The International Day of Yoga is on 21st june. We are celebrating a multifaceted discipline based on science and inseparable from Santana Dharma, its Source, that has been brought till date with the help of the Hindu tradition and would loose its power and sacredness without it.
Hinduism, another name for the Eternal Path or Sanatana Dharma, is based on the Vedas, our sacred scriptures. It comprises six darshanas or schools of thought: Yoga, Vedanta, Jnana, Vaiseshika, Sankhya and Purva Mimamsa. Nowadays the most well known and practised are the first two. Yoga is therefore based on the Vedas, specifically in the Atharva Veda, and is a sister science of Ayurveda, or Science of Life, the Hindu Medicine. In the Bhagavad Gita Shri Krishna, the Lord Himself, teaches Arjuna among many other precious teachings, the Science of Yoga, that is fourfold: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.
- Karma Yoga: the Yoga of the action disregarding the yields, selfless service
- Bhakti Yoga; the Yoga of the Devotion (to Him, being Him in His Form of Krishna or whatever other Form or even Formless AS SANCTIONED BY THE VEDAS). The Bhagavad Gita could be in a certain form considered as a summary of the Upanishads, the philosophical part of the Vedas, so whatever is found in the Gita must be interpreted within the context of the Vedas. It is so that when Shri Krishna says in the Gita that “In whatever Form you worship Me, it will reach me” should be understood in the context of Santana Dharma, the only path existent when the Bhagavad Gita was revealed. It does not refer to any form of “God” that arose in the mind of people of other cultures thousands of years afterwards
- Jnana Yoga: here Vedanta comes, because through self inquiry on the question “Who am I?” we will reach the final response of our divine nature.
- Raja Yoga: meditation, compiled and organised later by Patanjali Rishi in his Yoga Sutras, who brought “into the mainstream” a knowledge that was there since the time of the rishis of yore. Lord Shiva Himself, who is the Adi Yogi or first or primal Yogi in the Yogic Tradition, had given this knowledge of Yoga, the first part to His wife Parvati, with the intimacy of the Divine teaching the purusha. The second part of the knowledge was given to the Sapta Rishis or Seven Rishis or Sages. The disciple of one of those Rishis, Gorakhnath, was the first human propounder of the Hatha Yoga. It is about nothing else and nothing less than the Science of attaining the Divine by the conquest of our own human nature by understanding and mastering our connection with the whole Cosmos. Patanjali Rishi later on explained that the path of Yoga starts with the Yamas and the Niyamas, Restrictions and Observances, an ethical conduct required to follow as much as possible before thinking even of an advancement through the other six steps towards the Aim.
In Yoga, Hindu deities are worshipped and targets a clearly Hindu goal: recognising our own divinity and melting with the all permeating Consciousness or Brahman through the rise of the kundalini sakti through the sushumna nadi (subtle channel in the astral body) up to the Sahasrara chakra or crown chakra. Because Yoga means “union”, “union of this self arrogated individuality with the all pervading Brahman” when we find out that there never was any individuality but just branches who thought of themselves as isolated when they were just part and feed by their root, the Brahman, the Ultimate, the Divine Conciousness. Asanas and Pranayama and other techniques only aim to prepare the body and the mind, to balance its energies, for meditation, as the means to reach the Divine Goal.
If there is a subtle difference between the aim of Yoga and the aim of Vedanta this might be that the Yogi at the end of the process remains there while enlightened. Meanwhile for a Vedantin there is nothing there to remain when All is Brahman and we get to realise by experience that only Brahman Is. So what else will be there? Whatever happens at the end, it will be a matter of nuances that only Brahman will decide. There is no incompatibility as such between Yoga and Vedanta as many western scholars want to see (could it be just to “divide and rule”?).
I have been moving myself into the battlefield during these months, practising Yoga in a well known center in Spain, a branch of an indian center of Yoga that has centers almost all over the world. This was established by a disciple of an also well known Indian HINDU saint, so the teachings are purely hindu, as Yoga is: teachers use Hindu names, they have Swamis, they do pujas and aartis to Hindu deities, they sing kirtans and recite Hindu mantras (to the Hindu deities). They do seva or selfless service. They recommend and follow vegetarianism. BUT THEY DENY THE HINDU ORIGIN OF YOGA!! They only accept the Indian roots of it. Maximum they say is that Yoga “shares” some points with Hinduism, some “cosmogony”. I have talked with the representative of the center, with the director as well. I even stayed in a conference for less than five minutes, in which the “Swamini” director of all the centers of Europe, pointing at the deities of the shrine that they have there, hastened to say “although you see these Hindu deities here, Yoga IS NOT Hindu.” I wrote to the headquarters in India, absolutely in pain, because this to me is like rejecting our own Mother. No response at all: while in their website at least they are acknowledging the Hindu roots of Yoga, though I would disagree with some of the points on “sameness of religions” that they seem to follow, they do not seem to bother what is happening in the West with their own parampara. Or perhaps I wrote the wrong person, because they have not even acknowledged my mail.
I could not understand so much absurdity like the following examples of sentences I have been told or heard there in this center:
- Yoga comes from India, not from Hinduism
- Therefore, whenever the Master says “hindu” in his books, he means “Indian” (being then Yoga only an “Indian” wisdom)
- Raja Yoga is not Hindu
- Shiva is (only) the principle of transformation, that is why we say “Om Namah Shivaya” here among the teachers to greet each other
- Vishnu, Shiva, Saraswati, Durga, etc are all forces of nature, only energies.
- OM does NOT mean anything!
I was failing to understand what I was feeling inside of me as an stubborn blind attitude from the ones that are considered of the most authentic followers of the tradition that one can find here in the West, and intelligent people….why do they talk like this? Of course…..it is clear: pure MARKETING, money and power. If they say that Yoga is Hindu, no Christian, no atheist, no person belonging to any other dogmatic religion will come to practise Yoga with them. And I say to myself….so what? Sorry to sound politically incorrect, but if the price we have to pay for yoga being “universal” is this distorsion, I would reverse the whole system and would ask everybody who wants to practise Yoga that they are the ones who have to pay the price. I would tell them: “like Yoga is undoubtedly Hindu, at the end you may find truths that your religion does not consider or even rejects. Are you ready for that? If the answer is yes, then, you are absolutely welcome.”
Shri Rajiv Malhotra, an scholar who is devoting his life to defend Dharma and whom I follow, has just linked in his official facebook a video of a knowledgeable Christian lady from which I have taken the title of this post. This lady, like some other knowledgeable people from other religions, have perfectly understood that Yoga is incompatible with Christianity because Yoga is Hinduism!. Of course I do not agree with the biased view of Yoga as opening doors for the entrance of demons, and kundalini as the king of the demons. :-), but at least she has got the point that they are contradictory and mostly incompatible. As she says, in other words “for exercise as a Christian, you better do stretching or tennis, do not open doors that Yoga opens to realms that a Christian would not like to visit.”
Here you can find this video:
For a Christian who knows of Christianity but also about Hinduism and Yoga, Yoga is a self-deceiving path that doesn´t take to Jesus but to the devil. For a Hindu, Yoga is a path to take us to the Divine out from the ignorance. Could it exist a greatest contradiction and incompatibility? Besides giving us food for thought that by itself would be a matter of another full post…this view is setting Jesus and Brahman in opposite extremes….while Jesus gathers for Christians all the possible positive qualities, Brahman for Hindus is All in all.
So, going ahead being politically incorrect. Is it Yoga universal? In my view, no. Although is beneficial for everybody, because it helps the whole of the person: physically, mentally, energetically and spiritually, it is not a “universal spirituality” as the New Age Movements have digested it. It is HINDU SPIRITUALITY, or more precisely, VEDIC SPIRITUALITY, OR SANATANA DHARMI SPIRITUALITY. It is a fact: EDIT: there are certain metaphysics a yogi has to comply with, that may collide with their own background if he belongs to an abrahamic religion or tries to isolate Yoga from a complete lifestyle and worldview (I later saw what I meant much better explained by Sri Rajiv Malhotra in his video on the occasion of International Day of Yoga, in Philadelphia. One can find it in his official facebook website).
So in my view one can call it “universal” or not depending how we approach to it : it is universal in the sense that it benefits everybody (and it provides tools to experience universal truths). It is not if one keeps in mind that it follows certain methaphysics, lifestyle and worldview that one cannot and should not deny or avoid but accept as part of Yoga: these metaphysics, lifestyle and worldview are purely Vedic. And without them, Yoga would not be Yoga, but gymnastics or something else. One cannot say that in Yoga everything goes.
To me Sanatana Dharma is the Ultimate Truth…but I do not think people from other religions would share my view. So in full honesty, it is our duty to tell the truth, so people who approach Yoga should know it. I am sorry that even many Masters, perhaps knowing the many benefits of it and wanting the whole mankind to be benefitted from it, they silenced this truth so westerners would not get scared and would not shun it. But the consequences have been terrible and painful for our beloved Dharma. It is high time to conform with Sat in our lives as Hindus, and tell the truth “regardless its fruits”, like for instance this one of being politically incorrect.
Another topic would be the countless nonsenses that have arised under the brand name of Yoga, like “Fitness Yoga”, “Yoga for gays”, “Hot Yoga” or “Naked Yoga”. That would be solved by simply removing the word Yoga because it has absolutely nothing to do with the aim of real Yoga. They only serve for increasing the ego and accelerating the path downwards to the hell of the pleasures. Nothing to do with the authentic Yoga that searches to help us to innerly detach from this world of painful dualities which include as much the pleasure as the pain.
Westerners will keep uprooting Yoga from Hinduism, but what they do is pure Asat, not based on the Truth, being the Truth the only that remains constant and unchanging eternally, and not depending on time, circumstances, conveniences or fashions. And as a staunch hindu I will defend, as I am doing whenever the opportunity arises, that Yoga is Hindu, whether they like it or not. Truth will always triumph by itself, but it is our sacred duty to defend it, for the benefit of Dharma and for the benefit even of other religions and their followers….because would an atheist or a muslim or a christian want to melt with Brahman? I do not think so…..they better should know from the beginning that the gates they are opening may not take them to the room they would like to reach.