Thoughts on Yoga

Why does the west insist upon creating a world of yoga arts that is so different from the Indian expressions it claims to come from? If there are already Indian communities in diasporas, and temples associated with them in almost every major city in the western world, why is it that western practitioners do not turn to those centers for kirtan and other such spiritual practices? It is, as so many are claiming, a form that comes from Indian roots, and if the roots are there, why not go to them?

These are difficult questions to answer but I want to begin by our incessant need in the west to commodify. Because everything in the west has been framed under the capitalist condition, value rests on the sole feat of commodification. The entrepreneur is glorified in the west, and the new is sacred, but to sell that “new” is the ultimate state of achievement. We cannot seem to escape this condition. Yoga simply fits into this equation just as any other new product, and because Indian temples in the U.S. do not offer this commodification, the west has to create their own world to fit their needs of a specific market. Without this in place, yoga and the arts associated with it would have no value.

There are other ways to answer these questions and each gives us different insights into the psychology of the yoga economy. There is an addiction in the west to the simulacrum (the definition of simulacra according to Baudrillard is a representation of something that has no original, or a copy of something that does not exist) which, in regards to the yoga community is a condition that the yoga teacher and the kirtan singer stem from; it is a condition not unlike the epidemic of reality T.V. The simulacrum of reality T.V. pervades the audience in all directions, because the representation of the real is not truly the real, as it was not constructed from any place of true representation. It was rather, constructed by the producers and investors from a place of marketing, to look real; it is then transformed into the “hyperreal.” The reality T.V. show is sold as something that is, “More real than the real, [and] that is how the real is abolished” (Baudrillard 81). Hence, the hyperreal. What I am saying here is that we are addicted to the hyperreality that creates the simulacrum in the came way that we are addicted to the necessity to commodify. The yoga world (or economy) has neatly fit all elements involved in their bhakti driven market economy into these addictions. The yoga teacher and the kirtan singer are hyperrealities of something that has no original. How can the products of yoga being born out an entirely new system of thought be a representation of something other than that system of thought?

That system of thought, as I have explained throughout this paper is, the system of commodity and simulacra, where fetishes, like that of music, are born out of this system. The system has imploded on itself, where it does not even have the ability to recognize itself as distinct from the original, that is the system of thought that bhakti originally sprang forth from in India. “Strictly, this is what implosion signifies. The absorption of one pole into the other, the short-circuiting between poles of every differential system of meaning, the erasure of distinct terms and oppositions, including that of the medium and of the real–thus the impossibility of any mediation, of any dialectical intervention between the two or from one another” (Baudrialld 83). These poles can be described as two systems of thought, one side being the original system that gave birth to the bhakti movement, and the other side being the system that has now taken a hold of the bhakti movement. This new system transformed the meaning of bhakti by its very roots, and consequently imploded the whole system into itself because of the marketing. Bi-products of this system are the simulacrum in all corners of the yoga world.

As described before, the postmodern condition exists because of a rift or a gap occurring somewhere in history. As Frederic Jameson describes it in his book, Postmodernism, it is sometimes referred to as the end of something, that is, the end of history, the end of art, the end of ideology. I am arguing that bhakti and the yoga world must start looking at itself through the lens of the postmodern and admit that the system they belong to has created “the end of bhakti.”

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