Fr. Amorth on Yoga: A Passport to Hell?
by Virendra Parekh on 24 Dec 2011 8 Comments

“Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil. Yoga leads to Hinduism and all eastern religions are  based on a false belief in reincarnation,” proclaimed Vatican’s former chiefexorcist Father Gabriele Amorth on November 28, 2011 at a film festival in the Italian city of Umbria, where he was invited to introduce a movie about exorcism called “The Rite”.

The remarks are nothing new or profound. They reiterate the Catholic Church’s traditional position. Many Christians failing to find inner and deeper satisfaction in their ideology turn to Yoga, and the Church is very much concerned. In December 1989, the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a 23-page document which sounded a warning against Yoga techniques.

Quoting from this document, Pope John Paul II, in his book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (1995) repeated the warning: “it is not inappropriate to caution those Christians who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East - for example, techniques and methods of meditations.”

Vatican spokesmen have to sound a warning against this tendency towards interiority as it could be the undoing of Church. The New Wise Men from India who visit the West go about saying that Yoga is compatible with any theology or ideational system. While this may be true of preliminary physical and mental practices, it is not true of higher Yoga. Higher Yoga is organic to Sanatan Dharma.

Yoga derives from the basic intuition of Sanatan Dharma that there is a vast life hidden in man’s inner being. We all have vast reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream. The normal limits of the human vision are not the limits of the universe. By the same token, limitations of our senses and intellect are not limits of the Reality. In the normal course, a man is not aware of these inner realities as they cannot be known by a sense-bound mind. But they can be realized in a purified state of consciousness, by a mind which has been deepened, purified and illumined. Yoga formulates methods of getting at our own deeper spiritual levels through purification of body, mind and consciousness.

Yoga enjoins a man to conquer his Klesas or the forces that keep him bound to lower impulses and perspectives, and to overcome love and hate (ragadwesha), craving and anger (kamakrodha), delusion (moha) and ego (ahamkara). The path is long and arduous like the sharpened edge of a razor (Kshurasya dhara nishita duratyaya). But since the journey is inward, it is always within our reach to transform our nature by controlling our chitta. And the reward is nothing short of self-realization.

But Christianity believes differently. It says that man is a sinner and is saved from damnation by the death or blood of Jesus Christ. Man sinned vicariously through Adam, the first man, and was also saved vicariously through Jesus, who offered his life to propitiate a wrathful God. The whole thing is taken literally and historically. Any attempt to present it as a metaphor or interpret it as a parable is stoutly resisted.

Such a doctrine obviously has no need for Yoga. There is nothing hidden, nothing to be known either about God or about oneself. Everything is already known. All one has to do is believe. There is no need to cultivate any of the qualities that Yoga values highly. What for? There is a readymade God, a readymade Saviour, a readymade deputy of that Saviour on earth and a Church to take care of all your concerns. Believe, obey and the rest is automatic. “He that believes in him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18).

This most comforting edifice, alas, rests on nothing more than authority of the Book. Repeated, emphatic assertions, citing from the Book and books based on the Book is all that is offered as evidence. This is a curious way of arguing. The book assumes what is to be proved, asserts it and you cite the book as your authority or proof. Elsewhere, it would be rejected as circular reasoning, but in a Christian preacher, it makes a bright and clinching argument. 

Yoga, on the other hand, awakens a man to realms of consciousness which are hidden in his own self (in the cave of his heart, as the Upanishad puts it). It thus speaks of truths which are man’s own, which are part of him, which a man seeks and finds in his deeper moments. It is a revelation that is neither history nor historical, but open and innate to all earnest seekers of all times and places. Here there is no role for an external agency that claims to be the sole custodian of Ultimate Truth, no need for a Sole Saviour or his representative on earth. Here there are no dogmas, only verifiable truths. Ehi, passa (come and see), as Buddha would say. For sects founded on a Book, nothing could be more unpalatable than this direct call to experiment and experience.

For Church, this is nothing but temptations offered by Satan. Father Amorth has a disarming argument to prove the existence of Satan. “Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence,” he says. So, if you deny Satan’s existence, it is proof that you are already under his thrall. “He (Satan) studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations,” said Father Amorth, who sees his Church's child molestation scandal as proof that the anti-Christ has infiltrated its ranks.

Again, this obsession with Devil or Satan is nothing new. In its long history, Christianity had little place for self-reflection. The lives of Christian saints are full of accounts of their ‘temptations’, their frequent encounters with Devil and how they worsted him. Saint Gothlac often had hand-to-hand fights with demons. Saint Dunstan pulled Devil’s nose with a pair of red-hot tongs. Luther threw an inkpot at him. St. Dominic, as he began discoursing to sisters of a convent on the subject of Devil, found that “the enemy of mankind came on the scene in the shape of a sparrow”. Of course, he was caught, and after plucking his feathers one by one, Dominic allowed him to go saying “fly now if you can, O enemy of mankind.” On his part, Farther Amorth claims to have performed 50,000 exorcisms before retiring in 2000. He is both founder and honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists.

Such are the victories Church has scored over the enemy of God and man. Contemplative methods find little place in all this.

As to “the false belief in reincarnation,” it is best to quote Philip Goldberg, the author of  American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.” “At age 86, Father Amorth will not be with us much longer,” said Goldberg in an article on “Imagine his surprise if what he calls ‘the false belief of reincarnation’ is not so false after all, and he one day returns to find that yogis (Yoga followers) and J.K. Rowling readers are more plentiful than ever. The former surely will be, because Americans are, for the most part, pragmatic, pluralistic and evidence driven, and yoga appeals to all those values, Vatican paranoia notwithstanding.” That sums it up beautifully.



1. Pope John Paul II on Eastern Religions and Yoga: A Hindu-Buddhist Rejoinder by Ram Swarup, Voice of India, New Delhi 1995.

2. Hindu View of Christianity and Islam by Ram Swarup, Voice of India, New Delhi 1992.

3.  Indian Philosophy Part II by Dr. S Radhakrishnan, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London 1926. 


The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

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