To Guruji – today! (In his love!)

“Realized souls never see this door as a door. They don’t see the wall as a wall. They only see everything around them as, God They don’t see things, normal, like we do”. – Guruji

The universal principle of the Guru-Disciple relationship is eternal and established on a permanent platform of universal compassion, absolute love, and total forgiveness. There is no way to determine or judge who has practiced and perfected these principles, except – can only strive to withdraw and attune to the three natures of the Consciousness! My increasing love, and fondness for, Guruji, had to stop short of “conditioned attachment”, to the “image” of the “Guru”, to realize the formless! I had come back to Chennai for a few months in 2003. In December 2003, one night he appeared in my dream and said, “I won’t be living on earth for long”. I reflected on it, and knew in advance, I would be receiving this message in some form or other.

Many days, he would message me mentally, “I am not coming today”. The clairvoyance would confirm itself, while I would be waiting outside his doorstep, to receive a personal message sent through his driver.

I grew beyond this connection with a ‘man’ or a ‘personality’ who was ‘Shri Pattabhi Joise’, to realize the true worth of the Consciousness – mandatory, not to cling onto the, Guru! Whatever the teaching maybe, whatever the outer perfection of the body one may have to attain, but finally, nothing is achieved without annihilating the ego. Pride, at moment of our lives, any second, if allowed to occupy our minds, then it is a sure sign of downfall – an insult to our humility, which remains ignored and shut, mirroring the conscience. I had drop this pride, and embrace the simplicity he beheld, yet displaying the dignity, of a teacher, and humility of the student. Constant reflection was, “Non-expectation, from everything,  – every being! The Self, ever is and will be – and this is the only truth we can hold onto, achieve, live, and express!”.

It was late 2005, and I was already feeling irritated with the life in Mysore, and I felt a strong urge for a change of place. And I was also almost about to complete with learning the Primary Series. I was still wondering, what kept him waiting and unwilling to finish with me and start the intermediate lessons. Pressure was building up on my father to support me further as well. And it all accumulated into one situation of unease. I just wanted to leave Mysore, but not Guruji. But finally, in early 2006, he started with the finishing postures, but I was sad, and only wished I had met him so late. Tears of emotions of having learned through self-introspection, and withdrawal, wouldn’t be enough.. and I could see, it was time to snap the chord. He made it obvious to me the next morning, as he showed signs of indifference, meaning, I was free to leave.

Earlier, the previous three years, whenever I used to restlessly reflect and wonder if I should stop midway, or ask him in silence, if he could complete it quickly, so I can move on, and teach somewhere, he would never allow it, and messaged it with a positive note, to humble me further.. and continue learning under him – an intuitive message, “It wasn’t time yet!”.

Months in advance he knew, I wouldn’t be with him after the summer of ’06. I hadn’t planned my date of departure, but still he knew I won’t be coming back, and somehow he was successful in breaking this attachment. He started to ignore me, reduced his response to my emotions. He kept me totally away from him, so I must find my way out slowly. The last couple of months in 2006 were really tough to handle. On one side, I couldn’t continue due to personal circumstances, and on the other side, I couldn’t leave him due to the connection I had developed with him.

But all through these three years I spent with him, everyday I learned something new and different. I learned what tolerance and patience, and unconditional love is. It was a direct lesson by watching him impart wisdom of the Self, through practical asanas, while in mind – one has to constantly connect and communicate with the, Guru! He taught everybody in a different way. He did push students for perfection, with the same force, allowing each to progress at their own pace, but what he gave to each, is unique and incomparable. He never discriminated or gave special attention to the one who was extremely good to ignore the novice.

He did show that he was attached to gold and money. He did show he was living in luxury. But, I noticed that he knew very well who he was and what he was doing. One part of him was attached to materialism, while another part of him was resting in the Supreme Absolute. There was no doubt he had realized, God. His body was living in luxury, masked by the Universal Consciousness, which he knew!.

I left Mysore with a heavy heart and I could never come back to see him. But I continue to reflect his teachings – a very valuable flow, to this day. Once I asked him, about realized souls. I just mentioned about some great yogis, their attainments, and he replied, “Realized souls never see this door as a door. They don’t see the wall as a wall. They only see God They don’t look at things as normal, like we do”, meaning, they all see the infinite hidden in the finite.

Guru, is the dispeller of darkness, one who leads you to the ‘light’ within you. If somebody is learning from a Guru, he or she must reach out to the person inside, and learn to communicate in consciousness more than the body. Body can bend, muscles can stretch, and one can sweat night and day to prove or flaunt perfected flexibility, which is nothing but a, “Michael Jackson – Moonwalk”. The process doesn’t unveil till the Guru in us blossoms with or without body flexibility. In fact, the ego increases on pride over greater fluidity of the bones and flesh. The purpose of learning is wasted.

I always felt, I left the class everyday with something precious…. more precious than Ashtanga Vinyasa. I learned from him…. it is not important how well we can bend our body; it is not important how far we can stretch. This is just a primary preparation for our bodies to be able to sit for long periods of time in meditation. But through this process of bending and stretching, it is important to attune to the Self, watch the mind process. In the process of observing oneself, we get to realize the changes happening within, slowly revealing brief glimpses of emptiness, a state of permanence. It is obvious to feel happy over maintaining a slim and perfect body, totally flexible.. but, the point is not to perfect a stunt.

Over the years, I was not able to perfect the asanas he taught me, but still, I learned to flex my ego as much as I could. He always, reminded me subtly that it is not important to bend your body, but it is important to bend your ego. Bend your mind, and control it so you don’t get attached to the asanas and don’t let your pride settle in, at any point of time. Pride, is the main factor, which draws our attention, forcing us to project and believe, the outer image of who we are – a perfected teacher, dancer or anything…. which masks our humility.

Many of us miss the inner learning and remain attached to the physical self which is bound to perish any moment. People forget that. Our pride makes us forget that one small accident or a mishap could stop us from practicing yoga for life. Then where is the body which was, before? Is that the true learning, Guruji, has been giving us – perfection of the physical body? No. His teaching was blended with connecting to the consciousness through physical practice. We may think and believe, it is we who practiced, and progressed.. and perfected.. and regardless the effort we put in, it is the Guru, who perfects us, shapes us..!  No disciple, will be able to make it, would have made it… if he hadn’t unleashed the energy blocks. He can stifle, stop, regardless our abilities to perform better…! The Guru, can also decrease our excellence! And, this is the reason to remain humble, and not aim for egoistic perfection, and once it gets demeaned or we feel unappreciated, provoked… as if nobody has the right to insult us. Question for us, “Who is the person in us, that wants to be somebody “Great”, just because, there was a, Guruji, or, B.K.S. Iyengar, or, a, Jiddu Krishnamurti. That’s not the point or principle – to copy! Everybody, is only copying a text book, scripture, and mimicking the act – which is not “Teaching”, neither, “Learning”!

The way, is to withdraw, instead of showing it out to the world – “I do this.. I am this or that.. and, all of you should come and acknowledge my credentials… offer me a position to rule..”. If this is what Yoga, has done to everybody, then we might as well be a movie or pop star.

When I heard finally, that Guruji passed away on 18th May 2009, I remained silent, reflected and paid my respect, “His duty is over for this lifetime, and he has left his body. But, we must keep his teachings alive. Salutations to the ‘Master’!”

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To Guruji – With love (Shri. Pattabhi Jois)

Three years of love, discipline, patience, endurance, and humble submission under Guruji! I love him, and remain gratuitous for humbling my ego, by teaching me nothing – the most important thing I learned – was – he never wanted me to learn what he was teaching. He unlearned me!

The whole excitement about learning something new everyday, a new posture, arriving at a new spiritual experience, to be able to enjoy watching the body flexing to perfection, was cut short with constant obstacles like cramps, and stiffness! But, Guruji, increased my frustrations much more.. by introducing me to a new lesson once every month, and also by making me wait… wonder.. speculate.. and doubt.. by not teaching me or assisting me with any posture at all for a period of six months and more. The process of Guru-Disciple relationship is not a definitive structure, or theory which may apply one and same to the students, and no Guru, will be the same or teach in the same manner, and no Guru (if enlightened), will train his/her students alike. To each one – they will impart lessons suited to their consciousness and body growth. Understanding this, and keeping it close to my conscience, Guruji, purposely gave me this humbling experience… and pushed me into greater silence, and withdrawal.

He taught me to practice non-expectation, accept obediently, with a neutral and humble, non-questioning mind, what he imparts directly, or even if he ignores me for days together, it is still a way of shaping up the mind, body, and consciousness – the wholesome aspect of realization! Hard are the ways, ridden with pitfalls, and hurdles, and each effort was equally filled with greater failure…. and he stamped my ego down every time I aimed at achieving success.

Never cling onto the ideas of achievement, success and failure. What you receive,  is that which is your portion, being filled into you by the universe!

There was always one corner in my heart which would pop out and question, “When is he going to finish with the primary series?” The human mind is so strange and difficult to control.

Most of the times, we communicated mainly through silence. I always sensed his answers to my questions were transmitted through silence. The immense respect I had for him, was the reverence for the Consciousness hidden behind the mask of, Shri. A.K. Pattabhi Jois – and a Master of such honour, and dignity, imparted one consistent lesson – “Silence will reveal everything.”. He just knew how to speak through silence, hint signs of indiscipline, lack of concentration and dedication, and even anger – which was rare, and I had to catch it and shift my mind and flow. One day, as I was practicing, suddenly, the two words from the Yoga Sutras resonated in my mind, and they were, Abhyasa, which means practice and, Vairagya, which means detachment. I looked at him and asked, “Aren’t, Abhyasa, and, Vairagya, the two most important principles for realization? He gazed at me with his usual compassionate smile and quoted a few shlokas in Sanskrit which I don’t remember, and said, “Yes, both are very important. Continuous practice and detachment helps you progress and they must be adopted for the practice of yoga.”

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Later on, I contemplated on what he said, and it revealed more answers. If we don’t have practice and detachment moving together, then we are not freeing the mind from aim, and ambition and goals. Each time we notice an achievement or result, they are simply to make us realize, it as a consequence – the consequence should never be the ultimate aim or destination. Abhyasa, and, Vairagya, are two wings of the bird flying across the Oceanic Void higher, and higher! Like this, there are many examples which I could share. But it was only after I attended Guruji’s birthday for the first time, in 2004, our relationship started to get closer. It wasn’t obvious for anybody. Not even for me did he show that he loved me, but it was just understood between us. He always made it a point to maintain a healthy distance with his dignity and self-respect.

Another day, during my practice I asked him, “Guruji, how do I get rid of my vasanas (sense pleasures and desires)? He said, “As you practice, it will all come out on its own.” I wasn’t satisfied with this answer and I repeated my question, “But how do I get rid of them?” He again repeated the same words and then I just kept quiet and thought to myself, maybe I should meditate harder (but we just cannot do things hard. Just string the instrument, and play the right note till it plays right). It was time, he had to teach me, Baddhakonasana, a posture in which we have to bend our legs at the knees, with the feet placed close to each other sticking to the buttocks, and gradually, spread open the bent knees flat on the floor sideways. The pain would be excruciating and it has caused injuries for many people including myself. I was complaining of pain for days and I couldn’t walk properly. Then suddenly, Guruji walked up to me smiling and gave me Tiger Balm and said, “Use this, it will be good for your pain”. I was surprised and thought to myself, “Does he really mean it?”. It was for me to realize, I shouldn’t have questioned like that. I realized, “Never cling onto the ideas of achievement, success and failure. What you receive,  is that which is your portion, being filled into you by the universe!”

Guruji was also very strict about his tradition and caste and religion. Above all, he was very strict about being a vegetarian. I just asked him once, “Guruji, doctors say egg is good for health. Do you think it’s fine if I take eggs?” I asked him this question because on the previous day I had eaten two boiled eggs. He smiled and said, “No, you should not eat eggs. No non-vegetarian food, only vegetarian.” It was early New Year in 2005 and I wished him a happy New Year. He looked at me and said, “English New Year, only for English people. For Indians, New Year is Ugadi”. Ugadi is the New Year celebrated by the people of Karnataka around 27th of March.

to be contd..

Guruji- A tribute! (Shri. Pattabhi Jois)

Thought to practice and obey – “Never criticize or judge the Guru, whether they appear to be, right or wrong”.

I was so stupid, I didn’t come prepared. So I had to just remove my shirt and practice with my tracks on. He started with the Surya Namaskar -1 and finished it short the first day. As it was my first time, I experienced tremendous energy – sort of receiving initiation from the Guru!. Every touch from his fingers, and the pressure from his palms had a healing touch. The way he communicated through silence was more than enough and never gave me the feeling or need, to talk or engage him in any kind of conversation. 

Even though the first part was short and easy, it wasn’t simple enough for me to memorize the sequence, and refrain from committing mistakes. If I erred, he would make me start all over again. And, it so happened, on my third day, I was forgetting the sequence, and he made me start all over again at least 12 times, and I ran out of steam, but he continued to push me harder. I was just loving the perfectionist teaching a perfectionist.

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Weeks and months passed by, and I slowly started to realize the greatness of my, Guru, whom I hadn’t accepted as a Guru yet. I was still testing him to see how true and qualified he was, to be a Guru. In spiritualism when it comes to realizing the Self, both the Guru and the Disciple have the right to test each other. One day, he was observing me in silence as usual. It was one of those days, when the mind gets muddled up with cravings (totally sexually connecting to one of my girl friends), and he was quietly reading all of them. 

So, as he was looking at me, I just turned around and asked him, “Guruji,  when I go back to my room, I am always filled with worldly (indirect hint – sexual) thoughts”. He smiled and said, “You should not think of unnecessary things, you should think of God”. That was so sweet to hear, as it I realized, he was looking to answer my thoughts. Somewhere, he had this childlike concern, which filled me with immense warmth. He didn’t judge! There was never one moment where I felt his absence for the three years I lived in Mysore. 

He was always quick to notice me lose focus and dedication, not offering hundred percent of myself, and he would show it very subtly, but in a stern manner through his expressions and energy. His silence was more vociferous than his words. His silent and subtle disciplining methods, always pushed me to focus harder. 

The basic and most important way for winning over the mind is to control the senses, and resist all sorts of temptations, not falling for the opposite sex, or both –  but the very idea of being sexual, is ostracized in most schools of spiritualism.. Attraction isn’t right or wrong, but applying wisdom with discrimination and intuition helps one understand the ‘timing’ as appropriate or not, to flow with the senses. Reducing the needs of sense cravings is not easy, and developing will power to weaken them, requires a lot of mental discipline.

He would be sitting outside in the hall, but still he would know when to come and assist me in a posture which I had been struggling with. He would continue to stay upstairs and not pay attention, and I would be thinking, ‘Maybe, he doesn’t remember he has to help me with this asana. But, he would surprise me with his precise timing of appearance whenever I needed assistance, and this happened every time. He knew everything. He saw everything, and He heard everything, in SILENCE and made sure, I don’t talk, but kept it dignified enough, so I open my mind to tune into his thoughts. He just read me and scanned through my person… completely!

There would be days when I’d be feeling low in confidence, wondering if I practiced well losing hope on making progress. He would sense it right away, and smile at me with a comforting expression, “Your practice is really nice”. That would instantly uplift me, offering inspiration to practice better. He always knew how to work with energies. I would constantly hear criticisms regarding his attitude from the locals, as well as foreigners. 

One day, I was travelling in the auto-rickshaw and the driver asked me what I was doing in Mysore. I told him I was learning yoga with Shri. Pattabhi Jois. The minute he heard the name, he started saying, “He is a very money-minded person and very stingy and never helps anybody with money”. I was shocked and upset to hear this and I heard the same sentence from many people. But I just kept quiet even though, I was criticizing him in my mind, the next day during the class… and I could see, he was upset. I felt embarrassed, since I knew you was making it clear, he was reading my thought.

But later on, I understood that he is not what he seemed from his appearance. The message was, to look through his consciousness. He was a man with a heart of great patience and love. And the relationship which we shared was special, but still… he showed the same love and patience to the rest… who came to learn from him. He was never biased. He answered every doubt and question of mine. A few words from him, most of the days, was wisdom enough!

to be contd…

A tribute to my beloved Guru…..Father Jois – 1

It was on the 6th of January 2003. I was just about to complete my participation in a theatre production by the Madras Players of Chennai. It was a play written by the renowned author Mohan Narayanan called, “Ashwaha”. I was already feeling restless in Chennai and had a great passion for yoga and I wanted to be under a Guru, who could train me under the ancient system of training – the Gurukul, which was once upon a time, a “way of life” in India. After spending a year in the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, which is in the state of Bihar, I had collected a lot of information about how vast the knowledge of yoga was and the various traditions existed in this limitless field with their respective Gurus. 

Among one of them was a tradition started by T.Krishnamacharya who was a great yogi himself. He had students with the likes of Shri K.Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and T.K.V.Desikachar, his son and Jiddu Krishnamurti. I had met a few students in the yoga school from New Zealand and U.S.A. who were already practicing Ashtanga Yoga which inspired me to research further. I read a few books, and also spoke to a couple of more people, and they all had great praise for Father Jois…..that’s what they call him with love.

I called him on the 6th of January and the phone was ringing for a while and I didn’t know who would answer it. But to my surprise Guruji answered! He spoke in a very feeble voice, and asked me something in Kannada. I reacted, “Sir, I don’t understand Kannada, can you please speak in English?” He repeated his question in, English, “Who is speaking?”. I gave my introduction after which informed me the dates of registration were on the 11th, 12th and 13th of January, while the classes were beginning on the 16th of January (2003).

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I asked again, “Can I come on the 20th of January?” He replied sweetly, “No problem”. I continued to clear my doubt regarding course fees to which he was patient enough to extend his valuable time and I realised it was well within my budget which my father could afford to pay. I was so excited I was looking forward to seeing him and starting my lessons.

I finished my production commitments in Chennai and departed for Mysore on the 19th of January. I boarded a train in the morning for Bangalore and reached around 1:30 p.m. and had to board another passenger for Mysore, two and a half hours from the capital city of, Karnataka. I was not only excited but also worried about finding a reasonable accommodation…. and wondering what my meeting with him, would be like. I had a feeling, we were sensing and mentally communicating already. The imparting had commenced! A lot of questions and thoughts were running randomly across my head while I continued to enjoy the lush green fields and rivers. Especially, when you travel by this route one gets to notice farmers ploughing and picking crops, and the nature carved rock structures and also the small mountains and cliffs are just captivating. 

I reached Mysore in the evening, and I immediately looked for a room in a lodge right next to Parakkal Mutt and the night rest was long. The next morning, after a nice shower, I got myself readied for a meeting with Guruji. I reached his old home, (they call it old shala) which I wasn’t aware he had vacated long back and moved to a new and bigger place which was now the original institution.. The old home is much smaller,  which is where he had started teaching. He was a simple Sanskrit scholar making two ends meet and teaching yoga to the locals, until one day an, American knocked his door – doorway to his glory! 

I was waiting at the door step when his driver invited me to have a seat. He said, Guruji was upstairs and would be coming in a few minutes. A soon as I noticed him, I just stood up with respect and he gave me a stern look and asked me again something in Kannada which I couldn’t understand. I reminded him of our phone conversation we had and then he immediately recalled that I was from Chennai. He was silent for a few minutes, and as he was about to leave for the day putting on his sandals, he said, “Come on, Thursday”. That’s it. It was done. I said, “okay” and immediately started looking for an accommodation. I found one just about two kilometres away from his home – which was satisfying. They were a wonderful family.

I started my first day of practice on a, Thursday, 24th of January and I was enjoying every bit of my experience with him. He just behaved exactly word to word, as described in the book, “From here to nirvana” by Anne Cushman and Jerry Jones. I rang the bell which never worked properly, but still it managed to ring audible enough. I think it was more with the switch than the bell. He came and opened the door and looked at me and exclaimed, “Yeah, come”. Then he asked me to follow him upstairs and offered me a seat beside him, and requested me to enter the details in the register, pay the registration fee and the monthly course fee.

He then spoke in his usual ways, ‘You go down and wait.’, which I did! Within a few minutes, I could hear his hands gripping for support, against the concrete wall of the staircase and his slow footsteps. There was nobody except me and I was all alone that day. It wasn’t like the Bihar school of Yoga anymore, where we could practice yoga wearing anything. His strict orders were to remove my shirt and wear shorts, for easy stretching and mobility.

Everyday, same smile - three years of compassion!
Everyday, same smile – three years of compassion!

to be contd…