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Yoga* and Christianity:
Loving with All Your Parts

by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati 
SwamiJ.com
 

Yoga and Christianity are being bridged by many people who are trying to integrate Yoga with their roots of Christianity. Yoga is in religion, but religion is not in Yoga. Yoga is in Christianity, but Christianity is not in Yoga. Many disagree.

Yoga Meditation and Christianity

Index of this page: 
A Bridge between Yoga and Christianity 
The Most Important Instruction 
Yoga is about "ALL" and "AND" 
Four Functions of Mind & Four Instruments of Love 
Loving with ALL your Heart 
Loving with ALL your Soul 
Loving with ALL your Mind 
Loving with ALL your Strength 
Training and Coordinating this Powerful Team 
World > Senses > Body > Breath > Mind > Silence 

Suggested links: 
World Community for Christian Meditation / WCCM.org 
Esoteric and Exoteric Christianity
Christian Yoga

A description of "Christian Mysticism" from Wikipedia:

"Mysticism is the philosophy and practice of a direct experience of God. Christian mysticism is traditionally pursued through the practice of the disciplines of prayer (including meditation and contemplation), fasting (including other forms of abstinence and self-denial), and alms-giving, service to others, as discussed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).... Christians believe that God dwells in them through the Holy Spirit, and that therefore, all Christians can experience God directly."

It may not be true that ALL Christians agree with this quote, but the point is not that they all agree. Rather, SOME of them do.

 
A Bridge between Yoga and Christianity
 

Yoga and Christianity are compatible: Yoga is increasingly being practiced by Christian people of the world, particularly in the West. While it is easy for critics to argue that the two are incompatible, many people intuitively know that Yoga, which is not a religion, and Christianity can be compatible. Actually, some principles of Yoga are already contained within Christianity and Christian meditation. To say that Yoga can be compatible with Christianity is not to say that that the two are the same. Compatibility and sameness are two very different principles. In addition, it is important to note that there may be individual denominations opposed to Yoga practices with body, breath and mind, just as there are individual denominations opposed to medical treatment, modern technology, or a variety of social and cultural activities. However, the fact that some denominations are opposed, and thus incompatible with Yoga in their individual view, does not mean that the whole of Christianity is incompatible.

See also:
  Is Yoga a Religion?
  Mysticism, Yoga, and Religion

This paper seeks to provide a bridge (this is only one of many) for those aspirants who are already practicing Yoga as the spiritual practice that it is, and who are also trying to integrate their roots in Christianity with that practice.

Being more available for love: Through Yoga, one can gain greater access to Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, so that these are more available for Love. It is as simple as that. In whatever context people practice their religion and Christian meditation, the ability to gain greater access to these instruments of Love is most beneficial.

Meaning of Yoga: Yoga meditation is holistic. Yoga comes from "yuj" which means "to join," to bring together the aspects of yourself that were never divided in the first place. Yoga meditation and Christian meditation are both involved in the whole person.

If there is room for tens of thousands
of denominations within Christianity,
surely there is plenty of room for Yoga
to be practiced by its adherents
who choose to do so.

Room for diversity: While some critics of Yoga say that it is not at all compatible with Christianity, there is already tremendous diversity of opinions and practices within the Christian religion, which serves a broad variety of people. The World Christian Encyclopedia (pub. 2001) is quoted as estimating that there are over 28,000 Christian denominations (later updated to 33,830, 39,000, and 40,000 according to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research) (pdf file reflecting 40,000 denominations). This same Bulletin states a goal of 55,000 denominations by the year 2025. The World Christian Database says that over 9,000 denominations are represented in its database (2004). Another Christian resource on the Internet says that the number of Christian denominations has increased to over 35,500 from approximately 1900 denominations that existed a hundred years ago.

If there is room for tens of thousands of denominations within Christianity, surely there is room for Yoga to be practiced by its adherents who choose to do so.

Following represents ONE Christian perspective.
Is this compatible with ALL Christians and
Christian denominations?
You decide.

Is this perspective compatible with the
spiritual goals of realization
that are central to Yoga?
You decide.

The point is that while Yoga is not compatible with ALL
Christian denominations, it is compatible with SOME of them.

See also the article:
Maranatha: A Christian Meditation Mantra

Esoteric and Exoteric: It is very useful to be aware of the polarities of Esoteric and Exoteric religion. Many of the people practicing Yoga are drawn to the Esoteric end of the spectrum, which is the domain of mysticism. Throughout human history the Esoteric practitioners have been shunned by the more Exoteric people. Thus, it is not only Yoga that some Christians are opposed to, but also the the mystical practices of their own religion. In such cases, Yoga is a convenient, visible target, while the effort is actually one of attempting to suppress the subtler essence of their own roots.

See also these articles for info on Exoteric and Esoteric approaches:
Mysticism, Yoga and Religion
Exoteric and Esoteric Christianity

ABOUT THE VIDEO BELOW: Can a Christian Practice Yoga? It depends on the individual Christian and the extent of his or her deep longing for union or Yoga that may lie deeply in the mind and heart. If one practices physical posture without the higher goals, it can hardly be called Yoga. It may be physical fitness, but it is no more Yoga than drinking wine and eating bread alone are Christianity.

The point of this video is utterly simple. It is in support of Christians who would not want their communion practices with bread and wine denigrated. Practitioners of authentic Yoga also do not want their practices denigrated.

Yoga is NOT a physical fitness program. It is a spiritual path or process. Nothing in this video is telling Christians to change their religious practices. It is suggesting that if one seeks the authentic goals of Yoga, then do it. If not, then don't do it. But don't distort and denigrate the true goals and nature of Yoga so that it matches your religion.

Can a Christian Practice Yoga?
(YouTube site of Swami J)

Maranatha Mantra
(YouTube site of Swami J)

The Most Important Instruction  

What Jesus referred to as the "most important" instruction includes the instruction for the follower of Christianity to:  

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'" (Mark 12:30) [The second instruction is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." However, we are only focusing here on the Yoga in the first instruction.]

A simple question: One might ask himself or herself a simple question, "How much, or what percentage of my heart soul, mind, and strength is available for loving, and what percentage is being dissipated in other ways?" Increasing the percentage by reducing the dissipations is the goal of Yoga.

Dom. John Main OSB, founder of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM.org) is quoted as saying, "What is clear from the New Testament is that Jesus achieved his mission by total abandonment of self, by handing over his life to the Father: 'Not my will [but] by thy will be done.' That is exactly the way for all of us. And that is the precise purpose of all meditation."

Four Instruments of Love: The "most important" instruction speaks of Loving with Four Instruments of Love: 

  • Heart 
  • Soul 
  • Mind  
  • Strength 

He repeats the word "ALL": However, he says the faithful of Christianity should use "ALL" of each of these. The point of having complete access is so important that he repeats the word "ALL" four separate times, teaching that one should Love the Lord: 

  • ". . .with ALL your Heart, 
  • and with ALL your Soul, 
  • and with ALL your Mind, 
  • and with ALL your Strength." 

He repeats the word "AND": The word "AND" is equally emphasized, as he repeats the word "AND" between each of the Four Instruments, not just once, saying that the Love for the Lord is to be practiced: 

  • ". . .with all your Heart, 
  • AND with all your Soul, 
  • AND with all your Mind, 
  • AND with all your Strength." 

Yoga is about "ALL" and "AND"   

Christianity says one should practice "ALL" and "AND" of each of these four (heart, soul, mind, strength), in the practice of Love for the Lord. These principles of "ALL" and "AND" are precisely what Yoga is about. Yoga science is holistic: 

  • Yoga means union: Yoga literally means "union"; it means to join together the aspects of ourselves that have never actually been divided in the first place, but that have become disconnected and dissipated.

  • Work with all of yourself: Yoga teaches one to work with each aspect of our being, as an entity unto itself, making that individual aspect better and better, more and more under our control ("ALL"). This includes senses, body, breath, conscious mind, and unconscious mind.

  • Coordinate aspects of yourself: Yoga also teaches one to coordinate and integrate those aspects of our being, such that they work together ("AND"). Training the aspects of ourselves is like training people who are on a team, wherein you train them both as individuals and as a collective team.

  • Become more able for spiritual practices: Those trained, coordinated, and integrated aspects are more fully able to do the spiritual practices, finally including the practice of the highest Spiritual Bliss of Love, within the ways, means, and descriptions of the teachers of Christianity.

Four Functions of Mind & Four Instruments of Love 

Cultivate the Four Functions of Mind: Yoga and Vedanta practices involve cultivating Four Functions of Mind, which are trained individually, as well as coordinated and integrated with one another.  (More info on Four Functions of Mind)

1) Buddhi (knows, decides, judges, discriminates)
2) Chitta (storage of merits and demerits; memory)
3) Manas (sensory motor mind)
4) Ahamkara (ego; literally "I-maker")

Cultivate the Four Instruments of Love: The "most important" practice of Jesus involves cultivating the Four Instruments of Love, which are trained individually with "ALL" of their intensity, as well as coordinated and integrated with one "AND" the other of the Four Instruments. 

1) Heart ("I knew in my heart...")
2) Soul (which has changeable and eternal aspects)
3) Mind (drives thoughts and actions)
4) Strength (commitment, conviction and stamina)

Two sets of principles are similar: These two sets of principles are amazingly similar, and thus the methods of Yoga can be of tremendous benefit in helping both the followers of Christianity and the non-Christian towards their spiritual goals. These principles serve both Christian meditation and non-sectarian meditation.

A Wheel with a Hub, 4 Spokes, 
and an External Frame: 

Like a wheel: In Yoga and Vedanta, the Four Functions of Mind are likened to four spokes on a wheel. 

  • Hub = Self / Center / Love (still, silent, center) 
  • 4 Spokes = 4 Functions of Mind (operates the wheel)
  • External Wheel = Actions and Speech in External World 

The hub is still: The external part of the wheel engages the external world by means of the four spokes, but the still, silent center of the wheel is the truly spiritual home of Love. The goal is to be aware of, accept, understand, and train the four spokes (the Four Functions of Mind), so that the Still, Silent unmoving Hub called Self can be experienced. 

Relating the Four Functions of Mind and 
the Four Instruments of Love:

The Four Functions of Mind taught by Yoga and Vedanta, and the Four Instruments of Love in Christianity, as taught by Jesus relate in this way:  

  • Heart relates to Buddhi (knows, decides, judges, discriminates) 
  • Soul relates to Chitta (storage of merits and demerits; memory)
  • Mind relates to Manas (sensory motor mind)
  • Strength relates to Ahamkara (ego; literally "I-maker") 

Buddhi is the faculty that knows, decides, judges, and discriminates. When the wisdom of Buddhi is listened to by the mind, then one's actions, speech, and thoughts are increasingly directed towards higher uses, the most important of which is Love of the Lord for the follower of Christianity.

Chitta is the storehouse of past impressions that often guide our current and future actions by the rising and playing out of stored desires. By purifying the Chitta, a higher percentage of those latent impressions are drawn to the spiritual pursuits described by Jesus, for the follower of Christianity, rather than being dissipated in old habits. 

Manas is the sensory-motor mind, which by it's nature is always asking questions, awaiting clear instructions from Buddhi. It is a wonderful tool if it can be trained to use more of it's abilities for spiritual practice, rather than just listening to the tapes of past actions stored in the Chitta. For the faithful of Christianity, clarity of the Chitta allows a greater focus of the Love of the Lord. 

Ahamkara is the ego, not in the sense of "egotistical," but as a powerful wave of energy, which when properly utilized, gives the follower of Jesus the strength to faithfully tread the path of Christianity.

Loving with "ALL" your Heart 

We are all familiar with phrases like: 

  • "I knew in my heart, I should do this." 
  • "I knew in my heart, I should not do that." 
  • "My mind said 'no'; my heart said 'yes'."
  • "I shall follow my heart." 

Instrument of choiceHeart surely has a range of emotions, but it is also a most powerful instrument of choice, which comes with a certainty. 

Increasing reliance on Buddhi: The student of Yoga practices with senses, body, breath, and the levels of mind, so that there is an ever increasing reliance on the power of Buddhi to direct actions, speech, and thoughts, rather than just acting on past conditionings (that are stored in Chitta, and at a deep level, are the conditioning aspect of Soul). 

With a clear Buddhi, one is filled with passion, clarity, purpose and Love. With a clear Buddhi, the Love described by Jesus is a clearly made choice for the follower of Christianity.  

Loving with "ALL" your Soul 

Weakening the negative impressions: By working with senses, body, breath, and mind, Yoga systematically loosens and weakens the negative impressions that are stored deep in the Soul level of the mind, Chitta. The negative just arises from the Chitta, and is allowed to pass away, while the student continues to work with body, breath, and mind.  

Increasing the positive: Meanwhile, more and more positive, useful impressions are stored in the Chitta. It does this through it's holistic approach of dealing with all levels of one's being. 

Soul is the deepest aspect of our individual being, containing our eternal aspect, and also our conditionings, whether negative or positive, hate or Love. (Different traditions may have different opinions about the implications or consequences of these conditionings) 

The balance shifts and spiritual emerges: As the percentage of positive goes up, and while negative goes down, one automatically turns towards greater spiritual pursuits. Devotion to spiritual practice and Love gradually become the new conditioned responses of the mind. These new deep impressions drive one towards Love from deep in the Soul level of Chitta. The faithful of Christianity become ever more committed at a soul level to the Love of the Lord.

Loving with "ALL" your Mind 

Mental distractions can be reduced: Minds can easily get distracted and dissipated in our hectic, modern world and its tremendous amount of sensory input. Yoga regulates this Mind, so that the mental distractions and dissipations can be reduced, leaving the Mind free to work in more positive and Spiritual directions. 

Getting Manas to listen to Buddhi: In Yoga, training the lower Mind, the sensory-motor mind of Manas to listen to the wisdom of the Buddhi is a major task. Through training of senses, body, and breath, the Mind too comes into alignment, and it's skills are increasingly available as a most loyal servant in the act of Love. 

Making mind more available for love: As the percentage of access to Mind goes up, the distraction of Mind into less useful thoughts, emotions, actions and speech goes down. As the access to Mind goes up, there is an increasing coordination with the other three aspects of the inner instrument. It increases the availability of the mind for Love in the spirit of Christianity, however the practitioner and teachers may interpret that Love.

Loving with "ALL" your Strength 

The powerhouse of determination: Strength can fade and we become weakened by misdirecting our energies towards actions we don't really believe in, or that we know are not good for us. In Yoga, ego is not a negative force. Ahamkara, ego, is the powerhouse of determination needed to tread the path of spirituality. 

Personality is not "who I am": In psychology, ego is sometimes viewed as a construction of personality. In Yoga that collection of personality traits is "not who I am," but rather are false identities from which one can awaken, so as to experience the more authentic self that is underneath. (See Two Egos

Behind false identities, ego is strength: In Yoga, the intensity of those false identities are let go, while the instrument itself, the Ahamkara, becomes stronger and stronger. We become a very powerful wave in an Infinite Ocean of Bliss. This Strength is the Power in Love; is not a passive, fragile kind of Love. 

Love becomes an overwhelming force: Without this Strength, the clarity and decisions of Buddhi would have no power; Buddhi would seem to be weak. With the power of Ahamkara aligned with the wisdom and certainty of Buddhi, Love becomes an overwhelming force. In Christianity, Love is the key ingredient in the instruction that Jesus said is most important.

Training and Coordinating the Powerful Team 

Train, coordinate, and focus: A major focus of Yoga science is to train each of the Four Functions of Mind (Manas, Chitta, Ahamkara, and Buddhi), to coordinate them, and then to focus them as an integrated force in Meditation, Contemplation, Prayer and Mantra

One-pointedness brings freedom from distractions: One of the major single practices of Yoga is learning to make the Manas one-pointed, and to not be so quickly disturbed and distracted by the many images or impressions arising from Chitta in a stream of thought, that is colored by Ahamkara. As this skill of one-pointedness evolves and follows the clarity of Buddhi, one gains greater access to the benefits that come from this, including greater freedom from distractions and dissipations, and the ability to focus on spiritual pursuit.  

Universally bring a powerful wave of love: These principles of dealing with ourselves are universal, and apply equally to people of all faiths, including Christianity. For one who practices Yoga and the faith of Christianity, it means increasing one's access to "ALL" of the Heart, and "ALL" of the Soul, and "ALL" of the Mind, and "ALL" of one's Strength, so that these can be concentrated in a most powerful wave of Love directed towards the Lord of one's faith. 

Laser like focus towards meditation: The increased availability and integration of Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, along with Buddhi, Chitta, Manas, and Ahamkara brings a laser like focus that can take one to deep meditation, and the heights of Love as taught in Christianity.

Maranatha mantra: There is an ancient Christian mantra, Maranatha, that can be quite useful to the Christian meditator. Maranatha is the final instruction of St. Paul's teachings to the Corinthians, and is St. John's final instruction in the Book of Revelations. It means, "Come Lord."

See also the article:
Maranatha: A Christian Meditation Mantra

World > Senses > Body > Breath > Mind > Silence

Systematically move through all levels: Yoga meditation systematically deals with all levels of one's being, so that those levels are not obstacles to spiritual growth, whether one is practicing only Yoga, or practicing Yoga in the context of Christianity:  

  • All people have relationships: All humans, of all religions, including Christianity, have a relationship with the world, which can be good or bad, useful or not useful. 

  • All people have senses: All people, including those of Christianity, have senses, which can be distracted and dissipated, or can be trained in positive ways. 

  • All people have a body: All have a body, which can be healthy or unhealthy, troublesome or of service, abused or used wisely as a tool.

  • All people have breath: All people have breath, and this breath might be irregular and stress producing to the autonomic nervous system, or smooth and calming, such as to allow peace and serenity. 

  • All people have a mind: All people have a mind, both conscious and unconscious, which can be unruly, noisy, distracting and disturbing, or which can be trained to focus on the useful, while releasing the un-useful. 

  • All people have depth of silence: All people, including those of Christianity, have a depth of silence, whether that silence is blocked by the current conditions of the grosser levels of one's being, or the silence is consciously cultivated for tranquility, spiritual peace and insight. 

Yoga meditation systematically leads your awareness through the levels of world, senses, body, breath, and mind, and then to a deep stillness and silence, wherein the higher love of Christianity can be experienced. 

World > Senses > Body > Breath > Mind > Silence 

Stillness and silence support Christianity: That stillness and silence is the place from where you can truly Be still and know. It is the place where the follower of Christianity can find the door, so that you can practice the suggestion to, Knock and the door will be opened. It is the silence from where you might hear the Word that was in the beginning, which is with God, and is God. It does not work in opposition of Christianity, but in support of those traveling the path of Christianity.

 

 

 

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This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.