There is a lot of interest these days in “yoga”. However what the westerners call “yoga” refers only to the postures which are known as “asanas”. Yoga asanas are bodily postures which are very good for strengthening the body as well as the mind. However “yoga” is a many- flavoured word with infinite connotations. It comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” — to unite. Hinduism aims at uniting the individual self or the “atman” with the universal self or “Brahman”. Any attempt to do this can be termed as “yoga”. Thus we have many types of yogas in Hinduism — Jnana yoga, karma yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga etc. The physical postures which go under the name of “yoga” all over the world today have existed in India for centuries. They were emphasised and brought to the domain of the ordinary man by the great Hindu Master known as Patanjali who was the very first psychologist the world has ever known. Hence even today this is known as Patanjali yoga and has been brought to the focus of the modern world through the efforts of Baba Ram Dev and other great masters of Yoga. This is what is being propagated in all countries. People who practice this all over the world have found that it brings great benefit to their mental and physical health. Thus the word “yoga” has become a key word in many western countries and many yoga schools have sprung up all over the world since people have discovered that yoga is something which helps everyone to lead a healthier and happier life.
Because if its rapid rise to glory, the word yoga has created a lot of suspicion in Muslim and Christian countries. They believe that “yoga” has a Hindu flavour and the whole thing is a diabolic plot on the part of the Hindus to insinuate their ideas into the main stream of world thought. This view exists in India also and is the root cause for the lobby which is trying to stop the introduction of the practice of yoga in all schools, as the government wants to do. In ancient days all students of the “padashalas” as the old Indian schools were known, had to practice yoga. With the advent of the English, this was replaced by something called PT, which is a sort of physical fitness routine. Yoga asanas however enliven both body and mind. Their effects are not limited to the body alone. Now when the government wants to re-introduce this ancient practice into the school curriculum, there is a big hue and cry that this is one of the methods of popularising Hinduism!
Unfortunately there is an attempt on the part of many intellectual Hindus and even some of the gurus to support the anti-Hindu lobby and insist that yoga has no Hindu undertones and can be practiced by anyone who wants to improve his mind and body. Of course it can be practiced by anyone who wants to improve his mind and body. Hindus have never patented any of their knowledge. It was always readily available to the whole of humanity.
But at the outset I would like to make a few things clear to the general public. I assert most vehemently that “yoga” is indeed a word with deep Hindu connotations. It comes from the ancient Hindu scriptures. It definitely has its roots in Hinduism. If anyone out of sheer prejudice does not want to practice this because it has a Hindu origin, it is their problem not ours!
One of the greatest of the yoga asanas is the twelve postures collectively known as “surya namaskara” or sun salutation. The sun has been an object of worship by the Hindus for centuries. We believe that the sun has very special properties which support not only health and life but also gives spiritual enhancement. Today solar energy is being promoted in all countries for various household appliances. Human beings have been using solar energy from the dawn of creation. In fact our life on this planet is totally dependent on solar energy. The ancient rishis, who built up the foundation of the Hindu religion, discovered a method of utilising this solar power and injecting it into our individual systems consciously and not unconsciously as we have been doing for years. They discovered that the sun has twelve belts of energy encircling it. Each of these belts is capable of providing a special type of energy to us. Thus they formulated the twelve steps of the famous yogic posture known as the surya namaskara and also gave us the twelve mantras or names of the sun by which we could invoke these twelve types of energy into our bodies. Of course anyone can do these postures and get benefit from them. Hinduism has never stopped anyone from benefitting from any of their amazing findings. The rishis meant all their great discoveries to benefit the whole of humanity and not just those who believed in the Hindu way of life. “Loka samastath sukhino bhavantu” has always been our motto. This means “let the whole world be happy.” The Hindus have never said, “Let only the Hindus prosper and be happy and let the rest of the world go to Hell!” This has never been our motto. All Indians including Christians and Muslims should be grateful to the Hindus for providing them with this unique opportunity for utilising the enormous and untapped source of power coming from the sun to increase their own health and vigour. Unfortunately this idea of being grateful to the Hindus has never entered the minds of any of the people of other religions who stay in this glorious country and benefit daily from the great discoveries of the rishis. In the field of physics, in the field of astronomy, in the field of astrology, in the field of psychology and medicine, there has never been anyone to beat the ancient Hindus in their discoveries. The west has only started to catch up with our discoveries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Those who want to scoff at this and pretend that such things did not exist may do so but the facts can never be changed. These findings are the birthright of every Indian and the Hindus are so generous that they are always happy to share their knowledge.
However it is high time that people of other traditions and religious beliefs should at least have the grace to acknowledge that “yoga” indeed comes from the Hindu tradition. If they want to make use of it they may do so but still they should have the honesty to admit that the roots come from Hinduism. Gratitude is the least that we can expect from the followers of other religions. Be truly grateful that you are living in a country which has no quarrel with any other religion, living in a country which has always welcomed the followers of all other religions. Be grateful for the freedom you are given to worship your own gods and for the numerous benefits you are enjoying from this land which is the land of the rishis!
As for the Hindus of this country all I can say is
Why are you frightened to admit your greatness? Why are you frightened to acknowledge the wonder of your own religion? More than anything why are you ashamed to admit you are a Hindu when Hinduism is the mother of all civilizations and the forerunner of all religions?
Shout it from the rooftops loud and clear so that everyone can hear and realise that the culture of this land IS Hindu! Hindus Awake! Throw off your mental shackles and lift your head high up to the light of the sun like the lotus flower which is the symbol of this country!
Hari Aum Tat Sat