“Yoga should be a part of our education system”
HR Nagendra is the director of the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), a premier yoga research university in the world. He is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s yoga consultant, and is the chairman of the central committee for the International Day of Yoga on June 21. News Editor Ashok Kumar talks about the yoga’s relevance in 21st century. Excerpts:
The first World Yoga Day was celebrated on June 21, 2015, worldwide overwhelmingly and you played a major role to make it successful. What was your experience while conducting such a mega event? How can yoga reach common people? How does it benefit public?
The greatest contribution of India to the world’s cultures and thoughts is yoga. And it is our cultural heritage. Earlier, at a snail’s pace, the world was drifted towards various types of yogas, but after the wonderful speech of PM Narendra Modi on yoga in United Nation Organisation, dramatically peoples’ perceptions have changed regarding yoga worldwide. The International Day of Yoga (IDY) has been approved by 177 countries in the UNO, which was a record in the history of the UNO. PM Modi is very passionate to spread yoga throughout the world through IDY event. And it presents the importance of Indian culture in front of others at large. Shri Modi created a new ministry Ayush by dividing Ministry of Health, which shows his commitment towards yoga and Ayurveda. Shri Modi once called me after setting up the ministry and said the yoga day programme is not only a government programme but also a programme of every Indian citizen. And fortunately, everybody helped us bring all the yoga masters of different countries on one platform. The essence of yoga does not limit only to asanas, it has prayers, sankalp, pranayama, etc. And it is a holistic approach of bhakti yoga, karma yoga, gyana yoga, what Vivekananda first coined for the betterment of human beings. The first International Day of Yoga was the biggest event of such kind, according UNESCO. So, yoga should be a part of our educational system. It should not be for informational gathering about yoga. It must be practical, where children’s behaviours can modify, which will morally boost the children. It is a man-making machine, which can transform India again into being the leader of the world. Our HRD Minister Smriti Irani should bring yoga-focused educational policies for reaching out to every citizen and institution of India. NCERT has already launched three books on yoga, and it is a welcome step. The government has taken all possible efforts to bring yoga to the forefront. It is a big boost to our country, thanks to the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the beginning, when he found that the things are not moving as fast as he wanted, he called the Cabinet Secretary to expedite the preparations. Similarly, he told the Minister of External Affairs to mobilise people at the world level. The major challenge that we all had was to develop a common protocol. For this, we consulted with various yoga gurus. Following their suggestions, we decided to have only simple practices so that even the foreigners, who do not know yoga at all, can also do it easily. We also decided to make it comprehensive involving different asanas, pranayam, meditation, etc. We also went through many of our traditional texts. Based on all these consultations and deliberations, we developed a common protocol having a 35-minute programme, involving different components.
Recently, 40 odd Central universities came forward to support us, which will help lakhs of students, which will infuse into them healthcare awareness. India has a lot of good yoga instructors; they can explore yoga at big time. Only thing is the government must identify them and they should be provided with some basic teaching over a common yoga practice. Not only the east but also the west will take benefit from it, if they follow the Indian culture.
Yoga practice helps you move toward God, if you want to call it God, or if you want to call it pure consciousness. People call it moksha Vedanta. Moksha means infinite freedom,
freedom from all tensions, stresses, diseases, bondage of the mind, bondage of emotions. For example, from the time of getting up in the morning till the time you sleep in the night, you go on thinking and thinking. This is the bondage. This is the slavery. Can you tell your mind to keep quiet? It won’t keep quiet. This is slavery, which we are all in. Yoga tells your mind to keep quiet.
Why do you think yoga should be included in education? Even after 69 years of independence, 40 per cent India’s children are illiterate. In this case, do you think yoga is relevant issue for them?
First we have to understand between the British education system and the Gurukul system. The intellectual education with holistic approach has declined in our current education policy. Although we read mathematics, sciences and many things, but man-making ability in our education system has ceased to exist. We have to revive these things through yoga, which is our goal.
Today’s students are studying arts, commerce and science, where do you exactly want to introduce this yoga course? What is the advantage of it?
If we will see the higher education scenario of India as compared with global standard education, it does not come even at 100th position. There is no comparison between our infrastructure and resources in educational institutions with that of the western countries. And we know India cannot spend its resources on education like that of USA, Britain, etc, which has some shortcomings. Their educational policies look for physical development, and it is well known that it has lot of bad consequences like stress, health hazards, etc. Moreover, the value of humans’ life has deteriorated. So, in this scenario, yoga will help build a fit world.
You know how much India has suffered from corruption, scams and other vulnerabilities. It is because of lack of good character and morality. And I am sure India can get rid of such problems only with the teaching of yoga. There is no doubt about it. India has to produce young dedicated patriots to save the country. We will combine best of the east and best of the west and make a valuable education policy for India. The question arises: What is the best of the west? They gave us modern science and we will provide concept of consciousness in study. We will focus more on practical knowledge than on theories. In addition, with yoga one’s memory power will enlarge in no time. See, our former President APJ Abdul Kalam developed so many missiles, how? He never bothered about certificates; he always wanted to gain knowledge, creative wisdom. India never promoted creative ideas. We have to change our attitude, and then only can we lead the world from the front.
Yoga needs more research and work, how will the government deal with it?
First, we have to learn how to conduct a research before starting a research. That is what I am saying from starting. Yoga will help in this case. And when it comes about research in yoga, the government is working on it. Many scholars will come forward for this noble work.
When will the government formally announce courses specific on yoga?
The first yoga university was started in 1998 and our university was the first fully yoga-dedicated university. All kind of courses are available in our university including Master’s degree, Doctoral degree. Yoga will reach to everyone not only in India but also all over the world.