Did the Buddha Break Away from Hinduism?

This was published in Hindu Human Rights, on 10 August 2013, and in Sutra Journal, October, 2015.

Orientalists have started treating Buddhism as a separate religion because they discovered it outside India, without any conspicuous link with India, where Buddhism was not in evidence. At first, they didn’t even know that the Buddha had been an Indian. It had at any rate gone through centuries of development unrelated to anything happening in India at the same time. Therefore, it is understandable that Buddhism was already the object of a separate discipline even before any connection with Hinduism could be made.

Buddhism In Modern India

In India, all kinds of invention, somewhat logically connected to this status of separate religion, were then added. Especially the Ambedkarite movement, springing from the conversion of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1956, was very driven in retro-actively producing an anti-Hindu programme for the Buddha.

Conversion itself, not just the embracing of a new tradition (which any Hindu is free to do, all while staying a Hindu) but the renouncing of one’s previous religion, as the Hindu-born politician Ambedkar did, is a typically Christian concept.

The model event was the conversion of the Frankish king Clovis, possibly in 496, who “burned what he had worshipped and worshipped what he had burnt.” (Let it pass for now that the Christian chroniclers slandered their victims by positing a false symmetry: the Heathens hadn’t been in the business of destroying Christian symbols.) So, in his understanding of the history of Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Ambedkar was less than reliable, in spite of his sterling contributions regarding the history of Islam and some parts of the history of caste.

But where he was a bit right and a bit mistaken, his later followers have gone all the way and made nothing but a gross caricature of history, and especially about the place of Buddhism in Hindu history.

The Ambedkarite worldview has ultimately only radicalized the moderately anti-Hindu version of the reigning Nehruvians. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Buddhism was turned into the unofficial state religion of India, adopting the “lion pillar” of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka as state symbol and putting the 24-spoked Cakravarti wheel in the national flag.

Essentially, Nehru’s knowledge of Indian history was limited to two spiritual figures, viz. the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and three political leaders: Ashoka, Akbar and himself. The concept of Cakravarti (“wheel-turner,” universal ruler) was in fact much older than Ashoka, and the 24-spoked wheel can also be read in other senses, e.g. the Sankhya philosophy’s worldview, with the central Purusha/Subject and the 24 elements of Prakrti/Nature.

The anglicized Nehru, “India’s last Viceroy,” prided himself on his illiteracy in Hindu culture, so he didn’t know any of this, but was satisfied that these symbols could glorify Ashoka and belittle Hinduism, deemed a separate religion from which Ashoka had broken away by accepting Buddhism. More broadly, Nehru thought that everything of value in India was a gift of Buddhism (and Islam) to the undeserving Hindus. Thus, the fabled Hindu tolerance was according to him a value borrowed from Buddhism.

In reality, the Buddha had been a beneficiary of an already established Hindu tradition of pluralism. In a Muslim country, he would never have preached his doctrine in peace and comfort for 45 years, but in Hindu society, this was a matter of course. There were some attempts on his life, but they emanated not from “Hindus” but from jealous disciples within his own monastic order.

So, both Nehru and Ambedkar, as well as their followers, believed by implication that at some point in his life, the Hindu-born renunciate Buddha had broken away from Hinduism and adopted a new religion, Buddhism. This notion is now omnipresent, and through school textbooks, most Indians have lapped this up and don’t know any better.

However, numerous though they are, none of the believers in this story have ever told us at what moment in his life the Buddha broke away from Hinduism. When did he revolt against it? Very many Indians repeat the Nehruvian account, but so far, never has any of them been able to pinpoint an event in the Buddha’s life which constituted a break with Hinduism. 

The Term “Hinduism”

Their first line of defence, when put on the spot, is sure to be:“Actually, Hinduism did not yet exist at the time.”So, their position really is:Hinduism did not exist yet, but somehow the Buddha broke away from it.Yeah, the secular position is that he was a miracle-worker.

Let us correct that: the word “Hinduism” did not exist yet. When Darius of the Achaemenid Persians, a near-contemporary of the Buddha, used the word “Hindu,” it was purely in a geographical sense: anyone from inside or beyond the Indus region.

When the medieval Muslim invaders brought the term into India, they used it to mean: any Indian except for the Indian Muslims, Christians or Jews. It did not have a specific doctrinal content except “non-Abrahamic,” a negative definition. It meant every Indian Pagan, including the Brahmins, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), Jains, other ascetics, low-castes, intermediate castes, tribals, and by implication also the as yet unborn Lingayats, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishnaites, secularists, and others who nowadays reject the label “Hindu.”

This definition was essentially also adopted by V.D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva (1923), and by the Hindu Marriage Act (1955). By this historical definition, which also has the advantages of primacy and of not being thought up by the wily Brahmins, the Buddha and all his Indian followers are unquestionably Hindus. In that sense, Savarkar was right when he called Ambedkar’s taking refuge in Buddhism “a sure jump into the Hindu fold.”

But the word “Hindu” is a favourite object of manipulation. Thus, secularists say that all kinds of groups (Dravidians, low-castes, Sikhs, etc.) are “not Hindu,” yet when Hindus complain of the self-righteousness and aggression of the minorities, secularists laugh at this concern: “How can the Hindus feel threatened? They are more than 80%!”

The missionaries call the tribals “not Hindus,” but when the tribals riot against the Christians who have murdered their Swami, we read about “Hindu rioters.” In the Buddha’s case, “Hindu” is often narrowed down to “Vedic” when convenient, then restored to its wider meaning when expedient.

One meaning which the word “Hindu” definitely does not have, and did not have when it was introduced, is “Vedic.” Shankara holds it against Patanjali and the Sankhya school (just like the Buddha did) that they don’t bother to cite the Vedas, yet they have a place in every history of Hindu thought.

Hinduism includes a lot of elements which have only a thin Vedic veneer, and numerous ones which are not Vedic at all. Scholars say that it consists of a “Great Tradition” and many “Little Traditions,” local cults allowed to subsist under the aegis of the prestigious Vedic line. However, if we want to classify the Buddha in these terms, he should rather be included in the Great Tradition.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was a Kshatriya, a scion of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty, a descendant of Manu, a self-described reincarnation of Rama, the son of the Raja of the Shakya tribe, a member of its Senate, and belonging to the Gautama gotra (roughly “clan”).

Though monks are often known by their monastic name, Buddhists prefer to name the Buddha after his descent group, viz. the Shakyamuni, “renunciate of the Shakya tribe.” This tribe was as Hindu as could be, consisting according to its own belief of the progeny of the eldest children of patriarch Manu, who were repudiated at the insistence of his later, younger wife.

The Buddha is not known to have rejected this name, not even at the end of his life when the Shakyas had earned the wrath of king Vidudabha of Kosala and were massacred. The doctrine that he was one in a line of incarnations which also included Rama is not a deceitful Brahmin Puranic invention but was launched by the Buddha himself, who claimed Rama as an earlier incarnation of his. The numerous scholars who like to explain every Hindu idea or custom as “borrowed from Buddhism” could well counter Ambedkar’s rejection of this “Hindu” doctrine by pointing out very aptly that it was “borrowed from Buddhism.” 

Career

At 29, he renounced society, but not Hinduism. Indeed, it is a typical thing among Hindus to exit from society, laying off caste marks including civil name.

The Rg-Veda already describes the Muni-s as having matted hair and going about sky-clad: such are what we now know as Naga Sadhus. Asceticism was a recognized practice in Vedic society long before the Buddha. Yajnavalkya, the Upanishadic originator of the notion of Self, renounced life in society after a successful career as court priest and an equally happy family life with two wives.

By leaving his family and renouncing his future in politics, the Buddha followed an existing tradition within Hindu society. He didn’t practice Vedic rituals anymore, which is normal for a Vedic renunciate (though Zen Buddhists still recite the Heart Sutra in the Vedic fashion, ending with“sowaka,”i.e., svaha).

He was a late follower of a movement very much in evidence in the Upanishads, viz. of spurning rituals (Karmakanda) in favour of knowledge (Jnanakanda). After he had done the Hindu thing by going to the forest, he tried several methods, including the techniques he learned from two masters and which did not fully satisfy him−but nonetheless enough to include them in his own and the Buddhist curriculum.

Among other techniques, he practised Anapanasati,“attention to the breathing process,” the archetypal yoga practice popular in practically all yoga schools even today. For a while he also practised an extreme form of asceticism, still existing in the Hindu sect of Jainism. He exercised his Hindu freedom to join a sect devoted to certain techniques, and later the freedom to leave it, remaining a Hindu at every stage.

He then added a technique of his own, or at least that is what the Buddhist sources tell us, for in the paucity of reliable information, we don’t know for sure that he hadn’t learned the Vipassana (“mindfulness”) technique elsewhere.

Unless evidence of the contrary comes to the surface, we assume that he invented this technique all by himself, as a Hindu is free to do. He then achieved Bodhi, the “Awakening.” By his own admission, he was by no means the first to do so. Instead, he had only walked the same path of other Awakened beings before him.

At the bidding of the Vedic gods Brahma and Indra, he left his self-contained state of Awakening and started teaching his way to others. When he “set in motion the wheel of the Law” (Dharma-cakra-pravartana, Chinese Falungong), he gave no indication whatsoever of breaking with an existing system.

On the contrary, by his use of existing Vedic and Upanishadic terminology (Arya, “Vedically civilized”;Dharma), he confirmed his Vedic roots and implied that his system was a restoration of the Vedic ideal that had become degenerate. He taught his techniques and his analysis of the human condition to his disciples, promising them to achieve the same Awakening if they practiced these diligently.

Caste

On caste, we find him in full cooperation with existing caste society. Being an elitist, he mainly recruited among the upper castes, with over 40% Brahmins. These would later furnish all the great philosophers who made Buddhism synonymous with conceptual sophistication.

Conversely, the Buddhist universities trained well-known non-Buddhist scientists such as the astronomer Aryabhata. Lest the impression be created that universities are a gift of Buddhism to India, it may be pointed out that the Buddha’s friends Bandhula and Prasenadi (and, according to a speculation, maybe the young Siddhartha himself) had studied at the university of Takshashila, clearly established before there were any Buddhists were around to do so. Instead, the Buddhists greatly developed an institution which they had inherited from Hindu society.

The kings and magnates of the eastern Ganga plain treated the Buddha as one of their own (because that is what he was) and gladly patronized his fast-growing monastic order, commanding their servants and subjects to build a network of monasteries for it. He predicted the coming of a future Awakened leader like himself, the Maitreya (“the one practising friendship/charity”), and specified that he would be born in a Brahmin family.

When king Prasenadi discovered that his wife was not a Shakya princess but the daughter of the Shakya ruler by a maid-servant, he repudiated her and their son; but his friend the Buddha made him take them back.

Did he achieve this by saying that birth is unimportant, that “caste is bad” or that “caste doesn’t matter,” as the Ambedkarites claim? No, he reminded the king of the old view (then apparently in the process of being replaced with a stricter view) that caste was passed on exclusively in the paternal line.

Among hybrids of horses and donkeys, the progeny of a horse stallion and a donkey mare whinnies, like its father, while the progeny of a donkey stallion and a horse mare brays, also like its father. So, in the oldest Upanishad, Satyakama Jabala is accepted by his Brahmins-only teacher because his father is deduced to be a Brahmin, regardless of his mother being a maid-servant. And similarly, king Prasenadi should accept his son as a Kshatriya, even though his mother was not a full-blooded Shakya Kshatriya.

When he died, the elites of eight cities made a successful bid for his ashes on the plea: “We are Kshatriyas, he was a Kshatriya, therefore we have a right to his ashes”. After almost half a century, his disciples didn’t mind being seen in public as still observing caste in a context which was par excellence Buddhist.

The reason is that the Buddha in his many teachings never had told them to give up caste, e.g. to give their daughters in marriage to men of other castes. This was perfectly logical: as a man with a spiritual message, the Buddha wanted to lose as little time as possible on social matters. If satisfying your own miserable desires is difficult enough, satisfying the desire for an egalitarian society provides an endless distraction from your spiritual practice. 

The Seven Rules

There never was a separate non-Hindu Buddhist society.

Most Hindus worship various gods and teachers, adding and sometimes removing one or more pictures or statues to their house altar. This way, there were some lay worshippers of the Buddha, but they were not a society separate from the worshippers of other gods or Awakened masters. This box-type division of society in different sects is another Christian prejudice infused into modern Hindu society by Nehruvian secularism. There were only Hindus, members of Hindu castes, some of whom had a veneration for the Buddha among others.

Buddhist buildings in India often follow the designs of Vedic habitat ecology or Vastu Shastra. Buddhist temple conventions follow an established Hindu pattern. Buddhist mantras, also outside India, follow the pattern of Vedic mantras.

When Buddhism spread to China and Japan, Buddhist monks took the Vedic gods (e.g. the twelve Adityas) with them and built temples for them. In Japan, every town has a temple for the river-goddess Benzaiten, i.e. “Saraswati Devi,” the goddess Saraswati. She was not introduced there by wily Brahmins, but by Buddhists.

At the fag end of his long life, the Buddha described the seven principles by which a society does not perish (which Sita Ram Goel has given more body in his historical novel Saptasheel, in Hindi), and among them are included: respecting and maintaining the existing festivals, pilgrimages and rituals; and revering the holy men.

These festivals etc. were mainly “Vedic,” of course, like the pilgrimage to the Saraswati River that Balarama made in the Mahabharata, or the pilgrimage to the Ganga which the elderly Pandava brothers made. Far from being a revolutionary, the Buddha emphatically outed himself as a conservative, both in social and religious matters. He was not a rebel or a revolutionary, but wanted the existing customs to continue.

The Buddha was every inch a Hindu.

http://indiafacts.co.in/did-the-buddha-break-away-from-hinduism/

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Easy To Mock Hindoos And Their Holy Cows, Difficult To Truly Revere Nature

A response to Jaitirth Rao’s ‘This Matter Of Beef’

Jaitirth Rao in his article, this matter of beef starts with making a right statement that the present laws protect neither the cows nor the dairy farmers. This post of mine is not just a reply to his article but a call to all those who think of themselves as truly liberal (on both sides of political ideologies) to examine their arguments about beef and environmentalism and yes, ‘economic viability’.

Before I proceed, please read my ceremonial disclaimer (written for those friends who have some special intellectual capabilities to assume otherwise).

—What happened in Dadri was a crime and is punishable by law. No less, no more and I don’t support lynching, beating up or murdering on taking law into own hands in any form, given any reason.

—I respect Mr Jaitirth Rao very much. The article is a counter to his arguments and is not to be taken otherwise.  

The inability of dairy farmers in sustaining the old cows which are not economically ‘useful’ is real. My deeply hurt emotions aside, let us accept that it is a problem that a farmer faces. The death of animals in stray accidents and by consuming harmful plastic waste (our precious gift to nature and our callous denial to think about recycling processes, lest we forget) is regrettable.

Ranjit Sinhji’s culinary choices don’t define my sensibilities, nor does Bhavabhuti’s supposed liking for veal. Not even the supposed verses of Rig Veda or whatever part of scriptures that mention cow meat define my sensibilities. As a Hindu, it is a matter of pride for me that the Hindoos (Continuing Mr. Rao’s advised spelling) have gone ahead and defied their Vedic references to beef and have stood against slaughter(assuming such references exist). I call this evolution of thought. We all evolved from cannibalism too. Just that there were no religious texts in that period. In course of evolution, we moved away from it and equated cannibalism with Rakshasatva or demonic nature. Agriculture is considered a breakthrough in human civilization. Why? Logically because we stop being predators and become creators, limiting the harm done by us to the environment.

Any asset (and a domesticated animal, since Mesopotamian times has been viewed as an asset) automatically becomes a less attractive investment if it loses its residual value.

This is the kind of statement that could hurt the sensibilities of a Hindu who claims to have even an iota of care for the nature and to any lover of environment. Cattle are the one main reason behind our evolution from predators to creators. A Hindu mind considers them as a partner in the civilization and not mere assets that exist to provide economical value. One can argue that cattle was considered as ‘wealth’ in any civilization and hence the argument. A Hindu heart considers even ‘wealth’ as worship worthy. In fact it owes its reverence to every animate and inanimate object that contributed to universal sustenance and the ‘holy cow’ is a symbol of this universal reverence.

Humane slaughter does sound like a desirable alternative to the otherwise painful death. But it does so assuming that the animal’s right to life is a function of its economic viability to the human being. Mr. Rao also feels that keeping the animals whose meat is protein rich at the cost of humans remaining protein deficient being a tad stupid is regrettable. No, the civilization and evolution we pride about, if it has just turned us into sophisticated predators, there is too less to be proud of being a human and lecture about humanity.

“Keeping alive surplus cattle which contribute to the dreaded methane in the environment (Dear Reader: I shall spare you the scatological details) is clearly a very very bad thing as far as Eco friends are concerned”

I shall reserve my reaction on this statement and it might just be a worthy task for each of us to contemplate on the multitude ways in which we release dreaded stuff into environment. May be we can make a case for humane slaughter of humans too! (I am not serious, but the logic suggests it this way).

Science is a great way to look at development. But looking at it from just a curious statistical evidence might not make case for slaughter. Slaughter to win a couple of cricket matches then makes it look like it is fine to kill a being for our sportive delight. I would rather prefer to lose a few matches or to come up with any breakthrough that could enable a sportsperson to depend less on height. Alternatively, can we think supplements?

The questions about the effectiveness of the law remain. But we need to choose how we would proceed to make them effective. Of course it is easy and tempting to mock at the Hindoo’s tailored protection of the holy ‘cow’. It is also sane to challenge the Hindoos to arrange for alternative protection centres as opposed to abandoning them on the road to die. (We can alternatively watch the way we dispose plastic unless we are fine with the thought that we are the blessed species with sole rights to pollute environment with plastic while the animals can be humanely slaughtered for their dreaded methane).

I know that it hurts the high egos of intellectuals to recognize the simple minded environmental symbolism of Hindoos. As a Hindu, I would look up at anyone taking this love for the holy cow forward to a stage of saner implementation where being a human does not mean coming up with ridiculous arguments to justify slaughter. If supporting slaughter makes me a liberal, the word seems to lose its sheen. Would prefer to be called otherwise for siding with life.

http://blogs.swarajyamag.com/2015/10/15/easy-to-mock-hindoos-and-their-holy-cows-difficult-to-truly-revere-nature/

Sanskrit and the Secularists

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Dublin last month when Irish students welcomed him with Sanskrit shlokas seems to have raised the hackles of our so called “secularists” with several going out of their way to say “We are secular, Mr. PM and we also love Sanskrit”.

Ms. Seema Mustafa wrote a long letter to prove that secularists are not Sanskrit-baiters. While she may have written out of true anguish and she probably also likes the language, the history, of secularist opposition to Sanskrit does not back her claims.

One merely has to recount the numerous petitions filed over the decades even when Sanskrit was an elective subject to see the kind of lobbying for the inclusion of Persian and Arabic among other options alongside Sanskrit to in the name of secularism.

Secular History of support for Sanskrit

One of the major decisions in this regard came in 1994 (way before Narendra Modi sprang on the scene) in which the Court completely refuted the claims that teaching Sanskrit was against secularism because Arabic or Persian were not accorded a similar status in the educational system.

The verdict was delivered by Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice B. L. Hansaria in response to a writ petition filed by Santosh Kumar and others in 1989 against the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development and Government of India. The court said that “a secular state is not hostile to religion but holds itself neutral in matters of religion” (para 16). It quoted from the Sanskrit Commission’s Report to show that Sanskrit was a binding and unifying force in India. Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the judgment spelt out the views of the Court in no uncertain terms”.

Another petition was filed by Aruna Roy and others, whose secularism was never doubted, (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 98 of 2002) again objecting to the inclusion of Sanskrit in the education system.

Beyond education, the self-professed secularists tried every trick to block Sanskrit gaining a place of prominence in the polity. For example, Kannada sociologist M.N. Srinivas coined a term Sanskritisation, which denotes the acquiring of Brahminical or Hindu ethos by the so called lower castes. The use of Sanskrit here implicitly implied that Sanskrit was a language of higher echelons of the society only (read Brahmins) and lower castes acquired it to gain recognition. Otherwise, the moving to higher echelons of the society by lower strata is generally denoted by the term ‘upwardly mobile’ class.

When Karnataka government proposed to set up Sanskrit University, most of the secularists sprang up to oppose it. When the bill on Sanskrit University came up for debate in the state Legislative Council in 2009, the opposition moved a bill asking for the setting up of the Urdu University alongside it.

Congress member V S Ugrappa and Janata Dal (Secular) leader M C Nanaiah, the parties of which secular credentials are never questioned by ‘progressive’ intellectuals, argued that Sanskrit University could be set up then ‘there should be nothing in the way’ to set up Urdu one.

Clearly, intelligentsia’s idea of secularism was that Urdu, Arabic and Persian should be placed along and in equal proportion to Sanskrit.

Opposition to setting up of Sanskrit university was not limited in Karnataka alone. When the proposal to establish an university at Kalady, the birthplace  of Adi Shankaracharya, in Kerala came up, Marxist Communist Party opposed it vehemently. It is because of their opposition that the setting up of this university got delayed and it was only after Shankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt donated Rs 1 crore towards it, that the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran took some steps in this direction.

Even when this university was established, the Marxist lobby usurped it leading to the appointment of Prof. K.N.Panicker as its Vice Chancellor. He established a Chair in the name of E M S Namboodiripad in the university, who had opposed its idea from the start, and brought the university to such a pass that an expert study group sent by the UGC recommended urgent and drastic measures to mend it.

It is pertinent here to point out what Tamil writer and Joe D’ Cruz said recently of status of Sanskrit in India. According to The Hindu, he said,

“People have been misguided for 60 years about Sanskrit and have been kept away from learning it. There was a notion that Sanskrit was the preserve of the higher echelons of the society and it was the language of the Hindu texts.”

D’Cruz is a Christian and a Sahitya Akademi award winner. He is also president of the Samskrita Bharati, Uttara Tamil Nadu and it is common knowledge that Samskrita Bharati is a RSS-affiliated organisation. But it proved my point that one who wants to nurture one’s love for Samskrita has to go to RSS or similar organisation – because Secularists never loved Sanskrit!

(Author: Devidas Deshpande, Journalist and Translator. He lives in Pune.)

http://www.niticentral.com/2015/10/11/secularists-never-loved-sanskrit-334628.html

The Spirit of Shambo (2007) Lives on: The Bull about Beef and a Metaphor for Dharmic Ethics

(Some events within this piece are a flashback – they occurred in July 2007.  They are a TRUE dialogue based exclusively on an e-mail conversation between two friends, VC = a dear friend, Vijay a lifelong Vegetarian and JJ= me, a non Veggie)

But, first, a sense of the present: A lot of hot air is being expelled in the aftermath of the Dadri incident in UP. A local fracas which led to the tragic death of one man, and which would not make news if the man were a Hindu has been globalized to epic proportions.

As usual, the self declared defenders of the freedom to propagate anti-Hindu, anti-India invective, and to continue a vitriolic assault on Narendra Modi as the personification of the devil incarnate are busy at work. Saturday’s BBC Radio 4 programme was no exception – Sanjoy Majumder, like an ideological descendent of Macaulay, displaying his acquiescence in all its glory, parroted the usual BBC tripe. Isn’t is funny how low  some folk will sink to keep themselves in their pathetic servile jobs in a putrid, ossified, so called News organisation rotten from the core?

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Totally in keeping with the standard template, the unwashed, unreconstructed, uncouth chatterati  that make up the bulk of western arbiters of other cultures  employs the usual tactics. The Beeb hammers the “fundamentalist” Hindu Nationalist agenda, which might suggest that many Hindus and also other non-Hindu Indians are not nationalist, or possibly that these non-nationalist Indians of the Beeb’s imagination pine for the return of the munificent British Empire, or maybe, even a not so benevolent Ghaznavi or a composit-multi-culti Mughal? They make out that this “nouveau Hinduism” is a radical, terroristic front against “minorities” and goes counter to the alleged age old Hindu traditions of polytheistic beef eating?

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Back to 2007….

Shambo, the bull at Skanda Vale Temple in Wales grabbed the headlines in the UK media for several weeks in the summer of 2007. His plight raised some key questions about ethical values and humanity and how diversely people perceive them as well as the reactions these compass points elicit. Here’s the email conversation between friends.

VR: What the bull***t is all this about? Why have Hindus in general and the Hindu Forum got involved in this? Surely, this is a diseased animal and needs to be despatched to meet its maker?

 JJ: I think you are missing several points.

  • A Hindu temple is a place which respects the sanctity of all life, including a bull and an ant, the same as a man. This “animal” is the Temple bull which holds a special place in a special place. It is part of the sanctum community of the temple. It is not to be confused with an ordinary head of dairy of beef cattle that has a price of £1000 or so.
  • At this point, the bull is merely suspected of Bovine TB, nothing conclusive yet. When and if the TB is proven, then it is possible that it can be cared for and cured, and remember, there is no question that this would be paid for by DEFRA (UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
  • Recall the recent Bernard Matthews Company episode. It turned out that there was no “proof” that the poultry disease had been brought into Norfolk by the company transporting livestock from Hungary. As a result, not only were no charges of danger to public health brought, but the company actually received compensation to the tune of £600,000 from public funds for loss of business due to the allegations.
  • The price of bull***t may be cheap, but the sentiments of people’s philosophy are priceless especially in an age of psychological mind games and intimidation in the name of exclusive religions, violence, greed, “me, me”, “rights” and so forth.

We need more people who care about a tree, a bull, a child, and not merely look at their economic value. Surely, by their calm, assured, and non violent, philosophic approach, the campaigners for Shambu have shown that there is indeed a different way than brandishing threatening banners and flags, masking faces and shouting “death” to anyone who insults this or that?

VR: We are just proving that we are just a bunch of ignorant and superstitious animists. Would the same hue and cry been raised about a goat? I think not. We are just leaving ourselves open to being classified as cow worshippers.

There are more important things in life than preservation of a single cow. If Hindus or Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) feel so deeply about this issue then how about trying to save all cows in the UK? We are happy to live amongst a community of cow eaters and suddenly we get an attack of religious sentimentality about one bull being slaughtered? Are these the sentiments of a “religious minority”? Hmmm, where have I heard this before? Let’s take a leaf out of others book, we have now also become the victims, eh?

Are you going to form this ring of chain round this cow to save it from being slaughtered? Oh yeah, Gandhi must be kicking his heels in the proverbial grave.  The world has gone mad. Stop the world, let me get outta here!

JJ: Animist?? I’d rather be an animist than a sanctimonious believer in an exclusivist “true” god, whatever that is.  It seems that such labels as “cow worshipper” and “animist” affect you and get under your skin. By the way, when are you planning to eat meat or have you now started?

As to animal slaughter in general, this is not the issue at stake here. This is about one animal in one place which by circumstance happens to be a temple that eschews violence of all forms.

I commend to you a 2 hour documentary called“Holy Cow” – catch it on NG channel when it comes round again. You will be surprised and educated. The cow holds a special place across so many cultures. The Masai were so affected by the events of 9/11 that they gifted cows to New York as a solace and a mark of their way of saying “we are thinking of you”.

The relationship between humans and the cow is so ancient it goes back to before when man first settled down to an agrarian lifestyle. The ancients around all the river civilisations held cattle in high esteem not just economically but spiritually. Note the presence of the cow or the bull in the iconography of the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the Indians and also of the rock paintings in Europe and Africa. Even today, the pastoralists generally do not kill their cows in the same way as the mass market for meat consumption.

VR: That’s a lame comeback!! I really do not know what significance me eating meat has to the story of a diseased bull? I could ask you the same question? Seeing you are so concerned about the welfare of animals, when are you going to stop turning your stomach into a graveyard of animals and stop eating meat?

I have a great regard for all living species not just cows. And yes, I am aware that cows are and have always had a special place in Hinduism but that’s not to say we have to worship the animals. By all means, let’s make a concerted attempt at reducing the pain suffered by the animals and HFB would be making a worthwhile contribution if it added its voice to various other animal rights organisations.

This bull has tested positive for TB and I ain’t going to sign an online petition to save it…

JJ: No, you are totally mistaken – this is NOT a case of Hindus worshiping cows! Just because some ignorant sorts seem to think so does not make it true.

Yes, the Hindu Forum and others in the community do need to take up causes against animal cruelty much more than they do at the moment. However the kind of mindless campaigning that some of these organisations conduct is itself dangerous and destructive – you know of incidents of such people terrorising Oxford scientists who use around 100 primates every year in their groundbreaking medical research all for the good of humanity yet, these animal lovers will but do nothing about the inhumane conditions of millions of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. The same was the case with the politicised move to ban fox hunting.

Yes, eating meat has little relevance to the plight of this bull. And yes, abstaining from meat is something that I do aspire to. For this, I applaud your retort to what you refer to as my lame comeback.

No, this bull is not confirmed as diseased, it is only suspected of being diseased. Also, take a note of the report today, Monday 14 May. It is evident that culling animals does not stop bovine TB. In their quest to control the disease, Ireland has virtually eliminated their badger population but yet the incidence of bovine TB is unabated. When are scientists going to be listened to? How will killing this bull, which is isolated, save other cattle from the disease?

We ought to step away from the narrow definition of “I am a Hindu and that person over there is not a Hindu”. Instead we should see this bull as a metaphor for the ethics of life in general and not something that is specific to the “sentiments” of Hindus or whoever. In this regard, the Skanda Vale temple seems to fit the bill perfectly – it is called the “Many names of God” and you will see that it has the insignia of all the major faiths.  Looking at it this way, we can overcome prejudices, some foisted on us and many self inflicted, and focus on mutual education and not get too worried about ignorant comments about animism and cow worship.

I am appalled that unproductive cattle are so badly treated in India. It seems that Hindu society cannot reconcile as to what is worse, killing them or letting them go hungry and scavenging? That has to change. But before that can happen, Indians have to free themselves from the shackles of slavery that has held them back for a millennia.

As it turned out, Shambo was put to sleep without a murmur from the Hindu community. No burnt effigies, no threats, no damage to property or to life or limb. Life carried on….

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Back to October 2015..

The metaphor of Shambo still persists; Hindus continue to advance in presenting an alternative world view , but the global calumny against Hindu Dharma continues unabated. Even Animal Lovers and Animal Rights activists have shied away or remain ignorant of the debate. But for a few honourable exceptions from the West like Francois Gautier and an increasing array of indigenous Indic commentators, (see for example the wonderful item in this electronic journal http://indiafacts.co.in/beef-against-beef/ by the erudite Ashish Dhar), there is still much inhumane, unadulterated racist anti-India filth being passed off as reportage. Equally, there are has-hardly-beens like Nayantara Sehgal who make flatulent gestures whilst either remaining spineless in the face of, or worse, actually siding with the real rabid fascist ideologues of exclusivist but conflict riddled politics and monotheisms.

People power is increasingly showing itself on social media, Dharmic awareness rises by the day and that the presstitutes are not easily allowed to pass of their lies as gospel. It is right that despite a centuries long slumber, Hindus still hold their Dharmic values dear within their DNA and are not adopting the tactics honed by others in socially disruptive or even violent protests against gun control, police brutality, cartoons or  an assortment of other  grievances.

The Hindu is not some dirty creature to be shunned; he/she is just like the millions in the west, east, north and south, be they members of vegetarian societies, peaceful activists for the environment and for animals, Yoga practitioners or just conscientious humane individuals, who are fed up with the polarisation of right-left divisions and the my-god-is-right rivalries and are seeking alternative solutions to global problems.

More active engagement, mutually educating and making common cause with the silent millions around the world who do not profess to be Hindu, but who are a massive yet hitherto a dormant force and potential alliance base, and using this to crystallise, promote and share the universal applicability of Dharma in preserving of our little planet’s diversity has to be the vision for the Hindu. Now that would be proper Dharma-Raksha in practice!

Shambo’s Atman would find Shanti in that.

Jay Jina is a UK-based third generation NRI. Besides pursuing a professional career as a European IT Director with a multinational and a part time university academic, Jay’s interests span history, current affairs, the Indian Diaspora and the history and politcs of Science.

http://indiafacts.co.in/the-spirit-of-shambo-2007-lives-on-the-bull-about-beef-and-a-metaphor-for-dharmic-ethics/

Yoga has evolved

You hear or see the word yoga. What image drops into your mind?

One might be an Indian man wearing a cotton diaper around his loins, placing his limbs at angles and directions that should not be possible.

Another might be a room of young beautiful yogis who effortlessly move from standing on two feet to balancing on two hands, or moving from a sitting position with both legs in front to both legs behind their shoulders.

A third might even be a class of slowly moving arms and legs that stay in positions so long, it makes your hamstrings hurt just thinking about it.

Binding your image together are smells — patchouli, citrus, sage, basil and eucalyptus; music — new age, chimes, chanting or drums; and deities that include a monkey faced man and a god with a third eye on his forehead, a snake around his neck that wears a crescent moon on his head.

After 5,000 years, yes, those experiences can still be yours — if that’s what you’re looking for.

But yoga has come a long way since becoming popularized in the Western world within the past 100 years and there’s many myths that should be debunked if they’re keep you away from this practice.

In the Shreveport area there are six studios that offer a variety of styles of yoga. There’s also many fitness clubs, gyms and churches in the area offering forms of Hatha yoga (the physical style of yoga).

“Evolve or die,” said local yoga instructor Bryan Sullivan. “Do you think even the (Hindus) in India are practicing yoga the exact same way? I mean Pattabhi Jois (known as the founder of Ashtanga Yoga) put his spin on it; everyone has put their spin on it.”

Myth 1: Yoga is a religion

Yoga is not a religion. Yoga grew and prospered in the Hindu culture so it gets associated with the Hindu way of life, and Hindu also is not a religion. Instead, yoga is a tool — like massage, healthy eating or meditation — that can be used by anyone.

“I’m quite passionate about this (myth) as a practicing Episcopalian who prays to Jesus Christ,” said Ally Neal Ford, a master yoga teacher and instructor from Tampa, Florida. “Anyone, regardless of religion, race, station in life, or background can practice yoga.”

Ford’s teacher program is registered with Yoga Alliance, and has successfully graduated close to 200 teachers, including 60 from northwest Louisiana. Several of those students now own or teach in studios in the Shreveport area.

For some, yoga can simply be a physical practice, but for many who use the philosophical guidebook (The Sutras) as well as the breath (prana), asanas (postures) and meditation; it can become transformative.

“People develop an immense awareness of their actions, words, desires, emotions and the thoughts behind all of those things,” Ford said. “It’s with this awareness that we can make real changes that aid wellness and healing.”

It’s only natural it becomes a spiritual journey says Ford.

“People find themselves affirming their religious beliefs or praying, but to the God of their own understanding, not to some strange yoga God,” Ford said. “So in this way, yoga can be a spiritual practice that supports any religion.”

Myth 2: Yoga requires a complete lifestyle change

Of course it doesn’t, says Ford.

If all you do is participate in the physical aspect it will be a gift, and who knows may lead to other changes, Ford says.

Walter Hood, a Vietnam veteran found that to be true for him, after joining a Yin yoga class at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, he’s made the physical part of his practice part of his morning routine.

“It works the kinks out,” said Hood, who intends to never live without it. “I didn’t think it would be for me because I was exercising way more than I thought I would be in (yoga) class. But it’s not about the exercise here, it’s about learning to breathe properly and holding the poses.”

Hood suspects the word “yoga” might carry expectations with it that make people stay away.

“If the word yoga scares you, call it something else,” he said. “Say I’m going to stretching class. But do it.”

Myth 3: Yoga is about impossible poses

Although amazing photos of the anatomy rocking in Cirque du Soleil fashion can be inspiring, it’s not what all students should try to attain in their practice, says every yoga instructor. The real mantra, they say, is you are coming to reclaim balance within your own body and mind.

“Yoga meets you where you are,” said Ford, “helping to develop a relative level of flexibility that is appropriate and safe for your body.”

Yoga teachers often hear the same excuse: I’m not flexible enough.

And the answer is very apparent: That’s exactly why you should come.

Who among us hasn’t had the experience of reaching back or bending over abruptly and then feeling a sharp pain?

Keeping your joints lubed, strong and healthy with movement can often prevent a minor injury from becoming major injury.

“So if you step off a curb the wrong way, a little flexibility can make the difference between an ankle sprain or break,” Ford said.

Myth 4: Yoga is not a workout/Yoga is a workout

Depending on the style of yoga you may find either one to be a myth. The aid in stress relief is all the buzz with yoga, but some new practitioners find they are getting a lot more than they bargained for.

All styles of yoga use the breath to help maintain focus, create change and bring intention into the practice, but the more intense or faster moving styles of yoga also require a great deal of core and body strength. For example, there are about 60 chaturanga dandasanas — basically a tricep push up — in the Ashtanga primary series.

“If you find the right style, you can sweat more than you do running 6 miles in the heat,” Ford said. “And I’m from Texas, I know.”

However, many other styles can have zero stressful poses, but that’s not to say the stretching won’t make you sore if it’s new to your body.

LaShawanda Walters, a U.S. Navy veteran also has joined the Yin yoga class at the Overton Brooks VA.

Yin yoga opens connective tissues through a slow practice that typically holds poses for 3-5 minutes, says Monica Carlson, her teacher.

Carlson also guides her class through Yoga nidra, a practice in yoga known as yoga sleep, a systematic method for complete relaxation.

“I was looking for something to keep me calm and keep my anxiety down,” said Walters, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. “I feel refreshed after class.”

Myth 5: Yoga is for women

It does seem that way. Walk into any yoga class and there can be a room full of women and at best a handful of men. In fact a 2012 study by Yoga Journal found that of the 20.4 million people who practice yoga in the United States, only 18 percent of them were men.

“You’d think that would bring more men to class,” jokes Ford, who finds it kind of ironic considering the history of yoga. “As early as the 1930s, and 40s the bulk of practitioners were men!”

The tides may be turning. Sullivan, who teaches with Yoga Jai, a donation based yoga-in-the-park organization, sees more men coming to yoga class and has a theory.

“I think the P90X has changed the perception,” he said. “P90X incorporates really intense yoga into it and it’s introduced a whole new generation of men to another side of yoga.”

Also helping turn the tide is the use of yoga by many pro sports. A 2014 article in Sports Illustrated — Beyond Downward Dog: The Rise of Yoga in the NBA and Other Pro Sports highlights this trend.

Myth 6: Yoga is risk free

Nothing is risk free, all forms of physical activity should be approached thoughtfully say experts.

“Listen to your body and take it slowly,” Ford says.

And find a good teacher. Yoga Alliance is a well respected standard setting association that has a registry of over 62,300 teachers and more than 3,900 schools. You can search on their website to find experienced teachers in your area.

Myth 7: There is only one type

Paddleboard yoga — yes it’s a thing. YogaTrail.com lists 63 different styles of yoga and there are probably many more variations that vary in intensity, poses, guidelines, music (none to a lot), philosophy and location.

Yoga Jai of Shreveport provides donation based yoga in the park every Sunday weather permitting. James Osborne, one of the founders, and Bryan Sullivan and are two of the instructors.

“I do find that people come and really do get more into their internal space,” Osborne said. “They are more present with their practice. A studio can sometimes create competition.”

On the Americanization of yoga — which many dogmatic practitioners would snub — both Sullivan and Osborne, are just fine with it.

It’s really change itself that some people find uncomfortable, according to Sullivan.

“We always cling to what was ever before us, like it was always there … but it wasn’t (always there),” he said.

Ford, who taught both Osborne and Sullivan, makes it a point not to judge.

She quoted a great teacher of yoga, Sri T. Krishnamacharya who said that “in order for yoga to survive it would have to evolve to meet the changing needs of practitioners.”

“I’m sure he never imagined there might be Aerial Yoga,” Ford said. “Yoga has always been an experiential and experimental practice for each individual. If anything inspires someone to try yoga then I’m all for it. Ultimately, as people practice they’ll find the practice that is right for them and helps them to feel healthier and live more fully.”

Yogacharaya Shri K. c (Guruji) was born in 1915, and is recognized as the father of Ashtanga Yoga, a powerful practice of which many other styles are based upon.

History

This is a very brief history of yoga practiced in today. For more information visithttp://www.yogajournal.com/category/yoga-101/history-of-yoga/.

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to yoke”.

The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today.

It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).

As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).

The many styles of yoga

There are 63 styles of yoga featured on the website YogaTrail.com, and growing. These are some of the more well-known practices.

Hatha

Hatha is a general term that encompasses many physical styles of yoga. Hatha classes are generally gentle and slow-paced, and provide a good introduction to the basic postures and principles of yoga. In the area at all the studios mentioned.

Iyengar Yoga

Often, you’ll do only a few poses while exploring the subtle actions required to master proper alignment. Poses can be modified with props, making the practice accessible to all. The primary objective is to understand the alignment and basic structure of the poses, and to gain greater physical awareness, strength, and flexibility. B.K.S. Iyengar (a student of T. Krishnamacharya) founded the style. Find out more at bksiyengar.com and iynaus.org. In the area at Breathe Yoga.

Ashtanga yoga, (Sanskrit for “eight-limbed”)

Ashtanga is a style of yoga codified and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois and is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Usually an Ashtanga practice begins with 5 Surya Namaskar A and 5 B, followed by a standing sequence. Following this the practitioner begins one of 6 series, followed by what is called the closing sequence. Ashtanga Yoga is named after the eight limbs of yoga mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

“Power yoga” and “vinyasa yoga” are generic terms that may refer to any type of vigorous yoga exercise derived from Ashtanga yoga. In the area at Explore yoga and wellness.

Vinyasa Flow

Most westerners tend to be most familiar with vinyasa flow (breath with movement). The instructor leads the class through a repetitive flow of poses, which provides a more intense workout than styles like Iyengar. Yogis may want to try a slower style, in which they can become comfortable with and perfect poses, before jumping into a vinyasa flow. In the area at all the studios.

Bikram

Bikram is the best style for yogis who are looking to sweat bullets. Practiced in a heated room of about 105 degrees, an instructor guides students through a series of 26 poses that are designed to strengthen and compress the muscles. This style is designed to stretch and rinse the internal organs and increase blood circulation throughout the body. This style is great if you’re looking to see concrete progress. Because you are repeating the same 26 poses every time, it is easy to take notice when you’re flexibility and strength are improving. However, beginners should start in a more basic class before plunging into bikram. Currently no studios in Shreveport/Bossier City.

Hot yoga

Westerners often assume that bikram and “hot yoga” are the same style of yoga. However, hot yoga classes often consist moving through a vinyasa flow in a heated room. This is an intense style of yoga that provides a lot of movement, and is best for yogis with experience and strength. In the area at Explore Yoga and Wellness.

Yin Yoga

This style of yoga targets the deep connective tissues of the body (vs. the superficial tissues) and the fascia that covers the body. In yin yoga you come into a pose at your edge, remain still and hold for a period of 3-5 minutes. Yin yoga is also thought to benefit the organs by removing blockages in the energy pathways of the body that flow through the connective tissues. In the area at Explore Yoga and Wellness.

Gentle

Classes that are described as gentle generally guide practitioners through a slower and more passive sequence of postures. They often focus on connecting the breath with mindful movements that reduce tension and increase energy. Gentle yoga classes are particularly suited for beginners and people working with injuries. In the area at Breathe Yoga, Explore Yoga, Lotus Studio.

Niche yoga

A few yoga styles just pop out at you, these are just a few! The only one below offered in Shreveport/Bossier is Aerial Yoga. You can find out more about the many styles of yoga by visiting YogaJournal.com or YogaTrail.com and searching for styles.

Aerial yoga (anti-gravity yoga) offers authentic yoga, with the support of a soft aerial fabric hammock.

Harmonica yoga. A form of Raja Yoga (yoga for the mind and body). The best, most effective, most entertaining way to teach a group of any size to focus on their breathing…is to teach them, mindfully, to play the harmonica, says founder David Harp on Harmonica yoga’s website, http://www.harmonicayoga.com

Karaoke yoga. Yes, you sing while doing yoga. Jennifer Pastiloff explains what it’s all about her website. “It’s singing your heart out and laughing and dancing and balancing and sweating and letting go of all your fears. http://jenniferpastiloff.com/Yoga-Karaoke.html

Laughter yoga (Hasyayoga) is a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter. Laughter yoga is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. http://www.laughteryoga.org/english

Tantrum yoga. The temper tantrum serves to release steam and emotion, and is usually followed by a blissfully quiet calm. Tantrum yoga gives adults an ability to experience this release.

Wheelchair or chair yoga. Traditional poses adapted for those who are in a wheelchair.

Yoga raves. According to the not-for-profit movement’s website http://www.yogarave.org/us

“Yoga Rave is a party like none other in world, a new concept in fun where the body responds only to the stimulation of music, yoga and meditation.”

Yoga local

•Aerial Expressions

1240 Shreveport Barksdale Hwy. Suite 109

Shreveport, LA 71105

318-347-2608

susiestevens@aerialexpressions.com

http://www.aerialexpressions.com

•Aspire Yoga Center

663 Jordan Street

Shreveport, Louisiana 71101

318-990-0129

http://www.aspireyogacenter.com/

info@aspireyogacenter.com

•Breathe Yoga

1935 E. 70th Street

Shreveport, LA 71105

318.798.0677

http://www.breatheyogashreveport.com/

info@breatheyogashreveport.com

•Lotus Studio

Marcia Sample

446 Olive Street

•Hatha Yoga / Yoga Nidra

Facebook: Down Brown Dog Yoga

•Explore Yoga and Wellness

4801 Line Ave

Pierremont Mall Shopping Center

4801 Line Ave, Shreveport, LA 71106

318-230-7115

http://www.explore-yoga.com

info@explore-yoga.com

•Yoga Jai

Sundays 3pm.

Betty Virginia Park

info@yoga-jai.com

http://www.yoga-jai.com

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/life/moms/2015/08/31/yoga-evolved/71429452/

Teachers who Unlock Inner Doors

Reema Moudgil
QUEEN’S ROAD: “I was never a dancer, never a gymnast, never naturally peaceful, patient or confident. I generally felt socially awkward, private, introverted, comfortable reading and studying but not talking, sharing. I never ever felt beautiful or elegant, always felt like the small girl in the corner. Then one day after many years of Yoga practice, I looked in the mirror and saw beauty. It was like suddenly I saw what other people said when they gave me a compliment. I could never let it in when they said I was pretty until I saw it myself. It was like I saw myself for the first time. Who was this girl in the mirror? It’s like all this beauty, elegance and power was right there waiting for me to discover it. I didn’t need to be anyone else, look any different. I just needed to drop down deep enough to see my true. Who are you really? Who are you at your deepest self? Today’s Yogi assignment is beauty. Look at yourself in the mirror and see your beauty. See it, own it, share it. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are exactly who you need to be,” so says the latest Facebook update from Kino MacGregor, an international Yoga teacher, author of three books, producer of six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, writer, blogger, world traveller, co-founder of Miami Life Center (www.miamilifecenter.com) and founder of Miami Yoga Magazine (www.miamiyogamagazine.com).
Teachers

Kino MacGregor Her dharma, she says, is to help people experience,”the limitless potential of the human spirit.” She teaches all over the world and on Kino Yoga Instagram(www.instagram.com/kinoyoga) with over 650,000 followers and on Kino Yoga YouTube channel with over 60 million views. She is equipped with more than 15 years of experience in Ashtanga Yoga and is one of the select few to receive the certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga by its founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysuru.
It all began for her when she attended her first Yoga class at 19. At 29, she received from K. Pattabhi , the certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga.

I got interested in her life and work when I was initiated into Yoga by a young teacher who hopes to learn from Kino sometime next year.

For someone who has equated exercise with long walks, Jane Fonda videos, Zumba and short-lived stints at the gym, Yoga has been a revelation. If only because it has taught me to focus on the locks and keys hidden in our forgotten, neglected bodies. It has taught me that when you succeed in touching your toes by extending your back and feel dormant energy flowing through stiff limbs, softening and oxygenating them, what you get is not just an adrenal rush but an epiphany that says, “I am alive..and I live in the small of my back, in my knees, in my calves, in some mysterious founts within me that I tap only when I stretch myself physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

Kino’s updates are inspiring because she is a guru who was one of us many years ago but listened to her body, heart and soul and found her authentic self and is now helping others to do the same.

What Yoga does, I have learnt, is to bring to the surface all the stuff we leave unaddressed in our hurry to get on with life. Be it a small ache in your shoulder, an anger trigger, unarticulated emotions or more, the more you get immersed in your practice, the less time you have for inauthentic experiences. You want to steer clear of negativity. You want to eat healthy. And you no longer want to be oblivious to who you really are.

Another Facebook page that really goes into the heart of such life lessons is the one managed by http://www.YogisAnonymous.com. It is run by Ally Hamilton, a Yoga teacher, co-founder of YogisAnonymous.com, writer, and lover of dark chocolate and meditation. Sample one of her posts, “Sometimes we can get really caught up in someone else’s drama. There are all kinds of people in this world, and many of them are suffering in some way or another. You really have no idea about the interior world of another human being unless they choose to share it with you. There are people coming out of abuse, neglect and abandonment. People trying to overcome betrayal. People clinging and trying to control whatever and whomever they can so they don’t feel so afraid. People with personality disorders, people suffering from depression, people grasping onto their anger like a shield, people numbing out so they don’t have to feel anything at all. If you get too close, you’re going to get nailed. It’s just the nature of things. It’s possible that a person in pain has been that way for so long, it isn’t immediately obvious. Everyone has coping mechanisms, some are healthy, some are not. It takes a good long while to truly know another person. If we’re speaking romantically, it takes even longer, because you have to let the dust/lust clear before you can really see what’s there. Regardless, people will show you who they are, and/or where they are on their path if you give them enough time. Some people have walls up. Some people are angry and nasty because they’ve been hurt and disappointed so much, they can’t think of anything else to do but keep people out. You cannot negotiate with a caged animal.We can only manage our own side of the street.”

Stuff like this is both personal and universal and comes from a deep place that was once dark and soggy with pain but is now resplendent. Ally’s followers write long posts to her, asking for advice, thanking her for her wisdom. Ally grew up in NYC and in her final year at the Columbia University, began practicing Yoga. Two babies, a Yoga studio and a global following later, she was once quoted as saying, “I used to say things like, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ but I’ve seen things that are so incomprehensibly heartbreaking that I don’t try to wrap things up in neat little packages anymore. I do my best to witness what’s happening around me, and to witness the way I respond. I believe in personal accountability, and in doing the work to get right with yourself. I think the natural state of all humans is love. I’ve birthed two babies and I think we arrive full of love and curiosity and passion for life. Sometimes we learn fear and limitations and mistrust. Yoga helps us unlearn those things, heal what needs to be healed, and return to our natural state, again, LOVE.”

What I have learnt from these two women is to be unafraid and to look within without fear and doubt, own the truth and to be kinder to myself. It begins with taking care of your body. And then the nourishing glow spreads to the nerve ends of your spirit. The Yoga mat becomes a metaphor for life where you stand before a closed door or many, and then after months of fumbling, find the key to not just the door before you but many others.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/Teachers-who-Unlock-Inner-Doors/2015/08/31/article3001879.ece

The Colonized Indian Mind | IndiaFacts

An excerpt from Michel Danino’s book Indian Culture and India’s Future.
In the clash of two civilizations – for it was undoubtedly one – the European, younger, dynamic, hungry for space and riches, appeared far better fitted than the Indian, half decrepit, half dormant after long centuries of internal strife and repeated onslaught. The contrast was so severe that no one doubted the outcome – the rapid conquest of the Indian mind and life. That was what Macaulay, again, epitomized when he proudly wrote to his father in 1836:
“Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully… The effect of this education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion… It is my firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence…. I heartily rejoice in the prospect.”
Macaulay’s projected statistics failed to materialize; he thought the roots of Hinduism to be shallow, but they quietly held fast. However, this educational strategy did succeed in creating a fairly large ‘educated’ class, anglicized and partially Christianized (often atheicized), which looked up to its European model and ideal, and formed the actual base of the Empire in India.
Came Independence. If India did achieve political independence-at the cost of amputating a few limbs of her body – she hardly achieved independence in the field of thought. Nor did she try: the country’s so called elite, whose mind had been shaped and hypnotized by the colonial masters, always assumed that in order to reach all-round fulfillment, India merely had to follow European thought, science, medicine, industry and sociopolitical institutions.
The Symptoms
Six decades later, at least, we begin to see how gratuitous those assumptions were. Yet the colonial imprint remains present at many levels. At a very basic one, it is amusing to note that Pune is sometimes called ‘the Oxford of the East’, while Ahmedabad is ‘the Manchester of India’ – and since Coimbatore is often dubbed ‘the Manchester of south India’, we have at least out-Manchestered England herself. The Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu are flatteringly compared to Scotland (never mind that Kotagiri is called ‘a second Switzerland’), and tourist guides refer to Kerala’s Alappuzha as ‘the Venice of the East’. Also with a view to tickling potential visitors, Puduchery calls itself ‘India’s Little France’ or ‘the French Riviera of the East’. India’s map seems dotted with European places, if slightly jumbled. Things get more trouble-some when Kālidāsa is labelled ‘the Shakespeare of India’, when Bankim Chatterji needs to be compared to Walter Scott or Tagore to Shelley, and Kautilya becomes India’s very own Machiavelli. Undoubtedly, our compass is set due West. Would the British call Shakespeare ‘England’s Kālidāsa’, let alone Manchester ‘ the Coimbatore of northwest England’ ?
But I think the most disturbing signs of the colonization of the Indian mind are found in the field of education. Take the English nursery rhymes taught to many of our little children, as if, before knowing anything about India, they needed to know about Humpty-Dumpty or the sheep that went to London to see the Queen. More seriously, the teaching is almost entirely based on Western inputs, as though India never produced any knowledge of her own: I am not aware of a single Indian contribution to science, technology, urbanization, polity or philosophy, being taught to Indian schoolchildren. The blanking out of India’s pursuit for knowledge in every field of life is complete.
Higher education is hardly different. Students will study mathematics, physics or medicine without having the least idea of what ancient India achieved in those fields. I have never been able to understand why, for instance, they should not be made aware that the decimal place-value system of numeral notation they use daily is of Indian-origin; that the so-called Gregory series, Pell’s equation or the fundamentals of combinatorics were anticipated by several centuries by Indian mathematicians of the Siddhāntic period; or that Indian astronomers of the same era had developed powerful algorithms that enabled them to calculate planetary positions and the occurrences of eclipses with an excellent degree of precision. It is equally hard to accept that medical students should know nothing of Indian systems of medicine such as Ayurveda or Siddha, of proven efficacy for a wide range of disorders and even serious diseases. If the topic is psychology, the Western variety alone will be taken up, completely eclipsing the far deeper psychology system offered by yoga. Water harvesting is taught as if it were a new contribution from the West, and if it was widely practised from Harappan times onward. I could go on with metallurgy, chemistry, textiles, transport and a host of other technologies.
Our educational policies systematically discourage the teaching of Sanskrit, and one wonders again whether that is in deference to Macaulay, who found that great language to be ‘barren of useful knowledge’ (though he confessed he knew none of it!). It is symptomatic that in the 1980s, a controversy arose as to whether the teaching of Sanskrit was ‘secular’ or not. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) attempted to wriggle out of it arguing before the Supreme Court of India in 1994 that if Sanskrit was taught, then should not Arabic, Persian, French or German, too, be taught? The Supreme Court bench, directed by a Sikh judge, threw the argument out and reminded us of a simple truth: ‘Without the learning of Sanskrit it is not possible to decipher the Indian philosophy on which our culture and heritage are based… [The] teaching of Sanskrit alone as an elective subject can in no way be regarded as against secularism.’
In the same vein, the Upanishads or the two epics stand no chance, and students will almost never hear about them at school. Indian languages (still called “vernacular”, a word whose root meaning is “belonging to native slaves”) are plainly given a lower status than English, with the result that many profound scholars or writers who chose their mother-tongue as their medium of expression remain totally unknown beyond their state, while textbooks are crowded with second-rate thinkers who happened to write in English.
If you take a look at the teaching of history, the situation is equally troubling. Almost all Indian history taught today in our schools and universities has been written by “native historians who [have] taken over the views of the colonial master,’ as the historian of religion Klaus Klostermaier put it. India’s historical traditions are brushed aside as so many fancy to satisfy the dictum that “Indians have no sense of history.” Indian tradition never said anything about mysterious “Aryans” invading the country from the Northwest, but since nineteenth-century European scholars decided so, our children continue to learn by rote this theory now rejected by most archaeologists. South Indian literature remembered nothing about ‘Dravidians’ being driven southwards by the naughty Aryans, but this continues to be stuffed into young brains to satisfy political ideologies. Saint Thomas never came to south India, as historical sources make amply clear, but let us perpetuate the myth to create an imagined early Christian foot-holding in India. The real facts of the destruction wreaked in India by Islamic invaders and by some Christian missionaries must be kept outside school curricula, since they contradict the ‘tolerant’ and ‘liberating’ image that Islam and Christianity have been projecting for themselves. Even the freedom movement is not spared: as the distinguished R.C.Mazumdar and others have shown, no objective critique of Mahatma Gandhi or the Indian National Congress is allowed, and the role of the other important leaders is belittled or erased.
Nothing illustrates the bankruptcy of our education better than the manner in which, sixteen years ago, State education ministers raised an uproar at an attempt to discuss the introduction of the merest smattering of Indian culture into the curriculum, and at the singing of the Saraswati Vandana, a customary homage to the goddess of Knowledge. The message they actually conveyed was that no Indian element is acceptable in education, while they are satisfied with an education which, a century ago, Sri Aurobindo called ‘soulless and mercenary.’, and which has degenerated further into a stultifying, mechanical routine that kills our children’s natural intelligence. They find nothing wrong that maiming young brains and hearts, but will be up in arms if we speak of brining in a few time-tested elements of India’s heritage. They will lament at the all-round loss of values and harangue us about ‘value-based education’, while refusing to make use of what was for ages the source of the best Indian values.
Swami Vivekananda put it in his typical forthright style:
“The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the forth, that all the sacred books are lies! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless. And the result in that fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three presidencies. We have learnt only weakness.”
Ananda Coomaraswamy, who wrote at length on Indian education at the beginning of the twentieth century, gave his stark analysis:
“It is hard to realize how completely the continuity of the Indian life has been severed. A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of traditions and to create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots – a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or to the West, the past or the future. The greatest danger for India is the loss of her spiritual integrity. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and most tragic.”
The child becomes a recording machine stuffed with a jarring assortment of meaningless bits and snippets. The only product of this denationalizing education has been the creation of a modern, Westernized ‘elite’ with little or no contact with the sources of Indian culture, and with nothing of India’s ancient worldview except for a few platitudes to be flaunted at public functions or cocktail parties. Browsing through any English-language daily or magazine is enough to see how we revel in the sonorous clang of hollow clichés. If Western intellectuals come up with some new ‘ism’, you are sure to find it echoed all over the Indian press in a matter of weeks; it was amusing to see, a few years ago, how the visit to India of a French philosopher and champion of “deconstructivism’ send the cream of our intellectuals raving wild for weeks, while they remained crassly ignorant of far deeper thinkers next door. Or if some Western painters or sculptors come up with some new-fangled cult of ugliness, their Indian counterparts will not lag far behind. And let some Western nations make a new religion of “human rights” (with intensive bombing campaigns to enforce them if necessary), and you will hear a number of Indians clamoring for them parrot-like, unable to realize that even though the primary focus of Indian society was functions and duties rather than rights, it had enough democratic mechanisms to provide for redress in case of abuse.
The list is endless, in every field of life, and if India had been living in her intellect alone, one would have to conclude that she has ceased to exist – or will do so after one or two more generations of this senseless de-Indianizing.

Indigenous medicine packs a punch

A DIDAR SINGH

There is no denying that India has an unmatched heritage of ancient systems of medicine which are a treasure-house of knowledge for both preventive and curative healthcare. This could be harnessed in achieving the goal of ‘Healthcare for All’. In the recent past, we have also seen a resurgence of interest in other forms of Indian system of medicine — ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy (AYUSH) — due to their immense utility in tackling lifestyle disorders, not only in India but all across the globe.

Although India has made significant progress in the last six decades in providing healthcare, we are witnessing a significant change in the disease pattern in the country, with an increasing number of people suffering from communicable and non-communicable diseases.

India ranks somewhere at the bottom of 193 countries on various critical health parameters such as number of doctors, nurses, and beds. We need to double the number of our doctors, from 0.7 to 1.5 million, for which we need at least 600 new medical colleges. We also need to triple our nurses count and quadruple the number of paramedics. This will entail considerable investment of our scarce financial resources. Further, this demands increased focus on preventive and promotive care.

AYUSH infrastructure

With a new health policy on the anvil, we have an opportunity to mainstream the Indian system of medicine and integrate the available AYUSH infrastructure into the healthcare system. This infrastructure consists of 1,355 hospitals with 53,296-bed capacity, 22,635 dispensaries, 450 undergraduate colleges, 99 colleges with postgraduate departments, 9,493 licensed manufacturing units, and 7.18 lakh registered practitioners.

The AYUSH sector has an estimated annual turnover of around ₹120 billion and more than 8,000 licensed manufacturing units involved in the country. India, with a wealth of 6,600 medicinal plants, is the second largest exporter of AYUSH and herbal products in the world, estimated at₹22.7 billion in 2013-14. And yet, according to the recent NSSO survey, 90 per cent of the population, both rural and urban, prefers allopathy over AYUSH.

This ironical situation could be attributed to low awareness of the enormous scope of these time-tested ancient systems. There is need for greater advocacy, increased regulation as well as promotion of evidence-based research.

The government has taken a positive step by elevating the department of Indian system of medicine and homoeopathy (ISM&H) to an independent ministry, AYUSH, in November 2014. The allocation of₹50 billion to this ministry and launch of an independent ‘National AYUSH Mission’ aimed at capacity building for the sector and creation of centres of excellence will help in the promotion and mainstreaming of AYUSH. It is encouraging that the government is considering setting up a central regulatory regime for yoga, ayurveda and other traditional systens.

There is need for the creation of a separate drug controller general for the AYUSH sector. These steps will bring more business maturity, standing and much required competitiveness at the national and global levels.

We also need better clarity about the role envisaged for AYUSH doctors in the delivery of assured primary healthcare. Since they have completed a five-year course in AYUSH, they could become the most appropriate human resource to tide over the longstanding shortage of trained doctors in India.

Some State governments such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Delhi, have introduced a bridge course extending from six months to one year, for trained AYUSH practitioners, which then permits them to prescribe 47 listed drugs that are commonly used in primary health centres (PHCs). Hence, there are solutions that can be considered in order to achieve optimum utilisation of AYUSH facilities to address the enormous healthcare needs and generate employment opportunities in India.

Medical tourism

According to the FICCI-KPMG report, the inflow of medical tourists into India is likely to cross 3.2 million soon, generating a market that may cross $4 billion in 2015.

Medical tourism in India started with AYUSH. People from all across the world come to India for health-restorative cum alternative treatments through a combination of ayurveda, yoga, acupuncture, herbal massages, nature therapies, and some ancient Indian healthcare methods. There should be no doubt that medical value travel has the potential to become the next IT/ITES sector, attracting big investments and generating significant employment opportunities.

The time has come when all the stakeholders need to pool in their resources and move towards harnessing the vast potential of AYUSH.

The AYUSH industry looks forward to a regulatory regime with better clarity and a greater push from the government.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/indigenous-medicine-packs-a-punch/article7492108.ece

The writer is the secretary-general of FICCI

(This article was published on August 2, 2015)

TIME HAS COME TO REINVENT INDIA

Pramod Pathak

This year, we completed 68 years of India’s Independence. For the life of a nation, 68 years is not a very long time. But it certainly is not a short time either. Many nation republics have done more than what we could do in almost similar time or even less.

But then countries like Singapore or China or even South Korea cannot be models for India given the marked differences that are there demographically, politically and culturally.

Even otherwise, comparisons are not always rational. Further, many countries have fared worse also in somewhat similar timeframe. For instance, there is no Union of Soviet socialist republic today, the so-called Bolshevik revolution, notwithstanding.

However, the more important question is where do we go from here? That is, what is the agenda for India. Agenda that is consciously chalked out. After all, that is what will determine our future course of action, but for that we need to look back and introspect. Introspect to find out how we began, where have we come and where do we want to go? And also, was the journey undertaken in the best possible way?

For this we must have an idea of India. That India was once known for its intellectual, spiritual and economic status is a historically accepted fact. Mind you, these are not imaginary ideas of an Indophile. These are facts of history that were recorded by foreign scholars and Indologists like AL Bhasham or Max Mueller or experiences of Chinese scholars like Fa Hienor Huen Sang.

For that matter even Robert Clive’s writing may be referred to. His awe at the prosperity of a place like Murshidabad speaks volumes. There is certainly a need to think beyond the stock markets and mobile phones. We need to think rationally as to how best we can capitalise our strengths while making our weaknesses irrelevant. But to do this we must be very clear as to what we want and what we can do.

Ancient India was a great civilisation in the past and a world guru. It had its own standards admired by the world. From commerce to education, India was globally admired. We had universities which were truly global in character. Our traders were net exporters. We need to think where things drifted and why. It was the medieval scourge that was responsible for this.

The centuries of subjugation made a severe dent to our attitude which was a result of a gradual conditioning due to subservient mindset. From the Mughals to the Europeans, particularly the British imperialist powers, they all somehow ingrained a kind of inferiority syndrome in vast majority of Indians that we are still struggling to rid ourselves from. From the ancient to the medieval to the modern, history has changed.

But what is important is to understand that histories impact attitudes through interpretation of incidents and events stamping the minds.

As such history plays a major role in attitude formation and subsequent behavioural change. If the ancient gave us complacence, the medieval gave us a bruised sense of self belief. It is time we thought of strategies to change these. One way probably is to think more objectively why we should not allow others to set our agenda. It is time to stop wondering we Indians, why Indians. We need to think be Indian, buy Indian and subsequently we Indian, I Indian.

The writer is a professor, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (Jharkhand). He can be reached at ppathak.ism@gmail.com

Five myths about yoga

Andrea R. Jain

Yoga has become more popular in the United States in recent years, with the number of people taking part in the discipline almost doubling between 2002 and 2012. Today, nearly 10 percent of Americans have tried it, and few of us have to travel farther than a neighborhood strip mall to practice our chaturangas. Yoga’s burgeoning trendiness isn’t restricted to the United States, either. In December, the United Nations declared June 21 the International Day of Yoga. The first celebration saw colossal gatherings of yogis worldwide, as hundreds, sometimes thousands, contorted their bodies into downward dogs and other poses en masse. Yoga has become one of the most fashionable practices in the world, yet a number of myths have grown up around it.

1. Yoga is exclusively of Hindu origin.

Yoga’s advocates and critics alike perpetuate the myth of its ancient Hindu origins. High-profile conservative pastors have warned of Christians’ inevitable Hinduization should they take up yoga, asserting that “when Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.” The Hindu American Foundationhas made similar arguments, criticizing Americans for failing to acknowledge yoga’s Hindu origins — calling it “one of the greatest gifts of Hinduism to mankind” — and explaining that practitioners subject themselves to Hindu influences, whether intentionally or not.

Although there are countless Hindu forms of yoga, the notion that it is originally or definitively Hindu ignores its historical diversity. Throughout its history, yoga was shaped by an array of South Asian practices, ideas and aims widespread among not only Hindus but also Buddhists, Jains and adherents of other religions. Examples include the 3rd-to-4th-century Buddhist yogacara, or “yoga practice” school, and the 6th-century Jain thinker Virahanka Haribhadra and his text, the “Yoga Bindu,” or “seeds of yoga.”

Modern postural yoga — that popular fitness regimen made up of sequences of challenging poses — has more varied origins. It is a result of cross-cultural exchanges and influences from modern medicine, sports and exercise programs. In the 1930s, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, for example, became one of the first postural yoga gurus. He was Hindu but taught a form of yoga partly shaped by British calisthenics. Practitioners from India, Europe and the United States, with a wide array of religious convictions or none at all, created the yoga that Americans began adopting widely in the 20th century.

2. Yoga is not religious.

In many parts of the world, yoga aficionados tend to avoid describing the practice as religious. Yoga studios, conferences and journals prefer to define it as a regimen for nonsectarian “spiritual growth” or physical “fitness.” But while yoga isn’t specifically Hindu, that doesn’t mean it can’t be religious.

Some forms of modern yoga have explicitly religious aims, from Hindu schools such as siddha yoga, which promotes the “strength and delight that come from the certainty of the divine presence within you,” to Christian varieties such as holy yoga, which describes its mission as “experiential worship . . . to deepen people’s connection to Christ.” Even in other forms, yoga has implicit spiritual dimensions, though they’re not limited to one particular religious tradition. Practitioners participate in scripted rituals requiring movement through a sequence of postures meant to reorient them away from the day’s business and stresses and toward the goal of self-improvement.

Yoga classes in secular contexts have qualities that set a religious mood. B.K.S. Iyengar, a significant figure in the creation of modern postural yoga, tied his form of the practice to the ancient “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” which emphasize the exalted aim of enlightenment. K. Pattabhi Jois, another 20th-century influencer of modern yoga, taught that the nine positions of the sun salutation sequence delineate from the earliest Hindu texts, the Vedas.

3. Swami Vivekananda created modern yoga.

In the New York Times a few years back, Ann Louise Bardach wrote, wryly, that “you might blame Vivekananda” — a turn-of-the-century Hindu reformer, emissary to the United States and Indian nationalist who created a system of modern yoga called raja yoga — “for having introduced ‘yoga’ into the national conversation.” It’s a view echoed recently by the New Indian Express, which described him as “The Father of Yoga in the West.” The swami is known for a well-received speech he gave in Chicago in 1893 to the Parliament of the World’s Religions, in which he declared that “sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth” and “had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.” But the speech, in fact, never mentioned yoga.

In terms of his yogic teachings, Vivekananda had several Indian, European and North American contemporaries whose work was equally influential in the development of some of yoga’s earliest modern forms. Nineteenth-century American social radical Ida C. Craddock, who defended belly dancing’s “much needed blend of sexuality and spirituality,” for example, created a yoga system for married couples looking to improve their sex lives. Sadly, she was subsequently imprisoned on charges of obscenity and, facing the threat of more prison time, took her own life. Another early modern yoga advocate was Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian guru who traveled to the United States and taught yoga to Americans in the first half of the 20th century. He envisioned yoga as a scientific path to the experience of God and taught what he called kriya yoga at a time when such religious experimentation was unusual and discouraged. The organization he founded, the Self-Realization Fellowship, is still thriving.

Vivekananda’s emphasis on self-control, meditation and psychology appealed to many who challenged institutionalized religion. He encouraged his disciples to turn inward, toward the self, rather than outward, toward external authorities. But he wasn’t a fan of yoga poses — and those, of course, are what most of us envision when we think of yoga.

4. You need money to practice yoga.

Practitioners in the United States spend more than $10 billion a year on classes, clothing and accessories. A typical studio class can cost more than $18, and a Lululemon outfit pushes $200. One of the most ubiquitous symbols of yoga’s commercialization is the mat, which many consider a necessity to prevent slipping, to mark territory in crowded classes or to create a ritual space. The most committed adherents can shell out more than $100for a top-of-the-line mat.

But these accessories are recent additions to the experience. The firstpurpose-made yoga mat was not manufactured and sold until the 1990s. Before then, yoga was practiced on grass, towels, rugs or bare wooden floors. Today, a small set of traditionalists refuses to use mats, arguing that they interfere with the practice, especially by distracting the yogi away from the true aims of yoga and toward the accumulation of commodities.

Some yoga advocates have rejected its commercialization by offering nonprofit classes and opening studios that spurn expensive accessoriesYoga to the People, for instance, offers donation-based classes in several cities, and part of its mantra is: “There will be no correct clothes, There will be no proper payment, There will be no right answers.” The company says the rising cost of yoga is at odds with its essence. Yoga is meant to help people become self-actualized, the company says — a priceless aim.

Increasingly, yoga is also being introduced in marginalized communities, with classes taught in prisonsschools in low-income neighborhoods and homeless shelters.

5. Yoga has always been about physical fitness.

When we think of yoga today, we envision spandex-clad, perspiring, toned bodies in a room filled with mats. More than half of yoga enthusiasts in the United States say physical fitness is their primary motivation, according to a Yoga Journal survey, and 78 percent say they’re in it mostly to gain flexibility. That vision is a modern invention; nothing like it has existed in most of yoga’s history.

Beginning around the 7th and 8th centuries, Buddhists, Hindus and Jains reworked yoga into varying tantric systems with goals ranging from becoming an embodied god to developing supernatural powers, such as invisibility or flight.

In the early days of modern yoga, turn- of-the-century Indian reformers, along with Western social radicals, focused on the practice’s meditative and philosophical dimensions. For most of them, the physical aspects were not of primary importance.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-yoga/2015/08/14/2b4c8638-41ce-11e5-846d-02792f854297_story.html