Skip to main content

Yoga sects and their Hindu connection

Many quasi-Hindu sects abound in India that try to distance themselves from Hinduism to give their cult a more universal character [meditation, yoga, etc.]. Briefly such sects claim that they’ve discovered/invented a path that transcends religions and hence they cannot be pinned down a narrow categorization called Hinduism. In this post, we will endeavour to examine such claims and the historical precedents to set things in perspective.

Let’s understand the position of these cults on this issue:


  • They claim that their approach is universal – beyond bodily associations such as religion – and their method can be appreciated by people of all religions including Islam and Christianity.
  • They’ve incorporated wisdom not only from Hinduism, but are open to receive whatever good the other religions have to offer. Being a good Muslim/Christian is same as being a good Hindu.
  • They do not necessarily follow typical Hindu festivals with the same materialist fanfare and consumerism.

Understanding Abrahamic perception of these sects

Let us for a moment ignore the Hindu perception of these sects and focus on how Islam & Christianity receives their claims.

Many followers of these sects aren’t well read about Islam & Christianity and more importantly do not appear to show interest in knowing the details of the religions whose essence they supposedly understand. They project their own perspective onto these religions that – all religions are equally true or all lead to the same path. [Even this, in passing, is a typical Hindu trait].

Per Islam, one isn’t a Muslim if he/she does not believe in Allah as one-true God and Prophet Mohammed as the last Prophet whose words are final.

Likewise, per Christianity, one isn’t a Christian if he/she believes in salvation outside of Jesus Christ.

Both Islam and Christianity believe that anyone outside their cult suffers in hellfire after death. This neatly puts Gurus of these sects in hellfire at some stage, for they also believe in these religions, and don’t believe only in them.

Leaving aside the Hindu identity, one cannot be both Muslim and Christian at the same time, for both are mutually exclusive identities. Either you accept Prophet’s finality or you don’t. You’re either a Muslim or you’re a Christian – you cannot be bit of both for there is no middle ground here.

Even an attempt to learn from both sets you apart as neither Muslim nor Christian, because these religions insist complete obedience to their set of beliefs and one isn’t free to choose some and leave the rest. The subordination must be total.

By their very act of individual endeavour to achieve liberation/ enlightenment the Gurus of these sects cannot find place in Christianity or Islam, for they’ve sought to chart their own path putting aside the one-true path prescribed to humankind for all times.  These frozen beliefs are central to a practising Christian or Muslim; one cannot neglect them and still claim themselves as its followers.

So irrespective of these sects’ position with respect to Abrahamic religions, the Abrahamic position on these sects is clear: they’re set on the wrong path for they haven’t reposed their complete and unadulterated faith in the one-true religion.

Although these sects claim to be open to other religions, they’ll still locate themselves in hellfire [in the latter’s perspective] for having resisted the complete submission to their faith. Lest these deluded folks ignore this crucial point, ardent followers of Abrahamic faith see them as one needing help or punishment for being incapable of following the one-true path despite being aware of the same.

Whatever else these cults are, they clearly aren’t Christians/Muslims. They cannot claim to have learnt [or be open to learn] some good things from these religions too, because the very first prerequisite for learning from these faiths is: rejection, nay condemnation, of all other faiths.

Hindu or Human Universal?

Few people try to dislocate yoga from Hinduism, pointing that nowhere is the word ‘Hindu’ mentioned while discussing them in ancient texts. As if Mahabharata and Ramayana self-refer themselves as ‘Hindu’ epics! Of course, the world ‘Hindu’ was first used to by Muslim invaders to classify pagan Indians [non-Muslims in Indian subcontinent]. Hindu scriptures never refer to themselves as ‘Hindu’; instead we find many dharmas, and dharma is not religion as the West understands it.

The Hindu identity has been an evolving one, with no frozen set of beliefs. Secularists in India pinpoint instances of beef consumption in Vedas to criticize ‘hypocrisy’ of present day Hindus. But it’s their own inability to grasp religion as an evolving system that comprehends this inconsistency as hypocrisy. Consequently, the many limitations of Hindu traditions notwithstanding, what sets Hinduism apart from Abrahamic religions is that its mutable and it even recognizes the transient nature of laws and beliefs.

The claim to have transcended bodily associations is typically Hindu and is non-existent in Abrahamic religions where enlightenment leads to firmer entrapment in dogma instead of expansion of worldview.

Sample this statement by the fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev ji: “From Hindus and Muslims have I broken free.” Superficially, this statement gives an impression of conscious dissociation from both Hinduism and Islam. Islam enjoins unqualified belief in the finality of Prophet’s teachings, so much that Ahmediyas who differ only in as much in this finality alone, are disqualified from self-identification as Muslims and are discriminated against. But from dharmic perspective, this statement is entirely understandable and identical to advaitic position: that association pertains to body, not the soul that’s free from all material contamination.

It’s a telling demonstration of the neo-spiritual types’ ignorance, when they claim that they can be adherents of both Abrahamic and Pagan religions which are mutually exclusive. This is analogous to a Britisher of colonial era believing with utmost sincerity that India is theirs – a perspective that clearly wasn’t shared by many native Indians.

Other trivial differences like not celebrating Hindu festivals with fanfare cannot be used to form a separate identity for such sects. Even among these festivals, few are more prominently celebrated in specific regions. This only shows that one can choose to follow their specific path within Hinduism without much fuss.


Such sects owe their independent operations to the congenial Hindu ecosystem which strives for coexistence of faith and reconciliation of values rather than competition for harvesting souls and ruthless elimination of opposing values. I consider these sects as largely useful [in business sense, for most do not advocate criminal or anti-social ideas and followers do find some happiness in their chosen path, however contrived or illusory]. However I wish they also do some their homework better instead of swallowing whatever is offered to them as gospel truth. Truth isn’t simple and needn’t follow any predestined format – hence myths such as all religions being same should be verified and cross checked with facts.

The claim that these sects are non-Hindu does not appear to square with facts in conclusion.

Comments

  1. Wish people could think beyond religion.. after all it is humans who made religions, cults, sects for their own ease... wish ppl could take humanity above all man made religions and stop having superiority/inferiority complexes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. after all it is humans who made religions, cults, sects for their own ease.

      This is the reason I request people to read more. Per Abrahamic religions, God has made one-true religion for men to follow for all times and those who don't subscribe to it deserve help or punishment. Pagan religions understand human limitation and make no superiority claims.

      wish ppl could take humanity above all man made religions and stop having superiority/inferiority complexes.

      I too wish so. But those devoted to Abrahamic cults cannot do this, for they don't believe their religion is man-made, they in all sincerity believe that God has mandated his will through their one-true religion and all other religions are patently false.

      The day well-meaning souls like you get beyond your intellectually lazy (but nice sounding) assumptions, and are capable of calling spade a spade, this can come true. This cannot be achieved by appeasement.

      Delete
    2. And this can come true when intellectual souls like you go beyond intellect and accept that You may never know and understand how much illusion is there in others experience. Moderation is the key in today's world. Excess of anything is bad... Being excessively critical about things in life gives repulsive action.

      The problem is that we don't believe we are as much alike as we actually are. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs..etc...and for that matter.. Indians, Americans, Australians... etc... for that matter... Andhraites, Tamilians, Telanganites, rayal seemandhrites.... If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world. But believe me, when you are dying, you see it is true. We all have the same beginning - birth - and we all have the same end - death. So how different can we be?

      Delete
    3. Hopefully you understand that the discussion wasn't about the existence of God or limitation of human senses. My focus is confined to how a religion's worldview shapes the follower's outlook. These differences in a religion's belief (however nonsensical) has consequences in the real world.

      If sameness is real, so are differences. Also, sameness in theory, equals uniformity in reality and suppression in practice. People should be allowed to preserve their differences and the said sameness should be felt, not imposed.

      Anyway, you're not getting the point. Some get it, some don't. Lets leave it at that. :)

      Delete
    4. Since you speak so much about moderation, wondering what result would a moderate mix of water and poison result in? I'm being mildly critical, excessive is merely your understanding of it.

      As I said, you will need to read more, which you don't as you feel you instinctively understand all. I see no way how we could meaningfully interact under such circumstances. :)

      Delete
  2. To answer your question.. Medicine has moderate mix of poison. And, how can you decide your level of criticism?? It is for others to decide... and even i can say... that "you feel that you instinctively understand all" is merely your understanding about me. And the need to read more (on religions) "should be felt, not imposed".
    True.. Lets agree to disagree...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Medicine has moderate mix of poison

      :), side effects of taking books like Alchemist seriously?

      even i can say... that "you feel that you instinctively understand all"

      No, this is an objective fact. I've read the scriptures of those religions and their evolution in history and I know what exactly I speak. Have you read them? What authority have you to speak on subject you haven't read? You'll need to read them first before you comment on them, fair deal?

      And the need to read more (on religions) "should be felt, not imposed".

      Sure, but in that case do not impose your understanding on those religions. Understand first, what they speak for themselves. Else, don't claim to understand them. Isn't that simple enough to grasp?

      Lets agree to disagree...

      Sure, I've no other option for you're barely touching topics relevant to post. :)

      Delete
    2. even i can say... that "you feel that you instinctively understand all" - Please read the whole sentence that i wrote... ( Ok.. perhaps my communication problem... "I feel that I instinctively understand all" is merely your understanding about me.. Ok now? :))..

      By having a meaningful interaction you simply mean that I should echo whatever you say... I disagree means it is irrelevant to your post it seems.. :)

      Religious scriptures, as far as I know.. take ages to understand and absorb.... from how many yrs have you been reading the scriptures? Reading is different from actually understanding and absorbing the content.

      And lastly, if you ask each of your reader to first read all the scriptures before commenting on your blog....its better either not to read blog or not to comment.. :).. Looks like its my mistake that I read your blog and commented with whatever little knowledge I have... :|

      Delete
    3. I disagree means it is irrelevant to your post it seems.. :)

      No, you're free to criticize my opinion - but even in criticism please stick to the topic - something which you aren't doing. :)

      Religious scriptures, as far as I know.. take ages to understand and absorb.

      Hahah. Tantamount to the argument that movie reviewers should first be capable directors to criticize movie. Everybody has their own part of work, and they do it. ;) Using this argument every powerful crook can escape criticism by asking his opponents to be as powerful/capable as him first, before criticizing him.

      If it takes ages to understand something, it can never be criticized. But criticism pervades the system, thus cancelling your hypothesis.

      .its better either not to read blog or not to comment.. :).. Looks like its my mistake that I read your blog and commented with whatever little knowledge I have... :|

      Your mistake lies in your inability to let go your fancy theories devoid of logical merit and worst still persisting with it despite evidence to contrary.

      I've no sacred cows - infact I'm an iconoclast. So if you speak logic, I'm most prepared to change my opinion, but only logic please - no mysterious gyan talk so similar to those who exploit people in the name of spirituality.

      If you've already decided your theory and are unwilling to change it irrespective of facts, it surely was your mistake to comment here ;)

      *End of discussion.*

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The concept of Dharma in Ramayana

The concept of Dharma is not adequately understood by Hindus themselves, not to mention others. Dharma is not a set of do’s and don’t’s or a simplistic evaluation of good and bad. It requires considerable intellectual exertion to even begin understanding Dharma, let alone mastering its use.

Is Dharma Translatable?
Few words of a language cannot be faithfully translated into another without injuring its meaning, context & spirit. English translations of Dharma are blurred and yield words like religion, sense of righteousness, discrimination between good and bad, morals and ethics or that which is lawful. All these fall short of fully grasping the essence of Dharma.
Every language has an ecosystem of words, categories and grammar which allow a user to stitch words together to maximum effect such that meaning permeates the text without necessarily being explicitly explained at each point. Sanskrit words such dharma, karma, sloka, mantra, guru etc., now incorporated in English, lose thei…

How Linguistic States strengthened Indian Unity

Be like a garland maker, O king; not like a charcoal burner.” --Mahabharata
[It asks the king to preserve and protect diversity, in a coherent way. The metaphor used is that of a garland, in which flowers of many colors and forms are strung together for a pleasing effect. The contrast is given against charcoal, which is the result of burning all kinds of wood and reducing diversity to homogeneous dead matter. The charcoal burner is reductionist and destroys diversity, whereas the garland maker celebrates diversity.]
Unification of Germany and Italy populated by similar people was achieved by huge armies spanning across decades. In sharp contrast, India under Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel managed to unite a much larger area divided by culture & languages within few years.
The European experience where new nations were carved over little differences in identity, made the Indian experiment appear poised for a breakup sooner than later. Yet, India managed to stay united though the journey wa…

Chetan Bhagat : His Literary Style and Criticism

Chetan Bhagat’s (CB) recent column created a furore, chiefly because of his audacity to speak for Muslim community and what many people conflate with his support for Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions.  
But what interested me most - and what this post would focus on - is questioning of his literary merit (or lack of it). Many journalists ridicule CB’s style of writing and his oversimplistic portrayals of characters sans nuance or sophistication. But I suspect this has more to do with the fact that his readers alone far outnumber the combined readers of many journalists - a point that many don’t appear capable of digesting.
No takers for layman’s language!
When Tulsidas rewrote Ramayana in Avadhi (a local contemporary dialect then), many conservative sections of society came down heavily upon him for defiling the sanctity of a much revered epic (originally written in Sanskrit). When Quran was first translated in Urdu (by Shah Abdul Qadir in 1798), it faced intense opposition by …