Friday, June 19, 2015

Fwd: Yoga Day

a very apt response by chitra. i don't know if she published it, but it was so well written i had to share it.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: syn

The New York Time's Ellen Barry  is back to what she does best --   jeering at Indians, particularly if there's a Hindu angle involved.   The silly headline sets the mood of this essay : "'Om' meets 'Ouch!' ''  

This is how she sums up Delhi residents:   

"Behind the headlines, there is little doubt that the yoga campaign amounts to a cultural challenge, in a capital city powerfully shaped by its British and Mughal past.  New Delhi's elites are mostly Anglophiles, fond of their whisky and butter chicken; its clerks spend their days in dim warrens of paper files, tensed against the next supervisory tongue-lashing. Many rank-and-file civil servants have bellies like first-floor balconies."

The implication seems to be that the Anglophilia of Delhi elites renders them bereft of any other identity or cultural affiliation.  Yes, there are those who try consciously to distance themselves from their Indian identity but the large majority of people I know do not.  Speaking for myself, my interest in English literature and my curiosity about other cultures hardly diminished my affinity for my own culture and philosophy.  

By the same token, I've known many western Indophiles who take a keen interest in a lot more than Indian culinary interpretations of chicken.  But they never ceased to identify themselves as primarily American, British or German!

The claim that this yoga campaign poses a "cultural challenge" to a city "powerfully" shaped by the British and Mughals is nitwitted, to put it mildly. Firstly, Ms Barry could stand to be reminded that India has a past of considerably greater antiquity than Mughal or British influence. Yoga happens to be from that past, and its original treatises are inextricably connected with the requirement of mental and philosophical conditioning which IS clearly a Hindu view of existence.  No amount of sneering can alter that historical fact.  

However, no one is *required* to subscribe to those views in order to do Yoga.  But don't abuse the openness and inclusiveness of Hinduism  to appropriate its cultural gifts to the world and then claim it never had a deeper meaning to begin with.

Besides, can you imagine Barry indulging in this kind of "bellies like balconies" jibe with any other group on the pages of the New York Times? Would she make derisive generalizations about the miserable oral hygiene of nationality A or the restrictive women's clothing of  nationality B?  What if she were writing about fellow Americans many of whom are not exactly wraith-like?

" Though the Western world regards yoga primarily as physical exercise, Indians are more apt to see its postures and Sanskrit chants as freighted with ideological or religious meaning."

Yes, just as the hymns I sang in high school or the pieces that my daughter Divya performed with her high school choir were "freighted with ideological or religious meaning" -- containing frequent references to the paramount truth of the Christian approach to divinity.  How does that make me or Divya any less Hindu? How does participating in, respecting and understanding the way of worship of another affect one's basic tenets of decency and morality, or preferred relationship with and visualization of God? 

I see Pope Francis weighing in on everything from homosexuality to climate change in his mission to effect change.  I don't see him being ridiculed for it by the media or being accused of making his faith out to be something it is not.  On the contrary, his spokespersons are invited on programs like the BBC and their views are aired with respect and without interruption. He is regarded with affection by many and acclaimed as an agent of transformation.  

But when it comes to an event like "Yoga Day" -- however imperfectly executed, or whatever be the level of political pandering involved to placate the leaders of communities that see nothing wrong in ramming their faith down the throats of others -- it must be given a sinister spin, made out to be part of some larger Hindu right-wing agenda, rather than an attempt by Indians including Hindus, at reclaiming something that was always theirs to begin with,

As for Yoga and Hinduism, the people in the west who claim authoritatively and absurdly that the two have no connection are inevitably those who stand to make a lot of money from it --such as Deepak Chopra, for instance. I have one of his earliest books and I can see that he was a lot more honest when he started out. Now he carefully and meticulously launders out any references to the word "Hindu" or the origins of his metaphysical ideas so as to promote himself as being all things to all people.  How else could he have amassed millions by promoting the philosophy of *non-attachment*?

-- Chitra Raman

sent from samsung galaxy note3 neo, so please excuse brevity

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