Last September I had the pleasure of meeting Jesse Bryant, a committed Christian who was taking a course, offered by an international Christian ministry, about constructively engaging with people whose worldview differed from one’s own. The course placed particular emphasis on the importance of gentleness and respect as essential elements of constructive discourse (non-violent communication). Recording and transcribing a collection of such engagements was part of the course and, as our casual conversation about the relationship between yoga and religion evolved, Jesse asked me if I would participate in an interview for his course. I happily consented. His questions echoed the kind of questions I often field in workshops and Yoga Teacher Training sessions. What follows is an edited excerpt from his interview.
JB: What are the roots of yoga? Does the whole “yoga thing” come out of the Hindu culture?
Hkd: The scriptures that form the basis of what we now know as ‘Hinduism’ are called the Vedas but the word ‘Hindu’ does not appear anywhere in the Vedas. ‘Hindu’ is an Anglicized version of a Persian word that describes the people who live on the other side of the Indus River: it originates as a geographical description of people who followed the Vedas and practiced what they themselves called ‘Sanatana Dharma’ or ‘the Eternal Occupation of the Living Being.’ Followers of the Vedas never referred to themselves as Hindus until around the 1500s, when they had to make practical distinctions between themselves, Muslims and, later, European colonials. It is only very recently that ‘Hindu’ has become a word associated with an ethnic, nationalistic or religious designation. [Read More…]
I teach yoga and yoga philosophy in Washington D.C. and vicinity. This is where I offer thoughts and observations on the relevance of traditional yoga scripture to contemporary yoga practice and culture. You can find my teaching schedule here.