Vatican Warns About Zen, Yoga VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican Thursday cautioned Roman Cat
Vatican Warns About Zen, Yoga
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican Thursday cautioned Roman Catholics that
Eastern meditation practices such as Zen and yoga can ``degenerate into a cult
of the body'' that debases Christian prayer.
``The love of God, the sole object of Christian contemplation, is a reality
which cannot be `mastered' by any method or technique,'' said a document
issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The document, approved by Pope John Paul II and addressed to bishops, said
attempts to combine Christian meditation with Eastern techniques were fraught
with danger although they can have positive uses.
The 23-page document, signed by the West German congregation head Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, was believed the first time the Vatican sought to respond to
the pull of Eastern religious practices.
Ratzinger told a news conference that the document was not condemning
Eastern meditation practices, but was elaborating on guidelines for proper
By Eastern methods, the document said, it was referring to practices
inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism such as Zen, Transcendental Meditation and
yoga, which [may] involve prescribed postures and controlled breathing.
Some Christians, ``caught up in the movement toward openness and exchanges
between various religions and cultures, are of the opinion that their prayer
has much to gain from these methods,'' the document said.
But, it said, such practices ``can degenerate into a cult of the body and
can lead surreptitiously to considering all bodily sensations as spiritual
The document defined Christian prayer as a ``personal, intimate and
profound dialogue between man and God.''
Such prayer ``flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on
oneself, which can create a kind of rut, imprisoning the person praying in a
Attempts to combine Christian and non-Christian mediation are ``not free
from dangers and errors,'' the document said.
It expressed particular concern over misconceptions about body postures in
``Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and
relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of
warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the
authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of
conceiving the spiritual life.
``Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience,
when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such
an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also
lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.''
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican's watchdog
body for doctrinal orthodoxy. The document did not name any particular
individuals, groups or religious movements that have strayed in the use of
Eastern meditation practices but the congregation often acts in response to
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