making it … ‘docile’. Docile towards the Lord. Docile when it comes to the freedom to love.”

    With this quote, and a basic understanding of Catholic theology you can begin to see where the priest is coming from. The fundamental difference between Hinduism and Catholicism is pantheism vs monotheism. Now don’t be intellectually lazy here! It’s all too easy to try to equate everything, but Catholics are adamant on this point. Let me illustrate the difference with an analogy:
    1. In pantheism (such as Hinduism) the divine is essentially everything, the entire universe, and through the process of meditation and enlightenment you become one with it just as a drop of water becomes one with the ocean.
    2. In Catholicism the divine is distinct, and separate from everything. God is viewed as the creator of the universe. While he is viewed as intimately close with his creation, he is at once outside of it, distinct from all space and time. You become one with him just as a husband becomes one with his wife: one family, yet distinct people in an intimate bond of mutual love.

    Herein lies all of the trouble the priest (Calhoun) talks about. It’s all too easy to poke fun at him, but he didn’t actually say that yoga automatically leads to being possessed by demons. He said

    “that’s why we talk about that [yoga] in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That’s the fear.”

    But, coming from a Catholic priest, what is the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult? Precisely that same distinction between hinduism and catholicism. Do you seek to become in harmony within yourself and your surroundings because you believe you ARE divine in the sense of the drop of water one with the ocean, or to give yourself as a gift to God in the unity of a family of distinct individuals. The danger lies in this view that places the self above all else, even equating the self to the divine.

    Not all yoga mixes these ideas in, but some do, perhaps even inadvertently, include these pantheistic ideas. You have to ask yourself, do you believe that the universe is god? Or is God the creator of the universe?

  • letters2mary

    It’s a shame that you let your antipathy to Catholicism show through with silly, junior high name-calling. It sounds like what Francis said was that without connection to the Holy Spirit — connection to God — the “spiritual” activities and fads that preoccupy so much frenetic activity are vapid.

    He’s got a point there.

  • Pam

    I’m a practicing Catholic and I very much enjoy the benefits of yoga. Many of my Catholic friends wouldn’t agree with me though. I think Pope Francis was saying that yoga will not give you the freedom that Christ can give you. The truth of the matter is that I’m not seeking spiritual freedom in yoga. I’m seeking breathing exercises, stretching, strengthening my balance. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that.

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