Not Just Yoga, The West Doesn’t Seem to Respect Anything

I can think of few if any subjects, no matter how reverent or sensitive, that aren’t Mocked in the West


I didn’t really start this project to rant, but I saw an article today that made me inclined to do so. Essentially, it lamented the disrespect the West has for yoga. From my perspective though, the West has not much respect for anything.

Now at this point, I feel compelled to define “West”, because clearly I cannot speak for an entire hemisphere. Nonetheless, when we converse regarding large groups, it is not uncommon to speak in all-encompassing terms. My cultural perceptions, having been formed by this venue of the United States, will reflect my  region’s particulars.  I use the term Dharma in reference to my spiritual community which is an Eastern derivative.

Mahashivarathiri  – Mighty Lord Shiva. The first yoga. The Adi Yogi.

The story in question deals with disrespect for yoga, and somewhat by default, Hinduism in general. The writer claims to have come to the conclusion while doing “yoga” that Lord Shiva is a “weird one with a bad attitude.” He goes on to further describe Goddess Lakshmi as having “great curves”, and Lord Vishnu as a “bad ass”.  The premise of the entire piece seems to be that he (the writer) would rather be a householder than a warrior, because householders actually maintain society, leaving people like Lord Shiva to behave like “adolescents.”

Vishnu is the preserver and protector of the universe.

The author of the above article may have the best of intentions for promoting yoga, and actually admire the deities of  whom he speaks so impiously.   Yet without any deference to them, his entire approach seems nothing more than misdirected sneering. I inferred from his flippant  descriptions that he feels completely on  par with the cosmic forces of the world. Perhaps he does feel such, and has no problem with equating his house-hold

 duties with Lord Vishnu’s in maintaining the world.  Certainly, there are many Hindus who don’t take the stories of the cosmic trinity literally. However considering  that yoga is a spiritual practice, and that one of the deities he derides is considered by some to have invented the science, a bit of deference might be in order.

Attitudes like this are what help reduce tradition to comedy. It is easier to make light of someone else’ beliefs, but would he refer to Lord Jesus as a bad ass and Mother Mary with curves? Probably so, since in the West it is completely acceptable to make light of tradition, especially spiritual tradition. Considering that we don’t honor our own, either secular or spiritual, it is improbable that those who shape pop culture, (which usually becomes tradition in its own right), can see the value in honoring another’s.

Many Westerners do not realize that yoga is actually a multi layered spiritual practice. To them, the deities have no meaning at all and the story above would not be offensive in the least. That is what happens when a society that does not hold anything sacred within its own confines migrates to  other grounds. The lack of homage comes with them.

The science of yoga has many aspects, of which aside from religious environs is hardly even mentioned much less studied. That makes it all the more ripe for ridicule and distortion.  Western culture is all about fun. Yoga to us is fun, discipline is not. So we have removed the concept of discipline, enhanced the fun aspect and placed religious connotations  adjacent to any other number of other frivolous pop cultural absurdities, ripe for satire.  Meanwhile, the money purveyors cash in on the mania and invent “must haves” for the privileged who adorn themselves in the latest chick paraphernalia  for the fun. The “science” then takes on its own life, morphing into strange variations so far remote from the original prototype as to be completely unrecognizable.

Christopher Jackson, in a blog for The Huffington Post contends that “Religion may have been undermined in the Western world in recent decades, particularly in Western Europe, but its still viewed with far too much respect, largely because its still viewed as something its not.

Religion is not the same as race, gender or sexual orientation; its a choice, something people choose to be. Criticizing religion or being against is not, in any way, tantamount or equivalent to being racist, sexist or homophobic” <>

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife and shakti (energy) of Vishnu.

Religion, one could argue, is more than race or gender. For many, it is the very essence of who they are.  To them it transcends these external identifiers because their spiritual beliefs define why not only  they, but this entire universe exist. Saying that it is okay to disrespect sacred ideals, particularly those honoring tradition, or revered beliefs, shows a mean-spirited inability to respect those who believe differently than you. One can also argue that Jews and Hindus are an ethnic group. An ethnic Jew or Hindu could correctly proclaim that by insulting their Gods, you insult their ethnicity. Many spiritual and religious people (fundamental extremists not withstanding) are of the turn-the-other-cheek variety, and because of this, bullies like Jackson feel free to strike without retaliatory fear.

Since Jackson has ruled out race, gender and orientation as fair game for aggressive humor, there are not many categories left. One may assume he and his ilk live their lives in search of victims to heckle or satirize. Needless to say, in light of the current anti-religious climate, I feel that such  behavior will worsen before it improves. In the West it seems that there is absolutely nothing sacred. Nothing escapes the long reach of satire. Even those with physical disabilities are not unscathed. When the candidate for the highest office in the United States horribly mocked such a reporter, it did not seemingly impact his ratings at all. Any topic is fodder for ridicule, and any religion is fodder for disdain.

Extreme zealots of Christian and Islamic extraction are in large part at fault, as is any group who takes away the rights of others to glorify their own concept of God. They are as culpable as those whose mockery hurts people who just want their deities respected.

Hinduism is especially known as a peaceful and non-violent religion. The very essence of yoga is about such. The Hindu mantra is basically live and let live. The Huffington Post is one of the gurus, so to speak, of pop culture, and that they would sanction attitudes like those expressed by Jackson is a sure indicator that this is the accepted wave of socially accepted journalistic behavior..

If the extremist would keep their rigidity from my law books, and the comics would stop offending my deity sensitivities, we could live in a better place. Religious people have as much right to live free from harassment and as do LGBT, gender and racial groups. No one should relegate my divine beings to buffoonery solely because a few extremist annoyed them.

Yoga is a serious part of Hinduism, and perhaps when the first messengers came here from India and shared the asanas they should have been more adamant as to how  sublime it is. Perhaps then this kind of disrespect would have been avoided, but we will never know. What we have is now, and it is now that we must defend our dharma.

Shiva Photo – mclebon Manuel Lebon Anzola Instagram

Lord Vishnu

Goddess Lakshmi Wikimedia Commons

yoga books

5 Replies to “Not Just Yoga, The West Doesn’t Seem to Respect Anything”

  1. While it is absolutely wrong to paint everyone with the same brush, any attempt to dilute or camouflage the subject is also incorrect. We the people of a particular community or society or race etc etc with our actions define the general outlook as well as the image of the same. Mr. Trump has made few geographically influencing and dependent decisions. Would that mean those geographical areas have nothing good in them? If so why Mr. Trump made those changes.

    BTW, what is modernity? Should I consider the practitioners of Yoga are not modern

  2. What you say may be true in certain areas but certainly it is not true as a whole. I know many people from the West who are life long devotees and new seekers from a multitude of different traditions which transcends ordinary respect itself. Its a complex dynamic to integrate two cultures, there are different cultural, intellectual and psychological values in both the East and West, in both their finer and most refined aspects I think we have a powerful model for the modern world once fully integrated.

    We also have to look at how certain teachers have taught and are still teaching Yoga.

    I am saying its not as black and white as your saying, and there are plenty of people in the West that have sincere respect and genuine tendencies to learn about Yoga in the right way.

    If the right balance is found there could be a new powerful model that retains the original essence.

    I think we need to replace the word West with Modernity.

  3. What you call disrespect, Mystical Soul, the West calls liberty!

    I am completely with you … there is a verse in Bhagavad Gita, one of my favourite verses

    Those envious, cruel, evil, lowest of mankind verily I hurl perpetually into the cycle of birth and death into the wombs of the demoniac.


    1. Thank you for your feed back. She was not mentioned in a defamatory way in the article so that is why she was not specifically included.

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