Over time, a certain narrative has gained momentum in the country. In an effort to increase the acceptability of Hindu traditions and practices among people from other communities, we have started forfeiting our claim to it. This recent phenomenon was most evident when the world celebrated the 5th International Yoga Day on the 21st of June this year.
The Communist Chief Minister of Kerala pontificated on how none of the Asanas performed on Yoga Day had anything to do with any religion.
Kerala CM in Trivandrum: Some ppl are deliberately trying to mislead others regarding yoga. As if this is something religious, some ppl have even made such remarks. In fact, none of the postures being performed as part of yoga have any connection with any religion. #YogaDay2019 https://t.co/Haxbnd4v0B
— ANI (@ANI) June 21, 2019
However, Pinarayi Vijayan is not the only one who has made such comments. Numerous top tier leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party itself, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has made remarks to that effect. Such rhetoric may attract a few more practitioners from other faiths but it’s long term effects are quite deleterious.
According to Christianity, Hinduism is incompatible with the will of their monotheistic God. The same is the case with regards to Islam and Judaism. Therefore, even if we dilute our own practices to make it more attractive for them, we stand to gain absolutely nothing if we forfeit our claim to them.
As for the question of whether Yoga is secular, the answer most definitely is that it is not. Yoga is one of the Darsanas in Hinduism and the goal of it is the attainment of Moksha. Yoga is mentioned profusely in ancient Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. The stated objective, too, was not merely health benefits but the upliftment of human consciousness itself.
There is little doubt as well that Yoga was developed as an intrinsic part of the fulfilment of Hindu spirituality. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali had as its basis the Samkhya school of thought, Tantric practices incorporated Yoga as well, Buddhism which grew out of Hinduism incorporated Yogic practices into their own brand of metaphysics. Jainism, another outgrowth of Hinduism, followed a similar path.
Therefore, to comprehend and appreciate Yoga in its entirety, it is necessary to understand the underlying metaphysics of the practices. Yoga is the manifestation of Hindu philosophy in the area of physical and mental well-being with the ultimate objective being the attainment of Moksha or a higher state of consciousness. Thus, under such circumstances, to claim that Yoga is secular is a blatant lie.
The willingness to forfeit our claim to our cultural heritage such as Yoga displays the lack of intellectual and moral fortitude on the part of Hindus. Every instance of the secularization of a core Hindu practice is a direct loss of the said practice from the rich cultural heritage of Hindus. If we forfeit our heritage to gain acceptability in the eyes of those who have little respect for our identity and traditions, we will only lose everything that we hold dear.
A similar claim is made with regards to ‘Vande Mataram’. It is secular, we are told and is merely a salutation to our Motherland. The reason for such vacuous assertions is only short term narrow-minded political gains and deprived of any manner of critical thought. The original poem clearly indicates that the nation is conceived of as a Goddess. The conception of the nation as a Divine Mother worthy of worship is akin to the conception of the Earth itself as Divine Mother in all polytheistic faiths.
The personification of higher abstract ideals and great natural and physical phenomena as the manifestation of Deities worthy of worship is a deeply polytheistic tradition. ‘Vande Mataram’ which conceptualizes our nation as a great Goddess is borne out of that pious polytheistic tradition itself. Therefore, to disassociate it from Hinduism is a grave insult to our ancestors who sacrificed their lives for our nation and suffered numerous atrocities as they fought for freedom with ‘Vande Mataram’ on their lips.
If Muslims or Christians do not wish to chant ‘Vande Mataram’ or practice Yoga, that is completely alright and we should just leave them alone. Because at the end of the day, they are our heritage and it is the duty of Hindus and Hindus alone to ensure that they are not lost to the vagaries of time. If someone does not wish to participate in the practice, we should leave them be. It is their loss, not ours.
If these pinnacles of achievement of Hindu Civilization is secularized, we will be that much poorer. And if we do ignore the underlying metaphysics of it, we do so at our own peril and inevitably they will be defiled. Is there anyone among Hindus who is not revolted at the thought of Beer Yoga and Vampire Yoga? Why this is so? It is only because deep down, we understand that Yoga is sacred and holy and is not meant to be defiled by such profanities.
There is a malicious agenda as well behind such rampant secularization of Hindu traditions. The larger objective of certain entities is to disassociate all Hindu accomplishments and achievements from Hinduism. So that they can carry on with their propaganda that Hinduism is only about caste atrocities and Sati. The weaker the association between Hinduism and Yoga, the easier it is for Christian missionaries to come up with corruptions such as ‘Christian Yoga’.
That Yoga and ‘Vande Mataram’ are intrinsically Hindu says a lot about polytheistic traditions as well. In polytheistic faiths, every aspect of human lives is deeply entrenched in the Divine. Charity is connected to spirituality, Marriage is sacred, Music and sports and Motherhood and Politics, everything is considered to be an extension and the manifestation of the Divine. It is completely antithetical to monotheistic creeds which clearly demarcate a distinction between religious and secular pursuits. In Hinduism, there is no such distinction. Every act of ours is conceptualized as something which has a deep connection with Divinity itself.
Thus, in an era of monotheistic dominance, we are called upon to hold on to our heritage and our traditions with great fortitude. It is time for us to understand and appreciate the Hindu philosophy that guides every aspect of our existence. We should not, and must not, surrender our traditions and our heritage to the false song of Secularism. If we do, our Civilization will be consigned to the dustbins of our History. Our Faith is a living one, it does not belong in a museum. If Yoga is disassociated from Hinduism, it will only be a hollow shell.