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There will be occasions in history when humanity yearns for transformative ideas and revolutionary action. Covid pandemic, like the great wars of the last century, was one such moment in recent history when the gross failure of the existing socio-political systems was acutely felt by the humanity. Post the pandemic, the world will look for a new approach to living and living together.
The pandemic, whose origins are debated to be either from unhygienic food habits like eating bat meat or deliberate or accidental lab leaks, has exposed the evil side of the human mind. Greed and unrestrained consumption at the individual level, and greed and unrestrained hunger for political power at the level of political leadership has brought enormous misery to the world.
Just as a new world order took shape after the disastrous world wars in the last century, the horrendous consequences of the pandemic too will lead to building of a new order with a distinctively human-centric agenda. Spiritually enlightened positivism, that includes positive thinking, positive health and positive politics, will be the basis for that emerging world order.
Yoga is the science of that positive knowledge. “All conflicts begin in the minds of men”, said the Atharva Veda. Yoga is India’s greatest contribution to stimulate positive synchronism of mind and body in order to achieve individual happiness and social peace. Yoga’s ultimate aim is the well-being of the individual and welfare of humanity.
This five-thousand-year-old knowledge system has evolved today into a global campaign. Known to Indians for millennia, this ancient system of physical and mental well-being was introduced to the West by the renowned Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda. The first real engagement of the West with Hinduism happened when Swami Vivekananda visited Chicago in 1894 to address the World Parliament of Religions. He continued his travels in the US and Europe for four years during which time he had introduced the ancient religion of the Hindus to the Westerners. Sitting in Manhattan, the Swami had authored a book by the name Raja Yoga in 1896. That book had a major impact on the Western understanding of Yoga.
More than a century later, it was the turn of another Narendra (Vivekananda’s original name was Narendra) to rekindle the spirit of Yoga in the world. During his maiden visit to the United Nations in October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a call to celebrate International Yoga Day annually. His call was enthusiastically supported by the leaders of many countries. Within a record time in UN history, by December 2014, 177 countries had extended their support to the proposal and the UN had adopted the resolution unopposed. Since then the entire world celebrates International Yoga Day on June 21 every year.
Lord Shiva, the Adi Yogi (First Yogi), had made the Himalayas his abode several millennia ago. From Machu Picchu in Mexico to the Alps in Switzerland to the Great Wall in China – Yoga has conquered many heights in the world today.
The United Nations is preparing for the Yoga Day on June 21 this year also. Indicating the priorities of the times, the UN has chosen “Yoga for Well-being” as the theme for this year’s celebrations. “With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating psychological suffering and mental health problems, many people have been embracing Yoga to stay healthy and to fight isolation and depression”, the UN officials observed.
The healthcare systems in the West have focused more on disease management, whereas the classical Indian approach has been to promote holistic health. Ayurveda, the Indian treatise of life deals with healthy living as the objective, instead of managing diseases. Yoga is an important science dealing with healthy living. It has gained wide currency all over the world in the last century. Not just the Indian masters, but many foreigners too have become practitioners and propagators of this knowledge system in the world. It may not be an exaggeration to say that Yoga studios are omnipresent in the Western world today. Indian Gurus like Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Sivananda, BKS Iyengar and others have taken Yoga in different forms to the West. Many new forms like Power Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga have also become popular in various countries.
In the last seven years, Yoga has won many new high profile followers like Justin Trudeau, Ban Ki Moon, David Cameroon, Dmitry Medvedev and many Hollywood celebrities. Many countries have made Yoga Day an annual event in their official calendar. The gusto will be on display this year too.
But largely the practices associated with Yoga in the world are physical. The Asana (pose) and Pranayama (breath control) elements constitute Yoga in the conventional sense today. But Yoga is not just about physical well-being. It is also about disciplining and management of mind. It is a science of body-mind equilibrium and balance. For holistic well-being, Yoga contains eight components. They are called Ashtanga (eight limbs) and include – yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).
Yoga is the science and art of man’s journey from Pashutva (brutishness) to Manushyatva (Humanity) and there on to Daivatva (Divinity). It controls the mind, the origin of all thinking, good and bad; and integrates it with soul and consciousness.
Yoga will make Men, with capital M – the integral human beings. At the outer level – Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam – meaning, Yoga enhances the efficiency of work. At the same time, at the inner level – Yogah Chitta Vritti Nirodhakah – Yoga controls the wandering mind.
Disciplining the mind is the most critical thing needed for the mankind. In a world of rising conflicts and authoritarianism we need holistic men. The objective of Yoga is to create such men.
Yatra Yogeeswarah Krishno – Yatra Partho Dhanurdharah
Tatra Sree Vijayorbhuti
– Said Bhagavad Gita.
For victory and prosperity, Arjuna with all his weapons was not enough. Krishna as Yogeeswara was also needed – Yoga being the highest evolutionary wisdom.
Let us strive for Yogeeswaras also… Not just Dhanurdharis alone
Why don’t we say “Yog” instead of ‘Yoga? Yog is more appropriate.
This piece encapsulates the essence of yoga so comprehensively. Must read for all.