This article first appeared in Rightlog.in under the title: “Dear Yogi ji, your secular statement was nice, but not required” on April 4, 2017 and can be read here: (Click to read)
The introduction of Yoga / Surya Namaskar into school curriculum has been talked about and even attempted earlier, even before the time of this present NDA regime. It has become controversial now primarily because the present dispensation in power is construed to be “Hindu Right-Wing” in its outlook. It is a different matter altogether that the present dispensation has done nothing that could be even remotely considered to be an overt push towards a “Hindu Right-Wing” agenda.
Recently, the CM of UP Yogi Adityanath in attempting to legitimize the introduction and practice of Surya Namaskar / Yoga suggested or rather made the equivalence that several postures of Surya Namaskar mirror those that are used in the Islamic practice of Namaaz.
The question we ask and debate is “Was this necessary and what is to be gained by making such a false equivalence?”
Svatmarama in his much celebrated work “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” says:
Loosely translated this Sanskrit couplet means
“My worshipful salutations to that Adi-Yogi, the Adinatha (Shiva) who was the first to teach the knowledge of the great science of Hatha Yoga – that yoga which when practiced (sincerely) by the (sincere) aspirant leads him/her up the staircase to the high pinnacles of Raja Yoga (Realization).”
From the above it is quite clear that there is absolutely no ambiguity with regard to either the antiquity or the origins of Yoga – It derives from the fountainhead of Sanaatana Dharma the Vedas themselves and its first exponent was Mahadeva himself and his first disciple his own wife Parvathi and has been passed on through generations with each generation having its own champion who kept the great tradition alive.
Recent well-meaning and perhaps naïve attempts by some Gurus to make Yoga universally acceptable by saying that it does not belong to Hindus and instead belongs to the world make the mistake of uprooting this ancient treasure house of knowledge from its roots – the roots of Yoga shall and must remain rooted to Hindustan, its branches and fruits can spread all over the world and everyone can partake of the gifts of these fruits – this is the essence and beauty of the Universality of Sanaatana Dharma.
Yoga belongs to every single person who is a Hindustani defined as a person who is born and brought up in this cultural milieu – here in Hindustan there are those that follow Sanaatana Dharma (the majority), those that follow Christianity, those that follow Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and so on – Yoga is bequeathed to each one and denied to none.
There is no need for anyone to be apologetic or make excuses in order that Yoga becomes more acceptable because each person born in Hindustan or India (whether they like it or not) is a Hindu. Both the words “Hindu” and “India” are purely geographical markers and are both derived from the same word “Sindhu” the former a Persian equivalent and the latter a Greek vulgarization of the Sindhu into first “Indus” and then “India”
It really should not matter to anyone be it from the political dispensation or from the religious arena if some from the minority community object to the introduction of Yoga and it is really not the business of these leaders to attempt a middle ground because there is no middle ground.
Yoga is inherently Hindu, there is no debating that but when everyone (again whether they like it or not) is Hindu if they have been born and brought up in this cultural and social milieu where is the question of forcing something that is “Hindu” on non-Hindus?”
Yogi Adityanath’s comment equating Surya Namaskar and Namaaz may have been well-intentioned but was unnecessary – it takes away from the inherent principle of Universality that is unique to Sanaatana Dharma and risks uprooting the fundamental basis of Yoga when no such attempt is called for given what we have outlined above.