Paramahamsa Yogananda became the first great teacher from India to establish his residency
here. Since then many other yogis, swamis and gurus have come, or have sent their
representatives or teachings. Today an ever increasing number visit, work or reside here.
It would require a catalog to list them all. Most known of these teachings is the
practice of yoga itself. The teachers of India
chose this term from the many in their tradition that represent their teaching as it
provides a greater access to spiritual truth for the western mind which is in revolt from
dogmatic religious beliefs.
Yoga is neutral
term for the practices, free of any cultural or intellectual bias. Of yoga it is the
physical side of yoga, called Hatha Yoga, the science of postures, that we are most
familiar with. Yet this is only one aspect, the most visible rung of a great system of
knowledge which includes all aspects of life and links all of life with the evolution of
consciousness. Previous to the journeys of these great
teachers Vedic and Yogic knowledge was largely kept in secret in India, preserved mainly
for the worthy or select few.
For these modern teachers to make the trip to the West was
a break from tradition. It is not that the Yogic teaching was always kept hidden. Previous
teachers from India, not only Buddhists but also Hindus, traveled from Rome in the West to
Indonesia and China in the East. Hinduism itself prevailed as far east as Indonesia until
the sixteenth century. The Yogic teaching was made secret largely as a defensive measure
from repeated foreign invasions, largely from the west of India. The Persians, Greeks,
Huns, Scythes, Muslims and finally the British and Portuguese made India their target.
Invasion followed invasion for over two thousand years. And whenever a culture is attacked
it tends to try become contracted. Hence the closed nature the teaching assumed in the
Middle Ages and up into recent times is not characteristic of its true nature which is
open to all humanity but does not seek to impose itself on anyone. It was an
understandable overreaction that has created some misconceptions.