Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Borrowers and Lenders Be

Hinduism, as a faith tradition, stands at this pass a victim of overt intellectual property theft, absence of trademark protections and the facile complicity of generations of Hindu yogis, gurus, swamis and others that offered up a religion's spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.

...Not surprisingly, the most popular yoga journals and magazines are also in the act. Once yoga was no longer intertwined with its Hindu roots, it became up for grabs and easy to sell. These journals abundantly refer to yoga as "ancient Indian," "Eastern" or "Sanskritic," but seem to assiduously avoid the term "Hindu" out of fear, we can only assume, that ascribing honestly the origins of their passion would spell disaster for what has become a lucrative commercial enterprise.

...Hindus can only sadly shake their heads, as by this measure, soon we will read as to how karma, dharma and reincarnation--the very foundations of Hindu philosophy--are only ancient precepts that early Hindus of some era made their own.


Oh yeah? Well, through the practice of jnana yoga, I came to the realization that notions of karma and reincarnation are nonsense and gibberish, so how 'bout that? And I've benefited from the practice of modern, secularized hatha yoga just fine, thank you, without suffering any "deficiencies" from the absence of another nonsensical term, "spirituality". Seriously, I'm not sure what irritates me more -- the way this starts out as an almost identity politics-style whinge about how yoga is a Hindu thing and you outsiders wouldn't understand, or the way he eventually allows that okay, fine, maybe people from other traditions and backgrounds can sort of get it, but only as long as religion or spirituality is involved somehow. Sorry to break it to you, but physical activity does not have to be combined with magic words and sanctified thoughts to be meaningful.

But leaving the condescension of metaphysicians aside, getting to the real gist of his complaint -- when has it ever not been thus? Traditions evolve and adapt or become static and die out. Different aspects appeal to different people in different cultures at different times. Go ahead, insist all you want on the need for everyone to take a moment and acknowledge the Hindu roots of yoga. It won't change the fact that the vast bulk of a several thousand year-old tradition just doesn't serve any need for modern Westerners. Once again, I'm just amused at the way people cling to ossified, limiting labels instead of celebrating the continued existence and the dynamic flow of the vibrancy they were originally meant to symbolize.