Apr 11, 2012

Comments on NPR Article/Radio Piece on Yoga (Apr 2012)

A friend of mine who is a yoga teacher and practishioner in Eastern USA, asked me to comment on this NPR piece. So I am just posting some of my thoughts on the fly. What I am posting here is the general understanding of many things seen and learnt over the years. In no way does this paint any religion in bad light. 
To Some Hindus, Modern Yoga Has Lost Its Way 
by MARGOT ADLER
April 11, 2012About 20 million people in the United States practice some form of yoga, from the formal Iyengar and Ashtanga schools to the more irreverent "Yoga Butt."
But some Hindus say yoga is about far more than exercise and breathing techniques. They want recognition that it comes from a deeper philosophy — one, in their view, with Hindu roots. (More at NPR.ORG )

The question my friend posed was:
"Would you explain to me if this idea I have is correct or not? When missionaries go to India in the name of Jesus, and the people there accept Jesus and celebrate Jesus...is it because that's how Hinduism is (it accepts and celebrates all enlightened beings), not because they have necessarily "converted" to Christianity and now only see Jesus?"

Regarding your question, Hinduism as practiced for many many years in India has baggage from the caste system. So a lot of people who had been neglected and treated as non-equals and lower class, were the ones that embraced Christianity because it offered them hope, respect and some education. This was when the missionaries were first coming in; of course now the Indian Christian community has its own problems and class levels, but my understanding is that conversions worked (both Islamic conversions, Christian conversions) to remove some caste inequality for the downtrodden who were under control of organized religion.

However, the interesting cultural aspect in India is that people of ALL religions celebrate a lot of the local cultural festivals - many of which may seem to be linked to Hinduism.

In the US, yoga as is practiced in many fitness centers is mostly just the stretching part - not even focusing a lot on breathing or preparation to better breathing. However, there are in many universities as well the ISKON movement linked places- where yoga is practiced in a more wholesome manner, including the spiritual aspects quite well.

The people who are converted might still celebrate ALL enlightened beings still, but they just don't care about the "high priests" in Hindu temples and religious hierarchy anymore.

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