Yoga can teach us

The word yoga was first mentioned in the Rigveda, but its philosophy, science and grammar were first provided by Patanjali in his magnum opus, Patanjali Yoga Sutra. It is heartening to note that yoga has been widely accepted across the world today. The Polish government celebrates International Yoga Day. In Aligarh Muslim University here, special endeavours are being taken to make this event successful.

Yoga was taken to the West by Indian gurus. They started centres where people practised yoga and realised its benefits. However, the popularity of yoga also created a massive business of approximately $40 billion. This is set to grow with the rising popularity of yoga.

All is one

Yoga is something beyond physical health and material wealth. The human persona is not only a body; it is also a mind, an intellect, and a soul. Yoga attempts to harmonise all of them. In the process, one attains a healthy body, a sharp intellect, and a focused mind capable of realising the unity between ‘I’, generally defined as personal consciousness, and ‘I’, the universal or cosmic consciousness.

Yoga means to join. Its ultimate goal is to experience the unity of individual and universal consciousness. Yoga teaches us to recognise the fundamental unity between human beings and humankind, humans and the environment, and ultimately recognise a total interconnectedness of everything. The essence of this realisation is to experience that all is one. There is no ‘us’ and ‘they’ — everything is us. This is an integral or holistic approach.

I have been in the field of education, both as a teacher of physics and as a seeker of integral education and integral development of the world. I have received inspiration from Upanishadic thought and literature. I am fascinated by the modern developments of physical sciences, which seem to take us back to the ancient truths which were discovered long ago in India by great seers and scientists of higher knowledge.

There is today a new vision of reality emerging from new physics. As we know, old physics was mechanistic; we had then the great figure of Isaac Newton. Corresponding to that mechanistic philosophy, but in a larger mould, we had a dualistic philosophy that divided the world into two components: the world of matter and the world of mind. The great figure of this philosophy was Descartes. But a hundred years ago, a brilliant Indian physicist, Jagadish Chandra Bose, demonstrated to the scientific world that there was no fundamental division between plants, animals and human beings.

When Darwin discovered the process of evolution, a series of new philosophies came to be developed. But none of these philosophies has the thoroughness of the evolutionary philosophy of Indian sages that bridges the gulfs between matter and life, and life and mind, and of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution from mind to supermind. In fact, he reverses the entire process of evolution and points out that the real evolutionary force is not material but supramental in character, and that matter itself is nothing but a mode of the supermind. He thus bridges, like the Vedic rishis, the three great oceans of existence — the inconscient, conscient, and superconscient. This is extremely refreshing, and one feels a kind of rejuvenation of thought and life.

I can see clearly the interconnection between Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a world union of free nations, the vision of a spiritualised society, and the vision of integral humanism based on a holistic vision of universe. I feel that probably a new alternative of the present moulds of thought is now being built in the world.

A new way of thought

Globalisation based on the mechanistic world view also attempts to integrate nations through the concept of the world as one market. The recent experience of attempts to integrate the economies and technologies of nations instead of creating any global consciousness leading to oneness has turned out to be divisive, exclusivist, fragmentary and has not helped in resolving any of the conflicts. The market forces, instead of harmonising conflicts, have further deepened the fault lines. This has resulted in a world that is out of balance. Restoration of the balance in this planet is a big challenge. Enlightened global minds need to think about an alternative paradigm.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “We should do this [yoga] before every negotiation so that we can work with a calm mind”. This indicates that some meaningful thinking has set in. It can be argued that if international negotiations could be held on the basis of holistic tenets, along with a calm mind, perhaps the UN would be able to use its time for good purposes. If such and other practices of holistic behaviour are pursued, possibly a new culture of conducting world affairs and international relations might evolve in the future. There is increasing awareness that the present imbalance is the outcome of the inability of existing socio-economic institutions and political structures to deal with the current impasse, which is derived from the inadequacy of concepts and values of an outdated model of the universe and the belief that all problems can be solved by technology. Perhaps there is a need for a new paradigm.

Can an alternative world view for transforming human society into a non-violent, eco-friendly, non-dogmatic, egalitarian, all-inclusive, secular world family be evolved through the harmonisation of yoga and science? Enlightened global minds should seriously ponder on such a probability. Apart from emphasising the normal benefits of yoga, International Yoga Day should be utilised to think about how a peaceful transition can be achieved for peace, harmony and happiness.