An Indian Civilizational Perspective

The Great Yoga Debate: Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Aseem Shukla

There are three law students from the same class studying for a bar exam. Two buy the popular guide books and study them completely (end-to-end) while the third just goes back to his class notes and reads them well again and doesn’t indulge in buying any guides or books. When the result is out, the one who just read his notes, tops, while one of those who bought the guide books is a close second, and the third, fails.

The guy who comes first, looks at both and says reading guide books is a ritual and therefore, useless, for the guy who came second could have just studied his notes and did as well anyways. The one who failed, gets angry and calls him an imposter. While the one who read the books and came a close second, realizes he gained a lot from the books, which his notes could not offer.

Any one observing from a distance knows that it was not about the Guide Books or about the class notes. It was about how mindfully a student attended to the tool at hand that made the difference. Perhaps, the “class notes” guy was a listener and he learnt best by listening, and had made excellent notes in the class so that whenever he referred to them he remembered what the teacher said. The guy who came second, perhaps was a reader. He could not learn as well listening to people as much as he could by reading. While the third guy was just playful and wasn’t concentrating no matter what.

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So, their arguments about which tool is “useful” or “useless” is not just ridiculous but foolish to begin with.

Unfortunately, no matter how enlightened a soul may have been, such nonsensical stances have been taken with respect to the tools which were discovered, practised and forwarded by Ancient Indian Rishis and seers. Such egotistic rhetoric has been going on for quite some time. Buddha was guilty of the same mistake. So was Nanak. As was Dayananda Saraswati, Kabir, and countless Bhakti Saints.

Vedas, Gita, Upanishads, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are different knowledge tools that are available. Anyone of them is enough to light up any soul in a second.

In fact, even without the study of any one of them, one can still tap into the same repository of “knowledge” by simply tuning one’s being into that “frequency” through the power of intense longing. Ramakrishna Paramhans did it. Meera achieved it. Nanak did it as well. So did Buddha.

Just as the guy who studied the class notes and the guy who read the Guide books, ultimately tapped into the same knowledge base – through different routes; Nanak, Buddha, Ramakrishna AND others like Swami Vivekananda and countless others who used these tools tapped into the SAME Source.

It does not matter how that the “fire” to light up their soul-wood was ignited. As long as it was the same fire. Which it undoubtedly was.

It is as foolish for Nanak to denounce the importance of Vedas in favor of self effort, as it is for a Jiddu Krishnamurti to call Guru, any Guru, useless. Whether one realizes or not, whether it is conscious or not, but the effort HAS to be made by the soul seeking liberation into the One, Eternal, and Unending source of “knowledge/fire/tool/Consciousness/God” (whatever one may want to call it) to set fire to his/her soul.

Without the “Grace” or gift of that Consciousness which results primarily and necessarily from one’s intensity of longing for liberation, no liberation is possible. If anyone says anything to the contrary, then he/she is speaking from the ego and not from the core consciousness.

If the entire history of spiritual liberation has and can use just One Source, which cannot be spoken about or described or pointed to directly, then how does one go about tapping into it? “Guide”, one would say. One who has tapped into it himself/herself and knows at least his/her way of doing so!

But relying on ONLY one Guide is like reading one Case Study in an MBA class for managing labor relations and using the conclusion from it to handle every situation with labor! Every situation is different and every response has to different. You can at best point to some basic principles which one can look into or alternatively, create such a large open, evolving database of case studies and a quick way to search through it, that when one is faced with a situation, one can easily refer to it and decide his/her own response.

Some Vedantic / Vedic scriptures are enunciation of those basic principles that help one fashion the right response for himself to get to the liberation. While other scriptures are that large evolving and open databases, that one can refer to.

Shiv Sutras, for example, talk of 112 ways that have been used to get the spiritual liberation and can be tapped into. These are decidedly not exact dishes that one can simply eat but broad recipes that one can mix and match and / or experiment with to get his / her own cuisine for liberation. But no matter what one does or which path one digs up, one essentially remains on these topologies.

The ability to use these topologies is the science and practice of Yoga.

Once Goddess Parvati asks Adi Yogi Shiva: “You indulge in so many funny, esoteric rituals, actions and mingle with crazy beings. What of all that you indulge in, is spiritual?”

To which Adi Yogi Shiva replied “What in this entire Creation and Non-Creation is not spiritual?”

If you were “open” and “mindful”, then even a stone idol can deliver the spiritual liberation in a moment. If you could “be” with and identify with that idol so totally, uncomprisingly, unconditionally and completely that you do not realize where the idol ended and where “you” began, then liberating moment is instant.

Spirituality is engaging with every inch of the Infinite Consciousness in whatever form. The Oneness can be attained by any action and in any posture. To call engagement with one (meditative music) as superior and another (idol worship) as inferior is utter foolishness.

One can be as clueless in presence of the Krishna as one could doing a ritual mindlessly. One could be as fired up spiritually in the midst of a screeching medley of singing in a Jagrata as Buddha could be in a deep meditative state.

If someone cannot understand such universality of spiritual engagement and action then one is just talking spiritual garbage.

“God is infinite” or “God is One” are inherently and intrinsically oxymoronic and meaningless statements. For if indeed the “thing” that we call “God” is EVERYTHING, then how can one identify it? As opposed to what? There is NO reference point! If everything is it, then how does one even speak of it? Whatever you will say will be wrong! And strangely, whatever you will say will also be correct! You are neither here nor there!

Similarly a Science so comprehensively dedicated to Spiritual Exploration, had to be All Inclusive – from every dimension: Temporal, Species, Creational entities, Action, Thought, Geography, even dimensions of possible existence, known and unknown.

That is what the entire Vedantic/Vedic/Hindu exploration has been. It spans Eternity. It embraces the known and the unknown. That which has been discovered and that which is yet to be discovered, is all part of it. That is why, it has been popularly called Eternal Way or Sanatan Dharma. Of course, is one was besotted by just one part of its entire expanse, or related to only one dimension versus another, one could philosophically trash the other dimensions/parts of it; but that does not diminish the importance of comprehensive holisticity of its intent! Just as if you can relate to only four characteristics of the Infinite Consciousness, you cannot diminish or deny the entire expanse of the Infinite! It is, it was and it will be!

The debate on Yoga between Dr. Deepak Chopra and Aseem Shukla can be seen in this light!

Alexander’s Army called all understanding, consciousness, and knowledge residing in the land beyond Sindhu as ‘Hindu”. That identification was like calling the Infinite as “God”. An oxymoronic but a practically useful statement for the mind to make sense of the World, as Alexander looked at it. If mind could deal with undefined and infinite reality, (which it cannot due to its own limited existence and expanse), then there would have been no reason to have a word like God!

Similarly, if Alexander could understand that all that Greek Spirituality had uncovered and all that Jesus ever said, was not outside the entire expanse of knowledge/underdstanding/experience that lay on the other side of the Sindhu, then he would not have had to resort to the useless word called Hindu in the first place!

What Alexander called Hinduism did not suddenly take birth at the time of his utterance. It was there long before even Greek Civilization itself. It just got a new adjective, which stuck for some reason in popular consciousness.

Now, to say God was born when English language identified a word called God, is obviously facetious and foolish.

Nonsensical Obsession with Anti-Ritualism: Imagine the year 3011, the world as we know it had come to an end due to a Nuclear war in 2036, and most of science and technological work had vanished. Now, some people with some knowledge had remained who passed on the knowledge to their coming generations. One such knowledge was to know which food would possibly cause burn or not. The person left living after the war knew that such foods would be acidic so, if one could do a litmus test, one could ascertain the effect. Since litmus comes from Lichens, a fungus growing on rock surfaces, so (instead of a lab chemical – since there were none left), he recommended people get the green fungus from rock surfaces and process in a certain way to create the dye for the test. Slowly and gradually, as this knowledge passed from one generation to another, putting a portion of food on the rock surface became a way for people to “heal” the food of “Heart burning” properties. Then one day a young smart kid came and said this ritual is “useless” and it was abandoned. Along with it the knowledge of Litmus Test quietly came to an end. While the intent and the tool was perfectly fine, the need was to look deeper and to do the action of litmus test a little more knowledgeably, but instead it was swept in the name of “modernization”. The truth is that Yogis also do rituals (Kriya Yoga) but they do such actions mindfully; while a common man does his action disengaged and unmindfully. Any action, even eating, done mindfully and with awareness has the power to bring down the creation. So, it is NOT the action or the ritual which is the issue, but the way a person approaches it!

And that is the mistake that both, Aseem and Dr. Chopra make. They are talking of Hinduism in a restrictive manner. Both are right and both are wrong as well. While Aseem is absolutely right that Yoga (or the science of spiritual liberation) did originate in, what is NOW known as Hinduism, Dr. Chopra is correct that Yoga’s origin is Universal in its expanse.

The disconnect is in practical reality of how world is run. As much Universal, Comprehensive and all inclusive the Science of those living on the other side of the Sindhu was (which included everything that existed on this side of Sindhu as well!), but the fact remains that Alexander had no contribution or intelligence of realizing so! Greeks did NOT come up with that comprehensive a database of case studies or that inclusive an identification of Universal Consciousness which existed on the other side of the bank of Sindhi where Alexander stood!

That Dr. Deepak Chopra is Universal Consciousness is the “Truth”. That he is “man” named “Deepak Chopra” is a fact!

World, as we know it, runs on the interplay of facts not in experiencing of the Truth. For there is NO “world” in the experience of Truth.

Ultimately, which fact empowers one to connect and realize the Truth is critical for the humankind and indeed the Creation itself!

If Alexander’s narrow and Greeks’ rich yet incomplete understanding of the tools and topologies that can lead to Infinite experience had been successful in eliminating the repositories – People, books, and energy fields – of those tools, then even though the topologies would have remained as they always have, the abiility of mankind to access those would have disappeared.

Just as saying Alexander created Hinduism is a nonsensical statement, it would be equally facetious to say that Deepak Chopra or Bikram Choudhary or BKS Iyengar created Yoga.

The truth is that Yoga’s true and first human manifestation was Adi Yogi Shiva himself. “Magic” of Yoga, therefore, and rightly so, owes everything to Shiva Himself! Without Shiv Sutras, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the “Grace” of countless Yogis, including and MOST importantly, Shiva himself, Yoga is nothing more than an exercise regimen!

Shaving Yoga of its origin, therefore, may make it a worthy competitor to Pillates, but not a way to light up souls!

The fear, which Aseem Shukla has, but has not been able to convey well, is that just as today Dr. Deepak Chopra claims Hinduism was “born” when Alexander coined the word and popularized it, a day will come when an upstart kid on the block will make an equally nonsensical and foolish claim that Bikram or Deepak Chopra created Yoga. And the unintelligent heads around the world will nod in agreement.

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9 Comments
  1. Custom Logo Design says

    Very Helpful debate for me thanks for share.

  2. Rahul Chaturvedi says
  3. Somanjana says

    Though I agree with you on the fact that it’s ultimately upon individuals to identify, perceive and choose their own path to salvation, I would like to mention a few points regarding the origin of Hinduism and Yoga vis-a-vis.

    The earliest record of Hinduism was found in Asia Minor– a tablet in Hittite cuneiform written in the Akkadian language. The date of tablet is said to be under the reign of Suppiluliuma, that extended from 1370 BC to 1335 BC. It was basically a treaty and it said that Gods are witnessing this treaty. The gods of the Mitannians were named thus: Mi-it-ra, U-ru-ua-na, In-da-ra and Na-sa-at-ti-ia-an-na.
    The names clearly correspond to Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatyau.

    So, it means that Hinduism is a proto-Aryan phenomenon and existed before the Indo-Aryan documentation of Vedas and Upanishads. So, it can also be said that Yoga that the Hindu practitioners used was an inherent aspect of human civilization. So, to separate it from Hinduism will be a definite act of sacrilege.

    Finally, Vivekananda rightfully said Hinduism is the mother of all religions

  4. Somanjana says

    Though I agree with you on the fact that it’s ultimately upon individuals to identify, perceive and choose their own path to salvation, I would like to mention a few points regarding the origin of Hinduism and Yoga vis-a-vis.

    The earliest record of Hinduism was found in Asia Minor– a tablet in Hittite cuneiform written in the Akkadian language. The date of tablet is said to be under the reign of Suppiluliuma, that extended from 1370 BC to 1335 BC. It was basically a treaty and it said that Gods are witnessing this treaty. The gods of the Mitannians were named thus: Mi-it-ra, U-ru-ua-na, In-da-ra and Na-sa-at-ti-ia-an-na.
    The names clearly correspond to Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatyau.

    So, it means that Hinduism is a proto-Aryan phenomenon and existed before the Indo-Aryan documentation of Vedas and Upanishads. So, it can also be said that Yoga that the Hindu practitioners used was an inherent aspect of human civilization. So, to separate it from Hinduism will be a definite act of sacrilege.

    Finally, Vivekananda rightfully said Hinduism is the mother of all religions

  5. Manish M says

    Daaktar Chopra ko apni dukaan chalaani hai. Simple. In order to do that, if he has to sell his entire heritage down the drain, he’ll do that. Whenever I hear him speak, I get the strong impression that think he’s an undilued phony.

  6. Manish M says

    Daaktar Chopra ko apni dukaan chalaani hai. Simple. In order to do that, if he has to sell his entire heritage down the drain, he’ll do that. Whenever I hear him speak, I get the strong impression that think he’s an undilued phony.

  7. pramila says

    Manish sahi kaha aapne Deepak Chopra is selling spiritual wisdom from his homeland, a business man has to be smart and clever to sustain in a country like America ,or else we know very well what happened with Acharya Rajneesh? had he not been a business man but a rebel he wouldnt have debated in manner he has ,a businessman moto is to provide and be provided in return in doing so where he is wrong ?be thankful at least he has made yoga and its sisters the other eastern virtues popular, in truth from heart even non hindus cannot deny it, may pretend although, khali baate karne se kya hoga, as we feel proud about L.N Mittal the steel tycoon so shall we be … , his products carries the invisible tag of Hindu-stan haan bas itna khyal rakhna hoga jis bacche ko uski maa dutkarti hai use jag dutkarta hai so be cautious of talking anything bad about our own country.

  8. pramila says

    Manish sahi kaha aapne Deepak Chopra is selling spiritual wisdom from his homeland, a business man has to be smart and clever to sustain in a country like America ,or else we know very well what happened with Acharya Rajneesh? had he not been a business man but a rebel he wouldnt have debated in manner he has ,a businessman moto is to provide and be provided in return in doing so where he is wrong ?be thankful at least he has made yoga and its sisters the other eastern virtues popular, in truth from heart even non hindus cannot deny it, may pretend although, khali baate karne se kya hoga, as we feel proud about L.N Mittal the steel tycoon so shall we be … , his products carries the invisible tag of Hindu-stan haan bas itna khyal rakhna hoga jis bacche ko uski maa dutkarti hai use jag dutkarta hai so be cautious of talking anything bad about our own country.

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