Friday, December 07, 2007

Tuesday, 1.29.02
Old Shala.

Today was my first day of practice…

The carpet on the studio floor is bordered with (counter-clockwise) swastikas.

Satsang (ie conference with Guruji) takes place in the shala’s little lobby. A few people are already sitting on the floor when I arrive a few minutes early. Two chairs are empty. It’s clear that the ornate one is for Guruji. So I sit on the one next to it.

“That’s Sharath’s seat,” says a bald man wearing all white.


More people arrive, and finally Guruji slips in wearing a crisp white dhoti(sarong), Yoga Moves tank top and three fresh white Shiva stripes across his forehead. And Ray Charles sunglasses (he's just had cataract surgery).

Everyone sits on the floor looking -- at each other, at the kids outside on the street playing on their bicycles, at the clock, at the photos on the shelves, at each other, and at Guruji as he silently read the newspaper in Kannada, the local language.

Sharath pulls up on a black motorcycle wearing wraparound sunglasse and Levi’s, straight out of GQ. He disappears for a few minutes and comes back wearing bike shorts and a tank top (he’ll be teaching Indian students here later).

He sits on the chair next to Guruji – my chair – and begins to read the other newspaper.

Then they start to go through their mail. More students show up wearing Punjabi dresses and baggy fisherman’s pants, granny shirts, and regular New York attire. All of them are white. Some arrive on scooters and motorcycles.

Each time one enters, they greet Guruji and touch his feet, and he looks up from the newspaper and says, “Yes, yes, hello.”

Guruji disappears for awhile to register some students in his office upstairs, and then comes back. Two senior students from New York – C. and W. – sit near his feet. “So many new students,” says C.

A thin, dark Indian man with a moustache delivers a package. On the way out he lightly kicks someone. He immediately brushes his hand over his eyes.

“This is Indian tradition when they kick someone,” Sharath explains.

Then he leaves to teach in the tiny adjacent shala, where we do our practice every morning.

Some students sneak away when no one’s looking. Now there are about 25 of us sitting and sweating on the floor.

The package is from a London book publisher. C. starts reading the letter that accompanies it.

“Please forgive my presumption for writing to you…-”

“Good! Good!” Guruji says, interrupting him.

The place erupts with laughter.

Later, someone asks Guruji what the opening chant is about. He looks at C. and starts chanting the mantra.

Then he ends the conference with his most famous quote.

“Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory.”


Later we go to Allen Little’s massive apartment, just around the corner from the shala.

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