New Age Repackage
The popular ‘New Age’ movement of this era is a vast network of individuals, groups, organizations, cults, foundations, etc. who expound and preach a watered-down patchwork of borrowed spiritual beliefs and rituals which present a dazzling array of luring theories and practices, yet somehow fail to capture the depth and intended essence of the esoteric truths that were originally laid down by the ancient civilizations and wisdom traditions of antiquity.
Subsequently today’s new age culture seems to be a superficial masquerade of an erratic blend of these hybrid philosophies, disinformation campaigns, pop rituals and pseudo spiritualists that have stormed the world as the new and extremely successful business ventures of the millennium. Moreover much of the Aquarian beliefs, practices and religions parading the commercial field today can be said to be an ostentatious repackaging if not a distorted rip off and blatant plagiarism of Hinduism’s ancient philosophies.
From the concept of oneness to mind-body-spirit unity to Gaia (mother earth) philosophy to integral yoga and meditation to holistic health and spiritual healing to the concept of eternal reality, Karma, Nirvana and self-actualization to practices of spiritual ascension, pranayam and chakra (energy centre) opening, to the much advanced science of Consciousness, all can be traced back to the early Vedic and post Vedantic literature which forms the foundation of Hinduism’s culture and worldviews.
Modern Transpersonal Psychology, Consciousness Studies, the occult religion of Theosophy, Landmark Education’s The Forum and ‘est’ seminars with more than 700,000 graduates, Filmore’s Unity School of Christianity, occult religion of Eckankar, Scientology and many thousands of new-age schools and philosophies are in fact all crude derivatives and adulterated spin-offs of a mix of ancient Hindu concepts.
More importantly, Madame Helena Blavatsky (founder of Theosophical Society) who has been considered one of the biggest pioneers and the ‘mother’ of new-age thinking has wielded a far reaching influence on occult thinkers and on Western mysticism as a whole. What is not commonly known however is that her magnum opus (book) ‘The Secret Doctrine’ that set the pulse for most of the new-age thinking was in fact inspired by Hindu theories on cosmic evolution and manifestation. She often quotes the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Puranas in her works and is even said to have travelled in India and studied under Brahmin teachers. “The tree of Life and Being”, she says for instance in her book “… is said in the Bhagavad Gita to grow with its roots above and its branches below. The roots represent the Supreme Being… but one has to go beyond those roots to unite oneself with Krishna… its boughs are Hiranyagarbha (Brahma or Brahman in his highest manifestation), the highest Dhyani-Chohans or Devas. The Vedas are its leaves”.
The primary goal of this ever-growing new-age movement today, it is said, is to bring peace to the world and unite humanity under the banner of the ‘newly’ discovered one-world global consciousness or ‘oneness’ of everyone. Hinduism, which is in fact the source of all such concepts on unity and universalism has been on the contrary often isolated and portrayed as an ethnocentric religion with sectarian views that does not apply universally and thus upholding or expounding Hinduism has been considered by many so-called secular contemporaries to be a fundamentalist way of creating boundaries and limitations, which would supposedly lead to intolerance of other religions and worldviews. Many scholars who are in the lucrative business of selling the new-age beliefs have thus gone to the far extent of not only keeping the word Hindu out of their mainstream preaching and practices but completely divorcing Hinduism from its own philosophical progenies and practices such as yoga.
Deepak chopra and Company
The popular Deepak Chopra (mind-body medicine proponent/author) Eckhart Tolle (spiritual teacher/writer) and small-time Julian Walker (LA based yoga teacher) are classic examples of some of the contemporary new-age power brokers who are living off the Hindu culture, plagiarizing Hinduism, yet failing to give credit where it is due. Julian Walker for instance employs embellished Hindu concepts in his practice, even uses Sanskrit words such as chakra and kundalini but refrains from mentioning the term Hindu. He even goes to the infantile extent of abusing and demeaning India’s most revered Hindu guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba (on his facebook status) with slanderous, malicious and unfounded remarks, while at the same time preaching transformational yoga and writing articles on “mirrors of ‘compassion’”. Eckhart Tolle on the other hand, “is quite liberal in his references to Buddhism, and throughout his book [The New Earth] reinterprets select quotations from the Bible using Advaita logic.
But the word Hinduism is cited only a few times” says lawyer for Hindu American Foundation, Suhag Shukla.
In promising magical solutions to the problems of life and mind-altering nirvana, most of these individual teachers and groups today set up fancy workshops and programmes which camouflages and even distorts the ancient Hindu teachings (in the name of secularism) by jazzing it up with fancy names, flashy terminologies and charming rhetoric (an age-old business strategy of clever marketing), paving the royal road to enlightenment as they say, which really is the royal road to exploitation, capitalizing on the spiritual needs of the undiscerning masses and deceiving the less informed people into believing that they have discovered something new, the holy grail if you may, that would heal their soul, providing radical transformation and spiritual expansion, however at exorbitant rates and available exclusively through them.
Apart from yoga, they also hijack and sensationalize Hinduism’s sublime teachings of Tantra, the Science of Chakras (energy centers), Kundalini Ascension, etc. by taking it out of the context of its depth philosophy and portraying it in commercially exaggerated forms and cheap, animated ways, which renders the sellers materially successful yet spiritually and morally bankrupt. Moreover most of these new-age teachers today consider themselves as certified experts solely based on equally beguiling qualifications and diplomas such as those in crystal healing, energy cleansing, colour therapy, integral mind-body transformation or other instant enlightenment rendering sessions.
A Hindu Perspective
In emphasizing the importance of first being grounded in holistic Hindu philosophy in order to teach or sell Hindu concepts and practices, Dr David Frawley ( Pandit Vamadev Shastri, one of the very rare and authentic scholars on Vedic and Vedantic literature today, says that “some Westerners may want to create their own Yoga paths, mix Yoga with other teachings that may not be in harmony with it, or proclaim themselves as gurus without any traditional sanction. Others may want to physicalize or commercialize Yoga in order to make it more popular or profitable. A more traditional view of Yoga, and one that brings out its living religious basis, brings these efforts into question.”
India move to patent
India has now however rightfully made a move to patent Yoga asanas and will probably patent more of the indigenous Hindu practices in the years to come. Madan Jaira reports through the Hindustan Times that “The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has prepared patent formats of nearly 900 yoga asanas (postures), to prevent European and American companies involved in fitness-related activities from claiming them as their own”.
Using Hinduism’s concepts and practices for personal gain without using the word Hindu forms a wide-spread class of spiritual businessmen. On the other end of the spectrum however, there are so-called experts like Wendy Doniger for instance, who acknowledges Hinduism but uses Judeo-Christian frames of reference and Freudian Psychoanalysis to interpret and denigrate Hinduism thus reducing Eastern Spirituality to Western Materialism, presenting a pornographic and intensely vulgarized perception of Hinduism that is further distorted by her religious conditioning, cultural bias and narrow modes of information processing, an attitude she displays in her own words when she says “the Bhagavad Gita is a dishonest book”. A third category of offenders includes Indian scholars such as Devdutt Pattanaik who support distortionists like Wendy Doniger and dignify her prejudices and overt abuse of Hinduism and its sacred scriptures, further reinforcing the reprehensible thoughts and acts of such miscreants.
Apart from a few genuine and honest teachers who study in-depth and align their practices and teachings with the authentic source that is Hinduism, most use (misuse) it for personal gain and fame. There is nothing really ‘new’ then about the new age culture other than its plastic shamans, narcissistic, pseudo-spiritual leaders and corporate sponsors with their shallow, celebrity mystique and shrewd yet denigrated ways of deception. A large part of the new age movement is in fact more of an unrefined, consumer-driven scam, a money-making market of quackery and an entertainment industry of philosophical/spiritual misguiding.
Dr Aseem Shukla of Hindu American Foundation (HAF) throwing light on Deepak Chopra’s famed yet borrowed spirituality says “Chopra is perhaps the most prominent exponent of the art of “How to Deconstruct, Repackage and Sell Hindu Philosophy Without Calling it Hindu!” To Larry King, he has described himself as an “Advaita Vedantin”–one of the major philosophical schools of Hinduism. Yet none of the plethora of his book titles, that include several devoted to Jesus and one entire book devoted to the Buddha, even skirt the word “Hindu.” His website is devoted to selling products and literature related to yoga, meditation and ayurveda, but Hinduism, of course, bears no mention.”
Also emphasizing on the selective bias of common secular agendas Ranbir Singh of Hindu Human Rights (HHR) UK asserts that “The new age movement appears to give an eclectic mix of anti-Hindu tastes. When it comes to yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, ecological awareness, religious tolerance and even the invention of decimal numbers then it’s not Hindu. But mention sati, dowry abuse, poverty, human trafficking, communal riots and corruption in India then Hinduism suddenly becomes the lowest common denominator of blame”.
The Secret and its Hindu origins
Today’s multi-million selling book and DVD ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne is based on the concept of the ‘Law of Attraction’- that you can attract whatever you like into your life. The origin of this popular concept traces its roots back to the book “Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace Wattles who says in the preface of his book that “The monistic theory of the universe… the theory that ‘One is All, and that All is One and that one Substance manifests itself as the seeming many elements of the material world’ is of Hindu origin, and has been gradually winning its way into the thought of the western world for two hundred years. It is the foundation of all the Oriental philosophies, and of those of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Emerson”.
What Wattles was essentially referring to was the fundamental Hindu concept of the ‘one indivisible supreme reality’ that organizes the universe and all its processes and manifestations in ways that are conducive to the ‘whole’. However this concept has now been filtered down to imply that since everything is connected, just by consistently desiring and positively thinking about acquiring 25 Ferraris for instance or pot loads of money will somehow make it manifest in our lives, regardless of whether it serves or acts against the balance of the whole. It also implies that if you have cancer then you “thought” it into existence and if you are a billionaire you manifested that reality with your thought power. Thus it further follows that all people who are raped or victims of terrorist attacks or natural calamities have brought it upon themselves. This is the typical case of cherry picking where Google-search yogis take a concept out of its holistic context and neatly twist it in pretty yet misleading ways that attract many consumers with unfulfilled needs.
Moreover the book and DVD ‘the secret’ uses a spiritual camouflage to encourage self-indulgence and self-centeredness which actually goes against and contradicts the original Hindu concept of the undivided reality and Hinduism’s emphasis on detachment from and transcendence of the mind and its wavering thought-currents.
In the final analysis, it has been known that for over two hundred years India’s material wealth and resources were plundered and drained during the colonial British rule where the East India Company exploited and weakened India’s indigenous industries by buying her raw materials at cheap rates and selling her the manufactured end-products at inflated prices. What is not so obvious is that this trend of well-disguised fraudulency still continues even to this day as the modern-day Robert Clives have found their way back in the guise of self-appointed yogis and scholars who now exploit India’s spiritual wealth, only to dissect it, distort it, recycle/repackage it and sell it back to her people as well as the rest of the world for their self-serving gains, without ever acknowledging the real source.