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A Hindu View of 'Christian Yoga' by Rajiv Malhotra

posted Nov 9, 2010, 7:13 AM by web master

While yoga is not a "religion" in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine" is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching. This incompatibility runs much deeper.

Yoga's metaphysics center around the quest to attain liberation from one's conditioning caused by past karma. Karma includes the baggage from prior lives, underscoring the importance of reincarnation. While it is fashionable for many Westerners to say they believe in karma and reincarnation, they have seldom worked out the contradictions with core Biblical doctrines. For instance, according to karma theory, Adam and Eve's deeds would produce effects only on their individual future lives, but not on all their progeny ad infinitum. Karma is not a sexually transmitted problem flowing from ancestors. This view obviates the doctrine of original sin and eternal damnation. An individual's karmic debts accrue by personal action alone, in a separate and self-contained account. The view of an individual having multiple births also contradicts Christian ideas of eternal heaven and hell seen as a system of rewards and punishments in an afterlife. Yogic liberation is here and now, in the bodily state referred to and celebrated as jivanmukti, a concept unavailable in Christianity and in an afterlife somewhere else. Ironically, the very same Christians who espouse reincarnation also long to have family reunions in heaven.

Yogic liberation is therefore not contingent upon any unique historical event or intervention. Every individual's ultimate essence issat-chit-ananda, originally divine and not originally sinful. All humans come equipped to recover their own innate divinity without recourse to any historical person's suffering on their behalf. Karma dynamics and the spiritual practices to deal with them, are strictly an individual enterprise, and there is no special "deal" given to any chosen group, either by birth or by accepting a system of dogma franchised by an institution. The Abrahamic religions posit an infinite gap between God and the cosmos, bridged only in the distant past through unique prophetic revelations, making the exclusive lineage of prophets indispensable. (I refer to this doctrine elsewhere in my work as history-centrism.) Yoga, by contrast, has a non-dual cosmology, in which God is everything and permeates everything, and is at the same time also transcendent.

The yogic path of embodied-knowing seeks to dissolve the historical ego, both individual and collective, as false. It sees the Christian fixations on history and the associated guilt, as bondage and illusions to be erased through spiritual practice. Yoga is a do-it-yourself path that eliminates the need for intermediaries such as a priesthood or other institutional authority. Its emphasis on the body runs contrary to Christian beliefs that the body will lead humans astray. For example, the apostle Paul was troubled by the clash between body and spirit, and wrote: "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:22-24).

Most of the 20 million American yoga practitioners encounter these issues and find them troubling. Some have responded by distorting yogic principles in order to domesticate it into a Christian framework, i.e. the oxymoron, 'Christian Yoga.' Others simply avoid the issues or deny the differences. Likewise, many Hindu gurus obscure differences, characterizing Jesus as a great yogi and/or as one of several incarnations of God. These views belie the principles stated in the Nicene Creed, to which members of mainstream Christian denominations must adhere. They don't address the above underlying contradictions that might undermine their popularity with Judeo-Christian Americans. This is reductionist and unhelpful both to yoga and Christianity.

In my forthcoming book, The Audacity of Difference, I advocate that both sides adopt the dharmic stance called purva-paksha, the practice of gazing directly at an opponent's viewpoint in an honest manner. This stance involves a mastery of the ego and respect for difference, and the hope is that it would usher in a whole new level of interfaith colaborations.

Pragya Yoga

posted Nov 22, 2009, 4:47 AM by Sanjay Saxena   [ updated Aug 2, 2010, 7:09 PM ]

Pragya Yoga - An Exercise for Healthy and Happy Life

Akhandjyoti » Magazine » 2007 » Jan-Feb 2007 » Pragya Yoga - An Exercise for Healthy and Happy Life
Revered Gurudev, Pt. Shri Ram Sharma Acharya, has pioneered a novel approach to yoga for a healthy and happy life, which is simple and suitable for the masses. He has named it “Pragya Yoga” – under the noble “Pragya Abhiyan” mission. 

The Indian sages - the Rishis, have guided practical ways for accomplishing a purposeful life. A life when lived as per the will of the Creator becomes a life united with yoga. The Rishis have given the formulae to evolve the unlimited powers (potentials) of human life. Ashtang yoga is one such formula for accomplishing healthy and happy life. Aasans constitute the first phase of Astang Yoga. Aasan refers to a specific posture (while keeping the body active internally). Our rishis had keenly observed the sitting and standing postures of different animals. They had studied the effects of different postures in the laboratory of their own bodies and developed specific Asanas that had rejuvenating effect on the entire body-mind-soul system. However, with the changing attitudes in the course of time, we became materialistic and this single-tracked commercialized civilization has raised several problems in our life. Therefore, it is quite difficult to perform all these Asanas in the present age. 

Gurudev, Pt. Shri Ram Sharma Acharya, has pioneered a novel approach to yoga for a healthy and happy life, which is simple and suitable for the masses. He has named it “Pragya Yoga” – under the noble “Pragya Abhiyan” mission. Shantikunj - an Aranyak of our times, which is situated in the lap of the Ganges and under the shadow of theHimalayas is a center for learning this comprehensive yoga. A brief description of this form of yoga is given below. 

Warm up exercise:To begin with, the fist is tightly closed and opened. Now wrists are moved inwardly and outwardly in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction. This gives flexibility to the muscles and joints of the wrist. Then the elbows are folded and opened. The elbows are folded further and moved circularly in one direction and the other, as much as the joints of the shoulders allow. This circular motion provides exercise to the hands, shoulders and elbows together. Hands are moved once forward and next backward in the same way as the rudder is moved while rowing a boat. This provides excellent exercise to the arms and waist. 

Both hands are now stretched forward and then pulled inwardly; then moved clockwise and anti-clockwise direction. This simple exercise is very much helpful for patients suffering from stomach disorders. 

The neck is directly connected to all the nerves. Below the brain, it is the neck through which all nerves pass. Being seated in sukhasan the neck is moved circularly in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction. 
Pragya Yoga : This yoga involves all the three bodies (physical, subtle and causal) of a person. The Asan (physical exercise) rejuvenates body, Pranayam (breath control) strengthens mind and chanting in the heart of Mantra augments the will power. The sequence of exercises of this yoga is given below. 

Stand erect. Half-close the eyes and meditating on the brilliance of Lord Savita (rising sun) for a moment chant ‘Om’. With the faith that the subtle power of Savita is rejuvenating the body, mind and soul with each syllable of Gayatri mantra, follow the sequence of exercises given below. 

1. Tadasan: Chanting ‘Bhooh’ (in the heart i.e. to oneself) raise both the hands upward while inhaling gradually and deeply. Now stand on the toes. This benefits us in the case of weakness of the heart and blood disorders. (See Fig. 1 for posture.) 

2. Hastapadasan: Chanting ‘Bhuvah’, both the hands are brought downward from the posture of tadasan, while exhaling and the head is bowed down to touch the knees, with the palms trying to touch the floor. This removes gastric trouble and induces vital strength in the Ida, Pingla, and Sushumna Nadis. (See Fig. 2 for posture.) 

3. Vajrasan: Chanting ‘Swah”, toes are placed completely on the floor and haunches are set on the feet. The backbone should be erect and both palms placed on the knees. Breathe normally during this posture. This is helpful in digestion and cures gastric trouble and constipation and keeps the stomach light. (See Fig. 3 for posture.) 

4. Ushtrasan: Chanting ‘Tat’, inhale deeply, put knees on the floor and keep the feet straight on toes. The heels are held in by taking both the hands from the back side. The stomach is drawn upward and head is bent backward. This makes the heart strong and spinal column flexible. This also provides exercise to Ida, Pingla and Sushumna. (See Fig. 4 for posture.) 
5. Yogamudra: In this posture, chanting ‘Savituh’ exhale and clench together both the palms at the back and stretch upwardly. The head is kept downward so that the chest and the stomach touch the thigh. This posture removes severe gastric trouble, gives strength to digestive system and increases appetite. (See Fig. 5 for posture.) 

6. Ardh Tadasan: Chanting ‘Varenyam’ inhale deeply. Being seated in the posture of vajrasan, both the hands and eyes are raised upward. This is as useful as tadasan and cures the weakness of the heart and blood disorders. (See Fig. 6 for posture.) 

7. Shashankasan: Chanting ‘Bhargo’ exhale. Sitting in the posture of vajrasan both the hands are kept straight in front of the chest, palms touching the floor, while bending downwards; the stomach touching the thighs. This cures stomach problems and increases flexibility of backbone. (See Fig. 7 for posture.) 

8. Bhujangasan: Chanting ‘Devasya’ inhale deeply. From the previous posture, the body is moved ahead and head is raised upward like a snake’s hood. Eyes are kept looking upwards. This provides soothing exercise to the heart and the backbone. It also cures gastric troubles. (See Fig. 8 for posture.) 

9. Tiryak Bhujangasan: In the posture of bhujangasan, keeping the breath normal chant ‘Dhimahi’ and look toward the left. Then chant ‘Dhiyo’ and look toward the right. It increases flexibility of the waist. 

10. Shashankasan: Chanting ‘Yonah’ repeat step 7. 

11. Ardh Tadasan: Chanting ‘Prachodyat’ repeat step 6. 

12. Utkatasan: After tadasan, chant ‘Bhooh’ and breathing normally sit on the toes. Calves touching the thighs, place both the palms on the knees. This gives strength to calves and improves balance of the body. 
(See Fig. 9) 

13. Padhastasan: Chanting ‘Bhuvah’ repeat step 2. 

14. Tadasan: Chanting ‘Swah’ repeat step 1. 

15. Coming back to original position: Chanting ‘Om’ keep the hands stretched. Close the fists and bring the hands down energetically and stand erect. Breathe normal. 

If practiced sincerely, it may provide us the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of Ashtang Yoga. 
Akhandjyoti » Magazine » 2007 » Jan-Feb 2007 » Pragya Yoga - An Exercise for Healthy and Happy Life

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