Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reflections on "Guruji: A Portrait" - Interview with Elise Espat - Part I


How and why did you choose to ask the questions you asked for the interviews?

When I arrived in Mysore in the early '90s Guruji used to give regular theory classes, but his ability to communicate was often thwarted by language problems. 

Guruji spoke a little English but he had a strong accent which was often hard for English speakers to understand and mostly impossible to understand for non-native English speakers when he started to talk about philosophy. 

In the first few years I was there, there were 15-20 students at his theory classes. We were French, German, English, American, Dutch, Swiss… a jumble of languages with varying limitations on the grasp of Guruji's broken English and Sanskrit. So his efforts were often mired in frustration. I felt for him (and for myself - I was also frustrated we were unable to learn more from him in this forum).

Sutra Class 2


Alex kindly transcribed these talks so those who missed a class can hear what was discussed. Unfortunately the first class was not well recorded.

Sutra Class 2 - Jan 2012

I am going to recapitulate what we spoke about last week. In fact every week we will go over the same basic concepts.

Atha yogānuśāsanam

The meaning of this sutra indicates that yoga is not something newly to be expounded upon, this is an exposition of a subject that is already known. The subject is known because it occurs as a natural state in the human being.  It is not an artificial state.

According to the yogis or rishis, there are four different states of human experience. The first one is called the waking state. The second one is the dream state, the third one is the deep sleep state and the fourth one is called Samadhi, or Turiya. In ancient times human beings used to experience all four of these states naturally.

The state of Samadhi has unfortunately been lost for most of us, but it is still accessible. One might have the impression that to attain the state of Samadhi and have the experience of the Self, is a long and arduous task and takes some effort. But in a certain sense this is a mistaken view since the Self is always present, the Self is always the source of who we are. The problem is the mind.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Patanjali Yoga in Light of the Teachings of Sri K Pattabhi Jois

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone wanting to invite me to a "Yoga Rave" - a  party like none other in the world; a new concept in fun where the mind and body respond to a uniquely crafted sequence of high-energy music, movement, yoga & meditation. I responded by saying, a yoga rave is a contradiction in terms. "I can guarantee that the party will be 100% yoga compliant: it is substance free, it will end earlier than a typical party and all the proceeds will go to a non profit." Came the response.  My reply was obviously completely lost on the poor fellow which is probably not surprising considering the general lack of understanding of the meaning, purpose and practice of yoga in modern times.

Despite the fact that we now have many yogic texts available in translation, this has further compounded rather than reduced the problem. Translations and interpretations conflict with each other, causing a general muddle in people's minds. Today we have Yoga Sutra interpretations from buddhist, christian, atheistic, dualistic, non dualistic etc - so many different perspectives (mostly by non yoga-practicing academics). This has caused a great deal of confusion, especially as these underlying perspectives are often not stated and the translators have little or no practical experience with yoga.