Modern myths of globalised yoga

I want to touch the subject of delusions unseen by the majority of people, and explain the reasons for their occurrence and existence. More than once I have came across the discourse that Nātha yogins in India do not properly teach āsanas and other haṭha-yoga techniques any longer. But, in such sampradāyas as Daśanāmi for example and some of Vaiṣṇava the process of teaching haṭha-yoga is going better than anywhere else. Let’s analyse it in the most proper manner.

First of all, have you ever been concerned why such traditions as Vaiṣṇavavism, which is focused on bhakti, or those ascending to Śankarācārya, where the focus is put on jñāna and Vedānta, are now teaching ‘yoga therapy’, different ‘yoga styles’ etc.? I will tell you why. These are traditions represented by the biggest numbers of followers in comparison to others – both in the West and India. That is why many gurus there have a very clear vision on how to use Western ’āsana addiction’ trends, they know they can attract more people and more money by that. And when someone says that the real haṭha-yoga is ‘preserved’ exactly in these traditions, they clearly choose the wrong words. They confuse ‘preserved’ with the indulgence of marketing demands of those, whose principles are very superficial. Many Hindus think that it is useless to teach foreigners who initially did not get proper saṃskāras as well as do not usually sacrifice themselves to the spiritual path, therefore it is at least necessary to get money from them. This is an attempt to exaggerate the phenomenon of āsana, only one of the aṅgas (sections) of yoga, and often to borrow this element from other traditions to add it to their sampradāya and exaggerate it anyway. Nāthas do not have such amount of ‘gymnastics’ is due to the fact that, unlike Daśanāmi, they only became popular in the West recently. Even now they are not so common there, because, they generally do not care much about their ‘presentation’. One or two sections should not cause any damage to other sections of yoga, to true discipleship, the formation of a thorough world view.

If you had time to notice, yoga for Hindus is not a hobby, which is ‘practiced’ in between ‘pub’ time, but that is something you live in all the time. From the start, West could see no gains in accepting this concept by its people. Now, due to easy access to a large amount of information and globalisation, a lot has changed. Today saṃskāras of Eurocentrism are dominating not only among those who practice yoga, but even among those who have learned Sanskrit etc. In fact, the desire of the West to dominate exists in all areas, and spiritual one is no exception. Many people pretend either to not notice that fact, or to show that it is not very important. But, this is important, as it makes everything difficult to understand, including even such ‘simple practices’ as āsana, prāṇāyāma, etc.

Nāthas are not engaged in the propaganda of āsanas, for the reason that the goal of āsanas is to learn to practice contemplation in one position for a long time. And if you have no initial understanding of it, if you only formally say that you have it, then you continue to believe in such delusions, as guru Nanak teaching ‘kuṇḍalinī-yoga’, or Śankarācārya teaching ‘yoga therapy’ or giving physical practices to build a ’beach body’. People want to grab everything from India and from the whole world: they want to have a ‘beach body’ and to be ‘traditional’, they want to look 30-years old at the age of 100 and a lot more. What is it, if not an ego? Is it not a desire to reshape other culture in your own way, due to your arrogance and unwillingness to learn and change to the full extent? Is it also the willingness of some Indian gurus not to teach the essence of their traditions, but simply to reshape their teachings to the Western patterns in order to sell better? Ask yourself this question and maybe a great deal will naturally fall into place. I don’t say that money is only evil or only good, money is strictly in the middle between these two poles. It is bad when money supersede the truth, when the main principles of mystical traditions are forgotten, the significance of the essential is reduced, and what is tied to the most banal motives of a man is exaggerated. I do not want to criticise someone’s business, as for I am not the one who created the global financial system in its form which permeates the whole world now. I am not the one to fight with it. My goal is to remind people what is important and to remove layers by layers of massive delusions in people’s minds. Of course someone can say ‘Well, why talk about bad things? Let’s talk about good.’ But, you will never understand the truth by not seeing a delusion. Knowing one of these poles, you will know the other, if one is perfectly recognised, then the other will be perfectly recognised too, it’s just unavoidable.

Another misconception

I met attempts to find the first mention of haṭha-yoga or āsanas, that can be interpreted as “forceful” in early Vaiṣṇava or Buddhist sources. From this, some people conclude that, for example, the source of haṭha-yoga is Buddhism, or the source of forceful āsanas is Vaiṣṇavism of Pancharatra. In my opinion, this is a totally absurd approach. The fact of revelation of some texts does not mean at all that others will not be found after some time, and the existing theory will not be refuted. Considering the fact that many texts over the course of the millennium could not have been preserved at all, how can one confidently say that some yoga practices originated from a particular tradition? It is always worth adding “it may be”, “perhaps”, etc. This conclusion is wrong for other reasons. The main reason is that Pancharatra is a teaching where bhakti is taken as a basis, and its main practices are ritualistic karmakāṇḍa, yoga is not the main one there. And based on the fact that in the texts of this tradition you will find mayūrāsana and kukkuṭāsana, you should not conclude that this is something like one of the Iyengar’s books with 300 forceful āsanas. The idea itself is absurd, in the form of hypertrophied versions that the Nāthas did not have forceful yoga and they borrowed it from vaiṣṇavas. To say that Pancharatra is the basis of forceful āsanas, it is about the same as taking the following sūtra of Patañjali and using the manipulative method to state that Patañjali yoga is the basis of the six cakra system due to the fact that the navel cakra is mentioned there. Then, it developed in such traditions as Kubjikā, Śrī Vidyā and Kālī Vidyā, Trikaśasana, Nātha-sampradāya and others:

नाभिचक्रे कायव्यूहज्ञानम्॥२९॥
nābhicakre kāyavyūhajñānam ||29||

By concentrating on the navel cakra, knowledge of the body is gained.

Is there any mention of such a thing as “cakra” inside the thin body in Patañjali’s text? Of course! Is this proof that the Kubjikā tradition has “stolen” from or “dependent” on Patañjali’s yoga-darśana? Not. For the reason that the doctrines are completely different, and because Patañjali has a very fragmentary element in comparison with what he represents in general.

Also, the mention of some individual elements of haṭha-yoga is not in Nātha sources, does not mean that haṭha-yoga and yoga as a whole is not the prerogative of the Nātha-sampradāya. It is in the Nātha-sampradāya that yoga is the main point and the foundation of the teaching. When studying this or that sampradāyas, first of all it is necessary to take into account their main doctrine. Whether these or other practices are basic or not should be determined on the basis of the main doctrine of the particular sampradāya.