The Maldives is a nation consisting of around 1200 islands. It is known for its scenic beauty, which attracts tourists from all over the world.
Hosting a small population of just 500,000 people or so who are overwhelmingly and proudly Muslim, it’s natural that its people would protest against the so-called “Yoga Day.”
An angry mob barged into the national football stadium in Male, the Maldives’s capital, on Tuesday morning and disrupted a yoga event organised by the Indian High Commission.
Before the event, the protesters brandished placards proclaiming yoga was against the tenets of Islam. A report from a Maldivian news agency, The Edition, mentioned that a section of Islamists believes performing yoga is akin to worshiping the Sun, a heretic act according to Islamic tradition.
The yoga and meditation hour was an initiative by the Indian Cultural Centre in association with the Union Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Community Empowerment on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga. Attendees to the yoga session were unable to continue with their meditation due to the interruption by the mob.
The 21st of June was recognized by the UN General Assembly as the “International Day of Yoga” in 2014, and it has been celebrated since 2015.
The man who lobbied in favor of this is none other than the infamous Narendra Modi, India’s current PM – someone who would personally wish to see the end of Islam in the Maldives. He said in his speech at the UN:
Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition (…) is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.
This “sense of oneness,” or pantheism, is of course Shirk.
But we’ll explore how, even according to Hinduism, Yoga is not as flowery as it may seem.
Yoga as “India’s Ancient Tradition”?
Modi describes Yoga as:
“an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition”
But is this really true?
David Gordon White is an American Indologist, and serves as professor of religious studies at the University of California.
He demonstrates in his book, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography, how when examining Hindu history, the contemporary popularity of Yoga is in fact something of an anomaly. In fact, it enjoys its current popularity due to Orientalists having hyped it up.
You should to know that there are actually numerous “schools” of Yoga. The most “respected” is that of Patanjali, a Hindu “sage” who apparently lived sometime between the 2nd and 5th century CE. His work Yoga-Sutra is the most influential Yoga text.
However, White shows how Patanjali’s Yoga was forgotten even within India itself until the British Orientalist Henry Thomas Colebrooke introduced it to the West.
One of the proofs for how neglected it was, is the scarcity of Yoga manuscripts that exist among the available Hindu manuscripts. Patanjali’s of course, are even fewer within this already tiny Yoga subset.
He then says on p. 75:
All of these data lead one to conclude that by the sixteenth or seventeenth century Patanjali’s Yoga system had largely become the abandoned stepchild of Indian philosophy.
When their White masters started looking into Yoga as some form of “old and forgotten” wisdom, the Hindus – ripe with inferiority complex – embraced the Orientalism and “rediscovered” Yoga as an important part of their “ancient tradition” (as Modi put it).
It began with Rajendralal Mitra in the 19th century but later took on a new dynamic with Swami Vivekananda in the 20th century.
Swami Vivekananda is the most important Hindu guru of modern times. He’s responsible for having introduced Hinduism to the West, or at least a partial and sanitized version of Hinduism. And this “message” of Hinduism also included the promotion of Yoga.
He referred to Patanjali’s Yoga as “Raja Yoga” or the “royal yoga” in order to display its supremacy in comparison to the other forms of yoga.
Other gurus who contributed towards its popularization in the West during the 20th century include Paramahansa Yogananda and B. K. S. Iyengar.
Thus we can say quite comfortably that Modi is wrong in his assertion. Yoga is not really an “ancient tradition” of India. Rather, it is a lost form of Hindu “spirituality” which was only quite recently rediscovered by the West through colonialists and its own mystics (most notably the Theosophical Society).
And in typical Hindu fashion, due to their intense and unwavering inferiority complex, they then adopted the Western narrative of “ancient Hindu wisdom” and revived Yoga.
But the question arises:
Why did Hindus abandon Yoga to begin with?
Interestingly the answer to this may lie with the Hindu Yogis, and this is precisely the subject of another book by David Gordon White titled Sinister Yogis.
In this book, he dispels yet another myth about Yoga – this time focusing on its practitioners. He deconstructs the common idea of “peaceful” Yogis immersed in deep meditation, and uncovers the reality of them being what would be deemed as petty criminals. This clearly wasn’t the greatest marketing tool for making Yoga seem attractive to the masses.
Ironically, the Yoga practiced today by millions in the West and elsewhere is not even Patanjali’s Yoga or Raja Yoga. It’s Hatha Yoga. This is a form of Yoga that was born around 1000 CE and which is mainly about physical postures (asana). Hatha Yoga is perceived negatively by traditional Hindus due to it having “de-spiritualized” Patanjali’s “noble” Yoga.
Basically, the secular West has even transformed the Hindu “spiritual” form of Yoga into some kind of pseudo-spiritual gymnastics.
The postmodern West “indigenizes” the Hindus’ Yoga without giving any consideration to Hinduism itself, just like it adopts the Italians’ pizza without having a preference for Italian cuisine in general.
It’s part of the neoliberal globalization. “Universalism” means to take items and symbols from other civilizations and turn them into mere objects of consumption, transforming them into unrecognizable parodies of what they were in their original local context.
Anyway, all of this was to show that what Modi calls India’s “ancient tradition,” is at the very least extremely spurious from the perspective of traditional Hinduism.
From the perspective of Islam, Yoga is obviously Shirk as its purpose it to achieve “union” with the “divine.” In fact, the very word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which means “union.”
We can only imagine what dark and evil forces Yoga “unites” the individual with. Especially since we know that historically, Yoga practitioners have had a tendency to gravitate towards crime.