It was The Mother’s wish that yoga should be recognised as education by the Indian govt. By yoga she didn’t mean yogasanas as it is popularly understood but the philosophy and practice of yoga as a way of life. I always anguished that there has been no initiative by the govt. of India to even consider not to speak of implementing her advice that is full of wisdom for the good of India. A generation brought up steeped in the importance and necessity of yoga itself would start the process of re-birth of the national soul and a new life of immense value to India and the world.
Observing the way some initiatives to re-introduce certain ancient Indian practices that had the potential to prepare the present generations to open to profound truths and the misunderstandings and negative reactions they resulted in, it is clear that there are a lot of people who cannot distinguish between the spiritual and religious aspects of those things. Therefore when allegations of promoting Hindu religion using state power were made they were unable to face their antogonists with conviction. If only they knew that all they have to do is to turn to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s works to develop the sense for eternal truths and the strength to work for their victory of spirituality the problem would have been tackled well.
Being a teacher in a school for mainly Indian students I introduced the ideas of yoga and dhyana in my own classes informally, in a non-structured and non-compulsary way and found the students quite receptive to them. A few minutes of silent dhyana was done before class commencement for the students to make a resolve to learn well and better and to try to become aware of their problems and aspire to overcome them. However when it was attempted for the whole school through another teacher (who is incidentally university qualified in yoga studies) it failed to be as effective. It was a hotch potch of pranayama, auto suggestion and step by step guidance all done in a span of ten minutes. Instead of empowering the students the teacher made them more dependent on him. This is surely no cure to Indian students’ inability to think powerfully and take responsibility for themselves which is partly due to strong parental control that determines the schools and courses they go for, the jobs they choose, the selection of spouse, the study by rote method they are used to etc. And the new daily morning compulsory ritual at school conditioned them to be more of the same, like sheep, which is what they must be encouraged to strive not to be. Such a routine cannot make true men out of them which requires them to develop self knowledge and aspiration in order that they are able to take control of their lives and make more integral progress. My class’ students soon felt it wasn’t as as effective as the class room dhyana they had before. I also observed that when the school assembly was told to simply concentrate in silence there was a better atmosphere and a presence of a peaceful grace could be felt.
Presently knowing that Bhagavad Gita can be a great source book for learning about the yoga, I offered to give lectures on it to students of certain batches which were about to be sent on leave before their course ended this week. This I did inspite of running another full time course as I felt the opportunity was ideal to try out teaching yoga.
The Gita, believed to have been first delivered by Sri Krishna five thousand years ago, has eighteen chapters divided into three parts titled Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gnana yoga. Having read Sri Aurobindo’s comments and essays on the Gita and recollecting the pages he devoted to explain with what spirit we must turn to Gita and what were in it that were of use to our life and future evolution, I omitted or down played those verses that were of ritualistic or temporary kind and the students were told briefly why the dropped verses were dropped. The whole of Gita was completed by hourly daily lectures within a week’s time. The students gave positive feedback about the classses and even a few other teachers asked me to hold classes for them.
But again there are predictable problems in such work at larger scale. What if a teacher takes up teaching the Gita ends up creating superstitions or strengthening religous ideas and practices? Karmic Re-birth and caste based dharmas mentioned repeatedly in the book has to be explained in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s revelatory writings on the original truth behind them as othewise all that would sound like a justification of the caste system and the present public mentality would consider it reason enough to reject the Gita too outright or give it less reverence than it deserves as it happens to many Indian scriptures that can help understand this great nation and to help her find direction. One of the solution to the problem could be to make study and understanding of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s works a pre-requisite before anyone takes up teaching yoga. And at national level also teachers may have to be trained in the light of Sri Auroindo’s thoughts on this issue but there is a big if – if the govt. has the will. (Please see a quote from Sri Aurobindo on the Gita appended below.) But individual schools with the necessary will can take the steps to start teaching yoga. They have to if they want to hasten the advent of the great future awaiting.
* But what we can do with profit is to seek in the Gita for the actual living truths it contains, apart from their metaphysical form, to extract from it what can help us or the world at large and to put it in the most natural and vital form and expression we can find that will be suitable to the mentality and helpful to the spiritual needs of our present-day humanity. No doubt in this attempt we may mix a good deal of error born of our own individuality and of the ideas in which we live, as did greater men before us, but if we steep ourselves in the spirit of this great Scripture and, above all, if we have tried to live in that spirit, we may be sure of finding in it as much real truth as we are capable of receiving as well as the spiritual influence and actual help that, personally, we were intended to derive from it. And that is after all what Scriptures were written to give; the rest is academical disputation or theological dogma. Only those Scriptures, religions, philosophies which can be thus constantly renewed, relived, their stuff of permanent truth constantly reshaped and developed in the inner thought and spiritual experience of a developing humanity, continue to be of living importance to mankind. The rest remain as monuments of the past, but have no actual force or vital impulse for the future.
Page 5 Essays on the Gita – Sri Aurobindo