In this I am going to use two examples to understand how we, as humans, are capable of politicising pretty much everything.
Yoga and ॐ
Sometime ago I was at a Yoga workshop in Germany, where the course description said it was “Western Yoga” and it said it was only for physical fitness. In my attempt to have an open and non-judgmental mind, I thought, well at least it clearly says it’s “Western Style”. And what can go wrong with Postures? So there I went. On one of the days the teacher was curious about the pronunciation of the words. So I said how it’s said in the original language and also it’s meaning in Sanskrit. She kept saying the language is Devanagri, but we know it’s not a language it’s a script and Sanskrit is the language.
She also explained that here they only do it as physical fitness and no mantras, religious or anything to do with other aspects of Yoga. I said, that’s fair enough. There was a lot of talk about philosophy of Yoga, Mantra, Bhagavad Gita, Vidya etc. She was making an attempt to tell all the Germans, about the core philosophy and history behind Yoga.
There were two key things that happened during this experience, one with the teacher and one with a German student.
The teacher during the end of the day’s session would do long sleeping pose and then end with thanking three entities and say Namaste. Except after all this, she also said “Hari Om Tatsat”. I had my eyes wide open and said to myself, “Oh lord Shiva, Vishnu, Jesus etc.. please forgive her for she does not know what she just said.”
I am just kidding. I didn’t say all that, instead I was quiet and ended up Googling Yoga Vidya (wtf, Germany?) So if you look at their own page, it’s clear it’s a direct reference to Hindu gods. I thought we were not going to talk about my Religion? Anyways. It sounds fancy. She later told me, she just got the teacher certification few years back and was a Zumba teacher. She also had the Rudraksha necklace around her neck. My inner realities of Hinduism and gods were being shaken by an ignorant person.
As a matter of fact, I decided not to continue the course further without providing any explanation. I don’t need to. They didn’t follow the course description, they brought in the religion.
So “Hari Om Tat Sat” is clearly a religious word. If we just look at it as a language, the set of texts has a very specific meaning. Its a language. You can not associate another meaning to the word “Apple”. An Apple will always be an Apple. If you think the word Apple means, Orange there is something wrong here. Yoga Vidya, Vidya = Knowledge and we have a Goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati. When you say Yoga Vidya, it literally means Yoga Knowledge. It’s not a specific tradition or a system, at least not in India or in its roots. It’s a re-packaged term for the Germans, I think.
There is a lot of discussion on how Yoga in the West is being marketed and packaged to the people without the label of “Religion”. But for here, I am going to just use the words and the meanings associated to them and the politicisation. In the class when I talked about meaning of some postures, some explanation that was in Sanskrit and German literally had the word Shiva in it. Shiva is a Hindu God. The teacher had told me specifically to not talk about Shiva as a God. How else do I explain Shiva? Blue Smurf? Apples and Oranges all over again.
So the root cause, the words which have literal meaning are being used. But as long as you do not mention the word, God or Religion. That was a fucked up experience for me.
[Meaning of “Hari Om Tat Sat” from the Yoga Vidya Page accessed on 23.05.2018 ]
Allahu Akbar, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Escape Plan
I watched the movie Escape Plan which has Arnold, Sylvester and Faran, the favourite Muslim Villain Character from Hollywood. During the end of the movie and their escape, Faran is about to die and asks Arnold for his gun. He then says, “Allah be with you” to Arnold. Allah = God. Later (in the 93rd minute) when he is shot by the Person of Interest guy, he says “Allahu Akbar” and he says “Yeah, whatever” and shoots him.
Religion, I understand is a highly sensitive and personal topic. It has and will always be politicised.
But words should not change meaning, is all I am saying.
Do whatever you want to do, but why do you want to change the meaning of those words? Or misinterpret them. Language is Political, too.
People will and always have been associating meanings with signs, symbols etc. Everyone is fighting for their way to be better, cooler, new age, modern, evolved blah blah blah.
Religion (Spirituality) is Personal
I realised this is a very personal and private topic for me. It has to do with religion. Religion is always a personal topic and everyone’s “spiritual” journey is their own. I am no one to judge. So what did I do? I went to my Guru and asked what should I do? He said, be silent.
“Yoga is one of those words that is used profusely by those who do not practice it wholeheartedly because; ironically those who do, grow increasingly silent. This happens alike on the West side as well as the East and that is important.”
So I had to calm down. But then language, words and their meaning was bothering me.
Then that German student in the class asked me a question, “How do you feel about Yoga being done the way it’s being done here, to make money?” I said, “Well I dont care. People make money with Yoga even in India. I just don’t go to them. I am here to re-learn the postures.” Then she asked me another question with reference to the language. She said, “I have been learning Sanskrit too. You know it came from the German language.”
Oh. My. God. I didn’t know where to place my reaction. So I just “ignored and was silent” and I switched the topic by saying, “well religion is stories and philosophy for me”. I wish I would have replied, “Do you also think you are the supreme human race?” We all know that depending on who you are reading and which part of the world you are, there is a different narrative behind every single written text we have in history. Another German friend texted me recently, that he was reading a book on Yoga and “it’s funny how people are talking and writing about something that noone knows ever existed”. As usual, he was “curious” about my opinion. I replied, “Well, it’s a very personal topic for me, and I prefer not to talk about it.”
I spent around 200 euros, just because I was trying to be non-judgmental and open minded. But that lesson was enough. I decided, I am not going to preach. People can do whatever they want. I just say, I don’t want to discuss this topic. For me its a personal topic. Unless you want to talk to me about your parents, family, religion, culture. But do you even believe in anything? Or you just pretend you are a modern and more evolved species?
I will need to update my rules of interactions with people on such topics especially if they are western or German or I don’t know. I just know how to protect myself and avoid any discussion on this topic. I am not hear to flatter someone’s ego, curiosity or my own.
I am here to YoLo and Zen and Om. Peace.
On the other hand, inter-faith people with the common language of love, curiousity and mutual exchange, we need a group hug. I am not still sure, if I will take you on a Yoga retreat though. Google and find your own, I want to be quiet now.
Or maybe, I should write the next post on how “Personal is Political” :o) This is why we have disciplines and then came the multi-disciplinarians.
Addendum: Yoga-Vidya (I am going to take a deep breathe here)
Ausführlicher (Sätze gedreht):
“Hari Om Tat Sat kann auf ähnliche Weise wie Amen verwendet werden; (..) Amen eher am Ende von Gebeten, Hari Om Tat Sat am Ende von spirituellen Abhandlungen (…:) “Möge was Gesagt wurde, mit Liebe gesprochen und mit Liebe empfangen worden sein” / “Mögen die Klangschwingungen des Gesagten als Teil der Kosmischen Klangschwingung Om wahrgenommen werden”. / “Möge das Gesagte im manifesten Universum, im praktischen Alltag, von Nutzen sein”. / “Möge das Gesagte helfen, zur höchsten Wahrheit, zur Höchsten Wirklichkeit zu kommen”. = Hari / Om /Tat / Sat
Om ist der Kosmische Klang. Om steht für Einheit.
Tat heißt “Das” . Es steht dafür, dass die höchste göttliche Wirklichkeit hinter allem steht. Sat heißt “Wahrheit”.
Später wurde “Hari” dazugefügt, da auch Liebe ein Aspekt des Absoluten ist.”