Patents on Karma

Yoga is big businessMeditation may be a practice of withdrawing from normal life. There are other withdrawals as well.

Yoga is making some people rich.

There may be seriously luxurious hideaways deep in the forest. but the industry of yoga is much more than big budget hippies.

Yoga is an $18 billion dollar business.

But all is not calm in the burgeoning industry of yoga. “Yoga, Inc.” made by New York-based filmmaker John Philp and screened at the Toronto international documentary film festival, explores the money trail of yoga.

Philp is not surprised by yoga’s commercialization.

“In the l960s, yoga fit in with counterculture values, but today most people in the West view yoga as a form of fitness. When an industry is that big, commercialisation is unavoidable, and there will always be people swimming around the edges who are ready to cash in.”

As is the highly capitalized retail franchise operations backed by the flush founders of Ask Jeeves, yoga is a male-dominated field, even though women are 75 per cent of the people who take yoga classes.

In a rush to secure leverage in the market, some ventures are seeking to patent or copyright yoga positions and retail material. [story]

Aggressive activity in the sublime yoga sector has provoked the Indian government to enter the yoga marketplace in order to restrain expoitation and protect its cultural heritage. Last year it developed a National Knowledge Digital Library, an online data base that includes traditional Indian healing and spiritual practices to try to protect these practices against patents and copyright laws.

Can you patent wisdom?, asks Suketu Mehta.

“It is worth noting that the people in the forefront of the patenting of traditional Indian wisdom are Indians, mostly overseas. We know a business opportunity when we see one and have exported generations of gurus skilled in peddling enlightenment for a buck. But as Indians, they ought to know that the very idea of patenting knowledge is a gross violation of the tradition of yoga.

“There’s more at stake than just the money. There is also the perception that the world trading system is unfair, that the deck is stacked against developing countries. If the copying of Western drugs is illegal, so should be the patenting of yoga. It is also intellectual piracy, stood on its head.”

India’s scholars scurry to protect the word ‘OM’ from American trademark laws.

If a word, a single word such as our word ‘home’ received a copyright and trademark registration, would Louis Gray have written the song ‘Home on the Range’? Written in 1852 by Englishman Sir Henry Bishop, could Sir Henry use the word in the old classic ‘Home Sweet Home?

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

As if to prove again that our copyright and trademark system is a mess and is embarassing us around the world, Stanley Zambowski of Pittsburgh, PA has made a move to copyright and trademark the word OM.

“Inspired by Bikram Choudhury’s successful copyright of 26 poses of Yoga, Mr. Zambowski hired his cousin Walenty Zambowski, a lawyer, who set loose a flurry of cease-and-desist letters warning yoga studios around the world not to use the word OM, the symbol Om nor even chant OM.

“This is a cold and quiet day for all Yoga studios”, lamented Rod Entriteramen of the NirvanaPranaOneWorldYoga Studios.”

Further insightful reporting is at the Yoga Guide On-line Manual.

Techdirt posted some material on the recent applications, showing that:

Bikram yoga had been copyrighted — a topic we had discussed a few years ago. However, with nearly perfect timing, the NY Times has an article noting not just that Bikram yoga has been covered by copyright, but that there are currently 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks. The author then goes on to discuss how folks in India are getting increasingly upset about this, since almost all of those things are based on Indian traditions from long ago that clearly shouldn’t be protected by new intellectual property laws.

Matrimandir meditation chamberCrucialSystems reports on the
Matrimandir Meditation Chamber:

“This is totally sci-fi.

“Its bigger than your average planetarium. Its very sci-fi, with a HUGE crystal projecting the sun from the top of the dome into a very very quiet chamber.

“You can hear every fluid in your body move. I was overjoyed that someone actually farted while I was in there; the echo was spectacular.”

For the other winds
here’s a typical schedule to help manage “gales of thoughts”,

4am    wake4.30   observe the breath and body6      breakfast8      observe the breath and body11     lunch1      observe the breath and body5      tea7      observe the breath and body8      discourse9      observe the breath and body10     sleep