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China and the karma factory

world Updated: Dec 12, 2008 02:08 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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Have karma, so no problem,’’ said the Chinese businessman with rudraksha beads on his wrist, flipping open his Apple MacBook to show this correspondent photographs of his product: the Bhagavada Gita in Chinese. Five thousand copies have sold since last year, for 58 yuan (about Rs 400) per copy.

This month 30 years ago, China began economic reforms that transformed the Communist nation into the world’s factory and the fourth-largest economy. The joint family system disintegrated with urbanisation and the one-child policy. The single children of the 1980s are now struggling to single-handedly support their modern lifestyles and ageing parents.

Officially atheist China is stressed out.

So thirty-something entrepreneurs like Li Jian Lin alias Lohitaksa in Sanskrit, have an expanding India-China yoga outsourcing business on hand. “Many Chinese are now rich, but unhappy. They want religion,’’ said Lohitaksa at Starbucks, as his Apple iPhone rang constantly.

In his four-year-old Mantra Yoga Centre, successful Chinese discuss the search for happiness. “The Chinese believe in one life, so they are stressed out trying to achieve everything,’’ he said.

“I teach them karma and Vedic culture.’’

When Lohitaksa was Jian Lin in 1992, he bought a Chinese Bhagavada Gita in Hong Kong. “My spiritual questions became clear,’’ he said. “I believed Lord Krishna’s teachings and turned vegetarian.’’ His mother, upset over his vegetarianism, made him cook his meals. Today she shuns meat too.

He started learning yoga from shows on China Central Television over a decade ago, until a meeting in Xian with an Indian ‘guruji’ from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness transformed his life.

Since 2001, he travels to India five times a year and runs a travel agency that sends about 100 Chinese from 15-40 years old to yoga ashrams in Vrindavan, Hrishikesh and Haridwar every year. They spend about Rs 1 lakh for an 11-day Discover Yoga tour and Rs 1.35 lakh for a month’s training in teaching yoga.

Like every Chinese product, there are counterfeit classes too. “People offer me money to buy yoga certificates to start classes, or want to learn yoga in one week,’’ said Lohitaksa. He’s planning a July opening for a yoga institute in Beijing with courses on the Bhagavada Gita and Management.

For the business of karma, the economy never slowed. Wait for the Chinese Mahabharata next year.

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