Iranian yoga?Hanuman das
Few days ago, a devotee send me a quote, which supposedly goes against my fight against gymnastic yoga. He wanted to hear my opinion about this quote.
Anyway I know the people of Tehran they like hatha yoga very much. I understand Parivrajakacarya Swami is teaching a course combining both hatha and bhakti yoga to attract the people. This is a very good idea. Somehow or other inject the bhakti yoga. That will save them from the degradations of sense gratification. (Letter to Atreya Rsi, Dec 4 1974)
First of all, I would like to point out, that from his very arrival in the United States, Srila Prabhupada was aware of yoga popularity in the Western world:
The Americans have very great regard for Oriental culture and philosophy and taking advantage of this opportunity many so called oriental men of wisdom have exploited their sentiments simply for the matter of livelihood. Since I have come to this country I have traveled many parts of the country specially in Butler, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Monroe etc and everywhere I have seen that the people in general have great respect for oriental culture and mostly they are attached to the gymnastic process of the Hatha Yoga system. But the system of Bhakti-yoga will be very much appreciable to them if we could open a centre here in New York. With this aim in view I tried my godbrothers to join together for this preaching work in the foreign countries by combined force. I tried first Kesava Maharaja, then Bon Maharaja and then Tirtha Maharaja but I have failed to get any cooperation from either of them till now and therefore when I was just arranging to go back to India to try for myself it is a great omen to receive your encouraging letter under reply. (Letter Mangalaniloy Brahmacari New York, May 16 1966)
Nevertheless, he didn’t suggest to any disciple to teach hatha-yoga to people (except for Iran in letter to Atreya Rsi). On the contrary, in many letters, he told his disciples not to engage themselves in such preaching:
So far the Road Show and this Yoga Village are concerned, these things should be stopped. Simply perform our kirtana. If we divert our attention in this way, the whole thing will gradually deteriorate. He is going far away. All these things are nonsense inventions. Such inventing spirit will ruin our this movement. People may come to see, some will become devotees, but such devotees will not stay because they are attracted by some show and not by the real thing or spiritual life according to the standard of Lord Caitanya. Our standard is to have kirtana, start temples. What is this “Road Show” and “Yoga Village?” It will be another hippie edition. Gradually the Krishna Consciousness idea will evaporate: another change, another change, every day another change. Stop all this. Simply have kirtana, nothing else. Don’t manufacture ideas. (letter to Sudama — Vrindaban 5 Nov, 1972)
Yoga to support temple finances
Srila Prabhupada was against using yoga to make money:
We are not interested in these things like hatha-yoga and swimming. We do not encourage such useless activities. We would never take to such activities for earning money. We get money enough. We don’t require to adopt any unauthorized means. At present we spend 8 lakhs of rupees every month and Krishna sends all money. Our process is to chant Hare Krishna. That is sufficient. (Letter to: Mr. N. N. Bagai, Bombay, Jan 6, 1975)
Books – the primary evidence
Overwhelming evidence against practicing yoga is present in many books of Srila PRabhupada.
“One can overcome the path of birth and death only by understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.” In other words, perfection of the yoga system is the attainment of freedom from material existence and not some magical jugglery or gymnastic feats to befool innocent people. (BG 6.15p)
In the present day there are many so-called yogīs, and there are many so-called associations of yogīs, but they are actually blind in the matter of self-realization. They are simply addicted to some sort of gymnastic exercise and are satisfied if the body is well-built and healthy. They have no other information. They are called yatanto ‘py akṛtātmānaḥ. Even though they are endeavoring in a so-called yoga system, they are not self-realized. Such people cannot understand the process of the transmigration of the soul. Only those who are actually in the yoga system and have realized the self, the world, and the Supreme Lord, in other words, the bhakti-yogīs, those engaged in pure devotional service in Krsṇa consciousness, can understand how things are taking place. (BG 15.11p)
Five thousand years ago Lord Kṛṣṇa recommended yoga practice to Arjuna, but Arjuna frankly expressed his inability to follow the stringent rules and regulations of the yoga system. One should be very practical in every field of activities and should not waste his valuable time in practicing useless gymnastic feats in the name of yoga. Real yoga is to search out the four-handed Supersoul within one’s heart and see Him perpetually in meditation. Such continued meditation is called samādhi, and the object of this meditation is the four-handed Nārāyaṇa, with bodily decorations as described in this chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. If, however, one wants to meditate upon something void or impersonal, it will take a very long time before he achieves success in yoga practice. We cannot concentrate our mind on something void or impersonal. (SB 3.15.45p)
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa therefore says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: [Bg. 18.66] “Give up all other processes of religion and simply surrender to Me.” Even if one does not accept Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His instructions are so exalted and beneficial for humanity that if one follows His instructions one will be saved. Otherwise one will be cheated by unauthorized meditation and gymnastic methods of yoga. Thus one will board a boat of stone. which will sink and drown all its passengers. Unfortunately. although the American people are extremely eager to get out of materialistic chaos, they are sometimes found to patronize the makers of stone boats. That will not help them. They must take the proper boat offered by Kṛṣṇa in the form of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. (SB 6.7.14p)
In this, and many more other examples, Srila Prabhupada never encourages us to teach people gymnastic yoga, as a means to gradually attract them to Krishna consciousness, rather, he mentions gymnastic yoga as a form of cheating and wasting time.
So properly speaking, we can never attain success in this meditational yoga system described by Kṛṣṇa. At the utmost we can only gratify our personal whims by some pseudoadaptation of this system. Thus people are paying money to attend some classes in gymnastic exercises and deep-breathing, and they’re happy if they think they can lengthen their lifetimes by a few years or enjoy better sex life. But we must understand that this is not the actual yoga system. In this age that meditational system cannot be properly executed. (Perfection of yoga, chapter 1)
So, how can we bring people to Krishna consciousness through yoga? If end goal of such preaching is that people start reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, they will be utterly confused by Srila Prabhupada’s very decisive preaching against gymnastic yoga.
But in the yoga system, a particular man, if he is expert, if he is able, if he can live alone from home in a secluded place, then perfection of yoga can be attained. It cannot be attained in a city, in a very good assembly, by exercising, gymnastic. No. That is not recommended in the Bhagavad-gītā, at least. We may do that according to one’s own way, but that is not the system recommended by the Bhagavad-gītā. (Lecture, BG 6.11.21, New York, Sep 7th, 1966)
People will ask us: “You are organising yoga seminars, but in his books, the founder of your movement is very negative toward yoga, this is very strange.” What will we reply to such question?
Prabhupāda: This is the process. First of all you have to select a nice place, solitary place and you have to execute alone. Not that you go to a yoga class and pay your fees and make some gymnastic and come back home and do all nonsense. You see? Don’t be entrapped by all these ridiculous things. Simply such society I can declare, is the society of the cheaters and the cheated. You see? (Lecture BG 6.13-15, Los Angeles, Feb 16, 1969)
Yoga is not good even for health
Radhanath baba and his disciples are expert in twisting siddhanta so that we practice little yoga so that we can be healthy so that we can serve Krishna. But Prabhupada rejected even that idea:
Devotee: Verse number seventeen: “He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, working and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system [Bg. 6.17].”
Prabhupada: Yes, you simply, there is no question of attending a so-called yoga class and pay five rupees or five dollars fee to keep yourself reduced fat and so on, keeping your health fit. You simply practice. This practice: Eat what you need, sleep what you need. Your health will be excellent. There is no need of any extraneous help. Simply by practicing this you’ll have everything all right. (Bhagavad-gita 6.16-24 — Los Angeles, February 17, 1969)
We also have a quote from Danavir Goswami:
“A thirtyish, unmarried, Indian gentleman finishing up his engineering Ph.D., has come [to Portland] with the devotees from Seattle and asks for a meeting with His Divine Grace. Once facing our spiritual master, the man explains that he has seen some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples dozing off during their chanting of japa in the morning. “I can teach them some pranayama yoga practice which will help them stay awake,” he offers. Srila Prabhupada politely declines maintaining that it is unnecessary. The man insists, “Oh no, they really need to learn the breathing exercises and the sitting postures. This will help them to stay awake when they’re chanting.” Once again Srila Prabhupada rejects the proposal. Then for the third time the man makes his demands and this time Srila Prabhupada strongly concludes the discussion, ‘No, even though they are deficient, they [his disciples who are practicing bhakti-yoga] are still better than anyone else! There is no need for any additional yoga practice.’” (An excerpt from Chapter 6 of the book “His Divine Grace,” authored by Danavir Goswami)
Based on initial quote from letter to Atreya Rsi, we don’t know what was the initial suggestion by Atreya Rsi, and the overwhelming evidence from other statements by Srila Prabhupada illustrate his mood. He was even making jokes about it:
Devotee (1): Swamiji, I think she means do you have to do any kind of breathing exercising besides chanting?
Prabhupāda: No. There is no breathing exercise or gymnastic. No. Nothing. The breathing exercise is there. When you chant Hare Kṛṣṇa there is breathing. There is nice breathing. Yes? (Lecture BG 7.1, San Francisco, Mar 26, 1968)
And nothing describes better current Radhanath baba’s yoga circus than following masterpiece statement by Srila Prabhupada:
Etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavān (CC Antya 20.16, Śikṣāṣṭaka 2). Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches that: “O Kṛṣṇa, You are so kind that You have come to me in the sound vibration, word, ‘Kṛṣṇa.’ I can very easily chant, and You remain with me. But I am so misfortunate that I have no attraction even for this.” You say people, “You chant ‘Kṛṣṇa’ you’ll get everything,” they will not believe it.
If you say, “You press your nose. You pay me fifty dollars. I’ll give you some nice mantra and this, that. You make your head like this, leg like this,” “Oh,” he’ll say, “here is something.” Something. “And this Swāmījī says, ‘Simply chant Kṛṣṇa.’ Oh, what this is?” Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavān mamāpi durdaiva: “But I am so unfortunate that You have become so easily available in this age, but I am so unfortunate, I cannot accept it.”
So the Kṛṣṇa consciousness so easily being distributed, but they are so unfortunate, they cannot accept. Just see. And you give them bluff, you cheat them—they will, “Ah, yes, welcome. Yes.” They’ll welcome it. And cheaters are always ready: “Oh, there are so many customers are being cheated. Let me take advantage of it.” So my Guru Mahārāja used to say, “This world is the society of cheaters and cheated.” The members are somebody are cheating, and somebody are cheated. The association of cheaters and cheated. So we want to save them from this society of cheaters and cheated. (Room conversation, Columbus Ohio, May 10, 1969)