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International Yoga Day: Controversies, responses and Why Yoga?

Well being has nothing to do with your belief system.  If your cholesterol is in the right limit, it is so because your body is working fine.  Not because you believe if Climate Change is real or not, or if god is a woman or man.  Chemicals in your brain, the electrical circuitry of your nervous system and the hormonal cocktail of your organs works best when in harmony and does so irrespective whether you are Rightist, Leftist, Right-of-Center, Left-of-Center, Fringe Right or Fringe left.  Thankfully, organs in our body do not care for which scripture you pledge on.  In fact, they would work just as well, if a Tea party Rightist died and his organs were transplanted in a gay person with radically different views and ideology with no interest in any god “up there”.

To evaluate the nonsensical construct of ideological bearing on one’s well being, one needs to look at one’s ownself a bit deeper and see if anything besides one’s mental gymnastics gets impacted by your choice of religion, belief patterns and political hues.  The answer is no.  Try hitting your self with a Bible, Quran and a Torah and see if your body hurts any different?

This is at the physically experiential level.  Quantum physicists are today talking of Quantum entanglement – where two electrons at the opposite ends of this Universe may be functioning as one with full synchronicity and information sharing.  Sounds strange?  Well, even the great Einstein was “spooked” and refused to accept the truth of Quantum world’s complete departure from the classical mechanics’ central precept of “Local Realism”.  He termed this possibility of “oneness” well beyond the speed of light, as “spooky action at a distance”.   Notwithstanding Einstein’s ideological paradigm, nature doesn’t give two hoots for that belief of classical mechanics and the reality of Quantum Entanglement has been scientifically demonstrated with photons, electrons, large molecule and even small diamonds.

Quantum entanglement in the motion of macroscopic solid bodies has implications both for quantum technologies and foundational studies of the boundary between the quantum and classical worlds. Entanglement is usually fragile in room-temperature solids, owing to strong interactions both internally and with the noisy environment. We generated motional entanglement between vibrational states of two spatially separated, millimeter-sized diamonds at room temperature. By measuring strong nonclassical correlations between Raman-scattered photons, we showed that the quantum state of the diamonds has positive concurrence with 98% probability. Our results show that entanglement can persist in the classical context of moving macroscopic solids in ambient conditions.

If one were to understand and accept the constant and all pervasive “entanglement” of the Universal substratum – information and particles / energy that lends itself (rather manifests) to the physical structures, then we would also have to accept that any part can best function when in sync with the “rest”.  What is “entangled” at the sub-atomic level in me with “star dust” of the far away galaxy is best manifesting in my physical self, when I am in tune with it.  When I accept that I am no more a “creation” at a physical level, but a manifestation of the quantum information, then I feel the need to seek and experience the harmony that is obviously there.

And, that seeking of harmony starts when belief in the classical structures of ideology ends.  Just as how science had to go beyond the total disbelief of someone like Einstein to finally get onto the road of seeking the reality of quantum entanglement.  Quest for seeking union of the existence began when certainty of mental ideologies ceased.

Yoga – meaning Union – is that quest from a different paradigm.  Yoga starts when your preoccupation with what is “classical and physical” ends.  Sadhguru describes the first Sutra of Patanjali thus.

This is why the first sutra is “and now yoga.” That means, you know nothing works and you do not have a clue about what the hell this is. The pain of ignorance is tearing you apart. Now, yoga. Now there is a way to know.

When the mind is beyond the make-believe and wants to “know” in the real sense.  Move away from characterizing something that it doesn’t understand as “spooky or godly”, then seeking starts.  That’s where Yoga begins.  And so does science.  There is nothing more “secular” than real seeking.  Both, Science (when not a prisoner of ideological strait-jackets) and Yoga are such seeking.

International Yoga Day: “… and now Yoga”

When International Yoga Day (June 21st) was announced with India mooting the idea at the UN last year, it was not just an acknowledgement of India’s heritage and contribution to the world, but also the acceptance that we now need to seek inwards.  We are all witness to the damage that this planet has seen thanks to our urge to live well.  We have made everything better, smarter, more efficient and more effective in its ways.  Yet, universal well-being eludes us.  In such a time, International Yoga Day is an idea which finally forces us to collectively cry out – “… and now Yoga”!

Yoga: Celebration of the Open Source

Yoga, the science of the inward experience of one-ness is predicated on many millennia of work by various beings who came and gave selflessly without the urge to patent their work or brand it.  They used the available work by others and created their own constructs, ways, methods and cocktails after years and decades of serious work.

Today, when one just sits in a certain posture with a certain “mudra” (way of holding your fingers and hands) and regulates breathing in a certain way to see almost miraculous and long term impact on blood-pressure or cholesterol or brain cells, it is because this whole package has been used and tested for many many millennia by millions!  It is not a product of one guy getting up in the morning and suddenly deciding that lets give this a “test ride” and see if it works?  The “packages” – of mudras, chanting, postures, breathing et al – are not random.  They are deliberate and worked upon by millions of very accomplished beings.  Just as a Dreamliner 787 is predicated on decades and centuries of research work in the field of aviation and all pervasive science.  To even imagine it to be a product of “random enlightenment” would be the height of absurdity.  Ditto for Yoga.

The reason why the science of Yoga has been perfected at such deep and subjective levels is because everything was open source, yet strongly managed.  Once a Guru perfected one method is every way, that was the only way he would impart it and make sure it was received that way by his disciples.  Idea was not to be fanatical but to make sure that something as subjective and prone to impurities (with radically different impact) stood the highest of “quality standards”.

To be sure, Yogis – specially the greatest of Masters – have struggled between the two: Quality Control and Open Source structure.  How do you impart something openly for it to be “rejigged” while making sure that every iteration met with the highest standards of quality?  For even one wrong breathing sequence could alter the very way energy flowed to your brain and heart!

The fight of the Religious fanatics

While some Muslims find it against their religious ideology to bow before the very basic elements of this existence – the Sun, the Universe, the air and the rest; some Christians think Yoga is the work of a devil for it invokes “strange gods”.

Strangely, Muslims do not realize that formless god means that everything is divine.  For, if there is anything that is “not God”, then God has by default a form!  If something can be uniquely identified as “different” from another, it mandates form.  Formless Divine is predicated on inability to identify.  And that is only possible when everything is divine.  If everything is divine, then what and where do you not bow down to?

This message was driven home in Mecca by the first Sikh Guru – Guru Nanak, when he was lying down with feet towards Mecca mosque.  When the mullah there objected, Nanak opened his eyes and asked the mullah to turn his feet in the direction where he didn’t see his God.  It is said, that wherever he turned, he saw Mecca.  He fell at Nanak’s feet and apologized.

Unfortunately, Muslims talk a lot about formless god, but are scared to even fully understand the ramifications of that conclusion in context of this existence.  That is why they have lived in the quagmire of dualities of Believer/Non-Believer, God/Satan, Hell/Heaven etc.

The truth is that nothing completes and fructifies the central precept of Islam – the formless God – the way Yoga does.  Only if Yoga is fully experienced, that the formless could be truthfully talked of.  Until then it is a hearsay.

Christians, on the other hand, were instructed by Jesus on how “Kingdom of God was within”.  Neither has anyone seeked that divine, nor has anyone paid heed to the kingdom.  Instead, Jesus has been used as a mascot by those who wanted to proliferate their own hegemony on others.  One, who was against religious fanaticism and the nonsense of belief such that he would fight against the clergies of the temples of his time, is now celebrated in the very structures that he opposed.  Just that now they bear his name.  Unfortunately, the truth is Christianity of today owes its central structure not to Jesus but to Constantine’s Nicene Creed.  And, that is why the belief system of the Roman mindset upstaged the Spiritual underpinnings of Jesus’ legacy.

In Yoga lies the very method to get in touch with the “Kingdom of God”.  For, there is no credible way of stepping inside other than the ways of Yoga.

Unfortunately, even the Hindus, who have considered the work of ancient Sages as their heritage, have brought Yoga to a level of belief.  Without understanding or putting the requisite work, they not only “do” Yoga but also impart it in ways that are many times counter-productive.  I have read “scientific explanations” of many upstarts of the various postures, chanting etc.  Strange esoteric and psychological explanations are put forth to explain methods/ways that have existential import.

That is why, it is imperative that India – and the Yogis of today – now work to put together a Quality Control Structure around the practice and imparting of Yoga.

Controversy in India and Bright Silver lining

Despite the fact that India mooted the International Yoga Day, it has been mired in controversy in the religious and ideological cesspool of local politics.  It would be important to take a look at the sad situation as well as one example of silver lining.
Muslim group, AIMIM:

“We object if yoga is made compulsory, suryanamaskar is against the basic teaching of Islam. We are not against any form of exercise but why aren’t they making martial arts or any other form of physical activity compulsory,” asks All India Majlis-e-Itehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi.

The All-India Muslim Personal law Board (AIMPLB)

“Narendra Modi is functioning like the PM of RSS and not as the PM of India… It is dangerous for the secular fabric of the country,” AIMPLB spokesperson Maulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi reportedly said.

Catholic Bishops Conference

The government’s assurance notwithstanding, there were reports that the Catholic Bishops Conference of India has expressed displeasure over the decision to organise Yoga Day on Sunday, considered “sacred” by Christians.

Political parties:

“The PM is known for headline management in everything. He’s holding a yoga event for a day but does he practice it himself? He doesn’t realise that India is a composite culture,” Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said.

In this rather gloomy atmosphere, there is a ray of hope.  The very wonderful and sane announcement from the Indian Orthodox Church in Ahmedabad on International Yoga Day.


Press release from Indian Orthodox Church on Yoga Day


With that message, let us move beyond ideological differences and learn to use this day to dig deeper into ourselves and look at the basic religious constructs we have followed directly in the eye.  If we move beyond our ideological scare-crows and be with the central precepts of even our religious paradigms a bit more honestly, we will find that Yoga is not just not “bad”, but essential for the pursuit of divine!


(Featured Image source: Flickr)






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3 Comments on "International Yoga Day: Controversies, responses and Why Yoga?"

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hem sagar
hem sagar
June 21, 2015 4:31 pm
The most prominent critic of quantum physics, Einstein invariably contributed to its development. If hard to get people to dissociate Yoga from Hinduism, just as its hard to get even intellectuals to dissociate Spirituality from Religion (Eg. Javed Akhtar). It’s not hard though, Yoga existed when Hinduism didn’t, and so, It couldn’t have come from Hinduism. If only people looked it up, before they start ranting against it. Good on you that you drive home the point that knowledge is accumulative. Everybody builds upon the work that has already been done. If a guy discovered a new planet, it was… Read more »
July 1, 2015 4:20 pm

Very deep and to the point. Thanks

dr.viraj pradhan
dr.viraj pradhan
July 3, 2015 5:53 pm
Thanks ,Mr.Kapoor.Saw your article after a while. Paramahansa Yogananda’s book The Yoga Of Jesus was recommended by an American lady and it’s worth considering.Since Yoga is not about adopting animal postures( this is just the initial stage)and something given as the basic spiritual reality,our natural state and the ultimate to be achieved for all,all objections are contrary to reality.There are objections raised about chanting Om.In this context,Swami Ramatirth’s exposition of the Quranic letter ILM is very interesting.According to him,as per the Arabic grammer,when L falls between one vowel and a consonant,it’s pronounced as au or o.Hence,Ilm is AUM.I wonder how… Read more »