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The Yoga–Nazi Connection

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Fas­cist sym­pa­thiz­er Para­hama­hansa Yoganan­da’s “Yoga of the Bhavavad Gita”

COMMENT: In upcom­ing pro­grams, we will revis­it the sub­ject of Hin­dut­va fas­cism, detail­ing an impor­tant arti­cle about Baba Ramdev, a Hin­dut­va fas­cist, yoga guru, health food busi­ness entre­pre­neur and pil­lar of polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sup­port for Naren­dra Mod­i’s BJP and RSS.

In those pro­grams, we will look at Ramde­v’s har­ness­ing of the dis­ci­pline of yoga to both gar­ner wealth and pop­u­lar­i­ty and to prop­a­gate a mythol­o­gized polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy which, like many fas­cist doc­trines, incor­po­rates an ide­al­ized and nev­er tru­ly exis­tent past into the need to “cleanse” con­tem­po­rary soci­ety of “cor­rupt­ing influ­ences.”

(In FTR #‘s 795, 988 and 989990, 991, 992, and 1015, we detailed the Hin­dut­va fas­cism of Naren­dra Modi, his BJP Par­ty and sup­port­ive ele­ments, trac­ing the evo­lu­tion of Hin­dut­va fas­cism through the assas­si­na­tion of Mahat­ma Gand­hi to the present time.)

Baba Ramdev work­ing the crowd

In addi­tion to pro­mot­ing Yoga’s well-doc­u­ment­ed fit­ness ben­e­fits, Ramdev presents Yoga as a vehi­cle for recon­nect­ing Indi­ans with their myth­ic past. In fact, the dis­ci­pline is root­ed in more recent and Euro­pean-import­ed cul­ture: “. . . . This nar­ra­tive about yoga’s ancient roots has become a sacra­ment for Hin­du nation­al­ists, and it is echoed in the West. But it is most­ly myth, an ide­al­ized ori­gin sto­ry of the kind so many would-be nation-builders, from ancient Rome to the Zion­ists, have fos­tered about them­selves. The old­est Hin­du scrip­tures con­tain almost no men­tion of phys­i­cal pos­tures. Even the Yoga Sutras, the so-called bible of yoga, include only a few short vers­es sug­gest­ing com­fort­able pos­tures for sit­ting. Many of the pos­tures prac­ticed in yoga today appear to have emerged in the 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­turies. . . .”

Niels Bukh

In fact, a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to con­tem­po­rary Yoga dis­ci­pline was made by a Dan­ish Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er named Niels Bukh. ” . . . . Dozens of mod­ern ash­tan­ga yoga pos­tures are sim­i­lar or iden­ti­cal to those found in a gym­nas­tic rou­tine intro­duced to India by the British in the first decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry and orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped by a Dan­ish fit­ness instruc­tor named Niels Bukh, who lat­er became noto­ri­ous for his pro-Nazi sym­pa­thies. . . .”

More about Niels Bukh: ” . . . . His sys­tem of exer­cise became high­ly pop­u­lar in Ger­many, and in 1933 Bukh pub­licly expressed his alle­giance to the Nation­al Social­ist cause and its aim of improv­ing the health of the Aryan race through gym­nas­tics. . . .”

Yoga’s pop­u­lar­i­ty in Weimar Ger­many trans­lat­ed into an affin­i­ty for the dis­ci­pline expressed by Nazi SS chief Hein­rich Himm­ler, who also saw the phys­i­cal reg­i­men as an exten­sion of the ancient “Aryan” past of India. That myth­i­cal Aryan past also became part of SS and Nazi atavis­tic occult ide­ol­o­gy. ” . . . yoga was rec­om­mend­ed to death camp guards in Nazi Ger­many. But that’s exact­ly what his­to­ri­an and yoga expert Math­ias Tietke found as he researched his new book, ‘Yoga In Nation­al Social­ism’. . . .”

More about the SS/Yoga con­nec­tion: ” . . . . It was seized on by race experts in the par­ty as being the pur­suit of ‘Ayran’ peo­ple. Jakob Wil­helm Hauer, an S.S. cap­tain and yoga expert, who influ­enced his chief Himm­ler and con­vinced him that ‘yoga can inter­nal­ly arm us and pre­pare us for the forth­com­ing bat­tles.’ . . . . Himm­ler, obsessed as he was with hocus-pocus race the­o­ries and mys­ti­cism relat­ing to his S.S. ‘super­men,’ car­ried around a Ger­man copy of the Bha­gavad Gita with him wher­ev­er he went. He regard­ed the ancient San­skrit epic as being a blue­print for cru­el­ty and ter­ror, using it, said Tietke, to ulti­mate­ly jus­ti­fy the Holo­caust. He wrote; ‘He iden­ti­fied him­self and the SS with the old Indi­an Ksha­triya caste and its pub­li­cized atti­tude of unscrupu­lous killing for one’s ‘high­er pur­pose.’ . . . . ”

Yoga was pro­mot­ed by Parama­hansa Yoganan­da, the founder of the Self-Real­iza­tion Foun­da­tion. Like so many New-Age gurus, he expressed admi­ra­tion for fas­cism.

The Yoga influ­ence on Nazism and Hin­dut­va fas­cism should not be mis­con­strued as cast­ing asper­sions on the dis­ci­pline or its many adher­ents with the onus of total­i­tar­i­an ide­ol­o­gy.

Baba Ramdev: Handy to have around.

1.   “Baba Ramdev’s Holy War” by Robert F. Worth; The New York Times Mag­a­zine; 7/29/2017.

. . . . This nar­ra­tive about yoga’s ancient roots has become a sacra­ment for Hin­du nation­al­ists, and it is echoed in the West. But it is most­ly myth, an ide­al­ized ori­gin sto­ry of the kind so many would-be nation-builders, from ancient Rome to the Zion­ists, have fos­tered about them­selves. The old­est Hin­du scrip­tures con­tain almost no men­tion of phys­i­cal pos­tures. Even the Yoga Sutras, the so-called bible of yoga, include only a few short vers­es sug­gest­ing com­fort­able pos­tures for sit­ting. Many of the pos­tures prac­ticed in yoga today appear to have emerged in the 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­turies. Dozens of mod­ern ash­tan­ga yoga pos­tures are sim­i­lar or iden­ti­cal to those found in a gym­nas­tic rou­tine intro­duced to India by the British in the first decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry and orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped by a Dan­ish fit­ness instruc­tor named Niels Bukh, who lat­er became noto­ri­ous for his pro-Nazi sym­pa­thies. Bukh, need­less to say, has been con­ve­nient­ly for­got­ten by both Indi­ans and the yoga-lov­ing celebri­ties of Hol­ly­wood. . . .

2.  “Niels Bukh;” Wikipedia.com

. . . . His 1924 book “Grundgym­nas­tik eller prim­i­tiv gym­nas­tik” (Basic or prim­i­tive gym­nas­tics) was a man­u­al in his method, which was lat­er adopt­ed by orga­ni­za­tions such as the YMCA. His­to­ri­an Mark Sin­gle­ton has argued that through the YMCA and their gym­nas­tics train­ing in British India, Bukh’s exer­cis­es influ­enced Tiru­malai Krish­na­macharya’s style of Yoga[2][3][4] In 1931 his gym­nas­tics team toured the world, vis­it­ing Japan where his sys­tem became high­ly influ­en­tial. His sys­tem of exer­cise became high­ly pop­u­lar in Ger­many, and in 1933 Bukh pub­licly expressed his alle­giance to the Nation­al Social­ist cause and its aim of improv­ing the health of the Aryan race through gym­nas­tics. This made Bukh unpop­u­lar in Den­mark, espe­cial­ly after the Ger­man occu­pa­tion of Den­mark in 1940. . . . 

3.  “Nazi Lead­ers Fas­ci­nat­ed by Yoga” [Yoga Jour­nal Edi­tors]; Yoga Jour­nal; 2/24/2012.

Yoga is many things to many people—for some it is a spir­i­tu­al prac­tice while oth­ers con­sid­er it a phys­i­cal exer­cise. But for most, what comes to mind when they think of yoga are scenes of peace and tranquility—at the least the search for peace and tran­quil­i­ty.

It’s hard to imag­ine, then, that yoga was rec­om­mend­ed to death camp guards in Nazi Ger­many. But that’s exact­ly what his­to­ri­an and yoga expert Math­ias Tietke found as he researched his new book, Yoga In Nation­al Social­ism.

“It is asso­ci­at­ed with men­tal equi­lib­ri­um, the search for wis­dom and inner peace and is not con­sid­ered to be about force or per­se­cu­tion,” Tietke told The Dai­ly Mail. “Nev­er the less, there is also this side to the his­to­ry of yoga.”

It’s a very dark his­to­ry.

Tietke’s research shows that not only were there S.S. lead­ers who were fas­ci­nat­ed with yoga, they even used yoga’s his­to­ry and phi­los­o­phy to jus­ti­fy the Holo­caust. S.S. Cap­tain Jakob Wil­helm Hauer wrote “yoga can inter­nal­ly arm us to pre­pare us for the forth­com­ing bat­tles,” while Com­man­der Hein­rich Himm­ler actu­al­ly con­sid­ered the Bha­gavad Gita as a blue­print for cru­el­ty. He iden­ti­fied with the atti­tude of “unscrupu­lous killing for one’s ‘high­er pur­pose,’ ” wrote Tietke.

4.  ” ‘Ve Hav vays of Mak­ing You Relax’: How SS Rec­om­mend­ed Yoga to Death Camp Guards as a Good Way to De-Stress” by Alan Hall; Dai­ly Mail Online [UK]; 2/22/2012.

A Ger­man his­to­ri­an has dis­cov­ered how the SS in Nazi Ger­many rec­om­mend­ed its mem­bers — includ­ing death camp guards — prac­tice yoga to enrich their ‘mind, bod­ies and spir­its.’

The first ever book prob­ing the Third Reich’s fas­ci­na­tion with the ancient dis­ci­pline — intend­ed to attain ‘per­fect spir­i­tu­al insight and tran­quil­i­ty’ — was pub­lished this week, enti­tled Yoga In Nation­al Social­ism by his­to­ri­an and yoga expert Math­ias Tietke.  

It shows how S.S. over­lord Hein­rich Himm­ler was fas­ci­nat­ed with the dis­ci­pline and per­vert­ed it and its ancient roots into a phi­los­o­phy to jus­ti­fy the Holo­caust. . . .

. . . . Tietke ploughed through thou­sands of Third Reich doc­u­ments to chron­i­cle the his­to­ry of this most peace­ful of pur­suits in the time of the sav­agery of Nazism.  

As well as the book he is plan­ning an exhi­bi­tion in Berlin lat­er this year in the Gestapo muse­um called the Topog­ra­phy of Ter­ror.

The Nazi inter­est in yoga lay in its roots in the 19th cen­tu­ry when India mys­ti­cism was a favourite pur­suit of the mid­dle and upper class­es and a great influ­ence on roman­tic poets and philoso­phers. 

Dur­ing the Wiemar Repub­lic, as the Nazis gained strength, yoga enjoyed a boom among a peo­ple weary of war, infla­tion, unem­ploy­ment and mis­ery. 

More than 50 yoga books were pub­lished in the 1920’s in Berlin alone. And, as the Nazis cor­rupt­ed most things they touched, so it was with yoga.

It was seized on by race experts in the par­ty as being the pur­suit of ‘Ayran’ peo­ple. Jakob Wil­helm Hauer, an S.S. cap­tain and yoga expert, who influ­enced his chief Himm­ler and con­vinced him that ‘yoga can inter­nal­ly arm us and pre­pare us for the forth­com­ing bat­tles.’

In 1937, four years after the Nazis attained pow­er, the coun­try’s first yoga cen­tre opened up in Berlin and oper­at­ed until it was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. 

The teacher who ran it had dis­ci­ples in 50 Ger­man towns and cities. Himm­ler, obsessed as he was with hocus-pocus race the­o­ries and mys­ti­cism relat­ing to his S.S. ‘super­men,’ car­ried around a Ger­man copy of the Bha­gavad Gita with him wher­ev­er he went.

He regard­ed the ancient San­skrit epic as being a blue­print for cru­el­ty and ter­ror, using it, said Tietke, to ulti­mate­ly jus­ti­fy the Holo­caust.

He wrote; “He iden­ti­fied him­self and the SS with the old Indi­an Ksha­triya caste and its pub­li­cised atti­tude of unscrupu­lous killing for one’s ‘high­er pur­pose.’ ”   

Tietke says Himm­ler’s atti­tude to ‘kar­ma’ was nev­er bet­ter dis­played than at the secret speech he made to senior S.S. men at Poz­nan in 1943 when he spoke of the noble, vir­tu­ous work his butch­ers were per­form­ing in elim­i­nat­ing the Jews of Europe and Rus­sia.

Himm­ler was also inter­est­ed in oth­er ear­ly Indi­an reli­gious writ­ings of India, includ­ing the Rigve­da which con­tains the mythol­o­gy of the Hin­du gods.  “These cel­e­brat­ed the racism of the Aryan immi­grat­ing from cen­tral Asia to India, killing and dri­ving out des­ig­nat­ed ‘infe­ri­or’ oppo­nents,” said Tietke.

 5. “Yoganan­da Prais­ing Fas­cism in the 30s;” The Gold Scales

The aver­age man can­not think clear­ly . . . He needs the mas­ter mind of a Dic­ta­tor in order to think right and do right.” — Yoganan­da. “Inter­view”. East West Mag­a­zine, Feb­ru­ary 1934, p. 25.

“A mas­ter brain like that of Mus­soli­ni does more good than mil­lions of social orga­ni­za­tions of group intel­li­gence.” — Yoganan­da. “Inter­view, East-West, Feb­ru­ary 1934, p. 3. [◦Down­load]

“What the heart is full of, the mouth over­flows with.” On this page are some Yoganan­da stands from the first half of the 1930s. He was about 40 years old then. He is quot­ed ver­ba­tim from his own mag­a­zine. Learn about lit­tle skele­tons in the clos­et and hot pota­toes for his fel­low­ship. [Empha­sis­es below are added by me. — T.K.]

Hitler is to be admired for leav­ing the League of Nations because peace can nev­er be attained by the vic­tor and van­quished atti­tude, but on a basis of equal­i­ty and broth­er­hood. Instead of pre­vent­ing Hitler from hav­ing equal arma­ment with oth­er nations, the oth­er nations should reduce the arma­ments to the lev­el of Ger­many, then the mil­lions of dol­lars that are thrown away on idle bat­tle­ships could be used for nation­al or inter­na­tion­al pros­per­i­ty. Amer­i­ca, France, and Great Britain should reduce their arma­ments first, and there­by destroy the desire of Japan, Rus­sia, and Ger­many to become equal­ly armed. An insult­ed, snubbed Ger­many, if it gets away from the uplift­ing guid­ance of Hitler, may join Rus­sia and make her a more pow­er­ful ene­my of France and so on. The Allies must reduce their own arma­ments first, and then they will find out that the exam­ple speaks loud­er than words.

[Swa­mi Yoganan­da. “Christ­mas mes­sage to the Nations of the Earth”. East-West Mag­a­zine, Decem­ber, 1933, p. 25]

The next year, when Yoganan­da toured Ger­many, he tried to have an inter­view with Hitler. Hitler declined. Also, Hitler desired to be not just equal­ly armed. And in Yoganan­da’s fel­low­ship they say they find no faults with his guide­lines, and that his wis­dom is flaw­less (!). So do they admire Hitler in pub­lic? No way. Does the fel­low­ship or all sorts of Yoganan­da fol­low­ers adhere to guru dic­ta­tor­ship, call­ing that spade a spade? Maybe, and maybe not. You may hear good tales of black mag­ic like:

[Yoganan­da] said that he even put into Hitler’s mind, lat­er, dur­ing WW II, the thought to invade Rus­sia and thus has­ten his own demise and the end of the war.

[You may ask: “Why end a war by esca­lat­ing it hor­ri­bly? Has some­one gone out of his mind?]

amanda.org/ask/nagayonda-opinions-about-the-quazis/”> [The con­tent on the ref­er­ence page I have got, may get rather embar­rass­ing for the author of it, so I won’t give its address away very eas­i­ly. I have saved a copy of it in case I should need it, though.]

If the tale be true, Yoganan­da murk­i­ly invad­ed Hitler’s mind and vio­lat­ed his free will and caused mas­sacres of mil­lions. It seems like a bet­ter idea of Yoganan­da to put into Hitler’s mind just to end the war — to influ­ence Hitler to make peace, not war. Alter­na­tive­ly, if that did not work, caus­ing one bad guy to kill him­self might be a lot smarter than caus­ing mil­lions of vic­tims to be maimed and killed.

Now we have been told by Yoganan­da’s fol­low­er Kriyanan­da and one more cler­gy­man in Kriyanan­da’s line, that mil­lions could have a good rea­son to grum­ble over Yoganan­da: “He caused Hitler to enlarge the war so that mil­lions got wound­ed and killed if that be true!” Should we then blame Yoganan­da for “the east­ern half of World War 2”?

I won’t tell you what to do; I make do with “One has to hear a lot before one’s ears fall off (Nor­we­gian proverb)”. Tales with­out fair evi­dence is not fac­tu­al evi­dence.

The author­i­tar­i­an­ism of Yoganan­da should not remain hid­den to young and ardent ones today. When we get engulfed by cult think­ing and get human­ism-poor*, it could do almost irre­pairable harm. Bet­ter watch out.

Some Inter­view

In East-West of Feb­ru­ary 1934, Vol­ume 6, No. 4, there is an inter­view with Swa­mi Yoganan­da. [◦Down­load]

 

 

Discussion

2 comments for “The Yoga–Nazi Connection”

  1. A con-man in robes. what a sur­prise! Appar­ent­ly Adolf was a far more hard-mind­ed cat than that.

    Posted by Lou E | August 13, 2018, 6:24 pm
  2. @Lou–-

    You appear to be fun­da­men­tal­ly miss­ing the point:

    Ramdev is a high­ly suc­cess­ful Hin­dut­va fas­cist, dove­tail­ing his “spir­i­tu­al” and com­mer­cial under­tak­ings with the pol­i­tics of Modi, the BJP and the RSS.

    Cheers,

    Dave Emory

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 14, 2018, 3:45 pm

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