And the dialogue continues! If you’re following along at home wellness superstar Deepak Chopra and Professor Aseem Shuklah have had some words about the origin/”theft” of yoga and its ties to Hinduism. Check out the earlier discussion to catch up. Well, with Deepak all “Yoga isn’t Hindusim, and therefore not in bed with religion” etc etc would you expect The Professor to let that lie in savasana and die? Not a chance.
A prolific writer and gifted communicator, Chopra is perhaps the most prominent exponent of the art of “How to Deconstruct, Repackage and Sell Hindu Philosophy Without Calling it Hindu!” To Larry King, he has described himself as an “Advaita Vedantin”–one of the major philosophical schools of Hinduism. Yet none of the plethora of his book titles, that include several devoted to Jesus and one entire book devoted to the Buddha, even skirt the word “Hindu.” His Web site is devoted to selling products and literature related to yoga, meditation and ayurveda, but Hinduism, of course, bears no mention.
The contention that yoga’s foundation is “in consciousness alone,” thereby preceding Hinduism, is a sad demonstration of the extent Chopra and other Hindu philosophical profiteers will go to disassociate themselves from Hinduism. But Hindus are on to this tactic now. For Hinduism’s most sacred scripture, the Vedas, are deeply believed to be the accumulation and transcription of the existential contemplations, and experiences, of rishis–the primordial yogis. The rishis did not call themselves Hindu, but would Chopra claim that the Vedas they composed are not Hindu? The moniker “Hinduism” is of relatively recent origin, but it is accepted today as a handy substitute for the perhaps more accurate but difficult to pronounce name, Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion. That reality does not separate yoga from Hinduism any more than it separates the Vedas or Bhagawad Gita from Hinduism. The Vedas and yoga are synonymous and as eternal as they are contemporaneous.
War of words indeed! Touché Professor S. Naturally, DChop took the time to not let Aseem get the last word to respond with gusto (and a slightly sharpened tongue) and to reiterate his original position:
If there is a movement to return yoga to its Hindu roots, it speaks in a whisper. I’ve never encountered it in India. Having loaded his quiver, what target is Shukla firing at? Nobody is stopping Hindus from claiming yoga as their own. Christians can claim prayer as their invention if they want to. It wouldn’t make the claim less false — sensible people accept that prayer is universal.
Shukla didn’t refute my basic argument, which is that yoga is a practice rooted in consciousness, not proprietary religion. The great seers of India didn’t simply precede the term “Hindu,” as Shukla likes to imagine. They preceded dogmatic religion itself, which is why the ideal of yoga is to leave dogma and ritual behind. In the state of liberation (Moksha), why would anyone feel more tied to Hinduism?
I must repeat, that yoga did not originate in Hinduism. This isn’t a debating point, since no one to my knowledge has ever claimed that Hinduism came before yoga.
He goes on to defend the attacks on his integrity and career, and to extend a twiggy little universal olive branch.
I’m happy that Prof. Shukla isn’t the most strident of fundamentalists. He seems rather bemused where most of his kind are zealous. I forgive the potshots taken at me. Other than bandying about a few rumors, half-truths, and nonsense related to my career, he seems unaware of my deep involvement in reawakening of Vedanta, Ayurveda, and many other aspects of India’s spiritual tradition, or the recognition this has earned me in my homeland.
In the spirit of friendliness, I would like to find common ground with Prof. Shukla in the term Sanatana Dharma-the eternal wisdom of life. Whether he calls it Hinduism or I call it Vedic knowledge, I believe ultimately we are both referencing the same body of universal knowledge that has always stood for benefiting the whole human family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam -the world is one single family.
Too hard to say who gets the most points this round, but we’re willing to bet most are fairly cool with the universal bit. Namaste?