Tag Archives: Hindu

“Too Religious” for School: Yoga Curriculum Sparks Lawsuit in Southern California

little OmToday marks the first day of trial in a lawsuit over whether yoga is a religious practice and should or should not be allowed in schools. The case of Sedlock vs. Baird, et al., has been brought by parents and guardians of children who attend an Encinitas school that includes yoga in the curriculum.

The San Diego case is generating strong opinions and emotion on both sides. It places front and center the issue of separation of church and state. While each side have their respective opinions, the trial will dig deep into the roots and origins of yoga as well as yoga as it’s practiced in the modern day. A jury of 12 citizens will decide the outcome after weighing evidence and expert testimony.

Yoga Alliance has joined YES! Yoga For Encinitas Students in preparing for and defending the case on behalf of the school district. The school district claims the yoga being taught to the students is not of a religious nature. The school’s yoga program is funded by a grant from the KP Jois Foundation. Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, also referred to as Guruji, is credited with establishing the widely practiced form of yoga known as Ashtanga.

The petitioner’s expert, a PhD and Harvard professor of religious studies, has submitted an 86-item declaration that spells out specific aspects of yoga she argues prove yoga is a religious practice.

She makes the following assertions:

  • The practices taught by the EUSD yoga curriculum promote and advance religion, including Hinduism—whether or not these practices are taught using religious or Hindu language.
  • EUSD curriculum teaches Ashtanga religious concepts of yama and niyama.
  • EUSD curriculum teaches children to play act as yogis, i.e. Hindu religious specialists.
  • EUSD curriculum teaches Sun Salutation—which represents worship of solar deity.
  • EUSD yoga includes pranayama—to prepare for samadhi (uniting with Universal).
  • EUSD curriculum includes Buddhist mindfulness meditation.
  • EUSD yoga instructors have taught children to say “Namaste” to each other while gesturing with a religiously symbolic “praying hands” position.
  • EUSD yoga instructors have taught children to sit in a “lotus” position that resembles that often used in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain meditation.
  • Hindus warn that yoga will cause Christians to adopt Hinduism. Prominent Hindu spokespersons warn that Christians who practice yoga will inevitably adopt Hindu religion.

Three experts have been retained to testify on behalf of the school district. One of the experts, a PhD and professor of Indic and comparative religion at Loyola Marymount University, submitted the following response:

  • Petitioners point to the use of “Namaste” as a religious element of the yoga program. The use of the term Namaste in the EUSD curriculum, however, would be the equivalent of greeting students in a French class by saying “Bonjour.”
  • Philosophy, mathematics, architecture, literature, the sciences: all these disciplines have their origins deep in the history of world civilizations, whether arising from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, or South America. World culture has been enriched by contributions from all these cultures. Incorporating yoga movements first practiced in India into a program of physical education is appropriate, particularly where the teachers are careful not to impose religious meaning in their classes. In my opinion, this appears to be the case with the EUSD yoga program.

A second expert on behalf of the school district, a PhD and professor at St. John’s College, supports this opinion, adding the following statement:

The Dattatreyayogasastra, an earlier text teaching hatha yoga, is clear on this matter: anyone can practice this yoga, no matter what their belief. Some believe in God (brahmins); some believe there is no God (Buddhists); some practice renunciation (ascetics); and some focus on the good to be had in this world and have no belief in a hereafter (materialists). The Dattatreyayogasastra clearly conveys that yoga was for everyone, and that it did not belong to any single religion. One can reasonably claim, in fact, that versions of yoga such as these are self-consciously non-religious, in the sense that they are not partisan to a particular metaphysics, or dogma, or set of rituals.

He compares the modern practice of yoga to the game of basketball:

Similarly, modern sport and physical culture grew up in the same cultural milieu as modern yoga. But it cannot therefore be asserted that such practices are inherently religious. For example, the game of basketball was created in the context of a religious missionary organization (the YMCA) in the same decade that modern yoga began to develop in America (1891). In my opinion, to claim that the practice of yoga techniques in secular, ecumenical, or religiously plural settings in the United States today is inherently religious is akin to claiming that college basketball is inherently religious because of its missionary Christian origins.

Whatever the outcome, both sides will have the ability to appeal the decision to a higher court.

I personally find it interesting that activities related to religious-based holidays are routinely practiced in schools without much objection. Where to draw the line on what is acceptable seems to stem largely from one’s personal perspective and comfort level.

What do you think? Share your comments below.


Photo source: Flickr

Bodybuild Like an Ancient Warrior – 5 Hilarious Exercises from the Latest Fitness Fad

Diet and fitness fads over the last few decades have run the gamut from the glamorous to the science-hyped to the new age. We seem to love whatever is fresh, hip, and destined to change our lives and bodies – and you have to hand it to fitness gurus for never lacking in ingenuity. The messaging that goes into fitness and diet programs is endlessly inspiring: “Look like a celebrity,” “get beach ready,” “feel stronger, healthier, and more beautiful.” One recent fitness trend, though, might make you stop and scratch your head… Forget looking a celebrity – how about looking like an ancient warrior?!

That’s right. This new fad in fitness and bodybuilding promises to prepare participants not for the beach or the bedroom, but rather for Spartan-style combat, minus the actual combat (we assume.) This may be inspired, in part, by recent films like 300 and Troy, but even the hunky Brad Pitt and Gerard Butler are 100% 21st century. So what do we actually know about the ancient human specimen?

Keep in mind that ancient Greek and Roman soldiers would have averaged about 5’5”, while the men of the ancient Aztec, Incan, and Mayan societies would have reached just 5′. Clearly the ideal of huge, bulky, and imposing masculinity would have been nonexistent in these cultures, or at least it would have been conceptualized in a way that fit closer with the reality of male bodies. Women likely would have been roughly the same, if slightly smaller. There were no weight-loss pills, no fancy workout machines, and no steroids. So daily activity and simple diets were the most ancient studs could hope for.

The ancient warrior model might actually be onto something, then. Forget the pills and shakes and hours on treadmills, and adopt a more active and funcional lifestyle. Consider food and eating habits with this, as well. Ancient Aztec warriors certainly wouldn’t have been eating Big Macs and chocolate cake, but instead probably meat, vegetables, and some grain. This sounds similar to the much-hyped “paleo” or “primal” diet, which has been popular among athletes but has received mixed feedback in the medical and scientific communities. But whatever fitness regimen you decide to implement, just remember that obsessive dieting is not the way to go. For any changes you make to your diet and lifestyle, be sure to do some research, consult your doctor, and ultimately do what feels right for you.

If the ancient warrior physique is what you’re after, then get started with these simple and hilariously illustrated exercises:






Illustrations by Ted Slampyak, originally published on ArtofManliness.com.

Deepak Chopra: Why Does God Allow Evil?

slide_292101_2341733_freeEvery senseless, horrific act of violence brings up the question of good versus evil, and when you read that children have died by violence – a common thread linking the Newtown shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing – there’s even more reason to shudder and doubt. In fearful times maintaining the most minimal idea of “God is good” becomes harder. If it is blasphemy for believers to think God isn’t good, it betrays humanity to let God get away with turning his back while innocents die in random acts of terror.

I don’t want to parse theology. Every faith argues for a just and merciful God, which means finding a reason why evil persists under the gaze of a loving deity. If the reasons satisfy you, you stay with your faith. If they don’t satisfy you, you may stay with your faith anyway. There are real benefits to being part of a religious community, and no one is forced to confront cosmic questions that have baffled centuries of debate.

In the aftermath of mass violence, after the horror and shock recede, all of us cobble together a truce with good and evil. But why not confront the issue head on? Our emotional revulsion against evil is powerful; it’s one of the main reasons that moral people are moral: They want to identify with good. They want to oppose evil. So where does evil come from? If we break this question down, it’s not so monolithic.

Evil has many explanations that sound plausible, each taking a different tack. Here’s a sampling.

  • In ancient India, evil is whatever leads to suffering.
  • In the Old Testament, evil is sin born of disobedience to God.
  • In the New Testament, evil is complicated, since in some gospels Jesus speaks like a rabbi promoting the Old Testament model of Satan versus God, while in other gospels evil is the absence of love. The redemption of the world, where all sin is forgiven, would abolish evil through an act of divine love.
  • In the medical model that’s usually dispersed by mass media after a violent tragedy, evil is mental illness. Bad people are sick.
  • In the minds of countless everyday citizens, evil is what “they” do, and “they” is simply defined as “not us.”

Instead of trying to settle which definition is true – a totally impossible task – I’d point out that each explanation is paired with a solution.  You can counter evil with good from any angle.

  • If evil is due to sin, the solution is not to sin.
  • If evil is whatever causes suffering, go out and relieve suffering.
  • If evil is the refusal to accept God’s love, find a way to experience that love.
  • If evil is a mental disorder, help those who are afflicted.
  • If evil is us-versus-them, remove the walls that divide us from them.

I can’t think of any explanation for evil that doesn’t imply a solution, a way for good to prevail. This, for me, is the best answer to the issue of good versus evil. It isn’t necessary to excuse God, run into the arms of militant atheism, or seek revenge as if revenge is the answer that goodness gives to evil. It isn’t. Revenge may be a lesser evil or a necessary one – every nation that wars against its enemies adopts its own justifications – but it can’t be called an absolute good like love and compassion.

In other words, I’m a pragmatist about evil, because at heart I believe in the ancient Indian definition of evil as anything that creates suffering. I don’t have to go cosmic; I only have to be useful in relieving suffering wherever I can. Where does God fit into this scheme?  He can no longer coast on his reputation. If God is good, he needs to be good here and now. Also, God can’t be a blind eye who ignores suffering, because that merely excuses our own blind eye.  Evil is a human problem, not a cosmic one. If God reaches down to help us be good, he’s part of the solution.

I realize that millions of people doubt that God does reach down. The Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, 9/11 – pick any mind-numbing episode of evil-doing and you clear the stage for rage and doubt directed against God. Wasn’t it his responsibility to save us, to protect us as a loving Father should? Sadly, that metaphor has worn out. Evil has become our sole responsibility, a pollution of the heart akin to pollutants in the atmosphere. Only after we take up the burden to foster good, even when our lower instincts howl for revenge and hatred, do we have the right to enlist God.  The divine is a hidden power, a silent voice, an invisible ally. For some people, that will never be good enough.  Our best hope are the witnesses who testify that at the most unexpected moment, what was silent and invisible suddenly manifested itself, and then God began to be clothed in reality.


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Photo credit: John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Creation, Destruction and the Paradox of Existence

Is it possible for a statement to be both true and false? Try this one:

“This statement is false.”

Makes you stop and think for a minute, doesn’t it? The above is a classic example of self-reference, a common theme of paradox. If the sentence is false, then the statement is true. See the conundrum? This world that seems so perfectly ordered by science and logic is actually entangled with ambiguity and contradiction. Things are not as they seem.

In this week’s episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra dives into the realm of paradox. As the philosopher Kierkegaard wrote, “One should not think slightingly of the paradoxical; for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without a feeling: a paltry mediocrity.” And what is life without ambiguity?

Perhaps the most obvious – and most troubling – example of contradiction in our universe is the constant tension between creation and destruction. Just as effortlessly as Nature witnesses the dawn of every new day, birthing new life and bearing fresh buds, it simultaneously wrecks havoc, destruction, and decay. We integrate this contradiction in our daily lives. Composted waste, or manure, provides the soil for our crops; animals and plants die so that others may be nourished; hearts break so that individuals may mature and grow and make room for new love.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 2.56.44 PMIt is a hard reality to face, but one that nonetheless provides the balance for our existence. And it is reflected in many religious and spiritual traditions around the world, as well. Just look at the god of the Bible, who creates all of heaven and earth, but also occasionally sanctions floods and plagues. In Hinduism, the god Shiva is at once the kind benefactor and the fierce destroyer. In ancient Greek mythology, Apollo was the god of light, knowledge and healing, but he also had a vengeful heart and could just as quickly bring illness and hardship. Perhaps “holy” doesn’t mean perfect or pure but instead complex, full of mystery and contradiction.

Are you comfortable with the paradox of existence? Can something be both funny and tragic? What happens if Pinocchio says, “My nose will grow now”?

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and stay tuned for more trips down The Rabbit Hole with Deepak Chopra!

Extreme Devotion: Does baby tossing ritual cross the line?

What is the most “extreme” thing you’ve done for your faith?

If, for example, you alter your body in some way or fast for days on end, that’s one thing. Once you involve someone else in your devotion, though, things start to get fuzzy. In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores some of more extreme spiritual practices around the world, including a particularly alarming festival involving babies.

In this 700 year old tradition, practiced every year in Karnataka, India by Hindus and Muslims alike, parents hand their infants over to priests, who swing the youngsters back and forth before dropping them 30 feet off of a balcony. Men standing below hold a blanket taut in which to catch the screaming babies before returning them to their mothers. Devotees believe the ritual to bring the babies prosperity and good health, though children’s rights organizations around the world decry the practice as “barbaric.” And it seems a rather life-threatening thing to do for the sake of “health.”

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 11.37.36 AMApart from the perhaps obvious problem with dropping babies off of balconies, there’s also the issue of forcing one’s devotion on another person. Is it okay for one person to engage another in their extreme and dangerous act of devotion, particularly if that other person is an innocent baby with no autonomy and no way of consenting? Maybe parents know what’s best for their children, physically and spiritually, but it would be interesting to get the baby’s perspective, especially when his or her life depends on a bunch of men with a blanket 30 feet below.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well to stay posted on more strange and amazing episodes on “Holy Facts”!

India is a Smorgasbord of Spirituality

At the end of last year I returned from my second trip to India, in awe of how Indians manage to live every day in a spiritual way despite the organized chaos of a country with 1 billion people. I visited Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Rohet, Varanasi, Goa, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Bengaluru. Although 82% of the population is Hindu, I would say they are 100% open-minded to the powers of energy and the planets.

My favorite experience of the trip was the temple visits, which included a red string blessing followed by a red bindi dot prayer placed strategically on my forehead. When I asked, “why does everyone have a red spot on their forehead?” I was told it reminds others to visit the temple and receive their own blessing. It didn’t seem to matter whether a person was Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Christian, everyone aligns themselves with a higher power. I learned that India has many ways to reach the divine.

Ganesh Shrine in KolkataThroughout the country it is common to see taxi shrines, rickshaw shrines, street shrines, shop shrines and personal shrines in every home. Many Indians believe in the oneness of the universe and in one grand almighty power. Their gods and goddesses are merely representations of specific energies to give them a focus. While visiting the temples, I saw many beautiful shrines and places of worship.

Based on that journey, I would like to share with you four tips for how to create and activate your own spiritual space:

  1. Pick your favorite statue as your focal point. I like Buddha for meditation and happiness, Ganesh for removing obstacles and prosperity, Lakshmi to attract wealth, Saraswati for creativity, or Quan Yin to empower feminine energy.
  2. Pick a location. On your car dashboard or hanging from your rear view mirror protects you while driving. At your desk empower business. At your entryway invites positive blessings.
  3. Activate it. Light incense like sandalwood or frangipani to release your prayers to the heavens. A magic candle (from my Signature Collection of course) sends out specific prayers. A strand of magical Rudraksha beads placed around your statue emits positive vibrations. Crystals are powerful as well as magical objects with personal significance you brought back from your travels.

I learned throughout my travels that India has many lessons to teach and many paths to follow. At the end of the day it’s about finding your own true journey and creating your own sacred space.

photo by: Koshyk

Tame and Train the Monkey Mind

In India one day after I’d just bought a bag full of luscious mangoes and bananas, a huge monkey rushed me, ripped through the plastic bag with his big claws and stole my fruit. It happened so fast that I stood and stared. I wasn’t a match for the aggressive monkey. A few men ran after the monkey, but it sat a few feet away undaunted and ate the mangoes. I couldn’t help but laugh at the surprise attack. I picked up what was left and carried on. In Asia monkeys are a common sight. They waver and wander around and in the worst of cases they reek terrible damage. If windows are left open, they may climb in and destroy anything that amuses them. This is also the way of the wayward mind. When it’s untamed and untrained it goes about doing what it pleases. When we let it be in charge rather than taking charge of it, the consequences can be frightening. The Hindus and Buddhists refer to taming and training the mind. This is the aim of meditation practices. They help us to learn how to focus and concentrate. I like to begin with focusing on a candle flame or a flower or a beautiful object. During the day, make an effort to pay attention to the mind. When it wanders away like a monkey, bring it back gently to focus on the task at hand.


Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011). She is devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life.  Debra leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the world and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. Find out more at:http://awakeintheworld.com and http://www.debramoffitt.com . Read more at Debra’s Beliefnet.com blog Awake in the World at: http://blog.beliefnet.com/awakeintheworld/

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Masashi Mochida

The Festival of Holi: A Celebration of Color — A Vision of Unity and Love


Festival of Holi: A Celebration of Colors — A Vision of Unity and Love





This weekend, millions of jubilant people in India and other countries are celebrating the Festival of Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors. Holi is one of the most significant festivals in Hindu society, though people of all faiths are welcome to participate. The dates of the festival are determined by the lunar calendar, and take place late February to mid March on the full moon day known as “Phalgum Purnima”.


The Festival of Holi heralds the arrival of spring with a burst of vibrant colors. Holi also celebrates the triumph of good over evil and symbolizes harmony, unity and love. During Holi, people attend parties and family gatherings and greet each other by applying tilak on the person’s forehead. Bonfires are built the evening before and elaborate feasts are served, but color is the primary element of this unique celebration. 


Participants gleefully anoint each other with brightly colored powders known as “Abeer” or “Gulal” and colored waters sprayed with Pichkaris and balloons. Older people bless younger ones by rubbing pink Abeer on their foreheads. Younger ones show respect by smearing Abeer on their feet. People stand in the streets shouting "Holi-hai! Holi-hai!" raining colored water or powder on anyone who passes by. There is no restriction and no "class distinction" during Holi. On this day, everyone is the same.  Everyone is equal. Everyone is participating in the game.


Today I have found myself daydreaming about Holi, wishing I could participate in this spectacular idea. How magnificent it would be to wake to a world in technicolor, knowing everyone I meet today will recognize us as equal and One. How glorious to express the truth of us so vividly and explicitly — brilliant prisms of joyful energy reflecting the full spectrum of the Divine! Not one of us better. Not one of us lesser. No one irrelevant. And No one left out. All of us luminous, in every color, arm in arm, and following our bliss.


Holi-hai! Holi-hai! Holi-hai!


For stunning festival photos click below: 






Kimberly King, President & CEO

The Peace Company & Peace Leadership Institute



Julia Roberts Forgoes Botox and Practices Hinduism

In filming the movie adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, actress Julia Roberts did all three, especially prayed. Upon her return from the set in India, she revealed to her family and friends that she is now a practicing Hindu
"I’m definitely a practicing Hindu," Roberts said in this month’s issue of Elle magazine. On the subject of reincarnation, she said, "Golly, I’ve been so spoiled with my friends and family in this life. Next time I want to be just something quiet and supporting."


The 42-year-old actress also opened up about aging gracefully. "It’s unfortunate that we live in such a panicked, dysmorphic society where women don’t even give themselves a chance to see what they’ll look like as older persons," she said. "I want to have some idea of what I’ll look like before I start cleaning the slates."
Roberts added that you wouldn’t see her injecting her forehead with Botox any time soon. She wants her children "to know when I’m pissed, when I’m happy, and when I’m confounded. Your face tells a story … and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office."
With this newfound outlook, maybe we should all eat, pray and love?

Written by Kathryn Wilson for Tonic.com

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