Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kriya Yoga and Christanity: an Interspiritual Approach by a Yogi-Mennonite.

This is my attempt to draw a comparison between Kriya Yoga and Christianity.  But first a few words on interspirituality. I first came across the term while reading the book "Jesus in the Lotus" by Russill Paul, who explains it quite well. I recommend reading his book.  While searching for more information on interspirituality, I found a site,  Lighthouse Research Trails Project, that gives very misleading information about interspirituality by making it look like some sort of threat to Christianity and by erroneously defining the term "interspirituality" as "the combining of the world religions".  No! An interspiritual approach does not mean mixing all the worlds religions into one religion.  Nor does it mean cherry picking the best parts of different religions and adding them to your own religion. It is an approach that not only recognizes the similarities among religions, but also respects their differences and allows them to coexist.  Here is a good page I found that helps explain further: What is interspirituality?
The above photo represents my personal interspirituality. Books: The Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, The Sermon on the Mount According to Vendanta, The Bible (Die Bibel), Tostoy's translation of the Gospel (Chetveroyevangeliye), Figures: the Buddha and Christian Rychener one of my Mennonite ancestors. Background: symbol for the sound "OM".
For me to be interspiritual means I am both a Mennonite and a yoga practitioner.  Both paths complement each other well, but at the same time each one can stand on its own as a sufficient path. I also understand that they have many differences. However, different doesn't mean one is wrong or inferior.  Studying a second religion or spiritual path is like learning a new language. It will enrich your world view, and it shouldn't threaten your primary religion if you are secure enough in it.

Kriya Yoga, as defined in yoga sutra II.1, I find to have similarities with two passages from the Bible's New Testament: Mark 8:34* and Romans 12:1-2*. These two Bible passages and sutra II.1, all provide the spiritual aspirant with a three step process.  The three steps are:

Kriya Yoga                                            Mark 8:34                                    Romans 12:1-2
1) tapas                                                1) carry your cross                      1) your body as living sacrifice
2) svadhyaya                                        2) deny self                                 2) renew your mind
3) isvara pranidhana                           3) follow me                                3) know gods will
(surrender to a higher power).

How are the three concepts in Kriya Yoga similar to those in Mark and Romans?   We will begin to look at this question in the next installment of Yoga Goggles, as I will break it down part by part starting with tapas.

I would like to extend a special thanks to the authors of the following articles from Elephant Journal: Is Yoga Un-Christian? and Further Thoughts on Yoga and Christianity, for inspiring me to write this post.

*The complete passages:
Mark 8:34  Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (NIV)

Romans 12:1-2  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (NIV)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Yoga - Tri Me!

Yoga Sutra II.1
tapah svadyayesvara pranidhanani kriya yogah

Kriya Yoga consists of tapas, svadyaya, isvara pranidhana.

The main course of The Yoga Sutras is chapter II, The Chapter on Practice (Sadhana Pada). It begins with a three point plan of action, Kriya Yoga, and ends with an eight point plan, Astanga Yoga, that spills over into the beginning of chapter III. In a single sentence (sutra II.1), Patanjali brings together the three big paths of yoga: Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action), Jnana Yoga (The Yoga Of Wisdom), and Bhakti Yoga (The Yoga of Love and Devotion) that correlate with the three pactices in Sutra II.1 self-discipline (tapas), self-study (svadyaya), and surrender to a higher power (isvara pranidhana). These three practices are fuel for the whole person. Tapas nourishes the body; Svadyaya nourishes the mind; Isvara pranidhana nourishes the spirit.

I took this photo while on my morning walk to work. (No, I'm not a photographer nor have I ever enjoyed taking photos, but I decided to dust off the digital camera and start taking pictures of random things around town that inspired me to put on some Yoga Goggles.) This picture is of a sculpture-fountain located where the Cherry Creek bike path crosses Steele St. in Denver, CO. For weeks, I had been admiring this fountain and how its three concrete triangle-structures shoot streams of water out that all flow together in the center to form a single stream. With my luck, the morning I finally remembered to bring the camera it was Fall already and the fountain had been shut off. I took the picture anyway as an illustration of how blocked I am when I'm not practicing yoga enough and my "streams" don't flow together disconnecting my body, mind and spirit. But when the three steps are practiced evenly and they flow together the implied forth step can be eventually realized: samadhi.

Read about the Big-3 paths of yoga: They are found in The Baghavad Gita Ch. 3: Karma Yoga, Ch. 4: Jnana Yoga, Ch. 12: Bhakti Yoga.