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is yoga a Hindu activity? Is it a religious practise?
“Religion” means a spiritual practise that you adhere to with verve to lead you to God / similar in some ways to the Sanskrit word, “Dharma”. Dharma means a path which protects you from suffering, and brings you Eternal Happiness. Thus dharma can be said to be religion. Therefore, all religion is, is a tried and tested way of life that has been laid out before a group of people, which when followed without misconstruing, can permanently remove pain from people’s lives and bring them emancipation from the threefold sufferings of earth – disease, decay, and death. So, in the context of that, yoga is a Dharma, a path which can protect you from suffering. It is therefore similar to a religion in its ends, but not in its means.
The word “Hindu” was given to Indians, as were the actual words, “India” and “Indians” by the Greeks, Romans, and Persians over a period of time. What was practised on the Asian sub-continent at the time were the expressions given in the Vedic scriptures. These constitute the vast sum of knowledge residing on the sub-continent of “India”. It is these same scriptures that contain much of the original work on yoga (which was later updated by the great sage Patanjali in the 2nd centaury AD). Interestingly, these scriptures are well known to have been derived from “a heavenly source” – and no-one has laid claim to have a history or proof of their derivation.
Thus, if yoga is derived from these texts and was practised and harboured for thousands of years in the Himalayas (which are nestled between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia) – then who is to say to whom yoga belongs?
The point is that yoga is a scientific means of spiritual emancipation, not Hindu emancipation. Yoga is a human science, and I believe that this is the correct approach to defining its origin and purpose. Any other approach leads to more segregation, superiority complexes, national pride of narrow-mindedness. I am an Indian, and it is easy for me to be filled with pride and claim yoga as Indian, but many non-Indians embody yoga better than Indians - Therefore it is to kept as a human science.
I believe that any claims on yoga, should be made by good people from all nations – not only those of the Himalaya region or the Asian sub-continent of India.