Android app on Google Play iPhone app Download from Windows Store

 

Yoga has no Religion

My immediate response to the assertion that “Yoga has no religion” is a flat denial. Because I know Yoga, Yoga is a friend of mine and I can truthfully attest to the fact that Yoga does indeed have a religion. He’s a Hindu. Therefore anyone making the claim that Yoga has no religion is either ignorant or is a liar (maybe both) since it is categorically and emphatically false. Do I make myself clear?

Oh, they mean the practice of yoga, the set of physical and mental exercises that originated in India and is widely used across the world for improving physical and spiritual well-being? Well, well, then let me address that “Yoga has no religion” claim. Spoiler alert: it is a stupid, meaningless statement made by the congenitally ignorant demonstrating a mentally disabling but well-deserved inferiority complex.

“Yoga has no religion” belongs to a category of statements that are syntactically sound but semantically empty like the statement “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” (Briefly hold the cursor over the link for a reference. Always a good idea to do so.)

The statement is indeed well-formed and has the usual English subject-predicate structure with ‘Yoga’ as the subject and the predicate ‘has no religion.’ And unless the subject refers to a human being (real or imaginary), the statement is semantic nonsense: it is neither true nor false. Meaningful statements are either true or their converse is true. Consider the statement “Cars have no possessions.” It is meaningless because neither it nor its contradiction is true. People have possessions; inanimate objects don’t.

Cars can be possessions, however. Or a car may be abandoned and therefore have no possessor. Cars can be possessed but cars do not possess. That distinction is important and worth keeping in mind if one is interested in not coming across as an imbecile.

Yoga is a technique (I am not referring to my aforementioned friend who has a PhD in material science, not spiritual science), a way of doing or thinking about things just like modern science, or motorcycle maintenance, or psychoanalysis, or minimalism, or gymnastics, or terrorism. All of those things are not people. Only people have the capacity to understand, believe in, and profess ideologies such as a religion. Thus it is meaningful to say that James has or does not have a religion. If James is a self-identified atheist, one can truthfully assert that “James has no religion.” But saying “Material science has no religion” is revealing asininity.

A related cretinous statement to “Yoga has no religion” is “Terrorism has no religion” — usually made by the same retards. Terrorism is a technique or a strategy, not a person. A terrorist is a person. Therefore a terrorist can be said to have or not have a religion. Thus, for instance, when a terrorist asserts that he is following the commands of Allah as revealed to the prophet of Islam and preserved in the Islamic holy book the Koran, and kills innocents as he blows himself up, it makes sense to say, “the terrorist is a Muslim” but it makes no sense to say “Terrorism has no religion.”

Those statements are just plain abuse of language. One does not have to take a course on general semantics or become an expert on Korzybski’s thesis to stop misuse of language. I argue for the proper use of language, and basic sanity in general.

Anyway, let’s get back to yoga — note the lower-case ‘y’. Yoga is a technique that was developed in India centuries ago, and belongs to Hinduism (and its theological off-springs such as Buddhism and Jainism) in the sense that those who created it self-identified as Hindus (regardless of whether they used the word “Hindu” or “Sanatan dharma”) and is preserved in the sacred scriptures of what is known as Hinduism. All of yoga’s ancient practitioners have been Hindus and only in modern times, have non-Hindus started using the technique. Practicing yoga does not make one a Hindu. But merely because non-Hindus or non-Indians can (and do) practice yoga does not alter the fact that yoga is a Hindu tradition and its provenance is entirely Indian.

Let me use this analogy. I love bhajans. I love Buddhist chants. I love Christian sacred music. Mozart’s “Requiem in D minor” or Bach’s “St Matthews Passion” or Handel’s “Messiah”, move me to tears. That music is absolutely, distinctly Christian. My appreciation of it does not make me a Christian, and the fact that non-Christians can relate to the music does not uproot the music from its Christian ground. Music does not have a religion but different religions have different musical traditions. Meera bhajans are Hindu; Tibetan chants are Buddhist; Gregorian chants are Roman Catholic.

Yoga is Indian and more specifically Hindu in that sense. Hindu sacred texts contain its principles; Hindus were its principal authorities; Hindus, and only Hindus, practiced it for centuries. The yoga asanas such as the Surya Namaskar are Hindu practices. The wikipedia notes, “Its origins lie in India where its large Hindu population worships Surya, the Hindu solar deity. This sequence of movements and asanas can be practised on varying levels of awareness, ranging from that of physical exercise in various styles, to a complete sadhana which incorporates asana, pranayama, mantra and chakra meditation.”

Here’s a clue that yoga is Hindu. Only Hindus name their children Yoga or Yogananada; Christians, Muslims, Jews don’t.

Indeed, many prominent Muslim and Christian authorities have issued religious edicts prohibiting their coreligionists from doing yoga. These people are quite understandably wary of yoga — it is a Hindu practice and is more than likely to “corrupt” them. Yoga is a gateway, a mechanism, a means, a road to reaching enlightenment. Enlightenment is a uniquely Indian spiritual goal. Unlike in the Abrahamic religions which focus entirely on pleasing a monotheistic god who demands absolute, unconditional obedience, the Indic religions’ goal is liberation or moksha, the removal of the illusion that one is not the supreme being.

Spiritual advancement, not obedience to some super-big-daddy-in-the-sky, is the goal of yoga. Etymologically, yoga is a cognate of “yoke” — to unite, to bind. The idea is to yoke yourself to the ultimate principle behind the universe, the universal consciousness. Yoga is essentially about mind and its control. And if one starts with the physical bits, who knows whether one will gravitate towards the non-physical bits. And that would not be very good for the proselytizing religions.

My position on who should do yoga, who should be prohibited, who should be forced, etc, is very simple. It is in keeping with my fundamental principle: do what you will. I don’t like coercion and I do not coerce. If you want to do yoga, fine. If you don’t want to do yoga, fine. Do whatever you want to do, do it to your heart’s content but don’t coerce — in yoga or anything at all.

(You may ask, what brought on this rant. Well, wonder no more. It was this tweet:

No sir, yoga is an integral part of Hinduism. Yes, it may be practiced universally but it is and will remain Hindu. Get used to it. I guess it sucks for you but you just have to suck it up.

[Free language lesson thrown in: "Suck it up": Idiom -- to accept whatever calamity, pain, suffering, anguish or whatever unpleasantness is occurring (and stoically endure it).]

I am not familiar with Shahid Siddiqui’s work but I have a hunch that he may have claimed “Terrorism has no religion.” I know that Manohar Parrikar did declare “terror has no religion.” Bombs have no religion too. Nor do planes, and automobiles. Come to think of it, my derrière has no religion, too. So what.

Anyhow, I may have gone ballistic on Parrikar on twitter. I will have to locate those tweets one of these days.)

Atanu Dey on India's Development

Atanu Dey
Chapters
PJ O’Rourke: Every government is a parliament of whores
The Amazing Power of Technology
Swami Vivekanand: To the 4th of July
No True Islamic State
Herbert Simon — Information consumes attention
Yoga has no Religion
Hayek on “The Mirage of Social Justice”
An Open Letter to PM Shri Modi
Prefer a Functioning Economy
Political Discrimination is Socially Harmful
Markets & Competition
Ministry of Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy
John Stuart Mill on the Liberty of Thought and Discussion
Reading Ronald Coase
Universal Literacy
Man versus the State
What Comes Before
An ad from 1947: “The Uphill Task Ahead”
Pohela Boishakh, Vishu, and Puthandu Greetings
Rich People Spend More
Goodbye, Mr Lee Kuan Yew
Friday the 13th, Pi Day the 14th & Beware the Ides of March
Money is the root of all Evil
Warren Buffet’s Letter to the Shareholders
The Man Lee Kuan Yew Admires the Most
An Informed Citizenry is the Bulwark of a Democracy
Problems and Solutions
People I Admire – Part Doh
Nelson Mandela on Education
Criticizing Modern Indian Holy Cows Considered Dangerous
Richard Dawkins on the Monotheistic God
List of Pages on Teresa the Merciless
People I Admire
Lee Kuan Yew is under Intensive Care
On Monkeys, Cats & the Generality Principle
The Great Indian Bamboozle has to Stop
2400 hours of electricity for Delhi — every year?
Make India first to “Make in India”
Republic Day Thoughts on Reading the Constitution
A Day of Shame and National Mourning for India
The most dangerous man to any government
Socialism, Competition and Politicians
Open Thread: Ask me anything
Aakash, the “iPad Killer”, Vaporware has Evaporated
The Dreamer and the Dream
Circular Firing Squad of Flying Attack Monkeys Target Rajiv Malhotra
We need more Anandamide, not Jihadamide
Constitutions Matter in our Daily Lives
The Only Home We’ve Ever Known
Adam Smith on the Division of Labor
The Passing of Former President Mr APJ Abdul Kalam
Socialism Works its Wonders in Venezuela - also in West Bengal
Why the terrorists killed the satirists of Charlie Hebdo
Islam Poses an Existential Threat
The Wisdom of the Crowd
On Knowing Enough to Know that You Don’t Know
NITI — New Initiatives for Transforming India
Will India Recover?
The Unbearable Stupidity of Controlling Prices
Nov 14th as the “Day of Shame and Lamentations for India.”
The Indian Constitution — Part 2
Hayek on Valuing Individuals
Mr Modi goes to Washington