Going gaga over yoga

Posted on December 1, 2010 | Author: Vithalc Nadkarni | View 935

Reverend Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, confesses to being an unlikely 'folk hero in India' on Twitter: Who knew (this would happen), he writes with rhetorical flourish, when he argued that yoga was inseparable from Hinduism?


Reverend Mohler was reacting to the recent 'Take Back Yoga' launched by the Hindu American Foundation: Aseem Shukla, the cofounder of the foundation told The New York Times that while yoga thrived around the world, "Hinduism had lost control of the brand".


In an earlier essay for The Washington Post, Dr Shukla, a practising urologist, had blamed Hindu yoga teachers, in part for what he alleged was "intellectual property theft caused by commercialisation of spiritual practices".


Likewise, Rev Mohler had also written something quite provocative in his blog: "Yoga is dangerous for Christians," he said, "because it is a fundamentally a Hindu spiritual practice that claims to offer a path to inner peace that doesn't include Christ.


A similar complaint against yoga was voiced by the chairman of Malaysia's National Fatwa Council who lamented that many Muslims fail to understand that yoga's ultimate aim is to be one with a god of a different religion!


By such tokens, the 15 million yoga practitioners in America were guilty of heresy or intellectual piracy (or both)!


However, the classic source books of yoga display a refreshing absence of such a closed shop mentality: Svatvarama's Hathayoga-pradipikasays, for example, that it does not matter if you are young, old or extremely old, whether you are ailing or feeble; as long as you discard laziness and practice assiduously you are bound to succeed. Neither by merely reading books on yoga nor by dressing up like a yogi (vesha), or by spinning stories about yoga does one succeed.


Practice alone is the key to success, Swami Svatvarama emphasises again and again.


In several critical instances, the Great Master readily admits the existence of alternative explanations (matantare); these include atheistic reasons for the almost miraculous effects wrought by the luminous (divya) practices of yoga, such as karanas, kumbhakas (breathlocks) and mudras(seals).


Masters such as the mysticpoet Sri Jnandev envision yoga's universal appeal as that which transcends gender, country and class divides: it gives freedom from want.

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