Published:  12:36 AM, 09 August 2019

Yoga, religion and rational reasoning

Yoga, religion and rational reasoning

Yoga, a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices of discipline stemming from ancient India, is now a popular event, to find recognitionin the United Nations declaration as 'International Yoga day'.Many Yoga Gurus made it popular in the western worldfollowing the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and 20th century, which has been accepted mostly as a posture based physical exercise and stress relief and relaxation technique.

Currently, there are efforts to turn it more popular in the spiritual sense and acceptable to all religion.JaggiVasudeb, often referred as Sadhguru, an India Yogi and mystic, the founder of Isha foundation, has been offering yoga programmes around the world with emphasis to social outreach, education and environmental initiative.

He and his programme drew world attention by his bestselling book of 'Health, Religion, Spirituality and Faith'and numerous speech at the World Economic Forum at United Nations Headquarters, Australian Leadership Retreat and various educational institutions like, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, Yale, London School of Economics etc.

Talks bySadhguru on various media platforms glued me to them for a couple of weeks and I heard him with passion and interest. He has been a sagacious Guru of these days to motivate millions of people around the world by his clarity of thoughts and articulate expression to convince any kind of audience.

His sense of simplicity, humour and capacity to elucidate any issue concerning religion, spirituality, economy, environment and above all life with extreme sense of logic couldattract large audience and motivate millions of people to join his efforts to improve the ecology of life system and join in yoga.

His views and talks are nobleas they appeal for doing better to self and others with special attention to the environment. He convinces millions of people to conserve river, forest, as well as measure deeds to oneself to live simple and bring meaningful end to life without agonies. His ideas of Yoga draws millions people to learn it and apply in order to understand oneself as source of metaphysics.

Does Sadhguru cause a dilemma in the minds of people, in their established religious beliefs? Most religionsprovideguidance to the way of living the worldly life and earn better for life hereafter based on the respective beliefs of respective communities. Since life in this world is finite and the promised life in the hereafter is infinite, deeds in the finite life demandto be meticulously measured. Sadhguru doesn't contradict the philosophy, but professes that the promise of a better life hereafter restricts humankind from making a full utilisation of their life in this world.

Although his calls are noble and harmless to mankind and nature, their naivety attracts people.To the extent, it has seeds to inspire a group of people to reject organized religion misconstruing that the ideas of Sadhguru offers alternatives without much obligation to supernatural force.His candid logic and ideas does inspire people to view things in a way Sadhguru himself take insights of life and eternity, which mass can't achieve.  

For ages, many philosophers like Sadhguruhave attempted to find answers to unknown through rational reasoning. The very idea of mysticism and philosophy was born out of the quest to find answers of all unknown by human efforts and make union with ultimate reality. For instance, German philosopher Immanuel Kant closed his search of knowledge at some stage, and concluded that suspension of further knowledge to discover unknown is necessary to increase room for faith. He also concluded saying that religion can't be proven by theoretical reason and thus must be put beyond the reach of realm of reason.

Much before Kant, Plato said, no nation can be strong unless it believes in God. Geroge Santayana, the American philosopher,professedthat the greatest problem of philosophy is its failure to devise a means whereby human can be persuaded to virtue without the stimulus of supernatural fear and reward. There wasn't any United Nations, Economic Forum or educational Institutions like Harvard or Oxford nor Internet or Youtube to transmit the idea of Kant or Plato like what Sadhguru is blessed to avail.

At the beginning of mankind or when the first man arrived in the world even for long after that too, there was no religion nor scripture. It only came when mankind failed to preserve order and created chaos to live together as organised community looking at communal interest. So the very purpose of religion was to bring order in the world for peaceful life with communal responsibilities. The responsibilities that religion pointed at were not only in the form of human justice to other humans but to non-human life too.

The earliest Hindu religious treatise, 'Manusmriti', mentioned that the Brahmin, who changes the course of the river by artificial obstruction, loses the right of conducting worship, a clear call to humankind to respect nature.  As the world is progressing towards pinnacle of development at the cost of grave damage to nature, call of Sadhguru for the preservation of nature is attracting people by the same philosophy without knowing that religion made the same call. The effortsof Sadhguruto do greater good for the world through yoga are noble.

But the apprehension is - if it drives people to a belief that to bring successful and peaceful end to human life, faith in any organized religion is not essential, it may lead to resentment among a large quarter of faithful people around the world.

Besides, if the belief imbues mankind that there is no consequence hereafter, it may not only distract people from religion, clash for religious cause might increase manifold. Religion is nothing but orders and inhibitions to do certain things and abstain from certain other things for greater good to oneself and to the larger community. Sovereign laws or constitutions do direct the national citizen to follow similar regulations same as what is prescribed in the scriptures for keeping order in the society.

The Western approach to Yoga as a means to manage stress and relief and physical exercise is yet good idea and initiative, but efforts to transcend it beyond temporal spectrum may be counter-productive, sinceit may inspire people to reject religion and evade sovereign laws. What Yoga can rather provide is the moral power, which isn't provided by sovereign laws but scriptures do. Both yoga and religion can go hand in hand to complement each other rather than supplant, since the objectives of both are to infuse discipline in human mind for greater service to the larger community.

The writer is a freelance

-Brigadier General (Retd) AF Jaglul Ahmed

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