Why is Yoga Strictly Hindu?

maxresdefaultWhen it is said that Yoga is Hindu, one must understand that it is neither about the usage of Yoga nor about the practical applicability of Yogic principles, but about the basic philosophy of Yoga. It may be is not too popular, to call Yoga strictly Hindu/Dharmic, but whether some one likes it or not, it is actually the case. One needs to understand not just Yoga but also the differences in the basic philosophies of Dharmic Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) and Abrahamic Religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) to appreciate the fact that Yoga is Hindu/Dharmic in nature

The most important part of Yoga is adhyatma vidya (Inner Science). It has 8 parts or anga and so it is called Astanga Yoga. The 8 anga of Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Aasana, Praanaayaama, Pratyaahaara, Dhaarana, Dhyaana and Samaadhi. Most of the Yoga centres now are only training the students in Aasana, for physical health, Dhyaana for mental well being and to some extent Praanaayaama. Yoga does help one to become physically and mentally healthy, but that is so because, for one to achieve the ultimate purpose of practicing Yoga, one must be both physically and mentally healthy. To put this in other words, achieving physical and mental health through Yoga is secondary, whereas, the primary purpose of Yoga is to attain Moksha/Jeevanmukti. Both Moksha/Jeevanmukti are incompatible with Abrahamic Religions and so, strictly speaking, Yoga, atleast a major portion of it, is also NOT compatible with Abrahamic Religions.

There are a lot of fundamental differences between the philosophies of Dharmic and Abrahamic religions and lack of knowledge about these differences is causing the confusion. Let me explain some of the differences between Dharmic and Abrahamic religions, Christianity in particular, which are important in our current discussion with the help of “Being Different”, a path breaking book written by Sri Rajiv Malhotra. He says, “the Dharmic wisdom embodied in the Sanskrit language cannot be translated into other religious and/or scientific paradigms without loss of meaning”. He calls them ‘SANSKRIT NON – TRANSLATABLES’. See below for a few of those that are important in our current discussion

1. Brahman/Ishwara ≠ GOD
2. Atman ≠ Soul or Spirit
3. Salvation ≠ Jivanmukti and Moksha


Brahman/Ishwara GOD

Brahman God
Brahman is the all-expansive ultimate reality which creates all, lives in all, and transcends all God is the creator of the Universe, distinct and separate from it
Brahman is the cosmos and resides in each one of us, unrealized as atman, making us ultimately Brahman God is authoritative, distinct and separate from the creation and intervenes in history ONLY in specific times and places
Brahman is ever present and accessed through Adhyatma Vidya all the time One can reach God, only after the death during End Times.
Atman is not distinct from Brahman Souls are not just distinct from God but are also distinct from each other
Brahman can be male or female or both or neither God is strictly male
Realization of non dual unity with Brahman is possible with Adhyatma Vidhya and there are spiritual masters who attained this stage during all the times to guide the rest The idea of non dual unity with God is absent from main stream Christianity

Similarly each of the terms Brahman, Ishwara, Bhagavan, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Devi etc., has rich implications, are distinct from each other and CANNOT be simply translated as God, a Abrahamic term

Atman Soul

Atman Soul
One’s true self is known as Atman and its nature is sat-chit-ananda One’s true self is known as soul and its nature is sinful
The true nature of the self, sat-chit-ananda, can be realized through adhyatma-vidya The true nature of the self, being sinful can be alleviated only by believing in a set of history-centric revelations passed down by prophets
Atman is the unrealized form of Brahman residing in each one of us, making us ultimately Brahman Soul is individual in nature and belong to a realm separate from not only God but also from the world of matter
Has neither beginning nor end Begotten in finite time, beginning with God breathing into dust to create Adam (Genesis 2:7). The end will come at the “End Times”
Atman resides not only in humans but also in animals, plants and creatures of various kinds Soul resides only in human beings
Linked to Karma and reincarnation and so each Atman can have infinite number of bodies Linked to original sin* and can have only one body

Salvation Jivanmukti and Moksha

Jivanmukti/Moksha Salvation
Jivanmukti/Moksha is realization of the nature one’s true self, which is sat-chit-ananda. Salvation is a solution to the problem of Eternal Damnation, caused by Original Sin
Can be realized through adhyatma vidya and not as a gift or does it lie outside the individual Comes as a gift of grace and its source lies outside the individual. Does not come as a result strictly of merit, spiritual practice, prayer or asceticism
Can be realized through adhyatma vidya Can be experienced only by surrendering to the will of God, and God here is specifically the God of the Bible.
Jivanmukti can be achieved here and now in this very body and in this very world. He or she can, at will, either turn away from the world or turn towards it and deal with it without being touched or limited by it. Can come only after the death

Moksha & Jeevanmukti are the ultimate states that a Hindu intends to achieve. As explained before, Moksha & Jeevanmukti are the states in which one realizes being one with Brahman. This Oneness with Brahman is against the Abrahamic Religions basic belief that God, the creator of this universe, is DISTINCT and SEPERATE from his creation. Also there is nothing like Adyatma Vidya (Inner Sciences) in those religions. This is primarily the reason why both Christianity and Islam are against the practice of Yoga. You cannot hold them wrong for this.

Let me end this with a Tweet by Sri Rajiv Malhotra in this regard – “Yoga is a Hindu PRODUCT and any one can be a consumer

Original Sin: All humans share this original sin as a consequence of the actions of Adam and Eve, who, unable to resist temptation, partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. As a result of this transgression, they and all their progeny (that is to say, all humans) are afflicted by original sin.