Nearly five years ago in April 2001, TIME magazine did a feature titled The Power of Yoga.
A path to enlightenment that winds back 5,000 years in its native India, yoga has suddenly become so hot, so cool, so very this minute. It’s the exercise cum meditation for the new millennium, one that doesn’t so much pump you up as bliss you out.
The article feels like an “infomercial” on yoga but is worth a quick glance. (While you are there, don’t miss the brief photo essay on some yoga postures.)
Newsweek and other magazines in the US also discovered the power of yoga around the same time. Yoga, as most of us know, is essentially Indian — and more specifically — quintessentially Hindu. Shiva, the great ascetic, is also the greatest yogi. The holiest of Hindu holy books is the Bhagavat Gita, which is a record of Krishna’s tutorial on yoga to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Yoga and Hindu thought are as inseparable as high technology and American innovation. Yet these reports managed to hold forth on yoga without mentioning the word “Hindu” even once.
What brought this to mind was an email about Rajiv Malhotra’s “U-Turn theory: How the West appropriates Indian culture.” Here is an abstract:
Westerners appropriate Indic ideas through a process which Rajiv Malhotra has called the U-Turn. In its basic form the U-Turn Theory states that a member of the dominant Western culture first whole-heartedly learns the Indic tradition. He or she, for a variety of reasons, then repackages it and projects the knowledge gained from India from within his/her own culture. The next thing you know is that s/he claims these ideas were always an integral part of Western culture. Some, but not all, also start demonizing the source Indic traditions using a lot of pretexts, such as calling them “world negating” or accusing them of “human rights” abuses. As an example, Malhotra has examined on how Jung appropriated much from Indic thought – including key ideas of collective unconscious, archetypes, and synchronicity – but did the classical U-Turn from Indic thought. In all, Malhotra has done 50+ case studies of such U-Turns, and each has its own story as to why and how it was done. U-Turns have played animportant role in shaping Western ideas, literature and popular culture; yet they are typically ignored in discussions on the history of ideas. The U-Turn Theory also explains that many Indians internalize the Western adaptations of Indian culture and re-import them into India: For instance, Tantric healing is more fashionable as “energy healing” or as reiki; yoga’s return to India’s Westernized middle class owes a lot to the West’s adoption of it; and Western research on cognitive science and neuroscience includes yogis who are mere “subjects.”
Rajiv Malhotra is associated with The Infinity Foundation.
Rajiv Malhotra is a US based public intellectual whose research includes the study of Western society’s complex relationships with India. In particular, for the last ten years, he has been researching the Inner Sciences combining the Indic and Western perspectives. He has debated a variety of Western systems, such as the Science & Religion paradigms of Templeton Foundation, Ken Wilbur’s claims to Integral Psychology, Jung’s encounters with Yoga, the Christianization of Yoga, etc. In parallel, his Infinity Foundation has pioneered investigations into the Science of Consciousness at US institutions such as: University of California, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Kira Institute, MIT, Association of Transpersonal Psychology, etc. For eight years it has also had a research and teaching program on Indian Philosophy and Psychology at University of Hawaii. It also funded a pioneering non-duality curriculum Columbia University.
Infinity started the ‘Yogapsychology’ Internet discussion group of international scholars and intellectuals. Infinity has sponsored academic scholars and programs in India, such as: International Conference on Integral Psychology, Pondy (2001); National Seminar on Psychology in India, Kollam (2001); IIT Kharagpur Conference on Mind and Consciousness (2002); National Conference on Yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology, Pondy (2002); National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore (2003); Institute For Human Science & Service, Andhra University (2003-5); Indian Psychology and Yoga Conference, Pondy (2004); IIT Kharagpur Conference on Indian Theories of Death & Dying (2005). It has sponsored the research and/or publishing of various books on Consciousness and Psychology, such as: “Psychology and its Transformation, Meditation Systems of the World” (Jonathan Shear); “Kalachakratantra” (Vesna A. Wallace), “Integral Psychology of Sri Aurobindo” (Don Salmon). It is funding the development of a college textbook series on Indian approaches to Psychology. Over ten years, Infinity Foundation has given about 250 grants for research, education and philanthropy, to institutions as well as about 100 individual scholars. Mr. Malhotra was been appointed to the Asian-American Commission for the State of New Jersey, where he served as the Chairman for the Education Committee to start Asian Studies in schools. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the American Red Cross in New Jersey.