I have always wanted to learn and practice Yoga. And in December 2019 I decided to learn Yoga from the Yogi, mystic – Sadhguru. Something has changed in me in these 6 months. There are some moments when I’m doing the Kriya when I enter a blissful state, momentarily however. It feels surreal. I intend on taking up courses on various Yogic practises.
While I may heap praises on Sadhguru and Isha foundation for their work in promoting yoga and for the blessing that has been bestowed upon me in form of Yoga, I write this article today opposing some of Sadhguru’s and other Indian gurus’/politicians’ view on Yoga.
Yoga: Yoga is not just asanas or exercises. Asana is just a small part of Yoga. Yoga, in Sadhguru’s words, is a technology – to look within, to understand self and by understanding self, understanding the entire creation.
Breathing in a certain way is Yoga, Mantras form part of Yoga, living one’s life in a certain way is Yoga – there are several aspects but the point I’m trying to make is that – Yoga, developed by ancient Hindus, has been infused into Hinduism. To preserve and to make sure it does not get distorted, people were made to accept several societal norms derived from Yoga as ‘religious’. An example would be: Observing Ekadashi fast was Yogic but people associated gods of their choice with the fasting ritual and by doing so, ekadhashi continued to be followed by millions of Hindus.
‘Linga’, sadhguru says, is a technology. All Hindus view Linga as a god – we bow down before it. Let us quickly talk about Somnath temple in Gujarat. It is said that the linga in the temple used be a linga suspended in air. Irrespective of whether you believe it or not, what remains a fact is that Islamic invaders attacked it and looted it as many as seventeen times. It is believed that not only did the first invader, Muhamad of Ghazni, take just the loot back, but also the walls and flooring of the temple – using which he constructed mosques and tombs in Ghazni. The same can be said about several mosques in India5 and anyone who reads history or studies theological architecture of India will quickly understand the atrocities Hindus have had to face in undivided India due to attacks by Islamic invaders.
A well-researched study on the decline in Hindu population, either due to killing or forced famines or enslavement, by Islamic invaders estimates a conservative number of 110 million until 1947.1,2,6 At this point, let me ask you a few questions:
Why did the Hindus who were given a choice of ‘convert or die’, choose to die?
How many thousands do you think their death inspired?
Could Yoga have existed if everyone had converted to Islam, which considers ‘om/aum’ as Shirk (unholy/ anti-Islam)?
Did you know that in the 1800s British Christians called Yoga and Surgery as a ‘Hindu abomination’3?
Did you know that this year ie. 2020, The Church of Greece announced that Yoga is against Christianity? 4
In Hindu scriptures Shiva is referred to as the Adi-Yogi (the first yogi) and Shri Krishna as Yogeshwara. If we must consider Yoga as a technology, then Shiva and Krishna are the greatest engineers of human spirituality. However, this technology survived through the onslaught of Islamic invasions and forceful Christian Conversions because some Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists valued their religion and their way of life more than their own lives. We must forever be grateful for the sacrifice of those who stood against the foreign tyrants to preserve Sanathan Dharma/Indic religions. Entwined in our religion, customs and traditions, yoga survived. Yoga is a flame, lit on the lamp of Sanatan Dharma and protected against the blowing winds by the hands of Sanatanis. Spiritual leaders and Yogis of today were once just another common man and they could uplift their lives through Yoga because of the sacrifice of the Sanatanis. So, when a Yoga guru or Narendra Modi or Dr. Pokhriyal (HRD minister) or anyone says that Yoga is not Hinduism, they insult every man and woman who laid down their lives preserving Yoga.
Yoga is a flame, lit on the lamp of Sanatan Dharma and protected against the blowing winds by the hands of Sanatanis.
Today, it is all the more necessary to protect our traditions and not allow cultural appropriations. One has to simply Google ‘Christian Yoga’ to see the Evangelical/ missionary propaganda unfold. Not only have they appropriated our south Indian form of Hindu religion by “bringing Jesus home” – yes, you read that right, Christians who are supposed to not believe in idol worship bring an idol of Jesus to the house of newly converted Christians to make other potential converts in the area feel closer to their own culture and thus convert; while I am all the more happy that in order to get new followers, Jesus himself has converted to Hindu ways of life, I worry that a few generations later, the “Hindu culture” of the Christ, that is on pompous display today, will be erased as no one would remain to be induced to convert.
Let’s pivot back to Christian Yoga – this is one of the new schemes brought forth by the well-funded missionaries. As Christianity declines in the west and Christians practice Yoga in large numbers despite the best efforts of the Church to stop it, the missionaries found a better scheme to save their falling number of followers and add followers at the same time. They decided to appropriate Yoga. Again, I must emphasize here that people of other faiths can remain in their faith and practise Yoga and I am not against a Christian Yogi – I’m simply against the appropriation. I am against this because not only is it a tool to convert people of Indic faiths, it is also an inappropriate way to do Yoga. Yoga includes chanting certain words which when distorted to fit in the Christian narrative, won’t give the desired results. For example: The kriya that I learnt from Sadhguru involves chanting ‘AUM’; the ‘aaa’ sound of ‘aum’ emanates from below the navel, the ‘uuu’ emanates from chest and so on. Replace ‘Aum’ with ‘Amen’ and you will not be doing Yoga in its true character.
This begs the question – why are the missionaries having a free pass at Yoga? Because of the vacuum of religion in Yoga. While the world knows that Yoga originates from India, little is known to the world about Hinduism. And while it is the duty of Yoga Gurus and leaders of India to enlighten the world about what Hinduism is, both are busy in making sure that the world views Yoga and Hinduism as separate entities.
Mr. Ashish Dhar, founder of a YouTube channel called ‘Upword’, uses the phrase “battle of civilizations” to describe the Kashmiri Hindu genocide & conversion issue. Appropriating his phrase, I would like to say that in this battle of civilizations, we have abandoned our own strengths and surrendered it to the enemy to use it as a weapon against us.
I am not against a Christian Yogi – I’m against Christian Yoga
Yoga is definitely a gift to the world. But it is not India’s gift; rather it is the gift of the followers of Sanatan Dharma or Indic religions. By domicile, even Aurangzeb was born and raised in India – is yoga a gift to the world by Aurangzeb? While I agree that the vast majority of Sanatanis too have not done any Yoga in their lives but at least they didn’t or don’t try to extinguish the flame of Yoga. I believe everyone in the world irrespective of their faith should benefit from Yoga and I also believe that the charade of “inclusiveness” of other faiths should not be done in the aspect of Yoga. Because, saying that Yoga is not Hinduism is as good as saying that Srimad Bhagavat Geeta is not a part of Hinduism. And just like Yoga, the message of Yogeshwara in the Geeta too, is universal and non-discriminatory towards people of other faiths.
Own up Yoga or risk losing it as well as losing the battle of civilizations.
4 Church bans Yoga – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52935478
4 – http://mattersindia.com/2020/06/greek-church-bans-yoga-catholics-confused/
5 A book – ‘Hindu Temples & what happened to them?’ by https://www.hindustanbooks.com/pdfs/10120488-Hindu-TemplesWhat-Happend-to-Them-by-Sita-Ram-Goel.pdf
7 Is idol worship a part of Christianity? – https://qr.ae/pNKdl2
Why cultural appropriation happens and some other examples –