“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the bumbling, fumbling amateurish religious blog which is trying to find a way through the thickets to get a clearer view of Jesus the man. In a recent post on yoga (“603: Is yoga more than just posturing?”) I put the case for this gentle oriental form of exercise and expressed bafflement that some Christians objected to it on religious grounds. Former journalist and yoga teacher Martin King from Hull, whom I met at the European Christian Anarchist Conference a couple of weeks ago, kindly wrote a piece for Zingcreed on this very topic. This throws a completely different light on the topic. I hope you find this interesting.
Yoga and ChristiansOne of the greatest modern day examples of how to live a Jesus-likelife of non-violence, turning the other cheek, yet at the same timestanding up to oppression, challenging the powers and principalitieswas Mahatma Gandhi.Gandhi was a yogi (a practitioner of yoga). Yoga is not simply aboutbeing able (or not) to touch ones toes. No. The word itself is takento mean ‘union.’ Union with all of life, as Jesus himself also taught.Within the world of yoga there are, as in all great spiritualphilosophies and practises, suggestions on how to live the ‘life in itsfullness’ (John 10:10) that Jesus talked of.For Christians this is the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesusbasically lays out his manifesto for peace, both within and without.As we know, the concept of compassion and non-violence is at thetop of the list.In yoga, there are what are called the Yamas and Niyamas, the yogado’s and do not’s, which include such things as ahimsa, (non-violence/universal compassion) aparigraha (non covetousness),asteya (non stealing). On the concept of ahimsa, Gandhi says: “Ifwe are to be non-violent, we must then not wish for anything on thisearth which the meanest or the lowest of human beings cannothave.” (Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, p87) Sound familiar? “Loveyour enemies…… What you do to the least among you, you do alsoto me…..” Gandhi here isn’t ‘co-opting Christianity’ as some mayconsider, he’s merely teaching what is obvious to anyone who isserious about spiritual practices speaks of, whether Jesus, Buddha,Mohamed, Lao Tzu, or that man Peter Taylor: Peace and Love.OK, let’s move on to that ol’ dog, the devil. So, as the so-calledevangelical Christians say, taking their lead from the apostle Paul(who never met Jesus), anything outside of Jesus is of the devil, it’spaganism and you’ll burn in hell for it.When Jesus refers to the devil, he is clearly referring to one’s ego.That which will keep us from realising ourselves as beings of aloving God. Jesus was a genius. He knew that the ego must bedestroyed, and he taught accordingly. Forgiveness, compassion,standing with the least amongst us, helping without being identi<edas being the helper… All these things dampen and help to destroythe ego/the devil/that which keeps us from our brothers and sisters,in union (yoga) with God.
If Christians say that yoga shouldn’t be practised for fear of it beingof the devil and therefore will lead us to hell, as if hell is somethingoutside planet earth then they haven’t grasped the most basicconcept of Christianity – that of an unconditionally loving God. Whywould an unconditionally loving God allow his/her followers to go tohell if he’s all powerful and loves them without prejudice? Surely heloves them whatever they do? Isn’t that what unconditional means?If we’re talking about hell as being a concept on earth, that of, say,addiction, emptiness, restlessness etc, then yoga, as with Jesus, canhelp to bring freedom from such issues. And that’s what it’s allabout. Freedom. Here. Now.Of course, there is a wealth of mumbo-jumbo and hucos pucos outthere and we need some discernment around it. If a book titlesuggests you can ‘heal you life and be enlightened in 7 days’, er,don’t buy it!But don’t worry too much either.Life’s a journey. Yoga is truth. Jesus is truth. Truth will set you free.Martin King