While talking to my fellow Christians about yoga I have been trying to explain them that yoga IS a spiritual exercise if they like it or not. Apart from its definition that speaks volumes, its crucial to understand how yoga got to the West - KNOW ITS HISTORY!
Its definition says that its a is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India whose goal is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility.The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The Sanskrit word yoga has the literal meaning of "yoke", from a root yuj meaning to join, to unite, or to attach. The more technical sense of the term "yoga", describing a system of meditation or contemplation with the aim of the cessation of mental activity and the attaining of a "supreme state" arises with early Buddhism (5th century BC), and is adopted in Vedanta philosophy by the 4th century BC.
But its equally crucial to understand WHO brought yoga to Europe and the United States???
David S. Katz in his great historical account "The occult tradition" writes the following:
"By the early 1890s, then, it was clear that India had taken a central place at the bar of antiquity, and was seen as the mothers of civilization. There is no doubt that all of the current India-centered projects played a part in this development; Max Muller in Oxfrod, Madame Blavatsky in London, and the many writers of contemporary occult texts. Olcott and Blavatsky had begun their work in the United States, and in due course Indomania took root there as well."
Who was Madame Blavatsky? Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (born as Helena von Hahn (12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1831 – 8 May 1891) was a self-professed psychic and mystic, and a founder of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society together with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others in September 1875. Its initial objective was the "study and elucidation of Occultism, the Cabala etc. In the Theosophical Magazine "Lucifer" issued in 1887-1888 we can read about yoga experiences.
"The watershed was the "Parliament of Religions" opened on 11 September 1893 as part of the World's Columbia Exhibition, better known as CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR.
H. S. Olcott, Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater
at the international Convention, Adyar,
(...) Far more celebrated was the appearance at the "Parliament of Religions" of an Indian monk named VIVEKANANDA (1863-1902) whose performance was a bombshell. Vivekananda was a monastic name of Narendra Nath Datta, a follower of the celebrated Sri Ramakrishna (1836-86). Swami Vivekananda was in the United States from July 1893 to April 1895, and then again from August 1899 to July 1900. (...) Vivekananda wrote what were probably the first books on yoga, now classics. Many of the Swami's American followers came to him through THEOSOPHY, but Vivekanada himself had no illusions about Madame Blavatsky and her theories, as useful as she and they were. (...) Despite Vivekananda's disparaging remarks, Blavatsky's theories did very well in the United States, where an independent Theosophical Society was established in 1895. Back in India, Theosophy continued to thrive, even after the death of Madame Blavatsky in 1891. When Olcott died in 1907, ANNIE BESANT was elected president of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), the post she held until her own demise in 1933. In 1902, she persuaded the Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) to form a Germanic section of the Theosophical Society, which he did. The loose canon in India was Charles Leadbeater."
Charles Webster Leadbeater was a well-known clairvoyant and theosophist who dedicated his life to the dissemination of Theosophy. He left his position as a clergyman in the Church of England in 1884, traveling with Madame Helena Blavatsky to India to help her in her work for the Theosophical Society. For those interested in more information about him good site with archives.
"(...) In 1909 he disccovered Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986). (...) Leadbeater inaugurated the 'Order of the Star in the East' in Krishnamurti's honor in 1911, proclaiming him to be the 'World Teacher'. Rudolf Steiner was so appalled by this turn of events that he refused membership in his German section to anyone who had anything to do with the Krishnamurti cult, and was expelled from the Theosophical Society for his trouble. Steiner founded his own Anthroposophical Society, which continues to thrive from its headquarters in Dorlach, Switzerland."
"The importance of the Theosophical Society far outstripped the implications of Madame Blavatsky's speculations. One one of the key underlying principles of British colonialism was the notion that only a Christian could be s fully functioning and rational human being, while Hindus were incapable of individual development due to their incapacitating fatalistic pantheism, which promoted ascetic withdrawal from the evil world. Theosophists argued in return, on behalf of the Indians, that it was Christianity that fostered unhealthy individualism, while Hinduism had a more comprehensive view of society, in which people were expected to use their talents for the good of the whole. Even caste was described as social duty (...)"
|The emblem of the |
Broadly, Theosophy attempts to reconcile humanity's scientific, philosophical, and religious disciplines and practices into a unified worldview. As it largely employs a synthesizing approach, it makes extensive use of the vocabulary and concepts of many philosophical and religious traditions. However these, along with all other fields of knowledge, are investigated, amended, and explained within an esoteric or occult framework.
The present-day New Age movement is said to be based to a considerable extent on original Theosophical tenets and ideas. "No single organization or movement has contributed so many components to the New Age Movement as the Theosophical Society. ... It has been the major force in the dissemination of occult literature in the West in the twentieth century." Other organizations loosely based on Theosophical texts and doctrines include the Agni Yoga, and a group of religions based on Theosophy called the Ascended Master Teachings: the "I AM" Activity, The Bridge to Freedom and The Summit Lighthouse, which evolved into the Church Universal and Triumphant. These various offshoots dispute the authenticity of their rivals.