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What exactly is Surya Namaskara?
Does it violate Christian Commandments?

Mathew 18:6 - But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

What exactly is Surya Namaskara? Does it violate Christian Commandments?
Surya namaskara quite literally means "saluting the sun" and in the words of the secular Wikipedia, "is a modern form of sun worship, self vitalization and exercise introduction," movements and poses which "can be practised on varying levels of awareness, ranging from that of physical exercise in various styles, to a complete sadhana which incorporates asana, pranayama, mantra and chakra meditation."

Since Hindus believe 'Surya' to be a sun god (son of Dyaus Pitar), Surya Namaskara definitely amounts to sun worship in violation of the First Commandment of the Decalogue and greatly invites Divine displeasure.

Is it ok to practice Surya Namaskara as an excercise without meaning worship?
While it is possible to practice movements and poses of Surya namaskara on varying levels of awareness, ranging from that of physical exercise in various styles, to a complete sadhana incorporating asana, pranayama, mantra and chakra meditation, it is not really advisable to adopt the practice even for the benefit of physical exercise on account of its deep connotations of Hindu worship of the sun god. If one still feels the need to do so, one must refrain from referring to it as Surya Namaskara in order to distinguish clearly between a practice amounting to false worship and a beneficial - if at all - physical exercise.

Is it ok to perform Surya Namaskara without meaning worship in order to satisfy a law/order so as to preserve peace and communal harmony?
Firstly, one is never bound to obey an unjust law even if it were promulgated by a State "because there can be no obligation to obey if it means committing sin." (St. Francis of Assisi, Rule of 1221, Chapter V)
Secondly, even if one were to guard one's heart from worshipping nature while performing the act externally, one does not escape the consequences of the sin of scandal the description of which our Lord our portrayed as very grave. (cf. Mt. 18:6)
Eleazar preferred a glorious death to obedience to the king's orders to eat pork which through a certain signification was considered to defile a Jew. To his friends among those in charge of providing the unlawful meat who took him aside and offered to bring him a meat of his choice so that he could legitimately eat and pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king, Eleazar boldly answered:
"Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws." (2 Maccabees 6: 24-28, RSV)
If Eleazar showed such reverence for what was merely a Jewish ritual law, how much more should the Christian hold fast to the Divine law of the Decalogue, in letter and in spirit, giving no scandal through a "legal" observation of a contrary law dishonouring through rivalry, the King of kings who will be the Judge of all?

What is yoga? EXTRACT:
True yoga is the occult use of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation for supposed spiritual enlightenment.
The physical exercises of yoga are believed to prevent disease and maintain health through bodily regulation of prana (mystical energy). In Hindu mythology, the serpent goddess Kundalini ‘rests’ at the base of the spine. She is aroused by yoga practice, travels up the spine regulating prana, opens the body’s alleged chakras (psychic centers), unleashes psychic powers, and finally reaches the top or crown chakra permitting occult enlightenment. [46]

               THE VATICAN DOCUMENT ON THE NEW AGE
A central element in [C. G. Jung’s] thought is the cult of the sun, where God is the vital energy (libido) within a person… This is “the god within” to which Jung refers, the essential divinity he believed to be in every human being. The path to the inner universe is through the unconscious. The inner world's correspondence to the outer one is in the collective unconscious. [n 2.3.3]
[In New Age, the cosmos] is animated by an Energy, which is also identified as the divine Soul or Spirit [n 2.3.3]

People are subject to the determining influences of the stars, but can be opened to the divinity which lives within them, in their continual search (by means of appropriate techniques) for an ever greater harmony between the self and divine cosmic energy. There is no need for Revelation or Salvation which would come to people from outside themselves, but simply a need to experience the salvation hidden within themselves (self-salvation), by mastering psycho- physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment.
Some stages on the way to self-redemption are preparatory (meditation, body harmony, releasing self-healing energies). They are the starting-point for processes of spiritualisation, perfection and enlightenment which help people to acquire further self-control and psychic concentration on “transformation” of the individual self into “cosmic consciousness”. The destiny of the human person is a series of successive reincarnations of the soul in different bodies. This is understood not as the cycle of samsara, in the sense of purification as punishment, but as a gradual ascent towards the perfect development of one's potential. Psychology is used to explain mind expansion as “mystical” experiences. Yoga, zen, transcendental meditation and tantric exercises lead to an experience of self-fulfilment or enlightenment. [n 2.3.4.1]
People discover their profound connectedness with the sacred universal force or energy which is the nucleus of all life. When they have made this discovery, men and women can set out on a path to perfection, which will enable them to sort out their personal lives and their relationship to the world, [n 3.1]
[T]he God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent. Nor is it the Creator and sustainer of the universe, but an “impersonal energy” immanent in the world, with which it forms a “cosmic unity”: “All is one”. [n 2.3.4.2] God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy. [n 2.3.4.3]
The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world… New Age practices are not really prayer, in that they are generally a question of introspection or fusion with cosmic energy, as opposed to the double orientation of Christian prayer, which involves introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. [n 4]
 
The Vatican Document leaves no element of doubt. It identifies the mystical experiences and psycho-spiritual techniques like yoga, zen and T.M. that purportedly lead to enlightenment. It notes that meditation, body harmony, self-control and psychic concentration are among these techniques. It states that in New Age this energy is considered to be divine, or god.
Some of these techniques are a manipulation of this impersonal divine energy.
The eight-fold path of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga, without being named, is clearly identified as containing all the elements that the Document cautions Christian believers about. Raja Yoga starts at the physical level, with bodily discipline, harmony, and good posture [asanas]; the central stage is the grand entry to the mental level with pranayamic breathing; it is followed by three levels of withdrawal from the senses, contemplation, and meditation; the culmination is the goal of Raja Yoga- the uniojn of the self with the Self, enlightenment.
In referring to the thought of Jung, himself one of the prominent figures in New Age, the Document also provides us an insight into the connection between the “cult of the sun” [Surya Namaskar?], belief in a ‘divine energy’ within, and the importance of meditation- the role of the “unconscious” in one’s attempt to attaining yogic unity of the individual energy, jivatama, with the super-consciousness, the divine cosmic energy, the paramatma.

This is the triad of Surya Namaskar, Pranayama and Yoga, interlinked, and inseparable.
                                                                    YOGA                                                           
INTRODUCTION
In the first two issues [December 2006] of The Catholic Times, Chennai, I have analysed the New Age Movement which Pope John Paul II saw as “one of the greatest threats to Christianity in the third millennium”. In this series of articles, specially re-written for The Catholic Times, I will try to explain, as simply and briefly as possible, the various “New Age” practices mentioned in the February 3, 2003 'Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, a Christian Reflection on the New Age'. The purpose is to create awareness among Catholics of these “New Age” dangers, so that they will take every precaution to avoid them. Every such article carried in this newspaper has been carried in other Catholic magazines whose editors are priests, or who have highly-respected lay ministries. In this issue we look at YOGA.
A Christian must first understand that we are at all times engaged in spiritual warfare, and that Satan uses new means to deceive according to the times. In today’s fast-paced stressful, materialistic, consumeristic world, there is a deep spiritual thirst and a need to find ways to de-stress. New Age gurus offer mind-exercises, meditations, mantra chanting; and YOGA.

MAY YOGA BE PRACTISED BY CHRISTIANS ? The answer, short and simple, is: “NO”.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS “CHRISTIAN” YOGA ? Again, the answer is an emphatic “NO”.
There are good people who try to “Christianize” everything. They say that anything that is non-Christian can be “brought under the Lordship of Jesus”. I agree with them till that point. Everything can, and must, be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But, they then take a step further, and insist that such things can be used by Christians. This is where they go wrong. Practices which are intrinsically pagan cannot be used by Christians. Especially when the philosophies behind these practices are diametrically opposed to the revelation of the Bible, which is the living Word of God.
May Christians practise pranayama or yogic breathing exercises ? What about the asanas - the postures or physical exercises of yoga ? May Christians practise them ? To that question, my answer is “yes”, but with some qualifications:
Deep breathing is to be encouraged. The increased intake of oxygen lowers the levels of carbon-di-oxide in the blood, and is good for metabolism, and therefore for health. Good posture and physical exercise facilitate improved breathing and blood circulation, and tone up the muscles. So, then, a Christian may do yoga ? I never said that. A Christian may do the breathing and the exercises, but does not need to call it “yoga”. Call it simply proper breathing, and fitness exercising.
The reason is, that when we say we are doing ‘yoga’, there are wider implications. If we closely question those who are teaching us yoga, even if they are Catholic lay persons or priests, we are 100% certain to find that, along with their faith in yoga, they have accepted other beliefs, philosophies and practices which are not compatible with the Catholic faith. We will find that they have compromised in other areas of Biblical truth. This has always been my personal experience.

TWO DOCUMENTS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The system of yoga is not simply a group of physical exercises. It is an eight-staged process that starts at the physical level [asanas], moves through the mental level [meditational techniques], and finishes at the SPIRITUAL level [self-realization]. Any treatment or practice that concerns not just the human body but also the human mind and one’s spirit or soul, is to be examined very carefully. If yoga were NOT such a system, NOT falling in this category, why would it be mentioned in not one but TWO Vatican Documents ? One was on meditational systems, the other was on New Age spiritual dangers.
The first is the ‘Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation ’, October 15, 1989*.
Fr. John Bertolucci in Is Yoga Any Good ? in NEW COVENANT magazine, October 1991 says that this “letter issued two years ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith specifically addresses some aspects of Christian meditation.
I’ve found nothing of use- and a great deal of potential spiritual harm- in the technique of yoga. Anyone who has yielded his life to Jesus Christ and is in an intimate relationship with him through the Holy Spirit has no need for techniques rooted in non-Christian religions.” ‘Genuine Christian mysticism has nothing to do with technique. It is always a gift of God’ [n 23].
The Document expresses grave apprehensions about “forms of meditation associated with Eastern religions and their particular methods of prayer… The expression ‘Eastern methods’ is used to refer to methods which are inspired by Hinduism or Buddhism such as Zen, Transcendental Meditation or Yoga.” [n 2] *signed by the present Pope Benedict XVI
The second is “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life - A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’ ", February 3, 2003.
It says, “Some of the traditions that flow into New Age are: ancient Egyptian occult practices,… Yoga and so on.” [n 2.1]
It states that for New Agers “there is a need to experience the salvation hidden within themselves (self-salvation) by mastering psycho-physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment. …Yoga,  Zen, Transcendental Meditation and tantric exercises lead to an experience of self-fulfilment or enlightenment.” [n 2.3.4.1]

About the first Document, the Catholic news agency UCAN reported on February 12, 1990, “Father Lucio da Veiga Coutinho, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, is former editor of the Indian Catholic weekly The New Leader. A member of the UCA News Board of Directors, Father Coutinho wrote the following commentary which appears in the Feb. 10 issue of ASIA FOCUS: The Times of India, a prestigious daily, recently commented that ‘the Vatican has issued a lengthy encyclical virtually excommunicating yoga.’
Associated Press, an American news agency, interpreted the document more objectively. Urging Catholics to distinguish between spiritual form and substance, the Vatican has warned against substituting Eastern methods of meditation such as Zen, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga for Christian prayer, the agency reported…”

WHAT IS YOGA ?
Yoga is an ‘Eastern’ or ‘oriental’ meditational system, like Transcendental Meditation [T.M.], Vipassana, and Zen. It is based on the philosophy of “monism”, or “all is one”: Creator and creation are one. There is no distinction. This is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. It aims for a union [=yoga, yoking] with the “divine” in which there is the loss of individual identity.
Ignorant and innocent people start with the basic breathing and body exercises, and when they find themselves in better mental and physical shape- which is but a natural consequence- they explore further and assimilate some of its ancient pre-Christian philosophies, going beyond the physiological and psychological to the spiritual realm. In yoga, everything has a background, a meaning, a purpose. No propagator of yoga, non-Christian or Catholic, has ever been able to deny them.
Or to successfully disassociate from them either in theory or in practice:
“Breathing” is prana-yama- not a moving of atmospheric air, but of prana, the esoteric ‘life force’ or ‘vital’ energy which the second Document elaborates on. The padma-asana or lotus posture is to facilitate the psychic [which Christians can boldly substitute with “occult”] kundalini power or female shakti energy to move upwards from its ‘location’ in the chakra at the base of the spine, through five other supposed chakras, to unite in cosmic orgasm with the energy of a male deity in the crown chakra leading to enlightenment, oneness with the Brahman. Then, the realized yogi can claim aham brahmasmi  or ‘I am Brahman’, and look at another and proclaim tat vam asi or ‘Thou art that.’ He has realized that we are all one, divine.





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