The Stories Of Modern Yoga - History Or Myth?

Research Article

Author(s): Jens Bache*

Published: July 21, 2023     DOI: 10.33552/WJYPR.2023.04.000576

Abstract: In The West, Yoga Of Today Is Practiced With A Strong Focus On The Physical Exercises; Whilst In India Yoga Is Generally Understood To Be A Mainstream Ancient Spiritual Philosophy [1]. This Difference Is At The Core Of A Rigorous Ongoing Debate Of Historical Arguments Between Indian Scholars And Secular Gurus; And Western Researchers And Yoga Experts About What Yoga, Its Practices And Origins Really Are. The Process Of Documenting History Is Always An Attempt To Frame Events And Actions Within The Context Of Time With Man As The Essential Component. But Both Elements Are Culturally Conceptualized; In Europe Time Is Perceived As Of An Essential Quality, But In India An Illusion Where Reality Is Of “timeless Nature” [2]. This Cultural Disparity Has Compelled Me To Analyze The Arguments As To How Man And Time As Social And Cultural Constructs Are Expressed In These Opposing Understandings Of Yoga. The Arguments With Implied Assertions Form Fundamental Presumptions In Which There Appears To Be An Incompatibility Between A Fundamental Indian Belief In The Eternal Truth In Comparison With Western Faith With Its Reality Of Documented Facts. The Starting Point For My Analysis Was Agamben’s Statement About Time, History And Culture: “Every Conception Of History Is Invariably Accompanied By A Certain Experience Of Time Which Is Implicit In It, Conditions It, And Thereby Has To Be Elucidated. Similarly, Every Culture Is First And Foremost A Particular Experience Of Time, And No New Culture Is Possible Without An Alteration In This Experience” [3]. I Have First Discussed Temporality; How The Cultural Understandings Of Time Create The Framework Of Logic In These Arguments And How This Affects The Conclusion Arrived Upon. Thereafter The Interpretations Of Modern Yoga As Cultural And Social Narratives For The Archetypal Meanings They Espouse, And Lastly How They Are Related To History, Myth, Legend And The Understanding Thereof. The Final Debate Between The Western And Indian Scholars Was Then Eventually Put Into A Perspective Of Representation, Which Seems To Boil Down To Who Has The Right To Tell The Story Of Yoga. Here Are The Main Findings Of My Analysis: Temporality: The Western Conception Of Time Being Solely Linear Has Been Culturally And Historically Amplified In Europe, Where To Prognosticate Is To Foresee A Development With Elements Of The Past Introduced Into The Future. In The Western Story Of Modern Postural Yoga āsana’s Origins Are Seen To Be The Key Element Of The Interpretation, Both In The Near And The Distant Past. This Presumption Has An Ingrained Cultural Bias Whereby The Amount Of āsana Are Considered To Have Increased Over Time Due To Human Causation [4]. This Logic Leads In The Western Interpretation To The Final Conclusion That Modern Posture-based Yoga Cannot Be Considered A Successor Of The Indian Tradition Of Haṭhayoga [5] In The Indian Presentation The Past Is Not An Object But Present In The Current Moment And This Cultural Framework Sets The Condition For What Can Be Considered Knowledge. From This Perspective It Is Not Imperative To Know By Whom Or During Which Period The āsana Appeared, Was Created Or Developed As They Are Seen As Timeless Instruments. Narratives: Western History Is Written About Men Who, In Their Quest To Master Time, Perform Great Deeds, By Other Men Who Use Superlatives To Capture Those Events [6]. The Western Biography Interprets The Great Yogi Krishnamacharya Without The Mythical Glow, And Extraordinary Knowledge, As In The Indian Version. A Narrative Where The Qualities And Nature Of The Main Character Are Not Credible Must Therefore Be Presumed Not To Be Creating The Same Impression For The Reader As The Indian [7]. The View Presented By The Western Researchers Of Casting Doubt On The Main Character’s Qualities Thus Weakens And Disfigures That Which The Readers Of The Indian Version Aspire To. In A Comparative Analysis Of These Two Interpretations And Their Different Agendas It Therefore At First Resembles A Contrast Between History According To Western Standards Versus The Indian Practice Of Recounting Legend And Myth [8]. The Disciplinary Boundary Dissolves Though As They Are Both Culturally Framed Interpretations With Differing Objectives. Myth: History, Following Western Standards, Contains In Theory No Greater Knowledge Or Truth Than Myth, Although Greater Importance May Be Attached To It If It Is Deemed To Be A Historical Fact [9]. The Legend Of Krishnamacharya Embodies The Message Of Epic Indian Myths That Divinity Can Be Experienced Through The Combined Yogic Practices Of Right Belief, Pure Action And Sacred Ritual. Krishnamacharya´s Character, His Qualities, And His Nobility Are Therefore Key Elements For The Understanding And Meaning Of The Indian Message Of Yoga; Even Understanding The Role Of Myth In His Life. The Meaning And The Significance Of His Character Can Then Only Be Fully Understood As A Mythical Or Legendary Figure In Its Proper Cultural Context [10] And Therefore Become Upheld And Honoured As A Blueprint For A Yogic Way Of Life.

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