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“Swami Ramdev”: An encounter with Yoga Guru, his disciples inside the Patanjali Empire

The Swami who started his journey from Haridwar on a cycle has now chosen the vehicle of choice to galore his aspirations

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Baba Ramdev and PM Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

August 17, 2016: It was in 2006 when I first met Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev. He was in the D-block of Patanjali Phase-1 ashram in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. The ashram was commissioned in the same year and Swami Ramdev was in a hurry. His Yoga exposure was touching the sky and his fellow Acharya Balkrishna was fully engaged with Ayurveda with a back support of their third trusted ‘classmate’ Swami Muktanand. This trio has a distinct combination. One is from Haryana, another is born in Haridwar and the third one belongs to West Bengal. Swami Muktanand is one of a hidden gem, who never talks to outsiders.

Today for Ramdev, the prefix of Swami/ Baba has gone behind when the saint sat in Ramlila Maidan and showed his political interest in full glow. Ramdev’s presence in media has given him enough perception power to garner or fetch desirable results. The Swami who started his journey from Haridwar on a cycle has now chosen the vehicle of choice to galore his aspirations. Ramdev was a skilful seller, in the start he convinced a Delhi-based businessman to give him a rational amount to make some medicines for Northeast states. This was the first deal.

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Swami Ramdev never hides his muscles. He can walk fast in his khadua (wooden sandals) and he still sleeps in his 10×10 room without AC. He uses strictly Indian brands of mobile phone, cars, SUV and only drinks Indian mineral water, especially when he is outside. He was literally without water for hours in Vietnam, I offered him a foreign brand mineral water and he told me it’s a foreign brand. He may forget the taste of rice and pulses because he eats fruits and milk only. His life has many dimensions, he wakes up at 4am and does yoga for two to three hours, in the starting he himself sat for hours to edit his TV shows; he is like a curious child to learn any new things and he never shy of his ignorance. Once he recites a sloka to me, which is 15 minutes long. His memory is sharp and never forgets names. He never shies to talk to ‘anyone’ in front of you.

Patanjali Yogpeeth. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Patanjali Yogpeeth. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The acumen and vision of Swami Ramdev that has started with the aspiration to control powers in every stream is phenomenal. When the whole world has seen his transition from Sanskar & Aastha to many News Channels, he strategically bought both channels to control the religious landscape. This was a sharp move, though the lesser-known fact is that he also bought a Jain religious channel Arihant in the bouquet. He rechristened the group as Vedic Broadcasting. This move has given him a big edge. It’s a known fact that the revenue of these religious channels comes from the saints and their Katha organisers. Now Swami Ramdev is a power player, who is also cajoling with the business community, who is somehow functional to many religious events. His name becomes synonymous with Yoga and subconsciously for religion and spirituality.

Swami Ramdev knows politics. It always boosts his goals. When Vrinda Karat raises the issue of human bone in his medicines and later a medicine named, Putrajeevak, raised eyebrows, he beautifully narrates his point and garners a proper interest in the medium class. His fights with celebrities always make him more big and boastful. His art to navigate political boats, take him too many and finally make him a loyal supporter of the current government.  Swami Ramdev openly told many times in past that he has inclinations towards politics. Even he planned to launch a political party, but later he understands the fire and its bruises.

It’s an open fact that Swami Ramdev was not very loved in the religious city of Haridwar, his ashram is also on the outskirts.  The way he has become a phenomenon was always seen as a gimmick. Even the biggest name of Yoga, BKS Iyengar was never fond of his practices. He has serious differences on Kapalbhati. He lamented that “his selling of Kapalbhati is corrupting Patanjali’s Yoga”.  But today Patanjali is synonymous with the brand Baba has created.

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When one meets Acharya Balkrishna, he offers a lot of things to eat. All are prepared in his factories and are ayurvedic. Balkrishna is fond of physical exercise and has a keen eye for details.  He loves to travel and he spends a lot of time in the Himalayas. His passion of Ayurveda can amaze you, but he loves control. His special bonding with Swami Ramdev grows because of the mutual trust and understanding of the goals, they both designed long back.

Swami Ramdev was the right person at the right time. His mission has synced with the nationalistic feelings of the dispensation. His vision is to become a dominant brand with the national presence of pride. His nationalistic aspirations today make him a new avatar of bharat putra. In few years he may dance on his music, but his real test was when he beat the odds and become a non-politically effective brand.

– by Bhavya Srivastava, a freelance contributor. He is a member of International Association of Religion Journalists and can be contacted at Twitter: @MeBhavya

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Next Story

Westerners Adopt Indian Practices, Deny Giving Due Credits

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument.

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Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to protect our own heritage and Dharma. Hindu Council Of Australia

By Shashi Holla (WA) and Surinder Jain

Colonial or a white supremacy mind set may be clever enough to adopt Hindu practices but denies giving credit where it is due. Stealing Hindu Intellectual Property, they do not hesitate to rename and repackage so that they can sell it back to India for immense profits. Off course, they will leave no chance to tell Indians to stop their superstitious ways and to adopt the new scientific knowledge which “they” have “invented”.

Following has been already digested or appropriated by West. Some of the Western academics don’t believe that they belong to India.

Yoga Nidra   AS  Lucid Dreaming

Nadi Shodhana AS Alternate Nostrils Breathing

Vipassana  AS Mindfulness.

The latest addition to this list is

Pranamyam AS Cardiac Coherence Breathing

Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders.[29] But the latest attempt has taken the appropriation too far. An American magazine “Scientific American” in its article titled “Proper Breathing Brings Better health” termed “Pranayama” as cardiac coherence breathing. (15 January 2019). The article gives us an idea about how West is so sophisticated in stealing knowledge from ancient cultures particularly Hinduism.

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Man doing Yoga. Wikimedia Commons

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā.[11] According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyāma is translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”, also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.[12] Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[14][15] Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice.[16] Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.[18]

“Pranayama” a department of Yogic science practiced and documented 5000 years back ( even 15,000 years back) by Rishis is not even acknowledged by the author of the article. If one read the article they vaguely suggest that breathing exercises also existed in China, Hindu and in Greek culture.  This is how appropriation of ancient techniques takes place by West.  As Sankrat Sanu an entrepreneur, researcher and writer put it in his tweet “after erasing the origin they claim it as their own invention, attack original traditions as Superstition”.

As famous Indian American Author Rajiv Malhotra summarizes: “The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”. Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to  protect our own heritage and Dharma.

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The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”.  Pixabay

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument. West has created an eco system and mechanism in which their knowledge system is Well protected and patented by international norms. Unless West does not give a new name and fits into their framework native wisdom is not recognized in academia and media. Whereas Hindus were generous in sharing their health techniques freely from millennium never thought they will struggle in proving things which belong to them. In fact in a westernized framework of Yoga and other techniques Indian scholars, insiders and practitioners are blatantly ignored. So our own knowledge will be repackaged and exported back to us at an extra price and conditions.

Also Read: Climate Change Will Melt Vast Parts of Himalayas: Study

Many of our practices are being called to be Biofeedback systems. According to WikipediaBiofeedback systems have been known in India and some other countries for millennia. Ancient Hindu practices like yoga and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are essentially biofeedback methods. Many yogis and sadhus have been known to exercise control over their physiological processes. In addition to recent research on Yoga, Paul Brunton, the British writer who travelled extensively in India, has written about many cases he has witnessed. (Hindu Council Of Australia)