Wikipedia states-” ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (Sanskrit from “vasudha”, the earth; “iva” = is as a; and “kutumbakam”, family;) is a Sanskrit phrase that means that the whole world is one single family.This concept originates in Hitopadesha: 1.3.71: Udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ , meaning, ‘This is my own relative and that is a stranger’ – is the calculation of the narrow-minded; for the magnanimous-hearts, however, the entire earth is but one family ‘ and in Pancatantra 5.3.37, and is considered an integral part of the Indian Philosophy”.
There is no doubt that the message of peace and harmony is ingrained in Indian Philosophy and culture. And, yoga is a purely scientific and technical approach to achieve this target of peace and harmony at individual, social and global levels. Of course this cannot be achieved by what is being done at present in the name of yoga-the ‘Yogasnas’ (hath yoga) only, but by adopting yoga as a living philosophy and imbibing it as a culture. As also pointed out by Swami Rama (1979) in the opening paragraph of his book- ‘Lectures on Yoga’: “The word Yoga is much used and much misunderstood these days, for our present age is one of faddism, and Yoga has often been reduced to the status of a fad. Many false and incomplete teachings have been propagated in its name, it has been subject to commercial exploitation, and one small aspect of Yoga is often taken to be all of Yoga. For instance, many people in the West think it is a physical and beauty cult, while others think it is a religion. All of this has obscured the real meaning of Yoga.” (1.) In his article ‘The Meaning and Purpose of Yoga’ Shri Bhole Prabhu wrtes: “Such a haze of confusion has been created around the clear and pure concept of Yoga that it is now necessary to redefine Yoga and clarify its meaning and purpose”. As such there is a need to take yoga from a physical (exercise only) level to spiritual level, not only in west but east also.
Today yoga is a thoroughly globalised phenomenon. Yoga has taken the world by storm and is even seeing renewed popularity in India. Both in India and abroad, adults, children and teenagers are practicing yoga in diverse settings; gyms, schools, home, work, yoga studios, temples, ashrmas and even on streets. According to an estimate there are up to 20 million yoga practitioners in the United States only. In an article in the ‘Times Magazine’, Richard Corliss writes-”Stars do it. Sports do it. Judges in the highest courts do it. Let’s do it: that yoga thing. A path to enlightenment that winds back 5,000 years in its native India, yoga has suddenly become so hot, so cool, so very this minute. It’s the exercise cum meditation for the new millennium, one that doesn’t so much pump you up as bliss you out. Yoga now straddles the continent – from Hollywood, where $20 million-a-picture actors queue for a session with their guru du jour, to Washington, where, in the gym of the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and 15 others faithfully take their class each Tuesday morning.”
Such is the world wide popularity of yoga now YOGA seems to be a culture for the 21st Century. It is heartening that within last few decades yoga has acquired global popularity, registering its presence in the remotest corners of the world. And almost assumed a form of health culture. Swami Satyananda Saraswati , founder of Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India was prophetic ,when he said many years ago -”Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.”
MAN AT THE CROSS ROADS:
The society is falling apart; planet is threatened of ceaseless exploitation both of man and of the environment. War, poverty, intolerance and prejudices, superstitions, exploitations of various types and above all problems like increasing violence and terrorism are causing sufferings to millions of people world over. We are living under constant threat from extremists and militants. Scientists foresee the total annihilation of the planet.
Einstein wrote somewhere “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”Late Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the philosoher President of India pointed to this fact in a different manner when he said “We have learnt to fly in the skies, we have learnt to race in the waters, but alas we have not yet learnt to walk on the earth.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge says: “If a man is not rising upwards to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking down wards to be a devil.” Gandhi also pointed to this fact when looking to the violence and exploitation in human society; he said “Human nature will only find itself when it fully realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal”
People world over have lost faith in traditional social -political ideologies and religions. It is being realized that man needs a totally new way of life and living -’religiosity, but not religion’ A simple religiousness born out of the understanding that -I am an essential part of this vast beautiful universe (I am ‘That’). Understandings, that ‘rejoices in small things of life’ and makes one dance and celebrate without any reason.
Yoga: The Way Out From Present Crisis
Yogic way of life can help in this direction. The practice of ethical steps (yama-Niyama) of yoga help in changing mans attitude and behavior at individual level in relation to greed, exploiting others, jealousy and violence. Making him generous, unselfish, non-exploitative, friendly, contented, happy and in harmony with everything around animate and inanimate. Recent discoveries in neuro-plasticity have shown that the meditation practices change the very structure of the human brain whereby one takes joy in altruistic qualities and acts and needs no dependence on external objects to possess in order to find satisfaction. As such yoga changes man to become a more disciplined, god natured person and a responsible sensitive citizen with liberal attitude, providing solutions to many problems of today’s world.
Swami Vedas explanation in this regard is more elaborate-”….modern neuroscientists are showing the power of altruism on brain structure. In people who think distrustful thoughts, the pain center is readily activated and pain intensively experienced. In contrast, the pleasure center is activated in people whohave altruistic tendencies, and they produce high levels of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. The kinds of thoughts you think, the practices you follow and the kinds of habits you form cause changes in the structure of the brain (this concept is known as neuroplasticity). The more you think altruistic thoughts, the more neurons grow in your pleasure center and the more altruistic thoughts arise.
Scientists have found that people who live in communities that distrust their neighbors have a shorter life span than people in communities that trust their neighbors. Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and other Western philosophers have espoused altruism–doing good not for the benefits one might derive, but simply for the sake of doing good. Altruism is the common denominator among many philosophies, including Indian, Chinese, Sufi, Taoist and Greek.”Swami Veda believes -” Truly altruistic action is a form of yoga, referred to by the sanskrit words karma yoga.”
Contemplative traditions of Yoga is a secular tools that provides us with clearly delineated mental techniques aimed at cultivating and enhancing compassionate qualities of the human mind and heart,A number of studies have linked meditation practice to differences in cortical thickness or density of gray matter. One of the most well-known studies to demonstrate this was led by Sara Lazar, from Harvard University, in 2000. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has led experiments in cooperation with the Dalai Lama on effects of meditation on the brain. His results suggest that long-term, or short-term practice of meditation results in different levels of activity in brain regions associated with such (Negative)qualities as attention, anxiety, depression, fear, anger, the ability of the body to heal itself, and so on. These functional changes may be caused by changes in the physical structure of the brain. Mediatation is supposed to be a great help in Clearing the ‘emotional junk’ i.e.negative attitudes and expanding consciousness making one open minded, loving and friendly.
As such, Yoga has all the components of transforming individual in to an agent of change as practicing yoga man can realize his divine (spiritual) nature and evolve from man (a species like any other animal) to be a real human being. Extending invitation for this Swami Vivekananda says-”Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”
Summarizing environmental, social, political problems of present day world, a yoga authority from west, Georg Feuerstein says: “I believe that the looming ecological crisis combined with increasing terrorism will change the face of the Earth in the decades to come. With its rapacious consumerism and all its wealth, the crisis will hugely affect North America. Yoga must be made more relevant to this issue, which involves the practice of yoga as a spiritually based and ecologically sensitive lifestyle.”
Yoga incorporates and promotes not only an eco-friendly but a LIFE-FRIENDLY attitude and lifestyle, which can provide answers to several present day problems like environmental challenges, increasing consumerism, terrorism, religious and cultural intolerance. It seems that people are already moving in adopting yoga as a way of life as reflected in new trend in yoga of following eco-friendly path of Green Yoga. Even otherwise also Yoga is essentially a spiritual -ethical (not religious), and ecologically sensitive (eco-friendly) way of living and ‘Organic- Lifestyle’ in every sense of the word.
As such global culture of extreme consumerism, exploitation of nature and people by other people in position of advantage in the past and present is in the base of present day ecological crisis, global terrorism and cultural intolerance. People are intuitively convinced that answers to these and other problems may be found in adopting yoga as a way of Life or to say as a Culture in 21st Century. Yoga helps individuals to discover their oneness with the world. And, this Vision of oneness is the ultimate solution for Global peace and harmony.
Yoga incorporates and promotes not only an eco-friendly but a LIFE-FRIENDLY attitude and lifestyle, which can provide answers to several present day problems like environmental challenges, increasing consumerism, terrorism, religious and cultural intolerance. It seems that people are already moving in adopting yoga as a way of life as reflected in new trend in yoga of following eco-friendly path of Green Yoga. Even otherwise also Yoga is essentially a spiritual /ethical (not religious) and ecologically sensitive (eco-friendly) way of living and ‘Organic- Lifestyle’ in every sense of the word.
It is becoming increasingly evident that not only terrorism but several other social, political and environmental ills of present day society can be relieved effectively by making yoga available to masses in larger degree by making it more popular. And giving them a means to transform and evolve from basic instincts to be more authentic and responsible human being or citizens of this planet earth. Sri Sri Ravishankar says :”A little of Vedanta and yoga can act as a vaccination making it difficult for a person to become terrorist.”
By Prof. (Dr.) Arun Raghuwanshi
Professor of Yoga (Yugoslav.) & Professor of Bioscience Life science Faculty
Bhopal University, Bhopal (M.P.)