Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) is closed for Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights symbolizing the spiritual triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Aside from Diwali, the class and open practice schedules at RIMYI had been slightly altered also due to a teaching training program by Geeta Iyengar (Geetaji) for teachers in India. Last night Prashant Iyengar (Prashantji) offered a Q & A program in celebration of Sage Patanjali (Patanjali Jayanti). Geetaji released the latest issue (#99) of Yoga Rahasya. Although the month of November began with these slight irregularities at least to the foreigners, I feel immersed and blessed by the physical proximity to the source. The inner flame becomes stronger because of the physical proximity for many of us.
It feels like a different reality being here as it is a different world in India. Part of the brain seems to know how to compartmentalize and keep things separate in space. Logically, our own social-cultural-ethnic conditions frequently come to surface. With each stay, I become less and less resistant to the differences and more and more aware of these conditions that feel so much in my DNA back at home. We take those conditions as “truth,” “caliber for the world,” or “basic standards of living.” While we students of Yoga strive to be mindful and compassionate, we rarely, intently or unconsciously, objectify these conditions, thoughts and understand the modus operandi of how our mind thinks and creates even when it creates separation, division. When left working at its own peril, it alienates others from us, our own body from our mind, our mind from our breath, our breath from our awareness. Living life becomes stressful, miserable and painful. Somehow we manage, we separate this realization from what we do every day. We justify in our mind, the source of all of these.
At Patanjali Jayanti, Birjoo Mehta, a senior teacher from Mumbai and a longtime student of B.K.S. Iyengar, referred Prashantji as an “ego-clast.” An iconoclast is a bold, rugged thinker who destroys religious images and held beliefs. Similarly, an ego-clast, Birjoo continued, is someone who destroys ego. It is not someone who destroys the self-centeredness, pride, greed of human psyche, but “what constitutes us,” what we think or believe we are. I fantasize Prashantji having coffee/tea conversation with significant philosophers in the human history and delight in the alternative reality that he comfortably flows through the web of metaphysical theories, philosophical theories, poetry and history of studies on human mind. Guruji said that when he practices, he is a philosopher. Unlike a scientist who asks for proofs for abstract theories, a philosopher questions and is comfortably situated in the fuzziness, the seemingly irreconcilable ideas/concepts. A problem is a door.
“Yoga is neither science or faith.” as he repeated.
Prashantji’s teaching is a like a kaleidoscope into our inner realms. It is similar to the endless variety of India rangoli designs. We delight in the beauty but view from outside as an outsider. Many Iyengar Yoga students consider Prashantji the philosopher of Iyengar Yoga. My own ignorant thinking for the past 20 years until a few years ago was that I would get to “that kind of stuff” later as I was focusing on the asanas first.” “That kind of stuff” was for bookworms, abstract thinkers and seemed separate from the physical, concrete practice of yoga poses. I did my book studies, took my written exams for certification, and I still love doing this as a separate practice. Keeping things separate makes sense, makes us feel safe. Keeping things separate is called organization in our lexicon. Keeping things separate allows us to make easy choices or to avoid changes. One of the biggest contributions Shri B.K.S. Iyengar has left to this world is precisely the bridging between the esoteric, special knowledge of Yoga and physical, personal knowledge from experiencing yoga poses firsthand. Nonetheless, many remain unjoined and confused, including myself. How can I stop the constant doing, adjusting and more doing in yoga poses as taught and also adopt Prashantji’s initiation to look deeply into the kaleidoscope and study the composition, color scheme and changes while being mesmerized by the changing beauty? How should my daily practice be adjusted? Why do I practice yoga poses? Am I not ready?
“It is a journey. A search, not merely finding solution to a problem.” Prashantji pointed out last night. Asking these questions sustains me on this journey, rather than distracting me from. Studying yoga philosophy is to enable us to keep asking questions and be comfortable with the search. “Don’t be a mosquito at Harvard University. You don’t go to Harvard to merely exist and do what mosquitos do. You are at Harvard to get education, to search, to study.”