in Yoga

Founders of Modern Yoga

Twenty-first century Yoga was crafted by four Hindus with a bold, modern fusion of Yoga philosophy, Western science, religion, and the occult

Below is a brief summary and an index of biographical sketches of these four bold founders of Modern Yoga

founders of modern yoga

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How four Hindus first developed Modern Yoga is summarized by David Gordon White in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A Biography (2014):

“In Calcutta and greater Bengal, the administrative and intellectual center of the British Raj [British government in India], Vedanta-inspired spirituality came to be increasingly embraced by India’s urban elites as a compelling Hindu response to the missionary colonialism of British Christendom. Here, the founders of the leading Indian reform movement known as the Brahmo Samaj fused Nondualist Vedanta with the various currents of Western humanism, spiritualism, esotericism, and social reform that had been introduced by Unitarian churchmen in the early nineteenth century. The leaders–Rammohan Roy (1774-1833), Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), Keshub Chunder Sen (1838-1884), [Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)]–drew upon Indian spirituality and Western esotericism to craft a hybrid Vedanta, known as Neo-Vedanta, whose modern-day adherents include several New Age movements and Hindu nationalist organizations as well as nearly every twentieth and twenty-first century Indian and Western yoga guru”1.

Rammohan Roy

Rammohan Roy

Debendranath Tagore

Debendranath Tagore

Keshub Chundra Sen

Keshub Chundra Sen

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda







Below is an index of my posts, biographical sketches, of these four bold, Modern Yoga leaders:

Rammohan Roy (1774-1833)

Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905)

Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-84)

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)

1 p 116.  David Gordon White, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography. Princeton University Press. 2014. Print.

Leave a Reply

  1. Interesting books that you are reading.
    I wonder what “Western spiritualism & esotericism” that these lads were reading. And I wonder what those sources themselves were influenced by. Also, I did not know Unitarianism had a significant role in the British Raj.

    Religion always changes to meet the social and psychological needs of its consumers. Add in that it must adjust to current science (or at least to its language), it is no surprise that today’s various forms of Hinduisms (and the form borrowed in the West), are different than ancient times.

    However, religious consumers buy into the myth that “ancient is good and superior”, so they have to tell a story where their religion is really the exact same religion of the ancients. Religious enthusiasts have no desire to find out what is behind Oz’s curtain. So a book like the one you are reading could be disturbing to the myths of the myth embracers.

  2. Hi Sabio: Yes, the Neo-Hindus in Brahmo Samaj were well-attuned to much of the “mystico-esoterica” of the era that was outside mainstream Christianity, including: Theosophy, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, mesmerism, animism, Transcendentalism (R.W. Emerson). Likewise, the 18th-19th century Western esotericists and occultists (listed above) were attuning to and reading the wisdom of the East–scriptures of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism and Neo-Hindu writings.

    Some people today claim that religion is like a virus. It adapts to survive so it can continue to spread and infect new hosts. I’m not sure about this. What do you think?

    I agree most people stay within the comfort-zone of the “myths” they’ve inherited or have bought into. (I’m no exception, but might have dumped a couple popular myths). The times when my “myths” (usually about religious or authority figures) where shattered were times of mental, emotional, and sometimes physical uncertainty and upheaval in my life.

    Have you noticed in your years of experience blogging that you’ve made any “Myth-buster” impact on any readers?