AND SHARATH INTERVIEW
Today's Vocabulary Words:
Bayda = Kannada for "don't want"
Japa Mala = Hindu or Buddhist meditation beads, usually 108
And now, excerpts of Vinita Rashinkar's Times of India interview with Sharath -- co-director of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute and grandson of its founder, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois. This was transcribed by Satya "Bartelby" Cacananda the old-fashioned way -- in a dark room sans reading glasses. So please uh, bear with me. (Unless, of course, you prefer not to).
DID YOU IMAGINE THAT ONE DAY YOU WOULD BE SO SOUGHT-AFTER AS A YOGA TEACHER?
When I started teaching yoga, I was just trying to help my grandfather. But as time went by, I realised that I had found my purpose in life and now this is my passion. Today, yoga is an integral part of my life and it takes up 85 percent of my time. I love every moment of it and feel blessed because not everyone finds their vocation in life and not everyone is privileged enough to make their passion their primary activity in life.
THE ASHTANGA YOGA SCHOOL HAS ATTRACTED MANY CELEBRITY FOLLOWERS. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH SOME OF THEM?
Everyone knows that Madonna, Gwynneth Paltrow, Sting and his wife Trudy, Welham [sic] Dafoe and many other famous names in the West are all dedicated practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga. They are all connected to Mysore because they are students of Guruji and they are generous hosts who go out of their way to make us feel comfortable. However, to us as teachers, there is no difference between a celebrity and a common man. We do not offer private teaching lessons to anyone. The only time I made an exception was when Madonna was very late for class in LA and she requested me for a private lesson. She insisted on driving me in her car to her home and I told her that I was terrified of her driving. The only reason I made that exception was because she offered me 100 t-shirts of her tour and I could use them later to raise money for the charity I have started.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR JET-SETTING LIFESTYLE
I travel around the globe for around four months every year to spread the message of yoga. This is the time I met many students who are such gracious hosts. When we are in London we stay at Sting's home. In the US, Mike Dee [sic] of the Beasty [sic] Boys insists that we stay with him. There are times when I feel that our simple life in Mysore is so far removed from the luxuries that we are offered overseas. Our students charter jets for us and put us up in palatial mansions wherever we go. Guruji's 90th birthday celebration at New York, hosted by a very wealthy student, was the talk of the town for many months. Guruji is so revered wherever we go and we are given so much affection by students that sometimes it is a humbling experience.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TREND OF STUDENTS COMING TO MYSORE FOR YOGA?
First of all, we have to thank Sri Krishnamacharya (Guruji's teacher) who chose to make Mysore his home. Guruji also received several lucrative offers to settle abroad but he preferred to be here because he feels that this is home and he can spread the yogic message best by staying here. I have visited many places in the world but I feel there is no place like Mysore and many of our students endorse this view. Our students come to Mysore not only to study yoga but also to learn about the Indian way of life. You could attend classes in Melbourne or Singapore but it is not the same experience as coming to India to study with Guruji.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR EXPANDING YOUR YOGA SCHOOL?
It is our endeavour to get as many students as possible to come to Mysore because they will then go out into the world and spread the word about yoga. I intend to build a yoga retreat in the near future. I have also started a charitable trust in the name of my grandfather and we are invovled in assisting the local community in various cuases such as providing artificial limbs to handicapped and helping mentally-challenged children. I feel that Mysore has given us so mucht hat we ahve to give back something in return. I know for sure that I will always remain in Mysore and it is my hope that the city is further recognized as the yoga centre of the world.
*I visited the Mysore Silk Factory and the Jagamohan Art Gallery for the first time ever today. While leaving the latter, various shopkeepers tried to sell us sandalwood incense, sandalwood japa malas, sandalwood Jesuses and sandalwood Buddhas with wide-open mouths. When the last was offered I said "Buddha Beda!" (pronounced BAY-duh) and all of us -- including the shopkeeper -- had a very good laugh indeed. Puns and wordplay tend to go over well here; irony does not.