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NamaRupa_03_02

NamaRupa_03_02

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6
FALL 2004
3 GURUS, 48 QUESTIONS
MATCHING INTERVIEWS WITH
SRI T.K.V. DESIKACHAR, SRI B.K.S. IYENGAR & SRI K. PATTABHI JOIS
Interviews by R. ALEXANDER MEDIN
Edited by DEIRDRE SUMMERBELL
THE HISTORY OF YOGA1
W\ue005\ue000\ue00b \ue006\ue00a YOUR \ue00b\ue005EORY \ue000\ue001OU\ue00b
\ue00b\ue005E OR\ue006\ue004\ue006N\ue00a OF YO\ue004\ue000?
T.K.V. Desikachar: Yoga is from the
Vedas.
K. Pattabhi Jois: We cannot know for

sure the original nature of yoga, but according to what tradition tells us, Shiva \ufb01rst taught it to Parvati, then Parvati taught it to Shannmuka and Shannmuka taught it to Narada. And the \ufb01rst yoga found before the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali was when Adinatha incarnated in this world to provide yoga as a means to liberating man from the world of su\ufb00ering. Also yoga is found in thes h a s t ra s [scriptures], in the Bhagavad Gita, and in di\ufb00erent Upanishads.

AN\ue003 \ue005O\ue00d \ue006\ue00a \ue00b\ue005\ue006\ue00a REFLE\ue002\ue00bE\ue003 \ue006N
\ue00b\ue005E \ue00a\ue002R\ue006\ue009\ue00bUR\ue000L, \ue000\ue00a \ue00dELL \ue000\ue00a \ue006N \ue00b\ue005E
L\ue006\ue00c\ue006N\ue004, \ue00bR\ue000\ue003\ue006\ue00b\ue006ON?

Desikachar: \ue003ere are many references

in the Vedas concerning what yoga is. It is referred to not only asp ra t y a h a ra [sensory withdrawal], but, in some Sanskrit passages, it is understood to be the discipline of the senses of the mind. In the Upanishads, yoga is seen as the discipline of controlling the mind, and Patanjali also focuses on the mind, as Vedanta focuses on God.

Pattabhi Jois: In India, tradition is

rooted in faith. Without faith, our whole tradition would collapse. And it is the greatness and wisdom of our forefathers that guides us on our path to perfection. To come to realize the depth of their knowledge and wisdom, we need to gain an experience of that to which they testify. This can be very difficult in the times we live in,

but to gain this experience, we need to have faith in what they taught and a willingness to follow their methods with consistent dedication and hard work. It is not easy, but for everysa d haka [ardent seeker], there is profound spiritual wisdom to be rediscovered from our tradition. India has a great history of trying to understand the human mind and its theories ofm ok sa [release; liberation of soul from further transmigration] are something other religious traditions cannot ignore. Some living teachers are good representatives of our great heritage, while others are less concerned with tradition, and do as they please, making up rules and regulations of their own.

HO\ue00d \ue003OE\ue00a P\ue000\ue00b\ue000N\ue007\ue000L\ue006\u2019\ue00a \ue002L\ue000\ue00a\ue00a\ue006\ue002\ue000L
YO\ue004\ue000 \ue00a\ue00b\ue000N\ue003 \ue006N REL\ue000\ue00b\ue006ON \ue00bO H\ue000\ue00b\ue005\ue000
YO\ue004\ue000?
Desikachar: Hatha yoga is not in the
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. \ue003e termHa t h a
yoga is in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of

Yogi Swatmarama. It is also found in some passages of the Upanishads, but as far as the Yoga Sutras are concerned, there is only one word. And that is not mantra yoga, not Raja yoga, not Laya yoga, not Jnana yoga, but yoga, plain and simple! All other words come from Kriya yoga, and are for an agitated mind that cannot practice yoga. An agitated mind is not free to perceive yoga. For this, one needs mental support or physical stimuli, which Hatha yoga simply acts to provide by preparing the body-mind \ufb01eld to be more \ufb01t for such perception.

Pattabhi Jois: Hatha yoga means the

union of the opposing energies of the body and the channeling of these energies into the central pathway. And this comes about when the surya nadi [right nostril] and chandra nadi [left nostril] are controlled, and the vital energy of these two channels merges in the central pathway of the spine. So, when thep ra n a is \ufb01nally at rest and no longer moved by the various sense organs, we then realize God inside. \ue003at is our Self, our true identity. So, Hatha yoga is experiencing God inside.

W\ue005O \ue00dERE \ue00b\ue005E OR\ue006\ue004\ue006N\ue000\ue00bOR\ue00a OF
H\ue000\ue00b\ue005\ue000 YO\ue004\ue000?
Desikachar: We don\u2019t know if Shiva

composed the Vedas or if someone else did. In India, a lot of people compose works that are then ascribed to ancient sources, but nobody knows for certain who really wrote them. It is a tendency in India to mythologize

Dattatreya, Guru of all Gurus
1\ue003ese interviews were originally conducted in the early months of 2004 in Mysore, Pune, and Madras, as part of a master\u2019s thesis. \ue003e full

thesis runs to some 55,000 words, a generous portion of which is made up of the interviews, which appear here in abridged and edited form. For clarity\u2019s sake, answers have been grouped together according to questions asked, rather than to their order in the original talks. Additionally, there are a few instances in the thesis when brief quotes from books by the interviewees have been added to their answers to help clarify ideas or to \ufb01ll in indecipherable gaps on the interview tapes. \ue003ese have been retained and footnoted. Not all interviewees, of course, answered each and every question, preferring occasionally to pass a particular one over. Mr. Medin\u2019s work is currently being expanded into a book.

7
FALL 2004

and to ascribe materials to ancient founders to make them more authentic. Even my father, Krishnamacharya, invented parts of his teaching. I know that he wrote down several passages in his early life which he changed in his later life. He also authored works himself, much like, in ancient times, ancient scholars would do and then never acknowledge that they had done so. Divine intervention or not [laughs], these scholars always claimed that texts were by some superhuman being rather than themselves. So, naturally, they would say that Shiva was the composer because Shiva is a supernatural being, rather than just an ordinary individual. And, yes, of course, they talked about subtleties and superhuman powers, but we don\u2019t know how they perceived this. We have to rely on textual evidence and can only assume that there was an esoteric teaching running parallel with their texts. Subtleties such as the

nadis [nerve pathways] and various

energy channels are mentioned in the Upanishads and it is evident that these people had an insight into them, but it is not easy for us to understand where they derived their knowledge from. Like Shankaracharya, for example, who said he learned everything from Gaudapada. But who was Gaudapada? \ue003at\u2019s why they say, gurubhyo param apnoti, which means a person\u2019s clarity should highlight his teacher, not himself. One should never tell anybody where a mantra was received from. Instead, one should only speak of the guru, never of the mantra. \ue003at\u2019s the universal law.

Pattabhi Jois: I don\u2019t know for certain.

I only know what my guru taught me. But many texts mention therishis Matsyendranath, Goraknath, Vamana, but before them, there were other

maharishis. Yoga is at least two to three
thousand years old, if not older.

W\ue005\ue000\ue00b \ue003\ue006\ue00a\ue00b\ue006N\ue004U\ue006\ue00a\ue005E\ue00a H\ue000\ue00b\ue005\ue000 YO\ue004\ue000
FROM O\ue00b\ue005ER \ue009\ue005Y\ue00a\ue006\ue002\ue000L F\ue006\ue00bNE\ue00a\ue00a
EXER\ue002\ue006\ue00aE\ue00a?

Desikachar: According to various texts,

\u201cha\u201d means the surya nadi and \u201ctha\u201d means the chandra nadi. When these two energy channels,ha andtha, merge together in thesushumna [spinal nadi], there is a complete understanding of

Hatha yoga. Hatha also means power or force, but whatever the interpretation, I believe that the union of these two majornadis produces a harmonizing in\ufb02uence on the body and hence allows us to experience yoga.

Pattabhi Jois: [Laughs] Yoga is not

physical\u2014very wrong! Hatha yoga can, of course, be used as external exercise only, but that is not its real bene\ufb01t. Yoga can go very deep and touch the soul of man. When it is performed in the right way, over a long period of time, the nervous system is puri\ufb01ed, and so is the mind. As the Bhagavad Gita is telling us.

Yatato hyapi Kaunteya
purshasya vipashcitah
indriyani pramathini haranti
prasabham manah
Tani sarvani samyamya yukta asita
matparah
Vase hi yasyendriyani tasya prajna
pratishtita BG 2:60-61

[Controlling all the senses, the self-

controlled one should sit meditating on Me. Verily, his wisdom is steady whose senses are under control. The turbulent senses, O son of Kunti, forcibly lead astray the mind of even the struggling wise person.]

The whole purpose of Hatha yoga is to purify and control our senses. It is the ultimate science of helping us discover what lies behind the apparent reality of body and mind. But look at the world today! There are so many different ways of doing yoga. Everybody says that they are doing it the right way, but what is the right way unless it produces a certain change in people, unless a certain energy is awakened within them? As Swatmarama is telling us, in the last verse of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

Yavan naiva pravishati caran maruto
madhyamarge
Yavad bindur na bhavati drdaprana
vata prabandhat |
Yavad dhyane sahajasadrsham jaayate
nanva tattvam
Tavaj jnanam vadati tadidam
dambhamithyapralapah ||

HYP 4:113
[Until the prana enters and flows in

the middle channel and the breath becomes firm by the control of the movements ofpr a n a; and until the mind assumes the form of Brahma without any effort in contemplation, up to then, all talk of knowledge and wisdom is merely the nonsensical babblings of a mad man.]

So, we must follow the method that is
correct and practice it for a long time.S a
tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara sevito
dridhabhumih [A practice over a long

period of time, consistently, humbly, with the best intention, becomes the firm foundation for cultivating a cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.] This can take many lifetimes of practice\u2014even 100,000 years!

KRISHNAMACHARYA
C\ue000N YOU \ue003E\ue00a\ue002R\ue006\ue001E
KR\ue006\ue00a\ue005N\ue000M\ue000\ue002\ue005\ue000RY\ue000 \ue006N \ue00b\ue005REE \ue00dOR\ue003\ue00a?
Desikachar: One word:achar ya
[spiritual teacher]. \ue003at is enough!
B.K.S. Iyengar: He was a versatile man,

an extraordinary man\u2014not of a normal kind. I revered him. He was the master of many subjects. It is hard to \ufb01nd people nowadays with knowledge like his. And how men of our low intellect can speak of a person like him, I don\u2019t know!

Pattabhi Jois: A very good man, a strong
character. A dangerous man.
W\ue005\ue000\ue00b \ue003O YOU \ue008NO\ue00d OF
KR\ue006\ue00a\ue005N\ue000M\ue000\ue002\ue005\ue000RY\ue000\u2019\ue00a L\ue006NE\ue000\ue004E \ue000N\ue003
\ue00bE\ue000\ue002\ue005ER\ue00a?
Desikachar: You can refer to this in the
book covering Krishnamacharya\u2019s life
published by our institute.
Iyengar: As far as I know, his teacher was

Ramamohan Brahmachari of Nepal, but we didn\u2019t speak much about his guru in detail. I knew Krishnamacharya because he married my sister in the nineteen-thirties. What he did before that, I am not too familiar with. But it is certain that, due to his being a great Sanskrit scholar, he met a lot of ancient scholars in India who introduced him to Ramamohan Brahmachari. According to legend, Krishnamacharya studied

8
FALL 2004
Early poster of T. Krishnamacharya and student demonstrating twenty-one asanas.

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