Why is Communist China wary of Yoga and Spirituality?

    21-Jun-2020   
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Ahead of International Day for Yoga, Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that dictatorially rules the country without any degree of transparency, came up with a write-up on June 15 titled ‘ Scandals-hit Indian gurus’, suspected cults scam Chinese followers’. The article mentions about, some Indian spiritual groups that advertise with labels like "spiritual guidance," "yoga culture," "longevity" and "business success" that cater to Chinese consumers. The spiritual and religious practices in the communist country are termed as 'cult' and equated with illegality or crime. Many of the Chinese schools have a formal 'anti-cult education'.
 
Not surprisingly, the article gives some obscure examples like Baba Ram Rahim and some Taiwan based actress and her Oneness University connected with the Chittoor Ashram. In January 2019, the autocratic regime had warned the people of China through China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and the China Anti-Cult Association (CACA) against Indian-imported religious threats like spiritual "gurus" and to stay off 'suspected religious cults'. In short, a typical case of 'blasphemy law' enacted to curb any dissenting voice by another ‘fundamentalist religion' called Maoist Communism.
 
China, at the civilisational level, has had strong spiritual roots. Right from the Yangshao Culture to Taoism, Confucianism and eventually various schools of Buddhist thought influenced the Chinese society for thousands of years. Like India, the people worshipped personifications of nature. Concepts like "wealth" or "fortune" which developed into a religion and multiplicity of faiths was cherished under various dynasties. Despite the typical Middle Kingdom syndrome with the Sun-Tzuvian strategic culture, travellers like Fa Hsien, Sung Yun, Hsuan Tsang and I Tsing, were allowed to visit India to gain knowledge and obtain the original Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit and Pali. They also translated those texts in Chinese. Then why the despotic regime of CPC is so antagonistic to Yoga and Spiritual practices? The answer is three-fold.
 
Firstly, despite criminalising religion in 1949 through the so-called communist revolution, most of the age-old beliefs and religious practices still have a significant influence on Chinese society. The series of killings in the name of revolutions could not destroy that ancient and old civilisational culture. The entire concept of the Communist Cultural Revolution was based on the destruction of the Four Olds: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. Many educationists and religious practitioners lost their lives to the violence of party cadres, as happened elsewhere in the world. Still, a natural connection with spiritual practices is deeply rooted in the Chinese Psyche, and the Communists are always concerned about the same; hence anti-cult education.
 
Secondly, real spirituality and Yoga teaches you to find the oneness of all existence and still allows you to celebrate diversity. Questioning dogmas and progression through the journey of consciousness is central to this ancient science of knowledge. The doctrinaire ideology called Communism believes in uniformity and repression for the desired goal of perpetual revolution. Opposing anything that allows individual freedom of consciousness is fundamental to the Adharmic set of ideas espoused by Communist parties and their conduct is a reflection of the same. Just as the Communists of India oppose everything that is rooted in the ancient spiritual ethos of India, whether Yoga or Saraswati Vandana, the same mindset prevails among their bosses in China.
 
The third and final reason is India specific. As Hu Shih, an ambassador of the Republic of China to the USA once remarked, "India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border." An ambitious leader like Xi Jinping of the anti-people party like CPC understands this potent threat more than anybody else. India is always referred to as the land of Bhagwan Buddha. The respect of Buddhist monks like Jeevaka, who taught Chinese to treat various diseases, including epidemics, is immense. With the growing Americanisation of lifestyle in the name of 'Socialism with Chinese Characteristics' which is nothing but State Controlled Capitalism, there is a growing tide in favour of connecting to the roots with rebuilding family bonds.
 
The so-called revolutions tried to destruct the age-old civilisational values, but the hollow ideology called Communism could not replace it with the larger goals of life. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in his seminal treatise very succinctly analysed the real character of Communism – "Buddha would never allow violence, but the communists do. No doubt the communists get quick results because when you adopt the means of annihilating a man, they do not remain to oppose you. Humanity does not only want economic values, it also wants spiritual values to be retained. Permanent communist dictatorship has paid no attention to spiritual values and does not seem to intend to". This permanent animosity of Communists with morality and spirituality creates a void of values in society. Their super-imposed materialist views leads to social, psychological and emotional vacuum and in such a scenario, Indian Yoga and spiritual practices can be a natural point of attraction in the Chinese society. An expansionist and authoritarian regime like CPC cannot allow Chinese people to have that kind of traction with the universal values propounded by someone viewed as an ‘adversary’ by them. Hence the opposition to Yoga and Spirituality.
 
Again invoking Dr. Ambedkar, who had stated a word of caution about the Panchsheel agreement between Jawahar Lal Nehru and the then Chinese Premier Chau-en-Lai in 1955, "If Mr Mao had any faith in the Panchsheel, he would certainly treat the Buddhists in his country in a very different way". Lets not forget the wisdom in this statement, which is all the more relevant today. The real struggle of Communist China with Democratic India is not just about economic or military superiority but the challenge posed by our civilisational ethos of unity in diversity and respecting multiple paths of reaching the same Truth. Chinese people are connecting with this thought and will continue to do so. How far and how long the Communist party and its dogmatic and authoritarian cult, run by the Politburo, use the iron hand to suppress the natural journey of human consciousness, only time will tell.