Mumbai, Apr 6: The Indian Catholic Church believes that yoga is not needed to experience the supreme bliss or divine spirit. It is only a way to keep your body in perfect health condition, the Church believes.
The Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops issued a note for the clergy accepting the importance of yoga for the human beings to keep their body and mind in proper health. But the Synod warned that “it should not be confused with spirituality”. The church also believes that this practice is often used to promote a “Hindu lifestyle”.
The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the three rites of the Catholic Church in India. In the same circular it said that “Yoga is not a means to experience the divine, although it may contribute to physical and mental health”.
The Synod of Bishops has recognised the importance and role of yoga in the Indian socio-cultural milieu, but warns that it must be considered as a physical exercise and a posture to meditate or concentrate. “It said “the divine experience does not need any particular posture”.
Former Synod spokesman Father Paul Thelakat feels that yoga is “acceptable and useful for concentration, meditation and for the holistic wellbeing of body and mind. However, he said “the Synod does not consider yoga as a mythic or esoteric short cut to the spiritual life.”
As a Catholic priest, who has practiced yoga for years, he believes the Synod is right “to point out the Church’s teaching on spirituality, which has nothing to do with magical practices.”
The note, signed by Cardinal George Allencherry, head of the Synod, clarifies the position of the Church in the matter. The “God in whom we believe is a personal God,” it reads. “God is not someone who can be reached through a particular posture.” For this reason, “It is not quite right to think that the experience of God and the personal encounter with the Lord is possible through Yoga.”
In view of this, “everyone should take utmost care to avoid getting into those prayer groups and spiritual movements which are against the Catholic faith and do not recognise the official teachings of the Church”, the note said.
Yoga is a practice of mental and physical relaxation that originated in India and spread around the world. It combines physical exercises and breathing techniques. However, in Hinduism, the practice also represents a spiritual quest through which people experience the contact with the deity.