Darth YogaBecky & Hinduphobia

      Darth YogaBecky   &   Hinduphobia

             A Facebook Docu-Drama

                          Presented  in Two Acts

                                     by Sri Louise

 

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“Admiration of a foreign culture or a foreign aesthetic system can connote broad-mindedness and at the same time flatter the aesthetic or political pretensions of the connoisseur. The regard for difference can also become another way to control what has been determined to fall into the category marked “foreign:” certainly this can be it’s effect on the ground, especially when people are stripped of their art and ceremonial objects so that Western admirers can look at them conveniently located in Museums.

In this way appreciation a la Gautier becomes no more than another manifestation of the colonial mentality. It can operate as an alibi for various forms of colonial encroachment and can serve as an attempt to domesticate and bring under control difference not only with respect to bodies but also in terms of aesthetic codes and conventions. More important, it can presuppose the right to decide what is valuable and interesting. What this comes down to is the assumption that the colonist possesses the master code within which all data, all people and customs, all art objects, can be assimilated and judged.

In this way of thinking it is the colonist – or the museum expert, the anthropologist, the judge at the land claims court – who will decide what is authentic and, by extension, what is worth paying attention to, saving, or stealing. The world exists as a warehouse of treasure, with the plunder of choice this time more aesthetic than explicitly material. The aestheticized appreciation of difference can elide the extent to which the possibility of this appreciation continues to be based on ugly and unequal power relations. It still comes down to a question of who takes and who gives.”

Cannibal Culture – Art, Appropriation, & the Commodification of Difference

by Deborah Root

                           

                              Introduction

 

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I recently found myself at the center of a What Makes This Yoga conversation in a Facebook group for “Yoga and Movement enthusiasts.” This was not the first time as a white woman I have been singled out by other white women and socially isolated for calling out racism in the group, but the ever increasing white fragility of Yoga people in the US and Canada made this conversation particularly interesting as a cultural case study. The thread was deleted by Diane Bruni, the admin of the group and later dismissed by her as, “Good entertainment, but that’s about it.”

A conversation, which took place over two days, with multiple participants on the topic of cultural appropriation in Yoga is deleted because its worth, for the community, is only in its entertainment factor? I would have kept it simply for its entertainment value, but more importantly as a record of how whites in Yoga approach, define, and obscure the identity and meaning of Yoga from its own standpoint and how hostile they become when confronted with this issue.  

White women feel totally entitled to speak on Yoga’s behalf even when they themselves admit to never having studied any of the texts that govern Yoga, describe the methods for self-realization, it’s ontological significance and the cultural relevance of Yoga within Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma. 

Diane Bruni started the group as a way to dissent from Yoga. An Indian in the group asked why dissent was part of the description. Diane uses the word Yoga to mean Asana. She opened the first Asthanga Yoga studio in Toronto and after many years of repetitive practice suffered an extreme injury, tearing a gluteal muscle from the bone. This injury, as well as other health issues, led her to investigate many different modes of moving and healing. Her process is now to bring that information back into the field of Yoga. The Yoga and Movement Research community shares information about a host of body related topics. All are based upon Western science.

I am also a dancer and like Diane, am inspired by Axis Syllabus. My asana practice has always been influenced by movement ideas found in dance and somatic practices such as Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Body Mind Centering and Trager. I am not part of an institutionalized style of Asana and therefor, have always enjoyed the freedom to design my own practice and to include other movement modality concepts, some which I integrate into my Asana practice and others that I do not.

In recent years there has been a lot of dialogue in the Yoga community about Asana and Asana related injuries. I am not opposed to these conversations and think in a culture that has made Yoga synonymous with Asana and turned Asana into the workout method of the new millennium, obviously these conversations are increasingly critical, not just to our understanding of functional movement, but also to our understanding of the danger of cultural appropriation and the psycho/physical ramifications of mis-appropriation.  Additionally, I’m concerned that many of these conversations fixate on the body and do not situate Asana in the larger framework of Yoga and when pressed, are actually deeply antagonistic to Yoga and especially to Hinduism.

Hatha Yoga is based in Eastern science. What happens when the West digests this practice and re-imagines it from its own scientific or fitness perspective. Does it promote a Western bias? Does it replay the colonial trope of everything that has value is Western in nature? That anything that is Eastern, i.e. Hindu, needs to be “fixed” or “evolved” out of its backwardness by the colonial class?

There is so much to unpack in Diane’s description of the group, which is pictured below, especially when you experience the low level tolerance of Yoga politics by Diane and others in the group. (Note: the new rules that govern this group do not allow for politics of any kind to be posted, Because I assume I’m Going To Retain All My Privileges Forever.)

 

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When Diane asks, what is Yoga, she is asking what is Asana from an anatomical perspective. She is not trying to restore Asana or even to understand its role as a conduit for Eastern esoterics. It’s not even a balanced approach. There are no articles about the relationship of Asana to the whole, what is actually Yoga or discussions about how the West has misappropriated Asana to such a degree that practitioners are ripping their muscles from bone. There is little mention of the western psyche, how and what it projects about itself onto Yoga. Instead, the critique centers on Asana completely dislocated from it’s cultural roots, except for when Westerners don’t want to assume responsibility for their own Yoga shitshow and then they love to recognize its Indian roots in terms of Blame-the-Hindu.

White scholars have promoted the idea that Asana as the West knows it, is a modern construction or rather a fabrication of western influences that cannot be attributed to any religious continuity spanning 10,000 years on the Indian Subcontinent. The fallout of this perspective is the wide spread isolation of Asana from the theories and religious culture that govern it.

This has allowed the rise of Christian Yoga, faux teachers like Matthew Remski to teach Hindu sacred texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, even though his writings, especially with regards to the Gita are routinely anti-Hindu and Diane to start a group for “Discussion or questions related to Yoga Asana and other movement based modalities and their related fields. Examples include: Axis Syllabus, Pilates, weight and cross-training, calisthenics/ bodyweight exercise, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics and injury prevention,” which situates asana among fitness/therapy pursuits as if it is a one dimensional corporeal practice belonging to western science.

Yoga is an unbroken tradition, which means it has been in existence and carefully cultivated in India since time immemorial. Diane Bruni has no connection to that tradition and is deeply inimical towards it as her posts at the end of this conversation reveal. I’m not sure what she means “if you believe Yoga is a living tradition”…or why she thinks Westerners are in a position to carry a tradition they have no relationship to forward?

When Diane asks if you think Yoga is living, she asks this not to embrace Yoga’s historical identity or it’s ancestral relevance, which are all part of the existence/tradition of Yoga, rather she is negating any fixed notions of Asana in the West, but linear fixation is part and parcel of western pyshco-cosmology. There is nothing more linear than how we tell time, embodied or otherwise. Any non-linear approach to temporality that the West “stumbles” upon has been in Vedic cultural parlance already for thousands of years, even before Christ. The Vedic or Hindu Dharmic outlook, is inherently inclusive, fluid and cyclical and I’m surprised Diane doesn’t want to include it in her quest for somatic-self understanding.

I have said that I think there are many ways in which the West can contribute to the practice of Yoga, bio-mechanics is one of them, trauma sensitivity is another, but that would mean Western Yoga included an understanding of the nature of reality and these practices were oriented toward that directional goal, then we could say we were fostering a mutual understanding of Yoga. For those who are not interested in using Asana in this way, I suggest they stop calling what they’re doing Yoga. To call what you do Yoga without understanding or even being interested in the cosmology or ontology of Dharmic traditions is not Yoga. It’s that simple.

I even offer up new names like Fitness Asana or Bio-Asana and in your class description you could say, I have extracted Asana from the larger framework of Hinduism, to just focus on the body. I promise to play my singing bowl and every now and then I’ll use my special voice to share a few, feel-good slogans I picked up from the many spiritual paperbacks I have read along the way. P.S. Don’t worry, nothing about this is religious, which is code for saying, relax, I have taken the Hindu out of Yoga.

Now this makes a lot of people in the West really mad as this thread reveals. Many people have spent decades doing downward dog to the count of 5 and feel they have invested a lot in the propagation of Yoga in North America…but as you will see through the comments, Yoga is no where in sight. Instead, new age approaches to body and empowerment have given people a career with a soap-box for how to be spiritual when you have no idea who you are. It’s shocking how little most Western Yoga teachers actually know about Yoga.

Some of the antagonism is their own unacknowledged conflict to their religion of origin, which is often projected onto Hinduism, first positively and then negatively. It’s part of the “individuation” process of westerners in Yoga and the tenacious sense of ownership they derive post-individuation process. What’s happening in the West is not a struggle for Yoga, most people have no idea what Yoga is and really don’t care, it’s a struggle for capital. Think The Secret for spiritual narcissists, who have no analysis of capitalism.

Diane Bruni is very critical of Pattabhi Jois and the Astanga method, but is willing to up-hold Danny Paradise, a white male Astanga teacher, because he lets her off the Yoga hook…by the way, S.L. is code for Sri Louise!

 

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I don’t know, I feel like this is Diane Bruni having a Meryl Streep moment…Understanding the demographics of most Yoga classes, it is safe to assume that Danny’s classes are mostly white women, who probably have a lot of anti-blackness steeped into their whiteness, but suddenly, Kemetic Yoga is white ladies’ Yoga Du Jour.

If you accept the Out of Africa migration theory, and there is a debate over migration dates from Africa to India, 75,000 or 50,000 ago, then we can say, “we” share a genetic history, but especially for those of us who are white, I think we should be careful in our quest to homogenize everything, so that we don’t have to negotiate difference on every other social/economic/geo-political level.

It’s also important to note that migration and what migrating people take them with about their spiritual identity is a totally different dynamic than what we are referring to as cultural appropriation by Euro-Americans…I also think it is safe to say, that what we practice and understand about Yoga is based in an understanding of Self that can be traced to the Rishis and is still extant in Vedic scripture and taught today within a Hindu framework, not as some kind of watered down appropriation, but rather as the fulfillment of complete self-mastery, maintained and passed on for generations through the Guru/Sishya, teacher/student relationship.

Diane’s statement on the roots of Yoga can only be contextualized by reading the entire thread because what it reveals is something more sinister and that is the depths Diane is willing to go to not give Yoga to the Hindus…I don’t know why she and others are so reluctant to give the origins and cultivation of Yoga civilization on the Indian subcontinent to the Hindus…I can only attribute this to Hinduphobia.

It is not without the least bit of irony that while we were having this conversation in the Yoga & Movement Research Community, which is a Canadian based platform, that a formal apology to the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus of the Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship carrying 370 Indian emigrants, who were not allowed to disembark in Van Couver,  was being pronounced by Prime Minister Trudeau.

The apology was in recognition of the racism at play 100 years ago. “The move was widely acknowledged to be aimed at keeping Indians out of Canada. Then premier of British Columbia, Sir Richard McBride, said at the time, ‘And we always have in mind the necessity of keeping this a white man’s country.‘”  It’s not that Hinudphobia is new, it’s just that it has not been articulated in the Yoga community until now.

In other “anti-Indian news,” The Navaho nation recently brought a civil suit against the retailer Urban Outfitters, who launched the “Navaho” hipster panty and the particularly offensive, “Navaho” print, fabric wrapped flask. In court documents, the retail giant said, “The term “Navaho” is a generic term for a style or design, but “Diné [Navaho] tribal member Casey John disagrees with the argument “Navajo” is a generic term. Using Navaho to describe something is further colonizing the word.” Remaking something culturally specific into something generic for mass consumption, is an essential component of the coercive tactics of cultural appropriation for profit.

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Rajiv Malhotra’s U-Turn theory is a template for how the culturally specific, becomes universally unspecific, before again becoming specific as the “digested” innovation of a more dominant culture. The U-Turn theory explores the various dynamics in which westerners often “reject” their own culture and religion of origin in order to embrace the East, but eventually find themselves in conflict over how much Indianness can actually be tolerated by the Western psyche and eventually turn around.

The u-turn is marked by a reverse rejection, now of the East, but not before a considerable amount of Indian knowledge has been assimilated into western thought, posing as western discovery. Malhotra initially developed his theory based upon the rampant intellectual assimilation of Eastern ideas he observed among western academics, but his theory describes the current trend in North American Yoga with uncanny accuracy.

The U-Turn theory illustrates how the non-Indian goes from devotional and serious, often following a Guru, traveling to India and otherwise indulging in Hinduness, especially as a fashion statement, (because when you want to perform spiritual in the West, the costume combo of choice is the Kurta and Mala. What is the origin of prayer beads? I invite Diane to do her own research). Later, the same non-Indian will engage in distancing and neutralizing the Hinduness and then ostracizing the very thing they previously emulated, Hinduness, especially with attacks against others who have not taken a U-Turn.

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Anyone who remains and esteems Vedic heritage as being central to one’s understanding of Yoga, is immediately condemned as a right wing Hindu ideologue. This is how Hinduphobia works,  by conflating identity and “religious” orientation with political fanaticism and violence. The resulting consequence is that Yoga, which was previously Hindu, is now a generic commodity belonging the West. If there is no cultural root, there can be no cultural appropriation…You can easily see whose interest this line of reasoning caters to.

In the last few years we have seen countless conversations on social media as to what the word Yoga means and to what practices/understandings the term should be applied. Rage Yoga, Yoga on Tap, Yogaritas, Ganja Yoga, YogaFit are just some of the many ways that the West has capitalized on the generics of Yoga, but this obfuscation of Indigenous wisdom and co-optation into mainstream economics has a long history in North America.

Dr. Dawn Martin-hill, a Mohawk from the Wolf Clan, holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and is one of the original founders of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University, in Hamilton/Ontario, Canada. In 2013 she gave a Ted Talk titled, Indigenous Knowledge, the White Man’s Indian: Mythology Ignores our Contributions to the World. What she describes is identical to Malhortra’s U-Turn theory.

“Our ideas and our thinking come from our spirituality, that is the basis, of how we know who we are and our identity and our sovereignty comes from the Creator. It’s an inherent right that we have. This is in direct contrast to European representation, their myth of the Indian. They were appropriating our knowledges, they were appropriating our medicines, our land, they were colonizing all the things that we had contributed to their survival in the Americas, but they never gave any credit to the people who gave them that knowledge and that was indigenous people. Everything from irrigation, to foods to political thought, we have shaped the psyche and the ideas of the West and that’s what you won’t, I’m sure you haven’t learned at any level of education.”

In her presentation, Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill mentions a ground breaking book by Robert Berkhofer titled the White Man’s Indian. “In the western formula lawlessness and savagery must recede before the vanguard of white society, of which the town and particularly the educated White woman are the prime symbols” (p.97)

At some point we will have a book called the White Man’s Yoga in which educated, white women will play a prominent role in the subjugation and erasure of Hindu contributions to the conception and cultivation of Yoga as a Moksa Sadhana, mainly through dismissing Indigenous voices, especially the Guru, a particularly Indian convention for self-knowledge and those white peers who have studied within Indigenous, traditional frameworks.

And how are they dismissed? Through attacks suggesting that those who uphold the scriptures of Hinduism as being authoritative on the subject, i.e., how one deciphers the definition, meaning and goal of Yoga, as promoting Hindu nationalism and upholding right wing Hindutva agendas, but this can only be done if you are willing to conflate Hinduism with factional hostility. When I described this willingness as Hinduphobic, I was promptly removed from the group.

One of the other group members, Amara Miller, wrote a blog post to address the privilege white women possess in the pursuit of Asana and to remind us, “we have to recognize that what we are doing isn’t just “fun,” or “safer,” it is also political.” Amara received both praise and condemnation for drawing attention to the group’s agenda. “We are trying to change the practice, and anytime we do this, especially when we are coming from places of privilege (which most of us in this group are, #noshadejusttruth) we are in danger of engaging in cultural appropriation”

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Allise Rhode remains in the group, even though her behavior and tone are deeply Hinduphobic. Why does Diane Bruni coddle her racist behavior? Because it upholds the white women hegemony of the group. If Diane makes me out to be a “bully,” who hijacked a thread, then she only needs to get rid of me, the collateral damage of white deflection, but she’ll keep the erratic Hinduphobe because it serves her fragility to think “I am out to get her,” and not that she herself is participating in Hinduphobia.

None of my comments were as defensive as Kathryn Beet or Allise Rhode, which you will see in the text and screen shots that follow. (note; the new house rules don’t allow for racism, but Allise is still in the group and to the best of my knowledge has not been reprimanded for her Hinduphobia by anyone in the group). I’m pretty sure when Diane means racism, she’s talking about me calling the white ladies YogaBeckies…

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What becomes more important for whites experiencing racial discomfort is to ‘scandalize the defense’ of the those who wage it, meaning, anyone who confronts the dominion of the white Yoga world will be silenced and vilified by various methods, otherwise known as scapegoating…because it is critical to the economic and social hegemony of Yoga in North America to maintain the white-washing of Yoga for its own neocolonial purposes.

What follows is a rather perfect example of this dynamic, which I refer to as YogaBeckyBecky, a term borrowed from Black Culture and Yoga fragility, a phrase based in and adopted from Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, which she expands upon in her book, What Does It Mean To Be White: Developing White Racial Literacy

I present to you the thread, almost in its entirety, for the purpose of telling history as it actually happens…because we all know how whites tell history, when they don’t just re-write it, they simply delete it.

 

                                    Act 1

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                                   Act II

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At this point I was removed from the group and the thread was deleted.

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                                Epilogue

Diane Bruni

ya, bullies, just tiring to figure out how to block this bully, she found her way into the group again overnight. So weird.
Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr

Kristy Goss

Kristy Goss change the setting to “any member can add people but must be approved by an admin” or something like that from the settings menu. By looking at that persons fb page I could see there was at least one other member from here cheering her on as she carried it on outside of the group. it was probably that person who added her back.
Like · Reply · 2 · 1 hr

Diane Bruni
Diane Bruni Kristy Goss Oh? really, so you think her friend brought her back into the group, How sneaky.
Like · Reply · 1 · 52 mins

Diane Bruni
Diane Bruni I know who that friend is, hummm? should i say something? no. waste of time.
Like · Reply · 1 · 50 mins

The person who re-added me is not who Diane or Kristy think, but it’s interesting to watch their social paranoia, a kind of Yoga Macartheism…how to root out everyone with dissenting views, even though Diane Bruni founded her group on dissent.

This Hinduphobic dynamic in the Yoga world that conflates any traditional understanding of Yoga with the right wing Hindutva agenda, is participating in a very dangerous dynamic.  It has become the buzz word to shut down any accountability for understanding Yoga from its own standpoint. This has very serious consequences.

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18 thoughts on “Darth YogaBecky & Hinduphobia

    1. This was the comment I left on J Brown’s FB page where he posted the podcast.

      If Yoga is a transcendental science, how come you have to read the Bhagavad Gita or the Yoga Sutras to figure it out? Like, why has no other culture created a system for transcendental understanding? This logic is some of the worst I have seen and If Hari Kirtana Das wants to talk about the Vedas being apauruseya, he should at least learn how to pronounce the word.

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      1. …because that science has to have a source? My take on his explanation is that the seed of this knowledge is transcendent, which then means that human translation is required in order for it to become applied wisdom. Otherwise, Brahman becomes just another fabrication of the human intellect. And there are other cultures that have systems for transcendental understanding – Taoism, Zen, Kabbalah, et al – they just aren’t as old (and as a result, not as developed) as the Vedic one.

        Could you elaborate on how the logic he presents is some of the worst you’ve seen? His assertion that Yoga can not be Hindu in origin, as it predates Hindu culture by several thousand years seems quite logical. And closing with an ad hominem attack on his pronunciation skills doesn’t really help to sway the debate one way or the other – it makes you sound like a pedant.

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      2. what do you mean predates? apauruseya is a term used to describe the Vedas. hari kirtana das, did not get his name from taoism, zen, kabbalah, et al. his name is a hindu name. he is teaching yoga to westerners, one of the primary texts he uses is the bhagavad gita. everything he does, from name to dress to subject matter, is rooted in hindu culture. the burden of proof is not on me, but on you/he to describe how you disconnect vedic culture from hindu culture to assert that yoga doesn’t belong to the hindus and consequently there is no cultural appropriation of yoga by westerners. if j brown were smarter, he would asked hari kirtana das to explain that in the podcast, instead j.brown was gleefully relieved to be let off of the appropriation hook by a fellow white male…if you would like to continue this conversation please give your identity.

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  1. Love this article. LOVE IT. I am constantly amazed but not surprised by the appropriation and all that. I lived in this whitewashed world, blissfully unaware of it all. Thanks to articles like these, the cracks are now appearing in the face of our collective white cognitive dissonance; even while a political retrenchment appears to be happening throughout the world of white people in Britain and the U.S.

    Being a white American male, whose father must be the Poster Child for White Privilege, I hadn’t TRULY understood this until I began dating a woman whose life is a Poster Child for Women everywhere- an Olympic medalist, social justice teacher and all around champion of right thinking. I have to say that without being in a relationship with someone like her, I might have never understood my own privilege, even when I thought that living in an ashram gave me some understanding of yoga.

    The combination of real yoga philosophy and watching the endless travails of a brown, powerful woman in the world filled with white men and their privilege constantly oppressing her as she tries to teach young people the more accurate history of the world has been life-changing for me.

    Men, and women- if you want to TRULY understand what white privilege is like- date a POWERFUL and WHIP-SMART brown person, living in a Western country. If you have ANY compassion at all, it will change your life forever. What she suffers, I would not wish on ANY person. Imagine your worst teenage bully from high school or middle school- then imagine you are surrounded by them- in management, at your restaurants, at your yoga studio, in your political leadership, on your school board. Imagine being a teacher, aware of all this, and yet surrounded by a culture that DEMANDS you teach violence (eating meat), teaches world history from a white only perspective, and imagine that everyone you met was prepared to bully you like the middle school kid, grown too large for their maturity level; and then you can maybe grasp what it is like.

    It will also help if you MOVE OUT of the United States, where it is nearly impossible to gain any real perspective on the problem, given the overall whitewashed nature of the entire culture there. I had not known how bad it was until I came to live in Canada, which is, itself a very whitewashed culture also.

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  2. Furthermore, I have come to an understanding of what some of this lengthy article is about. Posting a lot on Quora.com has led me to understand that the appropriators of yoga have a pattern that you can see:
    1. DO A THING, GET A FEELING; in this case, Yoga, but it needn’t be that- it could be anything. This is possible because of white privilege. The world’s resources are inevitably and naturally at your disposal, right? Ever has it been…WE ARE THE COLONIZERS!
    2. LACK ANY UNDERSTANDING of where this feeling came from, what produced it, if it has any history or grounding in anything. Also, be sure to use the most obvious characteristics (whatever name it was given the first time YOU experienced it) and then apply this name to ANY other time you have the same feeling. Ignore EVERYTHING ELSE.
    3. CHASE THIS FEELING around and vomit this same name (whatever it was) upon everything you see or feel that feels like you did then. Take a Teacher Training from Sri Billy Joe Jim Bob who now pronounces you able to now appropriate ANYTHING that matches this feeling you got the first time you experienced it, and still have no understanding of; but NOW YOU HAVE A CERTIFICATE, so have EVEN MORE privilege and permission to appropriate at will.

    This is a general category of people I call “feeling chasers” and it is one level on the scale of spiritual tourists.

    It’s like they took a Yoga Asanas class, then wrote a love song about their feelings about this Yoga Class and someone else heard that song and was inspired to go on a vision quest and then returned and created Billy Joe Jim Bob’s Cool Shamanic Apple Juice Diet Yoga. Insert your trademark here.

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  3. Was it wrong on the part of India not to copyright or patent our thousand year old heritage of Yoga & Ayurveda?
    The whole of West thrives on innovations which are duly patented & then used for decades to make capital gains. Appropriating our intellectual property & shamelessly crediting individuals who stole it as innovators. Instead of feeling indebted to the Civilization which gave you Yoga,Ayurveda & Meditation, you are trying to digest its useful parts while undermining the whole system. This is American Orientalism or Neo colonism spearheaded by US & followed by its friends

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  4. Hindutva? Do they even know about the person who coined this term? It was Veer Savarkar and he was an atheist.

    Also, Bhraminisation? Please leave them alone!! Those who historically murdered, looted, raped and pillaged and destroyed are today forgiven in modern India in the name of forgetting the past. What’s more those who destroyed our cultural heritage are provided with all luxuries and comforts in India. But Brahmins who historically gave their lives for the sake of dharma and the welfare of the society, are persecuted in modern India for their alleged sins of the past. Academia has always held the position that Brahmins exploited and continue to exploit everyone else, that they authored the Hindu scriptures just to ensure their own highest position in the social hierarchy, and that they are responsible for so many problems in India. But these arguments lack historical validity and logical consistency. It is merely a case of “repeat a lie a hundred times and it will become the truth”.

    Let’s think without any inhibitions and conditions. Let’s look at real facts founded upon truth. The fact is that Brahmins were neither rich nor powerful at any point of time in history. They are not the Samurais of India. Every animal in the forest wants to hunt deer and eat them. The Indian Brahmins are like deer(stag) in the forest. Indian Brahmin community has become like Jews of Nazi times. Is this acceptable? The destitution of Hindu Brahmins has moved none, not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy.

    1) For many past centuries, mostly Christians and Muslims were ruling India. Do we have to blame Brahmins for everything that went wrong in India? Brahmins have never ruled India.

    2) Can they quote any historical evidence to prove that majority of Brahmins were kings or ruled any Indian kingdom. (Chanakya had helped Chandragupta Maurya to built a united India. After becoming the emperor of India, Chandragupta fell in the feet of Chanakya and requested him to be Rajaguru and stay in the palace with all luxuries. Chanakya’s reply: “I am a Brahmin. My karma is to teach students and live on what I get by begging. So I am going back to my village.”)

    3) Can you find any single instance or story of rich Brahmins in history or in the mythology (purana)? Which purana mentions about a rich Brahmin? The story of Sudama (Kuchela), the poor Brahmin, is a well-known episode from Lord Krishna’s life. Incidentally, Krishna (the most popular deity of Hindus) belonged to the Yadava sub-caste. The Yadavas are currently enumerated amongst the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in India.

    4) If Brahmins were so arrogant as they picturised to be, how come they worship Gods from lower caste? As in the case of Sri Krishna, Lord Shiva (Highest Hindu God) is often termed as a Kirata in the Puranas. The Kiratas would currently fall in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category in modern India.

    5) To be able to oppress others requires positions of power. The Brahmin’s traditional occupation was that of temple priest or purohit officiating religious functions. There sole income was Biksha(alms) given by rich land-lords(non-Brahmins). And another section of Brahmins were teachers (guru) without salary. Were those the most powerful positions?

    6) And have your forgotten the term: ‘Garib Brahmin’ (=Poor Brahmin). Pick up any Indian story book, you will see that term quoted as a virtue. The highest stature of the society was occupied by the Brahmin ascetics and their only way of survival was alms given by people. [Of course there are exceptions, but it can not be denied that poor Brahmins were honored. Brahmins were asked to live at a minimum and devote themselves to pursue knowledge. Ref: Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist, “Hinduism propagated poverty as a virtue.”]

    7) As a matter of fact, most of the oppression of dalits (lower caste Hindus) was committed by the land-owning class (Zamindars) and not by Brahmins. OBCs also oppressed the dalits. But Brahmins became the scapegoat.

    8) Do you know the priestly class among Brahmins are only 20% of Brahmin population? Some of them might have been greedy or villains, as the priests in any other community/religion. (However, in the small state of Kerala, Namboodiri Brahmins were rich due to a different socio-political system.)

    9) Nobody asked non-Brahmins not to read. Brahmins by and large are in pursuit of knowledge. This made them powerful (not in material way). This stems jealousy among others. Whose fault is it anyway? If the reading and writing was confined to Brahmins or if education were open only to the Brahmins then how do you have Valmiki composing Ramaayana or Thiruvalluvar composing Thirukkural? Or the numerous works on bhakti by non-Brahmin bhakti saints etc.? Brahmins never prevented others from learning.

    10) The most derided and criticised of the dharma shaastra is the Manusmriti written by Manu. It is the only scripture that gives Brahmins a high status. But Manu was not a Brahmin – he was a kshatriya. Gita, that describes caste system, was written by Vyasa, who was born to a backward caste fisherwoman. All ancient literature give highest position to Brahmins, because of the virtue and ethics they upheld.

    11) The poor hapless Brahmins were beheaded by Arabian invaders, crucified in Goa by the Portuguese Inquisition, vilified by British missionaries, and morally crucified today by their own brothers and sisters. Did anybody fight back?

    12) In modern India, Pundits, the original inhabitants of Kashmir were tortured and driven out of their dwellings in Kashmir by Islamic militants trained in Pakistan. Genocide of Kashmiri Pundits has reached its climax with terrorism succeeding in ‘CLEANSING’ the valley of this ancient ethno-religious community. To escape persecution, more than 500,000 Kashmiri pundits had to leave their homes in the Valley and out of that, more than 50,000 are still languishing in uninhabitable refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Militants killed a lot of pundits and raped their women. Can you show me a single pundit who involved in violence to fight back?

    13) Dr. Ambedkar, the father of Indian constitution, quoting Muslim historians, says the first act of religious zeal by Mohammad bin Qasim, the first Arab invader, was circumcision of Brahmins. “But, after they objected, he put all above the age of seventeen to death.” During invasions, forced conversions and Mughal periods, hundreds and thousands of Brahmins were beheaded. Can you show a single instance of a Brahmin killing a human being of any other religions?

    14) When the Portuguese came to India, St. Xavier wrote to the king of Portugal, his patron, “If there were no Brahmins, all pagans would be converted to our faith.” He hated them with a hatred that evangelists alone are capable of. He called them the “most perverse people.” Brahmins became persecuted people. Thousands of Konkani Brahmins (Gauda Saraswat Brahmins) were persecuted and left Goa. They lost everything. Was there any GS Brahmin to fight back?

    15) Did you also know that most rickshaw pullers in Banaras are Brahmins? Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmins working as coolies at Delhi’s railway stations? 50 per cent of Patel Nagar’s (New Delhi) rickshaw pullers are Brahmins. There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. The percentage of Brahmins that live below poverty line is almost 60.

    16) The per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka state finance minister in the state assembly sometime back: Christians Indian Rupees (Rs) 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537.

    17) At Tamil Nadu’s Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest’s monthly salary is Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice some time ago. The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests’ reputation as ‘haves’ and ‘exploiters.’

    Some Brahmins certainly would have manipulated caste system. It may be true that the past is not a clean tale for entire Brahmin community. A minority Brahmins hands may have covered in blood as it can be. And yes, its a closed community who don’t allow easily outsiders inside their homes and don’t maintain any sort of interactive relationships outside the community. But should we generalize the whole community for the mistakes done by a small section among them? Didn’t we forgive those foreign invaders from Arabia who killed hundreds and thousands of Indians and destroyed entire ancient culture and looted the rich India? (Remember India was the richest nation before foreign invaders reached here). How long do we stereotype people? Why the hatred? An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Being a Brahmin in India seems to be a double-edged sword. If a Brahmin succeeds, then his entire caste will be perceived as privileged and not in need of assistance. But if a Brahmin commits any aberrant deed, his faults will be projected onto his entire community, leading to more public condemnation of the entire Brahmin caste. The moment Brahmins were able to do something about it, the whole society turns and gangs up on them to prevent them from getting what they deserve claiming that Brahmins suppressed them in the past – as if as miniscule and non-violent a community as the Brahmins could have kept these horrors away from wealth and power or anything leading to it.

    The world has a very short memory. The world has forgotten the contribution made by Brahmins to our society. It was not just learning Vedas, Maths, Astronomy and political science, but the sacrifice they have done for entire human kind by developing Ayurveda, Pranayama, Kamasutra, Natyasastra and Yoga. If Brahmins were selfish, they would have patented all those things. If Brahmins were selfish, they would have put at least their byline below those thousands of ancients scripts. Brahmins sacrificed their life for the well being of human being with a single motto that: “Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu” ( May all the beings in all the worlds be happy).

    In turn, the world is trying to crucify them, for no fault of them.
    The intended or actual meaning of Brahmin is one who has knowledge about Brahman, the ultimate and impersonal divine reality of the universe from which all being originates and to which it returns. The very concept of Brahmanism is so noble and attractive that it is time that we decided to keep it above dispute. There have always been deliberate attempts to confuse the concept of Brahmanism with the caste of Brahmins in India. Let us understand the simple fact that all members of the Brahmin caste are NOT Brahmins. Similarly, all Brahmins need not necessarily belong to the Brahmin caste.

    Going by our classics and epics, it is very clear that the original Brahmins were definitely the ones that would command respect in any society. Brahmanism had a clear belief that the knowledge is power in the real sense. Brahmacharya which means a discipline followed with specific purpose of understanding the senses and thus taking control of the senses. Brahmanism also wanted that the peace should be all encompassing, all creatures and all belief systems and all regions.
    Modern Brahmins having abandoned their traditional way of life and being cut off from their traditions, suffer from an unjustified guilt complex and have swallowed this suppression propaganda uncritically. Caught between the greed of the masses, the unscrupulousness of the politicians and the malice of the real exploiters, they are persecuted mercilessly in modern India.
    Are Brahmins not humans? Don’t Brahmins desire comforts, luxury and wealth for themselves and their near and dear ones, the way all people do?

    Courtesy: Uday Lal Pai

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  5. Louise, this is in response to your comment from earlier today in our thread, as there doesn’t seem to be a reply button below it.

    I don’t know that there’s much point in continuing this discourse, as you appear to have a habit of skirting around answering the questions I’ve asked, in favour of reiterating your own agenda. How do you feel about my explanation as to why yoga is a transcendental science ? I never said Hari-kirtana Das obtained his name from Zen, etc, I was refuting your claim that there are no other cultures that developed systems for transcendental understanding. You also completely glossed over my positing that the seed for this system of understanding *is* apauruseya, with the logical conclusion that the system (Gita, Sutras, et al.) must be the same. The term itself stemming from Hindu philosophy does not negate the concept predating it.

    re. Burden of proof – It’s already been described how the chain of reasoning progresses regarding why Yoga can’t be solely of Hindu origin or possession. Yoga, 5000 BCE. (evidently of non-human origins), Vedic era, as old as 1700 BCE, Hinduism, somewhere between 500-300 BCE. So far, I have yet to see you refute this in any way, aside from saying, “prove it!”. I could ask the same of you; is there any one definitive text that bestows ownership of yoga to the Hindus, aside from ones scribed by Hindus themselves? If there isn’t, it’s very challenging to see this claim as anything other than nationalistic table thumping.

    This isn’t to say that there isn’t misappropriation of Hindu culture and that it doesn’t need to be addressed. I taste bile when I witness people finding entertainment in latching on to others’ cultural trappings while willfully ignoring their deeper significance. I see it all the time – I’m of West/East Indian descent, frequently labelled “nigger” by my small-town schoolmates in the early 70s and just a few weeks back was recently invited to an “Afro-Disco” party by a Caucasian acquaintance who proudly announced he’d be wearing his afro wig and encouraged attendees to do the same. But the existence of misappropriation still doesn’t explain how Yoga can exclusively belong to Hindu culture, when it predates it by several thousand years and claims origins beyond human constructs.

    Re. identifying myself – I’m just another yoga student, born and raised in North America, with little sense of nationalism beyond the flag on my passport. I was brought up in the culture of empty consumerism, rejecting it in favour of one that brings actual purpose to life.

    Thank you for your time in conversation.

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    1. Ancient Indian (now commonly referred to as Hindu) literature make references to places such as Dwarka, Bhirrana, Rakhigarhi, even Mahendra Parvata in Cambodia. The Archaelogical evidence based on carbon dating trace them back to 7500 BCE. (Simple Google search). Truth about Hindu links will keep unfolding as more scientific research methods become prevalent. Nationalistic chest thumping or not – differences of opinion have to be resolved based on scientific evidence or other verifiable methods, not just Eurocentric literature which serve as primary sources in English.

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  6. Do you know about yoga sutras which is essentially hath yoga which is written by patanjali written in sanskrit ,you don’t quote source of which proves that it predates vedic era every sane historian link vedic era with hinduism because vedas are holy book of hindus ,your assertion that vedic era is 1700 bce is disputed by many infact why people does yoga to get moksha & which culture has logic of moksha that is india

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  7. Great article Sri..

    The digestion of Yoga by firangs is exacerbated by the fact that our own Indian gurus are often mired in the illusion of sameness that they often say some utterly stupid things like equating OM with Amen or saying that *asanas* can be practiced without any spiritual inclination.

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  8. Sri.. this is a very deep, well articulated conversation you had with Hinduphobic people. I must appreciate the patience you had to learn, unlearn and relearn things you have done, doing and will do :). That said you have given my mind a lot of things to ponder.. to find my path whilst rooted culturally and philosophically in Sanatana Dharma.

    Yog is a phenomenon, a tool, a channel that will open our locked inner-self to us. It will help us realise the purpose of our lives and feel grateful for everything animate – inanimate, living – non living, mobile – immobile, nature, earth, universe.
    It will help us find a satisfaction which no thing can provide.

    I hope you find your Moksha. Stay blessed and always in bliss. Thanks again for the profound conversation.

    Ananth Nadiminti

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  9. I listened to the audio clip of Hare Kirtan Das. He’s an ISKCON apologist and claims the Hare Krishnas no longer peddle their wares in airports, but they do. He’s an apologist for a very dodgy organization. He also tries to present it as some deep, antiquated tradition with a strong lineage but the larger Gaudiya Vaishnava society in India does not take ISKCON seriously. Its actually considered inauthentic and non-traditional by many Indian Gaudiya Vaishnavas. He speaks of “learning the Sanskrit transliterations” but the “transliterations” of ISKCON books are not always entirely accurate and are disputed by other Gaudiya Vaishnavas in India. On top of that ISKCON does not encourage its members to learn Sanskrit and study the Vaishnava scriptures in their original texts. They are taught that their founder’s translations and purports are all that is needed. Not just all that is needed by they are taught that his and his alone are the only “bonafide” presentations of the Bhakti tradition.

    In fact, ISKCON is hard at work trying to prevent their members from defecting to other more authentic forms of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Just like Douglas, they tell people that they are the only link to this Indian tradition and that everyone has to go through ISKCON to get Bhakti.

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