I am an ongoing student of Srivatsa Ramaswami and this is what Ramaswamiji had to say in an email about the passing of Pattabhi Jois and birth and death.
Sri Ramaswami was Krishnamacharya’s longest standing student outside of Krishnamacharya’s family. He studied with Krishnamacharya for some 30 years, longer than P. Jois, Iyengar, and Desikachar.
SRI PATTABHI JOIS
Three of the disciples of my Guru, Sri Pattabhi Jois, Sri B K S Iyengar and Sri T K V Desikachar, propagated Yoga in the modern times and their influences have been phenomenal. The oldest of them, Sri Pattabhi Jois, taught the unique adaptation of my Acharya’s asana teaching, christened Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. It has caught the imagination of hundreds of thousands of Yogis all over the world and is practiced with tremendous enthusiasm. His passing away at the ripe old age of 94 leaves a void in the Yoga World. A tremendous teacher, Guruji was dearly loved and highly respected in the Yoga world. I had not met him but am aware that he was an ideal student of my Guru. The debt to a father is repaid by the offspring by exemplary conduct. “What good karmas the father should have done to get such a wonderful offspring”, people should say of the son/daughter. Likewise it is said that a student should bring out the glory of the teacher by his teachings — “Acharyam praksayeth.” People should wonder, “Who was his teacher?”
Sri Jois by his relentless and pioneering work on Yoga brought name, fame and respect to the legacy of his teacher Sri Krishnamacharya.
BETWEEN DEATH AND BIRTH
All the orthodox philosophies which accept the authority of the Vedas subscribe to the Theory of Karma, even as they have significant differences in the interpretation of the Vedas.
According to the Vedas, the individual soul surrounded by the vasanas or impressions of the past lives and also the remainder of the accumulated subtle karma bundle, gets attached to the subtle body of the individual. The subtle body itself, according to Sankhyas, is made of 18 aspects, the three internal organs of the chitta, viz., mind, ego and intellect, the ten indriyas and five tanmatras. When a person dies, the non-changing pure consciousness — the soul or self also known as purusha or jiva along with the subtle body undergoes the first transformation when it goes through ‘fire’, as the physical body is consigned to the fire after death. Then the subtle body goes up the sky space and approaches the heaven, but due to the avidya and the power of the accumulated karmas, stagnates and then is absorbed by the rain clouds, which is the second transformation due to the ‘fire’ of water. The subtle body then descends to earth with the drops of rain and is absorbed by a plant which is the third transformation through fire of earth. Then when the plant or the plant product is eaten by a being, it is absorbed and becomes the generative fluid of that person. This is the fourth transformation through the fire of the being, or gastric fire. Then when it is transferred to the female being, it undergoes another transformation through fire of the womb and becomes an embryo. Then according to Samkhyas the embryo has the subtle body and the genes/genetic body. The subtle body which went through five changes now gets the second body or the body given by the parents (mata pitruja sarira). This embryo then gets nourishment through the mother and develops another body known as bhuta sarira (the physical body) or a body made of the five elements — earth, water, fire, air, and space. And then one is born again. These five fire transformations is in the panchagni vidya of the Upanishads, and the Samkhyas talk about the subtle body, the genetic body, and the physical body to complete the story of the journey from death to birth. But those yogis who have attained Kaivalya or Moksha or Nirvana have their souls liberated and are able to shed the subtle body when they attain liberation and are able to break this cycle of samsara or transmigration. One who is able to clearly understand the process of transmigration through meditation and understanding of the panchagni vidya briefly narrated above are able to attain liberation (for better understanding, read the panchagni vidya from Chandogya Upanishad.) Such a person is able to see the distinction between the changing body going through all the transformation between birth and death and then between death and birth and the non-changing pure consciousness or the Self. Such a person is able to identify with the non-changing consciousness as ‘oneself’, the immortal self and becomes immortal. The rest, considering themselves to be mortal go through the cycle of samsara repeatedly and endlessly say the Upanishads.