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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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