Yoga beyond the Boundaries of Bharat

  • Born and living in Indonesia the author brings a different perspective. Article starts with origin of the Indian civilization, the word Hindu and how Indonesians addressed India before moving onto Yoga, its concepts.

“Those who cannot remember the past  are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana (1863-1952) Philosopher, Essayst, Poet and Novelist

Empires, Entire Nations and Civilizations have fallen from grace, disintegrated, fragmented and turned to dust because of this very reason.  Many of them are totally forgotten, as if they never existed… Indeed, those who do not remember history are forgotten by history.

Decades ago, Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul warned us of what could happen in countries, where a foreign culture is forcibly imposed upon an indigenous one. And, he particularly mentioned countries belonging to the great civilization of Sindhu Valley.

The first most clear traces and remnants of this great civilization were found in a region, now part of the modern Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The ruins of Mohen-jo-daro, recognized as the cradle of this ancient civilization stand witness to its greatness.

It was the Great Arab Historian of the 10th century BC, Al Beruni, who mispronounced Sindhu as Hindu. The historian collectively called all the lands and the islands beyond the Sindh valley (now part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) “Hind”.

He was not the first to mispronounce the word. Much earlier, the Greek had called it Indos, the Chinese Shintu or Shin-tuh, and there are indications that the early Arabs knew about Sindhu civilization from the Greek and the Chinese merchants and some of the tribes abbreviated it to Shin.

A thousand years later, Al Beruni wrote about the Indian civilization with an unparalleled passion, translated various spiritual and other texts into Arabic and glorified the people as worshipers of “One” God, as can be clearly seen in the following passage taken from the above mentioned book:

“In the book of Patanjali (the author is, perhaps, referring to a treatise based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – a.k.) the pupil asks: ‘Who is the worshipped one, by the worship of whom blessing is obtained?’

“The master says: ‘It is he who, being eternal and unique, does not for his part stand in need of any human action for which he might give as a recompense either a blissful repose, which is hoped and longed for, or a troubled existence, which is feared and dreaded. He is unattainable to thought, being sublime beyond all unlikeness which is abhorrent and all likeness which is sympathetic. By his essence he knows from all eternity. Knowledge, in the human sense of the term, has as its object that which was unknown before, whilst not knowing does not apply to God at any time or in any condition.”

This was of course not acceptable to Sultan Mahmud, the ruler of Ghazna, who wanted religious justification for the looting of the Indian Subcontinent.

Much later, when the Moguls came to India and settled there, they called their kingdom Hindustan. “Hindu” was never used to identify a certain religion, but rather a civilization as well as the geographical location. The Portuguese did the same when they distorted the word further into “Indies”. Later, the British pronounced it India.

Entrance to Anand Ashram, Ubud, Bali.

Interestingly, even one of the great Indonesian Freedom Fighters, Cokroaminoto, the founder of Syarikat Islam, called his Newspaper Utusan Hindia, literally meaning the “Hindian Messenger”, implying that Hindia did not refer to a particular religion, but to a cultural and geographical region. 

Nusantarans of Old and Modern Indonesians shared this very same civilization with the ancient Iranians, the Afghans and the peoples of Bharat (present day Indian subcontinent).

As pointed out by Coedes, the French historian, the mainland Indian rulers never colonized the subcontinent. They did not have to impose their spiritual and cultural values. For, the entire region shared with them those values.

The westerners called the Indonesian archipelago – ancient Nusantara or Dvipantara - lesser India… a misnomer though it recognized the fact that the peoples of the entire region belonged to the same civilization. 

The Nusantarans were not “lesser” in any way. Indeed, the Indonesian archipelago was recognized as Svarna Dvipa, the gold-yielding islands. The seas creating geographical separation did not separate the peoples culturally. They shared the same cultural roots.

Yoga as a Science developed from such roots. So, we find Yoga in its various forms all over the Indian subcontinent, and on the islands of Indonesia. Yoga has nothing to do with any “ism”, any religious creed, dogma, or doctrine; but with “Hindu” as a civilization.

“Hinduism” as religion is a fact that must be recognized today. So are the ancient indigenous belief systems of the Sundanese, the Javanese, and others living on the Indonesian archipelago. All these belief systems are as much a part of the Great Sindhu, Shintu or Hindu civilization as Yoga is. That, however, does not reduce Yoga into a religion or a sectarian belief system, as the words religion and belief are being defined today.

Any ardent student of cultural history of the region can easily discover that the word Yoga was already in use thousands of years before the word “Hindu” came into common usage. If we are to use Al Beruni’s terms, then the peoples of the modern Indian and Pakistani Republics, a major part of Indo-China and the Indonesian Archipelago are all Hindus. It is not surprising therefore, if the Indian pilgrims performing haj in Arabia were called Hindi Hajis until sometime ago.

Main entrance Ashram, Ubad, Bali. 

Our Common Ancestors - the Hindus of Old developed Yoga as a comprehensive and holistic system for general wellbeing. They did not create any dogma or doctrine around it. They did not reduce it to some sectarian teaching.  

That Yoga has its roots in the Hindu Cultural Values and Hindu Civilization is a historical fact that cannot be denied. It remains, however, free from any ism, as, indeed the Universal Hindu Spiritual Values are.

What about the numeral “Othen? Or, the Science of Astronomy? The Arabs first learnt it from the peoples of Sindh and later brought them to the west. Is it safe to use the same? It is indeed a shame that some groups of people reject Yoga without even understanding what Yoga is about, but, then, it is their own loss.

On the Other Hand, There are People who have Reduced Yoga to a Commodity – these are people thriving on the commercialization of Yoga.

Yoga is a life style; it is not merely a set of exercises or dry philosophy that can be mastered by taking a 100, 200, 500, 1000, or 10,000 hours program and becoming a certified teacher.

One must live Yoga, practice it, and must transform one’s entire life before sharing it. Yes, sharing it. For, a true practitioner of Yoga, a true Yogi shall never ever claim to be a teacher. A Yogi, at the most, is a facilitator. Nothing more. A true Yogi practices before preaching.

Alas, the world today is about with pseudo Yogis exhibiting their certificates for monetary gain alone. There are many who have no inkling of what Yoga is, and, yet, they are called Yoga teachers and instructors.

For Any True Practitioner of Yoga, the study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is not only imperative, but also part of his/her sadhana or Yoga practice.

At the time of his call for the adoption of June 21st as the International Yoga Day, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly pointed out before the UN General Assembly (September 27, 2014) that:

(Yoga) embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

An unprecedented 177 of the total 193 member states of the UN co-sponsored the resolution on the International Yoga Day. At the same time, one wonders if the explanation of Yoga given by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been properly understood.

For Many Self-Styled Yoga-Entrepreneurs and Yoga-certification industry, the adoption of June 21 as International Yoga Day is nothing but an Additional Tool for Marketing Yoga as Commodity. For them, Yoga is but a set of gym-like exercises, that’s all. Indeed, there are entrepreneurs who scoff at the idea of Yoga beyond what is convenient to sell.

Global Harmony Monument. Ashram at Udud, Bali. Behind is Meditation Hall.

Sometime Back, Al-Jazeera aired two shows on Yoga. The comments made by the prominent, some very big names, that Yoga is "this" and also "that" are very surprising and disturbing. They are equally guilty for the present, unfortunate state of Yoga, as it is turning into a commodity. There can be no two, no different definitions of medicine or economics or mathematics. The basic definition of each of those and other disciplines is one and the same. It is the same with Yoga.

Yoga is a Holistic Philosophy, covering all aspects of life. The purpose being enlightenment, samadhi, often translated as equilibrium or equanimity. It is a state of being, and a quality to live. And, if one goes a step further, then it is through Yoga practice that one realises oneness, in sanskrit kaivalya, the literal translation of which would be “suchness”.

This is a state of being, where one realises the oneness of all creation, all existence. Where one realises the interconnection and interdependency of all living beings, all living organism. Thus, one can no longer remain indifferent toward the suffering of not only fellow human beings, but fellow living beings.

A Yogi i.e. a True Practitioner of Yoga Cannot be Violent. A Yogi cannot be intolerant. He/she is not a power-monger. There are certain end-results expected of a Yogi from practicing Yoga as Life-Discipline.

Unfortunately, many of those engaged in "Selling" Yoga are not familiar with those values. They are not even familiar with the Basic Texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (the prime most text), Bhagavad Gita, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

They are more concerned with certifications, alliances, and etcetera, with monetary gain as their main aim and sole purpose. To discard all these texts and given to egoistic notion that one can learn Yoga without referring to them betrays one's ignorance and vanity. 

Our heads may spin upon researching the background of most of the “certification agencies”. One wonders if Krishna, Buddha or Patanjali, the great masters of Yoga, had any certification? Forget the Oldies and the Divines, even Swami Shivananda, or, more recent B.K.S. Iyengar had no certification. 

Unfortunately however, even those associated with such sane names are now given to insanity, to this mad rush to make money by selling Yoga.

Yoga, once again, is a Way of life. One who does not live Yoga can never ever share the Yogi Way of Life.

Certificates issued by them are worthless. The real Yogis are Acharyas, they teach by their own life example. One, two, or five hundred hours of training cannot turn you into a Yogi. It is a lifetime sadhana or spiritual practice. Wake up and be a True Yogi!

….. awaken the Spirit of True Yogi within you, within each one of us…. 

yoga ve jayati bhuri

ayoga bhurisankhayo

etam dvedhapatham natva

bhavaya vibhavaya ca

tatha ttanam niveseyya

yatha bhuri pavaddhati.

Indeed, Wisdom is born of Yoga;

without Yoga Wisdom is lost.

Knowing this twofold path of

gain and loss of Wisdom,

one should conduct oneself

so that Wisdom may increase.

Buddha Dhammapada, Verse 282

(Excerpted from the book "Live Yoga: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for Modern Times” by Anand Krishna)

About the AuthorProud of his Sindhi-Indian ancestry rooted in the Glorious Sindhu Civilization and Culture Anand Krishna was born in Solo (Central Java), and is his Karma Bhumi, his work field. Beside the mother Organization, Anand Ashram Foundation (affiliated with UN), Anand Krishna has inspired several other social and educational institutions. The 4th President of Indonesia, KH Abdurrahman Wahid recognized his contributions and said, “If we want to have peace, then we must hear what Anand Krishna is saying”. He has a legacy of 180+ books to date with more than 1.5 million copies sold in the past 20 years. Anandji has an ashram in Ubud, Bali.

Cover of authors book on Yoga Sutra Patanjali.

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