Why is Yoga Strictly Hindu?
Is Yoga Hindu or not? This question was answered differently by different prominent Hindu and Non-Hindu leaders. A lot of them, Hindu leaders in particular, severely criticized those, who aligned Yoga with Hinduism. People, who normally oppose the view of Yoga being Hindu, come up with analogies such as “will gravity become Christian, just because Isaac Newton, a Christian, discovered the laws of gravity”? Any sane person would say that it cannot be. Did anyone ever say that ZERO is Hindu because, Aryabhatta, a Hindu, invented it? None. Then why it is only in the case of Yoga, that people are linking Hinduism to it? Is there any validity to this argument?
Though in the recent times, it is being propagated as if Yoga started with Patanjali, it is not a fact. Patanjali merely organised a small portion of information available thus far on yoga and written Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Yoga is given to the mankind by Sada Siva Himself atleast 15000 years ago and that is why He is called Aadi Yogi. Atleast a portion of the teachings of Sada Siva on Yoga are available even now in the form of Siva Sutra and others.
When it is said that Yoga is Hindu, one must understand that it is neither about the usage of Yoga nor about the practical applicability of Yogic principles, but about the basic philosophy of Yoga. It may be is not too popular, to call Yoga strictly Hindu/Dharmic, but whether some one likes it or not, it is actually the case. One needs to understand not just Yoga but also the differences between the basic philosophies of Dharmic Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) and Abrahamic Religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) to appreciate the fact that Yoga is Hindu/Dharmic in nature
The most important part of Yoga is adhyatma vidya (Inner Science). It has 8 anga (Not 8 steps or stages) and so it is called Astanga Yoga. The 8 anga of Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Aasana, Praanaayaama, Pratyaahaara, Dhaarana, Dhyaana and Samaadhi. Most of the Yoga centres now are only training the students in Aasana, for physical health, Dhyaana for mental well being and to some extent Praanaayaama. Yoga does help one to become physically and mentally healthy, but that is so because, for one to achieve the ultimate purpose of practicing Yoga, one must be both physically and mentally healthy. To put this in other words, achieving physical and mental health through Yoga is secondary, whereas, the primary purpose of Yoga is to attain Moksha/Jeevanmukti. Both Moksha/Jeevanmukti are incompatible with Abrahamic Religions and so, strictly speaking, Yoga, atleast a major portion of it, is also NOT compatible with Abrahamic Religions.
There are a lot of fundamental differences between the philosophies of Dharmic and Abrahamic religions and lack of knowledge about these differences is causing the confusion. Let me explain some of the differences between Dharmic and Abrahamic religions, Christianity in particular, which are important in our current discussion with the help of “Being Different”, a path breaking book written by Sri Rajiv Malhotra. He says, “the Dharmic wisdom embodied in the Sanskrit language cannot be translated into other religious and/or scientific paradigms without loss of meaning”. He calls them ‘SANSKRIT NON – TRANSLATABLES’. See below for a few of those that are important in our current discussion
- Brahman/Ishwara ≠ GOD
- Atman ≠ Soul or Spirit
- Salvation ≠ Jivanmukti and Moksha
Brahman/Ishwara ≠ GOD
|Brahman is the all-expansive ultimate reality which creates all, lives in all, and transcends all||God is the creator of the Universe, distinct and separate from it|
|Brahman is the cosmos and resides in each one of us, unrealized as atman, making us ultimately Brahman||God is authoritative, distinct and separate from the creation and intervenes in history ONLY in specific times and places|
|Brahman is ever present and can be accessed through Adhyatma Vidya all the time||One can reach God, only after the death during End Times.|
|Atman is not distinct from Brahman||Souls are not just distinct from God but are also distinct from each other|
|Brahman can be male or female or both or neither||God is strictly male|
|Realization of non dual unity with Brahman is possible with Adhyatma Vidhya and there are spiritual masters who attained this stage during all the times to guide the rest||The idea of non dual unity with God is absent from main stream Christianity|
Similarly each of the terms Brahman, Ishwara, Bhagavan, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Devi etc., has rich implications, are distinct from each other and CANNOT be simply translated as God, a Abrahamic term
Atman ≠ Soul
|One’s true self is known as Atman and it’s nature is sat-chit-ananda||One’s true self is known as soul and it’s nature is sinful|
|The true nature of the self, sat-chit-ananda, can be realized through adhyatma-vidya||The true nature of the self, being sinful can be alleviated only by believing in a set of history-centric revelations passed down by prophets|
|Atman is the unrealized form of Brahman residing in each one of us, making us ultimately Brahman||Soul is individual in nature and belong to a realm separate from not only God but also from the world of matter|
|Has neither beginning nor end||Begotten in finite time, beginning with God breathing into dust to create Adam (Genesis 2:7). The end will come at the “End Times”|
|Atman resides not only in humans but also in animals, plants and creatures of various kinds||Soul resides only in human beings|
|Linked to Karma and reincarnation and so each Atman can have infinite number of bodies||Linked to original sin* and can have only one body|
Salvation ≠ Jivanmukti and Moksha
|Jivanmukti/Moksha is realization of the nature of one’s true self, which is sat-chit-ananda.||Salvation is a solution to the problem of Eternal Damnation, caused by Original Sin|
|Can be realized through adhyatma vidya and not as a gift or does it lie outside the individual||Comes as a gift of grace and its source lies outside the individual. Does not come as a result strictly of merit, spiritual practice, prayer or asceticism|
|Can be realized through adhyatma vidya||Can be experienced only by surrendering to the will of God, and God here is specifically the God of the Bible.|
|Jivanmukti can be achieved here and now in this very body and in this very world. He or she can, at will, either turn away from the world or turn towards it and deal with it without being touched or limited by it.||Can come only after the death|
Moksha & Jeevanmukti are the ultimate states that a Hindu intends to achieve. As explained before, Moksha & Jeevanmukti are the states in which one realizes being one with Brahman. This Oneness with Brahman is against the Abrahamic Religions basic belief that God, the creator of this universe, is DISTINCT and SEPERATE from his creation. Also there is nothing like Adyatma Vidya (Inner Sciences) in those religions. This is primarily the reason why both Christianity and Islam are against the practice of Yoga. You cannot hold them wrong for this.
Let me end this with a Tweet by Sri Rajiv Malhotra in this regard – “Yoga is a Hindu PRODUCT and any one can be a consumer”
Original Sin: All humans share this original sin as a consequence of the actions of Adam and Eve, who, unable to resist temptation, partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. As a result of this transgression, they and all their progeny (that is to say, all humans) are afflicted by original sin.