2. III INTERNATIONAL CONF OF ELDERS IN NAGPUR: organized by International Center for Cultural studies (ICCS) and World Council of Elders was held at Nagpur from Feb 1-4. With a participation of over 250 delegates including 100 from 32 nationalities like Maya, Inca, Druid etc., the conference saw a reunion of children of Mother Earth who share same beliefs and ideas despite being separated by race, religion and geography.
The inauguration ceremony was preceded by a colorful procession of delegates and various local troupes in their traditional costumes and bands. Prof. Samdong Rinpoche (Prime Minister, Tibet Govt. in Exile) was the chief Guest and Sushree Pramilatai Medhe (Pramukh Sanchalika, Rashtra Sevika Samiti) presided over the program.
On all 4 days, delegates demonstrated their ancestral practices of worship, prayers, rituals and other traditional preserves like music, dance, and short stories. The theme of the conference was 'Renaissance of Ancient Traditions - Challenges and Solutions' and over 50 papers were presented in various sessions on topics like, 'peace and conflict', 'environment' and poverty etc. A 'Nagpur Manifesto' was unanimously adopted which declared that "We have equal rights to follow our own traditions, rituals, philosophies …." and that "We shall work towards creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding amongst all peoples and all faiths, reviving ancient traditions and customs which are in tune with scientific and spiritual knowledge ...."
The concluding function was addressed by RSS Sarkaryavaha Mohan Bhagwat along with blessings by Poojya Swami Prasanna Chaturvedi. On Feb 5, visit of delegates in 17 schools and colleges of Nagpur exalted over 30,000 students about such ancient traditions.
The conference saw spread and consolidation of the movement with old and new faces coming together, proposed centers of research of ancient traditions around the globe and the promised reunion in Feb 2012.
3. SAVE THE LIVES OF TAMILS TRAPPED IN LANKA WAR: Shri R V S Marimuthu and DR M L Raja (the Presidents of South and North Tamil Nadu, RSS respectively) have expressed concern over the plight of over 2.5 lakh Tamils trapped in the war zone in Sri Lanka, through a press statement issued on Feb 10. While stating that terrorism in any form and under any disguise is not acceptable in the modern democratic world the statement cautions the SL govt. that while tackling terror it must be ensured that the human cost of the war is minimal.
The statement has further appealed the Sri Lankan Government that while delivering its sovereign responsibility of waging the war on terror, it must do its best to ensure that the life and limb of the civilian Tamil population is zealously protected. It also must do everything to safeguard the civil and political rights of the Tamils who are verily nationals of Sri Lanka and so must be treated as equal citizens.
The statement urges the Bharatiya Government to act proactively and do utmost to ensure that the lives and rights of the civilian and loyal Tamil population of the Northern Sri Lanka are protected.
4. SURYA NAMASKARS IN USA, KENYA, JAIPUR….: SuryaNamaskar Yadnya - a marathon of SuryaNamaskars, usually held from MakarSankranti to RathaSaptami is gaining ground worldwide with successful programs in US, Kenya, Singapore and various places in Bharat.
HSS-US successfully organized the event for third year in a row in which about 6500 participants performed over 696,663 salutations. The highlight was Nancy Maclaine, yoga trainer in a minimum security prison in Austin, Texas who initiated this yoga exercise in the prison cell for the inmates. HSS received proclamations in many cities who declared the day as SuryaNamaskar day.
Hindu Sevika Samiti, Kenya also orgasnized the Yadnya, for the first time on Feb 1, where 20 sevikas participated. In all the Kenya score was 91 participants with 7000 namaskars.
Rajasthan unit of Kreeda Bharati organised SNY at 415 places of the state on February 2. A total of 3,55,000 people including students of various schools performed 18 lakh Suryanamaskars. More than 31,000 students of 315 schools in Jaipur participated in the function at eight places. Reputed sportspersons, retired army officers and various distinguished persons of the state participated in the functions.
5. BHUTANESE REFUGEE EMPOWERMENT PROJECT: More than 110,000 Lhotshampas from Bhutan took refuge in Nepal due to a conflict with Drukpas during 1985-94. The United States has volunteered to resettle 60,000 of these refugees, with the remainder going to other developed nations in what is described as one of the world's largest resettlement efforts undertaken by UN.
These refugees are given only a few months of support and their most pressing needs are for financial assistance, employment, and basic materials.
Sewa International USA has taken up a nationwide project, in over 20 centers along with various local organizations, to fulfill the immediate and longer-term needs of these refugees by providing financial help, essential materials such as blankets, winter jackets, clothes, toys etc., vocational training and employment assistance and helping in transitioning to a new environment while preserving their culture. For more information please see www.sewausa.org.
6. BHARAT'S SECRET N-SUBMARINE PROJECT NEARING COMPLETION: In a boost to Bharat's long-standing aim to have "a nuclear weapon triad", defence minister A K Antony on Feb 11 said the secretive program to construct indigenous nuclear submarines was on the verge of completion now.
The Navy hopes to get the first such operational submarine by 2012 or so. Concurrently, DRDO is also working on the K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which will later be integrated with the submarine. In all, five ATVs are planned under the program.
The entire aim behind the ATV program is to have nuclear-powered submarines, armed with nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missiles, to ensure 'credible' second-strike capabilities in consonance with Bharat's 'no-first use' nuclear doctrine.
7. MUSLIM POPULATION MULTIPLIED 10 TIMES FASTER IN UK: Immigration, higher birthrates and conversions to Islam are considered as major factors behind rise of the Muslim population in UK by more than 5 lakhs to 2.4 million in just four years.
Experts have also suggested a growing willingness among believers to describe themselves as Muslims because the western reaction to war and terrorism had strengthened their sense of identity.
The Muslim population multiplied 10 times faster than the rest of society, the research by the Office for National Statistics done during the period of 2004-2008 reveals. In the same period the number of Christians in the country fell by more than 2 million.
"The implications are very substantial. Some of the Muslim population, by no means all of them, are the least socially and economically integrated of any in the UK... and the one most associated with political dissatisfaction," David Coleman, Professor of Demography at Oxford University was quoted as saying by 'The Times'.
8. VIRAT SANT SAMMELAN IN MUMBAI: To counter increasing terrorism and terror activities in the country the seers have decided to organise public meetings across the country between February 20 and March 20. Decision to this effect was taken at a Sant Sammelan organised in Mumbai on January 30.
Addressing more than one lakh people Sant Asaram Bapu who presided over the sammelan said together we have to end terrorism from within and outside the country. For the uplift of the poor, those who are able should provide education, health care and employment to them.
Sadhvi Ritambhara exhorted the gathering saying that Bharat would not rest until the dream of united Bharat is achieved.
Others present at the Sammelan included VHP president Shri Ashok Singhal, Swami Hansraj, Jain Muni Vimal Sagar Maharaj with a galaxy of other seers and dharmacharyas.
9. BHARAT'S PER CAPITA INCOME DOUBLED IN LAST 7 YEARS: The average Bharatiya's income in 2007-08 has nearly doubled since the turn of the millennium and even adjusting for inflation, it has risen over 50% in this period.The quick estimates of per capita income for 2007-08, put out by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), peg per capita income for that year at Rs 33,283 in current prices. In 2000-01, the per capita income was only Rs 16,688 or roughly half of the 2007-08 figures.
In inflation-adjusted or real terms, the growth in incomes has been much more modest, but by no means insignificant. In terms of constant (1999-2000) prices, the per capita income was Rs 16,173 in 2000-01 and rose to Rs 24,295 by 2007-08. That's a rise of just a little more than 50% over a seven-year period.
10. A CELEBRATION OF DEVOTION: Colorful, extravagantly decorated kavadis dance to the loud music coming from the gaily-coloured stalls where crowds gather for free lunch and drinks. In the background someone yells, “She’s in a trance!” others recite prayers chanting “vel vel!” and “haro-hara!” Everyone’s having a good time and with piety at that. It’s Thaipusam in Penang - Malaysia.
Thaipusam is all about kavadis. Legend has it that Idumban, an ardent follower of the Lord Muruga, once decided that he wanted to bathe the murthi of the Lord in milk. Murugan inhabits hillocks, in this case the hill of Palani. So Idumban slung two pots of milk on a piece of wood and carried them up the hill across his shoulders. Thus, the paal kavadi was born.
Idumban was given a place of honour in Murugan worship. He has his temple at the base of the hillock while Murugan rules the hilltop. For a kavadi bearer, the process begins long before Thaipusam with the fasting - or in most cases - the abstinence period.
11. GLOBAL VIPASSANA PAGODA INAUGURATED IN MUMBAI: Mumbai's newest landmark, the majestic 325-feet tall Global Vipassana Pagoda, the tallest pillar-less dome in the world, was dedicated as a world monument of peace and harmony by Rashtrapati Pratibha Patil on Feb 8.
Vipassana, an ancient Bharatiya meditation technique which is a rational process of mental purification through self-observation, is practiced in 140 countries, irrespective of caste, class, religion, race or sex.
The pagoda, a dream project of 85-year-old Satyanarain Goenka, the moving spirit of Vipassana, has been designed by architect Chandubhai Sompura on the lines of the She Dagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. It is a hollow structure, having a dome of 280 feet diameter- three times the size of the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka. Below it is a massive 6,000-sq mt pillar-less meditation hall which can accommodate 8,000 people at a time. The original bone relics of Gautam Buddha, donated by the Sri Lankan government and the Mahabodhi Society of Bharat, have been enshrined in the central locking stone of the dome.
12. BHARAT LOGS OVER 2 LAKH TRADITIONAL FORMULATIONS: In what is the world's first Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) over 200 scientists and researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry's department of Ayush, after eight years of toil, have scientifically converted information of over two lakh traditional Bharatiya medicine formulations from Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Tamil to five international languages - English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish.
The TKDL, 30 million pages of information, has been created to prevent those living abroad from claiming patent for existing formulations. Bharat, till now, has lost over 15,000 patents of medicinal plants to the West.
According to CSIR DG Prof Samir Brahmchari, on an average, it takes five to seven years to oppose a granted patent internationally and costs Rs 1-3 crore. "Therefore, the cost of protecting all ISM formulations in the absence of TKDL would be staggering and completely unaffordable" Brahmchari said. "If TKDL existed earlier, then international disputes regarding patenting of neem, turmeric and basmati would not have occurred" CSIR's Dr Gupta said.
13. CHANCELESS TON: The Bharatiya Moon shot, ISRO's Chandrayaan-I, has completed the first hundred days of its two-year mission after a flawless lift-off and successful injection into lunar orbit. Besides looking for water-ice in the permanently shadowed Polar Regions, it's designed, among other things, to conduct chemical and mineralogical mapping and to carry out radiation, magnetic and topographical field tests to determine the Moon's early history and evolution. To this end the scientific payload on board consists of a range of 11 specialized instruments of which five have been developed indigenously and the rest supplied by NASA, the European Space Agency and other countries. So far Chandrayaan-I has already detected the presence of iron-bearing minerals on the Moon, picked up X-ray signatures of aluminum, magnesium and silicon three of the six elements it has been designed to detect and taken over 100,000 high resolution photographs. The latter include a set of spectacular three-dimensional images of the Moon's very deep craters around the South Pole that have never been viewed till now. According to ISRO, the probe has surpassed all performance expectations and its instruments are functioning exceedingly well. They should be able to map out the composition of the Moon in much greater detail than has ever been done to settle a long-running debate about how the Earth's only natural satellite was formed. (Excerpts from Times of India - Editorail Feb 7, 2009)
14. SWAMI LAXMANANANDA'S MURDER- MAOISTS SPLIT ON COMMUNAL LINES: (By Debasis Tripathy in Bhubaneswar)
A new organisation is going to be formed by those Maoist ultras who oppose the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. These Maoist members have declared themselves the supporters of deceased Swamiji who dedicated his entire life for the service of the poor Vanvasis. The ultras also disclose some bitter facts relating to rape committed by Christians of Hindu Vanvasis in Kandhamal. In some literature distributed in Raikia of Kandhamal, it has been alleged that Radhakant Nayak, Congress MP and Christian missionaries are responsible for riots in Kandhamal and Maoists had no enmity with Swamiji.
The Orissa Crime Branch charge sheet against seven Kandhamal-based Christians in the killing of revered Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati and four others including a woman sannyasin, has vidicated the Bajrang Dal stand that the murder was the handiwork of local Church zealots. The Maoists might have been hired to provide “logistic support” to the criminals behind the brutal murders, Orissa Crime Branch sources said.
15. RSS PATHSANCHALAN IN BHU: RSS Swayamsevaks took out a pathsanchalan in Benaras on the foundation day of Benaras Hindu University (BHU) on January 31. Following the rhythm of ghosh, the uniformed swayamsevaks were marching behind the vehicle carrying the huge pictures of RSS founder Dr Hedgewar, Shri Guruji and founder of BHU Madan Mohan Malaviya.
Talking about the close relations between RSS and Mahamana, Vibhag Bauddhik Pramukh Prof. Virendra Jaiswal said both Dr Hedgewar and Malviyaji were great organisers and they promoted, cooperated and inspired all the activities which aimed at strengthening the Hindu society. “Malaviyaji even got an RSS shakha started in BHU campus and also helped in constructing the Sangh Karyalaya, which was later demolished by anti-Hindu forces during the Emergency” he added.
16. BIHAR CABINET MEETS IN VILLAGE: At a historic two-hour-long cabinet meeting in a huge pandal at Birbighi village, 18 km from Begusarai and 140 km from Patna, the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government on Feb 10 decided to set up two state corporations - Bihar State Road Construction Corporation and Bihar State Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation.
The meeting assumes significance as it was perhaps the first of its kind in the hinterland. Almost all ministers and top babus along with an army of secretariat staff were present here. Earlier, Nitish and his ministers had their lunch sitting on the ground.
Curiosity and excitement were writ large on faces of the ministers and others. People at many places accorded them warm welcome with band parties and garlands lined up to greet them.
17. KASHMIR GETS RAIL LINK, INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS: Jammu and Kashmir got a twin boost with a rail link, the world's second highest train project, covering 100 km from Anantnag to Baramullah, criss-crossing five districts. The Srinagar airport has now obtained the international status and the first direct flight to Dubai took off on Feb 14.
Excitement is running high in the Valley. Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of the Kashmir Fruit Growers' Association, said, "It is an opening that would go a long way in improving the situation in the Valley, as people would have a look at the world outside and how peace helps destinations like Dubai to prosper and improve the image of our Kashmir as well." Bhat, who was part of the 'Muzaffarabad Chalo' call in August, now says this is a "much better confidence-building measure than the road to Muzaffarabad."
18. FBI OFFICIALS TO BE WITNESSES IN KASAB'S TRIAL: Mumbai police has got the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials as witnesses in the trial of Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive in 26/11 attack. In a rare incident a foreign investigation agency is being made witness in a case in Bharat which will prove the veracity of the investigation.
FBI has helped in tracing the Pakistani ownership of Yamaha engine fitted on the sea vessel and the weapons and ammunition found with the terrorists and their conversation details on satellite phones and VoIP links. FBI has got a legal locus in the case because casualties included American nationals, requiring it to register an independent case.
19. TATA HIRES OVER 1,650 TEMPORARY WORKERS: Country's largest commercial vehicles maker Tata Motors is hiring over 1,650 temporary workers for its Jamshedpur plant as it looks to drive on the recovery path.The plant had last year disengaged over 700 temporary workers as production fell due to a severe sales slump.The hiring of temporary workers comes on the heels of Tata Motors recording healthy commercial vehicles sales in January at 17,373 units, its highest in three months.
20. BHARAT SIGNS PACT WITH FRENCH FIRM FOR 6 N-REACTORS: Bharat on Feb 4 signed its first commercial pact to build atomic power plants with French company Areva after a 34-year-old international embargo on nuclear trade was lifted.
Besides supplying two European Pressurized Reactors of 1650 MW each for nuclear plants at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Areva has committed to supply fuel for the lifetime of the reactors, which is pegged at about 60 years. Though the MoU provides for supply of two nuclear reactors, the order may be stepped up to six at a later date.
21. APPEAL FROM SEWA OZ: The devastating bushfires in Victoria and NSW have resulted in extensive loss of lives, properties, flora and fauna on an unprecedented scale not seen in Australia before. SEWA Australia is planning to support the victims by donating to Victorian Fire Brigades fund. It has appealed the donors to support the cause by contacting at 1300 00 7392 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
22. AERO EVENT KICKED OFF IN BANGLORE: South Asia's biggest airshow opened in Bangalore on Feb 11 with nearly 600 armament and aerospace companies from 25 countries showcasing their latest hardware in a chase for multi-billion dollar contracts with the Bharatiya military.
Bharat says it is "fast-tracking" all arm procurement negotiations amid the heightened tensions with Pakistan and plans to hand out contracts worth 30 billion dollars in the next three to four years. Besides the 126 fighter jets, transport aircraft and airborne early warning systems, military also plans to buy 700 helicopters worth 3.5 billion dollars and an array of air defence systems.
Bharat also hopes to find buyers for a supersonic cruise missile it has jointly built with Russia.
23. SHREE VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Sh. Indravadan Gandhi & family UK, Smt Kokilaben & Sh. Ramesh Shah USA. Pravas: Sh Bheeshmachari is back in Australia after his Bharat visit.
24. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Those who see Truth and speak Truth, Their bodies and minds become truthful. Truth is their evidence, Truth is their instruction, True is the praise of the truthful. Those who have forgotten Truth cry in agony and weep while departing. - Adi Granth
JAI SHREE RAM
MAHATMA GANDHI WOULD HAVE RESORTED TO SATYAGRAHA AGAINST PUBS
Justice (Retd) Dr M Rama JoisThe recent physical and spoken assault on women going to pubs in Mangalore by those calling themselves Sri Ram Sainiks has been highly unjust and indecent and has very rightly come in for severe condemnations far and wide in the country. This is the evidence of sanctity attached to womanhood and the highest esteem in which the women are held in Bharatiya culture. As defined in Times of India (31-1-09), pub culture decoded the term stands for women drinking and socialising with men in public places, the desire behind this is obviously carnal between males and females who are not husband and wife. If Ram Sainiks honestly believed that going of boys and girls to pubs resulted in their moral and material abandonment, which is injurious to national interest, the method of opposing it should have been in conformity with the approved moral and civilised behaviour. Their indulging in indecent and violent attack against pub-goers including women is condemnable and constitutes an offence punishable. The Government of Karnataka has rightly arrested them and initiated criminal proceedings against them.
It is for this reason, Mahatma Gandhi declared that the means through which an end is to be achieved should be just and fair. It is on this principle, Mahatma Gandhi adopted the path of non-violence in the freedom struggle against unjust foreign rule. It is because he succeeded in this unique method adopted in human history, he became Mahatma and came to be respected by the whole world in view of the great faith Mahatma Gandhi had in non-violent methods. The firm belief of Mahatma Gandhi in morality and good character is evidenced by the firm stand he had taken against consumption of intoxicated liquors. In his book entitled My Picture of Free India written on the eve of achieving political independence, he unequivocally declared as follows:-
“I hold drinking spirituous liquors in India to be more criminal than the petty thefts which I see starving men and women committing and for which they are prosecuted and punished… I advocate the summary punishment of those who manufacture the fiery liquid and those even who persist in drinking it notwithstanding repeated warnings. I do not hesitate forcibly to prevent my children from rushing into fire or deep waters. Rushing to red water is far more dangerous than rushing to a raging furnace or flooded stream. The latter destroys only the body, the former destroys both body and soul.”
This view of Mahatma Gandhi indicates that he was very firm on preventing youths falling into the injurious habit of consumption of intoxicating liquors or drugs. By and large youths go to pubs to satisfy their sensual desires without realising that it is sure to result in moral and material abandonment and they will become unfit to bear the family or social responsibilities. Therefore, it is not correct to call it pub culture, as it is a vice and not a virtue. It is therefore clear that if Mahatma Gandhi were to be alive, he would have resorted to satyagraha in protest against youths going to pubs but in a peaceful and civilised manner as it is well known that as part of struggle for freedom, Mahatma Gandhi had directed Congressmen to boycott liquor shops and even resort to picketing liquor shops. In view of this forceful idea of Mahatma Gandhi, Article 47 was incorporated in the Constitution directing the Union and the States to make law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. Moreover, Article 39(c) mandates the Union and the States to take necessary steps to protect children and youth against their moral and material abandonment. In accordance with the views of Mahatma Gandhi and the directive of Article 47, law prohibiting manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor was enacted in Karnataka after independence. It was in force till 1957.
The Congress Party which claims to be the followers of Mahatma Gandhi repealed the law prohibiting manufacture and sale of liquors in 1957 in Karnataka. Smt. Yashodharamma Dasappa, a true Gandhian and brave woman, resigned her ministership protesting against such a step. In spite of this, loyalty to liquor proved to be more powerful than to Mahatma Gandhi and the Constitution. Liquor shops are permitted to be opened in all commercial as well as residential localities like hotels and restaurants. It is significant and surprising that large number of liquor shops are allowed on Mahatma Gandhi Road and its vicinity. Pubs belong to the same category. Developing the habit of going to pubs by youth is sure to result in their moral and material abandonment. Under the Constitution, the State has been under a duty to ensure protection against such moral and material abandonment. I am certain that if Mahatma Gandhi were to be alive, he would have launched a powerful satyagraha and picketing against pubs. If Sri Ram Sainiks honestly felt so and wanted to protest it to protect youths in national interest, they should have resorted to non-violent satyagraha and picketing. But instead of doing so, the indecent attack made on women is most condemnable and onslaught on the most cherished value of womanhood in our culture. Such a situation is the direct result of failure to implement Articles 47 and 39 of the Constitution. The wide and expanding pub activities and the importance attached to sensual desires by large number of youths indicate what Swami Vivekananda stated a century ago, which has become true. He had said:
“Shall India die? Then from the world all spirituality will be extinct, all moral perfection will be extinct, all sweet-souled sympathy for religion will be extinct, all ideality will be extinct, and in its place will reign the duality of lust and luxury as the male and female deities, with money as its priest fraud, force and competition as its ceremonies, and the human soul as its sacrifice.”
The situation is alarming. Substantial number of youths are falling to bad and immoral carnal desires resulting in their moral and material abandonment, which is highly injurious to the future of our nation, because youths are inflammable material like petrol, if enlightened and regulated they constitute enormous source of energy for the nation, but if ignited, they would be disastrous like forest fire. This is a matter for serious consideration by all right-thinking persons.
(The author is a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court and former Governor of Jharkhand and Bihar. ) Organiser Feb 15, 2009
YOGA BEYOND RELIGION
Firoz Bakht AhmedI follow all the Islamic tenets in the right interpretation and spirit and so, I can say that there is no such thing as yoga being haram (disallowed) in Islam. Rather, I have found that Islamic yoga is a reality. It is possible to employ the skills of yoga to worship Allah better and to be a better Muslim.
Issuing fatwa declaring yoga anti-Islamic by some Malaysian and Indonesian ulema is nothing but misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the fact that yoga and namaz are almost identical.
Having practiced yoga during my school days, I found that it can easily be integrated with the Islamic life; in fact the two assist one another. Not only is there no conflict, but Islam and yoga together make a mutually beneficial holistic synergy.
Both are agreed that, while the body is important as a vehicle on the way to spiritual realization and salvation, the human being's primary identity is not with the body but with the eternal spirit.
Maintaining a healthy and fit body is a requirement in Islam, which teaches a Muslim that his or her body is a gift from Allah. Yoga happens to be one of the most potential common grounds between Hindus and Muslims.
The purposes of yoga and Tariqat-e-Naqshbandi (Sufi lifestyle) are apparently similar since both aim at achieving mystical union with the ultimate reality namely Brahma or Allah. Islamic mysticism is undoubtedly impacted by the uncanny Vedic and Buddhist influences desiring to achieve mystical union with the Supreme Being or as one may also call nirvana or fana (a term used by the Sufis).
The Indian Muslims' love affair with yoga is a complex thing, born of many factors. There's the general disenchantment with strict, orthodox Islam of the myopic clerics and the accompanying pull to alternative forms of spirituality.
Yoga, according to Ashraf F Nizami's book 'Namaz, the Yoga of Islam' (published by D B Taraporevala, Mumbai 1977) is not a religion. Rather, it is a set of techniques and skills that enhance the practice of any religion. Nizami writes that in namaz, various constituents like sijdah is like half shirshasana while qayam is vajrasana in the same way as ruku is paschimothanasana.
Even Father M Dechanel wrote a book on Christian yoga recording that practicing yoga is encouraged because it is a way towards the realization of Christian teachings.
According to Badrul Islam, a yoga instructor at a government academy in Dehradun, one of the most obvious correspondences between Islam and yoga is the resemblance of salat (five-time prayer a day) to the physical exercises of yoga asanas. The root meaning of the word salat is 'to bend the lower back', as in yoga; the Persians translated this concept with the word namaz, from a verbal root meaning 'to bow', etymologically related to the Sanskrit word namaste.
Since the yogic metaphysic of Advaita Vedanta is in perfect accordance with the Islamic doctrine of tauhid (God's oneness), there is perfect compatibility between Islam and yoga on the highest level.
The 'Book of Sufi Healing' by Hakim G M Chishti clearly states that life, from its beginning till the end, is one continuous set of breathing practices. However, in Tariqat-e-Naqshabandiyah, the Sufi tradition of Islam, breathing practice has been there exactly as in yoga. The Quran, in addition to all else it may be, is a set of breathing practices.
The enigmatic and most revered Qari (one who melodiously recites Quran) Abdul Basit of Egypt, whose recitation of the Quran is considered the best till date, practiced breathing exercise exactly similar to pranayam and was able to recite a surah by holding his breath for such a long duration that even the medical experts were amazed. However, no one told the Qari that he did it with yoga.
Nowadays, yoga is commercially promoted for health and repel diseases. In fact, less exercise owing to long office hours on computers is one of diseases of modern world. Cars, motorcycles and computers are our main pulse beat of contemporary life. People no longer think about physical and spiritual exercises, which make a good excuse for Muslims to be offered yoga practice.
Besides, many western societies are materialistic and for limitless monetary gains people would fall prey to rat race and superiority whereas their spiritual sides remain void. Forms of yoga such as Patanjali, Tantra, Sankhya and Dhyana, among others, are non-religious as even the atheists can practice them. Yoga today is a way of life for the followers of all religions.
The place of yoga in the lives of most Muslims will not be shifted by the fatwas of Indonesian and Malayian ulemas. Those who practice will practice, the so-called super-pious will frown. Even in the Middle East and Iran, yoga is a pet with Muslims.
Most Muslims in India are dazed that the all-encompassing credentials of yoga need to be debated. Let's appreciate that at this time, the pro-yoga fatwa by the renowned Darul Uloom Deoband seminary has given it a clean chit and Swami Ramdev has also given the green signal that Muslims can substitute Allah for Ohm, but was it really required?
Quite interestingly, the word Ohm, according to Urdu or Arabic alphabet, is formed from three alphabets - Alif, Wao and Meem. If we consider the abbreviations of these, Alif means Allah, Wao or wa means 'and' while Meem means Mohammed. It shows that Ohm is a confluence of Allah and Mohammed. May be some super-pious will also frown upon me on this word play. (Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social and educational issues.) Times of India, Feb 8, 2009.