Wednesday, June 17, 2015


International Yoga  Day and the Legacy of  Yoga  to  mankind to grow in Body and Mind    
(Compilation for a discourse   by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, June 2015)

What is International Yoga? YMCA defines its mission as: A worldwide charitable fellowship united by a common loyalty to Jesus Christ for the purpose of helping people grow in Spirit, Body  and Mind. On a similar thinking  mission of Yoga of Patanjali  stated in his Yoga Saastra can be defined as: Universal elevation  of all human  beings  with dedication to Supreme Being through  the  growth of Body, Mind and Spirit. International Yoga can be called Yoga  with the  focus on Body and Mind to take care of our well-being  rendering  medical help curing diseases or simply Yoga for preparedness for marching towards spiritual growth. Though stated in the reverse order of Spirit, Body and Mind, YMCA program means the same.  We do not attend any religious classesin YMCA. Christian  participants  sometimes   partake in  religious counselling  for their agitated minds   for which provisions are made.  Sometimes its strenuous and stressfull program  may cause Sports Injuries. Its  benefits  for curing   illness have not  been  much researched in its program as in Yoga.  It contributes more to prevent illness by preparing the body to be in shape.  We quit exercise when we are ill.  In its adapted form of modern  Yoga you try to Stretch and Relax but not Strain. Modern International Yoga has introduced many programs all of which are not prescribed  in Pataanjali’s Yoga Saastra which I talked about  as in Kriyaa Yoga,  Tulaa yoga, Sahaja Yoga,  Ishaa Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Tai  Chi Yoga, Chess Yoga, Nude Yoga, Modern  Physical Yoga, Modified  Breathing Exercises, Hot  Yoga, Chair Yoga, Water Yoga etc.  Ravishankar calls his method of Teaching Yoga to people of all faiths  as Art of Living.  All these Yogas though confusing and contradicting takes us back to  the Vedic wisdom “eko viprah bahudaa vadanti”—the One Truth , the pundits call by many names and in different forms.

Hindu sages developed six different systems of philosophy at different periods among which Yoga is one of them  attributed to sage Patanjali. He collected some of the surtras  (aphorisms) on  Yoga   that existed till then  and  then came out with his  elaborate Yogasootras of which only a  very small  number refer to physical exercises, breath control and mind control as referred to and remembered on Internation Yoga Day.  The Sanskrit word Yoga means yoke-the connecting link between the spiritual aspirant and God. It is also a technique to establish mental communion with God.   The Yoga as commemorated by UN  is only one sided  and a small portion of  Raja Yoga    and not a complete form, which is mainly  the external elaborated form.  Its internal and  elaborate real form is the one, which has been practiced by ancient Indian sages and saints and people who followed the path of devotion for deep knowledge. This path automatically leads to physical, mental and intellectual development and Super man-hood.  “When we pray we talk and God listens; when we meditate God speaks and we listen” says Swami Chinmayananda. The kind of external form of Yoga practice focused by UN  prepares us only to reach  the base of the Kundalinee dormant power in all human beings about which I talked about.  Then on intensive  Internal Yoga awakens the dormant power lying in a coiled state and leads through several active centers. This intensive  internal Yoga together with the  external Yoga which is  called as  “Yoga”  today by people celebrating  on  International Yoga Day  leads to Rajayoga which is found in the elaborate Sutras of Patanjali. It is also called Kundalinee Yoga by some. Hindus and others fight for the title and ownership of so called Yoga practiced  all over  the world  today which  is just the beginning of Yoga.
Hinduism speaks of different paths to reach God: Bhakti Yoga—The path of devotion; JnaanaYoga—the path of  rational inquiry; Raja Yoga—The path of  mental concentration; and Karma Yoga—the path of right action.

Human beings are only  Microcosm,  an integral  part of  the Macrocosm to which they will ultimately merge through various paths, called liberation. I do not say it dissolves but remains as an integral part.  The harmony between the microcosm and macrocosm keeps the mental make up of the individual in perfect balance. The individual soul  feels at total peace within and concentrates at the goal while departing from the body. A  master of yoga  knows how to withdraw the senses from the sense object into the mind and how to fuse the  mind into the breathe, and the breathe into the light, and the light into the Sun and into the Absolute. This is the path of light Vivekananda, a master of  Rajayoga     explained to World Forum in his Chicago address, a century back.  

On December 11, 2014, The 193-member U.N. General Assembly approved by consensus, a resolution establishing June 21 as  “The International Day of Yoga” (IDY). June 21 of 2015 heralds the First International Day of Yoga. Guided by the Vedic wisdom “Eko Vipraah bahudaa vadanti”  (The One Pundits call by many names),  it will not be wrong to say, The One Yoga which is guided by the Kundalinee dormant power and Chakras in human beings lead  to many forms of yoga, practiced in many ways (part or whole),  in many lands! Yoga leads all to the philosophy of progressive development of Body, Mind and Spirit.

Yoga has become a universal language of spiritual exercise in the United States, crossing many lines of religion and cultures.....…..Every day, millions of people practice yoga to improve their health and overall well-being. That's why we're encouraging everyone to take part in PALA (Presidential Active Lifestyle Award), so show your support for yoga and answer the challenge”, said US President Barak Obama. 

Narendra Modi stated that "Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well- being."   I would however like to say unity of Body, Mind and Spirit while YMCA Philosophy calls for Spirit, Mind and Body in reverse order being a religious motivated Institution helping mankind.  In suggesting June 21, which is the Summer solstice as the International Day of Yoga, Narendra Modi had said that the date is the longest day of the year in the Northern and has special significance in many parts of the world. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:  “The International Day of Yoga would bring attention to yoga's holistic benefits (wholesome benefit for body and mind).   Yoga can contribute to resilience against non-communicable diseases. Yoga can bring communities together in an inclusive manner that generates respect. Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress."  

"In Vedic thought Yoga comes from the Sun, Surya as the Atman or Purusha, the Self and light of all. It is likely all the ancient solar religions had some form of Yoga or union with the cosmic light. Summer solstice is ideal for Yoga Day" says  Padma Bhushan David Frawley,

I wonder why we had to take this issue for rcognition at UN level? After  all this Yoga that is being recognized without OM or  dedication  to Brahman or the goal to reach Nirvikalpa Samadhi has nothing to do with Hinduism or Patanjali.  In fact  there are much bigger issues for Hindus or Indians  than this petty subject.   Hindus  are benefactors and others are gainers having learnt the  basics from them for  the harmonious growth of body and Mind! Indians fight for very minor issues motivated by  majority  Hindus to change the names of cities like Baroda,  Calcutta, Benares and Madras? But what about  Hindu or Hinduism itself. Most of the world religions carry the suffix  ism added to the roort like Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikkhism etc.   “-ism”  in Chamber’s dictionary means cult, doctrine or theory. We are none of these. We are dharma oriented or Maanava Dharma followers. What about the word Hindu. We are not born to Sindhu river like Bheesham who was called Gangeya. Probably we   originated in Saraswati valley. Adding insult to the injury we lost Sindhu ( Hindu is the corrupted form of Sindhu) river also. In fact Pakistanis can claim authenticity to  the names Hindu and Hinduism not we  as  they got converted to Islam later, received the ownership on a golden platter and now live in Sindhu valley which  Hindus lost for ever!   Cleverly,  Islam and Christianity who gave us the name  Hinduism carefully avoided, -ism  in their names as you see.  After all it is they who gave these names and we gladly accepted. They glorified Hindus  for sometime and then started fighting.  It is logical and appropriate that the migrated Hindu Americans must unite together and call themselves as Sanatanist Americans and also try  to get the recognition from Federal Government for such a name instead of worrying about India which they have left permanently and register as an ethnic group.   Even India originates from Sindhu if I am correct!

From the perspective of Hindus, the Summer Solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana. The first full moon after Summer Solstice is known as Guru Poornima. According to Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev, in the yogic lore, the first transmission of yoga by Siva the first Guru is said to have begun on this day.  Perhaps Guru Poornima could have been an ideal   day for being considered as International Yoga Day as we are not sure about the time of   Patnajali though we read a lot about Yogasaastra either through Puranas or history of the ancient past.  Dakshinayana is also considered a time when there is natural support for those pursuing spiritual practices. Conventional Dakshinayana period from June 21 to December 22 is a period packed with all important Hindu rituals, festivals  and spiritually significant days like Guru Purnima, Upakarma, Mahalaya Paksha, Kedara Gowri Vrata, Kartik Purnima, Phalgun Purnima, Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Chaturmasa, Karva-chaut, Dhanurmasa Puja,  Dattatreya Jayanti  and others.   Indian Government wisely and correctly chose the Summer solstice day and June 21 for International Yoga Day, though South Indian Panchangams indicate July 16 as the Day that commences Dakshinayana Punyakala or Pitruyaana. 

Bal Gangadhar Tilak proposes an alternative, early Vedic definition of Uttarayana as starting from Vernal Equinox and ending with Autumnal Equinox. This definition interprets the term "Uttara Ayana" as "northern movement" instead of "northward movement", i.e. as the movement of the Sun in the region north of the Equator. In support of this proposal, he points to another tradition that the Uttarayana is considered the daytime of the Gods residing at the North Pole which tradition makes sense only if we define Uttaraayana as the period between the Vernal and Autumnal equinoxes (when there is Midnight Sun at the North Pole). Conversely, Dakshinaayana is defined as the period between the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes, when there is midnight sun at the South Pole. This period is also referred to as Pitruyaana (with the Pitrus i.e. ancestors being placed at the South Pole).
The sun at the North Pole is continuously above the horizon during the summer and continuously below the horizon during the winter.  Sunrise  is just before the  march equinox (around 21 March); the sun then takes three months to reach its highest point of near 23½° elevation at the summer  solstice (around 21 June), after which time it begins to sink, reaching sunset just after the September equinox (around 23 September).    At northern midsummer the North Pole is facing towards the sun to its maximum extent. As the year progresses and the Earth moves around the sun, the North Pole gradually turns away from the sun until at midwinter it is facing away from the Sun to its maximum extent. A similar sequence is observed at the South Pole, with a six-month time difference.

I am of the opinion it is wrong to identify Makara Sankranti with winter Solstice Day while it astronomically falls on December 22. It is said in Bhagavadgeetaa that Uttaraayana represents Devatas or Divines and Dakshinayana represents Pitrus and the significance is to seek the blessings of both at this transit periods.  Uttaraayana is said to be the day time for Devatas.  In this Universe it is said that Vaikuntam, the abode of Supreme Lord Sri Maha Vishnu is in the Northern direction (Uttara) and the time of  Sun seen at the  highest point of elevation in the North Pole (June 21) is considered to be holiest.

Let me not question the wisdom of our astrologers who should be having strong arguments for their differing (Chandramana, Sauramana etc) views. I understand very little of Hindu astrology.   Let me also not try to analyze the mind of our religious Yoga devoted Prime Minister of India   Narendra Modi who decided on 21st June for IDY, being Dakshinaayana Day.  Based on his  recommndations   United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014 declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day. The motion was supported by 177 countries with 175 countries sponsoring the same. It is also the same day as the summer Solstice for all nations,  except for     many Hindu astrologers in India,  the longest day of the year.   This was a smart choice of India’s religious  Hindu  Prime Minister since it’s already a celebrated day for many yogis in  North India but for South Indian Hindus who pride  themselves as religious. I  am attributing this move to Modi because he seems to be India’s “One-Man Band” today  as The Economist has projected.  In fact we should give credit to  Balgangadhar Tilak  who based his thoughts on wisdom of Vedas and  redefined Uttarryana Punyakaala.  

June 21 seems to be   astronomically significant and sacred day when we as human beings see sun at its zenith at the North Pole, which in all probability prompted Government of India   to have  recommended June 21 as significant day for International Yoga Day, longest day on which Sun is seen brightest at its highest point in the North Pole in which direction we also look for Vaikuntha:  “tad vishnoh paramampadam sadaapasyanti soorayah diveecha chakshraatatam….vishnor yat paramam padam”—the scholars  in order to look at the Vishnu’s abode of Paramapada  look  at the Sun  which is spread like  his Divine  eye engulfing the entire sky.
When we travel, in a fast moving train we feel we are stationery and trees around we see are moving very fast.   It is this illusion Bhagavadgeetaa   talks about as movement of the sun.  But I am yet to find an answer why Krishan said Nakshatranam aham Sasih , I am Moon among Stars? Moon is the only Satellite of Earth and its light is that of reflected Sun? After all, Upanishads say we live an illusory world (Maayaa).  We may say Sun which is a star does not have any movement but it is Earth which is a planet that moves around. The earth rotates once every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.09053 seconds, called the sidereal period, and its circumference is roughly 40,075 kilometers. Thus, the surface of the earth at the equator moves at a speed of 460 meters per second--or roughly 1,000 miles per hour.  The Sun and the entire solar system, orbits around the center of the Milky Way galaxy.  The average velocity of the solar system is 828,000 km/hr. At that rate it will take about 230 million years to make one complete orbit around the galaxy.  This is practically standstill and no movement at all.  The Solar System is traveling at an average speed of 828,000 km/h (230 km/s) or 514,000 mph (143 mi/s) within its trajectory around the galactic center,  which is about one 1300th of the speed of light—a speed at which an object could circumnavigate the Earth's equator in 2 minutes and 54 seconds.

Apparent Motions of the Sun--During the year the earth moves around the sun.  As a result, the sun appears to move around the sky once with respect to the stars as seen from Earth. Earth takes about 365 and a quarter days to travel once around the sun.  Since the earth moves around the sun and we are resident on the earth, it means that the sun appears to shift in the sky about 1 degree per day (360 deg/365.2422 days to equal about 1 degree per day).  The plane of the earth's orbit is called the ecliptic.  Since the earth orbits the sun, the sun is also on the ecliptic.  As a result, the sun appears to us to move around the sky on the ecliptic.

Though  Vedas and Bhagavadgeeta have erred on these saying Sun is moving around  the Earth,  Earth is firmly fixed and Moon is a  Nakshatra, I would like to draw your attention to a rare reference in Braahmanas as quoted in the Book of Anbil Ramaswamy “A  Critical Stydy of Hinduism with Major Religions of the World” which Aryabhatta  confirmed and corrected  as stated in my discoursesome years back: “Ancient and Medieval Hindus Contribution to Science and Technology”
“Anachronistic as the Hindu labyrinthine mythology may appear to the foreign mind,  many of India’s ancient theories about the universe  are startlingly modern in scope and worthy of a people who are credited with the invention of the zero, as well as algebra and its application to astronomy and geometry; a people who so carefully observed the moon’s synodical revolution much more correctly than Greeks… many hundreds of years before those great European pioneers, Galileo and Copernicus, had to pay heavy prices in ridicule and excommunication for their daring theories, a section of the Vedas known as Braahmanas contained this astounding statement: ‘The Sun never sets or rises. When people think the Sun is setting, he only changes about after reaching the end of the day to what is on the other side. Then, when people think he rises in the morning, he only shifts himself about after reaching the end of the night, and makes day below and night to what is on the other side. In truth, he does not set at all’.

Upanishads discuss as to what happens to a person who dies without realizing the Aatman/Brahman in life that includes Sanyasins and those who have mastered Yoga.    Those who have performed Sakaama karma (desire motivated actions) or practiced lower kinds of Upaasana through Yoga or other means get their desires fulfilled.  Some of them go to Svargaloka (heaven) from where they will return to this world after exhausting the results of their good deeds. Sometimes, this movement is described as through the Dhoomamaarga (the path of smoke, also called Pitriyaana or Dakshinaayana) wherein the soul is led to the Chandraloka (the world of the moon) after passing through the smoke, night, the dark fortnight and the six months of the southern solstice. After exhausting the result of their meritorious deeds the soul returns again to this world through the sky, rain, vegetation and living beings.  The liberated soul travelling by the Archiraadimaarga or the Bright Path (also called  Devayaana and Uttaraayana) to the Brahmaloka (also known as Satyaloka) and resides there permanently in infinite peace and bliss. The various stations on the path are fire, day, bright fortnight, six months of the northern solstice, the year, the sun, the moon and the lightning. All these actually represent the guardian-deities of these stations. From the last station, the vidyut or lightning, an “amanava purusha”, a non-human (divine) being, leads the liberated soul to the Brahmaloka.

Vyaasa who is the virtual author of Bhagavadgeetaa is credited with Yogaabhyaasa. Some even accredit  some Yogasutras to Vyaasa. In Bhagvadgeetaa Krishna is mostly represented as a teacher of great wisdom and erudition; he figures as a Yogi. The Bhaagvata records that Krishna sat up every morning for meditation merging himself with the transcendental self. Also Mahabharata says   Krishna was in the habit of meditating on Brahman in the hours before sun-rise. There is even a suggestion that the Song of the Celestial was originally a Yoga-Upanishad which was later Vaishnavized.  Bhagavadgita   in Chapter6 & 8 speaks of two paths – Uttaradi Maarga and Dhumradi Maarga that are described in various Upanishads and says Path of Yoga is the best way to achieve liberation or Mukti. The following slokas  elaborate on that:
 Vedeshu yajneshu tapah su chaiva daaneshu yat punyaphalam pradishtam |
Atyeti tatsarvamidam viditvaa Yogee param sthaanm-upaiticha-adyam  || 8-28 ||

Whatever is the award of merit for the study of scriptures, for the performance of sacrifices, for the conduct of austerities and penances, and for the giving of charity, the wise person who is devoted to the discipline of Yoga will go beyond these and reaches the Supreme and primal state of the Supreme Spirit.

The superior merit of Yoga is the message of this verse. The meritorious deeds mentioned here are for worthy prosperity and for heavenly benefits. But Yoga dismisses both these as ephemeral and associated with pain and sorrow and leads us to the   highest gain of peace and contentment with the Supreme Spirit. Yoga meditation path is far superior to other options of Karmayoga and Bhaktiyoga.

Tapasvibhyah adhiko yogee jnaanibhyah api mato adhikah | Karmibhyah cha adhiko yogee  tasmaad yogee bhavaarjuna || 6-46 ||
Yoginaam api sarveshaam madgaton-antaraaatmanaa | Sraddhaavaan bhajate yoe maam sa may yukta-tamoe matah  || 6-47 ||

The Yogi is regarded greater than ascetics; even greater than men of knowledge (Jnaanee) and also greater than those devoted to work (Karmayogi). Therefore become a Yogee,   O Arjuna!  Even among Yogees, one who is possessed with faith worships the Supreme Being with his mind absorbed in that Supreme Being is the greatest.

Yatra kale tvanaavrittim-avrittim cha eva yoginah | Prayata yaanti tam kaalam vakshyaami bharatarshabha || 8-23 ||
O Arjuna, I will now tell you the time at which, Yogis departing from hence, will attain that time of return or  non-return.

Agnir jyotir-ahah suklah shanmaasaa uttaraayanam | tatra pryataa gacchanti  brahma brahma –vidoe janaah || 8-24 ||

Departing by the path of fire, the fame, the day, the bright half of the month and the six months of the Sun’s north path the knowers of Brahman (those who have mastered Kundalinee Yoga) attain   Brahman.
[The paths and times of death mentioned here are meant for being remembered by the Yogins, and they are not for  prescribing the time of death (commentator says gati-dvaya-chintanaartham). The term kaala mentioned in these stanzas signifies the destiny (ativahikas) and not time]
Dhoomoe raatris-tathaa krishnah shanmaasaa dakshinaayanam | tatra chaandramaasam  jyotir  yogee  praapya  nivartate || 8-25 ||

Departing by the path of smoke, night, the dark half of the month, and the   six months of Southern path, the Yogi attains the lunar sphere and return thence   (to earth).
uklakrishne gatee hyoetay jagatah  saasvate matae | ekayaa yaaty-anaavrittim-anyayaavartate punah ||

These Bright and Dark Paths of the World are eternal; by Bright, one returns not; and by the Dark, one returns.

Naite sritee paartha jaanan-yogee muhyati kaschana | tasmaat sarveshu kaaleshu yoga-yuktoe  bhava-arjuna || 8-27 ||

O Partha! Knowing these paths, no Yogi is deluded; therefore at all times you be endowed with Yoga!

Geetaa talks about the sun and the moon and two different   paths leading to them after the so called death or life’s journey in the above verses.   Hindus always give importance to the influence of  heavenly  deities (Grahas) at the time of birth particularly to the sun and moon.  So, the position of the Sun and Moon does influence our life’s journey.  Bhagavad Geetaa therefore dwells at length on these journeys in its mystic, spiritual and philosophical discussions between Lord   Krishna and Arjuna.  It first elaborates on the Northern path of the Sun called Aarchiraa path associated with fire and light which can be connected to the heat in the body.  At the time of death it is heat in the body which helps the easy passage of life from the body. It is the heat that keeps the breath and body fluids in the body function normally, the awareness and the remembrances of the Supreme (OM) clear and precise. With the mind and intellect fully alert the Yogi is able to direct the life’s vital forces in the desired direction. With help of   that one Nadi amongst 101 about which I have   talked about several times that goes upwards to Brahmarandra the Yogi is able to lead the life-force Udaana to Brahman and ultimately merge with Brahman.  So the fire, light, heat in the body the day time the bright half of the moon and the sun in the Northern path all of these in unison  harmonize the light and heat in the body with the cosmos.  A Yogi knows how to withdraw the senses from the sense object into the mind, and how to lead the mind into breath and breath into light and light into the sun and sun into the absolute Brahman.  Thus Microcosm    merges into Macrocosm, its source.  This is the description of the Journey through Aarchiraa marga described in Gita and several Upanishads--[Chandogya,  Brihadaaranyaka,  Mahanarayana (MNU), Prasna and Easaavaasya]

Bhagavad Geetaa also  talks about Sun’s southern path Dakshinaayana,   which is the Path of Darkness,  (pitru Marga)  called Dhooma Maarga or smoky path. Smoke is symbolic of darkness, ignorance and confusion.  Krishnapaksha is the waning fortnight of the   Moon.  Therefore, Sun’s Southern Journey in Krishna Paksha also signifies darkness.  A person’s severely interrupted breathing rhythm and   unwanted body sounds causes loss of heat in the body and makes one uncomfortable.   This causes confusion in mind and the self in the body gets deluded. Moon represents emotion   essentially concerned with material world. The thought process becomes scattered and   the clarity of goal is   lost.   When the person feels unable to direct the breath in the desired direction, he feels totally surrounded by the cloud of thick smoke and is helpless.  Such a Yogi lands on moon, nevertheless enjoys the coolness in Moon for some time but unable to lift the Self up has   to return back to Earth to take the   next opportunity   to catch the path of light.  Evidently such a person has not yet attained Karma-Mukti,   though enjoys living in moon for some time for his good acts.  That speaks of liberated souls like Sankara, Ramnuja, Madhva   Ramkrishna Paramhamsa, etc.,  who spent some time with us enlightening us  and then  left  mother earth finally. When a Yoga pursuer who is not yet attained the status of liberated soul goes to the region of Moon, the natural tendency is to return to the world. All the religious practices, all austerities, penances, study of Vedas, Yajnas and charities are of course helpful but once the Yogi identifies himself with the Divine, the Yogi transcends all these and merges with consciousness of the Divine.

In this context it is good to know why these Sanyasins mentioned above are called Parmahamsas for example Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ?    Paramahmsa is a mythological swan with the ability to drink the essential part of milk rejecting its watery content.  In Hinduism, a Parmahamsa is considered a symbol of spiritually illumined soul who has experienced the Divine Essence of everything by rejecting the worldly lures of the senses. The goal of Hinduism is to experience this Divinity in everything and every being.  Furthermore, it is seen that a Pramahamsa remains in water and yet the water never clings to its feathers.  Similarly, a spiritually illumined soul lives in the world, yet is never contaminated by it.   It is customary to address monastery heads as Paramahamsas (paramahamsa parivrajikaacharya).  Such elevated souls exhaust even  their sanchita good karmas while living on earth, become gunaateetas (devoid of all gunas—satttva, rajas and tamas for they no longer have anu need for these Gunas) and go by either Path of Light or Darkness depending  on the time of their so called death (leave the physical body) and reach the Brahmaloka or region of Supreme Being never to return. Those who depart in Dakshinaayana leave by the Path of Darkness (Dhooma Marga) rest for some time in Moon and then proceed forward taking a little bit more time than those who depart during Uttaraayana  and proceed direct by the Path of Light. 

MNU says a Yogi who has reached the level of consciousness of the Divine (Brahmopasaka) who dies during the night (Dakshinayana) also would attain Brahman as all of   Karmas--Sanchita and Aagaami get annihilated or untainted on account of his meditation and his Prarabhda karma would have also been fully exhausted in his ultimate body and there is no cause at all for further bondage.  Such a yogi is called Brahmajna  (one who is possessed of Knowledge of Brahaman).   Such a Brahmajna goes through the path of Pitrus or Dhooma  Marga and attains the greatness of  Moon.   A Brahmajna who dies in Dakshinayana proceeds further from the Moon to Brahman.  Bhishma had such an opportunity but as he was not sure  or had the  mission to witness Viswaroopa and bringforth VSN, and was also blessed with special powers  to continue  to live with his soul though mortally dead, waited for Uttarayana to merge with Brahman

Chandogya Upanishad (5-10-10) says: Anyone who knows how to meditate on five chakras (energy centers) becomes virtuous, pure and does not become besmeared with sin like lotus leaf which does not get wet by water. This is known as gradual emancipation of soul from the lower celestial controllers via Devayaana path through different celestial Devas at the Chakras in the body. The body represents both microcosm and macrocosm. The kingdom of   heavens is within all of us or God is within us says Christianity also.
MNU says, a Sanyaasin (who is in full control of spirituality of Yoga) finds pleasure in meditating on the Supreme within self. The Sanyaasin who lives his prescribed life until death, is performing internally the perpetual Agnihotra (fire sacrifice) as ordained by scriptures. And such a Sanayaasin attains Mukti through Hiranyagarbhaloka (reaching the region of Supreme Being), even though he has not attained to Bramabhaava (aspects of Brahman) and Sadyomukti (instant liberation) during his life on Earth.  It further explains Karma-Mukti or gradual liberation via Brahmaloka. Death during Uttaraayana or the period denoted by the apparent sun’s movement away from the southern solstice point is praised as superior to death in Dakshinaayana or the period denoted by the sun’s apparent movement away from the northern solstice point.
“…….yanmaranam tadavabhrita…satram | etadvai jaraamarya agnihotra(ga)m  satram ya evam vidvaan-udagayane prameeyate devaanaameva mahimaanam gatvaadityasya saayujyam gacchati  atha yoe dakshine prameeyate pitrunaam eva mahimaanam gatvaa chandramasah saayujym gacchati yetau vai sooryachndramasoer–mahimaanau brahmanoe vidvaan abhijayati tasmaad brahmanoe mahimaanam-aapnoti tasmaad  brahmanoe mahimaanam-aapnoti ityupanishad || (MNU)
Death is the Avabhrita or completion of sacrifice of Brahmopaaska (one who constantly meditates on Brahman). That person who knows this—covering all the duties from Agnihotra to Sattra and terminating in death overcome by old age—and who dies during the period the sun’s movement to the north attains to the over-lordship of Gods like Indra and then reaches companionship with the Sun. On the other hand he who dies during the period when the sun moves to the south gets   only to the greatness of Manes (Pitru deities) to the companionship of the Moon. A Braahmana* (Brahmopaska) who knows separately the greatness of the Sun and the Moon realizes the two. But one who has become the knower of Brahman (Brahmavit) gains   further. From that knowledge which was acquired in the world of Brahman, he attains to the greatness of Brahman the Supreme who is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Aananda).  Thus is the secret knowledge here, in this Upanishad and conclusion (Mahaanaraayana Upanishad--MNU).
(*Brahmana here does not mean one who claims to be a Brahmin by birth based on modern caste-system)
IndiaDivine.Org in its write up for Facebook says: “Today, yoga is being practiced and used in a different form because it contains great power of increasing the physical, mental and intellectual capacity. This form of yoga is creating and establishing its importance all over the world. The present form of yoga is welcomed, however this is only one side of Yoga and not a complete form, which is purely the external and elaborated form. Its internal and real form is the one, which has been practiced by ancient Indian sages and saints and people who followed the path of devotion for deep knowledge. This path automatically leads to physical, mental and intellectual development. One cannot achieve everything by overlooking the spiritual side of Yoga, which was the main purpose of yoga.
Yoga should not be used for the purpose of obtaining personal gains. Yoga will be centered within a limited field until it is spread throughout the world in the form of spiritual consciousness. The solutions to the problems like terrorism, atheism, commercial attitude, communalism, caste system, social enmities, sectarian fights and other related issues lies only in spiritual Yoga and not in yoga, which is purely meant for exercise. Therefore it is necessary to embrace the complete form of Yoga and not just a part of it and feel contended. Yoga does not simply mean pranayama, rather resistance towards passion, rules, restraining the sense organs, conception, meditation and deep devotion are the integral parts of yoga, which are being neglected or considered secondary due to illusion. Importance, utility, capability and miraculous nature of yoga will remain stable only if Ashtanga yoga (the eight yogic practices) propounded by Saint Patanjali are followed.
There is all-round disturbance, agitation and killing which situation is worsening gradually due to lack of spiritual consciousness. We can clearly see the inequality, hatred and deformity in the fields of politics, society, administration, courts, religion, education, service and others. Hence, in every age it has become a necessity to adopt Yoga and not consider it to be a compulsion. People have a serious misconception about Yoga: it is felt that a person has to sacrifice his home, family and relations and take shelter in the mountains and forests. People need to understand there is no condition or compulsion to do so. One can find a big list of those people who have devoted their lives to Yoga and also continued their household duties.
Long-term yoga users in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements as well as reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. There is evidence to suggest that regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels, and yoga has been shown to improve mood and anxiety more than some other metabolically-matched exercises, such as walking.  The three main focuses of Hatha yoga--exercise, breathing, and meditation focusing on body, mind and spirit make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease.     For chronic back pain,   Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs has been found 30% more beneficial than usual care alone in a UK clinical trial.  Yoga participants also had a drop of 80% in the use of pain medication. Implementation of the Kundalinee Yoga Lifestyle has shown to help substance abuse addicts increase their quality of life according to psychological questionnaires like the Behavior and Symptom Identification Scale and the Quality of Recovery Index.
Even worst critics of Hinduism have realized the beneficial aspects of physical Yoga if Not Kundalinee Yoga or Raja Yoga.  
In early 11th century, the Persian scholar Al Biruni visited India, lived with Hindus for 16 years, and with their help translated several significant Sanskrit works into Arabic and Persian languages. One of these was Patanjali's Yogasutras.  Al Biruni's translation preserved many of the core themes of Patañjali 's Yoga philosophy, but certain sutras and analytical commentaries were restated making it more consistent with Islamic monotheistic theology.  Al Biruni's version of Yoga Sutras reached Persia and Arabian Peninsula by about 1050 AD.
In recent years, a women's rights group in Malaysia, has expressed disappointment against fatwa prohibiting Muslims from practicing Yoga and said Yoga was just a form of exercise. In 2009, the Council of Ulemas, an Islamic body in Indonesia, passed a fatwa banning yoga on the grounds that it contains Hindu elements.  These fatwas have, in turn, been criticized by Darul , a  Deobandi Islamic seminary in India. Similar fatwas banning yoga, for its link to Hinduism, were issued by the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa in Egypt in 2004 and by Islamic clerics in Singapore earlier. This has been met by opposition among conservatives. Malaysia's prime minister clarified that yoga as physical exercise is permissible, but the chanting of religious mantras is   prohibited. In  Iran, as of May 2014, according to its Yoga Association, there were approximately 200 yoga centers in the country, a quarter of them in the capital  Tehran  where groups can  be seen often  practicing in parks. Minority Islamic sects such as the mystic Sufi Movement particularly in South Asia, adopted Indian yoga practices, including postures and breathe control.
 A Christian view holds that   meditation can lead to religious pluralism. This is held by an interdenominational association of Christians that practice it. "The ritual simultaneously operates as an anchor that maintains, enhances, and promotes denominational activity and a sail that allows institutional boundaries to be crossed." YMCA has Spirit, Mind and Body   development as its goal which is the reverse order of Yoga practice of Body, Mind and Spirit.
We all need help maintaining our personal health and spiritual practice. We hope that daily    mindful awareness exercises and meditation by practicing that part of Yoga prescribed for body and mind growth can be part of bringing spirituality alive in our lives.  United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014 on the recommendations of religious and spiritual motivated yoga practitioner prime Minister Narendra Modi of India declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day. The motion was supported by 177 countries with 175 countries sponsoring the same. It is also the same day as the summer Solstice, the longest day of the year accepted by all except a group of  orthodox Hindu astrologers in India. By the way, this was a smart choice since it’s already a celebrated day for many yogis.
Hindu Mandirs Executive Council (HMEC) of USA are quite jubilant about the same and want all Hindus to observe this day as Special Religious Events Day in all Hindu Temples in USA even though there is no such plan in India except to celebrate it at National  Level  for world recognition of yoga at International level as an ancient Indian practice and heritage. You can find such celebrations glorifying their ancient culture even  in China too which is now a Communist country. HMEC has recommended the following program for the day: Common yoga Protocol/demonstration of Aasanas (postures) for 30 minutes and Breathing Tehniques; Surya Namaskaram Postures; Meditation Workshop; Lecture, presentation and demonstration; meditation for optimal Well-being; Yoga related activities by various organizations. Even though they do not want to call this as a Special Religious Events Day it is natural for all Hindus to rush to a temple to make it one. A Hindu’s  life is so knitted  with Religion he cannot think anything without being a worshipful day like first day driving in a new car after worship only.  Moreover unlike in India all Hindu American Temples are also cultural centers. Nashville Ganesha Temple was built by few enthusiastic philanthropists of Hindu Cultural Center of Tennessee.
In my opinion we should not take this day to sanctum sanctorum choosing a deity to preside over the day.  If chosen Hayagrieva,  Yoga Narasimha and SriKrishna  would be the obvious choices. We all know how Krishna used to do Yoga practice in the early hours of the day meditating upon supreme Being as told in Mahabharata. Even Bhagavadgeeta was called Yogopanishad which was later Vaishnavized and renamewd Song of the Celestial. The temptations are great because we have already promoted strongly the concept of   celebrating Mother’s Day,   Father’s Day, Suhaasini Day, Sumangali Day, Karwa Chaut (husband’s day) with Valentine’s Day (propitiating Kamadeva who domesticated Rudra to bring forth popular deities Ganesha and Kartikeya; Kaama is deified in Vedas and there is a Homa mantra for  Kaamadevata  in MNU—Kamokarsheert Homa Mantra) and Labor Day (dedicated to Viswakrma as in Hindu practice in India ) on  the waiting list. Poor Teachers have not come to lime-light still! Probably education is not revered as in India and is considered a business in USA which American Hindus are forced to endorse as there is no day earmarked for this cause to go to churches! But taking yoga to sanctum will be a dangerous move. It may amount to killing the golden goose! India fought for long against stiff opposition from  major religious followers to get the International status and Indian origin stamp to  Yoga in whatever form it is currently practiced.  We should also not worry as to what goes on India. We have left the country and are unified as Hindu Americans. We should plan things in our own way. It should not become an issue for Al Qaida, Imams, Rabis  or Popes.
My yoga class conducted by a religiously involved Christian Yoga teacher usually ends his class with the word Namaste. Others from various religious belongings including Muslims do not object to it and repeat after. Probably they do not understand Hindu religious significance of it though they know very well  OM as Hindu mantra which the yoga teacher avoids.  May be they know it means God within you which concept is also  prevalent  in  all Abrahamic religions!
Yoga as perceived by the followers of Sanatana Dharma has many names  following the wisdom of Vedas Eko viprah  bahudaa vadanti-- Truth is one and pundits call it by many names or can be   simply given  up by saying  neti neti as Upanishads found hard to define Brahman. 
India based Sikhism is clearly seems to follow Yoga Sastra of Patnajali as is clear from its famous Satyavachan which says: Why to search in a forest and not within your Self.  Sikh spiritual hymn   called "Kahe Re Bun Khojan Jayee" reminds us that God abides within us all and cannot be separated from us -- the way fragrance abides in a flower and a reflection rests inside a mirror.  Thus it is aimed on Self in its meditation which means Brahman. The other Indian origin religions Buddhism and Jainisam  follow closely Patanjali’s Yoga Sastras though not  clearly say that the goal is to reach Brahman. Buddhism Yoga can be called Bodhisattva Yoga, or the path to know the Truth. Buddha never clarified that Truth is Brahman but Sanatana Dharma affirms it, if not Hinduism as practiced today which often does not display  what  it  preaches  in its religious practices.  Similarly Yoga in Jainism can be called Jinatattva Yoga or Jina doctrine based as they also do not talk about Brahman.  In fact Early Vedic literature   did not  also use the word Brahman  but later Upanishads did. Perhaps this has confused the followers of Buddha and Jina who named the religions after their Gurus. Probably they stuck to Vedas and did not bother to read Upanishads!  Otherwise why Jina (Rishabha) and Buddha are considered as avatars of Vishnu?  It is strange that Hinduism and the religions Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism that branched out of it   are all distinguished by the suffix “ism” whose dictionary meaning is cult, doctrine or theory as seen through the eyes of Arabic religions mainly Islam and Christianity who have taken   care not to add this suffix -ism to their faith or belief to show their superiority or Universal Brotherhood or Neighborhood.  Perhaps both   do not like their origin and call it also Judaism in a derogatory sense! 
American Hindus can also claim they are not Hindus any more or belong to any religion,  if they are ready to switch over to Spirituality, Universal Oneness and follow Sanatana Dharma from where we started.  In the true sense we  can't  be called  Hindus as we are not born out of River Sindhu( hindu is corrupted form of Sindhu) or cult based  for we  have to follow Dharma not any religion. So Hinduism is a misnomer given by others as is recognized by the world but nobody raises the voice against it for they do not want to give up the practice of what they preach!  I believe Deepak Chopra once said Yoga does not belong to Hinduism. He is right if the correct meaning of Hinduism is understood.  He has been fair to both sides and made  his fast buck too!  Yoga belongs to Patanjali, though   he may not  be remembered  on International Yoga  Day, who practiced Sanatana Dharma by employing physical exercises, breathing and meditation  techniques to attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi or the Union of the Microcosm with Macrocosm while  the Yoga that is practiced today world over or talked about is not what Patanjali preached though taken help from him.  

The Ancient  Hindu Sages  had no advanced astronomical instruments ; they had yoga
Today, kids in school learn that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth and that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second.   Sayana, a fourteenth century Indian scholar in his commentary  draws our attention to  a hymn in the Rig Veda, the oldest and perhaps most mystical text ever composed in India : "With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202 yojanas in half a nimesha." A yojana is about nine American miles; a nimesha is 16/75 of a second.  2,202 yojanas x 9 miles x 75/8 nimeshas = 185,794 mps. Basically, Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second! How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A. D. have known the correct figure for the speed of light? If this was just a wild guess it's the most amazing coincidence in the history of science! The yoga tradition is full of such coincidences.  Professor Kak of Louisiana University  points out  many such coincidences beside the one  above.
Take for instance the maala (bead necklace) many yoga students wear around their neck. Since these rosaries are used to keep track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, students often ask why they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the maala represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. Yogis divide the ecliptic into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these into four equal sectors called paadas, or "steps," marking the 108 steps that the sun and moon take through heaven.
Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads. Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th "guru bead," flip the maala around in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions talked about in Bhagavadgeetaa. In the yoga tradition we learn that we're deeply interconnected with all of nature. Using a maala is a symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our universe.
The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun's diameter. The diameter of the sun is about 108 times the earth's diameter. And the distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the moon's diameter. Could this be the reason the ancient sages considered 108 such a sacred number? If the microcosm (us) mirrors the macrocosm (the solar system), then maybe we could say there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our own inner sun.
 As we read through ancient Indian texts, we find so much the sages of antiquity could not possibly have known-but did. While our European and Middle Eastern ancestors claimed that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, the yogis have always maintained that our present cosmos is billions of years old, and that it's just one of many such universes which have arisen and dissolved in the vastness of eternity.
In fact the Puranas, encyclopedias of yogic lore thousands of years old, describe the birth of our solar system out of a "milk ocean," the Milky Way. Through the will of the Creator, they tell us, a vortex shaped like a lotus arose from the navel of eternity. It was called Hiranya Garbha, the shining womb. It gradually coalesced into our world, but will perish someday billions of years hence when the sun expands   many times it present size, swallowing all life on earth. In the end, the Puranas say, the ashes of the earth will be blown into space by the cosmic wind. Today we know  this is a scientifically accurate, if poetic, description of the fate of our planet.
Knowing the unknowable: To us today it seems impossible that the speed of light or the fate of our solar system could be determined without advanced astronomical instruments!  How could the writers of old Sanskrit texts have known the unknowable? In searching for an explanation we first need to understand that these ancient scientists were not just intellectuals, they were practicing yogis. The very first lines of the Surya Siddhanta, for of the Golden Age a great astronomer named Maya desired to learn the secrets of the heavens, so he first performed rigorous yogic practices. Then the answers to his questions appeared in his mind in an intuitive flash. Does this sound unlikely?
Yoga Sutra 3:26-28 states that through, samyama (concentration, meditation, and unbroken mental absorption) on the sun, moon, and pole star, we can gain knowledge of the planets and stars. Sutra 3:33 clarifies, saying: "Through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known." Highly developed intuition is called pratibha in yoga. It is accessible only to those who have completely stilled their mind, focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity. Those who have limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them.
" There are [those] who would say that consciousness, acting on itself, can find universal knowledge," Professor Kak admits. "In fact this is the traditional Indian view."
Perhaps the ancient sages didn't need advanced astronomical instruments; after all, they had Yoga!
[Based on a personal discussion of my cousin  Dr. Vatsala,    Professor of Mathematics in  Louisiana State  University with  another  Prof . Siddharta Kak ]
[Of course we often come across some absurdities too. Both Yajurveda and Rigveda are wrong in stating the Sun moves around earth in   Early Vedic Literat

ure.  This was also the early thinking in many cultures and religions. Later we come across  Upanishads  and many sages like Sayana and Aryabhatta who were not too for from modern scientific postulations.  I usually focus on such points where science, religion and spirituality conflate  amazingly by coincidence as some say!]


Report from New York Times on the Eve of  International Yoga Day
Shripad Naik, India’s first minister overseeing yoga and traditional medicine, who has helped organize this month’s celebration of  International Yoga Day, said it was time to clear away the vestiges of a Western lifestyle left behind by colonial powers.
According a memorandum    senior officials of Government of India  in New Delhi were to familiarize themselves with certain postures ahead of International Yoga Day this Sunday, when they will take part in a mass outdoor yoga session scheduled to begin at 7 a.m.  At the front of the room, the instructor was folding and unfolding himself like a pocketknife, and pointedly reminding members of the class that they would soon be performing under the scrutiny of “Modi-saab.”, the One  man Band of India, reported New York times. Earlier Economist  reported him as One Man Band of India.
 Of the major initiatives that Prime Minister Narendra modi has introduced since taking office, few have generated as much static as Yoga Day which will feature a 35-minute public demonstration of poses by more than 35,000 government employees, students and other citizens. Though the Western world regards yoga primarily as physical exercise, Indians are more apt to see its postures and Sanskrit chants as freighted with ideological or religious meaning.
Preparations for the event set off a chorus of criticism, mostly from a handful of Muslim activist groups that say they should not be compelled to chant “Om,” a sound sacred in Hinduism, or perform the sun salutation, which they say violates the monotheistic nature of Islam.*
Mr. Modi’s officials have hurried to address those complaints, assuring the public that participation in Yoga Day is optional and that it focuses exclusively on health, not religion. “Om” is not part of the Yoga Day protocol, nor is the sun salutation. The debate so incensed one right-wing member of Parliament that he suggested that those displeased by the sun salutation “drown in the sea.”
 “Earlier, our people used to get up before sunrise and sleep before sunset, but now our lifestyle has changed. They are going to the pub, they will go in the middle of the night, at 12 or 1, and eat chicken and many, many new dishes,” said Mr. Naik, who, like the prime minister, rises before dawn and practices yoga daily. He recommends going to sleep by 9 p.m., gets his news from the Hindi-language press and proudly declares that he has never had an injection. “There will be a lifestyle change,” he said. “Our style will come.”
Mr. Modi is not the first Indian leader to promote yoga. Indira Gandhi was so devoted to her yoga instructor,  Dhirendra Brahmachari that he accompanied her family when it traveled and became known as the “flying guru.” In the late 1970s, Mr. Brahmachari hosted a weekly television show, and yoga was included in some school curriculums. But after Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination in 1984,  his influence waned, and he withdrew behind the walls of his ashram.
Mr. Modi has no guru of that importance, but since the 1980s, he has consulted regularly with H. R. Nagendra, a Bangalore guru who focuses his practice on achieving samadhi, a state of profound meditative absorption. Mr. Nagendra said Mr. Modi drew from the thinking of various popular teachers, including the gurus Baba Ramdev,  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Jaggi Vasudev and Mata Amritanandamayi.
The strains of yoga arising now are, in many cases,  intermingled with Hindu religious thought.  Sun salutations and Sanskrit chants are part of the daily, military-style drills of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the right-wing Hindu group that started Mr. Modi on his political career. The daily shakhas, as the drills are known, were designed to “create an all-Bharat national consciousness.” Bharat is the Hindi name for India.
 Mr. Nagendra, the nephew of a prominent R.S.S. leader, says his techniques have sent  cancer into remission in 350 cases, weaned thousands of  asthma patients off medications and treated psychiatric disorders, as well as homosexuality. “It is the extreme stress that takes place, the stressful life, the wrong lifestyle, which makes them go for homosexuality,” he said.  “We work to reduce the craving at the deeper levels. Once you do that, your desire to have sex or excessive sexual indulgence is gone.”

At events, Mr. Modi often shares the dais with Baba Ramdev, who presides over an ayurvedic medical empire and has preached against influences he describes as foreign, among them the English language, chemical  pesticides and fertilizers.  Mr. Naik, the yoga minister, himself learned yoga through the R.S.S., and he said he hoped that the widespread practice of yoga would lower rates of violent crime

As for government workers, Mr. Naik said, they will become more productive and less corrupt. “There will be a definite change in the way the bureaucracy functions,” he said. “When they are thin, all their energy will go into producing better work. There is no need to do it forcefully, once we have put them on the right path.”

[* Why can't they chant Ameen and do  Moon Salaam (Chandra Namaskar) to the borrowed light of Sun instead,  since they are the  late risers. Moon comes after Sun. Islam came after Judaism and Christianity.   This should be acceptable to Hindus who make Moon also a star like Sun.  " I am Moon among stars says Geetaa (nakshatraanaam aham Sasih). Krishna made Moon also a Star for them which is a  Satellite of Earth and shines with borrowed light of sun. After all Geeta likes all religions and says world needs many religions.They talk about Judaism and Hinduism  and added ism to these names which means CULT. We enjoy the name Hinduism which they gave us! They could not pronounce Sindhu made it Indu  but grabbed Sindhu which we surrendered, an act of Saranaagati!

"Āmīn (Arabic: آمين‎) is the Arabic form of Amen. In Islam, it is used with the same meaning as in Judaism and Christianity; when concluding a prayer, especially after a supplication (du'a) or reciting the first surah Al Fatiha of the Qur'an (salat), and as an assent to the prayers of others (Wikipedia). Hindus end with OM"]

Muslims, Yoga and the Empty Heart of Fanaticism: Kaif Mahmood, June 2015

Guest post by KAIF MAHMOOD in Facebook
As a Muslim, a student of Comparative Religion and a practitioner of yoga for over a decade, I believe that both those Muslims who object to the practice of yoga on religious grounds and those others who force the practice on the unwilling, trivialize their own traditions in the service of power and identity politics. Neither is Islam an inane system of punishments and rewards, nor is yoga an ancient version of a modern gym. Both groups are a parody of what their traditions were meant to be, and pose to us the question of how to be culturally rooted without assuming an isolationist, chest thumping fanaticism of the religious kind on the one hand, and of a culturally deracinated, materialistic kind on the other – two sides of the same coin. I attempt here a reading of both the religious traditions involved in a manner that is both philosophical and personal.
The recent objections by certain Muslims over compulsory yoga in schools brings to mind a scene from Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi.
A group of RSS workers, waving black flags, stop Gandhi’s car and request him to not meet with Jinnah. Gandhi replies with a sorrowful agitation: “What do you want me not to do? Not to meet with Mr. Jinnah? I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew, and so are all of you. When you wave those flags and shout, you send fear into the hearts of your brothers. That is not the India I want. Stop it, for god’s sake, stop it.” The car moves on, leaving the protestors, including Nathuram Godse, in anger and incomprehension.
The difference between one who breaks down walls of separation and one who creates them could not have been clearer. In the controversy about Muslims practising yoga, the destruction and creation of the same walls is at the heart of the issue. I am a Muslim who has practised yoga for 11 years, and this practice is one of the most important aspects of my life. I have no problems doing the surya namaskar or reciting a mantra. From this position, I offer some reflections on the topic.
First, in the worldview of those Muslims who object to practising yoga, god appears to be a being whose chief concern is which way your torso bends, rather than what lies in your heart when you perform that action, or any other action. If god is such, I would rather not worship such a petty god.  Such a worldview is the trivialization of a profound idea regarding the nature of reality – namely, the absolute uniqueness of the divine principle.
Those who object to the practice of yoga – and to chanting mantras, singing vande mataram, attending temple services, or even saying namaste – seem to be utterly unfamiliar with the idea that a human being has a conscience which is solely her own. For those of us who are religious, the judge of that conscience is ultimately not a self-appointed religious authority but god. The spiritual and intellectual poverty of fanaticism makes it unable to comprehend that religion is primarily a way of cultivating an inner life rather than fighting battles of identity. The transition of religion from a matter of the inner life to an ideological construct played to strengthen identity and power in the last four centuries is now a  well documented phenomenon in the academic study of religion.  
Second, I am yet to meet anyone – Hindu, Muslim, atheist or of any other persuasion – who does the surya namaskar thinking that the sun is the religious absolute, or god in the sense of the Abrahamic religions. Anyone with even the smallest capacity for reflection knows that the deities of what we today call Hinduism are not the same category of beings as god in the Abrahamic religions. Most of us who perform the surya namaskar do it just as any other asana. The few who may have any philosophical thoughts while performing this asana think of the sun as an astounding element of nature, terrible in its beauty, a spectacle of fire worthy of our awe and reverence. This attitude is profoundly Islamic. One of the most palpable features of the Quran is its immense reverence for nature and its stirring, poetic descriptions of the vast skies that envelop the solitary traveler in the desert, the alteration of night and day, of the cooling rains and the blazing heat, and of the sun and the moon – all as signs meant to make us reflect on the nature of our existence. Unfortunately, for the objectors to yoga, the core of their religion seems to lie not in its openness of being and inclination towards reflection, but in the norms of blasphemy and punishment that may be derived from it to make us feel better about our own self-esteem.
Third, those who make yoga compulsory for school children, such as those running the government of Rajasthan, only trivialize their own tradition. Nobody who holds something precious and close to her heart would force it upon another. This trivialization comes primarily from a moral bankruptcy, but also from an intellectual ignorance of one’s own tradition. For Patanjali, the ancient codifier of yoga from c. 200 CE, ahimsa is the first and absolutely fundamental precondition for anyone wanting to practise yoga. In the Yoga Sutras (2:35), Patanjali says, “In the presence of one rooted in ahimsa, all others abandon their hostility.” Forcing people to practise yoga, or telling those who do not want to practise it to drown in the ocean – a new alternative to migration to Pakistan – is anything but ahimsa and quite unbecoming of one who prefaces his name with the title ‘yogi’.
Fourth, yoga as a matter of physical exercise would e unrecognizable to the ancient writers on Yoga.  Nobody in the Upanishads or in the Yoga Sutras and their ancient and medieval commentaries thought of yoga as physical exercise. Yoga – as far as it has a bodily aspect, which incidentally, is not its most important aspect – is, and always was, a method of knowing oneself through a subtle, experiential, intimate awareness of one’s musculature, breath and emotions, and the links between them. Other religions have developed tai chi and qigong for similar purposes. By its very nature, yoga cannot be taught to one uninterested in it, and certainly not to hundreds of people over a loudspeaker or television. Patanjali’s text is so terse that, for the most part, it remains incomprehensible without the aid of an oral explanation by a teacher rooted in a living tradition. The reason for this is not primarily the lack of writing technology in Patanjali’s time, but the fact that yoga is a personal experience meant to be handed from one human being to another. To make it a compulsory form of physical exercise for masses of people is to rob it of all it has meant over the ages. The notion that our ancients used yoga for physical fitness and taught it en masse has as much historical evidence to support it as the notion that they flew around in pushpak vimanas. The use of yoga for physical fitness is largely inspired by modern Western ideas in the last two centuries, like much in Hindutva – from its dress codes to its ideas of nationhood. Of course, the true roots of these traditions are lost – like much else in Hinduism – to those for who it becomes an instrument of chest-thumping nationalism.
Fifth, coming back to the Muslims protesting against their children being made to perform yoga, what impact is this going to have on those children for whose sake this battle is purportedly being fought? Is it going to deepen their faith, to enhance their capacity for compassion, creativity, understanding and reflection? It is difficult to see how it would ever have such a result. It is easy, however, to see that these protests will give the children a particular image to grow up with and for the adolescents to base their identities around – the image of the other who is not just different from us, but also ignorant and dangerous. It will tell the children that we are swamped, in small numbers, in the midst of hordes of this dangerous other, we must continuously be afraid and alert, and build walls to keep the other and his traditions out of our lives. A good Muslim is one who stays away from all things Hindu.
Sixth, the Quran (25:1) calls itself ­al-Furqan, that is, “the Criterion”. Like a sword of gnosis, it cuts through the mass of people who receive it and makes clear the distinction between those with a good heart and those without it. Hence, what one takes from it is more a reflection of one’s own consciousness than of the scripture itself. Like many scriptures, one can interpret the Quran to live a life permeated with compassion, and one can also interpret it to become a mass murderer. Clearly, there are examples of both. The Bhagavad Gita has been interpreted in the same way. Godse cited the Gita as his inspiration to murder the man who lived by the Gita all his years a life of nonviolence. The interpretations of their scripture and their religion by those who object to yoga are only one kind of interpretation and they tell us much about the inner lives of those who make it. The interpreters remain unaware of the riches their own tradition holds in showing a path of openness and engagement with the other. The Quran (49: 13) says, “O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” The entire purpose of diversity, from this perspective, is its appreciation. In ahadith qudsi, God speaks, “I was a hidden treasure, and I wished to be known. Hence, I created the world.” To know, in the Quranic understanding, also means to appreciate, understand, and indeed, to become the other. The Sufi mystics were in agreement with Plato that ultimately, to know means to be one with the known. For the creators of walls, these words mean little, if anything at all. The words of reward and punishment mean everything.
The Quran also has much to say about those who call themselves Muslims for social and political reasons, but their hearts are empty of faith.  Islamic scholars have written with o passion and insight  that the central characteristic of Muslim fanaticism is that it entirely misses the inward element of this spiritual tradition and that its hearts are empty. With silly quarrels like the one over yoga, we are likely to become such Muslims, if we haven’t already. We are becoming Muslim versions of Godse who from all authentic purposes was Hindu only for social and political reasons, like his mentor and inspirer for the murder, Vinayak Savarkar who many now seem to regard as ‘Hindu hero’. That the two fanaticisms are mirror images of each other in more ways than one is no surprise to anyone who has studied them.
Finally, the controversy about yoga makes us ask if it is possible that we may understand our indigenous traditions without falling into the two usual traps. One of demeaning them by making them instruments of power and identity politics, and the other, of ridiculing them as idiocies, which is often the inclination of the culturally deracinated intellectual. Both sides feed on each other, providing each other the fuel of antagonism to live on in a never-ending battle. Several among us today attribute the rise of Hindutva partly to the shunning of our traditions as backward superstition by the intellectual elite.
Perhaps there is a way to be rooted in our cultures without being a fanatic, either of the religious or the modernist kind. This article offers some possible paths.
Kaif Mahmood teaches at the Centre for Study of Comparative Religion and Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. His areas of study are the psychology of religion and the comparative study of religion. 

Hear is a Facebook message   from a Muslim Yoga Teacher on International Yoga Day.

"I've been waiting for this day for a long time! 

The moment I had Muslim + Yoga + Hindu + Surya Namaskar pop up on my newsfeed in one headline.I couldn't resist but write this.

But before I begin, let me introduce myself: Muslim, girl, religious, spiritual, yoga teacher and practitioner.
Now let's cut to the chase. This whole 'yoga is un-Islamic' banter is absolute rubbish. Let's work backwards. I want to track back to the essence of all Islamic practices, i.e. intention.
In Islam, intention defines whether your deeds are in fact good deeds or things you did to show-off/ hurt someone / disrespect the religion / disrespect the tenants of the religion etc.
Yoga is the practice of syncing the mind and breath with the help of asana and meditation practices. And the Surya Namaskar in question, is a set of asanas combined to achieve the above.

Yes honey, it's called Surya Namaskar. And no, it is not the equivalent of worshiping the sun.

Ancient and traditional yoga applied this as a practice to connect deeper into a yogi's spiritual connection to God since their life was consumed spending hours in meditation and surrendering their mind and soul in search of inner peace and to find God.

That being said, nobody in today's day and age stands facing the sun to worship it and perform a set of physically challenging poses solely for that intention and purpose. If you want to worship the sun, you get up, hold your hands in prayer, and pray to it. When you do a physical practice facing the sun, I doubt that makes it an act of worship.
As a Muslim, attending a yoga teacher training was at first a major culture change. (Notice I call it a change and not a shock.) There is chanting of OM, reciting of slokas, discussing god, and such. But when I was able to step back from the source and focus on the meaning, I found that it's all the same. One of my favorite things to do at my teacher training was listen to my teacher sing the Gayatri Mantra. And just to add some perspective of where I come from, I grew up in Saudi Arabia wearing an abaya and head scarf and had zero to no understanding of Hinduism. Knowing anything about Hinduism was considered anti-Islamic.

But then...I stumbled upon this beautiful prayer:
Oh God, the Protector, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent, Who is free from all pains and Whose contact frees the soul from all troubles, Who pervades the Universe and sustains all, the Creator and Energizer of the whole Universe, the Giver of happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance, the most excellent, Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us embrace that very God, so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction.

Isn't this what everyone (who believes in God) wants? As a Muslim I ask this of Allah in my Namaz everyday. To guide me on the path that is right. I praise Him and confess I am nothing but his creation and need His guidance.

Tell me then, how is this prayer different from anything we would want in our life?

As a Muslim, I gained huge insight into my religious and spiritual beliefs through yoga. Yoga opened up a sea of deeper reflection I never thought I had access to.

Yoga allowed me to focus during my Namaz. With every breath I take as I bow down to God, I am focusing on my words as they flow out of my lips, completely aware that I am bowing before Him and am completely present. With no wandering thoughts.

No wandering thoughts? How is that possible.

Pranayama every morning taught me to stay grateful to my breath. Every inhale and exhale is a moment to be conscious of.  Every waking moment requires you to stay present. That's training the mind.  And I learnt it through yoga.
I am now more aware during my Namaz.  More present in my Dua.  More grateful to the Creator for giving me a healthy body and mind.  I'm also a better human being to people of other belief systems.  All because I practice yoga.

So to sum this up: I am a practicing Muslim who teaches the Surya Namaskar as a means of physical and mental well-being and advocate the practice for deeper self-reflection and focus in religious meditative practices as well!

May all who are ignorant and malicious find knowledge and perspective.

 --Muslim, girl, religious, spiritual, yoga teacher and practitioner.

BSK Iyengar on Yoga

Aasanas are my Prayers.
Before we can find peace among nations find peace inside that small nation which is our own being.
In each pose there should be repose. 
When you begin Yoga, the unrecognized pains come to the surface.
When we are able to use our intelligence to purify our bodies, the hidden pains are dispersed. 
With your true dedication to Yoga I am always with you.
Live happily and die majestically.
My ending should be your beginning. 


Health and Exercise According to Ayurveda and Yoga Shastra

(BY Dr. Dharmaveer langayana)

The human body is the chariot and the sensory organs are horses. The mind makes the horses ride the chariot, in other words the sensory organs are the driving force for the mind. They make the mind wander in all direction, in heaven and hell. If the wheels of the chariot become weak or lose, if the reigns do not have the strength to drive it then the journey of life becomes difficult.

The great poet Kalidasa has said, sariramadyam khalu dharma sadhanam, this means the first source for duty is a healthy body. If the body is not healthy then the mind is not healthy. If the mind is not healthy then thoughts are also not healthy. If the thoughts are not healthy then how can one fulfill the duties? Therefore it is necessary to keep the body healthy, this is the first duty.
Sushrut Samhita mentions the following qualities for healthy body – the body where the tridoshas i.e., vata, pitta and kapha are in equilibrium, the digestion process is functioning properly, the process of evacuation, bowel movement and humors is carried properly, the sensory organs, soul and mind are healthy.
samadoshah samagnishca samadhatumalakriyah
prasannatmendrivyamanah svastha ityabhidhiyate
Actually health is most important for all the activities. An unhealthy person cannot enjoy the worldly happiness. A sick person cannot enjoy the taste of delicious food items, wear good clothes, cannot take part in celebrations and other festivals. All these things have no value for a sick person. Therefore it has been aptly said that the first happiness is a healthy body.
Proper exercise is necessary to keep the body healthy and strong. Those who do not do exercise they become lazy and inactive. Exercise makes the hands legs and the whole body strong, it makes the body active and fit. -The digestion process is maintained, the appetite improves, the mind remains happy and the person feels like working. The blood formulation is proper and the person gets a good figure. Regular exercise reduces the weight of the person due to vata dosha. The person who enjoys exercise does not fall sick. His body is strong like a diamond. His heart is always filled with enthusiasm, self-confidence and he is brave hearted.
Saint Charaka says that regular exercise makes the body healthy, gives glow to the cheeks, develops the muscles, increases the digestive fire, gets rid of laziness, gives stability, evacuates feces and other waste and makes the body light.
Therefore exercise is the main basis, which provides rasa to the tree like body and maintains good health. The deeper the roots of the tree, the stronger and long-lived it is. In the same way the person who practices exercises regularly, his life is full of zeal and happiness. Exercise not only makes the body health but it also strengthens the mind and brain. The strong mind and brain glows the personality of the person and becomes capable of being called a good human being. This is not important that a person is at a good position and is related to a special religion or community, what is important is that he is a good human being and he has the feeling of helping others.
There are different ways of doing exercises. Dips, wrestling, running, horse riding, swimming, short put, football, kabbadi etc. games and sports are prevalent in India since the ancient times. Yoga asana and pranayam also makes the body healthy. Brisk walking is also beneficial for the overall health. Exercise should be practiced depending on the condition of the person. All the exercises are not helpful for everybody. Running and jumping exercises are beneficial for the children, the youth can benefit from sports, the old and people related to the mental work should go morning and evening walk. Cricket, hockey, football, volleyball, polo and tennis are some of the popular sports. There are good sources of exercise. Dancing, grinding, drawing water from the well and simple yoga asana are beneficial for the women.
Some people work very hard throughout the day for sake of living. Such people enjoy good health, but the people working in sedentary jobs have poor health. Every person should practice exercises depending on his physical requirement and strength. Over exercising can be very harmful. Charak Sanhita mentions the harmful effects and says – over exercise can result in tiredness, weariness, deterioration, bleeding piles, palpitation, cough, fever and vomiting.
shrama klama kshayastushna raktapitta pratamakah
ati vyayamatah kaso jvarachardishva jayate
Some rules should be followed for doing exercises. Exercises should never be done after taking meals. It should be practiced in open air, gardens etc. The mouth should be closed while doing exercises and deep breaths should be taken through nostrils. Massage the body with oil and then take bath for activeness. Eating simple, pious food and having pure thoughts is the basis for healthy life.

The habit of doing exercises should be developed from childhood itself. Those who practice exercises from young age, have sharp brain, healthy and fit body. Sports and exercises should be compulsory for the students in the schools. The schools where this type of provision is not available there it should be implemented. Every person has a desire that he should live up to 100 years with name and fame but this is possible only when his body is healthy. The body can remain healthy only when the person practices exercises regularly. Hence proper exercise is a must for a healthy body and they are supplementary to each other.

1) Prabha Duneja, The Legacy of Yoga of Bhagawad Geeta, Govindaram Hasanand, Delhi, India.
2)  Swami Harshananda, The Ten Cardinal Upanishads, Ramakrishna Math,  Chennmai, India.
3) Ramanda Prasad, The Bhagavd-Geetaa, American Gita Society, Fremont, CA, USA.
4)  Swami  Vimalananda, Mahanarayana Upanishad, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
5)  Ananta Rangacharya, Mahanarayana Upanishad, Bengaluru, India.
6) Wikepedia and Various Internet Sources
7)  Srinivasan, N.R., Discourse on Ashtangayoga of Patanjali,   <>
8)  Path of Yoga,, Internet.
9) Ramachandra Rao  S.K., Geetaa Kosha, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Sharada Peetham,   Shankar Math, Bengaluru, India.