Why is there a fear of Yoga?

Monotheism needs a god ‘apart’ from you. For a Hindu the goal is an absolute merger, where all is one. It’s an existential threat for monotheism to deny a god apart from you.

Why is there a fear of Yoga - 2This Tweet set me wondering.

I did some research. Sure, there are many varieties of Yoga out there. Hot Yoga students do Yoga in hot humid conditions. If you don’t care for that, there’s Beer Yoga which is done while drinking cold beer. There are other kinds, too tiresome to list here or to bother with. It is clear these have mushroomed, triggered by the vogue word that Yoga has become. This happened to Dosa too, when it became a global darling. There are tens of varieties being invented to excite and attract the bored classes. We best leave this Yoga marketplace to the idle class to study the more curious struggles that Yoga has triggered.

There are now Muslim Yoga and Christian Yoga. The latter is of a lesser interest because Christians, at least in the West, have mostly broken free of any fear of disobedience to a judgmental god. In fact, some of the finest teachers of classical Yoga are to be found among them, having been students under traditional Indian Masters. The question of how the clergy deals with Indian Christians is another matter and I shall return to it later.

The predicament of Islam however is rather dire. Unlike Christians, a majority of Muslims adhere to core requirements, such as eating only halal food or not eating pork. In fact of late, the core-list appears to have enlarged resulting in more beards and burkhas to be seen everywhere.

Their threat perception is well narrated by Rajiv Malhotra, that doughty warrior for Dharma, in this post which has a video as well on the same subject. There’s also a list of the attempts made by Islam to cope with the pull of Yoga.

After studying Malhotra’s 10-point list, I classified and reordered it in the following manner. There are 5 efforts, progressing from banning to ownership of Yoga:

  1. Proscribe: Do not practice Yoga; it is ‘shirk’, i.e., an Islamic offence
  2. Amend: Do not chant Om or mantras nor do Surya Namaskar
  3. Politicize: Yoga propagation is a Hindu Right conspiracy
  4. Adapt: Chant Qu’ranic verses, invoke Allah
  5. Appropriate: Yoga is pre-Hindu, the Qu’ran had referred to it, concept of ‘prana’ is of Arabic origin.

My question is this: Must Hindus really worry about what’s happening to Yoga here? Or, must the Muslim leadership do?

To me it is the latter.

Monotheism runs on a single preceptor to obey and a book to abide by. Everything you need to live by is required to be found within the world these two define.

Hindus on the other hand, are a freewheeling lot, even rowdy I’d say, in their exuberance and creative individualism. Their culture, ways and places of worship teems with variety. Song, dance, pageants, colors, fragrances, stories, travels – and oh yes, revered classics of wisdom, too – are part of their inheritance. Nearly nothing shakes their equanimity, save when they sense the grossest unfairness to their ways of life.

Quite a contrast with what monotheism dictates.

This line from Malhotra’s post at the above link, holds a tell-tale clue. It is an advisory to a Muslim who’d practice Yoga:

“Replace silence with chanting Allah’s name”

There you have it: the fear is the silence. Can’t afford it, fill it up.

Yoga seeks to align your body with your mind. Meditation, an adjunct of Yoga trains you to be still and quiet so that you may give yourself a chance of glimpsing what reality truly is. Once you have experienced that, all man invented systems become finite sub-sets.

With Yoga and meditation go music, dances and festivals all of which are meant to transport you, through ecstasy to where Truth reigns. And these would be a threat to a demanding god too.

Malhotra in that video, narrates a debate he had with a Muslim cleric who claimed ecstatic Sufis have known oneness too.

Malhotra: So do you agree that in that state there’s no Allah apart from you? All is one?

The cleric quickly modified himself: what Sufis experience is not a total oneness but a seeming one.

That’s the rub. Monotheism needs a god ‘apart’ from you. For a Hindu the goal is an absolute merger, where all is one.

It’s an existential threat for monotheism to deny a god apart from you.

Christianity’s experience in India has cautionary lessons for those that’d conquer Hindus with ideology. Indian converts to Christianity are beginning to assimilate many practices of their Hindu ancestors. These include wearing jewellery, sporting bindis and other similar overt symbols that’d mark a Hindu, having ecstatic festivals, circumambulations of holy hills, prefixing pastors’ names with Shastri or Sadhu, night long vigils to compete with MahaSivaratri and crafty tweaking of narratives to suggest Christianity was of this very soil as much as Hinduism itself. Of late churches are being built to look like temples.

I am not here including Christians’ very common practice today of retaining Hindu gods’ names even after converting; that could be a ruse to avail privileges a non-Hindu is not entitled to, or to avoid unnecessary attention that a Christian name would attract.

None of the above is a grouse. I am merely pointing to a softening of the rigor with which Christians wore their identity to stand apart when I was a little boy 70 years ago.

You must wonder why.

Why is there a fear of Yoga - 1

Swayambhunath-ji’s gaze is, to me, a symbol of eternity

The reason is this: The inexorable pull towards the Secret of Dharma that the human soul experiences is of a fatal threat to finite faith systems. Indian Christianity has sensed that pull on its flock and has begun to concede the ‘deviations’ I listed above, as toffees to humor a whimpering child.

Indian Muslims are behind that curve, but have sensed what lies ahead. Lately, there’s been a greater assertions to stand out and apart. But I doubt the prospect of their staying this course.

There are many odds that are stacked against monotheism but I’ll restrict myself to just one that I feel in my Hindu bones.

Every life form, including the human, is inseparably tethered to a vast barely discernible Cosmic pool.

People may collectively delude themselves in congregations but when they are alone to reflect and ask themselves a series of questions, there is no escape from the only conclusion there can be.

Yoga and meditation are the means by which you are afforded the alone-ness so that you may experience the merger of yourself with your origins. With nothing intruding, when the stories you had been fed fall away, you glimpse the Truth, the Eternity, the only permanence.

And thereby hangs the reason for fear of Yoga and meditation for those that wish to drive their flock away from the Truth.

Featured Image: Huffington Post

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  • Cybil Peril

    There is no fear in general masses but only the clerics fear their dilution of identity with no ideological identity to stand their leg on. Hinduism seemingly scores higher on ideology while both Islam and Christianity use hate of other religion. Hate seems to be their plank to win over Hindus who believe in “Vasudev kutumbakam”.

    • VarunaPraghasa

      Hindus who believe in “Vasudev kutumbakam”.
      Precisely the reason why not to overuse this Vasudaiva kutumbakam and maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.. In the Mahabharata from where this phrase comes, this is told by the cunning Jackal that wants to kill and eat a birds family(If my memory serves right). The Mahabharata gives an example of how not use this phrase first.

  • Arun

    This approach is not correct or good. It is not good even for understanding religion.
    What is really bad about the Muslim community is their fanaticism, their notions of my way is the only way. It is not this notion of God apart from and outside of oneself which is the worst part.
    In the Sanatana Dharma also, you would find an explanation of this phenomena and discussion of this question whether God exists outside of me or is one with me or I am one with God.
    The notion that God and me are one and the same is only one of the approaches to God, and that too this state is an extremely advanced stage, in fact only in the state called Samadhi. Short of that, any attitude of God being one with me or me being one with God is an infinitely more degraded egotism and leads only to downfall, and should be avoided.
    The whole system of Personal God, is one in which the devotee and God are two different entities. You would even find a discussion of these questions in Sri Ramakrishna’s gospel. Short of Samadhi, when differentiated consciousness, consciousness of my body, mind is still there, it is better to assume for eg. an attitude of I am the servant and God as master (Hanuman & Rama). There are several other such divine relations also, mentioned in our literature. One can assume – lover and loved, friend (both exemplified by Krishna), in all of which the distinction is maintained between God and the Devotee.
    Another example given by Sri Ramakrishna – The waves belong to the ocean, ocean does not belong to the waves.
    Yet another example which Sri Ramakrishna used to give is I don’t want to become sugar, I want to taste sugar, to explain the difference between Advaita / Monism and Dvaita.

  • Prasad

    Thanks a lot. Very good one !

  • Mukundan PR

    It would be indigestible to traditional Hindus that Indian spiritual tradition known as Sanatana Dharma upholds in fact a monotheistic world view in line with Abrahamic religions. They would also not accept that the present form of Hinduism differs from the concepts of Sanatana Dharma and that both have different cosmogony. While Hinduism and various other sects in it hold Brahma, Siva, Vishnu, Surya, Ganapati et al as the creator, the Vedas and Upanishads hold Virat Purusha (the Cosmic Person) from whom the universe has originated. This Virat Purusha is variously described in the scriptures. Sometime he is referred as Hiranyagarbha, Mahat etc. in the Vedas and Upanishads. He is also referred as Manu, the first progenitor of human race or the Adi Guru. A solar system is born out of the sankalpam of Manu in association with Saptarshis, the seven planetary spirits. So the great rishis calculated the age of the cosmos in terms of Manvanatara, after the name of Manu. Sanatana Dharma is based on this world view, i.e. the universe has a creator God, the Manu, from whom the human race originated. In the Sanatana Dharma, the spiritual guides are Gurus, who manifest from time to time for the spiritual guidance of the human race for its spiritual perfection. Everything is centered in Guru in Sanatana Dharma. It is an ashram-centric spiritual order based on a monotheistic world view. Brahman (not Brahma) is the Supreme Light from everything originates. Brahman transforms himself into a Cosmic Person with attributes (Saguna Brahman) in order to create the worlds. However, with the advent of Vedic ritualism, the Vedic practitioners promoted trimurti system, making Brahma or others like Siva and Vishnu,Devi etc. as creator gods just to appease different sects and to promote a priest-centric temple system. The Vedic system thus distorted the Manu parampara and Manvantara system of the great rishis for their self-promotion, which ruined the spiritual status of India. Hinduism declined because of this error. In Sanatana Dharma, the spiritual administration and spiritual authority is Guru. Four epochal gurus (Kalanthara gurus) appear in each yuga. And there will be a Sandhi Guru like Sri Krishna who came in between Dwapara and Kali Yuga. Under the Kalanthara Guru, minor gurus and messengers of God appear for a period of 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, etc. This long duration of yugas is required for the evolution of all living beings from the state of an atom to the Absolute. This is the eternal spiritual order called Sanatana Dharma. India’s religious tolerance is based on this vision of rishis. Nobody can destroy this spiritual vision as it is an eternal law of God. It is time for India to re-establish this spiritual order graduating from the trimurti tradition with its caste segregation and spiritual indiscipline, which is wrongly praised as love of freedom. For that India should seek the epochal Guru who has already incarnated in India for rejuvenating Sanatana Dharma. He is Navajyothi Sri Karunakara Guru, the great Guru in the prophecies. Only by uniting under a great spiritual leader, Indian can become the Guru of the world once again. There is no other way Hindus can be united.

  • Sakameedha

    All the Abrahamics search for salvation outside. Also i do not understand why yoga should be taught to all. Only real aspirants hankering after spiritual knowledge need be taught. Not everybody needs to know everything. This is precisely why our yogis resorted to solitude. There are true yoga teachers whom i know personally, existing in villages and forests who do not teach everybody. Indiscriminate teaching results in this kind of dilution..Also the idea of yoga is totally antithetical to the belief of the Abrahamic religions. Really serious yoga teachers should not dilute their teaching if they have to teach people of these Abrahamic religions.

    Also i dont know why much ado is made about monotheism or strict tauhid as per islam or “Though shall worship no deity than me”, commandments of the Jews. Nobody has ever made a clear case for it.

    1 . Many say there is no confusion and there is only one god, one prophet and one holy book. But then why each of the Abrahamic religions have so many different versions of their creed?(For example Christianity has some 14000 sects world and around 73 sects in Islam). Also each sect considerd the other heretics, kuffar, pagan etc etc.How many millions died and are still dying because of sectarian wars even now?(The Shia Vs Sunni wars).

    2. Also among the different one goddists there is no agreement as to whose “One god” controls the entrance to heaven. Each one goddist is at the throat of the other.

    3. The yoga of patanjali atleast has for its foundation sankya whose tenets are a far cry from those of the one goddists, Since for the Christians only and only belief in Jesus is salvation and also to the muslims and jews their respective gods grant salvation to those people if they follow those gods law. So yoga is irrelevant to all the 3. So instead of using nonsensical ambiguous cliches like “Find your truth” etc, a teacher teaching yoga as per patanjali must be unambiguous about the final goal, even though even most Hindu’s would not understand the difference between advaitic realization and the final goal stated in the patanjali yoga sutras.

    • Cybil Peril

      There is no jihad for those who deny Yoga practice. Be assured.

      • Sakameedha

        Sorry did not understand what you meant

        • Cybil Peril

          Islam, Christianity, Jews, Communists are at the gullets of all who deny their submission and commandments but a Yogi does not threaten to behead anybody, except to help them adapt to the peaceful, graceful and loving care. Yogi is always at peace with him/herself as well as the environment around. If not so, then s/he is either pretending or impoverishing.

          • VarunaPraghasa

            Ok yea i get yes you are right in that sense.

    • Cybil Peril

      Should a teacher deny teaching a pupil who comes to him/her? I suppose not! It is of course a discretion to accept but a true teacher mustn’t deny anyone coming to them with good intentions of learning. It is a duty of a teacher to help everyone. This is one of the first precept in Sanatan Dharm.

      • VarunaPraghasa

        Yes you are right when you say “It is of course a discretion to accept but a true teacher mustn’t deny anyone coming to them with good intentions of learning.”. But then i know many people especially westerners who came to india to learn the veda, shastras etc, recorded them on a tape and got the poor teacher to sign a document in English. The poor trusting teacher signed it to only find that he was forbidden to teach, as the recordings were now owned by them. So yes if somebody wants to learn, the teacher should probe the depths of the intentions of the student and not just give away things indiscriminately without the proper yogyata needed

        • Cybil Peril

          V both seem 2 b on same wave length and agree on the precepts taught under “Sanatan Dharm”. Today the politics of exploitation has taken over the principles of humanity. Unfortunate but true. Abrahamics depend upon lies and deceit which are unacceptable according to Sanatan Sanskriti.