By Mohammad Azeemullah
International Yoga Day
June 21, 2015 is going to be celebrated as International Yoga Day. The Modi Government has almost made it compulsory for all Indians irrespective of caste and creed to participate in the program. The Prime Minister of India will himself be a participant in a 35-minute early morning demonstration of Yoga on the marked day. Truly amazing spirit of keeping India physically robust!
“The word yoga is a Sanskrit word that means ‘union with god’ or ‘yoke’,” says Laurette Willis, the founder of PraiseMoves. According to Hindu belief systems, the sun sustains all life. It is considered, states K.S. Charak, a “manifest representation of the Eternal cause of this universe.”
Surya…the Sun God is believed to be the soul of the universe. The Hindu creation narrative states that in the beginning Lord Brahma, the god of creation, emerged from a cosmic egg and spewed intelligence in the form of the supreme god Vishnu, whose brilliance merged with sound to create Surya. The solar god ‘Surya’, therefore, is identified with Lord Vishnu.
One way to attain divinity in Hinduism is through exercises. One such exercise, known as Surya Namaskar, or Salute to the Sun, consists of seven stretching postures, five of which are repeated in reverse order for a total of 12 postures. While prostrating before the sun, Hindus chant hymns of praise for Surya and ask him to grant them health, while also giving thanks for all the Sun God provides them with. Thus, says Ffrench “It’s got a trace from history of a religious pathway”.
Controversy Revolving Surya Namaskar
Islam forbids any form of worship other than worshipping Allah.
The Quran states: “Among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. But do not prostrate yourselves before the sun or the moon; rather prostrate yourselves before Allah, who created them both, if you would truly serve Him” (41:36)
Therefore, All India Muslim Personal Law Board has said, “It is against our religious beliefs and should not be forced on our children.”
Democratic Response to the Crisis
In view of the constitutional provision in India as Article 25 guarantees: “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion”, the BJP government has decided not to include Surya Namaskar for the Yoga Day event. The decision is a welcome move and has acceptance from all sections of the society.
Global Recognition of Yoga
Similar modifications on spiritual yoga exist in Malaysia, where a 2008 fatwa, a religious ruling, resulted in yoga reforms to suit the aspirations of Muslim communities. In the capital Kuala Lumpur, the physical activity is permitted but chanting and meditation are forbidden. Clerics in the world’s most populous Islamic nation, Indonesia, make a similar distinction. Yoga has been repackaged in the US as well.
Benefits of Yoga
Whatever the controversy surrounding Yoga, the yogic asanas, or positions, remain one of the most growing fascinations of the world. Truly, yoga delivers many benefits to those who incorporate it into their everyday lives. “Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California. “As an osteopathic physician, I focus a lot of my efforts on preventive medicine and practices, and in the body’s ability to heal itself. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on similar principles.”