The Essence of Yoga Is Secular and Spiritual

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), June 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Essence of Yoga Is Secular and Spiritual


New Delhi, June 21 -- On the occasion of International Yoga Day, it should be stressed that yoga is nondenominational even as it is profoundly spiritual. It disciplines senses and helps one attain higher consciousness. Its foundational principles are satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence), brahamacharya (continence), aparigraha (non-possession) and atreya (non-stealing). Emphasis on yoga without these principles is a negation of yoga. These foundational principles liberated us from colonial rule when Mahatma Gandhi formulated his eleven vows by incorporating satya, ahimsa, brahmacharya, aparigraha and atreya and employed them to launch the non-violent struggle against British rule.

Yoga woven around only some asanas and breathing exercises without exploring its foundational principles narrows its scope. Those who never participated in the freedom struggle are now using yoga by consigning those very principles to oblivion. Such attempts will restrict the meaning of yoga. High-decibel demonstrations for promoting yoga will rob it of its basic purpose to discipline the senses and attain higher consciousness permeated by the values of non-discrimination, sharing, fellow feeling and love. Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga included in its scope all yogas - bhakti (devotion), gyan (knowledge), dhyan (meditation) and karma (duty).

Non-violence is the highest attribute of yoga. Anybody tuned to yoga has to be non-violent in word, thought and deed. If one claims oneself a yogi but spews venom in the name of food habits, religion or caste, one is rejecting yoga. Adherence to yoga has to be followed by a strong and unequivocal adherence to ethics. Swami Vivekananda stressed ethics as a necessity for anybody who intended to follow yogic practices.

While Mahatma Gandhi anchored his non-violent struggle for independence on the foundational principles of yoga, Jawaharlal Nehru explored its profound dimensions to discover India and educate people about its enduring and priceless cultural, spiritual and civilisational values. …

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