Conversation continues on May 26, 2015:
… how something is propagated, marketed. In the West what distinguishes Yoga from another system of physical culture is its branding, packaging and marketing as the “exotic” “mystical east” with its “until now” secret techniques, cures, and charms.
In India, in a culture that has been colonised for a long time, propagandised by the British that their culture is inferior and backwards, the marketing becomes “this is your birthright, your culture that is finally proven scientifically correct by the West, itself, and EVERYONE there is doing it.”
But of course, what is in the package is not their culture at all, and as we can see, supports a power struggle between the “traditional” and the “modern.”
Humphrey Barclay Modi’s regime appears to be flagrantly weaponising yoga (Yoga Day?) in the service of nationalism, a trend that has been in place since before independence.
Eric Seaton In this civilizational crisis, with the tools and antidote becoming diluted and weaponized against the very personalities that are trying to wake up with it, then as Baba Rampuri says we need a mass awakening. I think for anyone very intersted in yoga, we need to seriously consider the dhuni. This is probably one of the biggest aspects I see that is missing from our lives. No longer do we even have a family hearth maintained by the women in the household , so we don’t understand it’s great importance. Maintaining a dhuni may be more important than knowing any yoga asana. After all Patanjali’s 3rd limb asana does not mean position, but ‘the sitting’. The sitting around the dhuni with guru, guru bhais, benevolent spirits.. This comes more important according to Patanjali than warrior pose
Todd Daniels adharmic…
Baba Rampuri This is a Western hegemony, not traditional Indian culture. We can see clearly the signs and the abuses everywhere in the world. But I think we’re looking at a bigger picture than pointing the finger at individuals or even pointing the finger at consumer yoga, as I pointed out in one of my initial comments.
Ekabhumi Charles Ellik Agreed. There needs to be a cultural shift, not just a shift in the way people breathe or pose. Yogic practice was exported and taught out of context. Perhaps this was the best way to disseminate the teachings, but what we have now in the West is an incomplete spiritual ecosystem. We can tell the practices are not functioning as designed, or it would be breeding more masters and fewer monsters.
Jeannine Plaiche Is it possible that the “shift” is happening on a much subtler level? Even if the yoga knowledge of MPY teachers is incomplete, is it possible that the knowledge that some are transmitting [although maybe small], is making an impact? It can’t be all bad?
John Weddepohl Its all good. as i said yoga remains as it is – untouched – that people are doing any form of yoga practice ‘abhyasa’ eventually this will lead them to enquire into the meaning of what they are experiencing as yoga and not only this but into the meaning of themselves.
Eric Seaton From the Baba Rampuri’s archive :
“When I left for India in 1968, there were very few people practicing yoga in the States, and if you would have suggested that one day it would be mainstream, well, they would have locked you up. Today, the figures are astounding – …See More
Ekabhumi Charles Ellik Eric, I think we need to drop this evangelistic idea that ‘Yoga’ is going to ‘save’ anyone. We’re in the Kali Yuga, no? As for American Culture, for every ‘low’ you can name, I can name a ‘high’. For example, my wife is black. We’ve traveled all over North America together, completely unharassed. Not so likely back in 1968. Another: I can now get a decent vegetarian meal in any large city, which was not possible when I was a boy. While there is an inarguable trend toward environmental collapse, this dynamic was set in place at the dawn of the industrial revolution and does not belong to America alone.
Baba Rampuri What’s this “Modi’s regime” business? He is the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy with the largest electoral majority in many years.
John Weddepohl In referring to the recent meltdowns. I do not wish to be specific – but I am referring to revelations and allegations regarding Indians not westerners – Indian institutionalised yoga and spirituality is extremely busy dodging issues surrounding allegations of abuse. Rather than face the music and admit the truth they’d rather go maligning and victimising those who courageously speak out and testify about their behaviour. Denial is not a river in North Africa.
Baba Rampuri Put them all in jail. But I don’t think that would deal with our issue.
Todd Daniels The problem is rampant and disgusting. I know exactly what john Is talking about…
Baba Rampuri Some of us have been talking about that since the early 70’s.
Todd Daniels Really? Would love you input
Baba Rampuri Let me put it this way, many of these “gurus” who went to America and other countries in the 70’s (and later) were not, in our humble opinions of the time, going there to “spread the dharma.” They had other things on their minds.
Todd Daniels That’s what I figured
Todd Daniels It seems blatantly obvious
Eric Seaton It’s not , because of all the programming in speech, programming in food, programmed everything , people can’t see the darkness behind someone’s eyes. Can’t feel the darkness because their body’s been sanitized by years of inner outer pollution.
Eric Seaton There’s more guru misers than ever before, just terms of numbers. Something like 5 thousand groups of all the different religions , and about 10 million people trapped inside, most of them viewing their guru as an avatar. And these are some of the people most sincere about spirituality
Eric Seaton “Meeting the Medicine Men” by Charles Langley is a fascinating must read. A chance happening lands a jaded Englishman a meeting with the navajo medicine men and becomes an appreciate to one of the most senior hataalis there. The book is far out , not a read for the light hearted
Eric Seaton Basically if you read Autobiography of a Sadhu, the book is about that chapter with Gangotri Baba, and how he removes a curse. Out in navajo reservation they deal with curses 24/7 and go and break them all the time.
Humphrey Barclay Regime can simply mean the “ruling government of a country” and it is in that sense that I used it – I withdraw it willingly to avoid confusion. Yes, the Modi government is democratically legitimate, but that is beside the point. On the one hand we have the West (not always) making a mess of things. On the other hand, the “repatriation” of yoga to India, which has intrinsically nationalistic overtones, and of which we hear a lot these days, is also potentially problematic, would you not agree?
Afree Can Caravan Aside From Pizza, Ice cream and Yoga there are eternal truths in each one of us that goes back to the first man, father to son. We are now scattered on 7 continents, if each one of us reaches for the truth and quietly brings our part like a stick to the fire…..equally…we will all be warm by the fire..Tell Your Visions (TV) and all else wage war on all cultures – by holding and finding our stick and sharing – the oneness will reveal itself from underneath the seeming confusion…..the weirdness in me honours the weirdness in you…which is actually divine normal in a mutated society on course to something better…bring your stick…we need to share fire…
Baba Rampuri Yes. But the commercial and consumer aspects, the reverse branding (Western fashion as opposed to Exotic East) of the “repatriation” of yoga to India far outweighs any nationalistic overtones. “Regime” is a euphemism, that’s why it’s effective to be clear in what we really mean.
Humphrey Barclay By reverse branding are you referring to yoga being repatriated to India in corrupt form, as opposed to the form which has always been present, but in recent “modern” times ignored?
Traditional and Modern
Baba Rampuri Humphrey, I’m referring more to how something is propagated, marketed. In the West what distinguishes Yoga from another system of physical culture is its branding, packaging and marketing as the “exotic” “mystical east” with its “until now” secret techniques, cures, and charms. In India, in a culture that has been colonised for a long time, propagandised by the British that their culture is inferior and backwards, the marketing becomes “this is your birthright, your culture that is finally proven scientifically correct by the West, itself, and EVERYONE there is doing it.” But of course, what is in the package is not their culture at all, and as we can see, supports a power struggle between the “traditional” and the “modern.”
Pankaj Seth Yes, there is a fetish to be validated by science, but it needs to be realized that in India the approach known as science has been well circumscribed as to its power and limits, and Indians actually have a much better epistemic approach, which allows for the scientific approach but is not limited to it. Now, science has been held hostage by Positivism, and it appears to be breaking out of that, and we are seeing the end of brain reductionism and meditation is becoming accepted as a way to knowledge not reducible to brain mapping. So, the modern West is moving towards what has been enunciated in India for thousands of years. Indians need to stop elevating science so much, and instead understand that its importance has been overstated and that in their own tradition of knowledge there is much more than what science can sight.
Humphrey Barclay Yes, the exotic and mystical can be, and have been, a trap in the West, particularly as by far the majority of practitioners are dabblers. I have also found the “scientific” justification by Indian teachers of what is an experiential method of enquiry (and for the most part very simple and practical) quite troublesome.
The BSY in its publications has been very guilty of this, and to me (a non-scientist) its grasp of objective science has seemed flimsy. I agree that there seems to be an urge to sell yoga practice to both Westerners and presumably Indians as something that has been objectively validated, whereas the practices are time-proven and complete in themselves and need no gloss from objective science. To reclaim yoga in its broadest sense from this distracting “gloss” has to be right.
I’m pretty relaxed about people in Europe and the USA practising asana a few times a week and calling themselves yogis or yoginis. In itself it does little harm and probably some good. If it is reimported in a diminished form then of course that is another thing. But the genie is out of the bottle now, and cannot be put back in, even if the Modi government manages to get a UN resolution that says yoga is “Indian”, in the same way as champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France. I don’t think that will stick or is even desirable.
However I am quite optimistic about yoga and “investigation of the self” in the West. Behind all the commercial nonsense is a core of serious enquiry and synthesis. Almost certainly the valid elements will be based on something very authentic – from India, Nepal, Tibet. It may be some time before the results mature.
Vik Zutshi A country that has been colonized, plundered and raped – physically, culturally and spiritually for the last thousand years, by Turks, Afghans, Mongols, Portuguese and then the British, is finally becoming self-aware, is taking charge of it’s own narrative and reasserting itself at a civilizational level. Modi represents that civillizational reawakening. ‘Nationalism’ is just a silly label with no merit in this case.
Humphrey Barclay Vik Zutshi – I guess I’ve been caught using another euphemism – nationalism.
The following is what I presume you mean “by taking charge of it’s own narrative and reasserting itself at a civilizational level”.
“There is little doubt about yoga being an Indian art form. We’re trying to establish to the world that it’s ours.” – Shripad Yesso Naik
Although I recognise that Modi is himself a yoga practitioner and most probably has honest intentions, I think this attitude is problematic, because with re-appropriation comes responsibility.
In the “West” there has been all sorts of omission, distortion, misunderstanding and corruption. Very early on in these discussions it was I who pointed out that the Krishnamacharya “lineages” were over-represented in the West and are associated with quite a lot of the above. As for the latest commercialisations, I’m not even going there.
However, within India the picture is by no means spotless. Corruption has been and is a problem within several large public facing ashrams/organisations (Sai Org, BSY, Ammachi). Temples are often money factories. There is orthodoxy linked to authority rather than practice everywhere. Will responsibility be taken for this? Will institutions such as BSY (with which John Weddepohl and I have had some association) be investigated? Or will the good name of Sanatana Dharma be protected at all costs?
Pankaj Seth I don’t expect India to be any less corrupt than anywhere else. The repatriation to me means that when people think about Yoga, they think about the context set in the Indian civilization within which Yoga has existed there, rather than other contexts, or no context because its been reduced to exercise. Of course I agree that messes everywhere should be cleaned up, including in India, but I am not going to expect it to happen there any more than it happens elsewhere.
Humphrey Barclay There I am wholly in agreement with you. The context is indeed important, even though it cannot and should not be “owned”. The context is so wide as well, as Indian spiritual culture is an overlapping kaleidoscope – impossible to separate one strand from another.
Pankaj Seth Here is a solution… “The world is like an impression left by the telling of a story” – Yoga Vasistha. The dominant story now is Neo-Darwinism faux-buttressed by Scientism. Our story has been reduced to MPY. We need to break down the former story and bring out our own. MPY is lemons, and we must make lemonade. But the extent of MPY is also in our favour if we can manage the situation. Telling our story needs many efforts, many mediums, books etc., but the most reach is probably film. Neo Darwinism has been broken down by Thomas Nagel in his “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”, where he is calling for a worldview change from ‘atoms and evolution give rise to mind and values to atoms, evolution, mind and values are all primary’. He is looking for the concept of Rtam but does not know about it. MPY needs the addition of just one piece of teaching to begin with, and that is the Purusharthas (4 aims of life), in which Yoga becomes contextualized. Film/s about the ‘big picture’ of Yoga will be well received. That is my plan… making a film which does all this. We need many efforts, whatever each individual can do. Nagel is an establishment philosopher and his critique has stunned the world of science and which is ripe for the taking towards another story…
Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False
Baba Rampuri So, with better packaging and marketing, MPY is OK?
Pankaj Seth No, that is not it. MPY is what is right now. But people are looking for something more, what ‘Yoga’ is connected to, and they get BS stuff like ‘make a wish and your life will change’ etc. They do not get what is actually there, because the presentation is just not there in a widely accessible form. If the story telling is good enough, then they will enter it.
Baba Rampuri I believe a paradigm shift is in order. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic just won’t do. We have huge problems right this minute on the planet, and those of us involved with Yoga in various forms can see it before our very eyes in the Microcosm. Our analysis, strategies, and visions regarding Yoga should be equally applicable to the great challenges facing us today in all areas.
Pankaj Seth When Yoga becomes contextualized within the Purusharthas (that is how I always begin teaching Yoga), then its clear that the big picture includes Dharma (values), but also prosperity and enjoyment, and Moksha (which by itself is seen as ‘world negating’. There is no way I can see to fix things in a flash, but medium and longer terms are managable imo.—Edited to add: Yoga pertains to Moksha, but Dharma pertains to the Purusharthas. People might or might not read books, but they will watch films. ADHD is lemons, in this way to be made into lemonade.
Ekabhumi Charles Ellik I agree with Pankaj in this case, if I understand him correctly. MPY doesn’t need re-packaging, it needs contextualizing. It’s only a small sub-set of practices that (I believe) functions properly when recognized as part of a larger whole. I’m not sure that movies will do the job. Or books. Yet that is what I have done… created a book that focuses on devotion and virtue cultivation.
Pankaj Seth Yes, Ekabhumi, ‘contextualizing’ is the perfect word. This way, Yoga proper does not get politicized, but Dharma is political due to the enormous range of its scope. So no harm done to Yoga in the process.
Ekabhumi Charles Ellik For what it’s worth, Pankaj, my own book ends by emphasizing the Purusharthas.
Pankaj Seth Ekabhumi, only Zimmer’s ‘Philosophies of India’ begins with the Purusharthas in a very robust way, and everything else that comes afterwards is contextualized within that. That is even how the table of contents is organized. I found that very, very good as that was the first book on ‘Indian Philosophy’ that I read and that context remained with me. Other books I have read though better in other ways, always lacked this contextualizing. I mean mentioning them a bit is not enough. I think they have to be front and centre. Its great to hear that you emphasized this. I have always got ‘Oh… that makes so much sense’ kind of feedback from people who come across the 4 aims context for Yoga for the first time.
Pankaj Seth This way, it can be seen that Buddha is talking about Moksha, but when turned into Buddhism, then we forget that the within the culture where Buddha is teaching, the other 3 aims are already taught well, and there are a class of teachers who only deal with Moksha therefore. But when the ism is added, this is not seen, and people think that Buddha is asking everyone to become a monk.
Gideon Enz MPY is fine – even fantastic. It has inspired so many people to explore and practice. Even Bikram yoga is beneficial in such a larger context. And now (finally) people are beginning to question and explore deeper. In a haphazard skillful means way, MPY is infecting (if one can use that word in a reverse sense) millions in the West with Dharma. MPY is just one of the vehicles though which India has given shaktipat to the West. Pankaj – a Trojan Horse indeed!
Gideon Enz This insightful and enlightening thread is, after all, largely a product of MPY and its disambiguation.
Baba Rampuri Gideon Enz That’s utterly ridiculous. If you should see someone throw his garbage on the street and comment to your friend that it makes the world a messier place, that doesn’t make you a litterbug.
Baba Rampuri Coca-cola has made the world a better place because of all the people that started thinking about the bad effects of sugar, par example.
Baba Rampuri MPY is not a product of India, but a product of Modern Corporate Capitalism based on self-interest, and has instituted the “battle of brands” which gives the illusion of choice. Big difference between fantasy and the fantastic.
Baba Rampuri The Trojan Horse is in reverse – an American cultural virus inserted into Indian culture.
Pankaj Seth Baba, I think it goes both ways.
Baba Rampuri You mean it dumps the corporate capitalism in India and returns with its stealth load of Dharma? I think you have a great film there.
Gideon Enz Baba Rampuri, you are missing my point, which is that though many people are devoted to MPY as if it were some new kind of religion, there are gradually more and more dissatisfied people that are looking deeper. That confusion of MPY and the looking that comes from realizing such confusion is sparking a deeper, more genuine inquiry. Such an inquiry has great value. Vik’s original article, for example, which started this thread came as a response to the confusion of MPY. MPY is not garbage, but it is a mutt that is slowly (far too slowy, in my opinion) looking for its parentage. And in this looking, and even in the mere practice of MPY, many people are awakening to deeper levels of themselves and looking for more. While MPY is not yoga in any traditional sense, it is inspired by and in a sense yearns to go back to much older stronger roots.
Gideon Enz Baba, Pankaj’s trojan horse analogy is really apt as well. Western post-enlightement Judeo-Christian biased culture has bitten into something much larger than itself. Yes, this is a small piece of a much larger colonial-industrial takeover of the society of the entire planet – but that is pretty much inevitable now. We know the industrial revolution was screwed up and that it will continue to spread until it has engulfed everything else. That all of this process is based in a narrow, rarely questioned, western bias should not be news to anyone on this thread. Of course India has been at the effect of this – after all it was the British looting of the treasuries of the Maharaja’s of Bengal that kickstarted the industrial revolution of England in the first place! What I’m saying is that in this gradually globalizing culture, there is a small but growing dharmic influence. MPY and its commercialization is one example. Yes it’s twisted and confused. But it is there, and is giving people a chance to engage with a stream(s) of dharma, however far removed, which at least some of people are doing. And then others come along and say, “no no no, over there”, or “yes yes yes, a little further now”. Which done, skillfully are the same thing. Dorothy, we’re not in Satya Yuga anymore!
Baba Rampuri Gideon Enz thank you for being part of this and for your contributions. Engagement & collectivity make things work. I am being deliberately provocative (not without solid foundation, however) because I believe this conversation is about much more than the wuda cuda shuda of Western Industrial Modern Postural Yoga or even yoga as I discussed in my initial comments, and what I see in a wide variety of comments are “world views” “narratives” “assumptions” and “presumptions” that in the end have much more to do with our identities and cultures and a power dynamic that informs them, rather than having much to do with yoga. I’ll continue….
Gideon Enz Baba Rampuri, ironically, I am nearly always on the other side of this conversation, trying to convince MPY practitioners that they don’t know their head from their backside about yoga. I am enjoying an informative and lively discussion. Thank you as well.
Baba Rampuri I’ve been hearing about “dissatisfied people looking for something deeper” since the mid sixties. I’ve been hearing these arguments you mention in varying degrees for nearly 50 years. And yet, in my humble opinion (and in many I know, who have been around for awhile, who are still alive), the level of discourse today is at an abysmally low level. For anyone of any culture and education, it’s really shocking. With all the raised consciousness from yoga, where is it? I don’t see it. I see many more people coming out of science, technology, art, and the academy into “Higher Consciousness” or more substantial approaches to yoga or Indian culture than I see from the W.I.M.P.Y. itself.
Gideon Enz Baba Rampuri, collectively we move like molasses. It is excruciatingly slow, but it is there.
Gideon Enz What does the W.I. stand for in WIMPY?
Baba Rampuri Western Industrial