Ask Father Hardon
Vol. 4 - #2, Mar / Apr 1998
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Q. Could you inform us why Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism? K.L.F., Bombay, India
A. Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism because the best known practice
of Hindu spirituality is Yoga. Inner Hinduism professes pantheism, which
denies that there is only one infinite Being who created the world out of
nothing. This pantheistic Hinduism says to the multitude of uncultured believers
who follow the ways of the gods that they will receive the reward of the gods.
They will have brief tastes of heaven between successive rebirths on earth.
But they will never be delivered form the wheel of existence with its illusory
lives and deaths until they realize that only God exists and all else is
illusion (Maya). To achieve this liberation the principal way is by
means of concentration and self control (yoga).
Indian spirituality is perhaps best known by the practice of yoga, derived
from the root yuj, to unite or yoke, which in context means union with
the Absolute. Numerous stages are distinguished in the upward progress toward
the supreme end of identification: by means of knowledge with the deity; the
practice of moral virtues and observance of ethical rules; bodily postures;
control of internal and external senses; concentration of memory and meditation
finally terminating in total absorption (samadhi), when the seer
stands in his own nature.
Although the psychic element is far more important
in yoga than the body, the latter is more characteristic of this method of
Hindu liberation. Its purpose is to secure the best disposition of body for
the purpose of meditation. The practice begins with a simple device for deep
and slow breathing.
Stopping the right nostril with the thumb, through the left nostril fill
in air, according to capacity. Then without any interval, throw the air out
through the right nostril, eject through the left, according to capacity.
Practicing this three or five times at four hours of the day, before dawn,
during midday, in the evening, and at midnight, in fifteen days or a month
purity of the nerves is attained.
After such preliminary exercises, more complicated practices are undertaken,
but not without the guidance of a professional yogin called guru.
The meditative phase begins with fixing the mind on one object, which may
be anything whatsoever, the sphere of the navel, the lotus of the heart,
the light of the brain, the tip of the nose, the tip of the tongue, and such
like parts of the body or also God, who on Hindu terms is the only real
being who exists. Gradually by sheer concentration of attention, the mind
reaches a state of trance, where all mental activity stops and the consciousness
rests in itself. The state of samadhi is the culmination of yoga and
beyond it lies release. The life of the soul is not destroyed but is reduced
to its unconscious and permanent essence.
Q. It is still common at children's Masses for the priest to invite the children present to come up to stand around the table. Is this permissible? A.O'D., Nebraska
A. To put it mildly, this practice is not encouraged by the Churchs
magisterium. It is not only at Masses for children, and the practice is widespread
in not a few parishes.
As stated in the Vatican instruction of November 18, 1997, every
effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion which can spring
from anomalous liturgical practices (Article 6). The standard dictionary
definition of anomalous is deviating from a general rule or method; being
out of keeping with accepted notions of fitness or order, inconsistent with
what would naturally be expected. On these terms, for children or adults
to stand around the altar while the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice is, to
say the least, misleading.
As the Vatican document of 1997 makes clear, the crisis of faith of the
past generation has been express in consistent efforts to downgrade the sacred
character of the ministry of the priesthood (turning the priest into a mere
community leader) and to upgrade the priesthood of all believers
attempting to hold on to their faith in the midst of a hostile secular culture
have not benefited from this confusion (Introduction).
What makes the situation even more serious is when children are exposed to
this confusion. They will grow up identifying themselves with the ordained
priest at the altar.
In the sixteenth century, this was the basic premise of Luther, Cranmer,
Calvin and Zwingli. They placed the laity on the same par with the minister
of the Holy Eucharist. The presider did not change bread and wine into
the living Body and Blood of Christ. Why not? Because he was not an ordained
priest whose priesthood is traceable to Christs ordaining the twelve apostles
as bishops. The apostles, however, did passed on their priestly powers to
the bishops and priests whom they ordained.
Vol. 4 - #2, Mar / Apr 1998, pp. 54-55
Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission