Yoga As A Political Movement

Swami RamdevThe return of yogis to political life? From the New York Times:

HARIDWAR, India — The sun slumbered well beneath the horizon, but Swami Ramdev had been up for hours. Swathed in a saffron loincloth, he led his charges, a few hundred devotees in this holy city on the Ganges River and tens of millions more watching on television, through a rapid-fire series of yoga poses.

“If you sweat this much in the morning, you will never get old,” he shouted, the Chiclet-white dazzle of his smile undimmed by the wild bush of his beard. His own 50-ish body, lithe and supple as it whipped through the poses, underscored the point.

Without skipping a beat, Swami Ramdev, who as one of India’s most popular and influential gurus has reintroduced yoga to India’s masses, segued seamlessly into his latest passion: politics.

“We clean up our bodies,” he cried. “Then we will clean up our democracy!”

Swami Ramdev plans to do for the body politic what he has already done to the country’s creaky physiques: whip it into shape. He announced last month that he would found a political party that would field candidates for each of the 543 parliamentary seats in India’s next general election in 2014.

“What the people need is honest, brave and responsible leadership,” he said in an interview at the sprawling campus of his rapidly expanding yoga, natural foods and medicine empire in northern India. The country’s political system is riddled with corruption and riven by the deep divisions of religion and caste, he said. Tapping into the ancient Indian wisdom that gave birth to yoga, and the holy texts like the Vedas and Upanishads, is the only way to excise those cancers, he contended.

“We must have a total revolution,” he said…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • http://twitter.com/emerigent/lists/memberships Emeri Gent [Em]

    It is very difficult as I discovered today to try to discern yoga fundamentals from yoga pseudoscience. Knowing that Swami Ramdev has managed to create a powerful constituency through his charismatic devotion to yoga, I finally settled on learning more about Ramdev but only so I can cut through the wheat and chaff so I can understand that part of yoga which enhances practical wisdom.

    In terms of Indian politics, my eyes are already fully squarely on Rahul Gandhi

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/200051

    Maybe he won’t quite be ready for India’s multi-party Congress in 2014 but then again it took President Obama four years due to a superb political organization that operated with a level of thinking that surpassed both the Republican attack machine and the Clinton political machine. That Rahul Gandhi has probably even more charismatic value in comparison to Obama; plus that he also has been immersed in India’s political family, not to mention the influence of his mother and her smarts – then Ramdev’s political impact has to be assessed to against how and when Rahul Gandhi decides to run for the political office, one that he seems increasingly well groomed for.

    It does not surprise me at all to see the word yoga more and more associated with the word politics. When I look at how the Obama team dealt with grassroots politics, it exhibited the kind of manner that I would expect how yoga thinking meets resistance. It seemingly treats resistance and conflict very differently to the way traditional politics does. In many ways, the strength of Rahul Gandhi mirrors the grassroots effort that Ramdev could potentially mobilize. Right now it is interesting to see Rahul Gandhi investing more in grassroots and village life than pay attention to the core of the Indian political machine.

    It is fascinating of course for me to watch India evolve as a fast-developing powerhouse, and it will I expect succeed in this regard, and some of that may well be based on the rhetoric that I hear from Ramdev about the former Imperial India and changing to a “Indian Way” rather than the “British Way” which I can personally see at times hard wired into the Indian political establishment and infrastructure. Yet despite this fascination (and it can be increasingly intoxicating the more I learn about this), I must ensure that my own purpose is front and center – which is, what does any of this learning have to do with my own life?

    Having been switched on to thinking about Yoga after participating in a blog by Albert Wenger, finding this blog about yoga as a political movement is both interesting but also a nuisance. Interesting because yoga is a different mindset regarding power, a nuisance because I am apt still to get dragged into political mudslinging and power politics that serve me not one iota.

    So, it is India which serves for me the filter with which I can view the history and heartland of yoga and in Ramdev I think I have found an interesting fellow to observe. Whatever he does on the political front is something that only history will determine, but whatever his motivations are for moving towards the complex pathway of Indian politics, it puts yoga into the spotlight in a way that some in the West may not actually want it to be.

    All I know is that when an individual is ready to mix it up with powerful forces, there is in their discipline (aka yoga) even more to learn because it will demonstrate yoga in the political dimension. I think political forces are shaping to make that dimension a more natural fit, but whatever the net result, I will watch this one with interest. Since I know that this will unfold over a number of years, I can restrain my own learning muscle and watch yoga develop in this arena and in so doing learn it in the same graceful and gentile manner it is normally practiced or at least envisaged.

    [Em]

  • http://twitter.com/emerigent/lists/memberships Emeri Gent [Em]

    It is very difficult as I discovered today to try to discern yoga fundamentals from yoga pseudoscience. Knowing that Swami Ramdev has managed to create a powerful constituency through his charismatic devotion to yoga, I finally settled on learning more about Ramdev but only so I can cut through the wheat and chaff so I can understand that part of yoga which enhances practical wisdom.

    In terms of Indian politics, my eyes are already fully squarely on Rahul Gandhi

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/200051

    Maybe he won't quite be ready for India's multi-party Congress in 2014 but then again it took President Obama four years due to a superb political organization that operated with a level of thinking that surpassed both the Republican attack machine and the Clinton political machine. That Rahul Gandhi has probably even more charismatic value in comparison to Obama; plus that he also has been immersed in India's political family, not to mention the influence of his mother and her smarts – then Ramdev's political impact has to be assessed to against how and when Rahul Gandhi decides to run for the political office, one that he seems increasingly well groomed for.

    It does not surprise me at all to see the word yoga more and more associated with the word politics. When I look at how the Obama team dealt with grassroots politics, it exhibited the kind of manner that I would expect how yoga thinking meets resistance. It seemingly treats resistance and conflict very differently to the way traditional politics does. In many ways, the strength of Rahul Gandhi mirrors the grassroots effort that Ramdev could potentially mobilize. Right now it is interesting to see Rahul Gandhi investing more in grassroots and village life than pay attention to the core of the Indian political machine.

    It is fascinating of course for me to watch India evolve as a fast-developing powerhouse, and it will I expect succeed in this regard, and some of that may well be based on the rhetoric that I hear from Ramdev about the former Imperial India and changing to a “Indian Way” rather than the “British Way” which I can personally see at times hard wired into the Indian political establishment and infrastructure. Yet despite this fascination (and it can be increasingly intoxicating the more I learn about this), I must ensure that my own purpose is front and center – which is, what does any of this learning have to do with my own life?

    Having been switched on to thinking about Yoga after participating in a blog by Albert Wenger, finding this blog about yoga as a political movement is both interesting but also a nuisance. Interesting because yoga is a different mindset regarding power, a nuisance because I am apt still to get dragged into political mudslinging and power politics that serve me not one iota.

    So, it is India which serves for me the filter with which I can view the history and heartland of yoga and in Ramdev I think I have found an interesting fellow to observe. Whatever he does on the political front is something that only history will determine, but whatever his motivations are for moving towards the complex pathway of Indian politics, it puts yoga into the spotlight in a way that some in the West may not actually want it to be.

    All I know is that when an individual is ready to mix it up with powerful forces, there is in their discipline (aka yoga) even more to learn because it will demonstrate yoga in the political dimension. I think political forces are shaping to make that dimension a more natural fit, but whatever the net result, I will watch this one with interest. Since I know that this will unfold over a number of years, I can restrain my own learning muscle and watch yoga develop in this arena and in so doing learn it in the same graceful and gentile manner it is normally practiced or at least envisaged.

    [Em]