Russell Simmons and yoga

Russell Simmons, an American celebrity of sorts[1], on twitter, liberally quotes from the bhagavad gItA, a Hindu scripture, frequently refers to shrI kR^iShNa, the much loved Hindu deity, and tweets philosophical ideas of Hindu saints and from Hindu canon. Some samples provided here[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]. While certain translations he provides are at best questionable, we won’t dwell upon that in this post.


Now, see this tweet[13].


Yes, yoga is not religious in the Abrahamic sense. It is not Jewish, Christian or Islamic. But teachings of yoga not Hindu! As per Russell Simmons’s “logic”, the deduction would be that bhagavad gItA, shrI kR^iShNa, paramahaMsa yogAnanda have nothing to do with Hinduism [sic].

In reply to his outrageous tweet mendaciously decoupling yoga from Hinduism, I felt compelled to tweet this to him[14].


Not surprisingly, there wasn’t any reply.

He did however make this self-serving tweet[15] not too long after.


Among the countless commentaries on truth and its reverence in the Hindu canon, in the taittiriya upaniShad, it is said, satyaM vada . dharmaM chara (speak the truth, practice dharma). Clearly, Mr. Simmons’s idea of truth is very different from the scriptures that he claims he studied for many years. He would do well to know that shrI kR^iShNa, in the bhagavad gItA, taught to learn through humble homage.

The perfidy of the philosophical profiteers and cultural miners is outright repugnant. Their reluctance and even arrogant refusal many a time to acknowledge the very heritage and belief system from whose teachings they make their living and sell their books is only a pointer to how antithetical they are to what they claim to practice and teach. Their self-proclaimed study of scriptures serves only to sell their books and keep their yoga “studios” running. Truly, these self-styled new-age guru-s and “spiritual” “transformationalists” know as much about yoga, karma, dharma or spirituality as the pope about quantum physics.



















Meera Nanda Continues with her Ignorant Rants

In response to Meera Nanda’s polemics on OpenMag seeking to mendaciously decouple yoga from Hinduism[1], Swaminathan Venkataraman of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF)[2] gave a very fitting reply[3] decimating her ignorant assertions. In response to Venkataraman’s rebuttal, Nanda retorted with a characteristically arrogant and haughty piece[4] which yet again but not very surprisingly was bereft of any veracity to back her aforementioned attempts. In fact the sanctimonious and intemperate tone of Nanda’s piece coupled with a near complete lack of any pedantic references, provides a nice insight into what really drives her. In her latest diatribe, if we discount the quotes she provides from Koenraad Elst and David Gordon White[5], all that remains are ignorant rants, consummate red herrings, and of course an ample offering of uninhibited bile regurgitated upon HAF.

Venkataraman’s article[3] however provides very specific references from the haThayoga pradIpikA, shiva saMhitA, gheraNDa saMhita, maitrAyaNIya upaniShad, shrItattvanidhi to conclusively demolish Nanda’s assertions in her previous rant filled article[1], as well as their continuation in her latest piece[4]. He provides statements from both Singleton and Sjoman (Nanda’s own sources from her previous piece[1]) that actually go against her position.  Venkataraman mentions svAmI YogeshvarAnanda‘s book in 1970 titled “First Steps to Higher yoga” containing 264 Asanas. He also mentions other non-kR^iSNAmAchArya yoga traditions, dance poses of shiva, as well as the Indian government’s move to compile a digital database of yogAsanas[6] that has thus far resulted in documentation of 1,300 Asanas with the cooperation of nine traditional yoga institutions. All of which decisively demolish Nanda’s ignorant rants. Readers are directed to Venkataraman’s article[3] for more.

While Venkataraman’s article is very restrained and erudite, Nanda chooses to write in anger and throws dung at HAF even after her assertions have been decisively decimated. Many people have previously pointed Nanda to a well researched article[7] by Sarvesh Tiwari that provide historical evidence for yogAsana being a Hindu dhArmika tradition. Evidence that goes against what Koenraad Elst says in the quote Nanda has provided. Not to mention debunking Nanda’s pontifications. In fact Sarvesh himself has challenged Nanda for an open debate[8]. Which to my knowledge has gone unanswered.

Both Sarvesh’s and Venkataraman’s articles provide incontrovertible evidence that go against Elst’s assertion on this particular issue, which Nanda has gleefully quoted. Yet Nanda conveniently chooses to ignore any such evidence and  continues with her ignorant rants. Not to mention throwing hate-filled innuendos and verbal vomit at HAF in particular and Hinduism in general.

In a paper by Nanda some years back, she said,[9]

The more prominence Hinduism gets abroad, even for wrong reasons like the new age and paganism, the more prestige it gains in India.

This quote provides a very clear insight into the motivation behind the ignorant, hate-filled rants in her sorry attempts to mendaciously decouple yoga (or yogAsana to be more specific) from Hinduism. Which presumably she, back then, perhaps in an attempt at derision, referred to as “the new age and paganism”. Make no mistake, if instead of yoga another school from Hinduism say pUrva mImAMsA had been this popular, the same idiotic arguments and perfidious polemics would have been used by Meera Nanda and her bedfellows to try and decouple pUrva mImAMsA from Hinduism.

In response to the aforementioned quote by Nanda, this is what the very Koenraad Elst that she now quotes, had to say[10]. Emphasis added.

Here, she really lays her cards on the table.  It is very good that, unlike many other "secularists", she does not try to be clever and claim to speak for "true Hinduism" against a "distorted Hinduism" of the Hindu revivalists. Instead, she clearly targets Hinduism itself, deploring any development which might make Hinduism "gain prestige".  Let us see if I can translate that correctly: wanting something or someone to suffer rather than to prosper is what we call "hate". She hates Hinduism, and her academic work is written in the service of that hate.

Notwithstanding Meera Nanda’s apparent deep hatred for Hinduism and the resultant mendacious rants, she would do well to learn from this saMskR^ita gem, “alpa vidyA bhaya~NkarI”. Or, its English equivalent, to quote Alexander Pope, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. What is really amazing however, is that in spite of her articles having been dissected and deconstructed multiple times and her assertions conclusively disproved and decimated[3][10][11][12][13], she still has the audacity to keep regurgitating with her characteristically arrogant haughtiness. A result perhaps of her ideological moorings[12] or her ignorance. Or perhaps it is a combination of both.

Truly, the following text from the vAlmIki rAmAyaNa, ayodhyAkANDa, is befitting to Meera Nanda.

बालाः पण्डित मानिनः

bAlAH paNDita mAninaH

(ignorant considering himself/herself to be learned)


Swaminathan Venkataraman makes a second reply[14] to Meera Nanda, whom he rightly calls a “self-appointed pseudo-scholar” and aptly takes to task for her browbeating and ranting after her mendacious polemics being decisively decimated by the veracious references in his previous piece.

[1] ^a ^b ^c

[2] ^

[3] ^a ^b ^c ^d

[4] ^a ^b

[5] ^ White’s quote being a total non-sequitur to her mendacious thesis of yoga largely being un-Hindu

[6] ^

[7] ^

[8] ^

[9] ^ Dharmic ecology and the neo-Pagan international: the dangers of religious environmentalism in India", presented at panel no. 15 at the 18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, 6-9 July 2004

[10] ^a ^b

[11] ^

[12] ^a ^b

[13] ^

[14] ^

[15] Given Sarvesh’s erudite, well researched article and the references that Venkataraman provides in his article, I won’t dwell on historical and scriptural evidence for yoga’s (and/or yogAsana’s) relationship with and undeniable inseparability from what is now known as Hinduism, in this post. Readers are directed to their articles.

India Puts Together Digital Database of yogAsanas

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, has completed documenting a list of yogAsanas which will soon be uploaded on the country’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), making them public knowledge [1]. This is definitely a prudent move given the outright commercialization of transcendental fruits of Hinduism (sanAtana dharma) by self-styled gurus (read cultural/philosophical profiteers) in the west. Not to mention the perfidious attempts to deny their inseparable relationship with Hinduism. Not surprisingly, Marxist and Eurocentric “scholars” have also been quite active in these attempts to mendaciously decouple yoga from Hinduism.

According to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry’s department of Ayush, “once the database is up online, patent offices across the world will have a reference point to check on everytime a yoga guru claims patent on a particluar `asana’.”

CSIR’s Dr V P Gupta, who created TKDL, told TOI, “All the 26 sequences which are part of Hot Yoga have been mentioned in Indian yoga books written thousands of years ago.”

TKDL will have photos and explanation of the postures. Dr Gupta said, “A voice-over will also point out which text mentions the posture. The information will be available in several international languages. We have screened through several ancient books like Srimad Bhagwat Gita, Vyas Bhashya, Yogasava Vijana, Hatha Praditika, Gheranda Samhita, Shiva Samhita, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Sandra Satkarma to exactly document all known `asanas’ and yoga references.”



Technorati Tags: ,,,,