February 18, 2019

Yoga: A Societal Fabric

The general perception about Yoga is that of an alternative exercise regime and since it is on a reduced level of kinetic exercises, it is meant to be enjoyed alongside the fruits of retirement. Well, nothing can be more fact-free than this. Let us recapitulate the Eight Limbs of Yoga as expounded by Maharishi Patanjali;

The Basic Translation of The Yam are as under:

  • Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
  • Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
  • Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing.
  • Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint.
  • Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness.

While the exactitude of translation can sometimes make the essence different from the original, here is the essence of Yam:-

In the popular discourse, the world refers Yoga to be conceptually restricted to its third limb i.e. The Aasan, relegating the first two limbs, The Yam and Niyam, Yam are the threads of individual interaction/ relationship with the society, whereas The Niyam bring the relationship/ interaction with the body. The underlying operating principle of Patanajli Yog Sutra is  Atirek (अतिरेक), i.e. Not outside the mean, median and mode resulting into any imbalance into the individual or the societal ecosystem, for example, take violence, it has two parts, Hinsa and Sanhaar ( हिंसा और संहार), हिंसा is violence, but संहार has no English equivalent. The kinetic actions in both are similar, but the purpose is different, and thus, at the level of thought and philosophy, there is a gross difference. in Hinsa, the  purpose is to harm the other whereas, in Sanhaar, the purpose is to stop the other, in order to save many. This conceptual scaling and gradation of different aspects of human life, is an anthropological gem of Eastern Civilisations. In fact, The Yam and Niyam can also be nominated as External and Internal Ethics as under:



The Citizen, Society and Laws: A Yogic and Anthropological Perspective

 In the world order, constitution-ism is a very recent phenomenon; it began as an arrangement between the Roman Empire and the Nation States which emerged (with the evolution of French Nation) through the French Revolution. The essential component of French Revolution and the French Life still revolves around Egalitarianism. The French Revolutionaries broke the shackles, once and for all. Unfortunately, the French Revolutionaries did not have much Thought Leaders within their rank and file (something akin to Anna Hazare Movement), though there were stalwarts within the French Nation outside the movement, and thus the Nation-State evolved. This nationalism the spread within Europe and thereafter, as the European Century took over the entire world, it spread to the rest of the world.

Constitution-ism, in its pristine historicity, is the term which denotes the separation of The Nation State from the shackles of the (Roman Catholic) Church. This segregation of verticals between governance and religion came to be known as Secularism. The democratic movements across the world, by constant processes of sedimentation, application and re-assessment, further went on to separate the judiciary, executive, parliament, audit mechanism and few constitutional bodies. With the advent of Industrial Revolution, Europe captured most of the world and colonised it. The present Indian Discourse is now wedged between the colonial model of governance and serving an indigenous population. It will be worth an effort to trace our own lineage and anthropological background and seek models which suit us.

The difference between Evolution and Revolution is the essence at its core. Evolution follows the process of ‘consultative sedimentation’ whereas Revolution is essentially churning through a ‘combative competitiveness’. Milk may change into another food depending upon the process adopted during the change, but will essentially remain the same i.e. Milk Food.  The Egalitarianism which emerged (or which got adopted) did ensure all the citizens to be absolutely equal, but another issue emerged, as these laws started to be applied, it meant to be alone.

The factors of culture, family, society ingrained in dutiful compliances (The Dharma) essentially got left out. The Western Societies realised the mistake of leaving the society out of the regulatory, policing and justice dispensation system of their nations. They remedied their system and the Americans adopted the Jury Trial method of prosecution. The Western World also brought in few societal checks to correct the anomaly at very early stages; smaller oversights on part of the citizens invite corrective measures such as Compulsory Community Service. Thus, ‘Amelioration’ preceded ‘Correction’ and ‘Punishment’ before the individual fell apart from the society and commits a crime. The community service mechanism ensures a chance is offered to the erring individual for societal re-integration.

There also exists a need to re-invigorate, re-furbish and re-establish the role of family, community and the society and further adopt the Jury System of delivering justice.

The Indian Civilisation has nearly and always adopted a self-correctional, self-regulating model of governance. Up to the 1980s, kids could be disciplined by their aunts, uncles, neighbours, teachers and anybody who felt a sense of belongingness towards them. Now, the arrangement is changing within the society, an impact of the western anthropological model we adopted. The western society amended this model to improve its societal life and we lagged behind. However, the Indian Hinterland still is self-correctional and self-regulating and India as a whole has less than 20,000 police stations, with urban landscape outnumbering the rural. In the United States, the numbers may be 20 times as higher.

As part of our colonial relic, the Indian executive does not deliver policing as a service; it is still a suppressive watch-dog mechanism. An average policeman takes it as his right to correct and punish citizens, against the desired ethos to assist and regulate. Very regularly, traffic cops would surprisingly appear from behind trees. One wonders why they should wait for citizens to commit that error, and not take a pre-emptive action as the original arrangement, stand at that Red Light and regulate the traffic.

The aim of this short note is to channelize the critical thinking of students into the domain of Indic Studies which has an exceptional bandwidth for the benefit of, not only the humanity, but the entire life as it exists on the planet. Most of the issues facing the mankind are due to existing Atirek (अतिरेक) in the ecosystem of society and governance. The students must develop a critical thinking and analyse the different theosophical perspectives which can act as answers to the issues facing the society today.

Picture Credit: AZ Quotes ,  yogaenergy.ie , Learning-Living , Ojashvi Yoga Shala 



About Dr Shobha Shrivastava 4 Articles
Mother, Columnist, Dreamer, Nationalist
Contact: Twitter