It's the 70th Indian Independence day!!

" India....." - August 15, 2017

It's not just a country, it's an emotion. We call it "Bharat Mata". A mother loves us and takes care of us, and she also cultivates the ethical and divine qualities within us.

Such is our mother nation. It is a land of cultures, traditions, rituals, religions, festivals, virtues, arts and science. Above all this is the holy land of vedas and yoga. Among all the treasures India has given to the world, vedanta philosophy and yoga is the most valuable of all.

As India was colonised by the Britishers for a long period, many Indian freedom fighters contributed vigorously to attain independence. Although the struggle was long, it created a long term impact. The great freedom fighters are remembered even today.

Today, the day they finally achieved freedom and independence, is a great opportunity to have a look at some of the most powerful freedom fighters of India who followed the vedantic and yogic philosophy in their personal life as well in their patriotic movements.

Let’s have a look at some of our freedom fighter's philosophies who applied the yogic and vedantic principles in the form of Gyana/ Jnana yoga, Bhakti yoga and Karma yoga.

When your consciousness is higher, the urge to be free is also very high. When a person feels free personally, he or she can fight for the freedom of the entire nation. A person who values the freedom of mind values the freedom of a country and its people.

Mahatma Gandhi:

Mahatma Gandhi's contribution to the Indian freedom movement cannot be measured in words. He, along with other freedom fighters, compelled the British to leave India. The major freedom movements are:

  • World War I (stating to viceroy that he will involve in any violent act)
  • Champaran
  • Kheda
  • Khilafat Movement
  • Salt March
  • Quit India movement

Gandhiji dedicated his life to discovering and pursuing truth or satya and called his movement as Satyagraha, meaning "an appeal to the reliance on the truth".

Gandhiji based satyagraha on the Vedantic idea of self realisation, ahimsa (non violence, the first yama) through vegetarianism and universal love. William Borman states that the key to his satyagraha is rooted in the Hindu upanishadic texts. According to Indira Calr, Gandhiji's ideas on ahimsa and satygraha were founded on the philosophical foundations of Advaita Vedanta, non-dualistic philosophy.

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhamsa Yogananda has shared his divine experience with this great soul who learnt the Kriya yoga and was a keen follower of yama and niyama which he implemented throughout his life.

YAMA:

  • Ahimsa (non violence)
  • Asteya (non stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (non indulgence)
  • Aparigraha (non accumulation)

NIYAMA:

  • Shaucha (cleanliness of body and mind)
  • Santosha (contentment)
  • Tapas (austerities)
  • Swadhyaya (self study and study of holy scriptures)
  • Ishwar Parinidhana (surrender to the will of God)

When we look at the life and routine of Mahatma Gandhi we can certainly state that he followed all the yogic principles in his life.

Apart from Mahatma Gandhi there were many other freedom fighters who were also yogis. They not only helped the country to be freed from British rule but also empowered the youth. To name a few: Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose, Vinoba Bhave, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Lokmanya Tilak, Bhikaiji Cama

Sri Aurobindo:

When Sri Aurobindo entered the Indian political scene, most of the Indian leaders were following what later came to be known as the “moderate” stance of petition and prayer, begging for small and petty concessions from the British Government. Sri Aurobindo was the first to proclaim boldly the ideal of “Purna Swaraj”, complete Independence, and hammered the idea with fire-breathing words into the consciousness of the people until it got fixed there as the immediate aim of the national endeavour.

Sri Aurobindo, through his fiery writings in Bande Mataram, transformed negative impulse into revolutionary nationalistic fervour. Sri Aurobindo’s Yogic insight very clearly perceived that the innate and natural temperament and genius of the Indian Psyche is in Religion and the religious ideals and values have the highest motivational force for Indian people. So he gave a spiritual orientation to the freedom movement with the religious ideas of Nation.

During his stay at Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo developed a spiritual practice called Integral Yoga. Today we have several Ashramas initiated by Sri Aurobindo and Mother Mirra Alfasa.

Sri Aurobindo was a great yogi and a freedom fighter who aimed for a free country and also had a vision of spiritual destiny of the nation.

Swami Vivekananda:

Swami Vivekananda was one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Vedanta philosophy. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and was the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda dedicated and sacrificed his entire life to the country. He yearned for the progress of the poor and helpless who had lost faith in themselves under British rule. Swami ji became the source of light for the nation who guided the youth and inspired them believe in their inner wisdom and inner strength. His powerful speeches and impactful writings ignited the light of self confidence and self belief in entire nation.

Being the chief disciple of Ramkrishna Paramhamsa, he followed Bhakti yoga and karma yoga but he insisted upon gyan yoga and urged the youth to recognise themselves as Brahm and fearless infinite beings.

In entire India, Swami Vivekananda is being followed by youth, his quotes and books are the source of inspiration for all.

Apart from these renowned freedom fighters who were yogis, there were more legendary freedom fighters like Subhash Chandra Bose, Lokmanya Tilak, Vinoba Bhave, and Jawaharlal Nehru, who practiced Yoga in their daily life.

Pandit Nehru:

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the First Prime minister of India and there are many pictures of him practicing Yoga. 45 minutes of his morning was dedicated to Yoga. Nehru was one of the architects to steer the nascent nation towards the brilliance envisioned by countless revolutionaries of the Indian freedom History. When his daughter, Indira Gandhi was going through health issues, Nehru invited Dheerendra Brahmachari to be the yoga guru of her.

Women:

Women, too, were an important part of the independence of India. Their roles may not have been as heavily highlighted, though. Today, we touch upon the yogic work of Madam Bhikaiji Cama, Sarojini Naidu,

Madam Cama:

Bhikaiji Rustom Cama lived in Europe most of her adulthood, and tried to create a sense of unity amongst Indians. Furthermore, she was a social activist who believed in gender equality, recognizing that there would be no true freedom unless persons of male and female genders were included at all levels of Independence.

Madam Cama, along with other freedom fighters, created a flag of Indian Independence, highlighting religious and statehood unity, that was unfurled in Stuttgart, Germany. There, she spoke, and her words echoed for freedom, the ultimate goal of Yoga: “In the name of this flag, I appeal to lovers of freedom all over the world to support this flag.” The flag included stripes of green, yellow, and red, representing Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism (despite herself being a Parsi); eight blooming lotuses representing the states of British India; and appealed to a sense of love for the motherland by scripting “Vande Mataram” on the flag.

Durgabai Deshmukh:

This is a woman who practiced Svadhyaya immensely, by continuing to educate herself after a child marriage ended, and she was imprisoned for her non-violent freedom fighting. There is a story that she refused to allow Jawaharlal Nehru into a khadi exhibition, because he did not have a ticket, thus also practicing asteya (non-stealing) and satya (truth).

Yoga is a way of life... A path to the ultimate freedom….

By looking at these freedom fighters and remembering them on this special occasion of 70th independence we all should start practicing Yoga for better life, better society, better nation and a better world.

Happy independence day !!!