It’s been a while, but we’ve highlighted American Veda author Philip Goldberg a few times.
This week, he pops back up on our radar thanks to a piece at the Huffington Post on the Smithsonian yoga exhibit, about which we’ve made no small bit of hay.
And he strongly recommends going to see it if you practice yoga or are interested in Indian culture. And that’s before he, himself, has even seen it. But he makes a strong case:
Which brings us to why the exhibit is important. When expertly curated, museums offer illumination as well as pleasure, and judging from the Smithsonian’s written material and the reviews I’ve read, this exhibit succeeds in educating visitors about the rich history of yoga and its deep, transcendent aims. In that sense, the exhibit is a corrective to the mixed blessing of yoga’s current popularity. If yoga were only a set of physical exercises, as the popular imagery would suggest, the exhibit would resemble the cover of a fitness magazine or an ad for arthritis medication, with slim women (and an occasional man), admirably but non-strenuously bent and stretched into classic poses, their faces peaceful and unbothered, suggesting that they’d rather be on their yoga mat than anyplace else on earth.
But the show’s organizers know that yoga is multifaceted and multicultural, and that its true purpose, as the exhibit’s title indicates, is to transform our lives for the better. Hence, we have images of meditating mendicants, enlightened sages, fierce warriors, tantric deities, philosophical manuscripts, and religious iconography not only from Hinduism but the other traditions that absorbed yogic methods, such as Buddhism, Sufism, and Jainism.
We’ve had our share of questions about whether the exhibit really does illuminate and how much some of the darker/sexier/more marketable aspects of the exhibit have been emphasized. But we know we’ll go see it — we’ve had great experiences with past Sackler shows.
We’ll see if this is our last mention of this exhibit until we (presumably) get to it ourselves when it comes out to San Francisco.
Posted by Steve