Who Owns Yoga? Not Bikram!

Via on Dec 7, 2010

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 was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of tantric yoga. He has written extensively on tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. His forthcoming book on Tantra will be published by Hay House India soon. He is currently contributing editor of New Renaissance and a columnist for Fredrikstad Blad, a Norwegian newspaper. He lives in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Visit his blog here: Eight Fold Path. His book Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra can be purchased here.

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

  1. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

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

    • Claudia you are right , Yoga belong to every one………..If the intention of saying some one owns Yoga, is strictly to educate people the origin of Yoga, I can very well understand—–But to say Yoga belong to some one does not make any sense at all—– Nobody can own yoga….You can’t. I can’t. No one can.

      1——YOGA is a gift to the mankind from Hinduism. Any one who wants to say otherwise is making a big mistake. Today Yoga belongs to the whole world, since YOGA is universal in nature.

      2—-–The greatest as well as the very best book of Yoga by sage Patanjali states

      ” Yoga Chitta Vrithi Nirodha” means

      ” SALVATION OR UNION WITH GOD MEANS STOPPAGE OF ALL THOUGHTS” which is a very universal idea which can be accepted and respected by every one, irrespecti­ve of one is a Hindu or not.
      http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/036.htm
      http://edv­iswanathan­.sulekha.c­om/blog/po­st/2006/10­/a-bird-s-­eye-view-o­f-yoga-of-­east.htm

      • 3—– Unluckily, many in the west have false ideas about Hinduism and Yoga. It is the duty of every one to eradicate those false ideas. Ignorance is the root cause of all evils and hatred and it is our duty [DHARMA] to eradicate ignorance.

        4——To begin with Hinduism is NOT an organized religion like Islam or Christianity. It is a CULTURE with many religions in it.

        5——-Original name of Hinduism was SANATHANA DHARMA [ righteousness for ever]

        6———It was Persians who invaded India during 6th century B.C. who gave the name Hinduism meaning the religion of people living near the Indus river.

        7——-In Persian the letter H and S are pronounced almost the same so they mistook the word Sindhu (Sanskrit name for Indus) to H and then started calling Hindus and Hinduism.
        http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/036.htm http://edviswanathan.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/0

    • Naveen Reddy says:

      I am curious to know what traditions are you talking about here? What is traditions according to you?

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      AMO,
      thank you so much for your comments. I copied this information from the New York Times, thinking the paper had done its homework. I will do some more research on this. Here is the exact paragraph from the NY Times:

      "In June, it even prompted the Indian government to begin 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, an Indian-born yoga instructor to the stars who is based in Los Angeles. Mr. Choudhury nettled Indian officials in 2007 when he copyrighted his personal style of 26 yoga poses as “Bikram Yoga.” "

    • Ramesh says:

      AMO: Yes, you are technically correct, Bikram has copyrighted a sequence of 26 asanas and 2 b reathing exercises. Here it is in black and white. (SEE MORE DETAILS BELOW)

      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.

    • Baba Rampuri says:

      Part 1

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

      This is a ridiculous statement.

      Yoga, as it is generally known in the West today, is not older than late 19th century, which is just after the idea of Hinduism, as it is generally known in the West, was constructed. What is contained in “Hinduism,” of course, is quite ancient. The construction of the idea of Hinduism did not construct the traditions that has supplied Hinduism with its content. Yoga arises out of that culture Hinduism serves to represent. The daughter does not give birth to the mother.

      “Hinduism,” both as a term and as an idea, is very 19th century, certainly not 1000 years old, and represents not just a colonial effort, but also an indigenous one to “essentialize” an entire ancient and complex culture according to the categories and point of view of Euro-American discourse of that time.

      The word “Hindu” is a very ancient word for the river Sindhu, the Indus, as many Prakrit languages in both India and outside (such as Persian) substitute the syllable “sa” with the syllable, “ha,” and the word is applied to the peoples who lived in the lands around and to the east of the Sindhu. The speakers of Avesta, Persian, and Prakrit Languages had no problem with pronunciation, they spoke a language other than Sanskrit. Remember, Sanskrit was and is a language spoken by few people.

      Hindu-ism is assigning an “ism” or belief to the peoples living around and to the east of the Indus. But since the peoples who have lived in greater Hindustan believe a great many things and have greatly diversified cultures, a combination of colonial interests with some indigenous ones constructed a Hinduism that was consistent with Western discourse, but has failed to include many of the beliefs and practices of a majority of people. This Hinduism has a textualist bias, in that it places much greater emphasis on the written text rather than oral transmission. Oral tradition is the means by which the vast majority of Indian culture has been maintained and practiced over the millennia, the written text has been known by the small minority.

      "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?"

      “India” is a 19th century word, and “India,” as a modern nation with its national boundaries and constitution is a recent idea, but that doesn’t mean that India is not old! The “Hinduism” referred to is indeed a construction, but part of that construction is that the Vedas represent its genesis. So the Vedas, Tantra, Yoga, Shaivism are all included, i.e., constructed to inhabit “Hinduism.”

      • Ramesh says:

        Baba Rampuriji:
        The yoga I referred to is the yoga of the Gita, the yoga of the Shaiva yogis in the Indus Valley 3500 BCE, the Shamkhya Tantra of Kapila, the Asthanga Tantra Yoga of Sage Patanjali, all these forms of yoga are older than Hinduism, which we both seem to agree is a more recent phenomenon.
        I agree with you that most of the hatha yoga styles practiced in the West are 19th century hybrids of what Krishnamaxarya invented based on a mixture of Natha Hatha Yoga of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and western style gymnastic. But keep in mind that many of us here in the West have spent years in India learning a much more dharmic yoga that includes the most sublime teachings of the Vedas and the Tantras.

  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."

    ditto.

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      Candicegarret,
      thanks so much for your comments. Yes, I think it is important to understand all the nuances in regards to yoga and the Indic traditions, one of those nuances is of course that some people identify as Hindus, just like some identify themselves as Americans, but as you also point out, its an umbrella of so many contrasting and complementing ideas and beliefs.

    • Akshey says:

      see lady,

      In the course of time concepts changes, Christianity is only 2000 yrs old and it has already evolved to Catholicism and Protestant

      FYI spirituality in India is far older,when even the concept of religion was not introduced so be polite and respectful to practices followed by we Indians ,it is hodge podge for you becuz you doint understand it and not living with it,it is your limitation not ours and you are speaking as if you are an expert in it.

      Ultimate goal of Hindu is enlightment and he is free to explore his ways,but they are guided mainly by rules laid by gita,vedas and upnishids,though some the practices have become off tracked and have lost their actual purpose,
      but still it is their choice

      Hindus doin't own yoga as Hindus doin't own Hinduism itself.

      The oldest scripters in which Yoga is refereed is followed by Hindus,
      as Bible is followed by Christens but do they own Bible,may be after thousand of years
      it may loose its religious appeal and became a secular subject will its origin change??

  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 Bjonnes Ramesh says:

    Akshey,
    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.

    • Ramesh says:

      Aksheyji, I understand your point here… I am not saying that Hindus do not believe in, use, or respect the yogic canons of the Bhangavad Gita, the Upanshads, etc. I do not dispute the fact that yoga is part of Hinduism, the same way many shamanic Mayan concepts and practices has become part of Catholicism. The point of asking Who Owns Yoga is to answer the question What is the origin of Yoga? My point is simply this: Catholicism is not the origin of Mayan Shamanism anymore than Hinduism is the origin of Yoga. Yoga is much older than yours and other Indian peoples identification with Hinduism, that identification as Hindu is a recent phenomenon in the history of yoga.
      Does that distin ction make sense to you?

      • Akshey says:

        Dear Rameshji,

        Are you aware of origins of Hinduism or you have any right to claim on its origin ,just it is that thousand of years back,there was no tradition of naming any religion
        as there was no other religion and I think there is no dispute on that,there were just a few religious doctrines
        practiced by rishis or sages of Indian origin and meditation and yoga was on of them

        in the course of time you developed the concept of religion,named it Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma,

        Is this procedure clear to you and FYI I don't identify my self with the term coined by foreigners mostly it is
        used to communicate with outsiders,it is easier for foreigners to communicate with terms coined by them,
        and very difficult to explain things to them

  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:

    Aarti:
    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.

    • Aarti says:

      Ramesh:

      My opinions are not connected with any one but my own experience in the practice. What is truly unfortunate and damaging is to confine and categorize something that does not use this kind of descriptive language. Looking for origins is a quest to understand but what it also does is create ownership over something that does not necessarily lend itself to be defined in these terms.

  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:

    Rameshji,

    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

    Namaste

    • Ramesh says:

      Aksheyji,
      I basically agree with you here. And no need to apologize as you have made many important points that are important in this discussion. I very much welcome your input and passionate spirit and deep concern.

  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

    • Ramesh says:

      Christian,
      While the title of my article was Who owns yoga?, the conclusion to my article was that nobody owns yoga, because yoga, like spirituality, like dharma, like air like water, is too precious, too refined, too subtle and too vast to own. So no need for a special vocabulary, unless you insist somebody owns yoga, the air, spirituality.

      • Ramesh says:

        Christian,
        if your question, your want, pertains to the origins of yoga, the various styles of yoga and so forth, then we need to be specific, I agree.
        Baba Rampuriji and others are in part correct in stating that much of the yoga practiced here in the West today, is based on the hybrid yoga exercises developed by Krishnamacarya and his disciples. Mark Singleton has made a strong case for this in his book "Yoga Body." But this is only partly correct in that many of the basic Indian hatha yoga exercises taught by Krishnamcarya and others are also documented in the Hatha Yoga Pradiipika and The Gheranda Samhita, which were written down by Tantric natha yogis during the middle ages as based on much older oral teachings in Tantra/Shaivism. So, that is one specific thread of yoga that can be followed all the way back to Tantra of the Indus valley-3500-5000 BCE. But while Tantra/Sahivism is a broad umbrella that started very early in ancient times, there are many various schools of yoga, and if you want to discuss those, yes, one needs to be specific. But nobody really owns or even want to own or claim ownership of these schools either.
        Sage Patanjali (200 BCE) did not invent Asthanga Yoga, it was based on Samkhya philosophy (also Tangtra/Shaiva) and earlier Tantra yogic practice. And of course, as we go into all of these, opinions will also vary depending on who you talk to, what your perspective is. It's a great jungle out there in yogaland, but for many sincere seekers the goal is the same, so even philosophically and practically, yoga is often truly one, just as dharma and spirituality is One.

  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

    • Ramesh says:

      Markus, thanks for your comments, which I basically agree with….

    • Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

      From Facebook written by Baba Rampuriji:
      Roar, I called your statement about Yoga being older than Hinduism ridiculous, but now that you mention your writing, I think you have to do much more research before you make claims such as those you are making.

      Your point of view is coloni…al, that the yogis, and the Indians, the Hindus, the Iraqis, Afghans, and others are not capable of representing themselves and must be represented by an Imperial culture that orders the world. Those thinking about gender politics would throw women in there as well. You seem to want the Western Academy and therefore Western discourse to be our authority on Yoga.

      But, in order to do this, you require a great deal more academic discipline. For example, the Academy has it that Adi Shankara lived at the end of the 8th century AD, not 400-600 AD, as you write. The Academy would also inform you that "yoga" is a sanskrit word, so the word could hardly have been used by Austrics, before, as you say it, the outsider Aryans brought Sanskrit to India, which was not the same India that we think of today. The Aryan invasion THEORY is also being academically disputed today, and I think you are a little behind contemporary academic thinking. Many of us Westerners who have been into Indian culture and Yoga for years discredited this theory years ago as being an archaic relic of 19th century colonialism.

      I knew Alain Danielou, would visit him at his villa outside of Rome, and corresponded with him for years. He was a musician, not an historian. His ideas on history were his own, influenced by Reverend Caldwell and a Jesuit Father Heras on Dravidian issues. Although a truly fascinating man, his theories of Indian History are wonderful, but can hardly be taken seriously.

      But, here's the point: As one practicing yoga, what is the source of authority for one's practice? Yoga is emperical, it is based on experiencing things, with guidance and commentary from those who have already experienced and mastered those things. A Yogi applies this knowledge to the experience and articulation of the whole world.

      So, how can we rely on third and fourth hand representations of something by people with no experience of these things, but a non-contextual, ahistorical approach to another's culture? We can now easily see where that approach has taken us in Iraq and Afghanistan (and other places).

      Why colonize yoga? If yoga is all that people claim, then why try to alter it, change it, to fit our rather unenlightened view of the world? And, as you describe the yogi as somewhat of a renegade, why take up the cause of the colonizer, it's rationale, assumptions, and methods? Where are the voices of the yogis, themselves, in your article? I hear only the same voices I read in the New York Times.

      I'm not name-calling. I'm challenging you and everyone else to think about how we know things such as yoga, to whom or what do we assign authority for this knowledge, and why this authority should inform us.

      If your conclusion is that the Academy and its current discourse is your authority, then go to them for your yoga lessons.

  28. Ramesh Bjonnes 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.
    Ramesh

  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.”

    Ramesh

    • Carol Horton CarolHorton says:

      Ramesh – What you say makes sense on its own terms. But it does concern me that Hinduism seems to be framed in an almost exclusively negative way – caste, oppression of women, etc. I certainly don't identify as Hindu either, but in reading about it I do find many things that seem positive as well.

      Not to mention that the word is so slippery and hard to define precisely. People draw the boundaries of the definition in very different ways. To cordon off dogma, superstition, caste, etc. as religious/Hindu, and then keep liberation, spirituality, mysticism, etc. as Tantric/non-Hindu seems too simple and dualistic to me.

  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 !

    • Ramesh says:

      Yogananda Puri,

      there is a saying; When God says something illogical, reject it, but if a child says something logical, accept it.

      Please discuss the issues in a cordial and respectful matter without attacking the messengers. If you are able to do so, I will take the time to reply to your comments.

      For your information, it is common to use both the words "letters" as well as "syllables" to refer to the Sanskrit alphabet.

    • Markus Rosbach says:

      I agree you are right : Sanskrit has syllables, more precisely vowels and consonants. The problem here is that much of this knowledge relating it to Cakras was kept secret and not written down, so giving scope for researchers like Woodroffe to make sense of it. Nevertheless analyzing countless depictions of Cakras, even though they may be different in colors or precision in shapes, adding up all the petals they have, comes to 50, corresponding to the 50 matrikas of the Sanskrit alphabet. This in exception to the thousand petaled lotus which controls all the other petals namely 50 that can be expressed internally or externally (X2) and through the 5 motor and 5 sensorial organs (X10). So we have 50X2X10=1000. This knowledge comes from the practical experiences, demonstrations and discourses whose sources I can provide of Shrii Shrii Anandamurtii, a tantric master who left his body in 1990. I happen to be his adept since 1980. So its not made up, but subject to verification, as I am not of the absolutist type that needs to be right at all costs. Shrii Shrii Anandamurti's books are an ingenius synthesis of Tantric knowledge and far from being just fragmented ideas.

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      Thanks, Fride, for your support and interest. Much of the information that Anandanmurti reveals about Shiva and the relationship between the early Aryans and Dravidians is also found in various Puranas as well as in the oral Tantric tradition, so he is not the only source. Shiva is known as the King of Yoga in India, and many Ayurvedic doctors have as part of their oral tradition that he also was the father of Ayurveda.

  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”].

    • Friide says:

      While I was posting this article by A'nandamu'rtijii my connection got cut. I am posting the part of the discourse after this note
      BTW I hear very often about who can be considered an authority on a ny matter or subject. Buddha said it so well –

      “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

      Buddha (563-483 B.C.)

      • Friide says:

        Contd…from previous discourse…

        In all the Aryan books of knowledge the word Shiva was invariably used to describe Parama Puruśa. The racially chauvinistic Aryans could not remain at peace after their acceptance of Shiva as God. Thinking that the non-Aryans would make capital of this and boast about their triumph over the Aryans, they threw themselves into the task of proving that Shiva was an Aryan. The non-Aryan Shiva used to live in cemeteries, cremation grounds, lonesome plains and on the different peaks of the Himalayas. (That is why even today the non-Aryans, pointing to the Himalayan peaks such as Kailash, Gaurishankar, Everest, etc., say, “There live our Hara-Gaorii.”) But the Aryans turned Him into a full-fledged divinity of the scriptures. To prove that he was Aryan they hung a sacred thread on his left shoulder. (Needless to say, the non-Aryan Shiva had no such sacred thread; he wore a snake around his neck.) Strangely enough, the image of the Aryan god Brahmá shows no sign of any such sacred thread. No one doubted that Brahmá was an Aryan by race, but in the case of Shiva, the only way to prove that he was an Aryan was to hang a sacred thread on his shoulder.

        We can still observe today that Shiva is the god of all, regardless of caste or colour, high or low, learned or ignorant, Brahman or pariah. No other deity in India enjoys such tremendous universal popularity. Even if one does not know a mantra, one can worship Shiva. Young maidens model earth into images of Shiva and worship Him; the philosophical sádhakas of old used to attain samádhi in Shivatva [Cosmic Consciousness]; and the so-called low castes such as Doḿa and Cańd́ála become sannyásiis of Shiva. No other divinity would even touch the shadows of these so-called pariahs.

        The present social system of India (which is fundamentally Tantric) was developed by Shiva. After accepting Shiva as God without any reservation, the Aryans appropriated everything good of the Dravidians and the other non-Aryans. Of course this did not diminish the Aryans’ prestige – rather it enhanced it. After this appropriation there was a propaganda attempt to prove that Tantra was originally propounded by the Aryans themselves. The Aryans used to say:

        Ágataḿshivavaktrebhyoh gataiṋca Girijáshrutao;
        Mataiṋca Vásudevasya tasmádágama ucyate.

        That is to say, “This Tantra, or Ágama Shástra, was actually composed by Vásudeva [Krśńa, who was considered Aryan], and Shiva only revealed it to Párvatii.” Áre Bábá!(11) – if Vásudeva had at all been the propounder of this doctrine, why on earth would He have put it into the mouth of the non-Aryan Shiva instead of saying it Himself? In the beginning the Aryans used to recognize the superiority of Tantra sádhaná but practise it in secret; but after acknowledging Shiva, they openly declared themselves to be Tantrics.

        Not only in India, but in quite a large part of the world, in every sphere of life, the laws and injunctions of Shiva alone prevailed for a long time. Even today the civilization of modern India is intrinsically Tantric. On the outside only is there a Vedic stamp. Or if we take the Indian civilization as an enamelled ornament, then its gold is Tantric, and the enamel Vedic. For both the wandering sannyásiis of the cemeteries and cremation grounds, and the householders, this Shiva alone is the ideal man, and Gaorii the ideal woman. Shiva is the universal father and Gaorii the universal mother. Shiva’s household is the three worlds.

        Hararme pitá Gaorii mátá svadesho bhuvanatrayam.

        [Hara is my father, Gaorii is my mother, and the three worlds of earth, heaven and hell are my native land.]

        When the Indians were about to forget the teachings of Shiva due to their fascination with the mundane objectivities of the world, there came another sublime entity like Shiva, who reminded them of those teachings. That great personality was Shrii Krśńa. The question as to which of the two was greater, Krśńa or Shiva, does not arise, because all knowers of Brahma are one: all are Brahma. Shrii Krśńa was the supreme teacher and ideal politician of the world, what to speak of India alone. Shiva was the guru, the father, of the human society of the world – a completely different kind of role. Shiva is the universal father. Just as Cándá Mámá [The Uncle in the Moon] is the uncle of all, Shiva is the father of all.

        • Friide says:

          All three worlds are Shiva’s family. His reputation is not confined to any particular country. Yet if anyone is to be singled out as the father of Indian civilization, or of Indian society, or of the so-called Indian nation – then I can say emphatically that Shiva alone is eligible to be the father, not only of the Indian nation, but of the universal human nation. Ancient Shiva alone, and no one else, can qualify to be the father of this more-than-five-thousand-year-old so-called Indian race.

          Footnotes

          (1) Author’s note: It is wrong to write “Káshmiira”, for the word káshmiira means “pertaining to Kashmiira”, or “saffron”. The Aryans saw saffron for the first time in Kashmiira.

          (2) Author’s note: In these books the non-Aryans were sometimes called rákśasas [demons], sometimes pishácas [ghouls], and sometimes asuras [monsters].

          (3) Editors’ note: Mitákśará entails the heirs’ equal rights of inheritance, not subject to the father’s discretion. Dáyabhága entails the heirs’ right of inheritance subject to the father’s discretion (the father enjoys the right to disinherit any of the heirs).

          (4) Editors’ note: A mixture of the Vedic Sanskrit and the Bengalis’ original laokik, or dialectal, Sanskrit (the “bird language”).

          (5) Editors’ note: One of three styles of pronunciation of Sanskrit – saḿvrta, vivrtta and tiryak.

          (6) Author’s note: The people of eastern India make common use of the Tantric mystic syllable phat́. For example, Se phat́ kare bale phelle… “He said all of a sudden…”; or Lokt́ár baŕa phat́phat́áni, “That person is very verbose.”

          (7) Editors’ note: “Old Shiva”.

          (8) Editors’ note: The va sound was later changed to ba under the influence of Muslim pronunciation, so the letter was changed as well. In modern Bengali there is no difference in pronunciation between ba and va, but the difference in spelling persists.

          (9) Editors’ note: A “twilight language” of dual meanings.

          (10) Editors’ note: There was a Vedic Sarasvatii in existence before the Buddhist Prajiṋá Páramitá, but the swan-mounted Sarasvatii modelled after Prajiṋá Páramitá is not the same goddess.

          (11) Editors’ note: An exclamation, like “Good Lord!”

          Shrii Shrii A'nandamu'rti
          May 1959, RU, Muzaffarpur
          Discourses on Tantra Volume One

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      A'ca'rya Kishanji,
      Thanks you so much for your informed contribution to this discussion and for emphasizing the importance of not confining yoga to any particular religion, be it Hindu, Buddhist or Jain. In terms of Sanskrit, what I meant to imply was that the Vedic Aryans brought the Vedic language to India and that this gradually grew into Sanskrit language in India. In other words, Sanskrit has some root in Veadika language as well. From these lines from P. R. Sarkar on Sanskrit it seems like that is what he implies by calling it Vedic Samskrita. Would you agree?

      "The language of the Aryans is Vedic Saḿskrta, or rather Rg Vedic Saḿskrta. Saḿskrta is of Indian origin. “Aham,” “ávam” and “vayaḿ” in Saḿskrta are “mam,” “asmákam” and “nah” respectively in Vedic. “Mam,” “asmákam” and “nah” in Saḿskrta are “me,” “no” and “nah” in Vedic. The translation of, “This is my house” into Saḿskrta is, “Idaḿ asmákaḿ grham asti.” In Vedic it is, “Yetad nah dhama.” “That is my house” is “Tad asmakaḿ grham asti” in Saḿskrta, “Tad nah dham” in Vedic Saḿskrta and “T́ad nas dham” in Russian. Russian has a close proximity with the Vedic language. Due to spatial, temporal and personal factors some changes took place in the Vedic language. The five languages of South India abound in Vedic Saḿskrta, even though they were not of Saḿskrta origin."

  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.

    Notes
    [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&….

    • Ramesh says:

      Troy Harris,
      I have never heard of you before nor read any of your articles. This is not the first time i have written and this subject, so if i have plagiarized anybody, its myself, and I think that's fine is it not? Jokes aside, I will read your links with interest and reply in more detail later.

      • troy harris says:

        Ramesh,
        Thank you. I would only suggest that you substantiate your writing with citation, and sharpen the inaccuracies that I have pointed out in your text. For starters, <<Hinduism as a term is…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.>> Kindly adjust your text to the data I cited, or better, do the research yourself.

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      Yogananda Puriji,
      Thanks for your detailed reply. I agree with you that yoga is magic! I also agree with you that yoga in the West, no matter which form, lacks the indigenous cultural and spiritual magic of India. I also appreciate your not wanting to pigeon hole yoga into a post enlightenment framework, since it is easy then to breathe all that magic out of yoga.

      But I still think you and Rampuriji have missed the spirit of my writings which is that the science I talk about in relation to yoga is a broad science, an intuitional science, a magical science, if you will, or a transrational science, a scinece, a way of being that leads us beyond the rational and into the magical, the transrational, the state of unity being, the state of yoga.

      Both philosophically and practically yoga has been logical and rational. We see that in Samkhya Yoga, or Kapilasya Tantra as it is also called, the philosophy of Kapila, which also is the basis of Patnajali Yoga or Asthanga Yoga. There is a deep rational logic in these systems as philosophy and as practice yoga is based on self experimentation, on experimenting with body mind and soul, on practice, not just belief. Does that make more sense?

      An other ingredient of yoga that is often missing in the West is the bhakti, the devotional, the heart-centered aspect of yoga, the chanting, dancing, the music, the drums, the idea that yoga is about the heart. That aspect of yoga is for sure magical.

      Another magical aspect is the occult, the various occult powers many yogis have, which I have experienced, but which the true gurus also explain is not magic in that it is not unnatural but rather just supernatural use of natural forces.

      I understand very well your emphasis on the vast difference between the Scandinavian Yoga school of Swami Janakananda (I lived in Denmark when he was most active there before he moved to Sweden, so I am well aware of his organization) and the sadhu life you are now living. Yes, there is a diversity in India that cannot be found in the West. But even Indian yogis of great renown will stress that the goal and experience of yoga is One. So, while you celebrate the diversity of the yoga movement in India, which I also celebrate from afar and also have celebrated while there many times, we should celebrate the diversity of yoga in the west as well, while also keeping in our hearts the unity of yoga at is spiritual core.

      With Dattatreya being the originator of your tradition, do you mean the author of the Avadhoot Gita or another Guru or the deity Dattatreya? What strikes me is that Dattatreya the historical persona or the mythological are both associated with Shiva…. the King of Yoga. As you know, Shiva has many names, but as the source of yoga, he embraces and symbolizes its oneness as well.

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      Arunji,
      thanks so much for your contribution. I think you have pointed out a very crucial distinction, which i also have done in my article, that of the difference between the Vedic and Shramana (ascetic) traditions. However, the main differ…ence between the ritualistic and renunciate or yogic path or as many point out between the vedic and the tantric (shaiva) traditions. Gosala, the Shaiva gur who taught both Gotoama the Buddha and Mahavira the jain founder, was a Shramana but also a Tantric. No matter which name you use, what you point out is very important and not appreciated enough in understanding the roots. That yoga is not Vedic from the beginning, but Shaiva or Tantric (it is not accidental that Shiva is called the King of Yoga in India) Over time these two sacred rivers blended and created the culture which brought us the great scriptures and the schools of yoga.

      Samkhya and Asthanga yoga are Tantric to the core, although there are philosophical differences among the schools, one cannot separate tantra or Shaivism from the heart of yoga. Vedic ritual is based, as you say, on sacrifice, while yogic ritual is based on transmutation of body, mind into the spiritual. The Vedic path is also focused on prayer, whereas yoga is focused on meditation. In Hinduism these two have blended, even though most Hindus engage in prayer and rituals rather than yogic meditation.

      • Anand says:

        Rameshji,
        I have to express few things here.
        *Vedic ritual is based, as you say, on sacrifice, while yogic ritual is based on transmutation of body, mind into the spiritual. *
        Its all about connecting as per the limited and unsufficient experience i have. The vedic rituals is also about connecting. Vedic rituals are also spiritual, they connect the spirits of different worlds. example Now we have the 'Tradition' of passing down sounds in exact phenome why should that be? the word itself is the knowledge, it is the connection. its repeatation itself is spiritual. like i write here and you read the spiritual is all lost and reduced to labels of tradition. sound comes with authority same is true with all 'symbolism' or any other 'ism'. sound, rituals also have the intent of the 'pronouncer'. ritual is also the transmutation of body, mind into spiritual connecting the spirits. 'Ritual' connects you the land, sound provides the transformation, fire and at the end swah his wife are the link. This is also 'yoga' the meaning. In nature things are kept besides eachother these are not exclusive but all connect in a chain, they are a whole. The source of this is 'revealed' and my 'belief' formed on experience says these were heard by rishi's or reflected by the rishi's or revealed to rishi's however you want to look at it but the real is being there in 'ritual' while connecting.
        Allow me to present another example. When i was growing up in southern India, i m a veer shiava, a blend of everything on earth according to the mordern ditinctions of 'phiolosphy'. i was taken to a stavar linga (the one which is for everyone) this place is famous for here lived a 'yogi' who attained maha samdhi over there (this is locally known) on the lingam fell water from spring, the lingam was called mallikarjuna. i asked in my childhood quite agitated what is this water, where is it source. the reply was its 'dakshina ganga' the 'southern ganga' from school books i remembered how is that ganga is a river which flows thousands of kilometers from here. the answer given to me was you dont know but one day you will this waters are ganga's she herself came over here to bless the yogi and since flows from here. But unsatisfied with answer i was told ganga flows through underground to a inquisitive childs mind it made sense and i accepted the answer. The mordern temple is now run by families of priests who are not brahmins but a sub linage of veershiava's, so here you the 'yogi' connecting with the 'vedic' (though its not vedic rituals they follow). Sarmana and vedic are not different they are mutual.
        By 'dharma' one 'chooses' and 'obligatory' to either renounce the caste duties and join the dharshana or marry and continue in the dharshana, renouncer on the other hand is not bound by purushartha (duties of a householder). Sarmana stands the at the centre of the society and not outside of it, in sharmana or yogi lies the world. we all choose a body to be born into….. Choice of what? it comes from somewhere else… meditation to a musician is his tapas of practice, for a yoga teacher it might be something else.
        Paths are not seperate but a whole and One.

        Namo namah,
        Anand

  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.

    • Ramesh says:

      Baba Rampuriji, thank you for mentioning perennialism. As a philosophy, as a worldview, perennialism, the idea that mysticism or the wisdom traditions are one, is important, otherwise we get retrenched in fundamentalism (my God is better th…an your God), but, as you pint out, its weakness is that it may leave you without a tradition altogether, which is where much of the Wester world is. But that is not what I suggest. My own spiritual practices are firmly rooted in tradition while my outlook, my worldview is wide as the nondual sky.

      Ramakrishna, Vivekananda's guru, emphasized that well and is a good example of India's ability to be traditional and spiritual without being close-minded. So again, this notion, while popularized by Western thinkers who were 19th century philosophers, is simply explaining a human state that is older than the 19th century.

      The greatness of India is that the gurus, the enlightened, were not burned on the stake for being so. Hence, India has in many ways lived and practiced perennialism's wide open tolerance without explicitly calling it so.
      For I assume you are not saying that the only spiritual path to enlightenment goes through Indian traditionalism?

  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.

  49. Akshey says:

    Well Rameshji,

    As per my Information none of the Hindu groups is claiming sole right over Yoga practices,no one wants to patent any form of asan because at the end of the day in this era of Globalization they will be at loss.

    But Hindus have every right to claim on its origin ,it has evolved from its religious practices,as hindus are not denying that a worst form of slavery that is a caste system has evolved from it.

    For me religions as such can't be categorized as good or bad,it is the people who are practicing it either have a
    good or bad intention and doing according to that only.Religion has an objective of expediting the process of enlightenment of comman masses (if one desires) but the cause is lost somewhere in power struggle,
    we are unable to see the high jacking of religion and it has become a mere a tool in the hands of powerful elites,

  50. Ramesh says:

    Carol,
    the ancient and the modern and post-modern are intimately connected throughout the history of yoga. Vivekananda was a disciple of Ramakrishna and the two represents an interesting dichotomy of thought–Ramakrishna was premodern and a bhakti Tantric while also steeped in Vedanta, while Vivekananda was a modernist, nationalist and also deeply rooted in the ancient Vedanta. In a sense Vivekananda represented modernity in India but without shaking some of its pre-modern shackles, such as the caste system, and many other dogmas. Aurobindu was another seminal figure who is perhaps even more instrumental in shaping modern yoga.
    Singleton singles out Vivekananda's distaste for hatha yoga, and I think that assumption is correct, but a westerner must remember that in India yoga has much more to do with the spirit than the body, especially in Vedanta.
    It is in Tantra that the body/spirit duality has been unified since the beginning, this intimate tie has been alive in India since the beginning of yoga and Singleton do not appreciate and emphasize that enough in his book. Moreover, he does not appreciate the Vedic/Tantric duality as well as unity, and how this has influenced and shaped Indian yoga over the eons. I do not blame you for finding that confusing, but I do feel I understand this now to a great extent, but it took a few years of learning.
    Singleton also downplays the Tantric hatha yoga contribution to modern yoga and focuses too much on the idea that it barely exists at all. I would disagree. And thus one needs to be very specific in one's criticism.
    I do agree with him, however, that the way body yoga is practiced in the US is quite different from the totality of yoga and its history and practice. Yes, yoga studio yoga is for the most part body focused and fitness oriented and that is a new, modern trend or development. I agree.
    I also agree that Krishnamacarya, Yogendar et al is the source of that body yoga trend, but I do not think Vivekananda had much to do with this development, rather I think that these people represent modern India expressed in their own unique ways. We should also not forget that Kirshnamacary was steeped in the Vedas, Ayurveda, the Yoga Sutras, so on the whole he brought with him more from that past than he invented new things.
    However, once these teachings got to the West they were watered down further.
    If you see the documentary film Yoga Unveiled you strongly get the sense that modern body yoga only represent a sliver of the totality of yoga. I do not agree with this film's emphasis on yoga originating in the Vedic tradition, but nevertheless it captures this point well.
    So to sum up, someone practicing hatha yoga in the power yoga style and not studying the yoga sutras, not meditating using a mantra, not singing kirtan etc is only practicing 5 percent at the most of the totality of yoga practice. Moreover, those asanas are practiced in a style not even conducive to a contemplative lifestyle. But that's another story. Someone practicing as asanas and meditating, doing paranyama, follwing yama and niyama the whole asthanga, is on the other hand an integral yogi–part Vivekananda and part Krioshnamacarya. Yes, if you put them both together, you will see a yogi not unlike the King of Yoga, Shiva, not unlike those Nata Tantrics who wrote down the oral teachings that had existed for thousands of years in the hatha yoga pradipika and the Geranda Samhita.
    Thankfully there are thousands of such wholesome yogis in the West and in India as well today, even though most so-called yogis are body oriented yogis.

  51. Baba Rampuri says:

    Carol,
    You make a very strong point when you say (neo-) Hinduism and modern yoga were syncretic from the beginning…. and I agree with that.

    Since we in the West think of religion as being defined as having a doctrine and a text, we want to find a doctrine and its text, what everybody who is a Hindu believes in. So, using the way we understand religion, the way it operates in the West, its categories, we search for its essences. We have our cultural biases, such as a textual bias, that doesn't operate the same way in oral cultures. So we construct a Hinduism that makes sense to us and fits into our mapping of the world, based on that search for essences.

    The construction of Hinduism was only idea in the 19th century: there were very few Hindus that were anything like they were imagined to be. But to Vivekananda, and other Indians, this was an opportunity to use the colonizer's construction as a unifying call to all Indians to overcome the cultural and political domination of the British and of Christianity.

    The construction of Hinduism emphasizes neo-vedanta as doctrine, Bhagavad Gita as text, somewhat of a monotheistic Brahman as the deity, and the Vedas as the ultimate genesis.

    However, the vast majority of Hindus continued to believe what they believed and practiced what they practiced.

    It was the urban middle class that began to fit the constructed model of what a Hindu "should be."

    And this is who Vivekananda was speaking to. Essentialized universal values and the injection of Science were two qualities that were very popular with both his Eastern and Western audiences, and gave birth to the modern yoga movement.

    But, the majority of India, including all the greater and lessor traditions, remained separate from this, subject, of course, to some influence, and continued in unbroken lineages as they had been doing for, in some cases, millenia.

    Both the moderns and the traditionals are equally Hindus. Being a Hindu is more a fact of one's blood, rather than someone one believes. So Ramesh is correct to say he is not a Hindu. About the only thing I know of that Hindus have in common is gotra, they all have a "clan," a blood lineage. And there is nothing whatsoever one must believe to practice Hatha Yoga for its many benefits, it's got nothing to do with being a Hindu.

    The traditions, however, are not informing the Modern Yoga Movement. As you pointed out, it's genesis is post-Vivekananda, and is based on different principles than exist in the old traditions. Science became very important to the modern yoga movement not only as a marketing device, but as a methodology of improving, improvising, and allowing much greater creativity to asanas, pranayama, and other operations. The empiricism of science of the new yoga contrasted with the empiricism of guru lineage in a tradition, as the traditional method of acquisition of knowledge is based on revelation and oral commentary, rather than scientific method and texts.

    So, I guess the ultimate answer is that really we are talking about two yogas: A Yoga Tradition that exists from ancient times up until today, and a Modern Yoga Movement.

    Does the Modern Yoga Movement owe a debt to Hinduism for yoga? Does America owe a debt to Italy for Pizza? However, for those few who may be curious to move beyond the perimeters of the Modern Yoga Movement, it is helpful to know where it all came from.

  52. Friide says:

    Most scholars who consider Swami Vivekananda's work as being influenced by Western thought show their ignorance and are probably from the West. It was the time when the Indian were in a dilemma and torn between embracing Western values,thoughts and philosophy as opposed to their own traditions, culture and philosophy. It was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who guru of Swami Vivekananda inspired him to revive the spirit of India and it's nearly forgotten spiritual heritage which had little to do with the influence of Western thought. He was the first Indian yogi an master who arrived in the West.

    In the words of Shrii P R Sarkar:

    "When India first began to receive Western education, a crisis of conscience arose and the people of India were caught in a dilemma as to what path to the future they would follow. They tended to consider whatever was Indian as bad, and whatever was foreign as good. In that transitional period of illusion and emotionality, the rustic man who appeared before his countrymen with an earthen lamp of enlightenment was Gadadhar Chattopadhaya (Ramakrishna Paramahansa). He was a son of Kamarpukur village of Arambag Subdivision, Hooghly District, of Ráŕh.

    The monk who epitomized manliness, spiritedness and valour, and struck at the root of the timidity of the youth of India of that time, Narendranath Dutta (Swami Vivekananda),(He came from Dattadeŕet́an Village of Kalna Subdivision of Burdwan District.)

    P R Sarkar
    Ráŕh: The Cradle of Civilization

  53. Carol Horton CarolHorton says:

    Thanks, that makes perfect sense to me. I have to say that I see myself as doing modern yoga, but interested in the older, more traditional varieties – not because I'm drawn to trying to learn them (frankly, I'm not), but because learning about them opens me up to something radically different from contemporary Western society and I really value that.

    I also wonder to what extent there is some sort of real tie – however ineffable – between more traditional yoga and post-Vivekananda modern yoga. Because after all, Vivekananda, Krishnamarycharya, et al had much traditional knowledge. I like to think that they were formulating methods that would allow modern people to have some thread of connection to ancient tradition – while still focusing on very pragmatic, scientific healing modalities.

    I also like to think that as a very modern (now I guess post-modern) person, I am following a bit of that thread as I learn more about traditional yoga.

  54. Ramesh says:

    Rampuriji,
    I appreciate your less strident tone… and must say I agree with most of what you say above. I have no problem with Hindus like yourself associating yoga with Hinduism, and I now also see you do not have a problem with me being a yogi and not associating with Hinduism. Hinduism is a fairly recent construct as you say and also, unfortunately, still adering to many old dogmas from the Manusmriti. The spirit of yoga, the spirit of dharma, the sacred spirituality of tantra and yoga goes beyond caste and dogma and religion and started long before people associated as Hindus and Muslims. So, do you agree that one can be a traditional yogi and not a Hindu? Or do you still misrepresent my position as solely part of the modern yoga movement? If you do so, then Patanjali, then Kapila, then Krishna, then Shiva, then my kapalika acharya who gave me tantric diiksa, my guru Anandamurti, the teachers of my lineage, they are also equally misplaced non-hindu, traditional post -modernists.

  55. Ramesh says:

    Carol,
    suppose Kirshnamacarya was an Indian gymnast who met a few Western gymnasts and they all combined their talents and developed an entirely new form of exercise called yoga, hatha yoga, or power yoga, or whatever. In that case, one could clearly say that there was no connection between modern body yoga and the hatha yoga described in the HYP, GS, or SS (Shiva Samhita), the three books on traditional Hatha Yoga.

    In reality, Krishnamacarya was a yogi steeped in Ayurveda, The Yoga Sutras, the Tantric hatha Yoga of these above books, etc. That was his basis, that was his foundation. Moreover, he considered himself a Hindu. Singleton is of course correct in saying that he incorporated Western style gymnastics in his yoga regimen, but all in all, his philosophy, his practices had much more in common with traditional yoga and tantra than with western gymnastics. In Tantric hatha yoga the goal is to reach God/Ananda/Shiva/Bliss/Brahman by making the body a vehicle for psycho-spiritual transcendence. Kirshnamacarya was well aware of this and was steeped in that practice and in that goal. Consequently, he taught yama and niyama along with his asanas. He also taught meditation practice and pranayama. So, I would argue that 70-80 percent of his teachings were steeped in traditional hatha yoga and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras or Ashtanga Yoga.
    Now the question is, how much of that has survived and is practiced by Carol Horton and other yoga enthusiasts, that's another issue.
    One way to know it is that at least 30 of the traditional asanas are still practiced, such as sarvangasana (shoulderstand) and matsyendrasana (fish), etc. We also know that many studios teach hatha yoga pranayama, which are also traditional, we also know that many teach yama and niyama, and many also teach the various bhandas or body locks. So these are all part of the traditional hatha yoga regimen that Krishnamcarya used and built upon. What is generally not taught in modern yoga studious are the various meditation lessons, such as pratyahara, dharana, dhyan, etc. These were traditionally taught by tantric gurus to the disciples and are still taught that way.
    One major difference between traditional hatha yoga and modern yoga, and which Krishnamacarya helped changed (possibly for the worse) is that hatha yoga is to be practiced slowly, with the breath, holding it at intervals. Why? Because the main aim of traditional hatha yoga is to induce a meditative mindset, prepare the body for meditation and deep breathing and to balance the endocrine system, the hormones.
    This is not considered by those body yogis who practice flow yoga going in and out of positions rapidly.
    Finally, in the Shiva Samhita, it says in the beginning that Shiva taught all the 84 asana practices, although it describes only a few but is more about the spiritual aspects of Tantra. The Gheranda Samhita details 32 asanas and 24 mudras, In other words, the oral tradition, as Rampuriji says, is the source, and the oral Shiva or Shaeva tradition goes back thousands of years prior to these written sources. Hence, even quite a few of the asanas that you practice, Carol, was invented by some Tantric named Shiva thousands of years ago, not just a 100 years ago.

  56. Ramesh says:

    Carol,
    yes, and no. Yes, he did some modernization, yes, he was a modernist, yes he spoke a modern language. BUT MAINLY A BIG BIG NO, because yoga has always been modern, even post-modern, because yoga in its essence is rational, scientific, logical, medical, psychological. That's why I spend so much of my time trying to stress that this is the Tantric aspect of yoga….. yes, that aspect also has a spiritual side, but even that spiritual side is totally modern, post-modern, integral, logical, rational. We see that in the language of John Friend and Anusara yoga. They have taken the essence of Tantra philosophy, which is more than 100 years old, but it sounds modern, because it is local, its is rational. That's why yoga makes sense to the modern mind. and that part of yoga is not new, it is ancient. What complicates things, is that Tantra and yoga was also heavily influenced by Vedic religious ideas and rituals. And, while Rampuriji is comfortably steeped in both of those world, my teachings are purely Tantric and, thus, I find little attractions to taking baths in Ganga believing that will improve my afterlife. All waters are sacred, not just the Ganga. Anyway, no need to get into all that. But to make this short and hopefully sweet, I still think Singleton missed the boat. It's not a shift, because yoga, like ayurveda, has been scientific all along. I know some will disagree, but that is how traditional yoga and ayurveda has always been taught, for the most part, (there are myths thrown in here and there, and some dogmas, but not that much) as sciences of body, mind, spirit. That's the modern attraction. That's why we love it.

  57. Ramesh says:

    Carol, one more thing,
    wanted to add that the main change is that yoga in the west is mainly body-mind-oriented, while yoga traditionally was body-mind-spirit oriented. Other than that, the essence of yoga has always been holistic and rather scientific.

  58. Yogananda Puri says:

    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.

  59. Ramesh says:

    Carol, yes, there has been a cultural shift, but with yoga it mainly happened in the West. It may have begun in India, but the radical shift happened in the West in about 1990. Not kidding.
    Just go back and read Yoga Journal and that is where you will find the cultural shift itself. Look at their series of covers on the website. It happened with the body oriented yoga studio revolution…. before that yoga was very much more holistic and was grown in the various ashrams with strong ties to traditional India. When yoga left the ashrams, it left the spirit behind….one may argue that the Kirshnamacarya lineage was responsible for that, but the responsibility lies more with the students, the western students….

    Science is empirical and yoga is in essence an empirical science, you do this and this will happen. That's the paradigm of yoga. It is not a belief system, while Hinduism is mainly a belief system that happens to include yoga by cultural osmosis. So, the cultural shift happened mainly in the West. it's important to appreciate that yoga has always been the science of India…..it's not a modern invention….not an invention of Vivekananda, either. He was mainly one of the first Indian yogis to come to the West, his main ideas were age-old. Yes, yoga was modernized to some extent, but its essence is ageold and has not changed significantly, what changed was that yoga in the west it became body focused. One can say that change started with Krishnamacarya, but it mainly happened in the west itself.
    Within the yogic paradigm yoga has always been a science, an empirical practice rather than a belief system. That is what I mean, otherwise we are talking apples and oranges.
    Many of EJ do not appreciate Ken Wilber, so I rarely mention him, but he has understood this aspect of yoga and tantra well; that yoga represents India's enlightenment, as in Western enlightenment, as a rational, empirical way of life.
    Asana practice is a science–they are thousands of years old
    Pranyama is a science
    Meditation is a science
    Mudras are a science and an art, etc.
    The Philosophy of Tantra, the Yoga Sutras are also rational….
    Does that make sense?

    This is very different from the Hindu/Vedic belief that a bath in the Ganges will grant you a better afterlife.

  60. Baba Rampuri says:

    Ramesh Ji,

    I think there is some confusion between the construction of Hindu-ism and with being a Hindu. In India, being a Hindu basically means being an Indian and not being Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or Jew. In the West, we tend to falsely attribute a particular belief or system of beliefs to one called a Hindu. But Hindus believe many different things and observe many different systems. When Hindus refer to their "Hinduism," they are not referring to the construction of Hinduism, nor your idea of Hinduism, but they are using this "new expression" to represent what is called traditionally in India the "Sanatan Dharma," or Cosmic Law, the sum of the knowledge possessed by all of the clans of the ancient world.

    There are very few Hindus who have ever read Manusmriti, except in academic settings. Even in Manusmriti it clearly states that local tradition always has precedence. The relevance of Manusmriti was part of the construction of Hinduism by Western Discourse, displaying their textualist bias, essentializing a "Law of the Hindoos." So the "construction" of Hinduism only adheres to its builders and building materials, not to the traditions from which it is extracted.

    "So, do you agree that one can be a traditional yogi and not a Hindu?"

    Let's be more specific, Hindu is a tricky word. A traditional yogi must be traditional as opposed to modern, not in his or her formalities or style, but in the way one approaches knowledge.

    Authority for the traditional yogi is NOT textual, but in the VOICE of the living lineage, part of a living tradition, that connects through time through an unbroken line of discipleship. This is not about the fact of being a member of an order or lineage, this is about the actual practice of passing down NOT one’s personal ideas gathered from eclectic sources, but an articulated commentary and knowledge that is passed guru to disciple through time, remaining intact.

    Empiricism is not scientific to the traditional yogi, not dependent or linked to a scientific logic, but interpreted by the commentary of the lineage, which is an articulation of the tradition and knowledge passed down through time.

    Knowledge comes to the traditional yogi in the form of revelation, not from a rationalism. And that revelation is understood with the articulation of commentary.

    The traditional yogi does not separate the secular from the religious, as we have done in the post-Enlightenment West.

    I would say, on the basis of the above, that it's almost impossible for a traditional yogi not to be a Hindu. If only because all the Indian traditions of yogis are thought of as Hindu, despite modern politics.

    The modern yoga movement has made a lot of Indian Intellectual Capital available to a lot of people in the West and has brought about a great deal of well being, health, knowledge, and prosperity. It is very accessible, so this is possible. If one's authority is textual, scientific, and rational, which is extremely normal for the Modern Man in the Modern World, then one is a Modern Yogi, and part of the Modern Yoga Movement, and that is wonderful, there is nothing wrong with that! It’s clear, transparent, and very defensible.

  61. Ramesh says:

    Rampuriji,

    now, we are finally getting past some hurdles of communication…. Yes, I agree, and indeed that is what my initial article claimed: being a Hindu is being different from a Muslim, a Christian, and that this identification is rather new and can be traced back to the origins of these religions. As I also said before, Patanjali, Krishna, Kapila did not consider themselves Hindu because the great religions had not yet really formed.

    I have spent enough time in India to know and learn this by osmosis Rampuriji. Before I went to India, yes, I had no idea, but after a few years, I discovered that being Hindu is a religious umbrella that veils many different lineages and schools of thought. I agree.

    Now, Sanatan Dharma is a more refined umbrella, and I would venture to say that it represents the loftiest of Hindu thought, the essence of the Gita, the nondual Advaita and the nondual Tantra–it is the quintesential mysticism of India.
    But, my friend, Sanatan Dharma, while free from the religious dogmas of Hinduism, it does not represent the religious and often dogmatic aspects of life that many Hindus follow.
    Those dogmas come from the manusmriti, and while people may not have read it, they are bound to follow it by tradition, by oral teaching, by cultural custom. Why do so many widows refrain from marrying in India? Due to the Manusmriti. Why do we have castes? Untouchables? Cultural laws that originated in the Mausmriti. People may no longer read it, but they follow it like slaves. Because if not, they would upset the apple cart of religious dogma.

    It is for this reason, the attachment to these and many other dogmas, that people like Deepak Chopra, an Indian, and many others, do not associate as Hindus, but as Advaita Vedantins, as Tantrics (my self), etc.
    It was also for this reason that we had reformers like the Buddha, like Kabir, like Mirabai, etc, who broke with the dogmas of tradition.

    In modern times we have had groups like the Brahmo Samaj and Ghandi, who in various ways sought to go beyond some of these limiting dogmas.

    Regarding empiricism and rationalism and science: We may be using diffrent terminology, so let me try again. Yes, knowledge in yoga is revealed through intuitional insight, but this revealed knowledge comes through the yogi, the guru through an empirical (and thus in my use of the of the word "scientific" manner).
    If by revealed you mean from the Gods, I do not agree. The Gods are within in Yoga, the Gods are not in the sky as in the more rudimentary religiousity of the Rgveda, but in the vast consciousness revealed in samdhi…. (this of course could be another huge discussion in itself)

    Regarding authority not being textual, I would like to add: yes, it is linked to the lineage, as you say, but it is also textual, as most texts are part of the ageold oral tradition.
    Learned Brahmins recite the Vedas. learned Tantrics or Shaevites recite the Agamas and Nigamas, various Tantric teaxts, that before they were written down in the Middle Ages were oral transmission from guru to disciple, from rishi to disciple.
    My guru knew the Vedas, the tantras, all the texts by heart and needed no book to reference them, but these oral teachings, these sutars and slokas were part of texts like the Kularnava Tantra, the Upanishads, the Gita, The Agamas and Nigamas (the sayings of Shiva and Parvati). So I would say that authority in India is also very much textual because the texts contain the revealed intuitional knowldge of the yogis and the rishis.

    The traditional yogi does not separate the secular from the religious, I agree. That becomes a problem, though, if the religious is a dogma saying: if you circle this building so many times, you will go to heaven.
    While the essence of Sanatan Dharma, or Bhagavata Dharma, do not contain such dogmas, much of Hinduism does and many of these dogmas came through the various lower sentiments of religion, such as it manifested in the Manusmriti, such as the anti-sentiments against Muslims, etc. We see this to a large degree in the modern Hindutva movement in India, which is religious fanaticism or fundamentalism.
    See continuation below……..

  62. Ramesh says:

    Rampuriji, I am a post-modern yogi from Norway living in the US after having lived in India for 3 years and gone back and forth to India numerous times, but my spiritual practices come from the Vedas (some of the chants), my meditation lessons (six in all and containing istha mantra, pratyahara, pranyama, dharana, dhyan, etc and thus Asthanga Yoga and Kundalini Tantra, my asanas from the Tantric hatha tradition, my yamas and niyamas are older than Patanjali, my tantric philosophy and cosmology is mostly Kapilas from 1500 BCE but refined by Anandamurti, while my Ayurveda may go back to Shiva and his apprentice Dhanvantari), so does that make me simply a Modern Yogi part of the Modern Yoga Movement?

    I do not draw the lines so clearly. I see myself part of a living tradition that is thousands of years old and which is mostly ancient. But this tradition is highly empirical and rational and also mystical. But there is not a conflict between empiricism and mysticism, but there is often a conflict between religion and mysticism and also between religion and yoga. So while I see little dichotomy between Sanatan Dharma and my yoga, I see a lot of dichotomy between my yoga tradition and some aspects of Hinduism, which is mainly due to the influence of Vedic dogmas. That's the way it stacks up for me, my friend!

  63. Linda-Sama says:

    Carol, I really suggest you take a workshop or two with my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, when he comes to Chicago Yoga Center. He studied with Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, longer than even Desikachar, Jois, or Iyengar.

    Because in order to speak about "Krishnamacharya's yoga" or his legacy to modern yoga, one needs to experience vinyasa krama instead of getting the information from Heart of Yoga. And that means either going to Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai or studying it firsthand from a direct source.

  64. Carol Horton CarolHorton says:

    Good suggestion, Linda! Especially now that CYC is my new favorite local studio :)

  65. Ramesh says:

    Yogananda Puriji,
    Thanks for your detailed reply. I agree with you that yoga is magic! I also agree with you that yoga in the West, no matter which form, lacks the indigenous cultural and spiritual magic of India. I also appreciate your not wanting to pigeon hole yoga into a post enlightenment framework, since it is easy then to breathe all that magic out of yoga.

    But I still think you and Rampuriji have missed the spirit of my writings which is that the science I talk about in relation to yoga is a broad science, an intuitional science, a magical science, if you will, or a transrational science, a scinece, a way of being that leads us beyond the rational and into the magical, the transrational, the state of unity being, the state of yoga.

    Both philosophically and practically yoga has been logical and rational. We see that in Samkhya Yoga, or Kapilasya Tantra as it is also called, the philosophy of Kapila, which also is the basis of Patnajali Yoga or Asthanga Yoga. There is a deep rational logic in these systems as philosophy and as practice yoga is based on self experimentation, on experimenting with body mind and soul, on practice, not just belief. Does that make more sense?

    An other ingredient of yoga that is often missing in the West is the bhakti, the devotional, the heart-centered aspect of yoga, the chanting, dancing, the music, the drums, the idea that yoga is about the heart. That aspect of yoga is for sure magical.

    Another magical aspect is the occult, the various occult powers many yogis have, which I have experienced, but which the true gurus also explain is not magic in that it is not unnatural but rather just supernatural use of natural forces.

    I understand very well your emphasis on the vast difference between the Scandinavian Yoga school of Swami Janakananda (I lived in Denmark when he was most active there before he moved to Sweden, so I am well aware of his organization) and the sadhu life you are now living. Yes, there is a diversity in India that cannot be found in the West. But even Indian yogis of great renown will stress that the goal and experience of yoga is One. So, while you celebrate the diversity of the yoga movement in India, which I also celebrate from afar and also have celebrated while there many times, we should celebrate the diversity of yoga in the west as well, while also keeping in our hearts the unity of yoga at is spiritual core.

    With Dattatreya being the originator of your tradition, do you mean the author of the Avadhoot Gita or another Guru or the deity Dattatreya? What strikes me is that Dattatreya the historical persona or the mythological are both associated with Shiva…. the King of Yoga. As you know, Shiva has many names, but as the source of yoga, he embraces and symbolizes its oneness as well.

  66. Ramesh says:

    Thanks for those deep words of wisdom, aramaa.

  67. Bikram teacher says:

    What about a ballet – those are copyrighted too. Bikram put together a sequence that he saw as having the greatest medical benefit and used a copyright to protect it from people using his name to teach whatever they want. He wants people to get the benefit. It is his name, he has the right to protect it. He did not want to see what happened to Joseph Pilates happen to him. He does not claim to own yoga. Besides his yoga supports hundreds maybe thousands of people. What is wrong with making a living? What is wrong with charging for your expertise? What is wrong with getting paid to help people?

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