John Brown University, a private Christian college, is coming under fire for publishing an op-ed by a faculty member which warns students about yoga and claims it is influenced by "demonic Hindu gods."
The article, "Rethink Yoga," was published in the school's student-run paper, The Threefold Advocate. The author, Deborah Dana, is listed on the JBU website as a math specialist and a tutor coordinator, according to NWA.
This column is not a theological exegesis, but rather a heartfelt cry. I understand that yoga has become an accepted part of the American culture. The National Institute of Health promotes it vigorously and much of the Church has accepted it as harmless. I have to disagree.
As I have been thinking of all the arguments and reasons why yoga is not as beneficial as we’ve been led to believe, it all keeps coming back to the fact that yoga has its roots in the worship of demonic Hindu gods.
I believe that while yoga may offer some benefits, those benefits have hidden, demonic strings attached. I spoke to one of our chapel speakers years ago about this. He was a Dalit “untouchable” from India who had become a Christian. His view is that yoga is the beautiful face that the very ugly religion of Hinduism uses to sell itself to Americans.
Pandit Dasa, Hindu chaplain for NYU and Columbia told The Huffington Post that it would be nice for the University to issue a statement making it clear that they don't support Dana's view of other religions.
I think as a society we absolutely have to stop criticizing other traditions without fully understanding them. It can take years of practice and study to properly comprehend another tradition. There is no possibility of peace and cooperation in the world unless we can appreciate, with an open mind, other people's lifestyles and belief systems. We don't have to agree, but without thorough knowledge, we shouldn't judge and criticize and talk down about other traditions.
Hindu advocate Rajan Zed issued a statement to The Huffington Post that said that Hindus are still waiting for an apology from JBU.
The student editor of the Threefold Advocate, Sidney Van Wyk, responded to the controversy with a statement which defended Dana's right to her opinion and stood behind the decision to publish the piece.
"All opinions, even those considered “counter-culture” as Raiees-Dana described her own, are welcomed in our paper and we often publish columns side-by-side that are in direct disagreement with one another," she said. Van Wyk explained that Zed had been offered the opportunity to publish his own piece in the paper and emphasized that "Views expressed by columnists or in Letters are not necessarily the views of the publisher, advisor or staff."
Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that has its roots in Hinduism, though its popularity in the West has led to many types of branches.