I am responding to the recent news that Alabama Legislature has decided to continue banning “Yoga” in schools on religious grounds. While I may agree that yogic exercise may not belong in schools, banning it on religious grounds has no merit.
Yogic exercises are supposed to establish control over body and mind. When the word is used in spiritual context, there are prefixes attached to the word to indicate what the practitioner is trying to achieve, like Dhyan-yoga (Exercise in Meditation), Karma-yoga (Efficiency at work) etc. Yes, these exercises do come from Hindus, but not from the religion of Hindus. The yogic exercises taught are purely for body and mental health and confer no spiritual value.
Similarly, “Namaste” a common greeting by Hindus and Buddhists, is misinterpreted. Most people may not even know the meaning of the word and use it to say “Hello.” Namaste means, “Obeisance to you,” which is objectionable to many Christians, who believe that they must bow only to God. Hindus and followers many other religions, including some Christians also, believe that God is in every being. The Bible says humans are made in the image of God. It also says, ..behold, Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17-21) Jesus has said, “I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.” (John 14-20). So, it is not a breach in religious belief, because we are really bowing to the God within.
Unfortunately, yoga and Namaste are not the only ancient Sanskrit words that are maligned. Nazis, by glorifying the words “Aryan” (Respected person) and the symbol, Swastika (Sign of universal happiness), defamed them.