BeatlesLoyola Marymont University/Los Angeles, a ‘Catholic University rooted in the Jesuit tradition,’ is now offering a masters degree in Yoga studies.

To kick off the Yoga program, Philip Goldberg, an interfaith minister and author of American Veda, hosted an event at LMU called The Beatles’ Yoga: How the Fab Four’s Passage to India Enlightened the West.

The LMU catalogue says “the course will explore the history and philosophy of Yoga, its health benefits, its relation to religion and spirituality, its place within world spirituality and the techniques utilized for the teaching of Yoga.”

YogaIn American Veda (Harmony Books, 2010), Mr. Goldberg recounts The Beatles meeting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967—and then a year later going to his ashram with Mia Farrow, Donovan and the Beach Boy’s Mike Love. “What could be more intriguing than celebrities who had everything and could go anywhere deciding to sit with their eyes closed for several hours a day?” In its 2008 obituary for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the New York Times said of that retreat: “They left in the wake of rumors of sexual improprieties by Maharishi, an avowed celibate, though no sexual misconduct suits were filed.”

In his recent interview, A Big Heart Open to God, Pope Francis said: “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in his creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

When John Paul II, acting as a good shepherd, critiqued Buddhism, in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, he was doing more than just offering an opinion: Among the religions mentioned in the Council document Nostra Aetate, it is necessary to pay special attention to Buddhism, which from a certain point of view, like Christianity, is a religion of salvation. Nevertheless, it needs to be said right away that the doctrines of salvation in Buddhism and Christianity are opposed.

Between Christianity and the religions of the Far East, in particular Buddism, there is an essentially different way of perceiving the world. For Christians, the world is God’s creation, redeemed by Christ. It is in the world that man meets God. Therefore he does not need to attain such an absolute detachment in order to find himself in the mystery of his deepest self. For Christianity, it does not make sense to speak of the world as a “radical” evil, since at the beginning of the world we find God the Creator who loves his creation, a God who gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).

For this reason 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 meditation and ascetical practice. In some quarters these have become fashionable, and are accepted rather uncritically. First one should know one’s own spiritual heritage well and consider whether it’s right to set it aside lightly.

We are not suggesting that LMU’s embrace of Yoga studies signifies a setting aside of its Catholicity, although there are some signs of that. The important thing is for students and teachers to discover the pattern (way) of life, that is both objective and subjective—with Jesus Christ as the means and the end. To do so, self-mastery and the overcoming of sin are important. Those who do Yoga often believe that it helps with self-mastery, when in fact it can be a gateway to sin and alienation from God.

“May our Lord then, preserve deep in our souls this impulse towards progress and fuller being; and may he at the same time direct this deep-rooted urge towards himself alone.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1916

Photographs: Stephen Wise