VIEWS EXCHANGED BY DR. VIJAYA RAJIVA AND SHREE VINEKAR
UNDER GOD? : THE GREAT YOGA DEBATE?
(SEE: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/undergod/2010/4/shukla_and _chopra_
Apropos to my letter of May 2, 2010, concerning Deepak Chopra's
article 'Sorry, Your Patent Has Run Out' (Washington Post, April
23, 2010) I am disappointed and dismayed by Dr.Chopra's
ongoing polemic directed at Hindu Yoga (The Great Yoga Debate,
His problem seems to stem from the fact that he has
arbitrarily and rather arrogantly, if I may add, appropriated
the word 'consciousness' in one single continuum or modality which
he misguidedly thinks is the only contribution of Vedic wisdom
and meditative practice.
He presents himself supposedly as an Advaita Vedantin.
Fair enough. But, to extrapolate from this situation to all
aspects of Hindu thought and spirituality is inaccurate.
Further, his claim that only his understanding of Vedic
wisdom is the 'true' one is so utterly unlike his earlier
work in the field of consciousness and its benefits
in his medical practice.
Clearly, he seems to have lost his way . . .
The Vedic Rishis whom he seems to admire, thought in diverse
and profound ways which cannot be limited to one Deepak
Chopra's insights into ultimate reality. Neti, neti, (translated as
"not this, not that,") is one aspect of their vision of what ultimate reality is all about. And, this automatically rejects Dr. Chopra's dogmatism. Their great humility in the presence of infinite
ontological realities is a contrast to Chopra's hubris and
reductionism. They refused to label ontological realities by any
one definition. Hence, their 'neti, neti.'
His second error is his lack of historical perspective and his
confusion over the words 'Hindu' and ‘India', the former of
which predates the latter, which is an Anglicization. Rose is a rose, is a rose, is a rose; what is there in the name that changes it?
The Vedic seers meditated on the banks of the Sindhu-Sarasvati
rivers some 5,000 years ago. The Rig Veda, the oldest of the Hindu
scriptures, mentions the mighty river Sarasvati some 72 times. The
Sarasvati disappeared around 1800 B.C. and remained a mystery river
until recent advances in satellite photography and other scientific
disciplines discovered it as a dried up river bed.
The river Sindhu exists today, known in English as the Indus, the word coined by the Greeks (326 B.C.), who based that name on the earlier word 'Hindu' coined by the Persians (518 B.C.). And, the British Anglicized it all to Indus and India (and Indian).
These historical facts, surely known even to a school child, make it
evident that the word 'Hindu' is the older and more accurate word
for the culture of the subcontinent, rather than the word 'Indian.'
It is utterly baffling as to why Dr. Chopra takes umbrage at the word
'Hindu.' The world over, the word 'Hindu' is the most accepted word for
the culture and civilization of the subcontinent, and this has been so
for many centuries.
His third mistake is in denying the links between Hinduism
and its parent the Vedas. By implication he is denying that the
Patanjali Yoga Sutras, the definitive codification of Hindu Yoga (2nd
century B.C.), is an elaboration of Vedic contribution. Indeed, Dr. Chopra comes across intentionally or unintentionally as regarding himself as the custodian of Hindu spirituality (now packaged by himself as “Indian”) and its sole authentic interpreter.
What is the purpose of his futile debate with Dr. Aseem Shukla whose
main point seems to be that there is a definite link to the practice of
Yoga and the age old Hindu spirituality which has continuity over many millennia?
It is disappointing for those of us who considered Dr. Chopra not only
to be a fine physician but also an ambassador of goodwill for Hindu
spirituality, to see him engage in an unseemly and in the last analysis, a meaningless dispute over the phrase “Hindu Yoga.”
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
May 8th 2010
Dear Dr. Rajiva:
Thanks for sending me a copy of your letter to the Editor of Washington Post and I hope it is published.
There is no question Dr. Deepak Chopra is ill-informed or is deliberately engaging in his California Style identification with the American Yoga Journal. From your views it appears that he has grasped neither the historical sequence of events nor the basics of Vedic and Vedantic philosophy which he has so well commercialized under his brand named trade which is incidentally a big money maker. The undeniable motivation here is that he has great reluctance for displeasing his "constituency" which is mainly the local Americans and not the Indian Diaspora in California or in the West.
I have a slightly different view of what he is doing and why he does not want to be identified too closely with the word Hindu which is gaining or has gained pejorative accretions of nuances over the last couple of centuries in the US, although Emerson and Whitman drew considerable inspiration from the Vedic thought, and Vivekananda and Yogananda's efforts brought positive regard for Hindu identity for a few decades in this country. It is a sad commentary for Hindus that their self-effacement or staunch belief in non-aggrandizement of themselves motivated by their highly lofty ethical value of "prasiddhi parangmukhata" (as espoused by RSS for many decades and lived and exemplified by Shri Guruji and his contemporary Hindu leaders who even shunned appearing for any photographs, or signing their name to their articles, works of art or poems in contrast to "Sant Kabir, Mirabai, or Tulsidasa")is self-defeating. The lack of popularized positive versions of rational Hindu philosophy as against the most profound treatises, etc., has handicapped Hindus in projecting a positive image all over the world. It is amazing to see how Dalai Lama is exponentially more advanced in not only projecting himself as an intellectual and a spiritual leader with profound philosophy but also as capable of descending to the common man's level in communicating his grasp of Tibetan Buddhism in simple English to a lay reader in the West.
This deficiency may be what partly is responsible for the success of those like Deepak Chopra, Sri Sri Ravishankar, and even the ignoble Nityananda who have done well for publicizing watered down Hinduism and Hindu philosophy as well as culture and practice. With all due credit to them and many other ambassadors like Jiddu Krishnamurty, we should all pray for the emergence of a charismatic consistently rational spokesperson for Hinduism to lead to its "abhyudaya" in the world and for modifying the world view about Hinduism, Hindu culture and religion as a well as Hindu philosophy. Until then the small efforts that you and others are making to hold the fort are not insignificant but are phenomenal large steps to uplift Hinduism with its "bootstraps" to a slightly higher level of acceptance.
In this respect the credit goes to Aseem Shukla and HAF for succeeding for the first time in finding a column in a venue that is respectably recognized for significantly contributing to the prevalent world view (a small step for the Hindu Diaspora in the US but a giant leap for the mostly misunderstood passive Indian Hindus). Such achievement also induces conscious and unconscious jealousy in people like Deepak Chopra who are narcissistic enough to have a self appointed "prima donna" position in their fantasy as to how they are viewed in the Western World and, in fact, they are not wrong, if you count the millions of dollars they (Chopra, Ravishankar, Nityananda, etc. meaning the popular Hindu diminutive Dalai Lama equivalents in Western Hindu marketing) have accumulated by "selling Hinduism or its patented ideas." No one can argue with their “success.” It is a sad commentary on the Hindu identity though when these stalwarts package their ideas and practices as entirely original de-linked from the word Hindu and furthermore try to own intellectual property rights by brand naming their practices and acquiring a trade mark for each of them. It is the same plagiarizing “giant” sons who disown their Hindu heritage and de-link themselves and even Yoga from Hindu past to please their New Age or other American clients.
There is no question the secret admiration for Hindu ideas including "Avatar" and "Reincarnation" or "migration of the soul to other bodies ("Host")," "karma," etc.,have been appropriated imperceptibly in the world-view, so immiscibly now, that they have indeed lost their "Hindu patent" (Hindu parent culture) in a manner of speaking. Same is perhaps happening to Yoga and it may be that it is a mixed blessing for now this situation presents a potential for the Hindus to re-claim their Hindu originality and heritage regardless of “the patent running out.” Once these concepts are presented in a science fiction mode with different names or the same terms as used in Hindu culture they become so diluted, and if largely accepted in the world-view, they lose their Hindu identity just as the world "secular" has lost its Communist, British, French or Russian identity and its connection with Marx. This may be inevitable when world becomes totally flat even as regards the culture and world view. However, respectable sources of knowledge have no justification to deny the Hindu roots of Yoga, for example the Wikipedia erroneously traces the roots of Yoga only to Buddhism which originated in the sixth century BCE.
What Aseem Shukla and HAF are doing is absolutely the right thing to do when the Hindu children growing up in the U.S. are subjected to ridicule by their ignorant peers. They need to have the knowledge of their own heritage to take pride in it. The larger US and Western population needs be made aware of their cultural miseducation. (see “Historian’s Pitfall: Cultural Miseducation” on www.sookta-sumana.blogspot.com)
With best regards,