By Harendra th Bora
The UN General Assembly by declaring 21 June as the Intertiol Yoga Day recognized the universality of the gift of India to the world, i.e., Yoga. To quote words of the then Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, on Intertiol Yoga Day, “By proclaiming 21 June as Intertiol Yoga Day, the General Assembly has recognized the holistic benefits of this timeless practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the United tions.”
Whether yoga is vedic or pre-vedic, whether it was an innovation of the Aryans or the non-Aryans, the fact remains undisputedly that it had origited in India and from here only spread to both the East and the West. Yoga doctrine was exported to the countries of South Asia well before Buddhism had rooted there, by the migrants from India, mainly from the South, who had travelled to these countries and settled there on grounds of trade and commerce whereas to the countries viz Chi, Mongolia and Japan etc., yoga was imported along with Buddhism. However, on the western side, the first recorded contact between yoga and western thought occurred during the time of Plato and his student Aristotle. During Alexander’s invasion of India, his army came upon some sages sitting in meditation on the bank of river Indus. Alexander was greatly impressed by the Yogis and their supertural powers. When he returned cutting short his India expedition, the most valued treasure that he brought back with him was not gold, jewels, silk or spices of India, but his guru Yogi Kalya, whom the Greeks called as Kalonos or Calonos. Unfortutely with the untimely death of Alexander vanished the prospect of the royal patroge of yoga, although the nobles and soldiers accompanying Alexander carried the message of yoga to their countrymen. Even before meeting of the oriental and Hellenistic philosophy owing to Alexander’s adventure to India, the philosophy of Yoga had been brought to Europe by travellers like Pythagoras who had travelled to India in the sixth century BC.
However, during the period of Islamic and British Rule in India, Yoga and the Hindu religion as well, had to take a back seat, due to the said rulers’ misconception about Hinduism and Yoga. They looked down upon the Indian religions and culture including Yoga as outdated, obscure and a bundle of superstitions only. Yoga was viewed as an activity practised by wandering monks, fakirs, mendicants and street magicians or tricksters for a livelihood. Even many Europeans who visited India during this period had the impression that the Yogis were nothing but humans with abnormal life style such as overgrown ils, dislocated arms and excruciating postures. Obviously such travellers then being awed by the opulence of material wealth of the Mughal era did not bother to go to the depth of the hidden spiritual treasures behind Yoga. The Yoga doctrine itself too was responsible for such a situation because of its very guarded interface with the society in general. Because, it (Yoga) continued as a traditiol possession of a few adepts forming a closed and guarded circle ensuring that it does not fall into undeserving and unqualified hands. They transmitted it from generation to generation but kept it a firm secret and allowed it to be handed over to such souls who genuinely yearned for the doctrine and found to be mentally and emotiolly fit to be initiated into the fold. The ultimate purpose of this esoteric ture of Yoga maintained by the masters was to lead only sincerely interested and capable men to detect the essential meaning of human life, to help them to gain insight into the real structure of the universe, to search for higher spiritual enlightenment and consciousness.
However, the breakthrough in dissemition of the yoga system globally came with Swami Vivekanda, delivering his lecture on Hinduism on 11th September, 1893 at the Parliament of World Religions at Chicago city. It was a short speech dwelling on Hinduism, its vedantic universal values, religious tolerance etc., but so effective that it made the entire audience spellbound. The prominent American newspaper New York Herald commented “... after hearing him, we feel, how foolish it is to send missiories to this learned tion...”. His lecture had generated immense interest and inquisitiveness in the minds of Americans about the Hindu religion and its vedantic philosophy. Responding to such ardent interest of the American public, Swamiji founded the Vedanta Society in New York in 1894 and introduced the Four Yoga model for the American public. In 1896, he published his book on Raja Yoga which was highly instrumental in spreading the idea of Yoga in the Western world especially in America. Vivekanda also visited other western countries viz. England, France, Germany, Italy and Greece, and spread the Vedantic and Upanishadic messages of Hinduism in these countries. He returned to India in 1897 and made a second visit to England and U.S. during 1899-1902. He could attract a large number of followers and admirers in all these western countries and delivered lectures on Hinduism and oriental values. Only with Vivekenda’s presence in U.S. and Europe, Yoga took firm root in these western countries. Yoga practices have now become so popular in U.S. that the number of Yoga practitioners have swollen to exceed 20 million from 1 million in 1990. It has become increasingly popular in UK, Cada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Russia with the establishment of Yoga centres and studios supported by accredited yoga teachers both Indian as well as non-Indian. A good number of yoga promoting and yoga teachers training and accreditation centres have been established in the West, and to me a few of them are — Intertiol Yoga Federation (US) having network in nearly 100 countries, Intertiol Association of Yoga Therapists (US) having members from 48 countries, the British Wheel of Yoga having around 4,000 qualified yoga teachers in UK, Intertiol Yoga Teachers Association (Australia) imparting yoga teachers training, Yoga Alliance (US_Massachusetts) — their mission being to lead the yoga community, set standards and to uphold the teachings of yoga. Today, the 21st June, 2017 being the third Intertiol Day of Yoga, every Indian has reason to feel proud of the world recognition to their valued heritage which their forefathers had innovated for the welfare of entire humanity irrespective of caste, creed, region or religion — sarbaja hitaya, sarbaja sukhaya. The Indian tion should be thankful to the World Body for according this rare honour and compliment to Yoga. The idea of an Intertiol Day of Yoga was first proposed by Prime Minister rendra Modi during his speech at the UN General Assembly on 27 September, 2014 and as such the Prime Minister also equally deserves thanks and gratitude from his countrymen.
The global emergence of Yoga may be said to be as near complete with the intertiol recognition to Intertiol Day of Yoga, which in 2016 was celebrated in total 192 tions out of 193 member tions of the UNO.
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