Yoga is not just for your body and mind, a Yoga practitioner has responsibilities to the nation no less
Dr Jayaraman Mahadevan
Day of Yoga is to be celebrated in a couple of weeks. The next general election in the country is to be held in a few months from now. In this context, I try to ask a few questions and find answers. Should a Yogi be concerned with the country? Or should he stay aloof from all the happenings in the country? Does a Yogi have a responsibility towards the county and its polity?
Haṭhayogapradīpikā is a 15th Century text on Haṭhayoga and it is considered as one of the finest works in the field written by Yogin Svātmārāma of the Nātha tradition.
Verse Eleven of the first chapter of the Haṭhayogapradīpikā speaks about the country that a Haṭhayogin should choose to stay for his Haṭhayoga practices.
It says, a Haṭhayogin should stay in a Deśa which is Surājya, dhārmika, subhikṣa and nirupadrava.
What is Surājya? It is interesting to note that moving away from the common interpretation that Rājya means a kingdom or a state, Brahmānanda states Rājya is the work of the King. The king should do his work well. Only then a Rājya becomes a Surājya. There should be good governance. Further, the work of the king will reflect in the subject. It is interesting to note that lessons on Public administration could be drawn from a work on Yoga. Good governance should reflect in people because Governance ought to happen with people participating.
A kingdom may be a well administered and the citizens may be disciplined (Surājya), but people might turn out to be selfish if there is no dharma—that which holds the society together. So to balance Surājya the term Dhārmika is supplied along with that.
It is only in a place where Dharma reigns that all sections of the society will be supported. Mutual concern and protection is ensured by the adherence to Dharma. This reminds us of the verse from the Bhagavad Gita—´fSXÀ´fSXÔ ·ffU¹f³°f: ßfZ¹f: ´fSX¸fUf´À¹f±f (BG. 3.11)—(parasparaṃ bhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥ paramavāpsyatha)—take care mutually and attain great well-being.
People may be Dhārmikas having a desire to support fellow human beings but if the country is not prosperous with timely rains and production of grains then how can people share? So prosperity is also important. Rains will not occur if the balance in the ecosystem is not maintained. With consumeristic attitude will there be prosperity? Hence Subhikṣa indicates a respect for Nature and her resources.
This indicates the fact that one can safely stay in the country for a long period.
The resources of the country may be well governed by the King, the people might be Dharmik and there might even be plenty to share. But if the country is infested with anti-social elements, then life will not be peaceful and there will be pilferage.
Not many tigers are left these days from which we might need to fear. We have driven them to the brink of extinction. But tigers and lions are in our own mind and thought which need to be tamed and calmed. Hence the country should be free from anti-social elements.
Yogins and the Society
It is very clear that Haṭhayoga has to be practiced in solitude and peace. It is evident that this verse is addressed to a recluse who has given up worldly pursuits desiring spiritual progress through Yoga. These verses are meant for a fulltime Yogi. If even he has to take note of all the four factors of the country before taking up residence in a specific country, then what remains to be said about us who have taken to the practice of Yoga in a limited way and for a limited purpose.
We are the creators of our own destiny. It is not that someone else will ensure all these four factors and facilitate our peaceful practice of Yoga. If the society has to progress in the path of Yoga to the higher spiritual goals, then society as a whole has to contribute to creating the conducive atmosphere.
The role of a Yoga practitioner does not end here. The government cannot support one and all. It can only facilitate. A Yoga practitioner also needs to be a Dhārmika at his level to make the country Dhārmika.
Both, individuals and the government should behave in such a responsible way so that Mother Nature considers us worthy to receive Subhikṣa—her bountiful blessings in the form of rain. A hungry man cannot listen to Yoga or Vedanta. Hence the current day Yoga practitioners have to ensure a respectful attitude towards nature which will result in sustainable prosperity.
Finally, even with all these, due to the innate weakness of the human mind, there will be some elements that attempt to disrupt the society. It is stated that—Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Hence being always vigilant, Yoga practitioners should also contribute in their own way to root out the disruptive elements in the society and make the society Nirupadrava.
So, a Yoga practitioner does not mean that one is cut off from the society or one is absolved of all National responsibilities. Rather, going by the statements of Yogin Svātmārāma, made half a millennium ago, responsibility is more for a Yoga practitioner.
Everyone these days realises the benefits of Yoga. Everyone even feels that Yoga has to become the way of life for the entire nation and eventually of the entire world. If the world has to get rid of the maladies that plague it such as corruption, divisive and fissiparous tendencies and selfishness, undoubtedly Yoga is the panacea.
For a beginning, if Yoga has to be truly the national Dharma in India, in its place of birth, then the nation has to be prepared for that. No medicine would work without the right kind of pathya (dietary and other regulations).
If these factors are internalised by each and every Yoga practitioner only then real Svasthatā—well being for the individual and also the nation can come about. As Yoga now is globally accepted and practiced, these four factors of national well-being can be tried by each and every country of the world.
(The writer is a Chennai-based Yoga trainer)