Category Archives: Is Yoga Hindu?

MONARCH MIGRATION! Posted on October 18, 2012 by Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

monarch-butterfly-2Our garden, with all the work our Garden Team has done on it, along with last spring’s remodeling (removing all the concrete) has made us a stop on the Monarch Migration route!

Such a delight! And we are enjoying the fall colors along with an endless supply of flowers for our many puja shelves here and at Downingtown Yoga.

Plus we’ve added some new garden seating, for meditation “nooks” here and there. I’ll tell you about the veggie garden next week…

With love and great delight,


Kundalini Fire. Posted on June 7, 2012 by Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

Once my children moved out of my house, I decided to take a little holiday to India. This blessed event took place from November 2010 through February 2011, combining my two-and-half-month holiday with Swamiji’s trip to India in November/December 2010. I left about two weeks before the first retreat and after a couple of days in Mumbai, I went to Varanasi for 8 days. I am not going to go into Varanasi right now, as it would take several chapters in itself.. But I will say: don’t miss it. After leaving Varanasi, I joined the first retreat in Kerala. It was 10 days of yoga, starting with a morning class including chanting meditation, then onto the local Kali temple morning ceremonies. Next came breakfast and Ayurvedic treatments, or time to explore and relax at Beach and Lake Resort. Then, after lunch, we had a half hour lecture from the Ayurvedic doctor on Ayurvedic medicine, then we enjoyed more spare time or a treatment. Dinner and yoga rounded out the evening. Our days were relaxed and filled with lots of extras, such as elephant rides, puja, astrology readings, boat rides, time to shop or go for excursions, and more. This got us limbered up, relaxed, and just generally feeling happy, companionable, and loving. It was also a great intro to India for those who have not been before.

We were a group of 26 and most of us continued onto Ganeshpuri for the 5 day retreat. Describing Ganeshpuri to someone who has never been is like describing the realities of becoming a parent to an expectant parent. Words cannot really describe it – you really need to experience it. The Shakti permeates the whole environment not only in the temples and places of worship but in the ground, plants, air, water, and the people. The shakti started to work on me as soon as my foot hit the ground. At first it was like, Okay, I am home and this feels so right. My Kundalini moved in a way that I had never experienced, nor could I have ever imagined the force of this awakening.

We arrived in the early evening on a Thursday – Guru Day, which is a very special day. Our intro to Ganeshpuri was the evening arati to a huge murti of Nityananda at the main temple in the town. As soon as the Brahmin priest began chanting, I slumped forward into a deep state and only came out when someone from our group shook me when it came time to receive prasad and then return back to our guesthouse.

The word “plan” has a whole different meaning in India, so our planned events changed hourly during our retreat. Our first day began at 3:30 am in the main temple with the bathing of the murti of Nityananda and his dressing, then we moved from that temple to the Shiva temple right next door for a very beautiful arati to the Shiva Lingam. We then had time to buy some flowers or a garland for Nityananda for the morning arati back at the main temple. After this, we went back to our guest house for breakfast, then walked over to the puja house owned by the main Brahmin priest for our program. This is where the plan varied depending on who happened to pop their head in to visit. But once again the chants, talks, and meditations just dropped me into a deep state. My Kundalini just kept getting stronger and less impeded by my mind, which seemed to be in a blissful stupor.

The week we arrived in Ganeshpuri another Guru, who has a large disciple following, had set up in the town square and over a loud speaker was chanting the Bhagavad Gita from early morning to the late evening, just to add a little more shakti to the place. We had the great blessing to have darshan with this Guru at a certain time. We arrived at his ashram in our finest India outfits, sat down, and waited for his arrival. He was not on time, so we chanted for about one hour. Swamiji says, if given a chance, sit with an enlightened being, so I decided to situate myself at Swamiji’s feet and she gave my back a very healthy pat. That was just like getting a jolt of electricity pulsed through me. Once the Guru finally arrived I felt as if the air, the building, everything was buzzing with scintillating light and energy. We all received darshan and then headed back to our respective guest houses for lunch.

After lunch we had more of the program at the puja house. At some point I became very hot in my body and my sacrum started to ache, and this ache just got worse. By the time we were to go for dinner, I was in so much pain I thought I would do a few poses to relieve this pain. When I got to my room I thought I would just lie down for a few minutes then get up. I hit the bed and was not conscious for another four hours. My roommates tried to wake me, even jiggled my foot, but I was gone. When I finally woke up it was obvious that I had experienced a very high temperature as I was dehydrated and sweaty. However, I felt good in that way you do after being very sick . My body temperature was still high but my sacrum felt great. I wandered up to see if I could find some water, and spoke to Swamiji about what I was experiencing and she told me I had shakti fever. The heat didn’t subside for a few more days and returned often during my Ganeshpuri stay.

I certainly burned through some stuff that day. This and the concentration of shakti led me to a 5 week stay in Ganeshpuri continuing my sadhana. I tell people I travelled to the most populated country in the world with the noisiest religion there is to find peace, calm, and surrender to the Truth. I have not lost this surrender to the Divine and I continue to be amazed by what it is I continue to experience. Ganeshpuri is a concentration of Consciousness, like the sesame seed size of concentration that resides in my heart.

Savitri Harkema

Is Yoga Hindu? Posted on February 20, 2011 by Ashram

It’s interesting that so many Americans quickly and easily refer to themselves as Buddhist, but none of the yogis I’ve ever met refer to themselves as Hindu. A fiery online dialogue took place at the Washington Post between Dr. Aseem Shukla and Dr. Deepak Chopra, both regular contributors to the paper’s On Faith blog. Dr. Shukla, an Associate Professor at the medical school at the University of Minnesota, began by denouncing the “Theft of Yoga,” saying that 20 million people in the USA gather together to practice Hindu practices, using Sanskrit terms like Namaste and pose names, but never acknowledge their source. Is yoga Hindu?

Dr. Chopra responded saying that yoga comes from India but is not inherently Hindu. This is because yoga predates the rise of Hinduism by centuries, and the foundation of yoga lies “in consciousness and consciousness alone.” In India, Dr. Chopra points out, yoga’s practices are part of a spiritual discipline with the aim being liberation.

The roots of both Hinduism and yoga lie in Sanatana Dharma. I translate this Sanskrit term as “the all pervading way,” like the way of the Tao. Most translators translate it as the “eternal religion,” but it is not a religion at all, nor is it simply eternal – it is eternal, but also all pervasive (in time and space). The all pervading way describes the way this universe is constructed, where it came from, why it exists, what our place as human beings is, and the purpose of your own life and existence. The ancient rishis dove into consciousness by exploring their own self, which (the tradition says) they were taught to do by Shiva, who is the One Reality from whom this universe comes. Describing their profound perceptions to others, the sages enumerated the multiplicity of levels that comprise this universe and how to maximize your experience of them, giving specific methodologies and techniques.

The religious practices were later entitled “Hinduism” by foreign invaders. Yoga’s traditional practices come from the same source but are used for a different purpose. Every religion shows you how to invite God into your life, by whatever name, language, form or formless approach, utilizing the methodologies of worship and prayer, contemplating teachings and stories about your specific form of God (even if it is the formless), along with precepts for living your life and staying in relationship with the divine. They all use candles, bells, flowers and fragrances (incense, perfumes, etc). Yet most people pray, “Please, dear God, give me ______ (fill in the blank).” They are asking for divine help in living a good life, whether praying for a healing, a new car, or more compassion for others.

Yoga’s powerful way of working with your body and breath is quite new in the timeline, documented only 1500 years ago, but the more traditional practices include many things that look a lot like religion: worship, prayer, precepts for living your life, contemplating teachings and stories of the Gods and sages, as well as flames, bells, flowers and incense. What’s the difference? A yogi’s prayer asks, “Please, dear God, let me know you fully, within my own being.” The prayer is based in the key principle of Sanatana Dharma: God and Self are one and the same thing. You must find God within yourself – which you find as your own Self.

So there’s a lot of difference between Hinduism and yoga, which is completely dependent on your purpose: if you are practicing it (yoga or Hinduism) for the purpose of being prettier, younger, stronger, healthier, happier, wealthier, smarter, etc – it’s religion, or worse – just another way of trying to manipulate your body and your life. If you are practicing it (yoga or Hinduism) for the purpose of knowing Truth / God / Reality within yourself, it’s yoga.

Now I’m going to tell you that, at the same time there is very little difference between yoga and Hinduism. They use common terminology (Sanskrit terms), are based in shared texts, are looking at the same realities, and have the same foundational understanding: You are the One Divine Reality, whether you know it or not. Someday you will want to know. Then you’ll be ready…

With great love,

Swami Nirmalananda