Rising popularity of Yoga: Ringing alarm-bells for some!

By:Mani

(This write-up by Shri Mani is in response to the comment made by one of his friends to an article which tried to detach Yoga from ancient Hindu traditions. There are many Hindu-haters over there in India and they, sensing the danger of the rising popularity of Yoga across the globe and the genetic connection of Yoga with Hinduism, or better named Sanatan Dharma, are spending sleepless nights cobbling theories, rationale and intellectual foundation to prove that Yoga has no connection with Sanatan Dharma)

While I am not very knowledgeable in yoga, your comments make sense to me.I agree that samkhya, vedanta etc are all schools within the Hindu fold and therefore yoga is unquestionably Hindu.  

However, the article promotes an opposite view. It distorts an intra-tradition evolution of yoga and its organic development across schools like sankhya and  vedanta to argue that yoga is not Hindu at all. This is the same technique Rajiv has talked about where using the lens of history-centrism from Abrahamic schools is used to deconstruct Hinduism and different schools of Hinduism are pitted against each other to argue that Hinduism – and by extension, yoga – itself are is an artificial construct. This furthers detachment of yoga from its roots. 
 
This is clear by how the author uses Patanjali’s text to formulate the argument. Starting point is “In sutra 1.20, isvarapranidhana va—the suffix va meaning “or”—he categorically states that the idealised state of yoga can be achieved with or without surrender to God or Isvara”. Then the argument goes “it is important to follow the history of this conflict around the question of God. Whereas Patanjali is steadfast in keeping the space of “God as optional” open, the aim of Vedanta is to assert the supremacy of God. Therein lies the seed of conflict that makes the relationship between Vedanta and Yoga contentious for all time to come”. Thus the author sets up a conflict between the Gita and Patanjali,  or between vedanta and samkhya. This is a textbook case of undermining the integral unity of Hinduism using intra-tradition differences in schools as Rajiv has explained many times
 
This then leads to the author’s conclusion that yoga is not Hindu. Here’s how: 
 
It pushes into the foreground the Yoga Sutras, plays up the idea of yoga as “union with God,” and glosses over Patanjali’s proposition of God being optional. In short, it mandates a yoga with a standardised belief in God that can accommodate neither the autonomy of Samkhya nor the sacred/profane paradox of tantra. It is only within this orchestrated and historically and philosophically unsound mandate that the claim of yoga being Hindu and theistic has any ground. But all the same it is an orchestrated ground.”
 
In essence, the argument is Patanjali’s yoga was non-theistic, later hindu schools super-imposed theism on it, therefore yoga is not HIndu because based on Patanjali’s text it was non-theistic (or agnostic at best). This is clearly a ridiculous argument because Hindu schools and yoga have evolved over the last 2500 within tradition years.The argument only makes sense if you take a view that Patanjali’s text is statric, frozen in time and unchangeable. But that is a history-centric, Abrahamic view-point  it is clearly inapplicable to Hinduism. 
 
Unfortunately, the argument does find resonance with an audience. it is also being used to denigrate Hinduism and detach yoga from its roots. For example, Hartosh Singh Bal, a Hinduphobic journalist for Caravan tweeted this article and framed the attempts to resist yoga’s detachment from Hinduism as a right-wing fundamentalist protest. 

 

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