(Sacred Heart College, Chennai, India)

Christian Response to Yoga

The title of this paper needs to be qualified, since there is a complex history of mixed responses ranging from enthusiastic or cautious approaches to hostile reactions. There is no such thing as the Christian response. Today not only some modern protestant evangelicals are opposed to it, but also the Roman Catholic Church officially issued a warning against yoga through a letter to the Catholic bishops in 1989. In his book on Hinduism (1992), David Burnett summed up  the variety of opinions on yoga found among Christians. Even so, Jean-Marie Dechanet’s writings on yoga (1956) played a great role in promoting a positive view on yoga and had considerable impact on the Christian community, also in India. As a result, Christian individuals and groups took to the practice of yoga seriously, and their writings bear witness to the fact that they profited personally from it.

For different reasons, writers like Harvey Cox and Agehananda Bharati were averse to “Westernersˮ taking recourse to Asian methods of prayers and meditation in general. Alan Watts (1972) points out the theological background for the Christian resistance to yoga.

Yoga itself has gone through several interpretations. Hindu, Jaina, Buddhist, New Age and Christian traditions have deconstructed and reconstructed it anew. And even now the adaptation of yoga continues at various levels and it has thus become the heritage of mankind.