Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Saturday night's train got in late - around 9:45 - and then there was the queue for the prepaid rickshaw; for a single rupee they give you a fair fare (rs 21 to the Kaveri Lodge after dark - which is time-and-a-half and quite a good deal for the naive westerner, who on Friday morning, during daytime hours, paid Rs 20 to get to the railway station).

Then it was up at 3 for the 4:45 led primary series practice. It was raining on the way to the shala. The early group is quiet as they wait at the gate, in the wet darkness. Inside there was plenty of mat space, since the early group tends to have more advanced students, who do the led intermediate series class at 8. There was no "resting pose" at the end; Sharath just told us to go home and do it. And I couldn't help but think, no wonder there are so many unbalanced people here in Mysore (I'm a big believer in the idea that a long "Take rest" cures a variety of ills).

I met J for the last time this trip; since it was raining we avoided the unsheltered coconut stand and went for chai at Stand-Up Chats (Chats=Snacks), where they make fresh, wonderful snack and breakfast food that you order and pick up from the kitchen yourself, and then eat at a stand-up table. We chatted over chai at Chats for some time; I will miss her. J was here on my first trip in 2002 (it was her second) and she was the first westerner in Mysore to be kind to Bob and I - when she and Tony met us at the Kaveri Lodge and invited us to accompany them for chats at Krisna Prasad. This time, I had wada and iddly swimming in hot sambar (a watery, tamarind-tinged South Indian curry soup). Amazing.

After a bath and a nap (the daily ritual), I missed the alarm clock and drove through the rain to an 11AM concert at the shala. It was a flautist named Ravi Shankar, accompanied by an amazing tablas player and two female drone instrument players (tamboura? sitar?). It was a benefit for the Sri K Pattabhi Jois foundation (tickets were rs 200, or just over $2.25) and was utterly divine. They played a morning raga and an evening raga. I listened with eyes closed, and saw colors.

Next I exchanged some clothes at Loyal World. Apparently you are no longer allowed to return "undergarments" here - which includes bras and tank tops ("vests") - unless you dig in and make a fuss. A fuss was made, and then the exchange. I have been reading the book "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" and afterwards thought, "Is that how he would have acted?" Next time this must be kept in mind as the situation is happening, not after.

Feeling run-down, I ordered chana masala (chick pea curry) and jeera (cumin) rice at Veg Park, where I met K for lunch. She's smarter, and had the South Indian thali (meal) which was half the price and twice as good. But it felt like rice and beans were needed. Afterwards we went to her place (in Saraswati's house, across the street from the shala), where she deciphered the South Western Railway schedule. Despite asking at two counters at the Mysore railway station and twice again in Bangalore, everyone Suresh-the-driver and I spoke to said there was no train from Mysore to Whitefield or KR Nagar, which are close to QE's strange gated community in suburban Bangalore. After some study, K figured out that one could indeed get there rather easily by changing trains in Bangalore - thus saving over three hours of mini-van diesel fuel emission each way. Of course there will be some waiting at the station (which is still a novelty), but once the second train is boarded it will only take 30 minutes (vs 90) to get to QE's station.

After doing some writing at home, it was time for conference. It was raining again, rather hard, throughout the 20--minute ride to the shala, and again there was the thought, "Perhaps one should move closer to the shala" in strange suburban Gokulam. Sharath was on form despite having a bad cold.

He began with a prayer and went on to discuss everything from the goal of yoga (enlightenment) to correct posture (like Dharma, he says that a yogi should have a straight spine; have you ever seen Pattabhi Jois hunching his back, or pictures of Krishnamacharya like that? That is because they have correct bandhas, which you should do all the time, not just in class. Most people do not have correct bandhas. Karandavasana is easy if the bandhas are correct)

Some other highlights:

On days when the student is uninspired (or back home, after being in Mysore) and would prefer not to do asana practice, they should think that Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati are in the room with them. They should get used to doing it every day, like how we brush our teeth as soon as we get up. Without brushing the teeth, we cannot go out and talk to anyone. It is difficult to do this. Eighteen years ago, he got up and did not want to practice after just three hours of sleep. On that day you should push a little harder. That day will be the best practice of your life.

You should rest one day each week. You should not even stretch. In general, noother exercise should be done. Period. Because your body becomes very stiff if you do other exercise (funny, I was telling someone just last week that I rode a bicycle my first year here in Mysore, and it did not help my lower back and hamstrings - which is why I wouldn't do it again). Yoga is the opposite of other types of exercise. He got into the jogging craze when he was 17, and Eka Pada Sirsasana (a leg behind the head pose) and Kapotasana (the intense backbend I'm working on) were a struggle. He has struggled the whole time with his practice, especially since he had Rheumatic fever as a child - which affected his joints. "You have to keep struggling, because once you get [it], there is nothing like this." You should have dedication and faith in the practice. The guru can only do so much. It depends on the students' dedication to the practice, and faith.

You do not need props. If you use them, you will be your whole lifetime using props. Guruji said you do an asana 1,000 times, then it becomes perfect. Life-long we have to do it, and it will come correctly. There are 100's and 100's of asanas.. In ashtanga we do 400-500. "I think that is enough for us to work on, in this lifetime."

Even if you do all the asanas, it doesn't mean you're an important yogi. Asana is just one aspect of it. Yoga means to get enlightenment, to control the mind and sense organs. If someone pokes you with a pen, if you are controlled, you will not scream.....Enlightened men only think about God. They don't have any other thoughts or feelings or anything. It is easier to do this if one is not a householder (ie does not have a family).

Yoga means not just asana. It is the foundation. If you do asana, you will get good thoughts. But it is not just practice BUT READING BOOKS. PAST ENLIGHTENED PERSONS HAVE LEFT KNOWLEDGE. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THEM, BUT FIND YOUR OWN WAY (emphasis here is mine, since I'm a huge fan of the book-reading, and this is the first time I've heard the AYRI recommending more than doing asana, thinking good thoughts and thinking god / being god).

Yoga is a lifetime study. It doesn't come at once. First the body and mind should get pure. IF the mind is not healthy, the body becomes healthy... try to think good. The main thing about yoga is to get purification to realize who we are.

The Inquisitor asked if a student could have a social life and become enlightened. "No. that is why yogis go to the Himalayas to meditate." That contained her - until she asked about Utpluthith (an arm balance that requires abdominal strength), and he suggested she may have some fat, which is why it can be difficult to access Uddyana Bandha (lower abdominal muscles). She was quite quiet after that.


*One doesn't really want the rain to go away. The rain is important and necessary for crops and electricity. But now the dams are full; there have been landslides and people in Kodagu are flooded out and the farmers are beginning to lose their crops.


  1. i love hearing about conference, thanks. haha, the inquisitor:)

  2. Your recap of 'conference' is a great service to us over here 'across the ocean'. They sound true to the spirit -- Tumba Thanks!

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