Monday, June 28, 2021

Yoga, the occult, and Orthodoxy

 (Orthochristian) - A Talk with Hieromonk Irenei (Pikovsky), a Brother of Sretensky Monastery

—What is the view of the Orthodox Church on various systems of fitness regimens such as yoga, or the gymnastics of the Tibetan monks? Isn’t it essentially a temptation? And is it acceptable to practice fortune-telling?

—I have never met any document of the Bishop’s Council expressly stating the official position of the Russian Orthodox Church on these issues, but priests in their sermons would likely talk about them in a negative rather than positive light. The matter is that the Eastern practices currently advertised in fitness centers as physical exercise routines originated primarily as spiritual practices. In other words, it is about the meditation first and only later it is a physical regimen, supplementing meditation. It is the same in Orthodox ascetic practice: Our faith and prayers to Christ come first, followed next by the practice of fasting. For us, the practice of fasting is inseparable from our faith and from praying to Jesus Christ, our Lord.   

As for fortune telling: Any fortune telling—reading coffee grounds, bird-reading, or even guessing on the Bible, is unacceptable. That is because by using these practices instead of studying the Law of God we resort to guessing—like, heads or tails. In exceptional cases, when the God’s will is not revealed to us but we are confronted with tough choices, we can use a rare and exceptional church practice of casting lots following a prayer. At the beginning of the twentieth century, His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon was selected by lot. However, deeply intense prayer preceded it; besides, that procedure was used to avoid any political intrigues and pressure from the Communist party.

—How can we get rid of deceit and stop making excuses by fooling ourselves and others?

—Truly, the question of sticking to the truth (when it is awkward to be truthful) is quite relevant for certain work teams. There is no direct answer to this question but a few appropriate sayings could be applied. According to the first saying, “satan is the father of lies” (cf. John 8:44). That is, any lie is malevolent and rooted in evil. That’s why gloating is akin to experiencing joy for an unseemly reason. Woe to the man who knows how to smile gloatingly but never smiles out of joy. Consequently, any deception suggests some kind of duplicity, but every situation should be considered on a stand-alone basis. There are specific situations that have to do with interpersonal relations. For example, how can a woman be told about her brother’s death if she loved him so much it could give her a heart attack? “Maybe we shouldn’t say anything at all?” her relatives might wonder. In one such case, the relatives took a risk, shared the news, and everything went very much the other way around. One elderly lady, as soon as she was told of her brother’s death, breathed a sigh of relief and said calmly, “He came to the end of his ordeal,” reacting to the sad news in a perfectly normal way, for we are all going to die one day. In some other cases, it is probably best to come up with an alternative solution; but it is equally important to avoid lies, deceit, or fabrications of any kind. If possible, it is best to politely evade the issue.

Complete article here.

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