|The linkage of yoga with Sanatan Dharma and pride of our heritage is severely under threat. It is being attacked by anti-India forces in blatantant as well as subtle ways. More dangerously, we are weakened by the termites of well-meaning ignorant intellectuals with banners of India/ Dharma loyalty.
By Sunil Sheoran
International Yoga Day (IYD) will be celebrated on June 21st with big fanfare across the globe. It touches me personally, as I've anchored my whole life in yoga philosophy. Today, the world is very stressed; from individuals, families, societies, and countries to even mother nature. Yoga is an excellent solution (in my view - the best), to address the big challenges that humanity faces in current times. Yoga provides a robust philosophical foundation for the harmonious existence of humanity, where diversity gets celebrated among cultures; along with a sustainable co-existence with nature.
The acknowledgement from the United Nations is a good step to popularize the importance of yoga. It also solidifies that Indian heritage is the "home/ owner" of yoga and India should get credit for creating and nurturing it through the ages. Yoga is a great example of what India has and continues to offer to the world. While we celebrate this day, there are risks to watch out for. In the current west dominated globalization times, India is losing control over discourse of yoga. If not managed well, yoga may be secular (an inferior concept compared to Saapeksh Dharma); becomes "just" science; gets westernized and loses its linkage from traditions of Dharma. If that happens, Yoga will lose a significant part of its essence and it'll be sad state for the whole humanity. There are forces on both sides, some for Indian heritage & yoga and some against it; and the stage is set for the "Battle of Yoga" in the Mahabharat of civilizations.
Yoga is in the Roots of Indian Heritage: Typically, identity of us all is anchored in our heritage. While Abrahamic religions (specifically Christianity and Islam) have become quite prominent in recent history, the mainstream heritage of India is anchored in Sanatan Dharma. Indians typically don't know that the paradigms/ frameworks of thoughts are very different in Sanatan versus Abrahamic philosophy. While the differences between Abrahamic and Sanatan Dharma thought are numerous, at deep personal level, the idea of "self-realization" is perhaps the most important one. Abrahamic philosophy stops at the idea of "belief" and keeps the individual away from "God" forever. Whereas Sanatan Dharma philosophy says that every individual is inherently part of "Eeshwar," and the task for an individual is to realize it, via a journey of self-evolution. Yoga is Sanatan Dharma's most prominent "method" of self-realization. On one hand being part of it, yoga is an integral part of Sanatan philosophy, at the same time, it does have conflict with the Abrahamic thought. Rajiv Malhotra's "Being Different" is perhaps the best researched book on the topic and I highly recommend it to anyone who has interest in understanding the foundations of Indian heritage.
Yoga is at the Core of Hinduism/ Sanatan Dharma, and Bharteeya Heritage
Viewpoint - Good first step and Shankhnaad for Mahabharat of Civilizations: Depending upon where you stand, there are multiple ways to look at any topic - today it is IYD. I see IYD as a good small step to popularize yoga and as theShankhnaad for the Mahabharat of Civilizations in current times. It's a fact that most Indians are not properly "anchored" in their own heritage. Reasons are many, from impact of British colonization to simply unavailability of knowledge via formal schooling or informal knowledge distribution channels. Our minds are so contaminated about the fundamentals on our own heritage that it's almost impossible to get a common "story of India" from any two Indians. On top of it, there has been and is even now, a significant intervention of anti-India forces to keep us divided, by heavy investments in the intellectual vehicles that influence the Indian mind. Anyone who'd put on an analyst's thinking cap, he'd quickly realize that Mahabharat of civilizations has been a continuous phenomenon in history and will continue in future. With high population and significant resources, and being a soft target, India today is the most important battleground in our life times. It always makes me humble and solemn when I think about this battle at home, and we the owners and carriers of Dharmic heritage are not even aware of it (most of us for sure). The sad fact is that IYD has seen most resistance at home - inside India!
The Danger of Distortion, Digestion, and Control over Discourse: The linkage of yoga with Sanatan Dharma and pride of our heritage is severely under threat. It is being attacked by anti-India forces in blatantant as well as subtle ways. More dangerously, we are weakened by the termites of well-meaning ignorant intellectuals with banners of India/ Dharma loyalty. In US, yoga is about a $30 billion industry and negligible number of Indians (with layalty to heritage) are playing any significant role in it. Most people, in power positions are loyal to Abrahamic religions. One can easily infer that, yoga in their hands is bound to be distorted, taken apart into pieces and digested. That's the reason, the common narrative of yoga in mainstream media is secular and scientific; and away from Dharma. (For those who don't have the context: the concept of secularism is relevant to religions (Abrahamic). As religions are exclusive and were intertwined with political establishments, secularism solved the problem of conflicts created by religions, so it's a good thing - in Abrahamic societies. In Dharmic thought, we don't have a concept of religion, we only have Panth and Sampradaya, which acknowledge each other philosophically - so Dharma has a naturally built-in enlightened spirit of secularism in it.)
People of Bharteeya heritage must have the viewpoint of yoga being an integral part of a bigger Sanatan Dharma philosophy and promote that viewpoint in any capacity, every engagement. Also, we need to raise the issue of "WHO" should be allowed to represent yoga in public forums. The authority of yoga should always remain with capable people, who openly declare their loyalty to Bharteeya heritage.
Can't Outsource Swadharm to Government, a few organizations or intellectuals: When it comes down to civilization and heritage, we are all stakeholders in it. In my experience, it's a fashion among Indian elites to escape one's responsibility by outsourcing it to someone & blaming everything on government. Government is supposed to be the caretaker of any nation. In democracy we give the elected representative the responsibility to manage the country. Common sense says that, we won't give our house keys to irresponsible people. Still, the practical dynamics of politics doesn't always bring the best people in power (Think of the people in power since 1947… see where they have gotten us?). Assuming the right people are in power, a politician's first priority is always: to get in power and stay in power. That's why vote bank politics dominates Indian society's mind today. The topic of heritage preservation is a subtle one, and often doesn't get prominence when competing with practical issues (like corruption) and political pressures everyday. It's subtler, it's important but often doesn't become urgent. Given these realities, we all have a role to play in service of ...heritage, Dharma, country (pick any own word). Yes, Bharteeya heritage/ Dharmic heritage is the longest continuing alive heritage today and it has been because, our ancestors nurtured it with their "lives"; it's our turn now!
Wake up; this Mahabharat will be intense because the world is now connected and information travels fast; traditions are viewed negatively in popular culture; we have technology/ screens in our hands 24x7 to keep us distracted, and unlike the freedom struggle where British were clearly identifiable, we'll be fighting our own brothers with brown skin - their mindsets are have simply gone against Dharmic heritage.
The big question is: how long we'll stay in the confused state of mind - as Arjun was in the beginning of Mahabharat?
Author: Sunil Sheoran