Who Owns Yoga? Not Bikram!

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on Dec 7, 2010
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In a recent article in the New York times, a Hindu group asserted that yoga owes a great debt to Hinduism. According to The New York Times, “The campaign, labeled ‘Take Back Yoga,’ does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.”

But how much debt does yoga really owe to Hinduism? On closer scrutiny, perhaps not so much. For starters, yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism.

Hinduism as a term is not very old, not more than about 1000 years old. The term first appeared during a time Muslims invaded India (about 1000 CE) and called the people living on the other side of the “Sindhu River” Hindhus. Like so many foreign invaders before them, they simply could not pronounce the local language correctly.

Later, when the British—with their money- and power-hungry East India Company—came to India in the 1600s, to loot and pillage, like all great empires and imperialists do in order to turn a profit, they gradually gave that term nationalistic shape and recognition.

Hinduism is not very old at all. The Vedas are old, Yoga is old, Tantra is old, Shaivism is old, but not Hinduism. So, if yoga is much older than Hinduism, how can Hindus claim they invented yoga?

Hinduism is a sacred sponge that has soaked up all of India’s mystical traditions—from Shaivism to Shamkhya, from Jainism to Buddhism, from Vedanta to Patanjali’s Yoga.

More importantly, how can anybody claim to own a practice that has been shared freely for thousands of years? I understand that Hindus feel that yoga is part of their tradition, but the fact remains: very few Hindus practice hatha yoga (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), or meditation, some of the most integral practices of yoga. Indeed, most Hindu practice consists of Vedic prayers.

Hinduism is actually a foreign construct. Before Hinduism, India was a conglomerate of religions and spiritual paths—a colorful universe of belief systems and mystical practices. And the fact is, India is still that way today—a composite culture of numerous spiritual traditions that only loosely come under the umbrella Hinduism.

So, who owns yoga? This has become a central question in the debate over the now  multibillion-dollar yoga industry. Follow the money, follow yoga moguls like Bikram, and issues of ownership will not lag far behind.

Bikram Choudury, the glamorous Hollywood yogi, has not been successful in laying ownership claims to this ancient practice, however.  Even though he copyrighted 26 of his Bikram-style poses in 2007, the Indian government is fighting back by showing that yoga is quite a few thousand years older than Bikram.

The New York Times writes: “The Indian government [has begun] making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury.”

So, if yoga was not invented by Hindus, who actually invented it? Deepak Chopra and some historians will tell you “that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged.”

Deepak Chopra maintains that Hinduism is too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga. Consequently, according to him, yoga belongs to the Vedas and originated with the Vedic people.

But the complex history of yoga does not end there. What the New York Times and Deepak Chopra fail to mention is that other historians, most notably Alain Danielou and N. N. Bhattacraya, as well as yogi teachers and writers such as Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, trace the roots of yoga to the Tantric or Shaiva tradition, which traditionally remained outside Vedic culture.

Think of Indian history this way: There are two archetypes within the Indian sacred traditions: the Vedic Priest and the Tantric (Shaiva) Yogi. While the Vedic priests developed Vedic prayer, mantra incantations and astrology, the Shaiva yogis were the inventors of yogic practice, meditation as well as yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in which the practices of yoga are detailed.

In other words, it is fairly common knowledge that the functions of the Vedic priests and the Shaiva yogis are quite different. Throughout Indian sacred history, nobody went to a Vedic priest to study yoga. So why does Deepak Chopra claim Vedic culture and not Shaiva culture developed yoga?

That question goes to the heart of the complexities and controversies regarding Indian history and who actually developed yoga in the first place.

“Other historians,” writes the New York Times, “trace the first written description of yoga to the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture believed to have been written between the fifth and second centuries B.C.”

These scriptures, often termed the Fifth Veda, do indeed contain a vast repository of yogic wisdom and philosophy, for in India yoga has always meant a lot more than physical postures.

These scriptures were written down by rishis, swamis, tantrics, avadhutas, kapalikas—ascetic yogic living for the most part outside Vedic culture. Hence, I would venture to say that all of yoga, even these sacred texts now so central to Hindusim, originated outside mainstream Vedic society, but was gradually adopted by it as the Vedic Aryan outsiders gradually became the dominant culture in India.

Much the same way the Catholic Church incorporated the Mayan culture into its worship ceremonies. Still, just like the Mayan shamans have always remained largely independent of the Catholic Church, the yogis have also often remained fiercely independent of mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture.

Indeed, both the shamanic Mayans and the Tantric yogis differ quite radically in practice and lifestyle from mainstream Catholic and Hindu religion.

So, if anybody should claim ownership of yoga it should be the yogis that invented it, namely the ancient, dreadlocked Tantrics. Who, after all invented yoga according to Indian sacred history? His name was Shiva. And what is Shiva popularly called? The King of Yoga. What does he look like? For sure not like a Vedic priest with shaved head. No, he looks like a dreadlocked yogi with ashes smeared all over the body. He looks like a Tantric Yogi.

So, there you have it. Yoga was neither invented by Bikram, the Hindus, nor the Vedic priests. Yoga has always been a renegade activity, somewhat outside mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture and religion.

So, who owns yoga, then? The short answer: nobody. The long answer: everybody practicing yoga.

Yes, if yoga belongs to anybody, it belongs to humanity. And since we are all part of humanity, yoga—like soccer, like drumming, like dancing, like meditation—belongs to us all.


About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


104 Responses to “Who Owns Yoga? Not Bikram!”

  1. Claudia says:

    Yes, it belongs to us, we are the current living tradition.

  2. AMO says:

    "he copyrighted 26 of his Bikram-style poses in 2007" This is technically incorrect.

    Bikram sued some of his former students including the founders of Core Power Yoga for "stealing" his practices. The lawyers for the defense argued and won the point that the POSES were NOT copy right worthy as they clearly were ancient and Bikram did not design them. The judge allowed that Bikram invented the SERIES of 2 breathing exercises and 26 poses done twice in a hot room and spoken with his dialog. He has a legal to the exact DIALOG and you can be sued under the court's finding if you teach the 26 & 2 in the same order and timing as Bikram, if you use his name, if you use his dialog. If you throw some down dogs in there and don't say "open your chest like a flower petal blooming" then you're fine.

    This is an important discussion so please be sure to choose your words carefully when writing about it. Bikram does NOT under any circumstances own a copy right on ANY yoga pose. He owns a copy right on his series. If you taught the series backward or switched poses around you would NOT be in violation of the copy right.

  3. Linda-Sama says:

    "For starters, yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism"

    yup, that's what I've said all along….;)

    "Yoga has always been a renegade activity, somewhat outside mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture and religion."


  4. Ramesh says:

    Shiva Steve Ordog Thank you Ramesh! Great stuff! renegades, non-conformists, yay!

  5. Ramesh says:

    Bikram and the Law! Please read–pretty amazing!

    Los Angeles, California, July 30, 2003

    We are pleased to report that Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury have achieved a significant victory in their lawsuit against Kim Schreiber-Morrison, Mark Morrison, and their business, Prana Incorporated (the “Morrisons”). In the lawsuit, Bikram and Rajashree asserted claims against the Morrisons for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, violation of rights of publicity, and other related causes of action, and sought to permanently enjoin the Morrisons from such conduct. Under a settlement reached on June 12, 2002, the Morrisons voluntarily consented to the following terms:

    Payment of substantial monetary compensation to Bikram and Rajashree, the amount of which must be kept confidential pursuant to the settlement agreement;

  6. Ramesh says:

    To never again teach Bikram’s Basic Yoga System;
    To never again use or otherwise infringe upon Bikram’s copyrighted works, such as his books, videotape, audiotape, teaching materials and the selection and arrangement of yoga poses in Bikram’s Basic Yoga System;
    To never again use or otherwise infringe upon Bikram’s trade and service marks, including but not limited to “Bikram Yoga,” “Bikram’s Yoga College of India,” and the picture mark of Bikram in the spine twisting pose;
    To never again use or otherwise exploit the names or likenesses of Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury for their own commercial purposes;
    To the entry of a stipulated permanent injunction, issued by the United States District Court of the Central District of California, formally barring the Morrisons from using or otherwise exploiting Bikram and Rajashree’s intellectual property as set forth above; and

  7. Ramesh says:

    To provide a signed statement of apology to Bikram and Rajashree.
    On June 30, 2003, Federal Judge David O. Carter issued the attached court order permanently enjoining and restraining the Morrisons from infringing on Bikram’s and Rajashree’s intellectual property as set forth above.

    This outcome represents a significant legal victory for Bikram, Rajashree, and the Bikram Yoga community, and fully vindicates Bikram’s conviction in the originality and legal enforceability of Bikram’s Yoga.

    Bikram's Yoga College of India reminds yoga practitioners and aspiring yoga instructors everywhere that this litigation serves as a powerful example of why there is no benefit to learning from uncertified and unlicensed yoga instructors who claim to teach Bikram yoga or "something like it."

    The simple faNo one may teach Bikram Yoga classes unless he/she is a certified and licensed Bikram Yoga teacher.

    No one may teach or certify others to become Bikram Yoga teachers other than Bikram Choudhury.

  8. Ramesh says:

    Bikram Obtains Copyright Registration for His Asana Sequence

    Los Angeles, California, February 5, 2003: With great pleasure we would like to announce that Bikram recently secured federal copyright registration under 17 U.S.C. Section 410 for his original work of authorship in his asana sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Through registration of this work, the United States Copyright Office acknowledges Bikram’s exclusive right to the distinct series of postures and breathing exercises comprising the sequence and Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class.

    This latest development reinforces the strength and value inherent in the Bikram Yoga system, enhancing opportunities for both certified Bikram Yoga Teachers, and licensed Bikram Yoga studios.

    Registration of the asana sequence with the U.S. Copyright Office represents a significant milestone for Bikram in his efforts to formalize the intellectual property rights which encompass the Bikram Yoga style and method. While some in the yoga community once viewed the prospect of formal legal protection for Bikram’s sequence with skepticism, Bikram’s insight and creativity have once again proven them wrong.

  9. Ramesh says:

    The asana sequence copyright registration joins Bikram’s growing portfolio of registered copyrights and trademarks that lie at the heart of the proprietary Bikram Yoga system. Bikram can now easily and effectively enforce these rights.

    Due to the originality of the sequence and the strength of the copyright registration, infringement of the sequence copyright can occur in a number of ways. In addition to exact copying of the sequence, the copyright prohibits others from creating “derivative” works of the sequence. Virtually all modifications or additions to the sequence will constitute copyright infringement, including: the unauthorized use of even a small number of consecutive postures; the addition of different postures or breathing exercises to the sequence or portions of the sequence; the teaching or offering of the sequence with or without the Dialogue; or by the addition of extra elements to the sequence, like music.

  10. Ramesh says:

    Bikram will be entitled to receive an award of statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement and can also recover his attorneys’ fees from infringers in lawsuits concerning copyright infringement of the sequence.

    Please join us in congratulating Bikram for more than three decades of groundbreaking work in bringing to fruition the recognition of the priceless intellectual property assets that are Bikram Yoga.

    –Jacob C. Reinbolt
    Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP http://www.procopio.com

  11. candicegarrett says:

    Perfect, perfect and um, perfect! I am so glad to hear (read) someone putting it out there that "hinduism" is a westernized construct. It pains me when people, educator, writers, call Hinduism a "religion," because it actually is a hodge podge of different tribal practices and as you so clearly pointed out, contrasting beliefs (duality or non-duality? Hmmm…)

    Just as it pains me to hear writers (of published books!) call yoga an invention of warriors, similar to karate. (Maybe they are referring to the Gita there, but surely yoga was around before Arjuna and as surely, wasn't "developed" by warriors as some kind of war practice.) So thank you, for clearing the air about yoga's roots and its lack of ability to be owned. By anyone.

  12. Bhaeravii says:

    one afternoon about 8 years ago at the jagriti ashram, a telephone call came inquiring about yoga classes. One of the monks answered. She asked: "do you do hot yoga?"

    the monk wasnt sure what she was referring to exactly, but answered: "no we do cold yoga."

  13. Ramesh says:

    If you read my article carefully, you will learn that I am saying yoga is older than Hinduism. Hinduism as a concept is no more than 1000 years old, Hinduism as a religion is even younger, but yoga, both as hatha yoga and as the sublime teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita is much older. So, to be correct, Hinduism has included yoga as part of its religion and the various sacred texts of yoga, but the tradition of yoga is not Hindu. For that reason, many, if not most, people practicing yoga do not consider themselves Hindu. One of the reasons is, as you point out, the caste system. That is one of the reasons Deepak Chopra, an Indian by birth, do not think of himself as Hindu–the religion accepts the caste system.

  14. Akshey says:

    Whats their in Name

    You can call muslims as Moahmdians will it make any difference.

    You can name the set of relgious methods practiced by people of Indian subcontinet as "Hinduism" or "Sanatan Dharma" as you are pleased ,will it make any difference.We belive in Krishana and Shiva and Vedas and they are the source of Yoga,is their any source older than these where cocept of Yoga are explained.

  15. Akshey says:

    Now Yoga has become more or less secular subject and it should be practiced worlwide,but please one should not rebuke its source for once personal gain,I think there is hardly any difference between those who are claiming its origin in Hinduism and those who are against it,each has his own personal motives.

    As for Deepak Chopra ,he is a complete business man and there is little difference between him and Bikram,
    so he will modify concept to cater to the need of western audiance after all they are his clients not the Indians.

    Caste system or more appropriately varna system was highjacked by Brahmins and has modified it according to their wishes and needs,and the so called "Scholors" of modern time are hardly different from them.

  16. Ramesh says:

    Aksheyji, you're right about most of the yoga practitioners in the West, those 80-90 percent or so who practice mainly yoga as asanas for fitness and relaxation, that they do not practice the more spiritual/religious/philososphical aspects of yoga. But are they rebuking its source for personal gain? Most don't really care much about the source of yoga at all, I think. But they do care about not being pegged as Hindus, or religious, and that is fine by me.

    As for Deepak Chopra being mainly a business man–I would say that, we have to distinguish the two. I think he is a genuine exponent of yoga and not just into it for the business. But I do disagree with him that yoga stems from the Vedic tradition. See my article above for further info.

    I agree with you that the caste or varna system was not only highjacked by the Brahmins, it was instituted by them and formulated by them; that was the way they subjugated the Dravidyan, Mongolian and Austric population of ancient India. Indeed, yoga existed in India before the Vedic Brahmins enytered India. That is another disgareement I have with Chopra–he belives there was no vedic migration into India at all.

  17. Ramesh says:

    Aarti Inamdar commented on a post you were tagged in.

    "Priests and Yogis have unique teachings to offer, but both are speaking from the vedic revealed body of knowledge. We have to be careful not to create a "club" of tantra that exists in outside of the vedas."

  18. Ramesh says:

    The Tantric scriptures and the vast oral tradition of Tantra is not part of the Vedic scriptures. There are overlaps for sure, especially in the Kashmir tantric scriptures and even in some of the Tantric Hatha Yoga scriptures, but it is not accurate to say that all yogic knowledge is, as you say, from "vedic revealed body of knowledge." That's the kind of sweeping generalization and mythmaking that I think it is worthwhile to correct. Deepak Chopra and so many other writers promote this one-sided view and that is unfortunate.

  19. Mary Dillon says:

    Bikram's copyright of his 26 posture/2 breathing exercise sequence is no different than a composer who takes musical notes, which belong to no one, puts them in a particular order, and then owns the rights to that piece of music.
    Thank you.
    Mary Dillon

  20. Akshey says:


    I am not against seekers,those who want to explore on these subjects,they have every right to question
    its benefit,origin,practice etc they can take yoga as a simple exercise routine,it will at least benefit them phsically

    My problem is with the so called "Experts" who in reality are businessman ,they are no longer want spiritual growth
    of their pupil,even if they desire it is for their monetary gains.For example
    If my business is related to yoga in India,then obviously I will try to attach Yoga practice with Hinduism as it will benefit
    my business in India,similarly with Deepak Chopra and Bikram have their business in USA and they want it to grow there.

    I seriously doubt about their intentions,they are not morally capable of claiming anything regarding origin,objective
    of practice so closely related to religions of subcontinent and particularly to Hinduism which has been in practice
    for thousands of years.

  21. Akshey says:

    If "Experts" have practiced and benefited from Yoga and meditation they have every right to promote it
    as a practice and to grow their business,but claiming origin and relation with religion is pure academic subject
    and should be pursued objectively even though its origin dates thousand of years back.

    and sorry for the language I used for you ,you indeed have vast knowledge and there are many things I can learn from you


  22. Baba Rampuri says:

    Part 2

    "So, if yoga was not invented by Hindus, who actually invented it? Deepak Chopra and some historians will tell you “that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged.”
    Deepak Chopra maintains that Hinduism is too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga. Consequently, according to him, yoga belongs to the Vedas and originated with the Vedic people."

    Indian tradition, by its own account, is not “invented,” but revealed, so the “schools” of thought are called darshanas; the beholding, rather than the inventing. These revelations take place, according to tradition, over a vast period of time, but the ones we know today, especially the ones accompanied by texts, we know mainly by the meticulous work of the Brahmin caste, who have maintained many of the traditions, through both oral and written transmission.
    When we speak of the traditions of the Vedas and Vedic people, we mainly refer to the Brahmin caste, and so Shaiva tradition is very much a part of Vedic tradition, but there is also a great deal of Shaiva tradition outside of Vedic tradition. There same may be said for Tantric tradition. If we drop our model of European history, we see no great dichotomy.

    “Think of Indian history this way: There are two archetypes within the Indian sacred traditions: the Vedic Priest and the Tantric (Shaiva) Yogi. While the Vedic priests developed Vedic prayer, mantra incantations and astrology, the Shaiva yogis were the inventors of yogic practice, meditation as well as yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in which the practices of yoga are detailed.”

    There is no competition between Vedic priests and Shaiva yogis, in fact, quite the opposite as a symbiosis exists between them as well as a great deal of shared knowledge. There is no ideological difference as well. The difference is one of lineage and one could say, caste. The Vedic priests administer, perform, teach, and transmit the Vedic rites and rituals as well as other rites and knowledge as part of their social/caste duties, while many Shaiva yogis, many of whom are coming from this caste, sever their caste duties and leave the world of social interaction among householders in what is often a Vedic ritual performed by Vedic priests, and join a guru lineage and assume the duties of that lineage. The Shaiva yogi’s primary relationship with the “ordinary” world, the public, is to give blessings. The Shaiva yogis give their teachings to their disciples who also sever their links with caste duties.

    “Throughout Indian sacred history, nobody went to a Vedic priest to study yoga.”

    Who did one go to for teachings of yoga and meditation? It depended on who you were. If you were a householder, you went to another householder, often a Brahmin or Vedic priest. So both the Vedic priests and the Shaiva yogis have used Vedic prayer, mantra incantations, astrology, yogic practice, and meditation. But neither side invented these things. These are “revealed knowledge.”

    The Vedic priests come to the Shaiva yogis for their blessings and advice, and Vedic priests administer the Vedic rites for Shaiva yogis. The two are very interconnected.

    “These scriptures were written down by rishis, swamis, tantrics, avadhutas, kapalikas—ascetic yogic living for the most part outside Vedic culture. Hence, I would venture to say that all of yoga, even these sacred texts now so central to Hindusim, originated outside mainstream Vedic society, but was gradually adopted by it as the Vedic Aryan outsiders gradually became the dominant culture in India.”

    Scriptures or “shastra” were not written, but recited and chanted. Some of the scriptures are revealed, some composed, but many of the shastras, even the Vedas, are attributed to someone, the Rishis, in the case of the Vedas. All the Rishis, many swamis, many avadhutas, many yogi ascetics, and many tantrics are firmly within Vedic culture.

    As far as “Vedic Aryan outsiders” are concerned, I would like to know from which scripture, shastra, or Tradition this arises. This is an expression directly coming from the 19th century construction of Hinduism.

    “…the yogis have also often remained fiercely independent of mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture.”

    Many, if not most Yogis are part and parcel of mainstream Vedic and/or Hindu culture. But remember, most traditional yogis are not householders, not following the rules of the various castes, which differ from each other, but following the rules of a lineage, which in many cases, makes their lifestyle very different, and manner of speech and behaviour very different.

  23. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji: Thanks so much for taking the time to reply in so much detail. First let me comment on your statement about my writing that yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism, which you called "ridiculous."

    My point about Hinduism needs to be carefully contemplated, especially by Hindus. The reason yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism is simply because nobody called themse…lves Hindus when yoga was developed. A) Hinduism did not really become part of our language before people started to identify as Hindus. 200 BCE Patanjali did not identify as Hindu, etc. In that same vein, Buddha did not consider himself a Buddhist. Religious tenets are sometimes started by individuals but religions grow from sentiments, institutions, power brokers, kings, leaders, dogmas…. This identification came as late as 400-600 AD, when Puranic religion and Brahmanism became more popular than Buddhism due to Shankaracarya's influence in India and thus served as a nationalizing sentiment. After that, the Hindu national sentiment regained momentum during the Muslim invasion. Hence my point is historically coherent.
    B) That said, you are of course right that Hinduism includes yoga as part of the many wisdom traditions and cultural traits India has developed over the ages. Still my point above is part of a historical point of view that needs to be considered and not ridiculed.
    C) My perspective on Indian history is this: Originally, India consisted of Mongols, Dravidians, Austrics who developed tantric/yogic/shaiva practice (around 5000 BCE onwards). During that time, India experienced a migration of Vedic people from the outside (this has been proven by geneticist Dr. Wells from Stanford), the Aryans, who brought with them the early Rikveda (the three other Vedas were developed I ndia). Hence, early Indian culture was part Vedic and part Shaiva and animism, etc. These two main trends developed what we today term Indian civilization. That's a broad generalization, of course, but is part of the discourse about India through various writers, scholars and yogis. But the point is, the yogic practices were not developed by Barahmin priests originally, but rather adopted by them over time as Indian civilization advanced. Hence, the Upanishads, Brahamanas, Gita etc represents the confluence of these two great traditions. In other words, what most people called the Vedic tradition (or Hinduism today) is really two traditions. Read Alain Danielou, N. N. Bhatacrayya. P. R. Sarkar, and more for more info on this view of Indian history. I know this is contested territory, but let's have a civil and open discourse without name calling.

  24. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji wrote: "When we speak of the traditions of the Vedas and Vedic people, we mainly refer to the Brahmin caste, and so Shaiva tradition is very much a part of Vedic tradition, but there is also a great deal of Shaiva tradition outside of Vedic tradition. There same may be said for Tantric tradition. If we drop our model of European history, we see no great dichotomy."

    While the greatness of Hinduism is its all-embracing, philosophical nature, underneath there are dark shadows, deep dichotomies that have historical roots. N. N. Bhattacarya writes in the book History of the Tantric Religion how Vedic priests "twisted tantric passages" to make them part of Vedic lore and teachings. While some vedic priests and Brahmins are well versed in tantric/shaiva practice today, this was not always the case. P. R. sarkar writes about the times when Vedic priests were not allowed to practice tantra/ shaivism. I have spent enough time in India to know that caste is a contested dark tradition and that the Brahmin priesthood is not just a benign institution that do not, as the Catholic or Christin church, harbor many bones in its closet.

  25. Ramesh says:

    Baba rampuriji: "The Shaiva yogi’s primary relationship with the “ordinary” world, the public, is to give blessings. The Shaiva yogis give their teachings to their disciples who also sever their links with caste duties."

    You write about this as if it sounds like changing shirts. It is not very easy to sever caste links in India. I lost a dear friend that way after he had to cut his sacred Brahmin thread in order to take up tantric initiation. The result: he was ostracized by his family until he gave up his tantric yoga and joined them in upholding the not-so-sacred tradition of caste and dogma.
    While there are deep dharmic and non-dogmatic and spiritual currents in Hinduism (which are those aspects coming from the Upanishads, the Gita, the Yoga Sutras, the Tantras and the various yogic practices), there are so many hideous dogmas in Hinduism as well, and that is one of the reasons why many of us steeped in the yoga tradition do not call ourselves Hindus. We embrace its deep spirituality but we speak out and shun its dogmas, such as casteism.

  26. The discussion about who owns yoga is not very meaningful unless yoga is defined, unless we know "who owns what". Really, the only common denominator in yoga today is the name. Yoga can refer to anything from sport to cosmic union.

    Think about the confusion that would arise if all disciplines of sport were referred to only as "sport". That is the situation we face with yoga.

    Wanted : A more precise vocabulary

  27. Markus Rosbach says:

    Let's steer away from hindu controversies, after all its just a name for an undefined conglomerate of beliefs, sometimes distorted or misunderstood in essence like the word "christian" covers a wide range of churches. Let's ask ourselves where did the notion of the musical system come from ? How did we come about choosing a seven day rythm for a week with one day of rest. Both are based on ancient yogic knowledge with seven chakras as a base. Now who has a patent on that one ? Where did two of the most ancient symbols come from – the six-pointed star or for instance the swastika ? Nothing but age-old tantric traditions can give you those answers. The follow up question is: who was an authority on these ? Himalayan yogis with as a center personality Shiva as the supreme yogi.

    Markus Rosbach

  28. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji,

    First of all, I respectfully suggest you stop patronizing me and join me in a civil discourse. You have misunderstood and misrepresented many of my points. The Indigenous Indians, before the Aryans arrived, had created the worlds most incredible psycho-spiritual technology, namely yoga. They had also the worlds first urban city complexes, namely Mehrgarh, (7000 BCE) located in now Pakistan. They had invented the musical octave, they had invented mudraic dance, they had developed tantric and ayurvedic medicine. They were also relatively peaceful compared to the nomadic Aryans whose main superiority was their weaponry and military skills.

    This view is hardly a western colonial view point. N. N. Bhattacarya is not a Westerner; his books on Indian tantric history are written from the point of view of India, the indigenous population, not from the point of view of the West. Romila Thapur is not from the West, she is being branded a Marxist historians by scholars such as Frawley and Feuerstein (both westerners) because she upholds the theory of an Aryan invasion, while they do not.

    And for Alain Danileou, he lived in India for over 30 years, was initiated into Tantra; his historical views are that of the Puranas, not a Western view point at all, as well as the oral tantric tradition. P. R. Sarkar is also Indian and come from the Tantric tradition and his view is that India was the cradle of human civilization long before Egypt, Sumeria, etc. This is also hardly a Western academic view point. These issues are complex, yes, but these viewpoints are out there, both in academia and in yoga. Speaking of Yoga, Swami Satynanada saraswati also speaks of Tantra being the mother of yoga and of Indian spirituality and also distinguishes between vedic and Tantric spirituality. These two strands, as you say, have now of course merged to a great extent over time.

    As you know, dating is a problem with Indian History. Dates vary and the main point are the broad views and trends.

    As for the origin of the word yoga:
    It is Sanskrit yes, and Sanskrit developed by the blending of Vedic and Indigenous Indian languages and developed inside India.
    Here’s Sarkar’s view on that: The Vedic Aryans brought Vedic Sanskrit to India which blended with Dravidian and Austric languages, but he credits the Indinegnous yogis with developing the phonetic language alphabet of Sanskrit. Thus Sanskrit developed in part outside India and in part Inside India.

    I am well aware of the various theories about Aryan invasion or non-invasion: There are basically three theories: 1) Max Mueller and also many Indian scholars ssuggest that the Aryans invaded India around 1990 BCE. This view is also still held by most Western academics. 2) Frawley and Feuerstein, two western yoga writers have contested this theory and claim there was never an Aryan invasion. 3) They say the only possibility the Aryans invaded India is that they came much earlier, and that is exactly what the gentics of Dr. Wells as well as the indigenous P.. R. sarkar claims: the Aryan Rikvedic people cam into India much earlier, around 5000 BCE.

    As for yoga being experiential, I can hardly agree more. I have practiced for several decades and lived in India for several years, so I agree, of course.

    I have also spent time with yogis who are steeped in tantra and yoga, so to claim I am colonizing yoga is not at all a fair assessment.

  29. Ramesh says:

    Carol: You wrote:
    "Hence the HAF's complaints that people like Chopra and Tolle, as well as the yoga community in general, are working with Hindu ideas and practices but refusing to acknowledge that fact."

    This issue is framed by those who identify as Hindus. I do not identify as a Hindu. There are many reasons why modern yogis do not associate with Hinduism. I can only speak for myself, and I do not consider my practices Hindu, even though as a scholar I sometimes use the term Hindu-tantra to distinguish it from, for example, Buddhist-tantra, for the main reason that these tantric practices predate Hinduism and are based on universal dharma, mysticism, yoga, the quest for liberation. This dharma is found among seekers within all religions, but religions often espouse dogma and superstition, not liberation, or spirituality, or dharma, hence I do not consider myself religious. I am a spiritual person practicing the intuitional science of Tantra Yoga.

    My teacher, Anandamurti, an Indian who spoke out against many religious dogmas such as the caste system, dowry, the treatment of widows, the dogma that woman cannot achieve amancipation, etc. said this: “To seek infinite bliss is the only dharma of humanity. Humanity has but one dharma. Thus, the question of the unification of religions does not arise. The apparent dissimilarity between various religions arising due to differences in their ritualistic practices is not a spiritual difference. Whenever rituals dominate and efforts to attain bliss are feeble, whatever that may be, it is not spirituality.”


  30. Markus Rosbach says:

    Praying to Laxmi on a particular day expecting to get financial gain etc. are among many ritualistic observances which I would not consider spiritual, while meditating at midnight on new moon has definite benefits connected to the rythm of secretion of our glands and hormones just like the little known fact that all the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are related to the 50 vrtis or expressions of the seven chakras, documented by the writings on Tantra by Sir John Woodrofe who did extensive research in india. That by the way contradicts earlier comments that Sanskrit was brought into India by the "vedic" Aryans. So we have to clearly distinguish between what is spiritual or "Dharmic" and what is purely ritualistic.

  31. Yogananda Puri says:

    It really baffles me that noone is questioning their source(s) of knowledge or to be more correct, the origin of their fragmented ideas.
    Who is Sir John Woodroffe, well his name doesn’t indicate that he was a sannyasi or that he had received any formal initiation. Ok, so he hung out in India for some years, why…? He was a judge for the British Empire, and apparantly had a fascination for Indian Esoteric Traditions, mainly tantra.
    So does this give him authority to speak on yoga????
    When he talks about letters it clearly reveals his ignorance, there are no letters in Sanskrit there are syllables, matrikas. So if he makes this fundamental mistake, what about the rest…
    He’s making it up, just as Bikram Choudhury is, just as Ramesh Bjonnes is !

  32. Fride says:

    Dear Yoganandajii it also baffles me that you accuse Bikram and Ramesh as making things up. You probably don't know these 2 gentlemen pesonally. So far, Ramesh has been very civil and absolutely rational in his essays and I find his arguments stimulating. I have been reading the works of his guru Shri P R Sarkar aka Anandamurtijii, who is an amazing personality. Anandamurtijii was the first person I came across who gave historical authenticity and perspective to Shrii Sadashiva , who he says lived around 7,000 – 7,500 years ago. As for who has the authority? So far much of what Ramesh says, is authenticated and backed by credible references. If one cannot accept an argument it's not necessary to brush them off as heresy. Let's discuss and argue and not get into personal attacks. It does not give more credibility to your view. I can understand if you disagree with them.

  33. Friide says:

    Dear Yoganandajii, Here is a discourse by Shrii A'nandamu'rti on Shiva..i understand that he himself is the source of ths knowledge.

    After the Aryan settlement in India a great man was born into the non-Aryan society. Born into a Mongolo-Aryan family, this great man had a high nose and fair complexion. He was a great Tantric – a great yogi. The name of this Mahápuruśa of the non-Aryan society was Shiva. For one man to have so many qualities and endowments at the same time was beyond the comprehension of the people, so He was called Guńátiita or Nirguńa [Transcendental or Non-Attributional] Puruśa. As the result of His Tantra sádhaná He attained extraordinary powers, which He employed for the good of humanity. It was He who systematized the science of Tantra and thus He was the guru or the father of Tantrics and yogis. To this Self-realized Mahápuruśa there was no distinction of high and low. People of all classes, from the highest to the lowest, were dear to Him. Irrespective of class – Aryan, non-Aryan, Dravidian, Austric or Mongolian – all flocked to Him. He showered His grace on them all equally. As the battles raged between the “gods” on the one hand and the “demons” and “monsters” on the other (needless to say, “gods” meant the handsome Aryan leaders, and “demons” meant the non-Aryans in general), the non-Aryan “demons” and “monsters” became more and more powerful through the blessings of this Shiva. All the rákśasas and asuras were Shiva’s obedient devotees and followers. With the help and blessings of Shiva they destroyed the might and power of the “gods”. According to Sanskrit stories, when the gods would seek the help of Brahmá and Viśńu, even those two would not dare to oppose Shiva; rather they would save the gods through a compromise with Him.

    Shiva had such a forgiving nature, born out of His spirit of benevolence, that even the most wicked could easily draw on His kindness. That is why to everybody He became “Áshutośa” (“Easy to Please”). Due to Shiva’s pervasive influence over their society, the non-Aryans, that is, the Tantrics, used to worship Him as God, and according to their respective intellectual strata they regarded and accepted Him in His different bearings. Just as the Aryans began to identify Shiva with their own gods and goddesses, the kaola mahátántrikas [great Tantrics in the tradition of kulakuńd́alinii yoga] began to regard their Shiva as identical with Nirguńa Brahma. The foremost cause behind this conception of theirs was the absolute detachment and self-forgetful bearing of Shiva, the lord of supernatural and miraculous power. Shiva’s self-sacrificing nature earned Him the name “Bholánátha” [“one absolutely indifferent to his own status”] among the non-Aryans. All were attracted to Shiva’s supernatural power, His imposing personality, His limitless qualities and the calm, tranquil radiance of His features.

    Enthralled by the physical grace and the virtues of Shiva, Princess Gaorii, the daughter of the Aryan king Dakśa, was attracted towards Him. King Dakśa was not at all in favour of his daughter marrying a non-Aryan, but eventually he gave way before her adamant attitude. And so Shiva and Princess Gaorii were married. But envy born out of his knowledge of Shiva’s formidable influence over both the Aryan and the non-Aryan societies had already made King Dakśa mad. Thus one day he publicly insulted Shiva at a large sacrifice specially planned for the purpose. Shiva’s devotees, unable to bear the insult, made a pandemonium of Dakśa’s ceremonial sacrifice. It is written in the books of the Aryans that Shiva’s two servant-spirits, Nandii and Bhrngii, destroyed Dakśa’s yajiṋa. Actually, Nandii and Bhrngii, the alleged spirits, were none other than two ardent non-Aryan Tantric devotees of Shiva.

  34. Friide says:

    Many Aryans supported the marriage of Gaorii and Shiva, because, on account of Shiva’s extraordinary influence, they felt it would be more in their interest to establish kinship with Him than to remain hostile to Him. Whatever the reason, after Dakśa’s yajiṋa, in Shiva’s presence, all the Aryan and non-Aryan clashes and disputes came to a permanent end. In other words, the Aryans accepted the predominance of Shiva.

    The non-Aryans were very happy to have Gaorii in their midst. Just as they revered Shiva as their god, they regarded Gaorii as their goddess. The non-Aryans were yellow-, black- or brown-complexioned, but Gaorii, being of purely Aryan origin, was white-complexioned. It was for this reason that she was named “Gaorii” [which means “white-complexioned”]. After the marriage, Gaorii lived in the Himalaya Mountains, and was thus often called “Parvata Kanyá” [“Daughter of the Mountains”], or “Párvatii” in common language. I told you a little while ago that the non-Aryans used to do Tantra sádhaná according to their respective intellectual development. They worshipped a pair of gods – Puruśa and Prakrti. Whatever their intellectual and spiritual standards, all of them regarded their primary god as Shiva, or, in subsequent periods, some avatára [incarnation] of Shiva; and their primary goddess as Gaorii, or, later, some partial manifestation of Gaorii.

    Among the backward non-Aryan society, phallus worship was prevalent. Although originally there was some social history behind this phallus worship (due to the perpetual warfare between the various clans and tribes, each group felt a constant necessity to increase its numerical strength, and thus they began to worship both the genital organs), in later periods, under the influence of Tantra, it took on a more subtle spiritual form. When, due to the influence of Shiva, everyone began to accept Shiva as their chief god, this liuṋga pújá [worship of genitals] became [the worship of] Shiva-liuṋga and Gaorii-piit́ha, or Gaorii-pat́t́a. Subsequently the Aryans also accepted phallus worship and gave it a philosophical interpretation: Liuṋgate gamyate yasmád talliuṋgam [“The entity from which all things originate [[and towards which all things are moving]] is called liuṋga”].

    After Dakśa’s yajiṋa Shiva’s influence over the Aryans increased more and more. The Aryans began to feel that, being so indebted to Shiva, they could no longer afford to disregard Him. It was Shiva who had taught them spiritual sádhaná, ásanas and práńáyáma; the secret of good health; the science of medicine; and the developed art of dance and music. For His excellence in dancing, both the Aryans and non-Aryans used to call Him “Nat́arája”, and for His proficiency in vocal music, “Nádatanu”. No one has counted the number of medicines He invented for every kind of disease. He was the first preceptor of the áyurvedácáryas [teachers of áyurveda, the science of medicine to increase longevity]. The asuras were cured of many serious diseases due to His grace. Both the Aryans and the non-Aryans thought that since Shiva knew so many remedies, He was perhaps immortal, and so they named Him “Mrtyuiṋjaya” [“Conqueror of Death”]. When, even today, people come across some incurable disease, they say, “Even Shiva has no cure for this disease.” Like the non-Aryans, the Aryans eventually accepted Shiva as their god and Gaorii as their goddess.

    The tiger is one of the oldest animals of India. In the distant past these tigers came into India from the non-Aryan countries of China, Tibet, etc. Lions came much later from the Aryan countries bordering on the northwest corner of India. It is noteworthy that in the dhyána mantra of Shiva, he has been described as wearing a tiger skin, that is, the skin of an animal of the non-Aryan countries (vyághra-krttiḿ vasánaḿ); and the daughter of the Aryans, Gaorii, has been depicted as siḿha-váhinii [“riding on a lion”].

  35. A'ca'rya Kishan says:

    The interesting debate about Yoga and its origin goes on & on. Bro. Ramesh's comments are worthy of appreciation since they are reasonable in that he frees our mind in our search of the origin of Yaogika tradition. Not confining it to any religion, thus liberating it from from the strangle hold of dogma. There is, ofcourse, no doubt that Yoga originated in India. The word Yoga derives its etymological root from two Samskrta Dha'tu rupa (root verbs) viz. Yuj meaning addition and Yunj meaning unification.The word Yoga may be formed with either of the two roots by adding the suffix Ghain. The Yoga derived thus has two different meenings. The one applicable to the word Yoga in the ongoing discussion is that which is derived from the root Yunj+Ghain meaning unification of unit consciousness with the Cosmic Consciousness. The first Rsi who is credited to have, thus, correctly defined Yoga in Indian yoga tradition is Maharsi Yajinavalyaka the husband of Maetreyii. He is much senior to Maharsi Patanjali whose Yoga Sutra has best popularised the word Yoga to todays educated world. This comment has important bearing to the ongoing debate.

  36. A'ca'rya Kishan says:

    The other point of significance arising in the debate requiring some elaboration is about Samskrta language. There is no doubt samskrta is not an imported language. It evolved in India. Although Samskrta is youger compared to the language(s) in which Vedas especially the first two the Rik & Yajur were composed. Between these two also the languages have undergone evolution due to the time during which the two Vedas were composed may be of the order of 8000 years. As rule of science of language one perceive clearly discernible changes in any language in a matter of 1000 years. But the language(s) which were used by the Vaedika Rsis are the mother of all of the Indo-European group of languages. Needless to say there are tremendous similarities is even the present langauges spoken throughout Europe down to Indian sub-continent & even south Asia.

  37. A'ca'rya Kishan says:

    For reasons outside human control India became the craddle of or the melting pot where the great forces of Vaedika and Ta'ntrika civilisations blended & matured. Therefore, the resultant fruit of this matured civilisation, viz. Tantra-Yoga is the patrimony of Human race. No individual or group can claim any special right on this common patrimony of our race. Because it has the contributions of whole of humanity whatever language they may be speaking. The fifty syllables (matrka varnas) of the Samskrta language are at the very root of all languages of this planet evolved from – Vaedika, Latin, Greek, Chinese, Samkrta & Tamil. All the languages and hence the entire humanity of the world are bound by a common thread like flowers of so many hue & colour but part of one and the same beautiful garland ( sarve ma'n'i gan'a' eva). Perhaps now is the time to speak in unison about the oneness of humanity. All the material, intellectual and intuitional wealth of this world as our comon ancestral property & cultural heritage.

  38. troy harris says:

    I smell a borderline plagiarism here of my "The meaning of Hindu"[1]. If so, it wasn't read carefully. Had the writer done a little basic research on his own he may have found out that the "term" Hinduism is in fact less than 200 years old, first attested in 1829[2].
    Sadly for the moment, the so-called yoga is the domain of the yoga industrialist. And Bikram's not the only one that's waging war on a docile public. CorePower Yoga may be model for scientific scrutiny. See Nicolas Bishop, "Rationalization of body and spirit: Modern postural yoga as example of bureaucratic discipline and scientific management"[3]. Try to get your hands on the complete unpublished text.
    Are yoga industrialists slaughtering their customers with insidious commonplace strategic proclamations aimed essentially at improving consumer retention and satisfaction? Are they mimicking the methods of the fashion industry in aiming to maintain an air of exclusivity associated with high-end market share, and by attempting to leverage global brands through the introduction new but similar brands as found to be effective in the marketing of fragrances or fashion labels? But when the docile public is finally fleeced completely bewildered by the intricacies dominance of this widely replicated industrial methods, we may then start to see that the so-called yoga is by innate structure a non-proprietary ascetic art form that quintessentially owns itself.

    In its highest stages of personal adaptation when manipulative embellishment is completely done away with, style no longer conceals its basis but brings out the value of its content to the full. Perfect style, or let us say grace, then, consists not in the exterior branding of substance but in the simple fitness of its developed form[4] At this fundamentally rediscovered point of departure, substance and content need no mediation, and the yoga and its teacher require no brand.

    [1] http://sritantra.co.uk/mh/mh.htm
    [2]. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=hindui
    [3] http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p238626_index.htm
    [4] See Wilhelm, I Ching, 22 / 賁, nine at the top http://wengu.tartarie.com/wg/wengu.php?no=22&….

  39. Bhaeravii says:

    WOW. did this discussion get plenty of reactions. IMHO the roots of yoga will always be conjectured, just as who was the first person(s) who discovered fire and cooked wild grains (shifting the human diet away from raw meat and gathered raw vegetation), who planted a field of rice and dug a water system to feed it (which is considered the beginning of civilization through co operative labor), who forged the first iron utensils, who spoke a language for the first time, who rode a horse for the first time, who interpreted the stars for the first time. We are incredibly lucky yoga is so essential a part of the human body system to be relevant for each successive generation to make it their own and to keep it alive. Yoga can be interpreted on many levels from the most basic mundane of moving a section of the body recovering from surgery or an injury, moving the limbs of a baby, working to hold a knife with arthritis, simple breathing to calm your heart, to being an act of gymnastic showmanship and the secret depth of the psycho-spiritual path. What is so human is the need to OWN something and then use the legal system to fight others about owning it.

  40. Ramesh says:

    From Yogananda Puriji:

    Dear RameshJi

    The way you describe yoga is very much in tune with most of the (post-enlightenment) discourse that is part of the western yoga movement today.
    I support that there may be a big difference in what is called (modern)yoga, most of it, as you say, is asana practice with a scent of incense.
    Still some yoga organisations incorporate more aspects of the Sanathana Dharma, than others.
    No doubt that they, all in their way, contribute a lot to their local communities, followers and students.

    I have for many years followed the modern yoga discourse and it’s narrative. I have got a tremendous amount out of the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, especially his student Swami Janakananda Saraswati, I lived in his ashram(s) for 6 years, was very closely a part of his organization and studied, practiced and taught from that system for even longer. I am very greatfull for the training, discipline, experiences, insights and teachings that I have received, truly. Dedicating all of my time to that school of (modern) yoga, I know the systematic, rational, technique-based, scientific approach to yoga.
    Most of the people I know in the west are in the yoga “scene”, I input from many people from different yoga movements. Eventhough there is an apparent difference, there is one thing that they all share in common.
    The thing that makes them all the same is that they are looking at things from a post-enlightenment point of view, they follow that discourse and share it's constructions.

    Recently taking Naga-sannyas, and being initiated into Juna Akhara – the old order. I have become part of the most ancient of yoga traditions in India. So it is fascinating – and at times very confusing – for me to witness and be part of and I see a huge gap between the ideas of the modern yoga movement and what is happening traditionally.

    The way I see traditional yoga is FAR from what you describe.
    We babas are a very diverse group of shamans, mystics, knowers, healers, yogis and alchemists. There is a diversity that I do not find within any of the modern yoga movements and this complexity makes it very hard to put a label on it, defining it as "Tantra", "Gyana yoga" or "Fragmented yoga".
    The diversity also allows many ways of doing, going about and seeing things. Still no serious, experienced and knowledgeable baba would agree with you that “ yoga in its essence is rational, scientific, logical, medical, psychological.”
    They wouldn’t even be able to understand your language, very few are articulate in English, not because they are stupid, but because there is no reason to learn English, there is no traditional knowledge to obtain from that language. The ones that do speak English would probably not follow your speech, not because of lack of intelligence, more the opposite. To someone firmly rooted within Traditional yoga, what you are saying gives no meaning it's clearly all made up !

    This guruapprentice tradition spans all the way back to Guru Dattatreya, the lord of yogis, thousands and thousands of years back, to Treta Yug, to the time of the story of the Ramayana, this is ANCIENT. The concepts you use to define yoga, the ideas you present and the speech you use, is only 200-300 years old.
    The modern yoga movement is confined to the post-enlightenment discourse, and using this discourse, it’s thinking and speech, with the rationality of universalism and objectivity of science, the modern and even post-modern yogis will never make any sense out of an ancient pre-enlightened mythological and magical path of yogis and shamans.

    "Yoga is not science, yoga is magic !" – this is one of the first things I remember Baba RampuriJi saying to me.

  41. Ramesh says:

    Via Arun Sing from facebook:

    Great discussion guys. Yoga was one of the 6 great philosophical schools of classical India but obviously has deep roots that long predate the establishment of the schools. The Vedas themselves are usually accredited, in western scholarship…, with having the seeds of the later philosophical schools within them. However, it is apparent that yoga owes far more to the shramana movement of ancient India than to the social preoccupations of the Vedic religion, which centre around sacrifice. While the Vedas do contain the seeds of the philosophical speculations that were later expounded in the Upanishads, the Vedic priest and the renunciate move in completely opposite directions, having completely different objectives.

  42. I agree to your point Ramesh to some extent, but saying Hinduism is 1000 years old only is not at all acceptable. Do you know how old is Yoga?

  43. Ramesh says:

    From Facebook
    Baba Rampuriji writes:
    I want to thank all of you, Arun Ji, John, Yogananda Ji, and Ramesh Ji for your comments on what I think is a very important discussion.

    Ramesh Ji, you are in good company when you articulate your perennialism: Vivekananda, Schopenhauer, and… Aldus Huxley to name but a few. And I also see perennialism as very appropriate for the times in which we live, I see it has very redeeming factors and is good for humanity. So I highly praise your last comment which can almost serve as a definition of perennialism.

    That being said, this view has also a weakness, which is that the wider we seek inclusivity and widen the focus of the perspective, the more diluted the commonality becomes. The essence we seek becomes so culturally non-specific as to make it unrecognizable to the members of the specific traditions themselves.

    So, as I honor your perennialism as containing wisdom, and I agree with John, that in the end we seek the truth that is "us," I must point out that this is also a neo-advaita or neo-hinduism point of view, and is central to the 19th century construction of Hinduism. This is not a traditional point of view. One may "extract" and essentialize a perennialism from a textualist bias, out of Indian texts, but this remains a construction of 19th century discourse.

    This argument has little to do with our search for truth, unless our search takes us into Indian tradition, for some odd reason. If this is the case, then we have to been aware of the intellectual baggage we bring with us, that often distorts what we experience. Ashish Nandy once said something like Western knowledge of India is in a sense autobiographical.

  44. […] form of yoga. With all due respect to Mr. Choudry and the lineage he represents, I wonder if the Bikram yoga practice—heating a yoga shala in excess of 100 degrees—is in line with Aparigraha. I am […]

  45. […] corrupted by the temptation to make too much money off the misleading promise of a suddenly happy, peaceful, problem (and problem area) free […]

  46. lisa says:

    no one "owns" art either and its origin may be even more difficult to pinpoint in history. but that does not prohibit the artist from creating a masterpiece with the customary tools, medium, materials and techniques and calling it his own. perhaps even licensing it, duplicating it and (god forbid!) making a living from it.

  47. rak says:

    Typical White Folks. They will never understand the concept because its not in their culture. This is a way over their heads and this creates confusion and envy.

  48. Jiivadhara says:

    Suggested by Georg Feuerstein from his book, "The Path of Yoga," which "exposes the relentless commercialization of Yoga in the West and increasingly so also in the East… a book that needs to be taken to heart." Yoga is ultimately meant to be available for all of humanity traditionally. So, what about the poor, homeless people with a heart full of yearning. Who would teach them? http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Inc-Journey-Through-Bu
    What are yoga studios doing to allow the sincere practitioner in? Are they offering a work trade arrangement? Are they signing some kind of other agreement so that the student does not take the gift for granted?

    Yoga is union… this union is meant for all life… and for all who are ready to be open for it, especially in a contracting economy, something needs eventually to happen to teach all humans, who are ready, to be happy spiritually instead of materially.

    This topic is very very interesting and I just ordered Georg Feuersteins book. I have not read it yet.

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