“I wish to make clear that the sexual scandal around Kausthub has no implication, at all, on Krishnamacharya’s life work and dedication to Hatha Yoga. Although lineage held in family is a historic way of preserving teachings, the lineage is not dependent on this arrangement. Krishnamacharya himself communicated to me, all who represent their teachers work with a clear heart and honest intention are lineage holders.” (Mark Whitwell, from his Facebook page.)
Mark is a former student of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, so I am glad that he weighs in on the matter and I agree with what he says. One of the things Mark speaks to is the cultural (patriarchy) aspect of this and as I said in my own first post , there are various layers to the situation and that is one of them.
In an ongoing discussion of the Kausthub mess, a friend and I cyber-chatted about one of the latest writings about it in the yoga blogosphere and he gave me permission to quote him. We have a bit different perspective on the matter having both studied at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. Many commenting on this in the yoga blogosphere have not.
“Lots of people are viewing this issue from their misconceptions about India and yoga. If guru culture (whatever the hell that means) has burned them (or they have never experienced a guru and essentially see them from a strictly xenophobic, American individualism is the highest virtue point of view), they’ll bitch and moan about it. If large Westernized organizations (whatever the hell that means) have burned them, they’ll bitch and moan about that.
So many comments on blogs have centered on how “organizations” should behave. It’s bullshit. Americans are so quick to absolve individuals of responsibility by talking about a “culture” that enables. Some cultures enable and even promote either good behaviors or bad, useful ones or detrimental ones… usually some mix of all.
But this shit could’ve been staved off easily if people at an individual level had done the right thing. They all acted in their own self interest… or mostly in their self interest (some acted in the interest of their teacher/friend/colleague).
Nobody acted in the best interest of the student. And here’s the really awful part because as teachers we are always supposed to act in the best interest of the student. You don’t give techniques to students just because you know them or are eager to teach them… or even because the student is begging for them. You give them to a student only if it is in the best interest of the student (and this takes appropriateness into account).
It’s a much uglier thing to come to terms with. But I can’t imagine that anyone who had taken this situation, regardless of what point of view they were looking at it from, and sat with it in meditation or even just considering it with some common sense to determine the right action would’ve come to any different conclusion than that it had to stop.
Below is an email I received from the KYM this morning. It’s a damn good thing that KYM has finally publicly condemned Kausthub. As I said in my first post about this, I know Dr. Latha as a wonderful teacher and am confident that she won’t tolerate any shenanigans.
The link to this new blog yogascandals was sent to me by the former KYM teacher whose 2007 letter to Desikachar was published online. In her opinion it is “some ray of hope for the women, an open forum for sharing in anonymity.” As the blog’s creator wrote:
“this blog is available to anyone to share their stories, with as much anonymity as you wish. if you have a anything to share for any reason, you can send me a comment to any post and I will contact you. I will not publish anything second hand, and I will not add my own commentary to any content.
my reason for doing this is to bring to the public eye, what is being held in exclusive circles of the sangha, the senior teachers, the khyf, kym etc. No one seems to address the confusion and distress of the affected or the students. So many people have spent so much time, dedication, loyalty, respect and money on this teacher and the KHYF and they deserve to know what is going on.”
(underline is my emphasis.)
May the healing begin.
Dear Friends, Colleagues, Patrons and Well-Wishers.
Warm Greetings from Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Staff and Teachers of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, I wish to express KYM’s deep condemnation of the alleged misbehavior of Mr. Kausthub Desikachar. Our deepest sympathies lie with all the women who have been affected in this issue. Since these allegations have been brought to light, the Board of Trustees has obtained Mr. Kausthub Desikachar’s resignation from the Board and severed all ties with him.
We wish to reiterate that the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, since its inception in 1976 has been functioning as a Public Charitable Trust under the direct supervision of not any one individual but a board of carefully selected trustees who are each distinguished professionals in their own right and most of whom are direct students of Yogacarya T Krishnamacharya and/or our founder, TKV Desikachar.
The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram has never had and never will have any involvement with any activities of the KHYF.
Every one of the Trustees is deeply committed to taking forth the valuable teaching legacy of T Krishnamacharya as handed down to several generations of teachers by his son, TKV Desikachar. The Board of Trustees firmly believes that the institution and the teachings themselves are far greater than any individual and all efforts will be made to ensure the transmission of these teachings as envisoned by our founder, TKV Desikachar.
In the context of the current situation, it is our deepest wish to carry forth the commendable work, especially in the realms of health and healing, done by the teachers of the KYM over the years. Hence, we are giving the greatest impetus to the uninterrupted transmission of these precious teachings and will ensure that all our activities – yoga studies programmes, teacher training programmes, chanting programs with a thrust on health and healing, individual therapy sessions, individual yoga studies lessons and individual chanting sessions will proceed as before.
Several new programmes will also be announced shortly on our website. We shall also establish a strong support network of old students of T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar who have expressed their willingness to sharing their invaluable knowledge, so that there is continuity and growth in learning for students of this tradition worldwide.
As always we seek your continued support and patronage. We value your feedback and suggestions so that we may carry on our work of spreading the healing message of T Krishnamacharya in a transparent and positive manner.
By now many people know about the latest yoga scandal about Kausthub Desikachar, all the allegations about him regarding sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse. I learned about it a week before it hit the yoga blogs, first from the search terms people used to find this blog: “kausthub desikachar scandal”; “kausthub desikachar sex abuse”; “kausthub desikachar allegations”; “kausthub desikchar rape.”
What the frack! Something huge is going on! “Uh, oh,” I thought, “this is going to be bigger than John Friend.” Then I got a Facebook message from a teacher asking me, “have you heard….” I put 2 and 2 together and then I was sent emails with attachments of the letters that have now been published in various yoga blogs.
As many of you know, I have studied yearly at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Manidram since 2005 and have written many times about my experiences there. I was shocked (but not surprised) when this news came out. I have no allegiance to Kausthub whatsoever, he was never my direct teacher. He was my teacher once for a class on Chapters 3 and 4 of the Sutras during my second trip to KYM in 2006.
The allegations made me physically ill.
I will only say that I am privy to information that is not public and that I will not make public. I will also say that I am appalled that the 2007 letter from a KYM teacher to Desikachar outlining the reasons for her resignation from KYM has been published in yoga blogs. I don’t know if she knows her letter has been passed around in emails and published in blogs (I have written to her via Facebook as she was one of my teachers 2005-2006), but I am sure no one wants their private letters published without permission. Maybe she does not mind that her private correspondence was published, but I have to ask the yoga bloggers who made it public: did you ask her permission? Two women yoga bloggers came forward to write about their own experiences with Kausthub but that was their own choice.
I believe KYM must be open and transparent about all of it. What made me angrier than Kausthub’s actions was that they were ignored by those in charge, including his father.
Many people asked me whether I wanted to speak or write about what was happening. People expected me to write about it because of how many times I have studied at KYM, but I decided not to because it was too soon and my feelings were too raw. My plans to take a group to KYM for private classes have been in the works since March and I seriously reconsidered my group trip.
The first person I asked for advice was my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, whom many of you know I have studied with since 2004. I also study with Ganesh Mohan, whose father also studied with Krishnamacharya. They are the two I know who are closest to the lineage — they gave me good advice that I will keep private because it is between teacher-student (as was Saraswati’s 2007 letter to Desikachar.) Not keeping teacher-student confidences private is one thing that Kausthub is accused of.
After MUCH consideration and literally sleepless nights about this, I decided to continue with my group trip to KYM. Why? Because I received advice from J. Brown, whose essays and opinions on modern yoga I respect. He is familiar with the lineage via Mark Whitwell. He told me that he thinks the situation is different from Anusara because there is no “spiritual head” of the tradition and it is by Desikachar’s example that there is no brand name (KYM does not call the style “viniyoga” as Gary Kraftsow does.) This means that no one person can lay claim to it and, therefore, no one person’s bad behavior can diminish the power of the teachings. In his opinion, he thought that I should carry on as planned and “stay true to your practice and the experience you were hoping to provide the people joining you and it will be good enough. The experience of going to India and studying at the Mandiram is not contingent on one particular teacher.”
“Stay true to your practice.” I will let that resonate for a while.
I also received advice from one of my favorite teachers at KYM who is still there and whom I have known since 2005. She told me that it is always about the teachings and what we learn from it, that the essence is important and nothing else.
Finally, it was hearing the Vedic chant to Patanjali every morning in my training with Ganesh Mohan this past week that helped me decide. The chant told me what it’s really all about. The practice.
That, and the fact that the people who have signed up for my trip told me that the allegations against Kausthub did not make a difference to them — they want the teachings and they trusted my judgment and wisdom about the situation. As soon as the news hit I sent an email to everyone who had signed up or who was thinking of signing up letting them know how conflicted I was about continuing with my plans. I asked them to give me a week to make a decision. One woman told me that she appreciated my honesty and it was because of my open and honest writing in this blog that attracted her to my trip in the first place. Only one woman cancelled her plans to go on this trip because of what happened and I respect her decision. We all have to follow our own hearts and I am at peace with my decision to continue with the trip.
Krishnamacharya’s teachings belong to the yoga world, they do not belong to the institutions or any one person whether it is Desikachar or his son. While KHYF is the money-making part of KYM, the two have always been considered separate entities. Although international students attend classes at KYM, it has more of an “Indian” emphasis and influence, with Indian teachers. KHYF was always geared to bringing yoga therapy training to the West with Kausthub teaching and overseeing the Western teachers (KHYF did not exist when I first went to KYM.) I rarely saw Kausthub at KYM other than in 2006.
About 6 years ago I considered entering the yoga therapy program (their first training) but decided not because of Kausthub. I thought his responses to my questions were arrogant. He expected me to fly to where he was teaching in the United States for a personal interview even though I had just returned from my second trip to KYM that was within 6 months of the first. Regarding acceptance into the training, he said a personal interview would take precedence over a telephone interview. I told him to forget it, that if two trips to KYM within 6 months did not show my allegiance to his grandfather’s teachings I don’t know what would.
Don’t lay this all on KYM. As I said all during the Anusara debacle, the teachers who knew about John Friend’s shenanigans and said nothing are equally culpable. The KHYF yoga therapy training program has Western senior teachers who work closely with Kausthub. If they or any other Western teacher had any inkling that something horrible was going on, they should have stepped forward, gone public, disassociated themselves. We now know that these things have been going on since at least 2007.
From all that I know about the situation thus far I think nothing short of an exorcism can help Kausthub. He needs long-term, intensive help. Every one of us has a shadow side with secrets and REAL YOGA is about pulling up those demons and dealing with our shadow selves. It hurts like a MFer and it ain’t pretty.
Sometimes we need a radical change and a brand new perspective and the Kausthub situation is giving KYM just that. I know they have separated themselves from Kausthub. In an email I received from the Director of Yoga Studies in response to my concerns about bringing my group, she said that KYM “strongly believes in the teachings of Shri Krishnamacharya and Shri Desikachar.” KYM appointed Dr. Latha Satish as the acting managing trustee in place of Kausthub and I know her as a wonderful teacher.
Any situation is never black or white and there are many levels to this, including cultural. I am absolutely not making excuses for Kausthub’s actions, but one thing I have learned in my 6 trips to India is to not view things in India through a Western lens — and I know that is something very hard to understand if one has not been to India as many times as I have or if one does not live there. It is something I have discussed privately with people (both Western and Indian) and it is also something I will not write about but one can begin to get some insight from the book Being Indian
All that being said, I am wise enough to not let Kausthab’s personal failings get in the way of my respect for the Krishnamacharya lineage. What Kausthub did (and he denies nothing) is a disgrace — but he only disgraced himself and his family, not the tradition. If anything, this should be another wake-up call to yoga practitioners about putting their teachers on pedestals. Funny how people are so quick to question everything in their lives but their own yoga practice and teachers. I don’t want to hear anything about how a “guru” is a bad thing — click the link and read what Kausthub has to say about the teacher-student relationship (in retrospect, apparently speaking about himself.)
Long time readers know that I started studying at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005. I thought back then that I would never return to KYM or to India, I thought it was a one-time thing. Little did I know that I would return to KYM only 6 months later in 2006 and that I would be blessed enough to return there yearly. Who knew what a grip India would have on my heart? Who knew that the longer I study in this lineage the more I know that I can study here the rest of my life? It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage.
The senior teachers know me by name now. When I walked into the building on the first day of training this year I was greeted like an old friend and it did my heart good. The intensive, “Discover Yoga Anatomy”, was amazing. It truly was an advanced training, beyond asana, on a deeper level. Although the teachers have studied with Desikachar for years and years, they are still students of yoga. One of my favorite teachers said she is still learning, that they learn from us and from each other. They are humble. One touches the feet of Krishnamacharya in his photo portrait that is the classroom. They are not afraid to use the word “guru.”
I have scheduled the week of March 11-15, 2013 for taking a group for private classes. I have scheduled an asana class; theory and practice of pranayama; chanting; meditation; class on the Sutras; and an introductory class on the Bhagavad Gita, 6 classes daily for five days. The classes will be geared toward the students’ yoga experience. When I was there an American yoga teacher had brought 18 people with her. My group will be limited to 12, and I need a minimum of 6 people for the trip to happen.
After that week, I will lead a yin-yang yoga retreat March 16-24 in Varkala, Kerala. In between my trainings, before I went to KYM, I spent 15 days in Varkala, a place where I had never been. In fact, I spent 10 days, returned to Chennai, and then flew back to Varkala because I missed the vibe and the friends I had made so much. They did not want me to leave.
Varkala has a chill vibe, as people there say, and I thought I would be put off by all the westerners. I must say I had some culture shock when I arrived because I had never been with so many westerners before in my travels (apart from KYM.) But I grew to love it. The place is a mix of backpackers, package tourist groups, retirees, old hippies, young hippies, and families with children. It’s easy. Real easy. And it would be a great place to chill after the cacophony of Chennai. Besides which, ladies, you can get some great yoga pants made for about $10 by the tailors on the clifftop, pants that sell in the US for 7 times the price — I had 4 made.
The retreat — where I will teach one class in the morning — will be here. I have already booked all the cottages facing the pool. Double occupancy only so bring a friend!
I had energy work done by an amazing energy worker so a session with her and a dinner party in her garden on our last night are included in the price. Ayurvedic consulations are available as well. I had a back issue for five years (thanks to being Miss Gumby all my life) and after doing the yoga therapy practice every day that I learned in my first training and having medical ayurvedic treatments for 7 days at this place, I now wake up pain free — and I still do my yoga therapy practice. The Varkala resort has its own ayurvedic doctor or there are many choices in Varkala.
Other activities are available if you want to run around, but I guarantee that chilling on the beach, eating fresh food every day, and meeting great people will be enough for some.
You will arrange the domestic RT flight from Chennai-Trivandrum and the 5 star hotel in Chennai before flying home on March 25 (very early morning) with my travel agent. Those prices are NOT included in my package price.
PACKAGE PRICE IS $1,950.00 (OR $1,925.00 for one garden view cottage at Varkala resort) WITH A PORTION OF YOUR PAYMENT GOING TO THE BANYAN, A WOMEN’S SHELTER IN CHENNAI.
THE BEST PART IS THAT I AM GIVING A $100 DISCOUNT IF YOU MAKE ONE PAYMENT IN FULL BY JANUARY 1, 2013!
ASK ME ABOUT THE “NO YOGA” RATE IF YOUR FRIEND/PARTNER WANTS TO ACCOMPANY YOU BUT DOESN’T WANT TO PARTAKE IN YOGA.
You are responsible for your international and domestic flights, one day/night stay your last 24 hours in Chennai, your Indian visa, food other than breakfast, sight-seeing, ayurvedic treatments in Kerala (if so desired), tips, and ground transportation in Chennai and Varkala. Please be aware that your India visa starts on the day it is issued, NOT when you land in India.
This trip will be geared toward yoga teachers, serious practitioners, and those who are independent travelers and who can go with the flow. I won’t sugar-coat it: Ma India can kick your ass but good. It did mine the beginning of this trip, my 6th, and then I surrendered and let go. Once I did that, all was good.
The entire trip will be from March 10-March 24 (arrange your flight to leave Monday, March 25 or thereafter.) You must spend a day decompressing from your flight to India and acclimating a bit before KYM classes start on Monday, March 11. However, I can tell you that after 6 trips with 16+ hour flights to India, I do not have jet lag when I arrive — I hit the ground running.
I’m throwing this out to the Universe. Doing the best I can and letting the rest go.
Written by S SRIDHARAN, TRUSTEE, KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM, CHENNAI — from KYM Newsletter, April 2012
The ancient Indian model of human beings. “Personality”, given in the Upanishads, consists of the ‘five’ sheaths. They are ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Manomaya’, ‘Vijnanamaya’, and ‘Anandamaya’. ‘Annamaya’ represents that segment of the human system which is nourished by ‘anna’, i.e. food. ‘Pranamaya’ is that segment which is nourished by ‘prana’, i.e. ‘bio-energy’. ‘Manomaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘education’. ‘Vijnanamaya’ is nourished by ‘ego’ and ‘Anandamaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘emotions’.
[NOTE: THE WORD “KOSHAS” IS NOT USED TO REFERENCE TO THE SHEATHS BECAUSE KRISHNAMACHARYA DID NOT BELIEVE THAT THE BODY COULD BE REPRESENTED AS “BAGS”, WHICH IS WHAT KOSHAS MEANS]
Each of these five segments has a head, two wings, a body and a tail. ‘Vijnanamaya’ which represent our ‘individual personality’ has ‘shraddha (faith)’ as head, ‘rtham (righteousness)’ as right wing, ‘satyam (truth)’ as left wing, ‘yoga (meditation)’ as body, and ‘mahat (source of all knowledge)’ as the tail. “Vijnanamaya” represents ‘Buddhi’ which is the ‘determinative knowledge’ or ‘intelligence’ of what has been learnt through the ‘Manomaya’.
This ‘Vijnanamaya’ is different from one person to another and that is why the textual knowledge learnt is interpreted and practiced differently by different people. However, for the ‘Vijnanamaya’ to lead towards the right path, the most important factor is ‘Shraddha’, the faith in what one has learnt. It should be backed up with righteousness and truth in practice. For these to be firmly imbibed one should take to ‘Yoga’.
While the words ‘Development’ and ‘Evolution’ are considered as one, there are differences. Upanishads talk of ‘Evolution’ rather than simple ‘Development’. Evolution involves ‘discovery of the divine’ in us and everyone. While ‘Development’ calls for sharpening skills and adding certain traits, etc., ‘Evolution’ calls for removal of impediments in the ‘realisation of Self’. The major impediment in ‘Evolution’ is the ‘Klesas’ which consist of ‘Avidya’ (Wrong knowledge), ‘Asmita’ (Ego). ‘Raaga’ (Lust). ‘Dvesha’ (Hatred). and ‘Abhinivasa” (Fear). ‘Evolution’ is continuous process till the goal is reached. It does not stop with simple ‘recognitions’ by Society or Institutions.
Modern day ills
In the modern day context, Personality Development is the sum total of the achievements of the individual in academic, art, sports, business or other areas. Often a successful person is considered to be a totally developed person. However, the moral and ethical aspects of life are not given importance. Today’s ills are on account of the fact that textual knowledge is segregated from the practice of ‘truth’. The university education lacks ‘Shraddha’ and that causes the mind to act in ‘sinful’ ways. It has become a common scene to see how highly educated individuals take to violence and deceitful ways. To put it in terms of the ancient Indian model, the development is just up to the “Manomaya” level.
A holistic approach in personality development, in this context, therefore, would mean a proper development in all the five maya-s. Any practice should aim at developing the maya-s simultaneously well and work in harmony. “Personality Development” is “Evolution” towards reaching the ‘Divine’ in the individual which is at the ‘Anandamaya’ level.
Message from Bhagavad Gita
The first and foremost message of Bhagavad Gita in the context of Personality Development is that even the most learned, highly successful and fearless can suddenly enter into a state of ‘despondency’ leading to ‘inaction’. Arjuna represents the state of normal human beings, even though achieving greater heights have a chance to ‘fall’ if they don’t take to the path of ‘divinity’ and achieve the goal.
The ‘Divine’ qualities one should aim to possess are given in the Sixteenth Chapter and are as follows:
Sattva samsuddhi: Purity of Mind
Jnanayogavyavasthitam: Practice of Yoga for Self-realisation
Damam: Control of Senses
Yajnam: Performance of Sacrifice
Svadhyayam: Study of texts for ‘Self-realisation’
Akrodham: Absence of anger
Apaishunam: Aversion to faultfinding
Bhuteshvaloluptvam: Freedom from covetousness
Hri: Shame in doing unrighteous deeds
Achapalam: Absence of craving
Adroham: Freedom from envy
Natimanita: Absence of self esteem
The ‘demonic’ qualities one should aim to get rid of are:
Yoga the best tool for Personality Deveopment
Yoga is aptly fitted, for holistic personality development, because its tools are varied and integrated. ‘Asana’ practice for ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranayama’ for ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Svadhyaya’ or Study of scriptures for ‘Manomaya’, and ‘Vigyanamaya’ and ‘Isvarapranidhana’ for ‘Anandamaya’.
While the practice for everyone could differ from one to another, there are some ancient methods which have been handed over from time immemorial. One such practice, which aims at ‘holistic personality development’, is the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, the prayer to Sun.
The word ‘Sandhyavandanam’ is split as ‘sandhya+vandanam’. ‘Sandhya” is the name of ‘Sun God’ and ‘Vandanam’ means to ‘prostrate’. There are at least 22 steps, which has ‘asana’, ‘pranayama’, ‘nyasa’. ‘mudra’, and ‘japa’.
There are a number of vedic mantras used in the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, but the main mantra which is used for ‘japa’ is ‘Gayatri Mantra’.
“Let me meditate on the effulgence of the Supreme Being in the Sun, which kindles our intellect.”
The concept behind this Mantra meaning is that all our actions lead us to happiness or sorrow and behind the actions is the intellect. If the intellect is clear and is bereft of the impurities of selfishness, greed and lust, our actions will always lead us to happiness.
Sun is considered as the ‘visible God’ (pratyaksha devata) the provider of life to the Universe. Sun is responsible for all the development in the Universe.
The highest knowledge is that which takes one towards the Supreme Being and that is ‘Brahma Vidya’. The best form of meditation which qualifies one for enquiry into the Supreme Being is Sandhyavandanam.
The holistic development should aim at making human being divine. Such a development will make one realize divinity in the ‘self’ and in every aspect of the Universe at large. There is total love and that brings the eternal peace.
Many people make claims about meditation, but still don’t understand it. They assume that TECHNIQUES are meditation.
What is happening in modern day science and medicine is that they say meditation works, but we don’t want to understand WHY it works. Books on this subject are merely guidebooks, they give no explanation as to HOW meditation works. If we take a tool like meditation and become attached to it, there is no understanding.
WHY is more important than WHAT.
There are three domains of meditation in yoga, but modern yogis are concerned with bendy bodies, fancy clothes, and taking their pictures in front of waterfalls. They should be applying for jobs in Hollywood, not in yoga. Yoga is meant to be done as a meditative practice.
The first domain is that meditation is about helping us live our lives better. We have daily activities, actions concerning the world, we’re part of a social eco-system. Many times we do not deal appropriately with this eco-system because of our klesas — we make mistakes. To help us see clearly, to improve our actions, meditation is done.
The second domain of meditation is to improve or regain our health because we get sick, whether it is body, mind, emotions, or spirit.
The third domain has to do with self-realization. The difference between animals and us is that we are not only interested in eating and sex, but as humans we have the potential for self-realization. We have the ability to question the meaning of life and our role in it, what we can give back.
It is my hope that there will be enough sanity in future yogis to move beyond the body and go inward.
So how does meditation work in these three domains, because it does not work the same in each.
For the first domain, yoga philosophy says that there is a process in which an action begets another action. We hear or read something (knowledge) and that awareness creates a desire. That desire creates an action, so we act from a place of desire. The action is not the end of the cycle because there is a consequence. The consequence leaves an impression on us, good or bad. This is where mistakes happen.
Meditation works here by addressing the source: is your awareness right or wrong? Our knowledge is not based on a fact but what we are drawn to. We have the illusion of clarity, we see what we want to see, not what is really in front of us.
In meditation for this domain, the practice is designed in such a way in order to give us clarity of perception. It takes us to a neutral space, not from a bias. Meditation can influence how we see things, i.e. with greater perception of clarity. In that way, our responses in life become more appropriate — this is the opposite of what we usually do, how we usually react in and to life.
In the second domain, it is given that the mind controls the body. For example, we have a nightmare and truly believe that whatever is happening in the nightmare is actually happening to us, we have a physical reaction to the nightmare — that is how strong the mind is over the body. In the same way our mind can influence us in a positive way. Modern science is finally seeing this. When the mind moves into nirodha samskara (YS Ch. 3), the mind becomes stable. Meditation helps us change the patterns of the mind which can thereby change the patterns of the body. In yoga philosophy, diseases and health are seen as nothing other than a set of patterns. Patanjali introduces the concept of yoga therapy in the second and third chapters of the Sutra-s. The mind is very powerful — there is a reason why it is said “mind over matter” — because the mind can literally change matter. This seems paranormal, but it is not.
The trouble is that we always want things to change quickly, but change takes time. The mind is linked with the senses which are linked to matter. What is held in the mind moves towards what holds the senses. We have seen what could be called miracles at the Mandiram, when all we do is show a person how to breath, how to meditate, when they came here and could not even lift an arm.
However, the same thing won’t work the same way with everyone. The stupidity of modern times is that everyone is the same — we want the same prescriptions. The same focus will be different with everyone. A metaphor for this is that the same food will be cooked differently whether it is cooked in an electric oven or a traditional tandoor — same food, different result. How your mind is will affect what the change is. Giving the same medicine to everyone and expecting the same results is ridiculous.
Patanjali said that each of us has different kinds of mind — which mind that holds the object of meditation will affect the change. The standardization of meditative practices is rubbish.
The third domain is the spiritual domain. The exploration of our potential is the spirituality contained in the Yoga Sutra-s.
We all have within us seeds that are dormant, seeds that will grow. Meditation in the spiritual domain is like a dry field with seeds — prana is equivalent to water for that field. The prana will irrigate that mind field so that our seeds will sprout.
But we trap ourselves. We are ignorant of our seeds. We don’t nourish them because we don’t have the patience.
We don’t want to be who we are, we want to be someone else. We think being different is somehow better. This is where acceptance of ourselves is so important — a mango can never be a papaya. We have to start accepting who were are and stop rejecting who we are.
The river of prana must water the deep levels of the mind, but remember that we also have negative seeds. Besides the beneficial seeds, a field also has poison seeds, weed seeds — we have to accept both. We do not have authority to judge ourselves or others.
If prana is remaining in you, it finds you worthy of something — look at the positive, not the negative, because no one is perfect.
This is the first of four posts on lectures given by Kausthub Desikachar and A.G. Mohan during my two trainings in India during February and March. I will say, yet again, that I have been blessed beyond belief to have been introduced into the Krishnamacharya lineage as early as I was in my teaching career. Even after 10 years of teaching, these last two trainings confirmed (again) how vast yoga is, that no matter how many people I have studied with, there is always so much more to learn. I will never call myself an expert. It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage. I hope I can always convey as authentically as possible what I have learned via my trainings in this tradition.
Transformation begins with a serious practice of yoga. Throughout the lecture Kausthub emphasized a serious practice of yoga — yoga beyond asana, yoga that is more than skin deep. He said that according to some ancient texts there are four stages of transformation, other texts talk about 7 stages. In his lecture he dealt with the Upanisads and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika that talk about our personal transformation having four stages.
It is Kausthub’s belief that not even 5% of people practicing yoga today are in the first stage of transformation, i.e , the state where prana begins to move fluidly in the body (prana being the life force, not merely the breath as is frequently taught in modern yoga.) He said that most yoga practitioners don’t know what prana really is because they only know asana. This knowledge of prana does not come from a casual yoga practice; it does not come from a practice that is only about the physical. Transformation begins when your yoga transcends the body.
The first stage of transformation is when prana flows smoothly throughout the body. Our perception become very sensitive. Patanjali speaks to this in YS 3.36. Our senses change, everything heightens, our sensations are beyond memory and all these happenings really can’t be explained in tangible terms.
At this stage it is very common for people to stop their yoga practice because their entity is so different now, it is discomforting, it is out of the norm. Our perceptions are altered on a deeper level and this changes our relationships with people, with partners, and sometimes people want to change jobs. However, Kausthub said that this is not the time to make dramatic decisions.
At the second stage of transformation, there is an identity crisis. We start feeling like crap. Our internal drums are beating and there is a loud noise inside us that disturbs our structural foundation, the way we have been accustomed to for so many years. Our mental patterns are challlenged, our outlook changes, but again, try to make no changes….yet.
This is another stage where people leave their practice, we want to continue but we can’t because things are even more discomforting. This is the time to especially sustain the practice. Kausthub said that it is at the end of this second stage that collapse often happens and depression can set in. The ancient yogis said LET IT COLLAPSE. Just as an old building starts to collapse, no matter how much you try to prop it up, it’s not the same. Let it collapse and then build a new foundation for a new building. This is progress.
The third stage is when new patterns start to manifest, the new structures are built. Let whatever is new come up slowly, don’t grasp. It is only by not grasping do these patterns sustain themselves.
The fourth stage is freedom, not bound by any patterns, but this is a stage that few people reach. It is difficult in modern times because we are still attached to so many things.
There was a different teacher-student role in every stage of transformation. That is the way it was in the olden days as my teacher Ramaswami calls the ancient times which is very different from now. In the olden days, yoga was taught one-on-one, teachers did not teach to 300 at a yoga conference. There was absolute trust between teacher and student and the teacher was the platform of support for the student when the student’s structure was changing.
Kausthub believes that model is seriously lacking in modern yoga. Back in the day this teacher-student model was taken for granted but nowadays it is not consistent because there are too many styles of yoga and many of the giants of yoga who could lead people in these transformations are now dead. As for yoga teachers nowadays, Kausthub said that if anyone tells you something is absolute, like “this pose will always help X”, “this pose will cure X”, “X pranayama will change this”, know that it’s bullshit because nothing is absolute. Every mind, every body, every day is different.
The tools of yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation) don’t have power on their own; their power comes from the way they are practiced. He gave an example of child’s pose: it’s called child’s pose because it’s so easy a child can do. Do it over and over without any emphasis on the breath or mental awareness and it’s just movement. But taking 15 seconds to do it with emphasis on the breath and mental awareness has power because you are releasing your prana in a totally different way.
Don’t evaluate your yoga by your level of flexibility or your ability to get into a pretzel pose — only evaluate your yoga by the transformative effect it has on you. When someone asked Kausthub “how do I find a teacher like you are talking about?”, he said “instead of looking for a teacher, ask if YOU are ready to be a student. Seek to be a student first, then you will you find your teacher.”
Referencing current problems in modern yoga, Kausthub said the main problem, in his opinion, is that anyone can be a yoga teacher nowadays. Everyone wants to be a teacher but there is no accountability. Of course training is important, but being a good teacher is not about how much you know but is about your transformation. A serious question to ask is: if someone is going through these stages of transformation, and their teacher just graduated from a 200 hour training, how in the world can a newbie teacher cope with the questions that student will ask if the teacher herself has not experienced those stages yet? In the olden days, a teacher always needed their own teacher before they could call themselves an ACHARYA, and that practice no longer exists in modern yoga. Because anyone can call themselves anything nowadays! Look for a teacher who has a current relationship with a teacher, but focus on the teachings, not the teacher. Kausthub said his father and grandfather were not perfect men, they were not perfect teachers, but they had a passion for the teachings. That is what makes a great teacher. Freedom is not about being perfect, it’s about making friends with your imperfections.
Making a veiled reference to Friendgate, Kausthub said this is not the first time yoga has faced difficulties. If the spiritual teachings are valid, yoga will sustain; if yoga is merely a fashion, it will not sustain. The teachings are much larger than any crisis modern yoga is currently experiencing.