I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Indian or Hindu person at a yoga class, sacred meditation or alternative festival. I hope my generalisation of Indian people isn’t offensive, what I mean is people of the Hindu faith, who perform pujas, celebrate divali, worship the Gods and have been raised in the Hindu faith.
My family have Hindu roots from my maternal grandfather, and whilst I haven’t been brought up in a Hindu or Indian culture (and I couldn’t look less Indian if I tried, thank you Irish/Eastern European genes for thwarting any hopes I might have of getting a tan!), it has always been there lurking in the background.
We go to our local Temple on occasion, and thinking about it now, my brother and I are the only ‘white’ people I remember seeing there. And now I’m wondering why there aren’t more white yogis there. The Temple that I’m thinking of is really nice, it’s quite majestic, it celebrates all the Hindu celebrations, seva is an active part of it, it has really good literature about Hinduism, there are Swamis who live there. It’s a proper Temple, if you catch my drift.
The Hindus who go there all seem to be ‘on their path’, they practice Bhakti Yoga, they read the Gita, I’m guessing some do yoga. But they seem to do it in private. There’s no chatting, no ‘what’s your practice?’, ‘have you seen this Guru, or been to that place?’. It’s a very quiet, devotional affair.
I’ve noticed a similar thing at Amma’s Darshan in London. Given that London, where I live and have seen her, is pretty multicultural to say the least, and has its fair share of yogis, yoga studios and alternative therapies, there is quite a mixture of people who go to see Amma.
The yogis, or Western devotees, can be spotted a mile off. Hippie pants, white clothes, malas, bindis. The standard new-age gear. The Indians and Hindus look much less obvious. Some of them wear saris, but I think that’s just how they dress, they’d wear a sari to go to the shops too. And the rest just wear their normal clothes, coming straight from school or work.
It doesn’t seem to be such a big deal to them, they get their ticket, they hang around, get their hug. And that’s it. There’s no ‘blissing out’, no trying to milk the moment, no need to talk about what they’ve experienced.
Given that yogis and Hindus apparently worship the same Gods, see the same people, read the same texts, I’m wondering why there isn’t more cross over in terms of locations and interests.
The same applies to the Hindus I knew at school. I went to the local State School, which was represented by just about every race, religion, country and language that you can think of. My own social group had a mix of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Atheists, who all got on and believed what they believed without any issues (ahem, World take note, Hendon School in North London could be your global getting along without problems model!). There was never any talk of ‘paths’, or doing it right, no one discussed meditation or prayer at break time, we just lived our lives and did our ‘thing’ in a our free time.
The point that I’m stumbling towards, is if that 950 million Hindus can follow Hinduism with love and devotion, follow their Yoga path, pray, meditate and celebrate the Gods without needing a facebook page or studio in which to pray and practice, are we making a bit of a meal out of it?
To me, there seems to be quite a gulf between Western yogis who tour the world in search of Masters, spend a substantial amount of time and money on retreats, books, courses and classes, and live a ‘yogi lifestyle’, and the average Hindu who has Hinduism intertwining itself with their daily life. The Hindus I know seem to have Hinduism running their lives, whereas the yogis I know seem to have altered and changed their lives in order to follow the teachings.
Maybe the Hindus I’ve met aren’t into Enlightenment, perhaps they do a puja to Laksmi to help their business rather to clear karma, which could be compared to praying to Jesus for the same outcome. Maybe Western yogis do live a life closer to that prescribed by the ancient greats.
But I am wondering how much the yogi and the Hindu actually have in common. I’ve only ever been to one yoga class, at my local gym. In my defence, the class wasn’t particularly about consciousness or the Self, but I’m ashamed to say that a large part of what put me off was elderly Indian women being about a million times more flexible than me. But they did it in a very modest, way. No snazzy mats or clothes, just baggy clothes that allowed the body to move.
Has the Western mind hijacked Hinduism, and turned it into a social group, with leaders and followers, haves and have-nots?
I’d be interested to see how a devout Hindu and a devout yogi would get on. Would the Hindu think that the yogi was too snazzy and took themselves too seriously? Would the yogi think that the Hindu lacked devotion and commitment?
I really don’t know, this is more a wondering out loud kinda thing, rather than one with definitive answers, but I’m very interested to hear what you think. What’s the difference between a Hindu and a yogi? What do they have in common? And why don’t we see them together more often?!