Sex & Yoga (Again!): A Broad, Distorted View of Yoga History.

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on Feb 28, 2012
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Yub Yam: The Cosmic Embrace of Shiva and Shakti

One of our common perceptions of science is that it’s always telling the truth. But, while science is based on observational facts, these facts are interpreted by humans. And these humans sometimes distort or wrongly interpret those very facts.

It is a fact that Tantra, and thus yoga, has historically and accurately been linked to sexual rites and practices. But it is not correct, as science writer for The New York Times William J. Broad recently claimed in an article, that yoga “began as a sex cult.” That statement is as inflamed as Mr. Broad’s own yoga-induced back injury once was.

So, what’s the distorted science behind Mr. Broad’s sweepingly broad distortion of truth and thus of yogic history? His logic goes something like this: we know that Tantra has something to do with sex. We also know that all Tantric yogis have vaginas and penises. Therefore, all Tantric yoga was originally about sex and all yoga started out as a sex cult. That’s not science, Mr. Broad. Rather that’s a very broad distortion of science.

Here’s Mr. Broad’s actual quote:“Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.”  Take note, fellow yogis, you have unwittingly become part of an ancient sex cult! The New York Times said so; it must be true!

And here’s the part of the article which uses the wildly distorted logic to spread his half-truths:

“Hatha yoga—the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe—began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness. The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.”

In other words, the logic goes something like this: because-guns-kill-people-therefore-all-gun-owners-are-killers or  because-tantric-yogis-have-sex-therefore-yoga-started-as-a-sex-cult! Is that science, Mr. Pulitzer Prize winner? Nope. That is junk science. And in logic and rhetoric, we call this a fallacy. A myth. A misleading notion. An erroneous belief. Everything but science.

But since these historical falsehoods are written in The New York Times by an esteemed science writer and also the author of the new book Science of Yoga, these “facts” will be believed by millions and thus distorted forever more by its liberal and rational readers who, like most humans, are prone to distortions and sensationalism. Especially when “the facts” are in print. Indeed, that’s the power of “news that’s fit to print”, as the New York Times motto states.

William J. Broad proclaimed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross that he had spent five years researching yoga for his popular book. Perhaps he read all the wrong books? Perhaps he got so fascinated with that small percentage of Tantra that’s truly about sex that he got all bent out of intellectual shape? Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps he simply had an agenda, and he simply used his research to fit that agenda?

I am reminded of the time when Asra Nomani, journalist for The Wall Street Journal, interviewed me for about 2 hours on the phone about Tantra as if she really was interested in the subject. Obviously not making any notes, or choosing not to use them, she went ahead and wrote perhaps the most shallow book on Tantra ever written, a book entitled Tantrika: The Road of Divine Love.

Like Ms. Nomani, I think Mr. Broad also has been a shallow student of everything yogic and Tantric. Because, if he had indeed taken the time to do his research properly, and, even better, interviewed people who actually practice Tantra, then he would have learned something entirely different.

He would, for example, have learned—as in Buddhism, where yogis also (surprise) sometimes have sex—that Tantra is as vast a subject and a tradition as Buddhism, with an even longer history. Indeed, scholars and practitioners often speak of Hindu and Buddhist Tantra to describe two vast historical and cultural strands of Tantra as two giant trees covering a vast array of branches and schools.

Most importantly, Mr. Broad would have learned that neither of these traditions in Buddhism and Hinduism are considered cults of sex, neither by scholars nor by the broad majority of its practitioners. He would also have learned that Tantra is actually older than both Buddhism and Hinduism. Yes, the Pulitzer Prize winning science writer obviously missed this widely acknowledged part of yoga history.

In other words, just because it is widely accepted that the Buddhist guru Chogyam Trungpa had sex with some of his female followers, Buddhism is hardly a sex cult, is it Mr. Broad? And even more relevantly, just because there are known Tantric rites involving sex, the vast majority of Tantric practices, just like life itself, are not related to sexual practice.

Esteemed yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein, whom Mr. Broad should have studied better, estimates that only about 5 percent of Tantra involved sexual practices. Moreover, Hatha Yoga, which Mr. Broad rightly claim was developed by Tantric yogis was not, however, primarily a sexual practice “involving poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts” as indicated in his New York Times article.

Ironically, the millions of readers of O: The Oprah Magazine have received a much more balanced view of Tantra than the readers of the New York Times. In a surprisingly well informed article a few years ago by Jaime Lee Ball, they learned the opposite of what Mr. Broad learned: that Tantra is a lot more than just sex. “Just like religion,” she wrote, “it’s been commercialized, and just like ads for toothpaste, it’s been overly sexualized, but there’s a great deal more to it than the physical.” Indeed.

As mentioned in George Feuerstein’s book, Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, it is widely acknowledged among pundits and yogis in India that there are two streams of Indian wisdom traditions, namely the Vedic and the Tantric. It is hotly debated which of these is oldest and if both are indigenous to India, but there is vast agreement that Tantra has contributed the most to what we today know as the practices of yoga. In other words, all practices related to meditation, yoga postures, breathing exercises, kundalini awakening, chakras, mantras, etc., are all considered Tantric.

In addition, Tantra is generally divided into three distinct branches, of which only one engaged in ritualized sexual practices. Why? Simply because sex is considered a natural part of life in Tantra (no big sensationalist surprise there!), and thus it did not require special techniques, but rather what was required was awareness—sacred awareness, which is what Tantra really is all about, the transformation of consciousness, the cultivation of spiritual awareness in everything we do, without suppressing or neglecting the body’s gifts and needs. That’s why some aptly call Tantra “the yoga of everything.”

The three main paths of Tantra, which Mr. Broad ostensibly neglected, are:

The Right-hand Path. Termed Dakshina Marga Tantra in Sanskrit, this so-called Right-hand Path attempts to overcome ignorance and darkness and invoke the spiritual through the use of idols, devotional chanting and prayer to the Gods and Goddesses. It is imperative on this path of Bhakti Yoga to realize that the symbolic representations of the Divine are just gateways to the Spirit realm. This is the most commonly practiced form of Tantra in India.  

The Left-hand Path. Termed Vama Marga Tantra in Sanskrit, this path is legendary for its highly advanced sexual practices and the explicit use of occult powers. Hence, it is also often considered a path of Avidya Tantra, or the kind of black magic that Tantra is often wrongly associated with in India. (Indeed, in India many wrongly think of Tantra as simply black magic while in the West people’s bias is to think of it in terms of sexual yoga) The main challenges on this path are the many temptations for misusing one’s physical and psychic desires and powers. (Beware yoga teachers and wanna-be-gurus!) But even on this path, sex is only a subsection of the many practices involved.

The Middle Path. Termed Madhya Marga Tantra in Sanskrit, this so-called Middle Path is the most common school of Tantric yoga. It originated with Shaivism in ancient India and has been further advanced throughout the ages by various gurus and adepts. It is generally considered the most mindful and dependable path. This middle path toward realizing the spiritual effulgence of Brahma removes Avidyamaya’s veil of ignorance through an integrated and balanced set of physical, mental and spiritual practices. On this path many of the teachers were women, householders, and some were celibate monks. Some also refer to this as The Direct Path since it employs mantras and visualization techniques to focus the mind to go beyond the mind and into a state of pure, flowing meditation.

In addition to these three paths, there are broadly five different schools of Tantra. These are the Shakta, Vaisnava, Shaiva, Ganapatya and Saura Tantra schools—and from these schools flow a plethora of other schools, none of which had sexual cultism high on the agenda.  Moreover, when Jainism and Buddhism flourished in India, various branches of Buddhist and Jain Tantra, developed, which again sprouted many independent branches of Tantra.

Hence, Tantra is a rather vast universe of traditions, practices and schools of thought. But William J. Broad obviously missed or, perhaps, rather got lost in this vast universe we call Tantra or Yoga. I am not surprised. Too much sex on your mind can certainly lead people of influence, especially men, astray.

Still, it’s too bad that such a beautiful science as yoga has been gifted with such a shallow science writer to further his broadly distorted views. Worse, that he also is in such a powerful position to use a few “facts” to distort the truth for so many. Yet, it is wonderful to know that his opinions matters little to our own practices of Tantric yoga.

Indeed, the way I have come to learn yoga history, I would venture to proclaim that most yogis today, even those who practice only posture yoga, are at least in part practicing Tantra. And, thankfully, even Mr. Broad would have to agree with that.

In the rest of the article, Mr. Broad rehashes some of the sordid allegations of illicit sex by famous yoga teachers and self-proclaimed gurus—Muktananda, Swami Rama, Swami Satchidananda, Yogi Amrit Desai—all famous, charismatic and powerful men! And of those men, at least Yogi Amrit Desai admitted as much and has since seemingly turned over a new leaf and started teaching again. The three others have quietly passed on.

Even though Mr. Broad seem to think there is an important connection here, the problem with sex in yoga has actually very little to do with sex in Tantra. Illicit sex is a human problem. Illicit sex by people in power—be they politicians, teachers, corporate leaders, priests, or self-proclaimed gurus—is largely an emotionally-starved-male-in-power problem. That, and not Tantra, is broadly the real issue, Mr. Science.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta.


About Ramesh Bjonnes

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


66 Responses to “Sex & Yoga (Again!): A Broad, Distorted View of Yoga History.”

  1. Charlotte says:

    Thanks, Ramesh, for a balanced, informed rebuttal to the NYT's sensationalized and inaccurate article.

  2. once again Ramesh THANK YOU!!! I read that article and didn't even know where to start past …"really, what a load of bs" ..your article was a much better response…now…can we get yours in the journal to balance the crap they seem intent on publishing? not to go all conspiracy theory — but WTH? does someone in the paper have something against yoga?

    • Ramesh says:

      William J. Broad has something big against unregulated yoga. He has clearly stated so. It could all be part of a deliberate plan from his side to shake things up and thus make it easier to enforce regulations by the government rather than by us yogis. Sounds familiar? Yoga is dangerous for the body and its also rooted in kinky sex!

      I did send a 9oo word version of my article to the OpEd editor of the NY Times. I am not holding my breath, but you never know!

      • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

        thus make it easier to enforce regulations by the government rather than by us yogis.'
        Mr. Ramesh —

        Where is the evidence that American yogis have demonstrated ANY willingness to regulate themselves on behalf of themselves — or the common good?

        It's a lot easier to resist efforts of the state or outsiders to "police" you – if you're actually demonstrating a willingness to "police" yourself – not just spouting the some variant of the yoga anarchism that invariably gets us into trouble.

        As William Broad notes – and I suspect few people know – in 1995, the California Yoga Association belatedly cracked down on yoga students and yogis after it became clear that everyone was just having sex with their students – and with each other.

        You did read that part? Or was it only the parts that fit your own, shall we say — "counter-diatribe."

        Anyone can probably all Judith Lasater at Yoga Journal where she is a co-founder and editor. She led the charge to "clean up" California Hatha yoga. SHe has also bee most outspoken on the subject of nude advertising in the Yoga Journal and the "sexualization" of yoga generally.

        Unless you think she's an agent of the New York Times – or the American police state, of course.

        Your case would be quite a bit stronger if you didn't just sound like a wild-eyed guru yahoo yourself.

      • It would not surprise me to find out William Broad is "conveniently" helping out the growing trend among some people to begin a push toward licensing of yoga. Yoga is becoming so big & lucrative, and more people are choosing yoga as an alternative to medical practice, it is VERY historically accurate to speculate that someone (often described as "corporate interests"), somewhere, has determined it is time to get more "control" of this thing called yoga. What better than the NYT, a virtual mouthpiece for the Establishment?

        And I am troubled by how people speak or write of yoga as if it were one monolithic concept or thing. Yoga is many things to many people, and for one group to attempt to tell everyone else what it **is** defies it's true Essence. That Essence is, to me anyway, as a evolutionary process that must expand, deepen and change as human beings do so. I believe there is an Essence of Being Human that transcends all pre-defined cultural or spiritual paths, and just because it was discovered by someone, somewhere, does not mean they have the right to determine what it **is** for anyone but themselves.

        The human mind differentiates, diversifies & innovates. Yoga must, in my view, be a part of that evolutionary process. (This is something Joel Kramer talks a lot about.) And if yoga IS an adjunct to a sexual practice for some people, that's okay with me. To try and "define" yoga — as the IAYT is attempting to do relative to yoga therapy — is to put boundaries around it, and essentially kill it as an evolutionary process. Definitions & Regulations will remove the Human Beingness from it, as State controls have done to everything they touch.

        The Buddha is alleged to have said that one's livelihood should also be one's therapy. But that is an expansive view of what therapy is, not a restrictive one.

        As a side-note, after reading what Brian Castellani (a former Yoga Journal business manager and founder of Yoganomics) has unearthed, it appears that Yoga Alliance is also cooperating with this trend toward licensing. They are, I think, currently best positioned to profit from yoga moving in this direction.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Within Vajrayana Buddhism, with the guidance of a qualified Lama who has the ability to differentiate the students awareness and capacity to integrate teachings, one does not seek out Tantric teachings on Yab Yum with a consort. One does not decide that he or she wants to "explore" this teaching. Within Vajrayana it is a most secret teaching. It is secret for a number of reasons, but most of all, it is secret because the potential of the practice is "enlightenment" or awareness itself and any preconceived ideas or concepts about the method will be an obstacle to the practitioner. When a students practice has ripened to where they are able to utilize all phenomena and mundane experience as the path and can actually convert poison into medicine then the Yab Yum practice is beneficial. Beneficial because the student needs to ultilize all facets of experience as the path.

  4. fluidruid says:

    Good reply to the NY Times article, which was a tabloid level piece that I think is mostly about the author promoting his own book and getting publicity. I'm just surprised that the Times published it in the first place!

    • Ramesh says:

      Good points, fluidruid. I also think he has an agenda… as i mention above, he wants to regulate yoga, so sensationalizing yoga (it's dangerous and about sex) might be part of the BROAD plan….

  5. sordog1 says:

    Great post, Ramesh. It is good to see a more balanced view of what Tantra is. I also think that the sex part of the scandal is obscuring another part of the scandal. Friend was called a "yoga mogul" by the NYT due to being the CEO of a corporation that makes a lot of money. I think investigating this materialism might show the root of where the other excesses come from. Perhaps a worker owned coop or client owned coop would be more in line with yogic principles like aparigraha rather than selling $80 yoga mats to drive the bottom line.

  6. pranalisa says:

    Broad is an opportunist working towards selling tons of books…and he's winning. thanks for a GREAT article Ramesh.

  7. Ben_Ralston says:

    That's what I call a Broadside 🙂
    Nice work Ramesh.

  8. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    Yogis should really welcome all the attention they are getting from the mainstream. It's a sign that yoga is increasingly a part of the cultural and spiritual discourse of the nation, and has an opportunity to broaden its appeal – if, it also become more self-aware and accountable.

    Rather than seeking always to de-legitimize your interna or external critics – which is what the Church of Scientology and Dahn Yoga do — why not see this as an opportunity to engage in self-criticism, and genuine internal reform?.

    Obviously, there's a real issue in American yoga that's prompted this latest scandal – and Broad's completely right, it's been literally one after the other historically.

    Let's reflect on what it is about yoga in the West, and in the way we organize ourselves that might lend ourselves to these recurring problems?

    it doesn't mean endorsing every critical viewpoint of yoga – especially a sensationalized one – but it does mean seeing the appearance of such criticism as a symptom of an underlying malady that really should indeed be addressed.

    The question is how.

    • Ramesh says:

      Stewart, great point about all the attention yoga is getting. I welcome it and the opportunity to respond, indeed! Also great point about the opportunity for self-criticism, which the Anusara events have given us a wonderful opportunity to do. This is all great, I agree.
      And it is not only about yoga in the west. Yoga in India has its own baggage of problems too, including sex scandals. As I said in the end of my article, this is a human issue, and too often an emotionally-starved-man-in-power issue.

  9. missbernklau says:

    THANK YOU Ramesh for being a voice of clarity, again!

  10. I'm aware that any damned fool can write whatever they like, but this book is an embarrassment to the publisher. When will this self-absorbed ranting end, and when will this politically correct bullshit society stop just accepting whatever some idiot says and accept it as "truth" because it "appears" to be well researched???

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Braja Sorensen
    Lost & Found in India
    Editor, Elephant Spirituality
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

    • Ramesh says:

      Great opportunity to expose those darn fools, ain't it?

      • Just foolishness in general. I'm a little tired to be honest of seeing people damning and condemning and being condescending to another's approach to a process or system or belief. Whose business is it? Really…I'm kind of baffled by the time people take at slamming everyone else's choices in life. What a sad little world that makes…..

  11. Narasimhan Delhi says:

    Wonderful post. Appreciate the balanced views.

    • Ramesh says:

      Thank you, Narasimhan! I was concerned that some of my tongue-in-cheek comments in the article were a bit over the top, but so far nobody has noticed or been bothered enough to comment.

  12. Robin Daniels Wellness says:

    Thank you for a well thought out, informed, and organized article. I will definitely share this one!

  13. Jerry says:

    Well said, Ramesh. I appreciate your knowledge, insight, and verbal clarity. This entire dramady has given me much to reflect upon. The misperceptions of yoga and tantra, in spite of all the good efforts of the past to the contrary, are alive and well due to our collective hunger for "truth as I want to see it"…not for truth as it is (agreed, a difficult vision to have). More often than not, we see what we are, not what is. I've been a student of yoga since the early 70's, sometimes I teach (Asheville area). I wish you blessings and continued good work/seva!

    • Ramesh says:

      Jerry, let us welcome these articles as opportunities for growth and for a deeper understanding; most great people and ideas are often misunderstood, so it is natural the same happens to yoga and tantra…so as some people distort the truth others are gaining deeper understanding… looking forward to see you in Asheville some time!!!!

      • Jerry says:

        Indeed to all. I'll be lookng into what is going on at The Prama Institute. I especially look forward to more of your articles here. See you soon enough somewhere!

  14. heather says:

    amen! great article

  15. […] the dominant theme). Want to knows what Tantra really is? Here’s a link. And another. And another. And a great book. (Full disclosure: I’ve been studying Shaiva Tantra myself for a couple […]

  16. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  17. Pankaj Seth says:

    I'm curious about your statement that tantra predates hinduism and buddhism. The vedas are part of the hindu corpus… there is nothing older than these. So are you using the word 'tantra' to designate what was before the vedas, perhaps the indus valley civilization or the gulf of cambay civilization?

  18. […] the dominant theme). Want to knows what Tantra really is? Here’s a link. And another. And another. And a great book. (Full disclosure: I’ve been studying Shaiva Tantra myself for a couple […]

  19. Ramesh says:

    Pankaj, you bring up an issue that has different answers depending on the perspective and source. On the one hand, Hinduism as a cultural and religious term is no more than 1000 or so years old as it was first used by the Muslim invaders to India. However, if we think of Hinduism as including the four Vedas, then the Rigveda is older than Tantra, and some think as old as 10,000 BCE and others no more than 3000 BCE. And if we think of Hinduism as the Upanishads (the fifth veda) and the Ramanas, the Gita etc, (1000 BCE or so) even then Tantra is older by some estimates (Danielou, N. N. Bhattacarya, Swami Satyananda, Anandamurti) Certainly, Tantra is older than Buddhism (500 BCE) as the Shaiva culture of india goes back into the Indus Valley civilization (4000-2000 BCE) and Samkhya philosophy, which is tantric based and also referred to as Kapiiasya Tantra (the Tantra of Kapil) is by some estimates as old as 1500 BCE. There are already tantric influences in the Atharvaveda and the oral version of this Veda predates Buddhism by thousands of years.
    All that said, most scholars think that Tantra is only about 1500 years old as that is when the tantric texts were written and thus younger than what we think of as Hinduism, but obviously I do not agree with that timeline. Is Shamanism only as old as the first shaman text, I do not think so. Tantra and shamanism were oral traditions and much older than textual evidence suggest. But that's a long story……

  20. Pankaj Seth says:

    Thanks for your response Ramesh. Why would one place the Upanishads in the Hindu corpus, but not the Vedas? The Upanishads refer to the Vedas, after all. This is weird, don't you think? Who thinks this way?

    You're saying that it all depends on how one defines Hinduism. What I am saying is how is it possible to define Hinduism as not including the Vedas? The Shaiva culture, Sankhya, even proto-Sankhya are not before the Vedas; no one has suggested anything of the sort. It seems you are thinking that while one could connect Shiva to the Indus valley, one could not connect the Vedas too? Not only is there the Shiva seal, but also the Vedic motif of two birds and a tree, also found later in the Upanishads. I don't understand how one could connect the Shaiva culture with the Indus valley civilization, but not the Vedic tradition itself, except to think that Shaivism is indigenous and the Vedas are imports (the Aryan invasion theory redux)?

  21. […] the dominant theme). Want to knows what Tantra really is? Here’s a link. And another. And another. And a great book. (Full disclosure: I’ve been studying Shaiva Tantra myself for a couple […]

  22. bflatbrad says:

    Thank you, Ramesh. Great article !

  23. Ramesh says:

    Pankaj, here is my take on Indian History. The no river theory is based on the works of john Singleton, the one river theory is the standard yoga history as developed by Georg Feuerstein, the two river theory is my own. Ramesh

    NO RIVER THEORY: Indian-European Origin of Posture Yoga

    ca 1920 AD T. Krishnamacharya and European Gymnasts

    ONE RIVER THEORY: Vedic Origin of Yoga and Tantra

    3000 to 1800 –BCE Archaic Yoga of the Vedas

    1500 BCE –Pre-classical Yoga (Upanishads, Vedanta or non-dualism).

    500-200 –BCE Epic Yoga (Mahabharata, late Upanishads)

    200 BCE –Classical Yoga of Patanjali.

    500-1200 –AD Post-classical yoga (Tantra, Hatha Yoga)

    ca 1900 –AD Modern Yoga (Aurobindo)

    TWO RIVER THEORY: Tantric and Vedic Origin of Yoga

    9000-5000 BCE -Archaic Tantra and Yoga—from Shamanism to proto-Tantra to Tantra
    –Early RigVeda formed outside India

    5000-2000 BCE -Classical Tantra and Yoga—Shiva Tantra
    -Remaining 3 Vedas composed in India
    -Vedic and Tantric cultures form Indus valley civilization

    1500-200 BCE -Epic and Philosophical Tantra and Yoga—Mahabharata, Samkhya, Vedanta

    200 BCE –Post-classical Tantra as Rajadhiraja and Raja Yoga—Astavakra, Patanjali

    200-1700 AD –Post-classical Tantra Renaissance—Hindu and Buddhist Tantra

    1900-1990 AD -Modern and post-modern Tantra and Yoga—Aurobindo, Anandamurti

    • Pankaj Seth says:

      Ramesh, your chronology does not include the Gulf of Cambay civilization, which is a forerunner to the Indus Valley civilization, and which is at least 7500 older than Harappa's heyday. The indigenous factor of continuity thus extends to the period your highlight, 9000-5000 BCE.

      Arya is not a racial term, but means 'noble' or 'cultured'. The genetic transfer whenever it occurred was in the form of small-scale migrations, rather than a big migration, and certainly wasn't an invasion. Importantly, the genetic transfer into India goes back to about 40,000 years, so does not conform to your theory as taking place about 9000-5000 years ago. In fact, the genetic evidence points against any major influx, but speaks of outflow instead. Two links below…

      Vedic scholar Prof Nicholas Kazanas lectures on " The collapse of Aryan Invasion Theory and the prevalence of Indigenism.":

      Genetic evidence latest: "Nail, Coffins, Aryans":

      Gulf of Cambay:
      Archeological report with pics:…. (quote below)

      "So, from the foregoing it is very evident the prehistoric civilization that matured and developed in the present day Gulf of Cambay was the forerunner and model to the subsequent advanced Harrapan civilization known to history. This wonderful twin prehistoric metropolis of Cambay lasted from about 13000 BP to about 3000 BP making it the most ancient and largest city civilization not only in Asia but in the entire world. It is seen to be at least 7500 years older than the oldest Mesopotamian city civilization. However strong evidence supports the presence of humans from at least 31000 BP who were evolving and developing and formed a great hitherto unknown civilization that were submerged by the flood, giving credence to local and global flood myths." [The last ice age ended 10,000 years ago, sea leves rose 400 feet, and submerged these cities… people moved into the Harrapan area.]

      Personally, I don't care about into India or out of India… I just want the story to match the evidence gathered.

      • Ramesh says:

        The Gulf of Cambay theory is just a farfetched theory by Graham Hancock who has tried to establish that an ancient civilization existed in just about every continent. His research is not at all reliable. Moreover, I have studied all of the genetic evidence and those I have found to be the most convincing and without any bias are those of Dr. Wells and also Bamshad from the University of Utah. I agree that the Aryans came in successive groups and not in one big invasion. That the term signifies a race of people is also genetically proven. Yes it means cultured and noble, but it also signifies a race, to not accept that is part of the vedic apologists agenda to deny the racial overtones in the Vedas and the conflicts between the Aryans and the indigenous Indians who came to India much earlier. The Aryans were the last to arrive in India. India has four main "original" races–the Aryans, Dravidians, the Austrics and the Mongols, and so far evidence suggest that they all came from somweher else, from Africa, in successive groups over a 60,000 plus year period.

        • Pankaj Seth says:

          Ramesh, I linked to the archeological report from the Archeological survey of India, not Graham Hancock. Hancock has nothing to do with this. Its not Hancock's research, its the ASI. Here is another link to the same…

          Note this: "Report by BADRINARYAN BADRINARYAN, chief geologist with the scientific team from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) responsible for the underwater surveys in the Gulf of Cambay."

          You are conflating Hancock with the ASI… why?

          Agreed that there was an influx into India, but that was 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, and not in the time frame of the writing of the Rg Veda.

          You like Bamshad… here is what he says: from:

          "The first such study dates back to 1999 and was conducted by the Estonian biologist Toomas Kivisild, a pioneer in the field, with fourteen co-authors from various nationalities (including M. J. Bamshad).9 It relied on 550 samples of mtDNA and identified a haplogroup called “U” as indicating a deep connection between Indian and Western-Eurasian populations. However, the authors opted for a very remote separation of the two branches, rather than a recent population movement towards India; in fact, “the subcontinent served as a pathway for eastward migration of modern humans” from Africa, some 40,000 years ago:
          “We found an extensive deep late Pleistocene genetic link between contemporary Europeans and Indians, provided by the mtDNA haplogroup U, which encompasses roughly a fifth of mtDNA lineages of both populations. Our estimate for this split [between Europeans and Indians] is close to the suggested time for the peopling of Asia and the first expansion of anatomically modern humans in Eurasia and likely pre-dates their spread to Europe.”

          In other words, the timescale posited by the Aryan invasion / migration framework is inadequate, and the genetic affinity between the Indian subcontinent and Europe “should not be interpreted in terms of a recent admixture of western Caucasoids10 with Indians caused by a putative Indo-Aryan invasion 3,000–4,000 years BP.”

        • Pankaj Seth says:

          Points against the invasion theory… there's more at the link… point form below.

          From: (excerpted from "A Survey of Hinduism"; SUNY Press)

          1.The Aryan invasion theory is based purely on linguistic conjectures, which are unsubstantiated.
          2.The supposed large-scale migrations of Aryan people in the second millennium bce first into western Asia and then into northern India (by 1500 bce) cannot be maintained in view of the established fact that the Hittites were in Anatolia already by 2200 bce and the Kassites and Mitanni had kings and dynasties by 1600 bce.
          3.There is no hint of an invasion or of large-scale migration in the re- cords of ancient India: neither in the Vedas, in Buddhist or Jain writ- ings, nor in Tamil literature. The fauna and flora, the geography, and the climate described in the Ṛgveda are those of northern India.
          4.There is a striking cultural continuity between the archaeological ar- tifacts of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization and later phases of Indian culture: a continuity of religious ideas, arts, crafts, architecture, and system of weights and measures.
          5. The archaeological finds of Mehrgarh dated ca. 7500 bce (copper, cattle, barley) reveal a culture similar to that of the Vedic Indians. Contrary to former interpretations, the Ṛgveda reflects not a nomadic but an urban culture.
          6.The Aryan invasion theory was based on the assumption that a no- madic people in possession of horses and chariots defeated an urban civilization that did not know horses and that horses are depicted only from the middle of the second millennium onward. Meanwhile ar- chaeological remains of horses have been discovered in Harappan and pre-Harappan sites; drawings of horses have been found in Paleolithic caves in central India. Horse drawn war chariots are not typical for nomadic breeders but for urban civilizations.
          7.The racial diversity found in skeletons in the cities of the Indus civi- lization is the same as in today’s India; there is no evidence of the coming of a new race.

          8. The Rgveda describes a river system in North India that is pre-1900 bce in the case of the Sarasvatī River and pre-2600 bce in the case of the Dṛṣadvatī River. Vedic literature shows a population shift from the Sarasvatī (Ṛgveda) to the Ganges (Brāhmaṇas and Purāṇas) for which there is also evidence in archaeological finds.
          The astronomical references in the Ṛgveda are based on a Pleiades- Kṛttika calendar of ca. 2500 bce. Vedic astronomy and mathematics were well-developed sciences: these are not features of the culture of a nomadic people.

          The Indus cities were not destroyed by invaders but deserted by their inhabitants because of desertification of the area. Strabo (Geography XV.1.19) reports that Aristobulos had seen thousands of villages and towns deserted because the Indus had changed its course.
          The battles described in the Ṛgveda were not fought between invaders and natives but between people belonging to the same culture.
          Excavations in Dvārakā have led to the discovery of a site larger than Mohenjo Daro, dated ca. 1500 bce with architectural structures, use of iron, and a script halfway between Harappan and Brahmī. Dvārakā has been associated with Kṛṣṇa and the end of the Vedic period.
          There is a continuity in the morphology of scripts: Harappan— Brahmī—Devanāgarī.
          Vedic ayas, formerly translated as “iron,” probably meant copper or bronze. Iron was found in India before 1500 bce in Kashmir and Dvārakā.
          The Purāṇic dynastic lists, with over 120 kings in one Vedic dynasty alone, date back to the third millennium bce. Greek accounts tell of Indian royal lists going back to the seventh millennium bce.
          The Ṛgveda shows an advanced and sophisticated culture, the product of a long development, “a civilization that could not have been deliv- ered to India on horseback.” (160)
          Painted gray ware culture in the western Gangetic plains, dated ca. 1100 bce, has been found connected to earlier Indus Valley black and red ware.

          Also, the link tells that the term 'sindhus' was used by the ancient Persians and the Greeks… which became 'hindus' with the Islamic invasions.

          Prof Kazana's lecture is worth watching for more details…

          • Ramesh says:

            I am familiar with all these arguments, but they all become useless when considering that the Aryan started arriving in India long before the indus Valley started,as early as 5000 BCE. That's the whole point of the new genetic findings.
            I am traveling and don't have time to reply in detail. perhaps more later.

          • Pankaj Seth says:

            I'll look forward to detail. What you're saying above is not clear to me. If migrants arrived in dribs and drabs, and not a whole lot of them, how did they enculturate an area the size of france and germany combined? In fact, when they arrived in their small numbers (Prof. Kazanas talks about groups of 50 to a few hundred at a time), they found an already thriving, sophisticated civilization which covered an area far greater than the whole of mesopotamia, in which they settled in. The Vedic culture was not brought into India (greater India, meaning present day balochistan, pakistan, afghanistan at the very least, and extending down to the Vindhya mountains… a huge area) from Europe. There is no archeological evidence, nor texutal evidence for this. This is based upon the conjectured, manufactured 'proto-indo-european' language invented by the philologists. Historians who look at archeological, hydrological, meterological, astronomical data find no evidence, and in the case of genetics the evidence goes both ways… into and out of India.

            J. P. Mallory, one of the most senior scholars of the Aryan invasion theory, now admits that there are plenty of reasons to suspect the veracity of this theory. What's more, the whole notion of the 'Aryan race' has largely been discredited… the wiki article gives pretty good picture of that…

            "a study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2009 (in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT) analyzed half a million genetic markers across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 ethnic groups from 13 states in India across multiple caste groups.[28] The study asserts, based on the impossibility of identifying any genetic indicators across caste lines, that castes in South Asia grew out of traditional tribal organizations during the formation of Indian society, and was not the product of any Aryan invasion and "subjugation" of Dravidian people.[29]"

          • Ramesh says:

            Pankaj, this issue is very complex and colored by a lot of religious, racial, caste and political viewpoints. Thus you have various opinions and interpretations of for example the genetic data. The most unbiased genetic research i have found is that of Wells, Lynn Jorde, Bamshad, etc. The latter in a paper published after the paper you referred to above. The most compelling case debunking the aryan invasion is by Feuerstein, Frawley and Kak's In Search of the Cradle of Civilization. However, this book is heavily biased in terms of a Vedic origin of everything noble about India, Hinduism and also claims a Vedic origin of archaic yoga etc. These authors in their 17 point thesis are open to the possibility that the Aryans enetered India much earlier than 2000 BCE which is when most Western academics as well as Max Muller claim they entered. This is exactly the genetic claim of Wells et al. Dueing the time of entry before and around 5000 BCE, the world had a population of only 15 million, most of these in the Middle East and Asia. I otherwords, the population of india was not great, but I doubt that only a few hundred Aryans arrived a time, this is highly speculative, but even so, we may note that only a few hundred europeans conqured the mayan empire, so it is likely the aryans were fewer in number but were martially superior. Certainly they felt racially superior which over time resulted in the caste system etc. The term Arya, by the way, also refer to Iranians or Persians and it is from this area that many of the first Vedic peoples arrived in India.
            NOTE: Unlike the several meanings connected with ārya- in Old Indic, the Old Iranian term has solely an ethnic meaning.[20][21] That is in contrast to Indian usage, in which several secondary meanings evolved, the meaning of ar- as a self-identifier is preserved in Iranian usage, hence the words "Iran"/"Iranian" themselves. Iranian airya meant and means "Iranian", and Iranian anairya [13][15] meant and means "Un-Iranian".Arya may also be found as an ethnonym in newer Iranian languages, e.g., Alan/Persian Iran and Ossetian Ir/Iron[15]

            The name Iran, Iranian is itself equivalent to Aryan, where Iran means "land of the Aryans,"[6][13][13][15][21][22][23][24] and has been in use since Sassanid times[22][23]

            The Avesta clearly uses airya/airyan as an ethnic name (Vd. 1; Yt. 13.143-44, etc.), where it appears in expressions such as airyāfi; daiŋˊhāvō "Iranian lands, peoples", airyō.šayanəm "land inhabited by Iranians", and airyanəm vaējō vaŋhuyāfi; dāityayāfi; "Iranian stretch of the good Dāityā", the river Oxus, the modern Āmū Daryā.[21] Old Persian sources also use this term for Iranians. Old Persian which is a testament to the antiquity of the Persian language and which is related to most of the languages/dialects spoken in Iran including modern Persian, Kurdish, Gilaki and Baluchi makes it clear that Iranians referred to themselves as Arya.

            The term "Airya/Airyan" appears in the royal Old Persian inscriptions in three different contexts:

            As the name of the language of the Old Persian version of the inscription of Darius the Great in Behistun
            As the ethnic background of Darius in inscriptions at Naqsh-e-Rostam and Susa (Dna, Dse) and Xerxes in the inscription from Persepolis (Xph)
            As the definition of the God of Aryan people, Ahuramazda, in the Elamite version of the Behistun inscription.[13][15][21]

          • Ramesh says:

            Here is a short summary of mine from my upcoming book….
            •1. Most Western and Indian academics hold the view that India was invaded by Vedic Aryan settlers around 1900 BCE. These Aryans worshiped the sun god Suria and brought with them their Rigvedic religion based on sacrifices and rituals offered to “placate and please the Gods, [and] to force them to fulfill wishes and demands.” (1) These patriarchial and martial Aryans soon conquered northern India and destroyed the great Indus Valley civilization, where yoga was already practiced by Tantric (Shaeva) ascetics. They massacred populations and reduced the surviving Dravidian shudras to slavery (dasyu) without regard for rank or learning. This conflict has been described in the famous epics Mahabharta and the Ramayana. Over time, India became a blended civilization—part Aryan Vedic, part Dravidian Shaeva, with a liberal admixture of Jain and Buddhist traditions—and this blended culture is what we today know as Hindu civilization.
            •2. Western yoga scholars, including Georg Feuerstein and David Frawley, as well as some Indian writers, especially within the Hindutva movement, subscribe to the theory that there was never an Aryan invasion around 1900 BCE and that Yoga comes solely from the Vedic tradition. I call this the One River Theory. Rather than being destroyed by nomadic warriors, the Indus Valley civilization, they claim, was destroyed and abandoned due to climatic changes. According to these writers, the Aryans are indigenous to India and represent everything that is noble about Indian culture. In their book In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, Feuerstein and Frawley outline 17 points for why the invasion never took place. In one of these points, however, they reflect on the possibility that the Aryan settlers arrived in India at a much earlier date.
            •3. This last option brings us to the theory presented in this book, that the history of Yoga represents a blend of the Tantric and Vedic traditions of India. I call this the Two River Theory. According to Puranic history as well as genetic science, the Vedic Aryans arrived in India at an early age, most likely as early as 7-5000 BCE. Therefore the blending of the Vedic and Tantric (Shaeva) cultures of India had already matured by the time the Indus Valley civilization was destroyed and depopulated around 2000 BCE. Not long after, around 1500 BCE, India produced the world’s first coherent philosophy and cosmology, namely sage Kapila’s Tantric-inspired Samkhya philosophy, which today is popularly known as the philosophy of Ayurveda, India’s ancient medical science. About 700 years after Kapila, some of the greatest spiritual literature the world has ever witnessed, namely the oral teachings in the epic Mahabharata, the Vedantic Upanishads, the spiritual teachings of the Gita, and the historical mythology of the Ramayana were written down for the first time. And around 200 BCE, sage Patanjali wrote his Yoga Sutras and codified the oral teachings of the Tantric yogis for the first time in the form of Asthanga, or Raja Yoga.
            While these three versions of Indian history may seem entirely at odds, there are important overlapping agreements, and the theories do in many ways compliment each other. The first theory has dated the Aryan invasion rather late (1900 BCE) and does not reflect the genetic research of Dr. Spencer Wells, who claims the invasion started much earlier—about 5000 BCE. As suggested as a possibility by Feuerstein and Frawley—proponents of theory number two—this migration started when the Rig Vedic Aryans arrived via the Russian steppes and the deserts of Iran more than 3000 years before the Indus Valley eventually was abandoned. Indeed, in Feuerstein’s new version of his book The Yoga Tradition, he suggests the Indo-European Aryans arrived in India as early as 6500 BCE. Looking for better pastures for their cattle, and for other riches, these skilled warrior nomads arrived in successive raids and migrations over a period of several millennia. They arrived in an already inhabited land, and its peoples—the Dravidians, Mongolians and Austrics—had already developed a sophisticated, urban culture, and the art and science of Tantric Yoga was already in practice among them. In other words, by the time the Induas Valley was finally abandoned around 1900 BCE, the indigenous Indians and the invading Aryans had already experienced 3000 years of conflict and gradual integration. Hence these two peoples, representing two different civilizations, cultures and outlooks—one vedic/priestly and one tantric/yogic—gradually formed what we today know as the Indian, or Hindu Civilization.

          • Pankaj Seth says:

            Ramesh, your view is unsupported by the archeological evidence.

            1. We know the Saraswati and Dhristavati rivers dried up around 2500 BCE, and the inhabitants moved. There are thousands of abandoned settlements along the old river beds, and crucially they do not show any signs of warfare or being destroyed… rather they have been abandoned. Prof Mark Kenoyer, the chief scientist researching at Mohenjo-Daro and other sites gives a lecture on this at the U. of Chicago… here: ("Meluhha: the Indus Civilization and Its Contacts with Mesopotamia"}. Prof Kenoyer also details the trade links with Mesopotamia, including Sumer which go back to at least 5000 years.

            2. There is no record of any such invasion or wholesale destruction of culture mentioned in any Indic record, including both the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions. There is no mention of arriving from anywhere, unlike for example as Jews record in the Judaic/Biblical record. How is it that this monumental event took place, but left no trace in the memory/literature, and there is no archeological evidence of this supposed conflict… a conflict supposedly waged by a few on the many. No weapons of war, not even swords have been found in the Harappan sites, no burning or destroying of forts. You will need to account for this…

            As to the Avesta… this is an issue of comparing various Indo-European languages and seeing that in the Veda there is a deep preservation of terms, grammer which begin to be lost the further from India one goes. Close to India, in Iran there is much similarity, but already a loss of certain terminology. The further one goes into Europe, the greater this type of loss in language. It makes more sense that where one finds the deepest preservation of language, that is where the homeland is. The further one travels away, the more the language begins to lose certain structural aspects. This is well detailed in the lectures of Prof Kazanas I have linked to before. The Avestan connection is very interesting… perhaps we will have a chance to converse about that some other time…

          • Ramesh says:

            I think you misunderstood my points. I agree with you on point #1
            Indeed, that is my whole point, that there was integration for thousands of years before the rivers dried up etc….
            The invasion is recorded in the scriptures for those open to it… Lala Prasad Sing, N.n. Bhattacarya, Alain Danielou, Anandamurti, Thapar, and many others have written extensively about this

            The record of the migration is also in the genetic record, in, linguistics, etc, etc.
            We disagree, and that is fine, so let us move on….

          • Pankaj Seth says:

            Ramesh, while there is not any textual evidence of any invasion/migration into India, there is textual evidence of a move out of India. Baudhayana, the author of the Sulvasutras and the Shrautasutras writes about a migration eastward towards the gangetic plains, and towards the northwest, towards Persia, Mid-East and Europe. The latter was mistranslated by Witzel at Harvard, who translated instead that there was no mention of a westward migration out of India. Now, Witzel has been found out, using the mistranslation 3 separate times in different sources, and he blames his editors. Note that Witzel is the chief proponent of the Aryan invasion theory, and how has been found to mistranslate, not once but three times, in a way that bolsters his pet theory and standing.

            Here is Prof Kazanas talking about this… see for yourself: this episode starts at where this video will open (at 18:53 min), and it continues at the beginning of the next video… in all, about 4 minutes to watch…
            then, (these are the end of part 3/5 and beginning of part 4/5 of the lecture entitled "The all inclusiveness of the Rg Veda, delivered at year at Madras ITT.

          • Ramesh says:

            Pankaji: Ancient peoples migrated in and out of India…. there is plenty of records of both…..
            At any rate, I don't have the time to go into this further, but I want to thank you for your interest and for your knowledge, even though we have a few major points of disagreements; let us move on and maybe pick this up in a later article.
            Om Shanti!

          • Pankaj Seth says:

            Thanks for the conversation, Ramesh. It will be a pleasure to continue this and the Avesta discussion with you some other time… all the best. Om Shanti.

  24. Kimstetz says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! One of the obvious benefits of yoga and meditation is relaxation induced by the parasympathetic nervous system which Broad fails to mention at all. A fantastic by product of relaxation and pretty much the only way the body is sexually stimulated is when the parasympathetic nervous system is active.Of course people are going to feel more sexual when they're relaxed and open. But we don't need more people coming to yoga class for that. It's bad enough they just want to be able to touch their toes, hold the real yoga please. How one behaves with their sexually is not up to who they learn yoga from though John Friend and other "gurus" seem to need to watch their position as a teacher. Your last paragraph in the article summed it all up.

  25. littlewing108 says:

    Thanks! I thought that NY times article was pretty crude as well— The man clearly does not understand what yoga or Tantra are about– however, just to play devil's advocate here, this article reminds me of two things which have dissuaded me from practicing yoga at all– 1 Is that yoga can increase you higher chakras abilities, but just because these are functioning it doesn't mean the yoga in teacher in question has a good heart. There is a reason yoga was also associated with black magic in India for a long time— some yoga teachers are great, but I've discovered many a naive attitude among yoga people here in Boulder who assume every yoga teacher has a good intention just because they ooze shakti and seem very high. In Tibet they say most people spend more time thinking about which Cow to buy than which teacher to follow– if people are serious about idealizing a teacher, they should be well sure, no matter which hand you are following that they are genuine! 2. In my experience yoga can increase sexual energy in women– not sure what men experience. This can be quite overwhelming, which is one reason i don't practice yoga often unless I plan to get laid 4 times a day! Some way of addressing these energies in classes would be helpful. I personally find many vinyassa classes too fast and and rushed… which is why I prefer Iyangar style where you really can learn each pose well, but realize not everyone may feel like this.

    Yoga in America is a wondrous thing, helping so many people, with obvious benefits to physical and mental health… but like ALL THINGS made by man it has a dark side. To illuminate this dark side with a detached point of view, armed with real facts and the aim to make yoga better, I think people in America can finally get down with the practice in a real way.

  26. Jacqui Hargreaves says:

    You may find the response by Jason Birch (a scholar from Oxford University) helpful and supportive in correcting the many historical inaccuracies in the NY Times article :

  27. ideniselustafter says:

    Thank you sooo much Ramesh, for this article. I was sickened to see the NYT article and intend to be vocal about it.. I'm glad I will have this article to reference.

  28. […] prove anything about any pose being injurious across the board. The book concludes with chapters on divine sex and the muse. Both are tangential and just not that […]

  29. […] The Science of Yoga that “the entire discipline [of yoga] itself began as a sex cult,” is false and an insult to millions of […]

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