By Seth Cox
Seth Cox is double majoring in Religious Studies and Philosophy. He is interested in the interactions between practitioners of historically Asian religions and the rest of the world. This post originally appeared at Monks and Nones, the blog of REL 371.
Controversy. It doesn’t matter which side of a controversy you are on, if the controversy is big enough it will catch public attention. Grand Theft Auto V (or GTAV) is the fastest game to reach 1 billion dollar in sales revenue ever. GTAV is a violent video game (it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it THE violent video game) that thrives on bad news reviews claiming it is a proponent to school shootings and good gaming reviews that say it is merely an outlet for stress. Regardless of your opinions on this game it does have some clever satirical moments and themes, some of which even apply to our class.
The game has its own radio stations in-game, and no radio station is complete without its own commercials. One of these commercials was for a Yoga studio that claimed to finally have “authentic” American Yoga. Unfortunately, this brand of American Yoga apparently has blood and violence and is about as peaceful as a monster truck rally (if the announcer’s tone of voice was any indication). The history of Yoga in the West is quite interesting and, needless to say, what most Americans now know as Yoga is only a small facet of what Yoga actually has been historically. The Theosophists of the late 19th century had a huge impact on contemporary Yoga. Originally the craze was all meditation Yoga, only later did it become into the physical exercise it is today. If you take the opinions of GTA developers seriously, then a qualification of being an authentic American activity involves violence, which is pretty interesting in and of itself. I think that the creators of GTA were spoofing the development of Yoga in their portrayal of it being violent. Yoga developed from an “Eastern” activity that primarily focused on meditation and breathing into a more “Western” activity that centers primarily on physical activity. The next step, according to GTA, is for it to become progressively more violent. The idea is that a Westernized Eastern tradition such as Yoga becomes American only when it becomes violent is something to think about.