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Patanjali Yoga Sutras

Source – Art of Living website

It takes a lot of time for courts to offer a judgement, there are argument and counter-arguments. Logic and intuition fails if you do not have proof. That’s why Indian courts take 20 years even for high profile cases (e.g. Mumbai bomb blast), small cases are either solved out of court or not at all during the life time of an accused / plaintiff. Galileo died and hundreds of years later (in 1992) Churches exonerated him of the heresy – of saying Earth if not flat. People do not think logically and thus recently I have been bothered by fanatics on Twitter (follow me on Twitter @krdpravin). So, I feel petty on some things. Well, today I want to write about whether Yoga is secular or not?

Disclaimer – I am discussing Yoga as Patanjali Yoga Sutra I am not an “authority on Yoga”.

There was a case filed in California- “Yoga can not be taught in schools as Yoga is not secular”. Effectively the contention was Yoga is actually Hindu religion. California Judge rejected this claim.  Yet there is little more discussion needed on this.

Think – is breathing secular or not? In yoga Patanjali has talked about Pranayams – breathing exercise. Is remembering (concentrating, meditating on) any God or whether Jesus or other prophet related to only “Hinduism”? Yoga talks about meditating on deity too. Is speaking truth not secular? I can list few more food for thoughts, however let me instead brief on Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Patanjali was a sage, he existed before Christ and had written Yoga Sutras. The sutras have eight limbs –

1. Yama – 5 abstinence – non-violence, truth, non-covetousness, abstinence and non-possessiveness.

In today’s world we need all these virtues, very importantly non-covetousness, non-possessiveness. Financial crisis is result of covetousness

2. Niyama – 5 observances – cleanliness, contentment, austerity, reading scriptures, surrender to god.

Here one may argue – reading scripture is religious. Did Patanjali say do not read Bible? Even in Surrender to God it is not mentioned that the God has to be only HINDU God!

3. Asana – Discipline of the body and body posture.

Largely – people all over the world (include many Indians and Hindus) think Yoga means Asana. Asana is just 12.5% (e.g. 1 part of 8 fold path of Patanjali) of what Patanjali said about yoga. Also, can you say that whatever games played in Olympics are religion? In this context – Hinduism? No! right?

4. Pranayam – Control of breath

Common we call breath and this would be idiotic to call breathing non-secular.

5. Pratyahar – withdrawal of senses from their external objects.

Well, many of us would not understand this. This is not talked in many religions – this helps in being non-covetous, non-possessive and being content. This is where I think Yoga is far more evolved and different than any Western religion. Though Yoga is not a religion.

6. Dharana – concentration of the Chitta upon a physical object (say a photograph of Jesus, a frivolous example – Computer mouse).  Take an example of Rosary (a bead) and remembering any mantra / God. Use of bead is common in Islam too. Who says Dharana is about only one religion? It can be followed by any person whether following a religion or not.

7. Dhyan – Meditation. It is largely professed by Indian religions e.g. Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism. So, meditation is also not specific to only Hinduism. Additionally if someone prays with complete devotion that can become meditation.

8 Samadhi – oneness with the object of meditation.

Yoga is a very evolved science, of course developed and practiced more than 2000 years ago. But yes Yoga is science, there is no religious seal on it. My Indian and Hindu friends may argue against me saying – it is Hindu practice with various arguments. Foreigners may argue on same lines and state Yoga is religion.

Well, I am of the opinion – religion is very personal matter and not a group matter. So, if I follow yoga practice (which I do not) I may say Yoga is my religion. But otherwise yoga is a way of life beyond and above all the so call religions of the world – which effectively are cause of troubles, war (include terrorism), fundamentalism and superiority complexes. And yes, Yoga is above the courts and laws too.

Most importantly – Now do you follow what religious fundamentalism is? I am putting Yoga above everything which is what happens when fanaticism creeps in making a suicide bombers. I did the same in above para (by stating Yoga is above all).

Yet please remember – 1st step of Yoga has first abstinence – non-violence. This includes not having superiority complex also.

Image source – http://www.artofliving.org/patanjali-yogasutra

One of the Authority on Yoga is – Sri Sri Ravishankar (Guruji)