By - ABC Religion Blog
All questions that can be extrapolated to discussion of other ‘derived’ practices and disciplines.
The Hindu American Foundation is interested in having yoga (as practiced in the West) recognised as a spiritual practice of the Hindu tradition. It sponsored a PWR panel session called : Practising Yoga: Covert Conversion to Hinduism or the Key to Mind-Body Wellness for All. In Malaysia the National Fatwa Council thinks it is the former: in November 2008 it issued advice that yoga is inherently Hindu, so Muslims should not do it.
However, the PWR panel included Dr Amir Farid Isahak, a medical practitioner and the Chairman of Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship Malaysia: he said there was no problem, provided a Muslim understood what they were getting into. His Holiness Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami (publisher of Hinduism Today) remarked that if you have the root of Hinduism, then the stem is Hinduism, and the flower is Hinduism. Another panellist, Professor Christopher Key Chapple, explained that yoga had traces of Jain and Buddhist elements in it too.
The Moderator of this session, Rev Ellen Grace O’Brian, runs the Centre for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, California. Rev O'Brian said that yes, yoga had Vedic origins, and she certainly draws on the Patanjali Sutra, though at her centre they taught it as a spiritual practice for people of all religious backgrounds. Thus, at her Sunday morning ‘services’ she wears a stole like a minister. She offers a Winter Solstice Mass and at her Christmas Eve noon service , ‘with the beautiful ritual of the burning bowl’ they’ll make offerings of frankincense.
So, more questions: who really owns a tradition? And what is the fate of Hinduism when its offspring takes off, as yoga has done in the West? And finally, what happens to traditions when they encounter each other not at their respective centres, but at points a long way distant from those meaningful core places?