This past Sunday, The New York Times dedicated real estate in its Opinion Pages to reflect upon what Vivekananda meant to yoga in the West, as the 150th anniversary of his birth approaches.
Author Ann Louise Bardach reflects on how this seminal teacher, credited with introducing Vedanta to the West, spread yoga’s gospel: “If you’re annoyed that your local gas station is now a yoga studio, you might blame Vivekananda for having introduced ‘yoga’ into
the national conversation–though an exercise cult with expensive
accessories was hardly what he had in mind,” she writes.
In the article, How Yoga Won the West, the author talks about how Vivekananda influenced many great minds of the day, such as Gertrude Stein and Leo Tolstoy, and laments the way modern yoga has veered from Vivekananda’s message that all souls are divine, while imploring Americans to “work and worship”:
Yet precious few of the estimated 16 million supple, spandex-clad
yoginis in the United States, who sustain an annual $6 billion industry,
seem to have a clue that they owe their yoga mats to Vivekananda.
Enriching this irony was Vivekananda’s utter lack of interest in
physical exertions beyond marathon sitting meditations and pilgrimages
to holy sites.
To learn more about Vivekananda, visit the Vivekananda Vedanta Network.
Photo: Vedanta Society of Southern California