Christian-based Universities Teach Yoga Philosophy

Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has recently started a certificate program in Yoga Philosophy in addition to their ongoing yoga studies courses.  The program includes the study of classical yoga, Hinduism, mantra chanting, Sanskrit, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, meditation, Hatha yoga, Tantra, Kashmir Shaivism, moksha, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and Samkhya Karika. LMU, located in Los Angeles, is the biggest Catholic University in the western United States and is rooted in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions.

Rajan  Zed, a well-known Hindu statesman and President of the Universal Society of Hinduism said that this was welcome news and that although Yoga was introduced and nourished by Hinduism, it was and is a world heritage to be used by all.  He refers to yoga as a “living fossil” dating back to around 2,000 BCE passed from one guru to the next and something that is meant to be shared with the world.

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The course is set up to be taught by many contributing guest lecturers and experts in their respective fields with two primary instructors, Dr. John Casey and Dr. Christopher Key Chapple.

Founded in 1911, LMU, enrolls over 9,000 students. Its mission includes "the education of the whole person" and offers 40 masters and doctoral degrees and 113 programs. Its sponsoring religious orders are: Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.

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However, Loyola Marymount University isn’t the only Christian institution dedicated to higher education to recently begin offering this type of study. Texas Christian University (TCU) affiliated with the Disciples of Christ offers several courses on Hindu thought and religious perspectives as well as meditation and new Hatha yoga classes set to begin January 2011.

According to Zed, religion is a complex element of our lives and religion compromises much more than one’s own individual experience or specific tradition. He further called on major world universities, schools of philosophy and religion to strengthen their Hinduism sections,  specifically asking the Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Stanford, Columbia, McGill, Australian National, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Uppsala, and Utrecht universities to further enrich their Hinduism resources.

Founded in 1873, TCU in Fort Worth (Texas) with over 9,100 students, offers 21 doctoral, 56 master’s and 118 undergraduate programs.

While the debate about yoga seems to continue on between many Christian and Hindu groups, this news brings with it a nice change of pace. Rather than seeking opposition there seems to be an effort toward understanding one another and yoga as it is practiced by an estimated 16 million Americans.

What’s your take on yoga as a program of study in Christian-based universities?

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