Political, Social Justice not Yoga
Updated: Jan 21
'Yoga is Political’ and ‘Yoga is Social Justice’. Something about combining a philosophy that is about 'yuj' with that which is divisive in nature. This does not resonate with me. It is a western concept and to view it through that lens can further divide a community and the practice of yoga. Politics and Social Justice comes with certain policies, judgments and when the outcome is not in favor of your choice.. then it creates long lasting wounds.
“Ultimately, the challenges of the 21st century can't be met without collective action. Agreement will almost never be easy, and results won't always come quickly. But I am committed to respecting different points of view, and to forging a consensus instead of dictating our terms... That's how we will advance and uphold our ideals” Barack Obama
Yoga is a philosophy which can be defined in different ways according to the different scriptures. The most common definition is to yoke body mind with jivatma (individual soul) and paramatma (universal soul). Prakriti (matter) with Purusha (spirit).
Bhagvad Gita Chapter 2 verse 48
yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañjaya siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā samatvaṁ yoga uchyate
Despite extreme circumstances like birth and death, pleasure and pain, respect and disrespect, or within the current atmosphere maintaining a balance state of mind is yoga.
Bhagvad Gita Chapter 2 verse 50
buddhi-yukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛita-duṣhkṛite tasmād yogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kauśhalam
When we skillfully and selfishly immerse our heart and soul into what we do with equanimity and without any attachment to the action/work then we are in a state of yoga.
Now when I think of politics and social justice it brings up all kinds of mixed emotions and attachments. There is division, strong personal, biases/views, policies, judgments, agendas, racism etc. We are living in a divided world fueled by individual and global judgments and policies. Imposing rules on how one should act, behave and think. This is not yoga.
The balance has tipped in favor of western values, ideas, history and perspectives. The culture of calling out, policing, shaming and creating even more separation are nothing more than actions based on political and social injustice values and ideas. This has nothing to do with yoga.
In order to highlight these issues, we desperately need platforms that are safe, open and free from bullying and harassment. Spaces where voices irrespective of gender, color, heritage can be heard. Views that are objective while respecting different opinions. This enriches collective harmony and better equips us to create the change we want to see.
For this to take place we need to explore our relationship not only individually but collectively. What is that core essence that will align us towards our moral values and right actions for healing? It is none other than Dharma- these are ethics, duties behaviors and virtues that will sustain personal and social harmony. Now what is that, that can and will connect us to Dharma?
None other than Yoga... it invites deep introspection. Yoga is that practice which peels away at our ingrained biases. Yoga is that lifelong spiritual practice which reminds us of our right actions and relationships to our community, environment and with the self.
So... It is NOT Yoga that is political or social justice but Dharma. Without Dharma our actions are misplaced. Without Dharma there is no focus. Without Dharma our individual and collective consciousness remains buried and without Dharma there can be no social justice.
Chapter 18 verse 47
śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
svabhāva-niyataṁ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣham
It is better to do one’s own dharma, even though imperfectly, than to do another's dharma, even though perfectly. By doing one’s innate duties, a person does not incur sin.
Image Credit : Detechter