Bharat and Rest

Yoga : Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

Fast Food : Globalisation

The world will observe International Yoga Day on June 21, which happens to be the Summer Solstice - or longest day of the year. On the initiative spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at least 177 countries will participate in a 35-minute programme that has been devised for the purpose.

The UN resolution to declare June 21 as International Yoga Day saw a record number of 177 countries co-sponsoring it, what could have been the reason? This too in spite of vocal opposition by Church and Mosque groups to desist from practicing Yoga. It should be noted that many of the 177 countries that supported the resolution happen to be Christian and Muslim countries.

People are jumping in to call it "Globalisation". But is it?

There are many definitions of Globalisation (vaishvikaran). The standard definition is that Globalisation is the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture. However, connectivity was there among civilizations even thousands of years before. Trade and culture exchange were also happening before.

Globalisation always seems to be about Westernisation (Westernisation is different from Modernisation). Those who take an upbeat view of globalization see it as a marvellous contribution of Western civilization to the world. (Amartya Sen)

In reality, "Globalisation weakens democracy by destroying the cultural-economic viability of the autonomous communities at the base. Technology determines economic policy. As the technologies become very 'high' the resources and activities come under international control (not even national control). The individual, unless he or she is a member or the global elite, is reduced to the status of a receiver, a consumer, depending on purchasing power".
(Vijay Pratap and Ritu Priya)

In earlier times, as part of globalisation, India gave Mathematics, Science, Ayurveda, and Language, which led to production of the printing press, gun powder, and guns. In return, India got crusades, jihad and colonisation. The story of globalisation remains the same across the world, across time.

Today, colonisation and crusades are being carried out by multinational corporations and Globalisation is about Market Share of products and/or religions. Globalisation means the whole world is a market and one has to market everything - that includes both products and religions. Jihad has been called the 'Clash of Civilizations' by Samuel Huntington and today Christianity is sold like any other product e.g. with advertisements using hoardings, television channels, newspapers, direct marketing etc.

The biggest symbol of Globalisation is Fast Food and it represents everything that is wrong with globalisation.

Is obesity America's most influential export?, reported Harold Maass in The Week on 6 September 2013 and wrote: "Mexico recently overtook its northern neighbour to become the world's fattest country with a population of more than 100 million. ......Mexicans have the world's highest rate of soda consumption, at 43 gallons per capita annually. And U.S. agricultural policies have been a big factor in fuelling their addiction, says John Norris at Foreign Policy. America's high tariffs on sugar, coupled with its subsidies for U.S. corn farmers, created a boom in the use of cheaper, high-fructose corn syrup in everything from soft drinks to spaghetti sauce, and that coincided with a spike in U.S. obesity (research has found that rats fed corn syrup gained more weight than those eating sugar). Then, he says, we started pushing the stuff south of the border."

Just 15 months before, Danielle Kurtzleben on 3 May 2012 had reported "U.S. Exporting Obesity to Mexico" and said: "According to "Exporting Obesity," a recent paper from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a Minneapolis-based think tank, U.S. agricultural products and policies are feeding growth in Mexico's obesity rate.... According to the IATP paper, Mexicans' average daily energy obtained from fat grew 28.9 percent from 1988 to 1999, the period during which NAFTA was negotiated and implemented. Soda consumption in Mexico also grew by 37.2 percent from 1984 to 1998.

According to the most recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mexico's obesity rate is 30 percent, second among member countries only to the America's 33.8 percent and a significant increase from 2000, when Mexico's obesity rate was less than 25 percent. It is not just Mexico that is gaining weight. Obesity is now an epidemic on a global scale. A 2010 OECD study found that Mexico and five other emerging economies-China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and India-are all facing the growing obesity epidemic." Jason Gandelman in the Harvard Politics Review dated 20 March 2012 wrote about "Exporting Obesity to China". He says "An ACNielsen survey reports that 97 percent of the Chinese population has already eaten at a fast food restaurant. With this rise in consumption of Americanized 'High in Fat, Salt, and Sugar' foods in China, the childhood obesity rate has climbed approximately eight percent per year. Currently, 16 to 20 percent of Chinese urban children are considered clinically obese." This figure foreshadows a major public health crisis in the most populous nation on earth.

Childhood obesity in China is a result of the predatory tactics used by American food corporations to capitalize on the Chinese market. These corporations have driven consumption in China by advertising heavily to children and dismissing scientific criticism. According to Christine Chester of Corporate Accountability International, such strategies indicate that "Big Food is following the example set [decades ago] by Big Tobacco."

In its latest financial statement, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi remarked that, despite "challenging conditions in the North American beverage market," PepsiCo's income has increased 18 percent over last year because they "continue to enjoy robust top-line growth in key emerging markets." Likewise, Yum! Corporation, the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, now makes far more profit in China than it does in the US. In the third quarter of 2010, Yum's China sales hit $1.2 billion, up 20 percent, while US sales sunk 8 percent.

Harvard professor Frank Hu notes that since the Chinese market opened up to American corporations, the health consequences have been staggering. In only two decades, the number of type II diabetics has grown tenfold to 95 million.

Harold Maass writes "Globalization has spread fast-food culture all over the globe. Health experts say the result has been obesity epidemics sprouting up everywhere from China to Qatar. That oil-rich nation's tiny native population of 250,000 has been experiencing skyrocketing obesity rates - expected to shoot from 45 percent now to nearly 70 percent in five years"

Americans are also the paying price for this Globalisation

Eric Schlosser in his book Fast Food Nation writes
> In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food. Last year they spent more than $100 billion on fast food. Americans now spend more money on fast food than they do on higher education, personal computers, software or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos and recorded music - combined.
> In 1980, about thirty-seven cents of every consumer dollar spent on food went to the farmer. Today, only twenty-three cents goes to the farmer - a decline of forty percent. Family farms are now being replaced by gigantic corporate farms with absentee owners. Rural communities are losing their middle class and becoming socially stratified, divided among a small wealthy elite and large numbers of the working poor. The hardy, independent farmers whom Thomas Jefferson considered the bedrock of democracy are truly a vanishing breed. The United States now has more prison inmates than full-time farmers.
> Twenty years ago, the Monfort plant in Greeley, Colorado, slaughtered about 175 cattle an hour. By the early 1990s, the plant slaughtered as many as 400 an hour, about half a dozen animals every minute.
Yoga being celebrated across the world can't be Globalisation.
Yoga is perceived differently. Let's revisit Mexico and China.

Mexico City Is Setting for World's Largest Yoga Class, reported Alexandra J. Gratereaux on 18 November 2011. Report says:
The Ahhmmms were defeaning.
More than 12,000 people took to Mexico City's Zócalo, the huge central square usually used for political protests and national celebrations, on Sunday.
The non-profit organization Naam Yoga claims that is was the largest Yoga class known to man.
.."This truly was an explosion of joy and happiness," said Rebeca Torres, founder and president of Naam Mexico. "Many of us were touched and transformed." Torres says Naam Yoga is perhaps what the Mexican government is lacking to make things better politically. "Vibrating Naam in love, peace and light can change the destiny of our country," Torres said.

The practice of Yoga has made increasing inroads into Mexican society --sometimes in the most unexpected places. A Yoga program in Mexican prisons is helping juvenile inmates break the cycle of violence and addiction.

Yoga instructor Ann Moxey created the Parinaama Yoga program for inmates held in the Arlacholoaya prison in Cuernavaca, Morelos, a town located south of Mexico City. The program is also offered in multiple juvenile jails and one adult prison."

The above stories make it very clear that Yoga is far better and the opposite of Fast Food. Corporates have picked it up too. Airbnb, KIXEYE, a San Francisco-based gaming company (voted as one the 'Best Places to Work in the Bay Area') to TravelBird, based in Amsterdam all offer classes on Yoga to their employees.

At the Purchase, New York, PepsiCo headquarters, Pilates, Yoga and spinning classes are offered at their $20-a-month gym. Senior legal counsel Megan Hurley says her inexpensive corporate gym membership has helped her stay in shape, despite her gruelling schedule. Companies like Nike, HBO, Forbes, Google, MTV and IBM have gained media attention for offering gym memberships with Yoga classes in the workplace." Jessica Hill of The National on 23 March 2014, reported in detail; "UAE companies reap the benefits of workplace Yoga sessions”. She says: "With meditative breathing and Yoga an increasingly popular way to wind down after work, some UAE companies are hiring yogis to conduct sessions during office hours to alleviate workplace stress.

Among them is Baker Hughes Oilfield Service Company. ...Monah Shaltony, a Baker Hughes employee, says she found the sessions relaxing. "It was fantastic," she adds. "It definitely gave me more energy to continue my working day. I'd never tried anything like this before but since then, I've been taking breathing classes after work and I've had an instructor coming to my house to do Yoga with me too."

Abdul Darwish, a 63-year-old geologist from Jordan, was also new to the idea of meditative breathing techniques, and was pleasantly surprised by the results. "I used to be a smoker, then I gave up - but I also stopped exercising. I found these techniques helped with my breathing. ..."....

Another company with a budget for such initiatives is the West Con Middle East - distributors of convergence, security, networking and mobility products and services - based in Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone.

Sarah Ogden, managing director of PR agency Midnight Communications, says she used the company's basement to provide Yoga classes to her staff three days a week. While it was tough to get people away from their desks initially, the classes gradually caught on. "PR can be particularly stressful and I'm a big fan of Yoga because it has mental and physical benefits," Ogden explains. Beth Superfin, AOL Media Networks senior manager, adds that she was sceptical of doing Yoga in her conference rooms at first, but said she soon became hooked on the easy, free, hour-long classes with professional instructors."

On 24 March 2013, Daniel Thompson reported "China: The New Yoga Superpower"

Sweating It Out: Is Yoga Set to Boom in China? - reported Knowledge@wharton on 7 June 2013. It says
"From iron ore to IT, exports from India have a high profile in China these days. But there's one Indian export that a growing number of China's young urban professionals are discovering they really can't live without - Yoga...The Yoga business isn't just thriving in China. Research by the U.S. magazine Yoga Journal in 2008 found that the 16 million Americans practicing Yoga — or nearly 7% of the country's adult population - were spending US$5.7 billion a year on Yoga classes, clothes and equipment. That figure was an 87% increase from 2004. In Japan, where interest in Yoga is picking up after a long slump following the terrorist activities of the quasi-spiritual sect Aum Shinrikyo, about one million people are practicing at studios, according to Yoga Works, a Japanese company that sells Yoga mats.

Practicing Yoga isn't cheap. In Japan, for example, yogis shell out about 3,000 yen (US$37) for a60-to-90 minute class. In the U.S., a class generally costs about US$10 to US$20.

In China, a class can cost as much as RMB 200 (US$30), putting Yoga beyond the reach of many. For those who can afford it, the focus is on the exercise that Yoga offers, rather than the spiritual pursuit. One reason why: Years of communist-imposed atheism and strict state control of the country's official churches have left most Chinese with a feeble grasp of - and often an aversion to - spiritual concepts."

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Yoga is gaining immense popularity in China and that his wife, Peng Liyuan, was learning and practising it.

What Does Science Say About Yoga
Yoga's beneficial effects have been challenged, tested and verified many times across the world unlike Fast Food.

"How Yoga Changes the Brain" By Stephani Sutherland Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 2, dated 1 Mar 2014, reported: "The ancient practice promotes growth in brain regions for self-awareness". It says "Yoga seems to bestow mental benefits, such as a calmer, more relaxed mind. Now research by Chantal Villemure and Catherine Bushnell of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Md., may explain how. Using MRI scans, Villemure detected more gray matter-brain cells-in certain brain areas in people who regularly practiced Yoga, as compared with control subjects. "We found that with more hours of practice per week, certain areas were more enlarged," Villemure says, a finding that hints that Yoga was a contributing factor to the brain gains.

Yogis had larger brain volume in the somatosensory cortex, which contains a mental map of our body, the superior parietal cortex, involved in directing attention, and the visual cortex, which Villemure postulates might have been bolstered by visualization techniques. The hippocampus, a region critical to dampening stress, was also enlarged in practitioners, as were the precuneus and the posterior cingulate cortex, areas key to our concept of self. All these brain areas could be engaged by elements of Yoga practice, Villemure says."

Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit by Makiko Kitamura, November 22, 2013, says:
Scientists are getting close to proving what yogis have held to be true for centuries -- Yoga and meditation can ward off stress and disease. John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function.

While hundreds of studies have been conducted on the mental health benefits of Yoga and meditation, they have tended to rely on blunt tools like participant questionnaires, as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. Only recently have neuro-imaging and genomics technology used in Denninger's latest studies allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail.

"There is a true biological effect," said Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School's teaching hospitals. "The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain."

The government-funded study may persuade more doctors to try an alternative route for tackling the source of a myriad of modern ailments. Stress-induced conditions can include everything from hypertension and infertility to depression and even the aging process. They account for 60 to 90 percent of doctor's visits in the U.S., according to the Benson-Henry Institute. The World Health Organization estimates stress costs U.S. companies at least $300 billion a year through absenteeism, turn-over and low productivity. Harvard isn't the only place where scientists have started examining the biology behind Yoga.

In a study published last year, scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn found that: 12 minutes of daily Yoga meditation for eight weeks increased telomerase activity by 43 percent, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced aging. Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, shared the Nobel medicine prize in 2009 with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for research on the telomerase “immortality enzyme,” which slows the cellular aging process.

National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Yoga for Health, June 2013 reported: Current research suggests that a carefully adapted set of Yoga poses may reduce low-back pain and improve function. Other studies also suggest that practicing Yoga might improve quality of life; reduce stress; lower heart rate and blood pressure; help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.

Asanas are not just aerobics, not just gymnastics because asanas have to be coordinated with the breath and with awareness. If you are lifting your arms up, you are fully aware that you are lifting your arm up, every inch of it. In gymnastics you simply lift it up. Your attention, your awareness is not there. In Yoga, the body, breath and the mind are all united. It is slow motion, like dance, leading from one posture to another posture. (Vijay Pratap and Ritu Priya)

PM Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 had aptly stated:
"Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness within yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change." One important point lost in the whole process

There is no price for Yoga. No patent of Yoga. It is free and is for the common good. The Globalisation mind set has tried to make an industry of it, patent it, commercialise it but they have failed.

The 35-minute Yoga Day celebration will start with a prayer in Sanskrit from the Rig Veda -
Sangachhadwam, sangvadadwam / sa vo manasi janatam
May you move in harmony, speak in one voice; let your minds be in agreement
And will close with another Sanskrit prayer -


May all be prosperous and happy/May all be free from illness/May all see what is spiritually uplifting /May no one suffer.

This brings us to the important point: If not Globalisation, then what should we term the process, the thinking of universal well-being for free?

Well, it is called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: "vasudhā" = the earth; "ēva" = indeed is; and "kutumbakam" =family; is a Sanskrit phrase which means "the world is one family

Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened his historic United Nations General Assembly speech with a tribute to India's ancient civilisational traditions, telling a packed Assembly hall of delegates that India's philosophy, which was not an ideology, was and is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, or world family, and this has guided the nation since Vedic times.

In ancient India, the rishis have dreamt of tying the people of the whole world in a common thread of mutual love, trust, and friendship. This was possible through Yoga, which also means addition, i.e. connecting one with himself, god as well as other fellow human beings. The concept originates in the Vedic scripture Maha Upanishad (Chapter 6, Verse 72):

ayam bandhurayam neti ganana laghuchetasam udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam

Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family.

If an export could be measured by number of celebrity adherents/consumers, then Yoga is the most successful.

Celebrities following or in love with Yoga: Adam Levine, Alessandra Ambrosio, Ali Larter, Anna Kournikova, Ashley Olsen, Ashley Tisdale, Brooke Shields, Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, Colin Farrell, Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore, Ellen Pompeo, Emily Blunt, Evander Hollyfield, Gavin Rossdale, Gisele Bundchen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Heather Graham, Helen Hunt, Hilary Duff, Hillary Clinton, Jenna Tatum-Dewan, Jennifer Aniston, Jeremy Piven, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale , Kate Hudson, Katy Perry, Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Davis, L. A. Lakers, Lady Gaga, Lisa Rinna, Madonna, Matthew McConaughey, Meg Ryan, Megan Fox, Melanie Griffith, Naomi Watts, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Wilde, Orlando Bloom, Reese Witherspoon, Renee Zellweger, Robert Downey Jr., Russell Brand, Russell Simmons, Shenae Grimes, Sting, Vanessa Hudgens, Woody Harrelson, Zachary Quinto

In a nutshell if Globalisation is represented by Fast Food, than Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is represented by Yoga.

Reader is free to draw his/her own conclusions.
Will bring more such gems as and when I get a friend who can support this initiative.

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Sandeep Singh, www.swastik.net.in, #swstiknetin