Yoga and Capitalism: „Don’t worry, be happy!”

Yoga and Capitalism: „Don’t worry, be happy!”

By Ljubodrag Simonović, Belgrade /Serbia *

Yoga has become an integral part of Western civilization. What has enabled yoga to permeate all areas of social life is its ability to diminish the critical and transformative relationship of man towards the ruling order and bind him to the existing world. In contemporary capitalism, yoga has become one of the most important tools for the ruling capitalist clans to destroy people’s national self-awareness and their libertarian dignity, and to create a mondialistic idiocy that appears in the form of the New Age ideology, which has a totalitarian and destructive character. In the “society of the spectacle” (Debord), gurus have become circus clowns and, as such, the court jesters of capitalism.

     The most prominent advertisers of yoga are members of the global show business, technocratic specialty-idiots, bribed politicians and other “public figures” who seek an escape from capitalist nothingness through mysticism and occultism. It is not coincidental that sports “stars” are among the most prominent promoters of the New Age ideology. Sport is the most significant and aggressive mondialistic pseudo-religion that destroys the cultural heritage of nations and visionary consciousness. It is an ideal tool for decultivation, depoliticization, and the creation of global capitalist barbarism.

      Yoga is becoming increasingly prevalent in our region as well. Serbia has become an “area of interest” for the international yoga mafia, which has spread from India and the United States to Europe. Gurus appear not only as preachers of the yoga religion but also as “humanitarian workers” who establish “charitable funds” – thereby plundering the well-intentioned and amassing wealth.

      Like other religions, yoga has a concrete social and historical character and cannot be understood properly without understanding the nature of the ruling order in which it originated. In its original form, yoga is an integral part of the Hindu-Buddhist religion, which forms the foundation of the Indian national identity and their national culture. In its original sense, Hinduism is not based on dogmas but on customs and traditions. It is woven into the way of life and the historical existence of the Indian people. Hinduism is based on naturalistic determinism, which means it relies on existential certainty that has a naturalistic character. Eternal and unchanging cosmic processes are the foundation and guarantee of eternal life. The belief in eternal life is based on the eternity of cosmic processes. People have a religious relationship with the “holy river” Ganges. For them, it is not what it is in reality, but what they believe it to be. The “holy river” is the embodiment of the “flow of life” that is eternal. Identifying oneself with the “flow of life” implies reaching the highest cosmic level – the sphere of eternal existence. Bathing in the “holy river” means being embraced by God and becoming immortal.

     In Hinduism, natural processes are deified and take on an esoteric character. God is not the culmination of truth and embodiment of the highest humanistic ideals; rather, God is the personification of eternal and unchanging natural processes. The absolutist nature of God is based on the supreme power of cosmic forces. God is the embodiment of eternal life and a symbol of eternity. Naturalistic determinism, which has an unchanging and totalitarian character, is the source of the divine. Liberation from the bondage to natural processes, through the process of reincarnation, can only be achieved by identifying with the natural processes whose power is manifested in God. To become God means to be embraced by the cosmic power that governs the universe. The eternal unfolding of natural processes is the empirical basis for the belief in eternity. Karma, which represents the spirit of a man from their previous life, has a metaphysical rather than historical and humanistic character. It does not imply a movement that is historical and dialectical but rather naturalistic and evolutionary. Karma does not imply the development of the creative powers of a man and the creation of the future, but rather it binds a man to the existing world.

      Yoga implies renouncing the existing world and creating a virtual reality that becomes a veil preventing people from confronting real life. The cosmos, the human body, life processes, interpersonal relationships… – everything is presented as illusions that constitute an escape from the real world. Temples, sculptures, religious books, reliefs, drawings… – anything that points to meditation and creates the illusion of the existence of the other world, which has a spiritual nature, signifies the path leading to God. Temples and hermit cells are not found where the wealth of earthly life forms exists, but on barren mountain peaks and in desert hopelessness. Dark caves, devoid of anything reminiscent of life, are favored places for yogis to meditate. At the same time, an anthropological model has been imposed that prevents man from understanding himself as a concrete human being. The representation of the man’s body and the functioning of bodily and mental processes are adapted to it. People are not portrayed as real social beings, but as living statues in meditative poses. They are not individuals whose gaze is directed towards the real world and the future, but rather beings deprived of sight and of earthly light, who strive to “enlighten” themselves by renouncing the real world and reaching the divine.

      Yoga creates a virtual reality that has a totalitarian character. The relationship between man and the cosmos, nature, society, oneself and others, the future, death and birth… everything is subordinated to the creation of a virtual world in people’s minds. Similar to Christian theology, Hindu theology has created a special language through which a virtual world is constructed in people’s minds. It involves empty words that have an illusionistic and hypnotic character. The relationship with the real world and with other people is mediated by the image of a virtual world that has a political and propagandistic nature. It aims to prevent man from understanding the true nature of the real world and to kill the libertarian dignity within him that enables him to create a humane world. Through meditation, man is deprived of awareness of the concrete social conditions in which people live: the ruling order with its class character and the caste structure of society; the ruthless exploitation of working people by the ruling oligarchy; the poverty and destitution in which women and children live; the autocratic whims of the powerful and their criminal rule…

     The more worthless man’s life becomes, the more tempting the idea of eternal life. This illusion is the most important lure for people who have been reduced to nameless slaves of the ruling order. The misery of everyday life is the source of belief in eternity. The greater the void in which a man lives, the more intensely he feels the need to become godlike. The illusion of “eternal life” is spiritual nourishment for people who become lost in the void of everyday life. It is not a response to the fear of death, but to the fear of annihilation.

      The word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit word “Yug“, which means the union of man with God. Yoga is rooted in the religions of the Far East, which teach that man is God but is unaware of it. Through yoga, man transcends the “ordinary” way of thinking and the corresponding self-relation, uniting with God. Through meditation, the state of consciousness of man changes, and he frees himself from the process of endless reincarnations, thereby reaching his divine essence. Meditation allows the energy of the body to rise to the highest sphere, where man is embodied in God. Yoga is based on the illusion that man has God within himself and that through meditation, he can reach Him. Through meditation, man leaves the world and himself as a worldly being, and enters a “higher” sphere of existence where he will merge with God (Brahman) – which is another name for the “universal spirit” and “infinity.” Yoga is based on the understanding that the existing world is an illusion, and only God truly exists. The soul goes through the process of reincarnation to ultimately liberate itself from the cycle of birth and death and become what it truly is. Guided by the “altered state of consciousness” induced by meditation, one of the most well-known Indian gurus, Meher Baba, proclaimed himself as an Avatar – the incarnation of God.

     Yoga does not have an enlightening and life-creating character; instead, it has a mystical and occult nature. It deprives man of everything that enables him to create new life – and humane horizons. The process of reincarnation strips away man’s senses, instincts, emotions and reason. Through meditation, man is abolished as a creative, playful, poetic, and visionary being. Meditation eliminates the visionary consciousness of man and his ability to imagine a humane future. In yoga, the mind becomes a means of making man mindless. Ultimately, through meditation, man’s self-awareness as a human being is eradicated. Simultaneously, through meditation, the life-creating energy of the body is directed against the life-creating being of man. The life-creating powers of man become a means for self-destruction of man as an authentic human being. Reaching the divine implies abandonment of everything that constitutes man as a human being. Man becomes a God by ceasing to be man. Acquiring a self-destructive consciousness and a self-destructive will are the most important conditions for man to attain the divine sphere. The highest level of meditation involves a descent into nothingness from which there is no return. It is not a coincidence that mysticism and occultism are natural allies of yoga.

      Meditation is self-hypnosis that involves performing appropriate bodily actions of a ritualistic nature, which brings a person into a psychic state that negates their empirical and intellectual relationship with the world and with themselves as a human being. Through yoga, a man is abolished as a social and worldly being. Meditation achieves a state of consciousness that excludes a man from the world and deprives him of the ability to experience himself as autonomous individual. Meditation is not directed towards visualizing personalities and events that point to the liberating and cultural history of humanity. It eliminates the visionary attitude towards the existing world and reduces it to givenness.

      Here we will address Mircea Eliade’s assertion that the “terror of history” is greater than ever because man has “lost the sense for a transhistorical meaning of history.” “When man ceases to search for the key to his life and is unable to identify the presence of the transcendental in his human experience, then he has become non-religious.” For Eliade, the transcendental has a metaphysical character. This is because he does not perceive man as a concrete social and historical being. The “sacred” has a supra-historical character and is related to man as an abstract being. According to Eliade, the “sacred,” stripped of its historical essence, and man, deprived of his historical being, walk together on the path that leads to the abyss of nothingness. Eliade’s history of religion lacks historical self-awareness. He fails to understand that in modern society, man has made a historical leap: he has become an emancipated religious being by becoming an emancipated historical being.

      The yoga practiced in developed capitalist countries of the West has no connection to the original yoga. The nature of contemporary capitalism conditions the specific nature of modern yoga. It is not an authentic yoga that stems from the concrete life conditions of feudal India, but a capitalistically degenerated religion. It does not emerge from the essence of the world in which it originated but is “imported” and has a political and commercial character. Yoga has become a commodity in the show business market. In contemporary capitalism, yoga is not the dominant ideology but appears in relation to numerous schools of thought, as well as other religions and sects. It is merely one form of spiritual escapism from the existing world. In capitalism, yoga cannot be a religion. In a world that deprives man of spirituality, yoga can only be a pseudo-religion and, as such, a means of manipulating people.

       Capitalism has torn man away from nature and reduced him to a constituent part of the technical world, which has a totalitarian and destructive character. The modern man’s relationship with nature is based on mastered natural forces. Natural laws are no longer an inviolable power on which divine authority is based; instead, they have become means of exploitation and destruction of nature, through technology. Man has become the “master and possessor of nature” (Descartes), thereby dethroning the authority of God, which was based on the unquestionable rule of cosmic forces. Man is no longer an organic part of the natural world and, as such, mortal matter; he has become an organic part of the technical world and, as such, a means of controlling nature. Instead of a world governed by naturalistic mimesis, man lives in a world dominated by technical mimesis. This is what determines the nature of man and, on an unconscious level, conditions his relationship not only with his own body and nature but also with other people. Bodily movements no longer possess a spontaneous and naturalistic character but rather a technical and instrumental one. Through them, man is not only being destroyed as a spiritual being but also as a natural being.

      In contemporary capitalism, yoga has been deprived of its authentic spiritual origin and has become a tool of the global capitalist oligarchy to undermine national cultures. It is based on atomized despair, which destroys the family, traditional religious communities, nations, and all other forms of social organization that enable man to recognize and experience himself as libertarian and culturally emancipated being. Moreover, it serves as a means to dismantle modern society, thus eroding civil self-awareness. Yoga undermines the emancipatory legacy of Christianity and other traditional religions, the ideals of the Enlightenment, the humanistic principles of the French Revolution, the emancipatory ideas of German classical philosophy, and the philanthropic movement. At the same time, yoga is employed to suppress the libertarian legacy of the labor movement and anti-colonial struggles, the fight for women’s emancipation, and the visionary consciousness of the oppressed.

      Yoga is a positivist cult. Through yoga, the critical and transformative attitude of man towards the ruling order is abolished, and he becomes chained to the existing world. Yoga is based on a subservient relationship to the existing world. It is a conformist pseudo-religion. Like other religions, yoga is founded on class division of society and has a political character. It serves as a tool for the ruling class to “reconcile” man with the existing world. Yoga produces a subservient character and subservient consciousness. Unconditional obedience to the ruling spiritual authorities implies unconditional obedience to the ruling social order. The most important task of the global yoga mafia is to preserve capitalism.

      Meditation, tales of extraterrestrials, cosmological mysticism, the entertainment industry… are means employed by capitalists through which people are deprived of their cultural self-awareness and libertarian dignity. The transformation of individuals into atomized beings; the identification with an abstract absolute that creates an illusion of power and immortality; the deprivation of man as a social and historical being; the destruction of national and historical self-awareness; the annihilation of visionary consciousness; the obliteration of a critical attitude towards the existing world and the need for creating a humane society; the rejection of cultural and thus emancipatory heritage; the abolition of man as an emancipated citizen; the imposition of an idea of evolution which doesn’t have natural and historic, but a technocratic and esoteric character… These are all manifestations of the capitalist degeneration of man.

      In place of bodily dynamics that involve movement through space, yoga establishes a meditative dynamics to which the rhythm and dynamics of bodily movement are subordinated. Through meditation, man departs from the world and himself as a human being who is part of the world. By performing bodily movements with an auto-hypnotic character, a man is brought into a psychological state where he doesn’t feel his body as part of the existing world, does not sense his belonging to society as a human community, and does not experience himself as a unique and unrepeatable individual. The cult-like nature of yoga insists on details and the ritualistic character of bodily movements that are devoid of cultural essence, and man loses his poetic essence. The bodily posture and movements lack expressive nature and are not directed towards the world and people; instead, they possess an autistic character. Obsessive bodily actions become a way for man to “withdraw into himself” and protect himself from a life that mercilessly slaps and tramples him. Man believes that through the ritual repetition of movements, he will be able to bring order into the chaos of his life and become the master of his own destiny. The control of thoughts implies the control of senses, instincts, and emotions, which means an impoverished relationship with the world and people. In order to control himself, man must control the world around him. Simultaneously, the control of the mind means that man must program his thinking, creating a thinking pattern that becomes the criterion for determining his fields of interest and his relationship with the world and people. Through meditation, control over the thought process is established, inevitably leading to the severing of the immediate connection between man and the world and resulting in his mental distortion. Man becomes an autistic creature who, through the programming of thinking, programs his own life. He must eliminate everything from his environment that “disturbs” and “distracts” him. In order to “function in peace,” everything must be “under control.” In fact, man manipulates his body, instincts, emotions, and thoughts, thereby alienating himself and becoming a slave to the ruling order.

      The static bodily posture emerges in relation to a life where everything unfolds “at high speed” and where there is no place for man as a human being. Man seeks to pause in a world that has become a money-making machine and a destroyer of life. At the same time, man is constantly instrumentalized. He is constantly in “others’ hands” and exposed to increasingly worse violence and humiliation. Women, as “inferior beings,” are particularly vulnerable. It is not coincidental that yoga has become an “oasis of happiness” for them (Fink), where, at least for a short while, they can devote time to themselves. At first glance, yoga is a physical activity. In truth, it is a mental activity that creates the illusion that man can experience himself as a human being in a world where humanity is the greatest curse. Man seeks in yoga not a way to reach God but to reach himself. Through meditation, man falls into dark labyrinths of the subconscious, where pain and suffering reign. Yoga opens the doors to the hell that capitalism creates within man, depriving him of love and respect. In the darkness of capitalist nothingness, yoga awakens in people a kind of imagination that gives them the opportunity to experience their suppressed and degenerate instincts. Yoga becomes a moment of being with oneself which, in atomized despair, turns into narcissistic obsession and becomes a masturbatory session. Meditation becomes a masochistic ritual that leads man to self-destruction.

      Yoga is a lure for people living solitary lives, for whom the computer is their only window into the world. Yoga is the religion of atomized individuals. In the East, poverty and destitution create a need to escape from the existing world. In the West, the lonely despair and the void it produces is the main source of the need to escape from the world. It is not coincidental that student youth, as intellectual labor force and the main engine of capitalist development (who are also most exposed to the detrimental effects of the increasingly rapid process of capitalist reproduction), are the most loyal advocates of transcendental meditation. Yoga is a spiritual drug with a sectarian character, serving lonely desperados who seek meaning of life in illusory worlds. Yoga enables man to curl up in his solitary den like an abandoned dog and forget about the world.

      The living of a meaningless life creates conditions for the most harmful manipulation of people. Lonely individuals and those with weak characters are potentially the biggest victims of yoga manipulators. The lack of true leaders directs people towards yoga teachers who, in the disturbed consciousness of individuals, appear as earthly deities. Capitalistic nihilism is the ground on which the worst forms of social pathology sprout, leading to the emergence of increasingly severe mental disorders. Meditative sessions do not heal people; instead, they serve as a spiritual drug that destroys the psyche of individuals and turns them into mental sufferers. A growing number of young yogis are becoming victims of occultism, which is one of the most pernicious ways of mental degeneration of man.

       Man is a social being whose psyche is conditioned by his social existence. The fundamental premise for practicing yoga lies in the social conditions where man cannot fulfill himself as a human being. Engaging in yoga is a consequence of the tragic position of man in a world devoid of love and respect. Yoga does not create by itself a “disturbed psychological state,” but rather the inhumane world leads man to such a psychological state from which the need to escape from the world arises. Yoga is just one form of man’s escape from capitalist emptiness and a form of depriving man of his mind and his liberating dignity. As such, it contributes to the destruction of society as a fraternal community of free individuals. It undermines genuine sociability and man as a social being. Simultaneously, yoga destroys the integrity of man as a unique and unrepeatable human being.

       The commonality between yoga and Christianity lies in their erasure of human history and man as a historical being. Similarly, they erase humanity’s struggle for liberty and consequently man’s libertarian self-awareness; they erase his fight against class society and the exploitation of the working people, his pursuit of social justice; they erase his visionary consciousness and the notion of the future; they erase the emancipatory heritage of modern society, and man as a rational being… Unlike Christianity, yoga does not promise its followers heaven or threaten them with hell; it lacks the concept of the true and of moral judgement; there is no free will nor choosing between good and evil; no responsibility; no confrontation with evil; no sin and redemption… The spiritual drug created by Christianity is bitter, while the spiritual drug created by yoga is sweet and sugary.

       Meher Baba’s exclamation “Don’t worry, be happy!” has become the guiding idea for the capitalistically degenerated petty bourgeoisie. The eradication of the tragic, signifying the annihilation of man’s critical and transformative relationship with the world, exposes the true nature of yoga. Considering that capitalism has become a totalitarian order of destruction, increasingly endangering the survival of humanity, it becomes clear that yoga not only possesses an anti-libertarian but also an anti-existential character. It absolves man of the responsibility for the world’s survival and undermines his fighting will that provides him with the possibility to prevent the destruction of life on Earth. The gurus have become the grave-diggers of humanity.

* Lubodrag Simonovic (72) was a member of the Yugoslav national basketball team, which won the world championship in 1970. Several times he played for the national team along with Sergei and Alexander Belov. He was a participant in the Olympic Games in Munich. In protest against the cover-up of a doping scam with Puerto Rico, he left the Games, after which he was expelled from the national team. The author is a Master of Laws and a Doctor of Philosophy. He has published ten books in the fields of philosophy, sociology and historiography. His texts have been translated into English, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Turkish. He taught at domestic and foreign universities. He is married and has three children and six grandchildren. Simonovic lives in Belgrade. 

Translated from Serbian by Igor Barjaktarević.

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February 2024