Surya Namaskar_ Yoga_india

A Sense of Ownership and Pride

I feel blessed being born a human and a woman on that. I am grateful for many other things I have been born into…parents, extended family, community, country and my faith. I honestly believe in the quote “Durlabham Bharat Janama“. This in no way makes me think lesser of the other gender, race, faith and nationality. There is no sense of superiority, just a healthy sense of pride.

Because of my land of birth I was also born into a philosophy and a way of life- The Vedic Philosophy. I do not like to use the word ‘Hindu’ since it is grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted. It is not a Sanskrit word and is not found in any of our scriptures. It was a secular word denoting a certain Geographical region, its people and practices. Hence actually Hinduism could refer to all the religions being practiced beyond the River Sindhu.

Surya Namaskar_ Yoga_indiaBefore I digress any further I will come back to the issue at hand of Vedic Philosophy and Yoga. Of a strange rising trend of disassociation of a faith/way of life and its tenets. An ever increasing practice of selectively choosing some parts of a philosophy and discounting the rest. Which is fine for some I guess, but, why stop short of giving due credit to the original source.

It makes me wonder if this confusion and ambiguity and a distancing from Faith and an ancient way of life is because we confuse it for a religion which is time and again raped and distorted by politicians and self proclaimed spiritual leaders for their personal gain.

My ever present angst on this issue was nudged further when I read this New York Times article…

It talks of a rising debate on the origin and ownership of yoga. Though debates on the ownership of anything which has tremendous power to benefit humanity seems petty, responses of some involved in this heated debate are interesting to say the least.

Deepak Chopra dismisses the campaign as “a jumble of faulty history and Hindu Nationalism“. I am confused by this statement. Does it mean he is denying that Yoga is a part of the Vedic way of life which has scriptures and texts prescribing,how one should live,worship, eat, pray, marry, treat our ill/old/young, sing, dance and play music etc. And yes, it also at length talks of a form of ‘exercise’ to keep our minds and bodies healthy…through Yoga.

And what does he mean by “Hindu Nationalism”? I am Nationalistic not because I am a Hindu or a follower of Vedant, but because I feel a sense of pride in the land where I trace my roots and also because I owe to my land a certain upbringing and culture.

If I say I am an Indian and Yoga is something I grew up with will it be wrong? I saw my Dad doing yoga everyday. Most of my Uncles, Aunts and cousins do it in some form or other. I see my Father-in-law do pranayam. For any long term ailment which is recurring, Yoga is seen as the solution in our families.

The small Ved Mandir near my parents house has yoga classes at 5 in the morning everyday. It has been an intrinsic part of my life. I did not have to pay through my teeth to learn it at a fancy Yoga studio. Hence naturally I feel I know it, its part of my culture, and in a way belongs to me. Does this make me a rabid Hindu Nationalist? According to Deepak Chopra’s analysis it would!

Deepak Chopra also labels Hinduism as ‘tribal’ and ‘self-enclosed’. That invites another blog altogether.

I can bet my life on the fact that we would not be having this debate if Yoga had not become such a billion dollar industry today. From copyrighting Asanas to merchandising yoga mats to rudrakshas, its capitalism at it best. Not at all keeping true to the nature and philosophy of yoga.

It is hilarious how these fancy Yoga studios tout that their aim is to make Yoga accessible to one and all. The last time I checked the fees, it made it inaccessible to me at least.

The neighborhood Ved Mandir in my hometown does a better job by conducting free classes. All are welcome there, which does do justice to Yoga and its philosophy.

I am aware of the attempted biopiracy of Neem, Basmati, Turmeric, etc.

I am not sure what to call this debate and a clear attempt to hijack Yoga and give it a new history. Yogajacking?

The bossy behavior of the West irritates me no doubt, but even more annoying is the ‘chalta hai’ attitude of my own brethren who will wake up and take notice when half the race has been run. They value what belongs to them only when the Gora counterpart popularizes it! We should wake up and smell the roses. We have a lot to offer,to ourselves and to the world.

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