Yoga for Communal Harmony and World Peace
Dr. Satya Pal Singh*
* Commissioner of Police, Pune City E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The term ‘yoga’ has become ubiquitous and universal in the present era. Its literal meaning is to yoke, to add, to unite, to grow or to merge. It presupposes the separate existence of ‘Jiva’ (the individual self) and ‘Ishwar’ (the Universal Self). The ways and means of their communion have been the most preferred expositions and endeavours of our yogins and vedic seers. Yoga is the science of spirituality or a subject matter of ‘scientific spirituality’. It is the profound science of inner world of illuminating the subtle domains of self-knowledge, self-evaluation, self-evolvement and self-elevation. The beginning of yogic science starts with ‘self-discipline’ and its culmination ends with ‘self-liberation and a stage of blissful existence’.
The most scientific and holistic school of yoga was developed by the great Rishi (seer) Patanjali. Most of the variations in the present day yoga sprouted from his basics. His eight fold path of Yoga teaches us the unfailing & time-tested techniques to control one’s mind and to establish a perfect harmony between one’s body, mind and soul. It is said that Patanjali made a seminal contribution in the fields of Yoga, Grammar and medicine as per the often quoted Sanskrit verse:
Yogena Cittasya padena vaacham malam
Sharirasya cha vaidyakena
Yo paakarottam pravaram muninaam
Patanjalim praanjalir aanatoasmi.
‘I salute Patanjali, the great sage, who gave us yoga to purify the mind, grammar to sharpen the speech, and the Ayurveda to cure the body.’
Disharmony in Society
The present day communal disharmony in the society and the threat to the global peace stems in the disturbed and intolerant minds. Sheer intolerance or aversion (Dvesa) erupts into mental or verbal hatred (Ghruna). And deep hatred manifests into physical violence and the extreme violence results into riots and wanton acts of terrorism.
Almost all the simmering discontent, discords, tension, criminal acts, communal riots and the depredations of terrorism in the world have their genesis mainly into the following reasons :
1. False statements, rumour mongerings and non-adherence to truth.
2. Intolerance, aversion and hatred of minds; threat of or indulging in violence verbally and physically.
3. Theft, dispossession or looting of property; disputes on property matters (land, building, religious places, cremation/burial grounds).
4. Love/sexual affairs, eve teasing of girls/women – may be inter caste/community or religious denominations sometimes.
5. Greed, hoarding, monopolistic tendencies leading to economic/financial crimes and which provide impulse to traditional crimes because of glaring disparities in the distribution of wealth.
Non-adherence to truth, intolerance and hatred of minds among the common-folk have been mainly because of selfish religious, sectarian and political leaders. So many sects, beliefs and religious denominations have surfaced on the face of one earth, from time to time, that a simplistic soul has either been rendered as a prisoner of his/her parents/society’s beliefs or totally confused about the truth. The truth which leads to true happiness has become the first casualty of inter and intra bickerings of religious heads and political agents.
Concepts of Communal Harmony:
Harmony does not mean dissolving the individual existence or identity and becoming one like 7 different colors of light or river water mixing with sea. The best and commonly visible and understood example of perfect harmony is the human body. Where every invidividual orgon does its work (duties), without interfering into others’ sphere and everyone ultimately leading to keep the body hale and healthy. Similarly, a society has harmony when its members observe the sanctity of social norms so that society is made strong and progressive. The welfare of society is supreme to one or two family’s interests e.g. widening of roads may require the demolitions of one’s home or shop.
In the same way, the Communal harmony is a stage or an environment when different religious, ethnic or linguistic communities shed their non-essential rituals or differences to create an environment of amity and brotherhood. When ultimate aim of every community is the same – to progress in all directions physically, mentally and socially. When everyone thinks and prays for the overall well being of others and society as a whole. Sarve bhavantu sukhine – let every one be happy and blissful.
Patanjali’s yoga believes, inter alia, in the following principles:
1. There is one Supreme Lord (Ishwar) who is all pervasive and unaffected by Afflictions, Actions, Fruition and Dispositions (I.24)
2. The Lord is the greatest teacher of even the earliest ones, being unconditioned by time. (I.26)
3. There is always fruition of one’s actions and transmigration of souls (II.13)
4. Entire human race is one – irrespective of different colours, creeds, places or languages (I.20)
5. Basic nature of every individual soul is same.
6. The road to ultimate aim is also one.
7. The steps in 8-fold path spiritual ladder can not be skipped but have to climbed/achieved in succession. (II.29)
8. The first limb (yamas) is the foundation of yoga. They are the great vows and constitute the universal code of conduct. (II-30, 31). Some steps can be practiced simultaneously.
According to Patanjali, one can not be a yogi, unless one believes in God. And it would be meaningless being a theist, unless one follows a Divine Moral Code. The first two steps (limbs) in the 8-fold path of yoga constitute this moral code. They are called Yamas and Niyamas. The five yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness (Ahimsa Satyas Asteya Brahmacharya Aprigraha yamas II-30). The five Niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study and surrender to God (Shaucha Santosh Tapa Svadhyay-Ishwarpranidhana II-32).
The above five yamas are the 5 restraints. They are the death bells for 5 root-reasons creating disharmony in society. These 5 restraints, if observed, are the cardinal principles of communal harmony. They attack at the roots of disharmony, divergence and disputes. They are the foundations of a progressive, vibrant and spiritual society. They are non-sectarian and essentials to all the faiths of the world.
In fact the first and foremost step on the path of yoga or the first yama is referred as Ahimsa – the practice of benevolence and non-violence. The violence has to be given up not only in physical forms but in speech and thoughts also. Even the thought of violence, harm or hatred to any living being, not just of human being, is an impediment in ascending the way to yoga. The ahimsa of yoga is not just a negative concept- refraining from harming or hurting any one but it is a positive assimilation of virtues- to love all without having an iota of ill will or malice towards anyone.
The five yamas – Ahimsa, Satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aprigriha are to be observed in thoughts, speech and actions. They are the five great universal vows (mahavratams II-31) and can not be compromised or abandoned because of some personal status (jati) or place (desa), age or time (kala) or cirucstances (samaya). This leaves no trace of doubt in the mind of a yoga-practitioner. Irrespective of caste, creed, colour, country or community – they have to be practiced.
And if the citizens of world just embrace the first limb (step) in the spiritual journey of self, the world will shun all kinds of disputes, riots and violence. It will not just a simple communal harmony – harmony or unity between the communities, it would bring in lasting happiness and enduring world peace.
The sage Ved Vyasa, who gave an outstanding commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras also wrote Mahabharata, as we all know. In Gita, in the words of Vyasa, the Lord Krishna says that the highest yogi is one who feels the pains and pleasures of others as intimately as if they were his own. And his vision is universal.
samam pasyati yo ‘rjuna
sukham va yadi va duhkham
sa yogi paramo matah
This is what the often quoted ethical rule prescribes, “Do unto others as you would like them to unto you.”
If this definition of a perfect yogi is accepted, preached and practiced by all the teachers and students of yoga, the world peace is ensured.
Popularising the Yoga :
Yoga was part and parcel of daily life in ancient India. In middle ages and until the recent past in was forgotten or ignored by a vast majority, only a few kept the tradition alive. For the last 4-5 decades, some great preachers of yoga, like Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Kuvalyanand, Swami Sivanandji, made sincere and systematic efforts to popularise the yoga. For the last 4-5 years Swami Ramdev has almost revolutionized the concept and practice of yoga at a mass scale. There is a need to study the methodology and strategy being adopted by Swami Ramdevji. Only improvement the yoga teachers and preachers have to make is that they have to emphasise on the observance of Yamas and Niyamas by the students and practitioners of yoga. Without following this divine moral code, we will not be able to reap the entire benefits of yoga practice.
We have to institutionalize the practice of yoga in our day to day life through incorporating it in school and college syllabi. Universities and institutions should conduct research on the different facets of yoga. The hospitals have to adopt it as a routine for their patients. Let us convince the government that the practice of yoga by a large number of population will give it healthy bodies, focused mind and sharpened intellects. It will greatly reduce the burden on State exchequer of providing health care to the burgeoning sick humanity. At individual level, the practice of yoga brings in harmony in one’s body, mind and soul. With the institutionalized practice of yoga at a community, country or global level we can have dreams of ushering in a crimeless (at least a much reduced crime rate), harmonious and progressive society. The first outcome would be perponderance of morality, sense of equality and feelings of love and fraternity. The communal harmony will prosper, the money spent for maintenance of law and order; on detection, investigations and prosecution of offences will be better used for development of various facets of human life. The nation propagating the practice of yoga will reap the rich dividends of a healthy, creative and sharp human resource.
There is no other comparable philosophy or strategy as the kriya yoga propounded by seer Patanjali for self-elevation, co-existence, communal harmony and the world peace. The more we practice, the more we gain.