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|November 03, 2008
The Yoga News
The Karma of an
global tragedy brings golden opportunity
It’s been an era of extreme naivety. For more than a decade now, the
world populace has been gleefully prancing through life under an
ever-darkening veil of maya, or illusion, as though it were somehow
possible for millions upon millions of consumers to accumulate the
riches of their wildest dreams through little more than positive
With the aid of a fresh and “sophisticated” financial ideology, which
in reality amounted to little more than unbridled borrowing, the
average person was able to mimic the lifestyles of a higher class. They
were, in fact, encouraged to do so by scores of over-zealous pundits
who let themselves get swept away in the utopian enthusiasm of
boundless material prosperity.
Global financial leaders, from the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve
down through money managers and financial advisers at all levels, told
us that economic seasons were a thing of the past, that we are now in
an eternal summer of affluence. In mistaking a mountain of debt for a
mine of gold, they encouraged a reckless pursuit of material
indulgence. “You can afford that house, a second car, and a luxury
family vacation. Dine out to your heart’s content, and pick up another
pair of fancy shoes on your way home too.” “Don’t worry”, they said,
“you can now have your cake and eat it too.”
New and incomprehensible financial tools, such as derivatives,
collateralised debt obligations, and structured investment vehicles, we
were assured, contained the magic to deliver not just the homes, but
all the goods of a high rolling lifestyle too. With sub-prime wizardry
at the centre of it all, the blind led the blind straight toward
For the millions around the globe who have enjoyed, without restraint,
the fantasy of continually spending more than they were earning, a
harsh reality is now setting in. Those who proselytised for this
foolishness indeed have much explaining to do. But with all the finger
pointing going on in Washington and on Wall Street, the fact of the
matter is that the culprit is much nearer than anyone wants to admit.
Just stand in front of the mirror and you’ll see the guilty party.
We are not children, and we have no-one else to blame. When somebody
tells us that we can spend more than we earn without worry, then who
but a fool wouldn’t stand up and say, “How is that possible?” But we
didn’t do that. The spoils were simply too enticing, and at the end of
the day, entire populations of people managed to turn a blind eye and
convince themselves that somehow, everything was going to keep coming
The point is not about how many will lose their homes, their jobs, and
their dignity. What matters is that the party is over, and like any
booze fest, a terrible hangover awaits. The reality is that life will
now be different, for everyone.
No one seems to have noticed, however, that the problem doesn’t lie in
banking structures, or in rules and regulations; it lies within the
very mindset of people today. No one seems to recognize that we have,
right in front of us, an opportunity for profound global change; or at
least nobody seems ready or willing to make that shift yet.
As governments around the world pour trillions of dollars into their
fledgling financial structures, we have all quickly become swept up in
yet another delusion. We’re not trying to figure out what we have been
doing wrong all along. We’re trying to figure out how to fix things so
that we can get back to living a life of mindless consumerism again.
The greatest tragedy of all is not the downturn in world economies;
it’s not that we will probably be working harder and gaining less in
the coming years; it’s not the increased tax burden that awaits us.
It’s that we are still just heading down the same, unfortunate road. It
may take ten years, or fifty years, or even another hundred before
history again repeats itself, and our world once more comes crashing
down around us.
At some point we have to realize that life is more than big homes,
cars, gadgets, and fancy clothes; that happiness does not lie in the
things that we own, but in the things that we do; that real fulfillment
comes from the things that we uncover about ourselves while striving to
lead a life of selflessness for the greater good of humanity.
We now stand on what could be our generation’s greatest threshold of
with a chance step bravely into a new, more enlightened way of living.
Yet few seem to recognize the opportunity, and fewer still seem to have
the courage to step through that doorway.
Sure, it would have been nice for such a big shift in consciousness to
come easily and painlessly, but big shifts, as a matter of course, do
not. Massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions alter the landscape of
this planet and so too do massive cultural and economic upheavals shake
mankind from its slumber. The quake has hit; we’ve all been stirred
from our blissful dreams, and now it’s time to stop pointing fingers
and to start coming to terms with the reality that faces the world — a
reality that says its time to start living a more intelligent life.
Swami Gitananda used to tell his
students, “You don’t have a problem, you are the problem!” We are, each
and every one of us, responsible for our lives and all that happens to
us. In the same way that we have all created this nightmare for
ourselves, we all have the power and ability to change it, to create
lives of immensely deeper meaning and purpose, lives that are based on
the foundations of wisdom and moderation, lives that show understanding
of the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, lives that reveal
love and compassion for all our brothers and sisters across the globe,
and lives that reflect seeing the world as it truly is — not as we
ignorantly and selfishly want it to be.
It’s time to realize the difference between our “needs” and our
“greeds.” Life can and should be a lot simpler. Once we embrace that
fact, then we will never let ourselves be enticed by the golden calf
down the road to ruin again. Then we, as a global population, will
finally find peace, health, happiness, and everlasting prosperity.
the Author: Yogacharya is the director of International
an opinion? Send
us Your Comments ...
Yoga and Hinduism
they one and the same?
Last month I came across an article in "The Chicago Sun Times" by Rupa
Shenoy, entitled “More Than Just a Pose.” An
American of Indian heritage, Rupa voiced his disapproval of the general
way in which yoga is being presented in America and pointed out the
obvious disconnect of yoga in the West from its Hindu roots.
Around that same time, I received an email from a man who referred to
himself as a swami, asserting that “You and your swami ‘obviously’ do
not really know what Yoga is. Yoga is the Hindu religion” — full stop!
Though I’ve never met this person, he continued to write me with more
dispariging words. Clearly he has strong feelings about this issue,
even though I felt his hasty judgements about me and my guru were
In addition to these things, I noticed a buzz in the media over the
past few weeks about a group of parents who were up in arms against
yoga classes being offered at a school in Massena, New York, claiming
that their children would be subtly indoctrinated in principles of the
past week Muslim clerics in Malaysia have also spoken out against the
practice of yoga and its association with Hindusim, threatening to
issue a fatwa, or ban, on the practice of yoga in the country.
Evidently, this was a subject that I was being prodded to address.
I am not a Hindu. I was born in Canada, and I admit that it took me
quite some time to come to know something of Hinduism and also to
appreciate its relevance to the science of yoga. I am in India, on my
eighth visit, right now. Each time I come here, I learn more about this
culture, these people, Hinduism and yoga. Over the years, I have come
with certainty that yoga and the ancient spiritual culture of this land
are utterly inseparable.
The parents of Massena
high school had a legitimate beef. Yoga has its foundation in the
spirituality of ancient India, and its teachings are indivisible from
that. Yet, at the same time, very little if any of those spiritual
teachings are portrayed in the common approach to yoga in the West. The
latest decision taken by the school on this matter was a compromise
that reflected exactly that fact. Instead of “yoga classes,” the school
has agreed to offer a voluntary program with “yoga-type exercises” and
refer to it as “Raider relaxation,” named after the school’s mascot.
also imagine that Rupa’s arguments in his editorial ring true for many
Hindus in America today, as they spoke directly to this point. He
begins his commentary by lamenting a group of Caucasians at a party who
were improperly using, and cheekily mocking, the Indian greeting
He also rightly points out that “tens of thousands of
non-Hindus are practicing an art that is central to the Hindu religion
and quite often misunderstanding and misrepresenting many of the
To illustrate his point, he didn’t have to wander any
further than a few experiences from members of his own family. “My
sister attends yoga classes,” he said, “but on her first visit, a
religious faux pas was immediately apparent to her. A small statue of a
Hindu God sat in the front of the room. If my sister did the postures
correctly, her feet would have pointed in its direction, which, in
Hinduism, is the highest gesture of disrespect.”
Also relating the
experience of his cousin who attended a yoga-instructor training class
in New York, he claims that “when the teacher explained the
philosophies of Hinduism, he got the basics all wrong.”
Even cranky email swami had a valid point. Yoga is not the exotic
physical fitness system that it is being portrayed as today. Is it
correct, though, to say that yoga is simply Hinduism? Although many
elements of the science
of yoga are certainly inherent in Hinduism, and although yogis may
easily identify with Hinduism, all Hindus are not
necessarily on the yogic path.
and spirituality are not the same thing. Religions, as mass movements,
are more concerned with social order than spiritual awakening. Their
followers, many Hindus included, often engage
in a lives wrapped in samskara,
subconsciously conditioned thoughts and attitudes, and not lives
reflecting a passionate search for the highest truth and understanding.
religion, though, has its spiritual saints, the ones who peer into the
deeper dimensions of their respective teachings; the ones who engage in
a profound exploration of the 'inner self' to find
the ultimate spiritual transcendence. They are the
Christian mystics, the Islamic sufis, and
in Hinduism, the yogis.
would be accurate to say that yoga stems from the ancient Vedic culture of
India, the spiritual tradition from which the Hindu religion arose, and
in many respects, is still reflective of today. The Vedic period refers
to an earlier time when life was lived, in every sense, the yogic way.
As Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani says in
her essay, “Returning To the Roots:
Classical Yoga”, this was a time when “yoga was a way of life, a
culture, and a life style, which encompassed not just techniques,
practices, and ideas, but also eating habits, bathing habits, cultural
use of body, prayer, social interaction, and work.”
She explains that the Vedic
was defined by “a vast body of attitudes toward being, an ingrained
sense of morality and ethics, so strongly etched on the character that
it would be literally unthinkable to transgress them.”
as well, that “any attempt to return to the roots of yoga, must
necessitate a return to the life style, attitudes and realizations of
the great Rishis,”
or seers, of this ancient period.
Rupa Shenoy also reminds us that yoga is “part of a religion and
deserve respect,” a feeling no doubt shared by millions of silent
Indians around the world today. But, adds, “Our religion is very
accepting. We don't really like to make waves.” With such a placid
attitude, however, this anchorless modern yoga ship may remain
adrift on its own sea of samskara
for a long time to come.
the Author: Yogacharya is the director of International
an opinion? Send
us Your Comments ...
festival of lights
which means “row of lamps,” is a five-day festival that culminates on
the final day of the dark half of Kartika,
which fell on October 28th
Referred to as the festival of lights, homes are given a thorough
cleaning during this time and then illuminated at night with small
earthenware oil lamps called diyas.
Also called Divali
it is the most popular of all the
festivals in India, celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs alike. Like
Christmas in the West, it is an occasion for buying and exchanging
gifts. In fact, Deepavali
has really become a time for serious
shopping, with commercialism, as it is with Christmas, now starting to
erode the spiritual side of the festival.
However, the holiday remains a joyous and friendly time across India; a
time when everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. It
represents a time of unity and instils warmth and charity in the
There are various origins attributed to this festival. It is an
occasion for some to celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi, the Goddess of
wealth and prosperity, to Lord Vishnu. Bengalis worship the Goddess
Kali during this time.
Deepavali also commemorates the triumphant return of Lord Rama to
Ayodhya after defeating the Demon Ravana. Likewise, on this day, Sri
Krishna killed the demon Narakasura; thus making the celebration of
good triumphing over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over
ignorance, a significant aspect of this festival.
Diwali also marks the end of the harvest season in most of India;
farmers thank the Goddess Lakshmi for their bounty and pray for a good
harvest for the year to come. Business people regard this as a
favourable day to start a new accounting year and invoke the blessings
of the Goddess for a good year ahead.
The Sanskrit word Deepavali
comes from the root words deep, meaning
"light of the dharma",
which means "a continuous line." Its meaning speaks to the eternal,
continuous light within — the Atman
— the eternal, cosmic soul which is beyond body and mind, which is
pure, infinite, and eternal.
is really the celebration of this Inner Light and the
knowledge that it outshines all darkness. We are reminded during this
time of our highest Divine nature; we are reminded that, as light
dispels darkness, so should we continually strive to seek knowledge and
The ultimate aim of Deepavali
is to set us all moving forward on the
spiritual path so that we might ultimately attain illumination and
remember our universal oneness with God. The lighting of the lamps is a
symbolic representation of the reminder to light the lamps of wisdom,
goodness, and God-consciousness in all of us.
Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani
Kalaimamani Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani was born
The United States of America and travelled to India to study yoga in
1968, at the age of twenty-five. She has remained there ever since.
1992 she finally received her Indian citizenship, an event that she
describes as the proudest day of her life. Although her fair complexion
is unmistakable among the dark skin Tamils in her South Indian home,
she is, in every sense, an Indian woman.
In my studies of yoga and my
search for truth and deeper understanding in life, I have yet to meet
anyone who has influenced me so profoundly. Amma, as she is
affectionately referred to by all, is without a doubt my greatest
teacher, although she may not even know it. That’s because she doesn’t
look for personal recognition from her students. She does not seek the
limelight; she has no desire for fame, fortune, or public attention.
fact, at times she can even be downright illusive. It took me a while
to understand that she is not interested in becoming another object of
attachment for her many students and admirers, who are already
struggling to break themselves of the burden of immense worldly
dependence. She is always there, though, as a true and loving guru is:
watching, guiding, and above all else, demonstrating in each and every
moment, through a life of absolute devotion to the teachings of yoga.
She was trained as a journalist way back when, and over the years has
become a prolific author and public speaker. Perhaps what first drew me
to Amma was her exquisite ability to communicate profound concepts in a
practical and meaningful way; and it’s in the intimate satsangas,
the discourses which
she shares in the evenings with her students, where her wisdom is so
I have always been amazed by Amma’s insightful
analysis of the “human condition”; I am humbled by her consistent
capacity to convey observations in a pleasant and respectful way; a
rare skill that shows a remarkable compassion for everyone and
Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is the resident Acharya of Ananda
Ashram in Pondicherry, India. She is also an accomplished
dancer who has trained over 10,000 village children in this ancient
She is the Director of Studies for the annual six-month yoga teacher
training program at the International Centre for Yoga Education and
Research (ICYER). She has also been editor of “Yoga Life”
nearly 4 decades, as well as the managing editor of Ananda Ashram's
publishing unit, Satya Press.
She was named an eminent yoga expert to
the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, under the
Indian Health Ministry, and is one of the founding members of the newly
formed Indian Yoga Association.
The list of her awards and recognitions
is endless; the list of her keynote speaking engagements and seminar
presentations too vast to mention.
Just noting all that she accomplishes in a single day leaves me
breathless, yet she flows though life seemingly effortlessly, while
still finding the time to be a loving grandmother to two adorable
Smt. Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is grace and dignity
personified and one of the brightest lights in the world of yoga today;
not for all that she has done, or for all that she continues to
selflessly do, but because she exemplifies, in every conceivable way,
what it truly means to live a yogic life.
more about Smt. Meenakshi
Devi Bhavanani, visit:
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