Bishop Cullinan, yoga and Zen


Sir, – The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore has discouraged the practices of yoga and mindfulness, as they “are not of Christian origin” and are “not suitable for our parish school setting” (News, October 18th).

In his letter, he intimates that mindfulness, one of many ancient spiritual practices that originated in the Buddhist tradition, is in fact “mindlessness”, and he quotes Pope Francis, from a 2015 homily: “You can take a million courses in spirituality. A million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things, but all of this will never be able to give you freedom”.

In his letter, the bishop displays an amazing ignorance of the yogic and Zen traditions, while he attempts to exert his ecclesiastical power over the schools, the teachers and the young pupils of Waterford. That he feels he has the right to do this in the Ireland of 2019 reminds us that it is long since past the time when religion should be taken out of our schools, and that church influence be removed from the diverse and plural contexts of our nation’s classrooms.

Pope Francis and Bishop Cullinan conflate yoga, mindfulness and Zen, separate and ancient spiritual paths, all rich and beautiful traditions. In rolling them all together, they display a profound ignorance of their complexities and differences.

And contrary to their assertions, these spiritual paths potentially lead to the kind of freedom that cannot be accommodated by a blinkered, hierarchical view of reality.

Thankfully, there are many practising Christians who know better; and who are also aware of the rich meditative and contemplative teachings of their own tradition.

In the classrooms of Waterford, there are doubtlessly Buddhist and Hindu children. If this has crossed the bishop’s mind I do not know.

If it has, his letter is disrespectful of their religious traditions.

The diverse and plural Ireland that we live in urgently needs an education system that is fit for purpose: one not dominated by one religious tradition, and where senior clerics cannot publicly disparage other faith traditions. – Yours, etc,



Teacher and Founder,

Zen Buddhism Ireland,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Bishop Cullinan’s crusade against mindfulness and yoga in schools is to be applauded – let the streets of Waterford and Lismore be spared the scourge we in Dublin endure of calm, mindful youngsters terrorising us with their placidity. Yet this should merely be the first step in ridding schools of subjects that, as his grace notes, are “not of Christian origin.”

We inculcate our children with algebra and arithmetic, as though we are ignorant of these dark arts’ Sumerian and Babylonian roots. Considering too geometry’s origins in classical Greece (you say pre-Christian? I say un-Christian!), one must conclude that all maths should be banned from primary and secondary education.

The heathen Greeks were also responsible for the pestilence that was natural philosophy, which – in its elaboration by the heretic, occultist and alchemist Isaac Newton – gave us classical mechanics. Thus, let us scrap physics.

Biology too must go, given its origins in a Humboldtian conception of science as separate from religion, while our Creationist brethren in the US and elsewhere have shown the fallacy of many so-called sciences from geology to archaeology. I know from Bishop Cullinan’s valiant efforts in 2017 to discourage the administering of the Gardasil HPV vaccine to schoolgirls that he is with me in this crusade against science.

Were Herodotus and Thucydides Christian? Of course not – no more than Anaximander or the Imago Mundi. Thus we must ban history and geography.

We teach innocent children English literature, yet examining its development from the bawdiness of Chaucer, to the violence and licentiousness of Shakespeare, it seems clear that English too should be jettisoned from the curriculum.

What of our own native tongue? Tracing the origins of the Irish language back through Old and Primitive Irish, we arrive at ogham, inscriptions in which were (largely) non-Christian. Ban Irish from our schools!

“So teach them practical stuff,” you say – “boiling eggs and darning socks.” Phylogenetic analysis demonstrates that the origins of cookery go back two million years, far pre-dating Christianity. Sewing too is palaeolithic, while weaving is neolithic.

Free our schools of the un-Christian tyranny of home economics!

The only subject worthy of being taught is religion, though when the reforms I propose above are implemented, its teaching will be impossible owing to the lack of literacy skills. As such, we may sack all teachers and sell school land for residential development, resulting in savings of billions to the national exchequer. – Yours,etc,



Dublin 6W.