Introduction of Yoga and Surya Namaskar in schools and other institutions has become a national controversy. Most protests come from the Muslim community who prefer, with malicious motives, to link Yoga and Surya Namaskar to Hindu religion and therefore claim that such a move is likely to hurt Muslim sentiments. Whether such a stance is logical or based on facts can be debated but as always nothing will come out of such debates. The debaters invariably come with a predetermined stance and prejudiced minds. Islam today is presented by its custodians as a religion where there is no room for discussion or debate – it only believes in dictates and fatwas. Therefore it is pointless to discuss or debate the issue. However it will be worthwhile though to hear what Sadhguru said when this question was posed to him. One will hardly come across a better explanation of what is Yoga or Surya Namaskar and what they stand for. This article is an off take from what Sadhguru said to the reporter who asked him if Yoga and Surya Namaskar were part of Hindu religion and therefore could not be forced on people from other faiths.
In short what Sadhguru said was that every living being on this planet – humans, animals and plants– need solar energy for survival. What keeps all living organisms ticking is the energy from the sun. Ancient Indian sages and wise men developed a routine based on Yoga and Surya Namaskar that absorbs and channelizes this energy for optimum benefit of the body – both physically and mentally. This in turn enhances the quality of life. If this be so it is immaterial which religion or faith one practices since our body mechanisms are similar. Surya Namaskar is just a way to channelize the sun’s energy for optimum benefit of the body. Yoga is perhaps one of the more scientific approaches towards maintaining a healthy body. It is unique since apart from being based on a detailed understanding of all parts and mechanisms of the human body, it also establishes a correlation between breathing and body movements. It may be prudent to see Yoga and Surya Namaskar as a profound science for inner wellbeing of the human body.
Is there any logic for giving Yoga or Surya Namaskar a Hindu religious tag? Obviously not since a healthy body and a healthy mind is the need of every human being – irrespective of his religion. All arguments and justifications that are given by Muslim clerics and other leaders can only be termed as predetermined and prejudiced without any substance. It may not be farfetched to say that if such a move to introduce Yoga and Surya Namaskar had been made a few decades back by the government of the day, possibly no such protests would have been heard. What drives the protests today is a misconceived notion that the current government is a Hindu government since BJP is seen as a Hindu party. As is the want of all opposition parties and Muslim leadership in the country today they have to oppose, for the sake of opposing, anything and everything that is done by the government. The fact that such an approach is counterproductive, not only for the nation but also for the Muslim community, does not seem to bother these short sighted leaders as political survival, at any cost, is their main concern.
The two main grounds for opposing Yoga and Surya Namaskar are that Yoga is primarily a Hindu practice from ages and the sound of OM that one is required to make while doing Surya Namaskar is inherent to Hinduism. The former is certainly correct in part since Yoga was indeed developed by old Hindu sages and learned men who were perhaps way ahead of anyone else in the world at that time when it came to science and understanding of human body. Their findings and teachings are relevant even today. But it defies all logic to say that Yoga is a Hindu religious practice just because it was developed by Hindus. This is a bizarre argument that only exposes the petty mindset of its proponents. Surya Namaskar is part of the Yoga routine that is specifically targeted at channelizing the solar energy for optimum benefit to the human body. Sun or its energy is a universal phenomenon and not connected to any religion. Hindu sages only developed a specific manner in which this energy could be harnessed for betterment of the body. However that does not give Hinduism a lien over Sun or its energy.
The other question that comes up is the sound of OM while doing Surya Namaskar. OM is certainly associated with Hindu mythology and heritage (not religion) since learned people in ancient India believed that it forms the very basis of life in the universe. Recent researches in Germany and other parts of the world corroborate this view as research shows that our planet emanates a constant rumble far below the normal limits of human hearing which resemble OM. Researchers call it Earth’s hum. This makes OM a universal syllable with no linkages to any religion or God. It is widely believed and supported by scientific analysis that chanting of OM reduces mental stress, cures depression, improves focus & concentration, calms the mind and leads to better well-being, peace & happiness. For sceptics it may be said that a large part of this scientific research was carried out outside India where trials were carried out on non-Hindus.
Coming back to the question whether Yoga and Surya Namaskar should be introduced in schools and institutions? There can be no two answers to this question. Without a doubt it must be done albeit on a voluntary basis. With time as the benefits of Yoga or Surya Namaskar become evident for those who practice the same without any adverse effects on their faith or religious beliefs, the participation from those who oppose it today will increase. Yoga is all about developing calmness, well being, inner peace and happiness. There is no case for a forced participation since that will only result in anxiety, ill feeling, turbulence and unhappiness. Let the government not force the horse to drink water. That is not their mandate. Their job ends by providing a trough full of water and pointing the horse in that direction. In case you force it to drink, chances are you will be kicked in all the wrong places.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.