Quote from the WT, i.e. Yoga. Opinions?

by unique1 32 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • unique1

    "So once again we ask: 'Can yoga be practiced simply as a physical exercise to develop a healthy body and a relaxed mind, without any involvement with religion?' In view of its background, the answer would have to be no."

    OK, I know Yoga comes from a religious background, but I have been taking a Yoga class for several months, and if there was any thing religious I would have stopped the class, but there is NOTHING. You do sit quiet for a time at the begining focusing on your breath, but she does not encourage us to meditate during this time or anything. With any exercising you have to ensure that you exhale one the exersion and inhale one the rest, we do this in my aerobics and weight training class as well so I see nothing wrong with focusing on your breath. All we do is stretch (poses). I have really toned up doing this and it has given me better flexibility. I can't understand why they would ban everyone from a good exercise, just because it has been used in religion sometime in the past, if no religious practices are associated with it now. Just ranting. Opinions?

  • teenyuck

    Your Yoga mat is demonized....you just don't realize it. You are already in Satan's grip.

    Stop, run, burn the mat and air out the house. You may have to dump the computer also...you did mention Yoga on it. Sad.

    But Seriously, they are complete idiots. The "Complete Idiots Guide to Life" by the WTBTS. Can be picked up at any KH.

  • proplog2

    This is a good example of demonphobia. Meditation/Relaxation is an essential part of Yoga. So what's wrong with "emptying your mind" of the incessant chatter. Emptying your mind teaches you that your personal thoughts and ego aren't of supreme importance. It is an excellent way to break obsessional thinking and lower your blood pressure - even cure anxiety attacks.

  • unique1

    teenyuck: LOL

  • Billygoat

    Like this surprises us? They were the ones that said immunizations were demonized and that cooking with aluminum pans was dangerous for your health.

  • MegaDude

    I have found meditation a helpful exercise to clear the mind of exaggerated emotion and stress. It has nothing to do with religion, although one could certainly incorporate it into a faith-path if one so desired. You can make yoga a spiritual practice or you can make it a great workout. Yoga tones and strengthens (look at Madonna) very effectively. The Watchtower is very effective in cultivating paranoia in just about everything that it can't control. As far as the Gov. Body is concerned, if it doesn't benefit the organization financially or make you more subservient to it, they want you to feel paranoid or guilty about it.

    The only downside to yoga for me is that some of the poses are hard for me to hold and I begin shaking like Katherine Hepburn in the freezing cold while cute yoga babes in tights seemed to hold their poses perfectly. It's a bit embarassing being the over-the-hill yoga dude wanna-be but it is a great workout. You feel like you've had an all-over massage when the class is over and blocked energy in your muscles is released and flowing. Try it, you may like it.

  • freedom96

    Similar with the martial arts. All the supposed spiritism, meditating, etc. I have been involved for years, have reached black belt status, and though we have meditated, no demonic stuff was involved, and meditating really consisted of breathing exercises and concentrating, and relaxing.

    But, the WTS with all their wisdom, thinks they know it all, so they put a blanket policy of NO on anything they don't understand.

    I remember yoga being "demonized" and a horrible thing to do.

  • gcc2k

    I've been looking into this a bit, since I was unaware that the WT forbids (or discourages?) yoga. Apparently many other Christian groups feel this way.

    I ran across the following article, which makes some pretty good points. I am left with the impression that, no matter the physical benefits, it is essentially a form of false worship, or at least could lead to it. Although my instructor focus mostly on the physical aspects, she has also mentioned things like "I have been on many journeys". I'm curious to research acupuncture and see how that compares in terms of its origins and conflict with Christian beliefs.

    The original is at http://www.gospelcom.net/apologeticsindex/brr0104.html Rob's Reviews
    A Ministry of the Institute for the Development of Evangelical Apologetics
    P.O. Box 60511, Pasadena, CA 91116; (626) 796-3368
    Vol. 1, No. 4 - March 25, 2001

    In This Issue:
    Yoga Journal, April 2001

    Major Review

    Does Yoga Conflict with Christianity?
    A Response to Yoga Journal
    By Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

    Thurman, Robert A. F. "Reality Check: Renowned Buddhist scholar Robert
    Thurman reflects on the Yoga Sutra and how we can know reality for
    ourselves." Living Yoga column. Yoga Journal, March/April 2001, 67-71.

    Life, David. "My Guru, My Self: Even a longtime student like Jivamukti Yoga
    Center founder David Life gets nervous when his teacher comes to town."
    Profile column. Yoga Journal, March/April 2001, 73-76.

    Reder, Alan. "Reconcilable Differences: A Buddhist, a Christian, a Jew, and
    a Muslim share how they blend yoga with their religious beliefs." Yoga
    Journal, March/April 2001, 78-85, 156. Cover title: "The Question on
    Everyone's Mind: Does Yoga Conflict with My Religion?"

    What's wrong with this picture?
    In the cover article for the March/April 2001 Yoga Journal, contributing
    editor Alan Reder argues that yoga can be practiced by Buddhists,
    Christians, Jews, and Muslims - and by implication, just about anyone else -
    without any conflict with their religion. Yet the two major articles that
    precede Reder's piece illustrate in unmistakable terms that yoga, in the
    usual sense employed in the magazine itself, is incorrigibly religious.

    Thurman: Yoga is for Reality, Man
    In his article "Reality Check," Robert Thurman explains rather clearly the
    Eastern religious roots of yoga. Oddly, he claims that he went East in
    search of truth because Western civilization's "authorities all said you
    could not know reality" (67). He soon narrows the field of Western
    "authorities" to the modern materialistic philosophy that views the mind as
    a mere function of the brain, a notion that implies that we really cannot
    know ourselves. But of course - the same point has been made from the
    Christian side by C. S. Lewis and others. Materialism implies that all of
    our thoughts are the manifestation of material processes; there is no "I" to
    know or be known. Unfortunately, this observation undermines the Eastern
    monistic philosophy that Thurman favors as well, since in that tradition the
    concrete existence of the individual "I" is also denied. The only
    philosophy that can deliver true knowledge of the self is a biblically based
    philosophy: human beings are concrete individuals with inherent meaning and
    value because God created them, and we can know ourselves because God
    created us with that capacity in order to make it possible for us to know
    and love him. As John Calvin pointed out in the opening paragraph of his
    Institutes of the Christian Religion, we cannot truly know ourselves without
    also knowing God.

    According to Thurman, the "gods" were unable to deliver happiness, so human
    beings must attain it on their own (67, 68). This premise obviously implies
    a repudiation of the biblically based religions of Judaism and Christianity,
    especially the latter, according to which our eternal happiness is dependent
    entirely on the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

    Although Thurman sees some movement in the right direction in other
    traditions, it is in India that he locates the path to truth and reality.
    The civilization of India "created a science of the soul" in which the mind
    is viewed as determining a person's happiness or suffering. This is an
    experimental science in which the laboratory is the mind-body complex and
    the "technology is yoga, the yoking of conscious attention to empirical
    exploration, transformative discovery, and healing modification" (68). This
    is quintessential New Age thinking: reinterpreting Eastern religious rituals
    and practices as a science.

    Thurman acknowledges that most of the "inner scientists" (his name for the
    gurus and other movers and shakers in the development of yoga) belonged to a
    religious tradition, of which he names the Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu
    religions (68). The "inner scientist" on which he focuses is Patanjali, the
    Hindu guru who authored the Yoga Sutra (69). Thurman explains that
    according to Patanjali, "Yoga is the actuality of our union with the
    absolute, the supreme reality of ourselves and everything, the blissful
    void, freedom, or what is called Absolute Glory (Brahman, nirvana), God
    (Ishvar), or Buddha, Reality Embodied (Dharmakaya), and many other names"
    (70). The rest of Thurman's article expands on this understanding of yoga.
    Suffice it to say, he has set forth the religious significance of yoga quite

    Life: You Are Your Own Yoga Teacher
    David Life runs the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City. In his article,
    Life tells about his guru's visit to New York. The religious role of the
    guru for Life is established immediately. Life tells us, "I pray to a
    picture of Pattabhi Jois every day," and he points out that the guru "backs
    up everything with Sanskrit scripture" (73). According to Life, Pattabhi
    Jois "pulsates with the auru of a true siddha, one who has acquired unusual
    powers through dedication to yoga practice and teaching for more than 70
    years" (74). Heady stuff, and Life admits that being around his guru makes
    him nervous.

    Each day after class the guru's followers lined up to take turns bowing down
    to Guruji, touching the guru's feet and then touching their own heads. When
    one of Life's students expressed uneasiness about bowing down to the guru,
    Life told him, "Don't bow down to just a man . . . instead bow down to your
    own Self that you recognize inside him. Then bowing down to him is no
    different than bowing down before your own higher nature" (76). The student
    complied, apparently deciding that he didn't have a problem worshiping
    himself. After all, according to the pantheistic philosophy he was taught,
    we are all one divine Self.

    Reder: Yoga (ummmph!) Fits All Religions
    Alan Reder, a "disaffected Jew" who followed the Swami Muktananda, admits
    that he found the mystical chantings of the ashram more to his liking than
    the traditional synagogue services of his youth (80). While admitting that
    some people left the religion of their childhood to pursue the promise of
    yoga, Reder points out that many people today are taking yoga with them to
    their church or synagogue.

    "In general," Reder says, "yoga is taught here in a way that strips away
    much of its Indian context" (81). This is true, but the Indian context that
    remains includes very specific religious elements. As Reder acknowledges,
    "teacher and students" in yoga classes commonly greet each other with the
    Sanskrit "Namaste," meaning, "I honor the Divine within you." According to
    Reder, "Fundamentalist religious leaders of any major Western tradition
    would probably say that pursuing a God within subverts worship of God
    without" (81). No surprise that objections to mixing yoga with, say,
    Christianity, are attributed to the nameless bogeyman fundamentalists. This
    is classic move Number One in the religious apologetics of the left these

    Classic move Number Two is to invoke the opinions of erudite scholars of
    religion who assure us that there's nothing to the views of those
    narrow-minded fundies. So Reder offers a choice comment from Huston Smith,
    author of the recent book Why Religion Matters, and refers to the arguments
    for religious relativism mustered by Matthew Fox (One River, Many Wells) and
    Jacob Needleman (A Little Book on Love). According to these scholars, "all
    of the major religions at their deepest level offer alternate routes to a
    common destination" (81). Translation: If you dig around long enough you
    can find pantheistic mystics in the annals of every major world
    religion-somehow proving that all religions at their core are mystical paths
    to discovering the divine in ourselves. Believe it or not, this is the kind
    of argument that passes for serious scholarship in religious studies these

    According to Reder, the world's religious institutions resist admitting this
    mystical commonality with each other to protect their power (82). I almost
    fell of my chair when I read this old chestnut. The fact is that the
    Eastern religions actively promote the unity of all world religions. As for
    the Western religions, the Big Three all resist such a claim because it is
    contrary to the explicit teaching of their founders and scriptures. Moses,
    Muhammad, and Jesus were all awfully clear on one point: there is only one
    true God, and that God is the One who created the universe and who revealed
    himself to Abraham. If Judaism, Islam, and Christianity give up this core
    conviction, they might as well disband and tell their members to go become

    Reder completely misconstrues the problem here as the narrow-minded
    unwillingness of religious people to allow that God could be known by other
    names (84). This is not the issue at all. Christians are very comfortable
    with the idea of God being known by many names-after all, the Bible uses
    many names for God, and encourages us to translate biblical names into their
    equivalents in other languages (e.g., "God" instead of Elohim or Theos).
    But there are limits. I don't think, for example, that "Alan Reder" or "Rob
    Bowman" or even "Pattabhi Jois" are among God's names.

    Since the monotheistic religions are not likely to disband, what New Agers
    are doing today is to try to transform them into Western versions of
    Buddhism. Reder comes very close to admitting as much. He speaks of a
    "true cross-fertilization" taking place as yoga becomes entwined as part of
    the new spirituality of "progressive" religious elements in the Western
    faiths (156). In other words, yoga is being used as a wedge in the door of
    churches and synagogues to bring in mystical beliefs. The strategy:
    reinterpret the Abrahamic faiths in mystical terms and dismiss all
    resistance to this approach as the foot-dragging of power-hungry clergy or
    reactionary fundamentalists.

    In a sidebar, Phil Catalfo, a senior editor of Yoga Journal, asks, "Is Yoga
    a Religion?" This is an easy one: of course not. But this is like asking
    if prayer is a religion. No, but it is an incorrigibly religious practice.
    The same is true of yoga. Catalfo tries to finesse this fact by an appeal
    to the standard New Age distinction between religion and spirituality:

    Spirituality, it could be said, has to do with one's interior life, the
    ever-evolving understanding of one's self and one's place in the cosmos-what
    Victor Frankl called humanity's "search for meaning." Religion, on the
    other hand, can be seen as spirituality's external counterpart, the
    organizational structure we give to our individual and collective spiritual
    processes: the rituals, doctrines, prayers, chants, and ceremonies, and the
    congregations that come together to share them (83).

    Apparently, in Catalfo's mind one's "understanding" of the personal and
    cosmic issues of life can somehow be separated from the "doctrines" of one's
    religion. (A question: Is the distinction between religion and spirituality
    a doctrine-and if so, is it therefore religious, not spiritual?) Another
    translation would seem to be in order: What Catalfo probably means here is
    that spirituality can be pantheistic and transpersonal even while one's
    religion is monotheistic and interpersonal. In other words, the Jew can
    somehow recite the Shema or the Christian recite the Nicene Creed while at
    the same time having the "understanding" that these words are not to be read
    "literally" and that God is really the divine in everyone. Of course, no
    one suggests that Buddhists do their chanting while thinking to themselves
    that what their Buddhist faith really means "at the deepest level" is that
    they are lost sinners who can enjoy eternal life only through faith in Jesus
    as their Savior and Lord! No-this "cross-fertilization" works only in one
    direction, and the distinction between spirituality and religion is a
    conjurer's trick to convince people that monotheistic religion can and
    should accommodate pantheistic spirituality. The pantheistic religions,
    meanwhile, may remain safely pantheistic in their spirituality as well.

    Does yoga conflict with my religion? You betcha. Anything that tells
    people that God cannot bring them ultimate happiness (as Robert Thurman
    argued) conflicts with my belief that the chief end of human beings is to
    love God and enjoy him forever. Anything that encourages people to worship
    their yoga master (as David Life attested) conflicts with my belief that the
    Lord is God and there is no other. Anything that encourages people to
    believe that spiritual fulfillment can be attained in any religion (as Alan
    Reder claims) conflicts with my belief that without Jesus Christ people of
    all religions (even Christianity!) are lost.

    (c)2001, Robert M. Bowman, Jr. Direct all correspondence to
    [email protected].

  • MegaDude

    This article demonstrates the narrow mindedness of group think.

    I have come to believe that just about anything can be made a religious or spiritual practice. But just because something traditionally is a religious practice doesn't make a religious practice for everybody.

    Most people who celebrate Christmas make no religious connotation to a Christmas tree other than as a decoration. The only people who connect a Christmas tree to pagan worship that I have met are Jehovah's Witnesses. And they only do that because one of their past presidents told them to. Christmas can be a festive day where you simply get together with family and friends and exchange gifts, or some view it as the birthday of Jesus. Who gets to say exactly what Christmas is? You do, that's who, FOR YOURSELF. Even the Watchtower noted that the Japanese like to celebrate Christmas and they don't believe in Jesus.

    Yoga can be religious or not religious, spiritual or not spiritual, depending upon *the context* in which you practice it. If you view it as a spiritual path, then it is a spiritual path *for you.* For myself, it is the most effective series of exercise postures to unknot my shoulder muscles after a hard day's work. I don't view it as a path to "the divine" but I must say my shoulders feel divinely afterwards.

  • gcc2k

    I agree that yoga can be religious or not. But, even if I am setting out to perform yoga just for the physical benefits, it could lead to more than that, consciously or not.

    The "slightly pregnant" analogy seems to apply here. Certainly for someone who has given up religion altogether it would be easy to go in and just view it as a new experience. It seems that those who are trying to avoid non-Christian influence should have a problem with it. I've got to back the JW stance on this one, as much as I love my class.

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