In India, where there are over 30 million Christians, preparations for yoga day with spending millions of dollars bring a discussion. Is yoga contrary to Christianity? Is yoga only specific to Buddhism? In the International Sivananda Yoga ashram (the retreat of yoga communities) in the south of Delhi, several dozen men and women flex their muscles and work breathing. Some Christians say that yoga is essentially a practice of the religion of Buddhism, and it is against monotheism and Christianity to say “Om” during yoga or to do Surya Namaskar (which means saluting the Sun God). But the truth is a little different.
Although the roots of yoga are in Buddhism, yoga is actually for everyone because there is no caste, no sect, no religion. This is not a religion, but a broad science of spirituality. The purpose of yoga is to be a good person. It is to be happy. That’s why yoga is for everyone because everyone wants to be happy. So Christians can do yoga with peace of mind. Yes, there are also gurus who make people worship them. However, these inaccuracies do not require the rejection of the system. When you look at the essence of the system, when you ignore their absurd practices, you are greeted with completely wise teaching. Even the most sublime thoughts can be diverted.
Yoga and Christianity Don’t Harmonize With Each Other Because of Buddhism: The Relationship Between Yoga and Budism
The biggest reason behind Yoga’s incompatibility with Christian traditions is actually Buddhism. Identified with Buddhism and other Indian religions, yoga contains not only physical movements and mental relaxation, but also religious symbols. This negatively affects the Church’s view of yoga. First of all, let’s look at what is yoga actually, and why is it so closely intertwined with Buddhism that Christians do not welcome it.
It is a great example of ignorance to consider yoga only Hatha Yoga, even yoga styles that have been in the past 10-15 years, for example, Anusara, Yin Yoga. (Don’t get it wrong right now. I don’t say Yin or Anusara is bad, it’s new, and the problem is that yoga is considered singular like it and similar styles, that’s wrong.) Hatha Yoga dates back to 14-15 centuries as a tool of Raja Yoga, but the beginning of Buddhism is It is the 6th century. There is a time frame of almost 2000 years. The conditions of the emergence of Buddha and Buddhism are undoubtedly the Upanishads. Indian philosophies are generally divided into two as Astika and Nastika, namely Vedas and not Vedas. Buddhism is a non-orthodox tradition that is not tied to the Vedas.
Yoga, which is orthodox in a philosophical context, continues itself in Buddhism with its practices such as pranayama, meditation, walking meditations, and silence. Considering the fact that Buddhism was very widespread in India from the Buddha to the last periods of Patanjali, historically Buddhist yoga has been very important for the continuity of yoga. Besides, in Patanjali, there are only three sutras that define asanas while tens of sutras are allocated to meditation in almost 200 sutras. Yoga is meditation in the historical context. Today, because everything becomes visible, the shape is dominant, not the content. When it comes to yoga, the first thing that comes to mind is young people dressed, decorated, and posed. This evokes me the Simulation theory of contemporary French thinker Baudrillard. The copy replaces the original and is perceived as the truth itself.
Unfortunately, evil always expels the good. The Buddha means wise, enlightened, awakened in Sanskrit inscriptions. Hindus see Buddha as an avatar, Vishnu, but for Buddhists, Buddha is not an avatar. It is only an enlightened person, not creative, protective, or destructive. The conversion of the Buddha into a sculpture form took place with the Greeks. The Greeks also shaped the Buddha, as they made their gods form. (Probably other Indian gods also took form in later centuries). These statues and reliefs can cause the Buddha to be perceived as a god in society. Even in South Asia, there are paintings and sculptures in which the common body with Vishnu and Buddha are visualized.
Let’s put forward some points that philosophically distinguish Buddhism from yoga. First of all, Buddhism is a true atheist belief. In Buddhism, Buddha is not a god. Sometimes, Buddha is mentioned as a god, but in the sense that we understand it is not a god in a creative sense but rather means to reach buddha-nature. In the Patanjali system, the creator god is Ishwara. In this respect, yoga is theist in the Patanjali system. There is no atman or Purusha in Buddhism. Buddhists believe that this is a mind game. Buddhism is literally based on selflessness. Therefore, there is no microcosm and macro cosmos to merge. Let’s open up this concept of nonself. Vedantic philosophy is based on ‘one essence’ or on the unity of essences. Buddhism is ‘one mind’. That mind is “Buddhahood.” The aim of meditation and all actions is to reach the buddha-mind.
Yoga in Different Religions: Similarities and differences between Christianity and Buddhism
Yoga can be seen in many religions, but it is mostly associated with Buddhism. However, yoga resembles some other practices in Christianity as well. There are certain relations between Buddhism and Christianity that affects the Yoga’s place in religions. So what are the differences and similarities between Christianity and Buddhism that make yoga more of East than West?
Buddhism and Christianity were founded by the great Spiritual Masters, both aiming to lead to salvation. The terminology they used was generally quite different. They also taught different ways and emphasized different approaches to spirituality, given the different conditions they incarnated. Neither the Buddha nor Jesus Christ wrote their teachings. In either case, their teachings were written years after leaving the world. This gap between their teaching and their written versions means that there is potential for error and misunderstanding in their teaching. In addition, as new religions evolved they evolved in different ways. Some important differences between Buddhism and Christianity are:
Buddhists do not speak of a Creator God. The concept of God in Christianity seems to be great. In the Old Testament, God appears as a distributor of Divine Justice, a concept that is largely absent in Buddhism.
Prayer – Meditation
Meditation and awareness are at the heart of Buddhism. Christianity puts more emphasis on prayer.
Grace / Personal Effort
Buddhism places more emphasis on personal effort, and Christianity more on Grace.
Buddhism emphasizes the infinite cycle of birth and rebirth and the idea of reincarnation. Christianity teaches that we have a life and a chance.
Christianity emphasizes the concept of ‘salvation’. Salvation stems from the acceptance of Jesus Christ as a savior. For those who trust Jesus Christ, Christians believe that they will earn eternal life in heaven. Buddhists have a different emphasis, they believe that the individual has to work for his personal liberation – a discipline that can last several lifetimes. A Buddhist believes that the belief in Buddha is not enough, the one should reach nirvana for himself.
The similarities between Buddhism and Christianity can be listed as follows:
- They both were founded by a Spiritual Master who accepted the students.
- Taught using simple analogies.
- Both Jesus Christ and the Buddha tried to reshape the existing social/religious practices that have turned into ritual forms that have no spiritual meaning. Christ criticized those who gave money to people in the temple. Buddha criticized the Brahmans’ caste system and hypocrisy.
- Both were egalitarians. Buddha accepted all caste for his sangha. Christ taught that his philosophy is not just for a small race.
- Shared values. The Five Principles of Buddhism (killing, lying, stealing, avoiding sexual immorality) will be welcomed by most Christians.
- Both religions emphasize other people’s ethical life, compassion/love.
- Both taught to overcome hate forces with the power of love.
- Like Buddhism, Christianity encourages followers to take steps to improve their well-being. Like Christianity, Buddhism has a strong devotional feature. This is characterized by faith in the Buddha. This is especially evident in traditions such as Pure Soil Buddhism that pray to the Buddha.
- Both religions encourage their followers to be philanthropists against the poor.
- Both religions have a monastery and lean-approach. Although the monastic element contemporary Protestantism is largely absent.
- Both desire to have more spiritual perfection. Although they have different approaches, they both seek a higher spiritual perfection.
- Both try to transcend the material world. They believe that true happiness will be gained from spiritual values and spiritual consciousness.
- Divine Consciousness. It is true that the Buddha did not talk about God. He felt that the Supreme Consciousness could never be expressed in words. But the Buddha spoke about eternal peace, eternal light, and eternal happiness of nirvana. What is God without this transcendental consciousness?
Suffering and Death Concepts in Buddhism and Christianity: Does Meditation in Yoga Helps to Relieve Suffering
As we all know the concept of suffering is one of the most important subjects of many religions including Christianity and Buddhism. There are certain methods to relieve this suffering in all religions and one of them is undoubtedly meditation in yoga which is practiced in Buddhism. In a study conducted by the University of Montreal and published in the journal Emotion, scientists compared the thickness of the cortex of the subjects who did and did not meditate. According to MR (magnetic resonance imaging) data, the meditator’s middle regions of the brain that regulate emotion and pain appeared significantly thicker than those who did not meditate. Canadian researchers, who stated that this very old discipline can strengthen the middle region of the brain that regulates the pain, found that the meditators felt the pain on average 18 percent less.
In the fields of religious experience and thought, Buddhism and Christianity put the idea of death and suffering at the center of their theology. Indeed, from the perspective of suffering and death, these two religions are like two sides of a coin that look alike. In fact, towards the end of the 19th century, theologists brought to the agenda of theology that these two religions received some ideas from each other and costed them or influenced each other clearly. Some of them stated that Christianity was influenced by Buddhism on very important matters; some argued that Buddhism, especially Mahayana-Buddhism, was influenced by Christian theology. Some religious comparisons have even argued that one of these religions is a copy of the other.
First of all, it should be noted that one of the philosophers who draw attention to the similarity between Buddhism and Christianity is Nietzsche. In his work titled Antichrist (Antichrist), the philosopher talks about the relatives of these two religions and uses his preference from Buddhism. In a study he wrote in 1930, Gustav Mensching explains the meaning and significance of pain and suffering in Buddhism and Christianity. The German theologian emphasizes that suffering constitutes the common point of Buddhism and Christianity, and states that the position of both religions against suffering also makes the difference between these religions clear. Christianity believes that the suffering of humanity is due to the strong desire for “first and original sin” at the time. So, what was the “first sin” in question? The first sin that resulted in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from heaven is described in Chapter 3 of the Creation of the Bible.
The suffering of Jesus on the cross is a central matter of Christianity. Christian theologians built a love metaphysics here. It is not possible for us to extract the thoughts expressed here on this matter; however, in his article, Gustav Mensching tried to summarize Jesus’ painful destiny and suffering in four articles. Suffering has no metaphysical basis for Buddha, but almost every thread of the fabric of life has traces and colors of suffering. Buddha is extremely aware of this situation: This is the high truth about suffering and the birth of suffering: Nativity is suffering, old age suffering, sickness suffering, death suffering. Suffering from what we hate about them is suffering, and separating from what we love with affection is still suffering. Our inability to have the things we desire is also suffering. In a word, these five clusters that come from being connected are suffering.
While Buddha says that suffering is caused by ignorance, he does not look at the issue from a worldview point of view. What he means is the true meaning of suffering only if the Nirvana truth is taken into account. In this context, suffering knowledge is of true religious knowledge. We cannot obtain this information, this true religious experience, as long as we are not cleansed of the egocentric desires that stick to the core of our being like a tar. Buddhism is not a revolt against suffering, but rather a rational attitude. Buddhism does not escape suffering, it does not strive to overcome suffering; on the contrary, it wants to destroy the suffering from its root. Buddha believed that the suffering that turned our lives into hell could be destroyed completely without the need for any metaphysical power, religion, god belief and philosophy, and made this belief a religious experience. Buddha descends to the roots of suffering; It analyzes the causes and breaks the chain of rebirth that has been going on for centuries and ends the power of the suffering in our ore of existence.
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