Modi Sarkar secularises yoga, undermining its inherent Hindu identity – Anubhuti Vishnoi

Surya Namaskar

Anubhuti VishnoiIshwar V. Basavaraddi, director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga confirmed that even the mention of the “universal sound” of aum is being avoided to ensure that there is no religious overtone given to International Yoga Day. … Court battles have been fought in the US over whether yoga propagates religion and although the discipline’s global popularity is substantial and growing, the question hasn’t completely gone away.” – Anubhuti Vishnoi

International Yoga Day LogoTo make yoga an aam lifestyle choice in a country where religious symbolism often attracts high-voltage political controversies, Modi Sarkar is dropping all references to ‘Om’ — the traditional mystical invocation related to Hindu spirituality and yoga practice — in its coming high-powered promotion of this ancient discipline. Senior officials involved in the government’s extensive preparations to celebrate the June 21 International Yoga Day told ET that the brief is to keep the effort “free of controversy”.

Therefore, there will be no reference to ‘aum’ in the 33-minute Common Yoga Protocol that’s been prepared by the Department of AYUSH ( ayurveda, yoga & naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy), as well as all literature and video being prepared for the June 21 celebration.

“It has to be kept in mind that the idea of the International Yoga Day is to take yoga to the global stage,” a top government official involved in preparations told ET. “Linkages with religion may just undermine this ambitious effort,” the official added. Officials who spoke to ET for this story did so on the condition they not be identified.

The Modi government’s decision is significant not only in the light of recent religion-related political controversies but also global debates about yoga’s ‘religious’ identity. Court battles have been fought in the US over whether yoga propagates religion and Dr Ishwar Basavaraddialthough the discipline’s global popularity is substantial and growing, the question hasn’t completely gone away.

Ishwar V. Basavaraddi, director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga confirmed that even the mention of the “universal sound” of aum is being avoided to ensure that there is no religious overtone given to International Yoga Day. Plenty of other efforts are being made to make June 21 a significant day. There are plans to issue Rs 100 and Rs 10 coins. The coins will carry the logo of International Yoga Day – a yoga posture indicating the integration of the five elements.

The government will also issue a special postal stamp bearing the same image. The same logo is likely to be adopted by UN for the international day of yoga. The slogan likely to go with the logo will be – ‘Yoga for Harmony and Peace‘. Indian missions and culture centres all over the world will host the 33-minute Common Yoga Protocol, starting 8 am of June 21. There are plans to host this — starting 7 am — across India as well, in schools and government departments and security forces. And the government is approaching Guinness Book of World Records as well as Limca Book of Records to enlist June 21 celebrations as the biggest multi-venue yoga practice ever. Also, officials said, the yoga protocol, prepared in consultation with Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi ShankarBaba Ramdev, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev and yoga institutions in India, will stick to the simplest of yoga postures. “This is to ensure yoga appeals even to the uninitiated in many countries.”

Later this month, a yoga guru will be brought in to train MPs and their family members. In New Delhi, while the culture ministry will organise an exhibition on the history of yoga, the tourism ministry will circulate brochures and booklets. To round it all off, there will be a government-sponsored international conference on yoga on June 21 and 22. – Indiatimes, 18 April 2015

» Anubhuti Vishnoi is an assistant editor and columnist for The Economic Times, India Today and The Indian Express in New Delhi.

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3 Responses

  1. An Aum Sign For Yoga Day – Blog – Koenraad Elst – 12 May 2015

    As a member of the Dutch-speaking Belgian Toga Federation, I received a copy of the booklet the Government of India issued for the United Nations’ first-ever Yoga Day. It falls on 21 June, Summer Solstice, a day of mixed feelings: it is the longest day, alright, but it is also the start of the sun’s decline — the converse of the beginning of the sun’s rise on Winter Solstice day, and that one is considered a reason for celebration.

    Now, the booklet. It has a non-traditional drawing on the front page, and as was widely expected, no Aum sign is incuded anywhere in the logo. Not too important in itself, but significant for the mindset of the dominant faction within the ruling BJP: sucking up to the secularists as if these were still in power. In the secular worldview, India is a neutral entity, and its Government has no business promoting Hindu traditions such as Aum, the first word of the Rg-Veda. As we know, the Veda mentions neither Christ nor Mohammed, let alone Macaulay or Marx, so it was a communalist book denying the minorities a place in the sun. Therefore, a secular taboo rests on the Aum sign.

    I noted this in a message on social media, and prompt came the reply from the Indian Embassy in Belgium: please look at the prayer on p.9, it has the Aum sign at the beginning of the Devanagari text. Even people who can’t read Devanagari, like most Western practitioners of yoga, will recognize the Aum sign.

    Indeed, Western yogis are very used to the Aum sign and adorn their halls and clothes and front pages with it. They don’t know any better than that this is the sign of yoga and have no suspicion about the sinister communal reputation it has acquired among the various anti-Hindu lobbies in India. And though they would have expected an Aum sign on this brochure (of all places), they won’t suspect that the brochure writers have omitted it out of ideological compulsions.

    So, they had not entirely omitted it: it appears in a prayer which they had copy-pasted into the brochure. Alright, that is something: they didn’t censor the prayer. Just imagine Christians printing the Lord’s Prayer without any mention of the Lord. Good about it is that at least the brochure contains a prayer, a sign of yoga’s embeddedness in a not-to-be-named culture. So, for Hndus there is a consolation prize: the link with Hinduism (of which the Aum sign serves as a token) is in the brochure, though tucked away in the small print on an inside page.

    For the secularists, this would still make the brochure into a no-no. Hindus try hard to be secular and efface their own culture, but they should try harder. Come on, another little effort.

    So, what has the BIP achieved by engineering the brochure the way it did? For the secularists and minorities, it remains Government promotion for a Hindu practice, ill-concealed by a non-Hindu logo. For the Hindus, it turns out to de a disappointment: the first Yoga Day, moreover under the first unrestrained Hindu Nationalist Government (“the first Hindu government in Delhi since 1192”), should have been an occasion for showing the world just what Hindu civilization has contributed. Instead, Hindu civilization is pushed out of the picture and falsely delinked from yoga.

    And all for nothing: there is nothing threatening about the Aum sign for the minorities, no genuinely secular purpose is achieved by this manipulation, except for the further deconstruction of Hinduism. This is the real goal of the lobbies that swear by “secularism”: the annihilation of Hinduism. Those who thought the BJP was aggressively pro-Hindu will be surprised to learn that the BJP is supporting this project. The result is that the BJP is having the worst of both worlds: it surely manages to displease its Hindu constituents, and it still fails to please its secularist masters.

    I am aware of the laws of diplomacy, which are different from the laws of logic. Sometimes it is necessary to make a compromise; to concede something in order to acquire something else. In that case, it would have been defensible if yoga had been promoted at the cost of a mere sign. After all, it was not even present for yoga masters living in Himalayan caves or for Vedic seers practising an oral culture and doing without the stylized alphabet signs that have made up the classical Aum sign. But that is not the case here: the present brochure is still too Hindu for the secularists, is Hindu in spite of itself, and is at the same time uninspiring for Hindus, desirous of a proud self-assertion. Like so much in Hindu Nationalist discourse, it is neither here nor there.


  2. really disgusting !
    we should understand that ‘yoga’ is just a small set of bodily postures !
    this is how our R.shis are honored !
    by ignoring OM !!

    Maharshi Patanjali says :

    योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः — yogaa: chitta vr.tti niro’dha:

    yoga is the control of the thought-modifications of the mind ;

    and to achieve that end ,
    the surest , the safest , and the easiest method shown is :
    ( from Paatanjalayogasutras : chapter I – sutras 23 to 28 , with simple translation )

    ईश्वरप्रणिधानाद्वा — Is’vara pran’idhaanaadvaa

    profound devotion to Is’vara

    क्लेशकर्मविपाकाशयैरपरामृष्टः पुरुषविशेष ईश्वरः — kle’s’a karma vipaakaas’ayai: aparaamr.sht’a: Purusha vis’e’sha Is’vara:

    here is one of the best definitions of Is’vara that can ever be found :
    Is’vara is a particular kind of Being , unaffected by — kle’s’a ( ignorance ) , karma ( actions ) , vipaaka ( fruits of the actions ) , and aas’aya ( the resultant latent impressions )

    तत्र निरतिशयं सर्वज्ञवीजम् — tatra niratis’ayam sarvaj*na beejam

    He is Omniscient ( simple translation )

    पूर्वेषामपि गुरुः कालेनानवच्छेदात् — poorve’shaam api Guru: kaale’na anavacche’daat

    He is the first Guru , the Timeless One ( )

    तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः — Tasya vaachaka: Pran’ava:

    His vaachaka , denoting sound , is Pran’ava , OM .

    तज्जपस्तदर्थभावनम् — Tat japa: Tat artha bhaavanam

    This Sound is to be repeatedly chanted , and Its meaning is to be meditated upon .

    and here , these people are all set to avoid and drop OM !
    can anything be done ?


  3. One day, even Vedas and Vedanta will be secular Indo-European literature with no Hinduness inherent in them. That is what Sanskrit is now being touted as an Indo-European language .


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