The New York Times has two stories about yoga that confront the same issue. While it appears they are debating if yoga belongs to Hindus, the real issue seems to be can you repackage, that is market, aspects of one faith and use them in another?
On the front page of the paper, there was a story about Hindus fighting to keep yoga associated with their faith. “Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul” states
The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.
In, I believe, today’s style section there was story called Stretch/Bending with a Holy Twist. This article was all about practicing yoga but replacing the obligatory “om” with the words of St. Francis of Assisi.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.”
The article then goes on to discuss if it is right and appropriate to mix Christianity with yoga.
In both articles, a quote appeared to the affect that yoga is not itself a religion. And, this is of course true. More at issue, however, is a statement from the cover article quoting Dr. Aseem Shukla, a Hindu American Foundation co-founder, “our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand.” Is that a concern because Hinduism is in declining? Otherwise, why would they care? (I don’t know the answer to this so please feel free to educate me on this matter.)
At any rate, this would certainly not be the first time that a western faith has stolen something from the east…rosary beads, anyone?