Drugs and hatha yoga have the same aim: to help us lead healthier lives.
India has given the world yoga for free. No wonder so many in the country feel that the world should return the favor by making lifesaving drugs available at reduced prices, or at least letting Indian companies make cheap generics.
And yet, the very international drug companies that so fiercely protect their patents oppose India’s attempts to amend World Trade Organization rules to protect its traditional remedies.
BABA: But what does this really mean to “protect” its traditional remedies? Will the village vaidya have to pay the Indian Government or even worse, get permission from them, to make his triphala churan for his patients. Maybe in that case it would be easier to buy Dabur brand, or Pfizer or Longs brand. The system is flawed, I don’t believe you get anywhere playing one part of it against the other.
There’s more at stake than just the money involved in the commercial exploitation of traditional knowledge.
BABA: His argument doesn’t make sense. I would be surprised if, God forbid, should he have some life threatening condition, he would use traditional knowledge/medicine. He doesn’t give it Authority. The Authority is the western pharmaceutical machine which is the actual exploiter of the traditional knowledge. This is the Authority that he recognizes, as do the vast majority of us. Once they gave Bush the Authority to make war on Iraq, how can they be surprised when he actually does it? An herb in Uttaranchal, sitajad, has been around for thousands of years, costing next to nothing. Suddenly everyone’s out in the hills digging for it, because its fetching up to US $5000 a kilo. They tell me it’s used in Viagra. That’s what Authority looks like in the field.
If the copying of Western drugs is illegal, so should be the patenting of yoga. It is also intellectual piracy, stood on its head.
BABA: The entire system of intellectual property is flawed. The system of mass media is creating a human race of idiots. People articulate their feelings with sound effects pirated from cartoons. But this is the age we’re living in, and the best way to live for most people is to be happy, healthy, and prosperous. Whereas the traditions have for the most part lost their meaning and authority, and the knowledge from those traditions is definitely an endangered species, still something curious takes place in the midst of all this.
The realm of the entertainment industry has expanded to include a whole new popular genre, in which people enquire into their true natures, meditate together, worship their bodies as the temples they are, and explore what were previously considered hidden realms. There are classes, events, books, films, DVD’s, music, TV, and now internet.
During the book tour I made across America in 2005, I made a very provocative statement (that I have a lot of trouble actually backing up) several times to audiences of yoga students, “Anyone who doesn’t cry himself to sleep every night over Iraq, is NOT a yogi.” I think my intention was clear. We have re-defined Yoga. It’s twisting, turning, and stretching, and breathing in prescribed manners; it’s making the body as efficient and perfect as possible, so one may have a happy and healthy life. And I think that’s great. But it is a new yoga. It could be called anything else as well.
The downside is the obscuration of what is even greater benefit to man, knowledge and understanding, that would take a much more advanced regime of intellectual property concepts to own. Of course, The Tradition of Yoga stands bang opposite our entire system of life, social intercourse, and consumption. The Yogi has got nothing to sell.