Please visit Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation by Athreya and Mouza at Springer.com

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dharma and Yoga for the Global Community

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi and Ariana,

This is the continuation of my thoughts on the need for universal justice and harmony. Dharma and yoga are the words I wish to use to express my thoughts on how to reach these goals.

Dharma and Yoga are Sanskrit words borrowed into the English language. They carried several meanings even in ancient Sanskrit literature. These meanings have expanded more with modern usage. This essay is about establishing new goals for dharma and yoga for the 21st century.

The dictionary meaning of the word Dharma includes: religion, code of conduct, law, duty and virtue. In the earlier writings Dharma is considered one of the four ends/goals of human existence. The expectation is for Dharma to be the basis, the means for acquiring the other three ends, namely wealth, desire and release from life’s bondage.

As I pointed out in my earlier essays on Dharma for the 21st century (June 16th and 26th, 2009), the strengths of the concepts of Dharma are: 1. It consists of universal principles agreed on by all cultures and traditions, such as truth-telling, not taking others property and non-violence. It does not depend upon religion or theology. 2.It does not depend upon religion or theology. 3. It is flexible in that one’s dharma (duty) varies depending on one’s position and station in life and allows for change with changing times, knowledge and trends. 4. Universal dharma does not exclude anyone as inferior or as non-believers. For these reasons, I believe that humanity should adopt these secular principles as the Dharma for the 21st century.

Let me restate the ideas for the Dharma of the 21st century from my earlier “blog”-post. These are based on the writings of Prof.Bernard Gert, a professor of moral philosophy. They are:
Don’t cause death
Don’t cause pain
Don’t cause loss of ability
Don’t cause loss of freedom
Don’t cause loss of pleasure
Don’t deceive
Don’t cheat

Keep your promise
Obey the law
Do your duty

Now, let us look at yoga with its new focus. By definition the word yoga means “uniting” or “joining” what has separated (see the similarity to yoke). As used by the originator of the concept of yoga, it is meant to signify the union of the individual soul with the universal soul (oneness with the Divine). It has taken multiple meanings, as I pointed out in my essays on meditation (2010). I suggest that we apply the concept of union to a new definition of yoga for the 21st century.

The new definition of Yoga should be more than the union of the “individual” with the “Divine” at a spiritual level. We need union at a pragmatic level also. It should be the union between reason and faith.
Reason and faith are not either/or concepts. They are like two lenses of the camera. They are like the two halves of our brain. We need both of them, for different purposes.

Let us bring about union of reason and faith and call it the yuga yoga. We already defined the meaning of yoga. The meaning of the Sanskrit word yuga can be stretched to mean an era or an epoch.

Yuga yoga will be possible only if we “unite” the basic common tenets (dharma for the 21st century, as defined earlier) within various faiths and religions. This should be the primary goal of yoga (meaning, to unite) for the 21st century.