Evangelists dub Yoga a Dark Art

Of course, calling Yoga a dark art is just the latest instance of how Evangelical fundamentalists continue to target Yoga.

A famous verse of the New testament (from Luke 23:34) goes something like “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Those words were said to be uttered by Jesus when he was being crucified. In modern times it seems they still don’t know what they are doing, since it appears that the devotees of Christ are nothing but paranoid and ignorant about other philosophies, traditions, and cultures. And nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes Indic traditions, rituals, spirituality, culture, philosophy and meditational practices.

Here’s the latest exhibit of this paranoia and ignorance from an article bizarrely titled articleFear the dark art of yoga!’  in Raw Story. Yoga-as-a-Dark-Art is a first one even by the standards of the most fundamentalist Christians.

Many biblical literalists, and charismatic or Pentecostal Christians in particular, are deeply suspicious of yoga, which they see less as a healing or wellness practice and more as a seductive point of entry into the Hindu religion. Open, inquiring forms of Christianity may teach that “all truth is God’s truth,” or even that there are many paths to God, and even Evangelicals who take a narrower view of Christianity may see yoga as beneficial. But a more common posture among conservative biblical literalists is wariness and suspicion, or outright condemnation. One Christian website, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, quotes from Yoga Journal and then adds their own commentary:

“’Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind [Yoga Journal].’ As one can see, Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. We as Christians do not want to make our mind more flexible. We do not want to leave our mind open to false teaching.”

patTo begin with, we need to check out this video, where the rabid evangelist Pat Robertson cautions against participation in Yoga and identifies “Hindu” as a language! While Christian alarmism against Yoga is well documented, a reverse phenomenon is also seen. From the same Raw Story report, we get to learn of Mitch Menik, who is a born-again “Christian Yoga” instructor. So why the confusion and alarm? Is Yoga harmful only to Christians? To give the Devil his due, a brief explanation of Yoga is required.

Yoga is derived from the root, ‘yuj’ which means ‘to unite’ in Sanskrit. The term covers a wide array of practices, which range from physical and moral guidelines to contemplation on the Ultimate Reality. Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual practices with its ultimate goal being moksha, the attainment of liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

A quick reading of the foundational text of Yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, will affirm that asana (posture) is only one component of Yoga. Patanjali describes the goal of Yoga  as  “the cessation of mental fluctuations”, a core concept also expounded in Bhagavad Gita:

Thus practicing constant control of the body, mind and activities, the mystic transcendentalist, his mind regulated, attains to the kingdom of God  by cessation of material existence.(Translation of Bhagavad Gita 6.15)

As the legendary Yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar states in his seminal work Light on Yoga:

‘Their [Asanas] real importance lies in the way they train and discipline the mind…The yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas and make it a fit vehicle for the spirit…He does not consider it [the body] his property…The yogi realizes that his life and all its activities are part of the divine action in nature.’

Indeed, the Evangelical fanatics are correct to assert that Yoga is indeed an essential part of Hindu spirituality and the two cannot be delinked. But, to put this in a very restricted sense, in essence, the practice of only the Asana component of Yoga is not harmful for Christians or Muslims or anybody because one need not follow any ritual and the health benefits accruing from Yoga like controlling blood pressure, relief of back pain and arthritis, and boosting of the immune system are there for all to experience.

However, the Evangelicals are always annoyed and even angered if any of their followers show even the slightest interest in the cultural practices which are of Indic origin. Also in the reverse, many evangelicals attempt to sever yoga of its Indic roots and repackage it as an ‘Act of God.’ Double standards much?

Either way they are unwilling to acknowledge let alone praise Indic traditions whereas often we hear our domestic secularists calling upon the Hindus (both laymen and preachers) to accept the antics of Evangelical missionaries (which includes fraudulent conversions) in order to maintain diversity.

These secularists also dismiss these American Evangelicals as part of some lunatic fringe. However, they need to be aware of the fact that Pat Robertson also heads the Regent University which trains Indian Christians in the methods of gaining more and more converts. In doing so these graduates are often seen demeaning indigenous traditions. Pat Robertson’s CBN has consistently backed Evangelicals in the Republican Party and many members like Mike Huckabee are open about their association with him. Hence the so-called ‘Sole Superpower’ of the world being under evangelical fanaticism is a fringe but spokespersons for Ghar Wapsi (which in this context will curb Evangelism in India) are major threats to social harmony!

Of course, calling Yoga a dark art is just the latest instance of how Evangelical fundamentalists continue to target Yoga.  And this targeting will neither subside nor stop. What is both appalling and incredibly funny is how they have framed this whole Yoga-as-a-dark-attack assault:

If yoga helps a Christian man to walk for the first time in thirty-three years, does his newfound strength come from God or the Devil? That is the question tearing apart an Evangelical church in Las Vegas.

And that this sort of lunacy has actually made its way in public discourse in the US is really what should concern us.

  • Indian

    No doubt the ITALIAN NAZI MUSSOLINI KEEPS ancestory in India is opposed to International Yoga Day, after all the White Italian Christian Timur Lung sonia is heading it, sorry TDK. Half Harami Raul Vinci has her filthy gutter Italian genetics and so all converted christian pigs like Mulyam, Lalloo, Nitish, and above all SONIA KAA BHADWA DALAL JISKA BAAP JOHN DAYAL USKA NAAM KEJRIWAL

  • Sundara Rajan Gopalakrishnan

    Perhaps this article should include a point that India or Hindus did not run after the others to try and teach them yoga. It was the westerners themselves who came to India to learn Yoga, just as Budhhist monks learnt the Kalaripayattu and marma kalai from India and made it into Kungfu.

  • Rajalakshmi J

    But lots of Americans , Canadians have long started doing Hatha Yoga. I remember reading about one skydiver who recovered completely from her injury by doing Hatha Yoga.

    I think this is a strategy to steal calling it later as christian contribution to this world. . Our Srimad Bhagavatham has been stolen & made into ‘yesu bagavatham’. Once the evangelicals claimed Yajur Veda is actually yesur veda which later became Yajur Veda.

    • Sree Charan R

      This is what Rajiv Malhotra calls as “digestion” and “u turn theory”…….this is a scary reality that we Hindus must be aware of…….and must desist it…..

  • Krispy K

    Well we live in a backward world. Christians calling other faiths “evil”. Islamists calling others “oppressors”. Gandhi/Kejriwal slaves calling nationalists “blind bhakts”. Simply projections of their own nature onto others.

  • Dr. MS

    As I said earlier. you guys on this web magazine sometimes give weapons to others to beat you with….in the way you use photos, write and use innuendos that most people will not get. Why not show an Evangelist with a pig head preaching to a sublime yogi who may or may not have chosen Tangric Yoga (Left handed path) or Yantric yoga (Right handed path).

    Here is something a man wrote about the Roman Catholic church in response to Bruni’s recent assertion in the New York Times that all the predominantly Roman Catholic countries are legalizing gay marriage. One commentator wrote:

    Manhattan William from New York, NY writes:

    The Catholic Church is made up of many rules, laws, customs, sacraments. As someone who’s spent some time studying the history of the Church, my feeling is that one is free to call oneself whatever they choose BUT to be a ROMAN CATHOLIC means to adhere to the principles laid down by the hierarchy and follow the practices they teach which would allow one to obtain communion and thereby be IN COMMUNION with the church and the lord, as they see it. For practicing homosexuals, this is not possible. I consider those Roman Catholic gays who strive so hard to be accepted as very similar to Log Cabin Republicans. There’s NO PLACE for us in EITHER group and no amount of soul-searching or hand wrenching is going to change that! To say the RC Church is in any way enabling or fostering same-sex marriage or the rights of homosexuals is utterly ridiculous.

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    This is what Wikipedia says about Right handed path versus Left Handed path in yoga. (They should know better because there are many Jews in the US who are practitioners of Yoga who are also becoming vegetarians. Shame on Wikipedia for using the wrong words).

    In more recent definitions, which base themselves on the terms’ origins among Indian Tantra, the Right-Hand Path (Yantric Yoga), or RHP, is seen as a definition for those magical groups that follow specific ethical codes and adopt social convention, while the Left-Hand Path (Tantric yoga) adopts the opposite attitude, espousing the breaking of taboo and the abandoning of set morality. Some contemporary occultists have stressed that both paths can be followed by a magical practitioner, as essentially they have the same goals.

    The word “occult” is wrong in the above definition, and so is the word “magic”. There is no magic in yoga. There is only sensory advancement and mind bending abilities that might appear to the naive onlooker as “magic”. But RHP and LHP require good intentions fundamentally. All abilities, even simple body fitness, can be used for dangerous purposes if not carefully applied. So “good intentions and good values” are essential for all yoga: be it Right handed path or Left handed path.

    The only difference is that Left Handed path in Yoga involves taking dramatic intense risks challenging all fears and confusions (like direct immersion therapy in overcoming phobias). So…in an effort to overcome fear of death a person might go meditate in a graveyard, lie down next to a corpse or have themselves buried alive for a few hours to overcome fear of death. To overcome fear of wild animals or reptiles like snakes or insects some people might sleep with snakes, or have scorpions thrown on their bodies or sit in a pit with cockroaches and insects….It is not very different than what is shown on a popular American TV series called “Fear Factor” where people overcome their fears of height, closed space, water, dark space, reptiles, wild animals, insects, bad smell,.etc by immersing themselves in the direct experience.

    While some may go to the extreme…some immersion therapy works for people who are afraid of elevators, five or six storey buildings, even going to the beach and dipping in the water, etc. I once dated an Anglo man who had tried LHP and actually overcame many fears. He was the boldest dude I knew.

    Lot of these Christian idiots who don’t know Yoga, but make negative comments about it that are wrong and cruel, should talk to Anglo yogis and experts on yoga. But then they have to give up their pig headedness and listen. So put the goat head or the pig on the Evangelist in your photo..

    • Shubhangi Raykar

      I have been practicing Pranayam and basic 10 asanas for years off and on. At the beginning there is a prayer for Patanjali Muni who was a grammarian,a vaidya and a yogi, at the end we pray for the well being and happiness of everybody in the world.Where is any room for darkness here?The occult practices are part of Christianity.Immersion for being born again as a Christian at the time of baptism,Christ saying that let them eat my flesh and blood and be one with me etc. Unnecessarily blaming anything and everything that has no room in Christianity is misappropriated- like Surya namaskars being called Yeshu namaskars or that is maligned by calling it darkness. Both the Abrahamic religions are closed religions.

  • Abyss

    “…many evangelicals attempt to sever yoga of its Indic roots and repackage it as an ‘Act of God.’ ” – I believe they have a term for it, ‘Christian Yoga’. This is being appropriated and digested by removing the chanting of ‘Om’ so that it appears more secular (ref: Rajiv Malhotra ji).

  • sourabh bhattacharya

    Wondering this happening in US for yoga. Thanx Indiafacts.

  • Radha Rajan

    Oh i forgot. What about the terribly funny christian miracle healing howling prayers we see on You tube? If according to Jesus miracles the blind can hear and the lame can speak, it must be shocking for these miracle peddlers to know that yoga heals too. And without howling and yowling.

    • pradeep

      That was spot on..

  • Radha Rajan

    I am dark and I am for all things dark, including dark chocolate and dark art. Let the brown christians in India then not dance biblical themes in bharatanatyam set to Carnatic music.

    • example would be leela samson who tried to subvert and destroy the culture of India. Hindus blindly believing in humanity and giving them important and influential position while the converts trying to use this naivety of Hindus to destroy India.