Tag Archives: Hinduism

A yoga blog with a personal compass

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve wanted to give a big pointer to Carol Horton’s Think Body Electric, citing just one post, Yogis, Ascetic, and Fakirs: Fascinating historical images of India that I don’t pretend to understand, but I could mention any number of posts over the past year. In this particular entry, she runs through a number of photographs and drawings from India, and registers her own emotional reaction to these photos of “non-Western” practices. She has all the analytical skills of an academic, but never loses her personal (moral, ethical, whatever) compass.  I was struck by the following comments:

In other words, all of the cultural referents that were hard-wired into me at an early age were Judeo-Christian. This is not good or bad; it just is. But it is significant.
I can work to understand Hinduism, traditional yogic austerities, or whatever. But it’s not encoded into my cultural DNA.
Even in today’s highly globalized, mulit-culti world, I still feel very conscious of being a Westerner.
I know where she’s coming from because I feel much the similar way, having been a multicultural journalist who came to yoga late in life.

Understanding the invention of Hindu

Photo: meditators sitting cross-legged on the floor
Meditating after taking a master class at Thrive Yoga

Anyone wanting to get beyond the initial stereotyped responses to the question “Who owns Yoga” should take the time to read an essay by Pankaj Mishra that appeared six years ago: The Invention of Hindu. For an example of the latest twist in the debate, check out Who Owns Yoga? Not Bikram! (I think that Ramesh Bjonnes actually read the Mishra article that I am pointing to, though he does not cite it specifically).  Or Think Body Electric’s really thoughtful Yoga, Hinduism, and Contemporary American Culture. Or go back even further back in time: Take Yoga Back! What? Who? Huh? when the sh*t started hitting the fan.

Mishra is useful because he is not talking in the “Yoga in America” context, which distorts the fundamental question of what is Hinduism by inserting the issue of American appropriation of yoga? He actually addresses current affairs in India, nationalistic Hinduism, caste and class, religion and race.  He is a shrewd, articulate decryptographer that deciphers the cultural and social codes that shroud the historical roots of Hinduism’s emergence. He sees it as a political manifestation. He  states: Continue reading Understanding the invention of Hindu

Singing to God

Washington Post Singing to God Maragatham Ramaswamy tells about why she makes music and sings and then sings to Lord Ganesha. She has been teaching in Virginia for 20 years and possesses a shy sincerity that confirms her faith and talent. In yoga studios, we often see the borrowing of Hindu gods, music and symbols. Sometimes this appropriation is sincere; other times is just decorative, a style picked out of a catalog.

Maragatham is an authentic manifestation of Hindu culture flourishing in a foreign land. She has a website and a music association, called Ragamalika, that promotes carnatic music from southern India.

Kudos to my hometown paper and former employer, the Washington Post, for this new feature, On Being. [MLS: oops, my hometown paper made this feature section disappear, distributing the videos among local news (?) and making them really hard to find. Maragatham continues to have her own website.]