As Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, I am convinced that many Indian citizens like myself saw an idea of India completely vanish before our eyes. This quite obviously has not happened overnight. The cries for help to save this idea of India have been visible in the protests across the country since the Lok Sabha elections 2014. There is another phenomenon, which has taken place since the last national elections but not spoken about as much, the use of yoga as a political and polarizing tool. I didn’t think I would voice my opinion, but I can’t hold myself after the swift rise of Yogi Adityanath.
A trained teacher in Hatha Yoga, I have a relatively good idea of this practice which has no association with any religion but it is a way of life. Hatha Yoga is about balancing the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of being and to work on oneself to reach a stage of self-awareness. Hatha Yoga has been beautifully written in texts by many saints and one of them being Gorakhnath. These texts are nothing but spiritual guidelines for followers who formed the Nath Sect. Hatha Yoga was developed between the 6th and 15th century AD and there was nothing ritualistic about it, only logical methods to attain higher consciousness. The Gorakhnath Mutt was built in the honour of Saint Gorakhnath and his spiritual teachings.
But spirituality is muddled with religion and religion with politics. And politicians know very well how to take advantage of this muddle. The head priest of Gorakhnath Mutt, Digvijay Nath spear headed the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1949 and joined the BJP post that. Mahant Digvijay Nath was also responsible for ensuring that nobody from the backward classes would become priest of the temple, which was not the case before his time. This was a clear signal of the category of polarizing politics that till date has become associated with Gorakhnath Mutt.
Now, fast forward to 2017 and carrying Digvijay Nath’s legacy forward is the new Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, who has been the Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur since 1998 and also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini. I don’t have to give further credentials of the UP CM and his entourage, which has been responsible for much communal violence in the region. The Yogi spews venom every time he opens his mouth, when he compared Shahrukh Khan to a terrorist or when he asked people to leave Hindustan if they ignore yoga. I want to remind the Yogi that talking about surya namaskar and having Yogi associated with your name does not make the individual a custodian of yoga. After hearing anything the UP CM has to say, I wonder whether the biggest disservice to the discipline of yoga is saffron clothed men like him.
It is tragic that people of Gorakhpur, including the Dalits though they have been discriminated against, vote for Yogis of this kind because of the legacy of ancient saints. The goodwill that people have for saints like Gorakhnath has been abused by the likes of Yogi Adityanath to divide society and win votes.
It becomes all the more critical now for citizens of democratic and secular India to voice their opinion and save their idea of a country where people should be able to live without fear. As for me, I am disheartened that the science of yoga is become synonyms with Hindutva. If only Yogi Adityanath carried forward the true tradition of yoga, we would all be having a different conversation in Independent India.
Neha Saigal is a Hatha Yoga practitioner& independent development consultant