Desert Fathers is a term for the early Christian Yogis, who lived in the third century a reclusive life in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, either as a hermit or in groups.
Principles of the Desert Fathers
The main principle of the Desert Fathers was to sit down in the hut (cell) and then "feel the path of effective spiritual practice from within." They called it "your hut will teach you." The skill on the spiritual path is to find exactly the right degree of personal rest and activity. Decisively on the path of enlightenment (inner happiness) is to deal wise with the thoughts. We have to find a way to resolve the mental blockades. Then there is suddenly an inner transformation and man is in happiness. The victory over all suffering is the awakening of the inner light (God consciousness). An important problem of the Desert Fathers was dealing with sexuality. They have talked about it openly. Who represses his sexuality, gets tensions and blocks his enlightenment. On the other hand, too much sex causes attachments and in turn creates internal tensions. The Desert Fathers have been trying to find sensitive their personal way of resolution of sexual addictions and relationship desires. A desert father convinced himself of living alone with the thought, that he had to work much for a relationship. The life of a hermit is much more quiet and friendly. Another desert father saw women only as people (sisters, daughters, mothers, goddesses) and not as sexual beings. A third desert father had a girlfriend in a nearby village. When he was visited by his fellow monks, he hid her. A holy father discovered her, but he did not betray. He only told the monk to give good care of himself. This can be understood that one can have a relationship, but without losing his spiritual path.
The desert fathers dealt also with the question, whether it is more important to help a fellow human being, or to pray. Who is holier, the helper or the prayer (contemplation)? Basically both is important. But the helper is holier than the prayer. A helper could consume in helping and lose his peace of mind. Therefor a helping man needs the rest and prayer, if he wants to find God. The desert mother Synkletika knew that the hermit who want to live a life in God, stands before a lot of inner work and hard fighting. But in the end there would be an unspeakable joy. On the path to God one should not overwhelm oneself. Some hermits need a flower in their hut, and some do not. Suppose someone can not live without a flower, he should plant one. Who needs joy on his way should give himself sufficient enjoyment.
(Excerpts from Sayings of the Desert Fathers])
- Abba Moses, "Sit in thy cell and thy cell will teach thee all."
- "A hermit said, 'Take care to be silent. Empty your mind. Concentrate on God, whether you are resting or at work. If you do this, you will overcome your problems."
- "A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his problems."
- Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and, as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'
- Abba Ammonas was asked, 'What is the "narrow and hard way?" (Mt. 7.14) He replied, 'The "narrow and hard way" is this, to control your thoughts, and to strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God."
- Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion said, 'One day when we were walking beside the sea I was thirsty and I said to Abba Bessarion, "Father, I am very thirsty." He said a prayer and said to me, "Drink some of the sea water." The water proved sweet when I drank some." '
- If the soul is vigilant and withdraws from all distraction and abandons its own will, then the spirit of God invades it.
- Abba Evagrius said, "Take away temptations and no one will be saved."
- It was said of Abba Helladius that he spent twenty years in the Cells, without ever raising his eyes to see the roof of the church.
- Amma Theodora said, 'Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.'
Yoga and Christianity
Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus. There are many christian groups with different opinions. Some accept Yoga and some do not. First of all Yog is in the west mainly a body exercise. In this way everbody can do Yoga. Yoga is good for relaxation, fitness and mental health. In Yoga each may go his own spiritual way. Christians are allowed to keep their faith in Jesus. Most important is to which spiritual Master you pray or what role model you have. If you pray to Jesus, Jesus will lead you in your Yoga exercises. There are in Yoga many different spiritual paths and concepts of God. A Yogi can be an Atheist, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or follower of other faiths.
- Wikipedia: Some Christians integrate yoga and other aspects of Eastern spirituality with prayer and meditation. This has been attributed to a desire to experience God in a more complete way. Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the founder of the Jesuits, contain numerous meditative exercises. Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591) viewed Christian meditation as a necessary step toward union with God, and wrote that even the most spiritually advanced persons always needed to regularly return to meditation. Saint Padre Pio (1887–1968) said: "Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him". St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) viewed Christian meditation as the first of four steps in achieving "union with God", and used the analogy of watering the garden. She compared basic meditation (thinking) to watering a garden with a bucket, Recollection (praying) to the water wheel, Quiet (contemplation) to a spring of water and Union (enlightenment) to drenching rain.
- Christian websites for yoga: (www.kath.ch) "More and more Christians discover yoga and other Far Eastern meditation techniques. The Catholic educational centers are long on this trend and offer a variety of courses. The practice of yoga is not contrary to Christian teaching. Yoga affects not only beneficial to the body and mind, but also enables new approaches to Christian spirituality." Catholic parish of St. Michael in Stuttgart-Sillenbuch: "Yoga is an ancient system of physical and mental exercises that addresses the whole person in his unity of mind and body. Yoga tolerates very well with Christian meditation. Yoga exercises are offered in St. Michael for more than 25 years very successful."
- Nils: All the holy books of the world form a whole and complement each other. Enlightenment is difficult to understand and can be described by many different ways. Who thinks across systems understands the contexts. In the Second Vatican Council (1963 to 1965) it is stated that God is found in all religions. In Christianity, there is much uncertainty about the path of enlightenment. A major criticism is that the mystics want to redeem themselves and the Christians are saved by the grace of God. In Yoga, we focus on the spiritual practice. On the other hand one can not force enlightenment. It finally comes spontaneously, by itself, by grace.
(Quotes from Yoga and Christianity)
Jessup: I'm working towards taking it up for concentration purposes, as I have some kind of weird learning trouble and can't focus all the time. I'm hoping that Yoga will help me to be able to be focus and retetain. My friend who has introduced me to it, says that it has helped him a bunch in learning and concentrating.
Nils (Mystic): Yoga is helpful in learning and concentrating. You have to find the right exercises for you personally.
flameburns623: The exercises of YOGA are very good if begun gently, preferably with an experienced teacher. For Christians, a Yogic teacher should not ONLY be aware of physical safety in teaching the postures. But also an instructor who is a Christian.
Nils: It is good to have a christian yoga teacher. But if not, you can pray to Jesus. Then Jesus will lead you in your yoga exercises. Yoga is a body exercise. Most important is what role model and spiritual background system you have. Here is the difference between Hinduistic and Christian Yoga. The essence of Christianity is the dual path of love to God and to all beings (the neighbor). A Christian Yoga is based on these two principles.
Hunter24: I've heard Christians say all the time that Yoga and Buddhist meditation can lead to demonic possesion.
Nils: That is really nonsense. I do Yoga and Buddhist meditation for more than 24 years, and I never got problems with demons. You only come in contact with your own psychic tendencies. If you go deeper with Yoga, you have to learn to deal clever with your spirit and your mind. It is good to have psychological knowledge. And is also good to anchor your mind in positive christian principles. I got a training in Yoga and in Psychotherapy. That was very helpfull for me. I put the main principles in my oracles, so that everybody can train his mind positively.
InJesusItrust: Demons do exist and only someone without firsthand experience can claim they don't. Often times a mental illness is an illness, but if a case is a genuine spiritual attack it may be mistaken for mental illness.
Nils: I believe that demons exist, but we are protected from Jesus Christ. Our only problem are our negative inner tendencies. What we see as demons are normally negative thoughts, created by ourselves. Exorcism is the wrong practice to overcome these demons. I sometimes had problems with strong opposing forces on my spiritual path. They were often much stronger than me. But I prayed to Jesus, was protected and always ultimately triumphed. Trust in Jesus and love. Love is the strongest force in the universe. Do not become a victim of demons by busying yourself with them or work with fear on the spiritual path. The center of Christianity is love and not fear. This is very important to recognize. Send the demons love, pray for them, and they will disappear. They have no chance against love.
Michael Mayo: Do we not sometimes become too concerned about dangerous spirits when the reality is that we alone are resposnible for our own behaviors and the most important dangers are Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Envy, Anger, Pride, and Sloth?
Nils: That is exactly the way it is. Normally our demons are anger, greed and aggression. They have to be overcome by psychotherapeutical methods and working on the mind. There is a good phrase in spirituality: "Don't care about demons and the demons don't care about you." Most demons in the religions are caused by the religions themselves. They teach their people the fear of demons and the demons are created in the mind.
chataranga: Do some research to see where these customs/traditions came from- I believe each of these came from non-christian sources originally.
Nils: Many gestures and customs of Christianity come from other religions. That's no problem. The religions learn from each other and take the good from other religions. That is precisely why Christians can make yoga. It is only important that they preserve their role models and spiritual background system.
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- The monk Pachomius, a former Roman soldier, established a monastery with rules and organization. His regulations included discipline, obedience, manual labor, silence, fasting, and prayer.