View Full Version : Yoga Beyond Religion

08 February 2009, 01:02 AM
I 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.


A nice article in today's newspaper.


08 February 2009, 10:10 AM
Namate Atanu.

It is good that someone from the Muslim community has the wisdom to speak for yoga sAdhana as not against the precepts of Islam. Muslims need more such people so they can live in peace with other religious communities.

That said, the term and concept of yoga with all its beautiful variety of meanings and connotations is certainly of Hindu origin. Both the theory and practice of yoga have originated from our Rishis of yore, though it was only much later codified into a system of philosophy by Patanjali. In other words, there is no such thing as Islamic yoga or Christian yoga for the simple reason that their scriptures do not speak of yoga as ours do in identical terms. The gnostic Christians, the Sufi Muslims and the progressive and open minded communities of other religions--all learnt their yoga only from Hindu gurus. Yogananda's Autobiography speaks of how a Muslim yogi who learnt his sAdhana from a Hindu guru tried to misuse it by coveting objects of others when he entertained them with a sumptuous dinner in golden vessels materialized by spirits at his command. When he learnt about this incident, the Hindu guru took back the yogic powers that he conferred on his Muslim disciple; when finally the disciple realized his mistake, his guru asked him to go to the mountains and do tapas, with the assurance that he would get his sustenance there for life.

I don't mean to discourage the efforts of our Muslim and Christian brethren when they try to seek the concepts of Hinduism in their religion or try to follow them together with their religious practice, but in all fairness they must acknowledge the origin and source of concepts like yoga without trying to portray it by different interpretations of their scriptures, as otherwise it might amount to extrapolation of their scriptures. The eight limbs of yoga as given by Patanjali as a complete, intensive system of Self-Realization is not to be found in other religious scriptures in the same measure or in the same arrangement, IMO. However, the concepts of Asana, japa and even mantra might be found in the scriptures and rituals of western religions but they are not yoga per se.

Here is my take on some of the points in the interesting article by Firoz Bakht Ahmed:

yoga and namaz are almost identical.
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.

It is a common misunderstanding that yogAsana and breathing practices are just all that is to the yoga--far from it. They are only tools to prepare the body for the rigours of yogic meditation and samAdhi, wherein lies the core of the yoga. Of course yoga is not a religion but a science that originated in Hinduism.

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).

This is plain-spoken, and I gladly agree with the author.

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

Incidentally, the holy number 786 of the Muslims was a backward misreading of the Sanskrit letters of AUM! As the author has stated, his derivation of 'ohm' is more of a word play than the equivalent of the Hindu AUM. If 'Ohm' is a confluence of Allah (the Brahman) and Mohammed (his prophet), what about the common Musim person (not to speak of persons who are not Muslims)? Are they not the same as Allah or Mohammed? In fact, equivating a common Muslim with Allah or Mohammed would be deemed blasphemous in Islam, (as in Christianity for God-Jesus-Man) though in Reality, the God is the Common Man and vice versa.

Despite such reservations, I appreciate the efforts of Muslims who seek the knowledge and wisdom to realize the unity of the Self in the followers of all religions. On a personal note, Atanuji, you are more like YudhiShtra who sees only good and good people everywhere; whereas some of us like me choose to be more like Arjuna, with all our misgivings and premonitions.

11 February 2009, 01:11 PM
Although I have strongly emphasized in my post above that Yoga is a science developed in Hinduism, and that any religion which adopts it should acknowledge its origin with gratitude, I believe that yoga is the legacy of Hinduism to the entire mankind and that every human being, irrespective of his/her caste, creed or religion is capable of yoga sAdhana with proper guidance.

Here is the story of a Muslim Siddha, popularly known as Basheer Baba, as narrated in the Tamil book The Siddhas I Have Known by Pon. Paramaguru (former IG of Tamilnadu and a devoted sAdhaka whose father himself was a Siddha). The story illustrates how divine will places advanced souls in key positions across religions to check and regulate any excessive trends of adharma.

Basheer Baba was born on 15th Jul 1942 at Chennur, in the Cuddappah district, Andhra Pradesh. His father was Sri Mohammad Hussain and his mother was Smt. Noorin Bibi. His father was a merchant selling betel leaves. Right from his early years, Basheer Baba was living in harmony with all religions and castes.

When he was eight years old, his mother was afflicted by typhoid. Baba went to the Venkateswara temple nearby and asked the priest to pray for his mother's recovery and said that if his mother got well he would offer an abhiShekam to God Venkateswara.

His mother was cured within days. Baba obtained ten rupees from his mother without his father's knowledge, gave it to the priest and asked him to perform the abhiShekam. From that day on, he started worshipping God Venkateswara.

A strong resistance arose from his relatives to Baba's trans-religious activities, but he did not care about it.

When he was nine, Baba went to the Anjaneya temple in Chennur, where he got mAnasIka upadesha (mental instructions) from the Madhva guru Sri Raghavendra Swamy, which place him firmly on the path of Self-Realization.

When he was twelve, his father, angered by his son's worshipping Hindu gods and reading the Vedas, kicked him out of the house. Baba wandered on foot and reached the Dattatreya hills in the Chikmagalur district, Mysore. He was gifted with the darshan of Shirdi Sai Baba in a cave of the hills. He bacame a disciple of Shirdi Baba and returned to Chennur.

Baba continued his school education, doing the work of a coolie. One day, Sri Govinda Rao, headmaster of the school, wanted to cane him for not doing his homework and asked Baba to extend the palm of his right hand. When the teacher saw that the boy's palm was rough and sore and asked for the reason, Baba narrated how his father kicked him out of the house for worshipping Hindu gods and that he was continuing his studies doing coolie work for a living.

The headmaster was moved, kept Baba with him at his house for three years and made him study up to the tenth standard. Later, listening to the headmaster's advice, Baba's father took him back at the house.

When he was twenty, Baba's parents got him married to a fourteen year old girl named Kaktar Biwi. Since the young woman was also deeply devoted to God, they chose to live their family life emulating the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Mother Sarada Devi.

Angered by Baba's attitude of treating all religions in harmony, his uncle tried to kick him with his legs, but got a corn in his foot that grew and gave him leprosy. Realizing his mistake he sought pardon from the Baba, who gave him vibhUti and cured his disease.

Along with the Vedas, Baba read the Bible and the holy Quran deeply. He said that the very first song of the holy Quran talks only of love towards Allah and brotherhood with the fellow humans; so he despised the people who instigated in the name of religion and moved with love and affection towards the people of all communities and religions. He would chide his people for their religious aggression with the words, "When I take to a fruit, taste it, eat it and say that it is good for health, why do say that it is poison?"

"How can a stone statue created by a man be worshipped even after such realization?", a man asked Baba.

Baba said, "A metal wire is created by man, but electricity flows through it and gives light. In the same way, a statue shaped by man would attract divine energy, become a deity in the temple and bless the devotee."

The author Sri Pon. Paramaguru had a twenty year relationship of a devotee with Basheer Baba, who blessed him and his family, cured his wife of a serious throat pain with vibhUti and anthill sand, and blessed his sister who had a child after 17 years.

Baba built a beautiful ashram in a village called Tuvvur in the Cuddapah district in 50 acres of land, with a further extent of 30 acres for gardens and crops. He said Tuvvur was a place was where Rama, Lakshmana and Sita had stayed for a week during their sojourn in forest and that Durvasa Muni performed his tapas there.

He named his ashram Ramsai Nagar. It is said that a double-headed snake came and stayed for four hours when the foundation stone was laid, drank the milk offered to it and finally moved eastward and disappeared.

Baba established shrines for Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, Anjaneya, Navagrahas, Sri Ramsai, and Sri Raghavendra. The Raghavendra Brindavanam was consecrated in April 1971, and a large spiritual conference was held. The festivities were attended by the sage Bahadur Valiba, with whom the author happened to stay on the front portico of a house, unable to get better accommodation because of the large crowd. They stayed there for three days, without feeling the intense heat of Cuddappah during the month of April, which melted even the transistor battery of his car.

Finally, on 25 Dec 1982, Baba wrote the author a letter from Hyderabad stating that he had plans to visit Shirdi from the 18th to 28th Jan 1983 and partake the 40 yajnas and 30 vratas scheduled; that 20,000 people would be given free food and that the author should accompany him with family. The divine will was different, however. Baba attained samAdhi on 9 Jan 1983.