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November,1989 . Number 7 A Publication of Viniyoga America

Desikachar on Meditation
Followingis an editedtranscriptof an interiewof T.K.V.Desikachar in Madrasin wereEuropean February,1983.Thrc interviewers and teachers, students Claude Mamon,andFransMoors. Marachel, Laurence


in underQuestion:We are interested what is meantby meditasranding tion-how to do, what to do, to pracWe wouldlike to have ticemeditation. someclarification,not only for ourothers.A selves but alsofor teaching lot of peoplefrom the western countrieshavequestions aboutmeditation and would be happyto havesomeanswersfrom you. Desikachar: You musthelpme to unwhy you peoplefrom Europe derstand questions. askme,an Indian,these You haveyour own culture,religions, practices, which are definitelydifferent from ours.Can you tell me the for your interest reasons and for these questions? It seems Response: that in the West now, whenpeoplespeakaboutmeditacoming tion, they meansomething from the East,particularlyfrom India. or It couldbe Buddhistmeditation else.But we seemto have something lost the ideaof meditationin our own for example. culture,in Christianity, Desikachar:I am a little wonied that in this field here is somedelicacy, unlike in issues the body, concerning which are universal.We haveacof medicine, systems ceptedWestern and so what we haveto offer for the But when it body is very accephble. to this field we call medintion, comes thereis somedelicacy. The delicacyhastwo aspects. One

is that you haveyour own greatmastersof the pastwho havesuggested somesystems, for example, St. Francis,who is very stimulating even for us. Second, our way of lookingat the humanmind, the humanslate,relationships and the between the master disciple,commitment to the faith, may not.haveany relevance troyours.I am you areconcerned assuming about meditation for your people, not for Indians. thatit is a deliQuestion:I understand catequestion. But how can we explain a situationwhereyou are teaching us asanc(postures) andpranayoma (breath control);we are very happy it givesus with thisteaching because means to improveour healthand also in our mind-I to change something will sayin termsof peace. After a practiceof asanaandpranayamn, thereis somechange; we feel better; we feel somelightness, someclarity, somepeace. of yoga, Accordingto the teaching after tlis process of asanaandpranayama,it may be possible to direct the mind towards elsewhichis something We relatedto this word, meditation. havegottenfrom you the toolsto reachthis point. Thenif you say," I havegiven you the mols and now you haveto continueby younelvesbecauseit is your culturalproblem," maybewe will be in a little difficulty. in you in this field of We areconfident



T,K.V. Desikacher

practicalpreparation, but we arealso in you to continue. confident Desikachar:I appreciate that.Rewasvery centJy our chiefminister sick. The medicalfacilitiesherewere not adequate. So he wasflown to the Everybody U.S. for medicaltreatment. askedus !o pray for his health.So therewereprayersherein the temples, The in the mosques. in the churches, Americans did not pray for him; we did. He camebackhereand we prayed to God, "Thank you; you havetaken careof him." So he went to Americaso that he could be fit and thenhe cameback!o here.He did not say,"Oh, his regime havecuredmy kidney the Americans problern. rny exploI want to continue ttreygaveme ration therebecause it is theirresponsibility health; maybe
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The Viniyoga l-cttcr . November, 1989

Desikacharon Mediation
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He to takecareof my otheraspects." did not think this way; he cameback. The hospitalin Americatook careof of the chief ministhephysicalaspects ter, not the spiritualaspects. You go to yoru priests,you go to your churches, you go to your mastrs. We havetakencareof what is in our means. Now, sinceyou haveconfidence in us,we tell you, "Go back to your church;go back to your temple." We cannotexpectyou to come!o our temples to pray whenyou haveyour own temples and your own culture. The question I am askingyou is, "Why and how can we teachyou meditation whenthereare two fundamentalprolems?: One,you haveyour own greatculture,and two, what we offer may not be valid for you. Response: I think tiere are two conin the process of meditasiderations in the tion. One relates !o a change qudity of the mind,whichmaybea process and which you may universal like to clarify. The otherrefersto our culture,our religion,or something something can be apelse.Perhaps plied,whatever the culture? Desikachar:Shouldourjob be to offer something otherthanwhat you have,or is it our job to create conditions so that you can really look back on your own greathisory? That is the question. The chief ministerwent to the U.S. wheretheirjob wasto make him healthyso he could comeback anddo his job here. Response: As you saidin the beginning, we live in our culture,and we haveour own meditation, but people interested in yogaoften talk about meditation. And in this talk, in their practices, meditation we find a mixing of manydiffierent things, sometimes For me, it is a question: contradictory. whatis meditation? I feel Sometimes is almost harmthis word,meditation, ing yoga,whenit shouldbe the opposite.In the West,we are not very clear aboutwhat is meditation. Desikachar:So what you sayis you needsomeclarihcation.All right, I will give you my pointof view.
The Viniyoga Letter . November, 1989

Response: In yourpointof view, from whatyou saidsomeminutes ago,meditationis relatedto the culture,the temples, the religion.Is it necessary relatethe to immediately ideaof meditation to the ideaof prayer?

To discoversomethingthat was not discoveredbefore - that is meditation.

Desikachar:I assume the word, meditation, is usuallyunderstood to practices involve somepersonal involvingmind,God,etc.-something esoteric and not so easilyexplained as physicalexercise. People are someaboutwhat meditimesvery secretive tationis for them.People arealsodiswhenwe talk constantly appointed aboutssana,pranayann,YogaSutra. They are happyonly if we usethe word, meditation. I am usingthe word, meditation, in the way it is normally takento mean.Now your question is: "Does it meansimply that or something else?" You also said,"Practiceof asana helpedus; we andpranayamahave want to go further;we haveconfidencein you, so we ask you to go further."What doesit meanwhenyou say,"We want !o go further"? Response: It means that according lo the studywe havedonein the Yoga beyondasSutra,thereis something This is the caana andpranayamo. pacityto focusthe mind completely towardsomething so thatit is possible to be moreand moreattentive to in life-that someall the situations in termsof discriminathing happens tion in life. We felt that the studyof yogawe havedoneis not only a technical studyto be healthy,but that ttrereis furtherto discover. The something studyof yogagivesus thatconfifurther,and we dencein something wish to makethat discovery. Desikachar: Let us sayI am givinga who hasa classof asanato someone

problem.The personis well informed, and I know a little aboutasanc.So in this asanacourse, I would like to understand why this particularproblem existsand how I mustregardthis problemin relationto thepracticeof asana.To investigate this, I observe somethings-some postures, breathing, the expression in the face,etc. So graduallyI get someinformation. This informationrevealsitself now, but it wasnot clearwhenthe person was practicingearlier,nor was it clearfor me when I first sawthe person. For me, this is a meditation, in the way you havedefinedit, "to discover something." Yesterday we had a sick person with a few problems apparently. I was askedto examine the person. Shehad given someinformation, but you know it takessometime to get to the coreof the problem.This investigation is not alwaysbased on memory or experience.It is very interesting to really find out something morethan what at first. appears The nail was hit on the head,and the nail was not,what, shehadsaidbut something elsethat was very impormedicine, tant-no sleep,sleeping bad You know what happens stomach. medicinewhen you take sleeping sevenyearsof it. And very ugly marriage,grown up children,no work in the house-all thesethingsobviously affectthe stomach. So it is nice to disTo discoversomecoversomething. thing that wasnot discovered beforethat is meditation. How I discoverit may be different in differentsituations. MaybeI will be prayingto God,"Please, God, I havea is sick person and I don't know what. the problem.I don't know the soluhelp me, God." Maybe tion. Please God will give me someideas. Or we may sit and do somechanting. Or we may look at the person, makesome trial anderror system, so that something can be discovered. We have manymethods of investigation. So thereis a needto discover something, and you believethatasana andpranayannhelpus to cometo this level.Yes,we cando that.But this discovery neednot be confinedto the storyof Indianculture.It canalsobe to understand our own religion,our own systems, our own masters of the past-not alwaysPatanjalior the

Desikachar on Mediation
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Bhagavad Gita. We havethreewordsfor meditation. We havedharana,we have dhyana, we havesamtdhi.Eachof these wordsof Patanjalicouldmean whatyou call meditation. Then there is bhakti.To pray to God is also meditation.There is surrender!o To serve God; that is also meditation. in the nameof God is meditation. Anotherexampleis you sit with somebody; the personis giving some story.As the storyrevealsitself, the probleminsideyou becomes very clear.I think that is alsomeditation. So thereis repetitionof runtras, sittingneara greatmaster, reading something like theBhagavad Gita, service, sunender trr God. All these The areexamples of the means. means mustbe according to the situationandnaturallyaccording ttreindividual.That is the fint clarification. If I follow you rightly,it Question: seems could be a state that meditation of discovery, of understanding or knowledge. Could it be said that this new knowledge will resultin more right action?Or is it possiblethat the discovery comingfrom meditation action? couldbring a negative Desikachar:I acceptyour proposiis a discovery. tion that meditation No oneherehassaidthat the discovcharery musthavean extraordinary acter.After all, we discover only whatalreadyexists,and it is not necfact. Let's essarily a revolutionary instead say,for example, of running all over the place,I decideonceto sit quietly,to think in a quiet way-directed and quiet.Then I realizethat I living in a state am usually of great In fact, I did not gain anyagitation. thing morethanthe discoveryof my disraction,my almostconstanl. agitation.To get this insight,I hadto sit quietly for a while. BeforettratI thoughtI had very clear ideas,but I became awareof the relativity of this point after havinga brief momentof This is one of the aspects silence. of meditation-the discoveryof a fact simple. somehow The otheraspect is the revelation of a morespecificpoint. For ex-

ample,it could be the discovery of a means to teacha difficult mantratD handicapped an intellectually child. So thereare differentlevelsof discoveryfrom the simplest to the most extraordinary, as long as one takes time to reflect,to meditate. Now to comebackto your question,whichis to know if thisdiscovery will help me to act rightly, this is the objectof another discoveryto be madefor oneself. Consequently the process is donein two stages. The lrst is to find out what thereis lo be discovered, and second, to find out if the first revelation is positiveor noL

Just becausewe succeed, perhaps by chanceor by one or another intervention,we must not take ourselvesas masters.
In otherwords,in the first step,we are in what. we usuallycall "meditation." Somebody sis quietly,decides to be quietin his mind,to calmdown the internalagitation, to slow down activity). theguna,rals (excessive Two typesof consequences are then possible. Either theguna,tamas(lethor it is argy),takesthe emptyspace, theguna,sauva(clarity) which grows in the mentalspace. Obviouslyone hopesthat mediation will inducethe latter situation. We sometimes meetpeoplewho "meditatea lot." After sometime of regularpractice, coltheir posture lapses, comes, a state of sleepiness they look moreand morelike those sleepypeoplewe seeon buses, bein them,tamasis stronger than cause not whatwe satNa.It is obviously call mediution. to seethe Question:Is it possible positiveeffectsof mediradon in certain people,and with others,is it less obvious? Desikachar:Somepeopleare doing thingsout of obligation,asperforming rituals, andit helpsthemfeel good.Not to observe theserituals

makesthem feel guilty. And so in this case,to act in this directioncould be produces harmfulwhentle non-action a bad feeling.This is the first possibility wherethe actionmay be a little mechanical. This can happen in all sortsof standardtechniques like csana,pranayana,nantra, ets. The otherpossibility,moredifficult, requires a a constant awareness, greatconfidence, and constant contact with a guide.The first possibilityis easyto realize.You go to somebody who givesyou an exercise, a mantra or something else,and you staywith it all your life. While practicingwhat is prescribed, you havea sense ofpeace, and whenyou don't, you feel a bit ill possibility,with In the second at ease. regularhelp from somebody, thereis a progression, is less but the process simple;it requires a biggereffort and a moreprofoundcommitment. We haveto seethat the majorityof people the first possibilitybecause choose of the simplicity it presents. thehelpof Question:You mentioned a guide.May I comebackto the beginningof this dialoguewhenyou saidyou could help us out with the aspects of asanaand technical pranayanubut for the "other," we mustcomebackto our own culture? For us, as we comefor the technical pranayama, aspects of asanaand maybea continuityof advicegoing toward meditation could be useful. you to go Desikachar: By advising I am not back to your own sources, trying to refusemy help if it canbe really needs useful.When someone you, if this person doesnot seeother you musthelp,without hesitameans, to tion. But it may be presumptuous believethat you are the only person else.We aretoo able to help someone quick to takeourselves as lhe onewho can solveeverything. We mustalwaysbearin mind that othersare morecompetent thanwe are in manyfields. we sucJustbecause by chance or by oneor ceed,perhaps we mustnot take anotherintervention, it is ourselves as masters. Sometimes when someone interesting, comesto else. us, to say,"Try with somebody Havea look in your closesunoundings;find out in your own culture."
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The Viniyoga l-ctter . November, 1989

Letter from the President

This fall issueof The Viniyoga to you lctter bringswarmgreetings of from myselfand all the members the ViniyogaAmericaBoardof Directors. I would like to bring you up As activities. to dateon V.A.'s recent manyof you know, we hada superb in July with I 12 peopleatseminar tendingthe first weekand46 people week.It wasa attending the second reestablishing time for study,practice, with old friends,and connections meetingnew ones.Desikachar's wasextraordinary, teaching and the him during tle teachers assisting OpenSeminar broughtan addeddimension to the leamingexperience. For a moredetailed reporton the conreadthe articleby Pat tent,please Miller in this issue. enthuInspiredby the participants' for the quality siasmand appreciation providedat the seminar, of instruction the Boardof Directorsinvited Desikachar to returnnext year.He graciouslyaccepted, and we will be returningto Dominican Collegenext of July. We will keepyou apprised which will be detailsvia the brochure mailedout sometime in February. Please keepin mind thatresidential space at the collegeis limited,and havepriority in that V.A. members registration until April 15. meetmembership At our general ing on July 22, electionof ttreBoard of Directorswasheld. Electedto serveanotherterrnwereYan DhyanMarsky, SoniaNelson,Larry Payne, garet. Pierce,Martin Pierce,Mary LouiseSkelton, andJaneYoung.In elected addition,Gary Kraftsowwzrs reto the Board,and Kristy Greaves At signed due to othercommitrnents. the Boardmeetingwhich followed,I wasreelected President, JaneYoung waselected Vice President, Gary Kraftsow was appointedSecretary, Treasand SaraCloudwas appointed urer. The Boarddetermined that V.A. who needed a committee of members could helpcoordinate the projectsundertaken by V.A. andalsoadvisethe boardas it plansfor the future.The
The Vinivoea l-etter . Novembcr. 1989

Desikacharon Mediation
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for this yearis chairedby committee Yan Dhyansky of and is composed Their particular the following people. are listed. areas of responsibility Martine Burat Translation of articlesfrom the FrenchViniyogaJoumal Dorothy Conlon Membership PhylissHonneman Book sales LeslieKaminoff Audio system andrecording arTangements Mary-Ellen Lefort Transcription of audiotapes Pat Marcus Reprintsfrom Viniyogalptters Pat Miller Visa arrangements Anne Rogers Brochureandbook disnibution in translating or If you canassisl transcribing articlesor distributing please let us know as soon brochures, Throughthe work of as possible. ViniyogaAmerica,an increasing numberof peoplearebeingexposed wealthof knowlto the incomparable edgefound in this yogaEaditionwe revalueso highly. The widespread indicates we havereceived sponse a strongneed that we are addressing for a comprehensive approach to healthand well-beingthroughyoga. and We all appreciate the dedication and effort of the projectcoordinators hopethat manyof you canpaflicipate.I havegreatfaith that through effortsof our members, the combined the resultsof our work will continue to blossomand grow in the years ahead.
Sonia Nelson

Travelinga long way to meetsomehis qualities, body doesnot,assure and manymisin the field of meditation, takescan be made.In this half spiritual field, too many and half intellectual and questionable situations confused havebeencreated. On the otherhand, too often peoplewho want somehelp peopleat the same are going to several time, and this is only makingthings morecomplicated. What matters the most is faith, and to divide faith in differentpartswith differentmasters is not ideal. peopleshould Throughmeditation, perhaps try to find out why theyare the way they are,and it if is desirable. Question:You insistthatonemustreandalso spectthe culturalbackground worthto be ableto discoversomething while, one mustnot "flutter about" Perhaps, from one teacher to another. in the West,we should as teachers makethosetwo pointsclearto our students? I wouldnot sayso,for Desikachar: you haveto consider First, two stages. presents itself to you couldbe whatever useful;nothingshouldbe deniedor rejected.In this preliminaryphase, even aidstapes can be useful.But if these recordings, notebooks, etc.-have rewithin myself something ally acted, will showme thenextstep.So at first, nothingshouldbe denied. morereThe second stageconcems of the mind, fined, moresubtlestates of the soul.A slightly differentapproachis thenrequired-an actionat for exthe serviceof lessgrossdesires, wanting to know God.If the ample, first stageis working well, something whatoneshould or insideindicates If not, onesees shouldnot undertake. the teacher. We shouldall think of ourselves as beingin the first stage. Consequently, no means shouldbe rejected, but this one shoulddisperse doesnot meanthat. sources. oneselfin going to several Thereis a limit to whatonecanintegrate.It is far betterto stick to onedirectionthanto sink in a multiplicity of methods. Thankyou for yourquestions. This article waseditedby Jane Young.