By Chander Khanna
The Vedic Centre, Toronto
I am NOT sure at this stage if we will be in a position to attend or join this year's 2004 YOGA SHOW in Toronto, which I understand is hoping to attract more 20,000 visitors.
At the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Society Ontario, we do want to make information available in Toronto on the new Ashram facilities in Rishiksh, India.
A very large number of serious teachers and students of Yoga from Europe and the Far East have been using the new Ashram. However, the Yoga Show, being an excellent forum for the more glamorous side this phenomena, may be at odds with the quiet, contemplative roots of this ancient tradition. No pun intended, but how can the ancient "root" ever compete with the modern Roots Yoga.
Or for that matter with Yogatards by Sensa Yoga or Abdominal Deep Breathing with Wrigleys Chicklet Gum Yoga.
I have taken the liberty of appending a few paragraphs on the contrarian view.
Thanks Debashis for the New York Times article on Bikram Yoga.
As night follows day, the very popularity of the high roller celebrity PopYoga will be, and perhaps already is, the very cause of its decline amongst the starry eyed New Agers. But then, can a 5,000-year tradition containing some of the most original thoughts in the history of human thought really be threatened by the promoters of Hoola Hoop.
Unlike the 2001 Times issue featuring Christy Turlington in yogatards, the good thing about the New York Times article is that while it also neglects to mention Patanjali, at least it is scornful of the Starbuck type Yoga Centres patented by the Pats and Anjalis. New York Times has published similar articles in the past about the Americanization of Yoga. If Basmati rice and Neem can by patented how long would it have taken to patent a particular way of breathing. As Swami Veda, one of the most authentic living teachers of the Science and Philosophy of the Yoga Sutras brought to us thousands of years ago by sage Patanjali often wonders, how long indeed before an enterprising lawyer patents a particular edition of the Holy Bible?
Yoga Sadhana At The Vedic Centre: Why We Don't Have A Dress Code
An often-asked question is what type of Yoga do we do at the Centre. Like is it Kripalu Yoga, Ash-Tang Yoga, Power Yoga, Synergy Yoga, or Yoga For the Busy Executive on the Go. Unfortunately it is none of these. Nor are we into Yogic Flying or into Pehelwan or Kushti style of Yoga with display of dazzling feats to titillate the senses. Once in a while we slip into the Ho Ho Hee Hee Best Yoga Club sing-along routine which prompted a few people to suggest Yogic exercises to Bhangra and Phagwa beat. It's an offshoot of Ravana's laughter to energize the lungs--it draws giggles--but it is not Yoga either.
An acquaintance of mine, impressed by supermodels on the cover of Time magazine featuring an "in depth" coverage on Yoga, bought designer leotards modeled on the Oprah Winfrey show. She refuses to come to our sessions though where Kurta pajama clad geeks have no appreciation of designer Yoga clothes with matching mats and accessories.
An article in New York Times last year waxed eloquent about how the American civilization is reshaping Yoga. Patanjali is being replaced by retreats with Pat and Anjali to reconnect to the inner self in Spa like settings. Body, Mind and Spirit are buzzwords even in discourses on the Upanishads in five star Hotel conference rooms. As if the mind, the finest, subtlest evolute of nature or Prakriti, is one of the three things "I" possess along with "My Body" and "My Soul" residing somewhere in the pineal gland.
So much so for the power of Amazon.com, Chapters and, Indigo Inc. But in all fairness, it is not just the Body Beautiful culture of the American civilization which is to blame in trivializing this ancient science and philosophy--one of the six Darshanas--or direct visions of the Ultimate Reality. Our entrepreneurial Desi gurus too are quick to sneeze at the opportunity.
A very prominent medical Doctor of Indian origin who has done more to win the hearts and minds of the American psyche than Swami Vivekanada speaks unabashedly about joining him to form a critical mass to re-awaken the cosmic consciousness--at a deep discount of US$ 3,500 for advance registration or US$ 4,500 at the gate.
Another dispenses Trade Marked packaged salvation for a few Thousand Dollars by imparting secret sounds in the ear.
Like any phenomena which gains in popularity, Yoga too appears to be a victim of its own success. But, and it's a major but, Yoga which dates back to more than five thousand years can never be just a passing fad. Interest at the superficial level may come and go.
But at the core there is an abiding passion which will never let the Rishi Track be forgotten. Earlier this year, immediately after the Kumbh Mela, a few of us were blessed to have attended a two week study session in Rishikesh where Swami Veda Bharati taught portions of his 850 page commentary on just the 2nd chapter of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Swami Veda, regarded as one of the most authentic living teachers of Yoga and Meditation, inaugurated the Vedic Centre in Toronto in 1997.
His 580-page commentary on the 1st chapter is widely acclaimed as a monumental work. Five of the six teachers who prepared us during the morning study sessions were of German, English, American, Italian and Korean origins. All of them are Sanskrit scholars. One of the most inspiring "teachers" of Meditation is a deaf and mute youth from a remote West African country--Burkina Faso. No designer clothes there.
The Sadhana practiced at Swami Veda's Ashram, as well as at other Centers like his, not only preserve the Rishi Track but also instill in the minds of the Sadhakas an appreciation of what Raja Yoga is all about. Starting with the Yamas and the Niyamas, which may take several life times to adopt, the eight-fold path is nothing short of Samadhi--both as a means and as an end. In its practice, some are blessed with stillness flowing externally. Helped by Kriya Yoga, their calm and reflective minds automatically still the body. For the vast majority of us however, it is the more difficult inward flowing path to first still the body through practice of Hatha Yoga in order to still the mind.
The Thrice weekly Yoga Sadhana sessions at the Vedic Centre are modest attempts at sharing these insights of the ancient Rishis brought to us by sage Patanjali. To the extent possible, we learn from different traditions. Over the last four years we have held special day long seminars/workshops on Surya Namaskar by Shri Bhupendra Soneji from the Bihar School of Yoga, Yoga and Ayurveda based on the Charaka Samhitas attended by participants from as far away as Ottawa and New York, Yoga Asanas as Meditation with focus on the Meditative traditions of different faith groups, and the recent Yoga Adhyatma Workshop of October 8th attended by about 170 people with presentations by over 13 teachers. The interdenominational make-up of the Sadhana group reaffirms the basic tenet that Yoga goes beyond religious boundaries. As further affirmation of this principal, a special contemplative walk combining the Christian, Buddhist and Vedic traditions will take place at the Vedic Centre on Saturday, December 1, 2001. A four day retreat on Yoga and Meditation as envisaged by the ancient Rishis is planned for August 2002.
A small self-study group meets every Wednesday evening to help each other with subtle commentaries on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras using several texts including the 1,400 pages of monumental work on the first two chapters alone by Swami Veda Bharati.
Lectures on all six schools of Indian philosophy--Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimansa and Vedanta are generally held on the last Fridays of every second Month at the Centre as part of the Sanskrit Study circle Series.
Copyright 2004 West-Art, Prometheus 92/2004