Why Modi and Ramdev can't master true form of yoga

It is a science, it is neither theistic not atheistic. And Patanjali did not create a religious ritual.

 |  3-minute read |   19-06-2015
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Correct branding is essential to project oneself in public life. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a master when it comes to marketing himself. Along with his friend Baba Ramdev, the prime minister has managed to position himself as the champion for the cause of yoga, India's oldest cultural heritage and largest export.

One of my most favourite books is Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. What makes Patanjali unique is that he is absolutely scientific. He never assumes and he never denies. Patanjali says god is one of the many ways to reach the ultimate. But it is not necessary to believe in god to reach your destination. God is a path; some may choose that path, others may choose another; the path is not important, the goal is. God is just one of the paths.

Yoga is a science, it is neither theistic not atheistic. And Patanjali did not create a religious ritual. In fact far from it. Patanjali, like I said earlier, was absolutely scientific. In fact, he says one can be godless.

The Yoga Sutra never insisted on a concept. Patanjali describes Yoga as "Chitta Vriddhi Nirodha" or the opening up of the mind. The aim of yoga is to reach one's true self, and to reach the goal one has to let go of biases and prejudices.

India's other primeval legacy, the Ayurveda, prescribes meat and fish prepared in certain ways. It understands that nature is diverse and in snow-covered lands or in deserts there may not be enough vegetation. Therefore Lord Shiva, who we consider the greatest yogi, and who lives on the snowy peaks of Mount Kailash in the Himalyas is a non-vegetarian. In fact, even alchol is offered to him in many of his temples.

Both the prime minister and his friend Baba Ramdev have often spoken out against non-vegetarian food. The prime minister has been very comfortable with certain meats being banned. But does this have anything to do with purity or reaching your goal? Yoga certainly doesn't say so. All that the Yoga Sutra teaches is that to reach the ultimate truth one has to drop all the biases. Like those against non-vegetarian food or even the ones against homosexuals.

Again the prime minister and his friend Baba Ramdev have not been pro-homosexuals. To the extent of using Patanjali's name, Ramdev sells medicines to "cure" people of the "disease" of homosexuality. With the platform he has, there will be many who will be influenced to think that being homosexual is impure, it is a disease. Strangely the concept of disease does not exist in yoga. In Yoga Sutra, Patanjali writes, yoga is about creating harmony to reach the ultimate destination.

So ancient Indian scriptures accepted and understood that homosexuality is natural. Today science concurs that homosexuality is documented in several animal species. In ancient India we not just accepted it but even celebrated it. So Lord Krishna, another great yogi, turns into Mohini and spends a night with Arjuna's son, who had to be sacrificed, so the war could be won, but he did not want to die a bachelor and in the morning Mohini wails and mourns for her "husband" like a widow would. Or Lord Shiva who transforms into a gopi to dance the Leela.

Indian mythology has several examples of different sexual choices and to date, in many cultures in India, this choice is celebrated.

So when the prime minister ensures India votes with Russia, Pakistan and Iran or Baba Ramdev calls homosexuality a disease or between them they encourage that certain foods need to be banned, using the flawed "purity" logic, which is a right wing political construct, one suspects that they may have pefected the asanas and branded themselves superbly with their show of the pranayams but if they still have prejudices, they have not yet mastered the art of yoga!


Tehseen Poonawalla Tehseen Poonawalla @tehseenp

Tehseen Poonawalla is an entrepreneur, life coach and a student of Indian mythology.

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