International Day of Yoga has just passed, and the celebrations were even bigger than last year. Euphoria is everywhere and people from many walks of life seem to be introduced to Yoga, across the world. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev addressed a gathering on the eve and commented,“Yoga does not belong to India”. And that seems to have created a little bit of a big flutter in the Right Wing. #YogIsHindu, trended on twitter for many hours in response to this remark.
Factually speaking, what Sadhguru said was misquoted by Times of India who later issued an apology giving the full quote. Sadhguru said, “Yes Yoga originated in India and as Indians we are proud of it but it does not belong to India. The very fact that the UN has declared an International Yoga Day means India has gifted it to the world.”
Beyond the facts, there were a few aspects about this subject that I felt needed a clear expression.
- Yoga is Hindu
The word Hindu itself has been under much scrutiny. There is a big debate whether “Hinduism” is a religion at all. Most seem to have a broad consensus that the word has geographic origin, and not a religious origin. So, mostly the statement translates to,“Yoga belongs to the Indian Subcontinent”.
- Lord Shivji created Yog
In many stories, the origin of Yoga is attributed to “Shiva”, or Adiyogi, or Yogeshwara. But historians accept, that the holy trinity is a later addition to the pantheon of thought. It is strange that this is raked up in controversy regarding Sadhguru, who has said many times that he wants the world to know that it was Adiyogi who originated Yoga.
- Sage Patanjali is Father of Yoga
This statement is conflict with the previous aspect that was discussed. However, Patanjali muni, codified his experience in the form of aphorisms called Yoga Sutra. This has been one of the most popular texts on Yoga. However, many other texts on yoga have been popular and have been followed by many traditions of spiritual seekers like Yoga Rahasya, Yoga Yajnavalkya, Yoga Vasishtam etc.
- Yoga is about attaining to Gods
Sutra 1.23 of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, “Isvara Pranidhanadva”. Isvara pranidhana means to surrender to “isvara”. What is Isvara is defined elaborately as well, but for the sake of simplicity can can translate as “god”. When my teacher taught me this Sutra, she emphasized on the importance of “va”. The yoga sutras don’t prescribe any surrender, but only offer it as one more tool available to the seeker of yoga.
- Yoga must be preserved with Indian Culture
Culture, means to assume a certain identity. In this case, the identity of an Indian, an identity of a hindu deity worshiper etc. Ego, or the process of identification, is presented in the Yoga sutra as one of the “Kleshas” or impurities that can be cleansed through the practice of Kriya Yoga. Attaching any identity to Yoga is absurd to say the least.
- These quotes are to attract western followers
The root of the word Yoga is “yuj” meaning Union. Union of all polarities and differences. The most fundamental of these polarities, is “us and them”. The path of Yoga is to discover this union. It is almost humorous to me that Yoga is being used to divide.
The right way to frame the central question of this debate will be, “Can Yoga belong to India?”. A science of liberation in the shackles of identity politics. Yoga cannot belong to India, nor can it belong to anyone or anything. It is a profound science, that offers solutions of wellbeing to all mankind. It is best that we approach this from a sense of inclusiveness, rather than use it as another tool to divide.
By Venkata Sashank