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03 Jul 2022

Yogavani

THE WORD-NAPPING OF YOGA!
Editorial

THE WORD-NAPPING OF YOGA! 

Ammaji Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

Call the keepers of the Cosmic Law! Sound the high alert! Man the battle stations! Our precious jewel “YOGA” has been word-napped!

The culprits – the six ancient enemies of the spirit: the Shatripu: Kama desire; Krodha – anger; Lobha – greed; Mada – ego-pride; Matsarya – jealousy: Moha – enticing illusion.
Clever fellows! Disguising themselves as business interests, social welfare workers, humanists, philosophers, and religious leaders, saints – even Yoga teachers – they have seized our priceless Goddess and held her prisoner to their own base URGES! What ransom do they seek? The total surrender of all goodness to the insatiable needs of ego! To pay this ransom implies that the real meaning of “Yoga” will be buried forever in the mudslide of materialism.
“YOGA” is the world’s most popular Sanskrit sound, dropped casually at cocktail parties by no fewer personages than top model Christy Turlington and pop star Madonna. Every movie star (and their pedigreed dog) is “Into Yoga” and freeze into alluring poses on the covers of even world-class news magazines like TIME. Yoga is “touted” as a cure-all for everything that ails – from a bad case of boredom to acne to cancer to existential angst! Advertising agencies have jumped on to the band wagon and Yogic poses are used to sell everything from life insurance to vitamin pills to men’s underwear!

Everyone loves the big “Yoga” word, a word so large, so elastic, that it can be stretched to fit the size of every conceivable need! The beauty parlours love it – and it joins a long list of “services available” in their advertisements, usually wedged somewhere between “peach fruit facials” and “Ayurvedic oil massage”. Summer children’s camp organizers usually place it tenth on a long list of activities, after finger painting, rock climbing, keyboard, tennis. Exclusive boarding schools have “Yoga” on their curriculum along with horse riding and swimming. New Age health specialists use “Yoga” along with other exotic treatments such as steam baths and mud packs.
Not to be outdone, philosophers of every hue have also adopted the word “Yoga” as their own, constraining it to mean exactly what they wish it to mean, neither more or less. Whole tribes of spiritual leaders, teachers and Savants have found the word “Yoga” rolling, sweetly, smoothly off their lips. “Yoga” is not body contortion’, such wise ones proclaim. “Asanas lead only to further hang-ups on body consciousness. Play tennis or badminton instead. Yoga means floating on clouds of cosmic consciousness,” Many modern spiritual leaders proclaim the Yamas and Niyamas (the morality and ethics of Yoga) as “old fashioned” and “unacceptable to modern man, who should not have his freedom curtailed, by such restrictive codes of behavior. Indulgence in ego-needs is the key to any pop Guru’s success.

“Yoga” can be packaged in slick publications, and sold in a materialistic market, with beautiful models distorting the postures to produce a glamorous face-to-the-camera image. “Yoga” can be used to create a spinoff of “necessary aids’’ like special Yoga costumes, mats, props, ropes, etc. Hence, Yoga has now also become a “New Age Industry’’, helping hundreds of thousands the world over to make a good living.

“Yoga” has been “word-napped” by academics and scholars too. They keep it confined in ivory towers and offer Masters Degrees, and Doctorates of Philosophy for its scholarly dissections. It has become a “subject” to study, something totally apart from oneself, totally unrelated to daily life, with concepts to be categorized, memorized, debated, classified and regurgitated on examination sheets. A subject, like all other subjects, to be studied as an external interest, having nothing to do with one’s own personal life or character. The business people have put Yoga in a box, attractively labeled and priced, with packages for health, packages for wealth, packages of mind, packages to improve one’s memory and quality of life. “The customer is always right “and” service with a smile” are the Mantras which keep that celestial sound, the bells in the cash register, ringing.

Such a sweet old innocent word, tens of thousands of years old, uttered perhaps first in the pristine forest hermitages of the Rishis of Bharat, has fallen victim to such predators. How has this atrocity taken place? “Yoga”, the Sanskrit sound-vibrating in its very essence with the concept of union joining wholeness relatedness – harmony – no longer means what it in essence, in reality, means.

As the millenniums roll by on a relentless wheel of time, various meanings attached themselves to Yoga along the way. Certain lifestyles, certain attitudes towards being (beatitudes), certain techniques and tools for achieving its exalted aims, discoveries of the sages, passed from Master to disciple, all started to coalesce around this simple word, this simple, two syllable sound. Spiritual experimenters in lonely caves and dark forests of Bharat, discovered deeper Truths and these too, were absorbed into this wonderful word. The perfect oneness of man and God, the possibility of fusion of individuality with universality, of personality with the cosmos, were the essence of this sound. The nature of mind, the nature of the body, the nature of the emotions stood revealed before the unblinking inner gaze of the sages, and all these revelations attached themselves to the word “Yoga”. The Rishis found methods by which others could walk the same path they had taken, methods by which others could find the same Truths they had found, and they called these methods – “Yoga”.

“Yoga” became a distinct Darshan of its own, a distinct “View of Reality” one of the six classical Darshanas, of Hinduism: Yoga, Samkhya, Vedanta, Vashishika, Nyasa and Mimamsa. Yoga implied both the path and the goal. Both a high philosophy for man’s reason of being, coupled with a practical methodology of realising it in full consciousness. “Yoga” became a science of consciousness, a means of conscious evolution. Like any science, “Yoga” evolved a technology, a methodology, a terminology. But now, Yoga has been “word-napped” by everyone from the corner news boy to exalted political figures.

Cut back to the present day “word-nappers” who have high-jacked “Yoga” into the materialistic wilderness and are holding the word to ransom, forcing it to yield health, sexy bodies, emotional highs, materials profits, glamour, in short, expecting Yoga like Kamadenu, the Wish Fulfilling Cow, to yield to them their every demand!

The cult figures love the word “Yoga” too. They have imprisoned “Yoga” in their own peculiar personalities, and thus, “Yoga” has become in effect “The Guru’s way of life and thinking”. Charismatic figures have found “Yoga” to be a centre pole around which their followers may churn like dancers round a Maypole. The package the cult figures sell may be a mixture of Bhajan, Bhakti, Selfless, (unpaid) labour, social service, platitudes, feel-good homilies and mottos, but throw in the word “Yoga” and the magic potion bubbles and brews with intoxicating effects. “This Guru’s Yoga” and “That Guru’s Yoga” is now the flavour of the moment.

The fundamentalists have built the strongest bars to hold the “Yoga-word” captive. “This Asana must be done exactly as I say it must be done, otherwise, you will go directly to hell” is a fire and brimstone approach updated. “Only fifteen Asanas are allowed, didn’t the ancient author say so”? “The breath must be held in for 23:56 seconds, no less, no more”, the All-Knower thunders at his thoroughly cowed-down audience. “The fingers must be spread 0.2 centimeters and the toes 0.01 centimeters”. The list of “do’s and don’ts” ensures good, solid control over minds, hearts and most important of all, pocketbooks. This, of course, has been the method in the madness of all fundamentalists since eternity. There is no exit door in these tight closed dungeons.

Rival gangs battle it out in the media, in advertisements, in books, and articles. Really, it is a very old story, this gang warfare and the drama has been enacted in various times and climes for tens of thousands of years. It all boils down to one central idea-”My Yoga is better than your Yoga” – or more succinctly put – “I am better than you are!” “Yoga” has been word-napped by professional egos with hundreds of lifetimes of experiences!

What can we say when the ransom note arrives, demanding, “give us what we want or else”! Do we remain silent, and allow our beloved to be ravished in the name of profit and gain? Do we cry out as the prophet crying in the wilderness?

May we protest- “Take any other word and attach it to your notorious activities – physical exercise, emotional therapy, mental counseling, high speed aerobics, low-key gymnastics, stiff-man acrobatics, sedentary sport, movement for health, non-movement for peace-but why, why, must you run away with the sweet, innocent and ancient word of “Yoga?”

But the mafia has little wisdom, no conscience and great and monstrous needs. Our precious jewel is tied up in knots, starved, tortured and contorted, confined in the worst cell of all-the “Self-fish” mentality which can only plunder and steal.
Cunning human ego! It has cleverly “word-napped” the one power on earth which can help it transcend itself. Holding “Yoga” to ransom, the ego can thus avoid facing the truth of its own puniness and impermanence, its own essential unreality.

Clever, Clever, Human Ego! Poor, Poor Yoga!

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