1. We are presenting here the introductory trends to the Indian spirituality, in order to identify the main spiritual elements which are common to both ancient Indian religious traditions: Hinduism and Buddhism.
These spiritual elements, which we fully identify in the Christian spirituality, can be reduced to the following three:
2. John Paul II, in the Encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, exhorts the Christians to search in the ancient religious traditions of India for "the elements compatible with their faith, in order to enrich the Christian thought" (JOHN PAUL II, Fides et Ratio [FeR]. Encyclical letter about the relationships between faith and reason, 15th September 1998, 72).
The previous three spiritual elements: SPIRITUALITY, DISCIPLINE, PSYCHO-TECHNIQUES, can be seen as compatible with the Christian faith.
"Yoga prout in Upanishadibus et apud alias scholas indianas accipitur, derivatur ex radice “yuj” (jungere) et significat unionem animae cum Deo vel Absoluto"
"Yoga, così come si intende nelle Upanishad e nelle altre scuole indiane, deriva dalla radice yui [congiungere] e significa l'unione dell'anima con Dio o con l'Assoluto"
- C. B. Papali, Order of Discalced Carmelites -
- The search for the absolute value
The title given to the book: Indian Spirituality, the essence and dynamics of the ancient religious traditions of India, shows the search for an absolute value throughout a path of spiritual growth, thanks to whom the Indian humans realize the final purpose of his essence.
John Paul II, with regard to the non-Christian East, referring to the Indian thought, spoke about a great spiritual burst: “Grandis spiritualis impetus” (Fidei et Ratio 72), as search for an experience of absolute value: “absolutum bonum” (Ibid.).
Therefore, Indian Spirituality, as the search for an experience, for a spiritual path, as the search of that “ancient path” covered ab immemorabilis by the Indian wises and that finds its origins in the Yoga – the way of spiritual realization which leads to the union with the Absolute – and that sprang in the Valley of the Indus (2500 b. C.): “Maybe the most famous feature of the Indian philosophy and religion is the yoga… the yogin sat crossing his legs in the position of the lotus and immersed in meditation is today one of the most familiar images of the Hinduism. Some seals discovered in the Valley of the Indus let us think that in that place some particular forms of yoga were practised more than 4000 years ago” (R. WATERSTONE, The Indian Spiritualities, Milan 2004).
- The union with the Absolute
The word Yoga, from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’, means the different aspects and the important moments which contribute to the formation of the Indian human and to the ripening of his spiritual life, that is so say, the whole inspiring values which gradually become experience of life. The different meanings of the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ are the followings: to join together, to hold tight, to subjugate. The final, definitive, peculiar aspect, to whom the previous aspects stretch, is the totalizing aspect, the union with the Absolute, “absolutum bonum” (Fides et Ratio 72):
From this sentence we can already realize the importance of stressing the different organization of the path which leads to this “union” both within the Indian spirituality and the Christian spirituality. According to the Indian thought, in fact, the word yoga refers to every method of asceticism, every method of meditation, every spiritual discipline which implies the “break” and the “detachment” (vairagya), and then the negation of the phenomenic world in order to recompose the spirit (purusa), synonym of âtman, the individual oneself, and to make it ready and well disposed towards the real union, the union with the impersonal Absolute, the Universal Oneself, the Brahman-Nirvana.
Therefore, we should not confuse this ancient and wise discipline of spiritual search in a perfective progression towards the salvation of the soul with the physical exercises, a sort of gym, that are well known in the West. In fact, “according to the ancient wise men - Papali writes – the yoga aims to the salvation of the soul, and outside this context not every exercise could be defined yoga”. The way chosen by the Hinduism is the astânga-yoga, which Papali calls: yoga octo membrorum. The way chosen by the Buddhism is the astânga-mârga, which Papali calls: octuplex via aryana.
Therefore, in both ancient Indian religious traditions, Hinduism and Buddhism, the use of the word yoga in order to identify the spiritual discipline which leads to the final aim of an absolute value, fits its etymological meaning “to subjugate”; “to unify”; “to join together”; three meanings or three moments which have to be realized in a perfective progression:
We have also to remember that the word ‘yoga’, as a path towards the union with God or the Absolute, has not the same meaning that it has in the Christian faith, which believes in the One and Triune God Who revealed Himself into the History of salvation.
The 2nd Vatican Council remembered, on this subject, that “God in His goodness and wisdom liked to reveal Himself and let the humans know the mystery of His will (Eph 1,19), throughout which the humans, thanks to Jesus Christ, and throughout the Holy Spirit, access to the Father and participate in the Divine Nature (Dei Verbum 2; Catechism of the Catholic Church 50-73).