Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #280 - Is Yoga Hindu?

This is a debate amongst the Hindu Activists who have neither understood what Yoga is nor what Hinduism is. We will explore this question today in a very logical and dispassionate way.

Image by Drak Code from Pixabay

“The ultimate goal of all mankind, the aim and end of all religions, is but one—re-union with God, or, what amounts to the same, with the divinity which is every man’s true nature. But while the aim is one, the method of attaining may vary with the different temperaments of men.” - Swami Vivekananda


Way back in 2016, on the International Yoga Day, in celebrations at the UN, Sadhguru led the function and answered a lot of questions of the dignitaries there.  Amongst the things he said were:

  • Yoga is technology.  Just as gravity is not Christian, Yoga is not Hindu.

  • Yoga is India’s gift to the world, it is no longer only of India.

After that event, one saw a multitude of “Hindu Activists” who have been fans of Rajiv Malhotra’s books and discussions start the abuse and denigration of Sadhguru and what he said.  That is because as per Rajiv Malhotra, shaving Hinduism context off of Yoga lends to its “digestion” by the Abrahamic forces.  He is right in one sense.  But he is missing the central point of difference between the nature and context of what Yoga is and what religion is.

And, since then, this debate and discussion have become more and more acute. As the ability to outrage increases, the requisite investment in self-contemplation keeps decreasing.

Along with the abuse that happened yesterday because of that clip, this is another jibe that many “Hindu Activists” take at Sadhguru.

Let us explore.

Making of the Vedas

In Chapter 9 of Bhagwad Gita, when Arjun asks Krishna the fundamental question “Who are you?” Krishna explains his complete expanse. He says something very interesting.

अहं क्रतुरहं यज्ञ: स्वधाहमहमौषधम् |
मन्त्रोऽहमहमेवाज्यमहमग्निरहं हुतम् || 16||
पिताहमस्य जगतो माता धाता पितामह: |
वेद्यं पवित्रमोङ्कार ऋक्साम यजुरेव च || 17||

One commentator (Source) has translated it thus:

It is I who am the Vedic ritual, I am the sacrifice, and I am the oblation offered to the ancestors. I am the medicinal herb, and I am the Vedic mantra. I am the clarified butter, I am the fire and the act of offering. Of this universe, I am the Father; I am also the Mother, the Sustainer, and the Grandsire. I am the purifier, the goal of knowledge, the sacred syllable Om. I am the Ṛig Veda, Sāma Veda, and the Yajur Veda.

Krishna is explaining that not just the rituals one does but the yajnas one engages in, including the offerings and the fire that go into creating the foundation of the effort, are ultimately Krishna himself.

The action, the actor, and the result are within the realm of the field of consciousness that Krishna is.

Of this Universe, the existence if you will, he is the father, the mother, the sustainer, and the grandfather. He, as in the Universal Consciousness, was the origin, sustainer, and the very purpose of existence. He is Aum he says and the three Vedas - Rig, Sam, Yajur as well.

Now, in these two verses, what is the one thing that seems completely odd to you?

He is everything - as in the universal consciousness, but he forgot part of himself? He forgot Atharva-ved! He surely would have been educated in it to know that there are four Vedas.

Every "Hindu activist” and educated Hindu knows it! Isn’t it strange that Krishna forgot it? Huh!! How is that possible?!

But he keeps repeating the same thing in another verse. When he talks of the fruits of Vedas.

त्रैविद्या मां सोमपा: पूतपापा
यज्ञैरिष्ट्वा स्वर्गतिं प्रार्थयन्ते |
ते पुण्यमासाद्य सुरेन्द्रलोक
मश्नन्ति दिव्यान्दिवि देवभोगान् || 20||

Three Vedas.

Krishna was neither forgetful nor ignorant. He was the greatest authority on Shrutis and possibly the greatest socially engaged Yogi in Dharmic history. No other Yogi did the “show-and-tell” Yoga the way Krishna did.

So, he knew what he was saying.

The truth is that there were only three Vedas by his time.

Atharva Veda had not been codified nor shared by anyone. There were no recitations, no shlokas, and no Ved-paathis for Atharva by then.

Then how did Atharva just spring out of nowhere?

The knowledge.

Knowledge of Atharva preceded the Veda.

When Krishna likens himself to all knowledge and all yagnas, he is the manifestation of Atharva as well.

Atharva was there in Yogic energy form. It became a Veda later.

That is how every Shruti was. Shruti is eternal, not because you and I say so. But because it is inherent in the source of this existence. It is the intelligence in the quantum wave that makes it consciousness and not just an inert energy.

It is brought into sound form by those who touched the source.

Even when none of the Vedas were, the Shrutis existed in the source. Even when all mankind is gone, it will. If tomorrow this planet, and even this galaxy is gone, the Shrutis will exist.

They are not a function of humanity or our brains or minds. They are the basis of this existence.

Those Yogis who worked hard enough and were honest enough to work through the entire set of questions that define our identities and create the cloak of ignorance were able to delve deep into themselves down to their quantum existence to touch that realm where the Truth could be experienced - the Quantum/Consciousness level.

What they said, was a representation of what they saw, but it was not the complete experience of the Truth at the Source that was experienced.

It can never be. No word is.

When, what was experienced, had to be broad-based, a need was felt to create methods and tools to help people have a glimpse of the Source.

Those tools became the yagnas, the rituals, the practices, and the schools of knowledge.

The path to access the Source, however, was Yoga. Tools were a means to bring Yoga alive in people’s life and move along a path in that journey.

That path called for supreme sacrifice of one’s self. There is no other way. You cannot bluff your way, recite your way, or sing your way through to it.

You need to enhance your consciousness in such a way that even when you resonate with the bridge that links you to the source, the bridge doesn’t break. Your physical form still remains so you can straddle both the physical (Newtonian) and the consciousness (Quantum) world at the same time.

The Swayambhu and the Rest

In the Yogic path, however, there has been only one Swayambhu. One who attained to on his own. Through his own way and work with no lineage and no guide. He was Shiva.

Rest everyone, including Krishna, Ram, Parashuram, and the Saptarishis had a Guru whose lineage goes back to Shiva himself.

So let us take Atharva Ved as a case study and understand this.

Shiva, the Swayambhu, attained to the Source and embraced the infinite in its completeness. He shared that with his disciples (the Saptarishis) and the lineage of sharing the experience via various methods and paths was laid out. One of the paths led to Krishna, via his Guru Sage Sandipaani.

As of the time of Mahabharat, Krishna had received only three Vedas in the word - oral - form.

The fourth, Atharva Veda, which became the basis of most yagnas and occult later was not part of the word form of knowledge. Until then. Its components were, however.

What is not in the word or ritual form is absent for the society. The culture has not imbibed it as yet.

Not so for the Yogis, who do not care for the words anyway. For words, in terms of the meaning they purport, are inconsequential in the existential reality.

Now, let us go to Hinduism.

What is Hinduism?

Is it doing Yagnas? Or is it singing like Meera? Or is it being an Aghori? How about just sitting quietly (maunvrat) on a mountain for months on end?

What is it?

It is all of these.

For all of these are methods that were intertwined in our lives by those who were guided by their Gurus and lineage based on what was experienced from the Source (Yoga).

The intertwining of Yogic experiential learning codified as methods in everyday life such that it gives rise to a mass and broad-based culture of awareness, acceptance, seeking and well-being is the process of creating a cultural ethos that was known as Hinduism.

The rituals, the Vedas, the shlokas did not give rise to Yoga. Yoga gave rise to them.

Yoga has no alliance nor any brief from any of the Vedas.

Just as Krishna did not care two hoots for Atharva Veda in Gita.

You know why? Because there was NONE!

Similarly, there would have been a time when there was no Samved in word (oral) form. Ditto for Yajur.

And, surely the Yogis and Sages who codified the Rig Veda, did not read it before codifying it.

They experienced it!

Rig Ved was the CONSEQUENCE of Yogic accomplishment! Rig Ved did NOT CREATE Yoga.

In that sense, no Yogi ever went about seeking Samved. Or Yajuv Ved. He went seeking the Truth. For Truth is the only thing worth seeking. If anyone had gone “seeking Samved”, he would have attained to something but not Moksha. For Samved is a component of the universal consciousness. That is why Krishna calls himself Samved as well. But he is not just Samved.

A sliver of the existential Truth is codified as Samved. Samved is NOT the complete Truth. It cannot be.

Krishna as the embodiment of Truth was already there before a word of Atharva Ved was codified.

Let us contemporarize this.

Contemporarizing the discussion

Yoga is the fundamental science of existence. Fundamental Science as in the fundamental physics. Let’s just take one part of that physics. Say, the Quantum. What Schrodinger or Bohr were doing was research in fundamental science of the Quantum. The principles and the knowledge that out of what they and the latter physicists uncovered gave rise to physics, some of which was used in smartphones and GPS.

Now, let us suppose that amongst the smartphone technologies - Android vs Apple, the latter would have utilized the results of the fundamental science in Quantum but Android would have steadfastly refused to - “because it is from a Satan”.

If some years from now, you had to explore Quantum insights, you could only turn to Apple technology. Android technology, by design, would be bereft of any Quantum components.

If all fundamental science was lost and only Apple and Android technologies remained and someone wanted to explore Quantum, then reverse engineering and contemplating on the Apple algorithm may well be the only way left.

The only door. The only repository.

That door. That repository. For Yoga, is Hinduism.

Hinduism did not make Yoga. Yoga’s insights and experiences enabled a culture that came to be called Hinduism.

If Yoga is fundamental science, Hinduism is an application.

So were Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, etc. Some still are.

These all are offsprings of Yoga. Yoga is the mother.

If Yoga is Einstein, then Hinduism is Steve Jobs.

Yoga, therefore, is not just not Hindu. It is not anything. For, it is everything! The action, the actors, the offerings, and the results.

Hinduism is the only real door to Yoga though

On the other hand, Hinduism is probably the only repository of Yoga now.

The Abrahamic religions have by design defined themselves as an anti-thesis of whatever is Yoga. For example, read these:

So, remember our example of Quantum Physics and smartphones? Hinduism is Apple. Abrahamic faiths are the Android. You will not find your path to Yoga if you were to go searching the theology that has been custom created by those who not just actively opposed to Yoga but have an ethos that is anti-thesis of Yoga from the ground up.

The only reason why Buddhism did not survive for very long in India the way it did in the Far East was - because it was built upon components of Yoga. Every generation of Gurus and Sages has done what Buddha did. He was uniquely brilliant. But he was one of many. That is also the reason why the Sikh politicians have worked very hard to construct a narrative for Sikhism that makes it anti-Hindu now - over the last few decades. The reason - they have seen how the components of the larger whole remain in real terms by looking at Buddhism. So, in that sense, what was built upon the foundation of Yoga has over the last few decades been converted into an anti-thesis of the basics of Yogic practices.

Buddhism in the Far East, where it is still a spiritual practice, as opposed to a political narrative in India, is another door and repository of Yoga. Albeit a limited one. Sadhguru has explained it in one of the videos.

So, is Yoga not linked to Hinduism?

The heck it is!

Hinduism remains the only real door from where people can still enter the realm of Yoga. But Hinduism did not create Yoga. Yogic principles when intertwined with the social ways created a cultural ethos that came to be known as Hinduism. Because everyone who followed those ways was a Hindu in this land that everyone realized was ‘India’!


How Atharva Vedas was included:

It was Vyasa who, along with Mahatharvan, another great sage, convinced the community to include the fourth Veda – the Atharvana Veda – on the same level as the other three Vedas. The Atharvana Veda deals with the occult sciences or the science of manipulating energies to make things happen in the world. The Vedic traditions had rejected this and were not willing to include Atharvana Veda as a part of the sacred four. There were only three Vedas and the Atharvana Veda was rejected by the larger community because people tended to misuse it. But there was nothing wrong with the science itself. It is the way it is used that matters. Vyasa said the science need not be banned simply because a few people misused it. With that understanding, he made sure that the Atharvana Veda was given the same status as the other three Vedas which were already established as sacred books. (Source)

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