Chandigarh, June 21: As sun rose on the Capitol Complex in the North of City Beautiful on this longest day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at his best leading the celebrations on International Yoga Day, the second in the series. His total focus was on taking this ancient Indian art to raise spirit and body out of the saffron imagery. His theme was about Yoga being the best unity bond, the approach to create harmony in society. After all, he is one of the best Parcharaks that his parent organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh has produced. He talked of Yoga as the path to raise one’s personality to higher level in this very world, not in ‘parlok’. Very laudable ideas indeed.
But then the ideas have to be tested on the anvil of practice and reality.
There was another significant aspect of the mega event. On TV screens, the Capitol Complex designed by Le Corbusier looked different from the otherwise highly fortified area. The area should be thrown open to such selective functions. The function was held in the open space between The Assembly and High Court buildings, both jointly shared by Punjab and Haryana whose respective chief ministers Parkash Singh Badal and manohar Lal Khattar were present on the dais. The access to this area is restricted.
OM OM OM. The exercise started with the call from the person leading the exercise to recite OM thrice. The problem starts here.
Wikepedia explains this term in the following words:
“In Hinduism, Om is one of the most important spiritual symbols (pratima).  It refers to Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (ultimate reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge).   The syllable is often found at the beginning and the end of chapters in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and other Hindu texts. It is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during the recitation of spiritual texts, during puja and private prayers, in ceremonies of rites of passages (sanskara) such as weddings, and sometimes during meditative and spiritual activities such as Yoga”.
Here is the definition from Encyclopaedia Britannica:
“Om, in Hinduism and other religions chiefly of India, a sacred syllable that is considered to be the greatest of all the mantras, or sacred formulas. The syllable om is composed of the three sounds a-u-m (in Sanskrit, the vowels a and u coalesce to become o), which represent several important triads: the three worlds of earth, atmosphere, and heaven; thought, speech, and action; the three qualities (gunas) of matter (goodness, passion, and darkness); and the three sacred Vedic scriptures (Rigveda, Yajurveda, and Samaveda). Thus, om mystically embodies the essence of the entire universe. It is uttered at the beginning and end of Hindu prayers, chants, and meditation and is also freely used in Buddhist and Jain ritual. From the 6th century, the written symbol designating the sound has been used to mark the beginning of a text in a manuscript or an inscription.
The syllable is discussed in a number of the Upanishads (speculative philosophical texts), and it forms the entire subject matter of one, the Mandukya Upanishad. It is used in the practice of Yoga and is related to techniques of auditory meditation. In the Puranas the syllable is put to sectarian use; thus, the Shaivites mark the lingam, or sign of Shiva, with the symbol for om, whereas the Vaishnavites identify the three sounds as referring to a trinity composed of Vishnu, his wife Shri (Lakshmi), and the worshipper.”
Modi himself made highly appreciable effort to de-saffronise Yoga but the problem is with the practitioners who include recitation of OM and some Mantras in this exercise to lift both body and mind. It is the practical aspects that go against what Modi described as the path to the creation of harmonious society. For him, Yoga is the best tool towards balanced social consciousness. That is exactly what India needs as the country is characterised by diversity against the Sangh Parivar’s perception of ‘cultural unity’ that amounts to imposing cultural hegemony by violating diverse cultural sensibilities.
The official emphasis on Yoga is being perceived as religio-cultural invasion by the Saffron brigade.