I just saw that Ashtangi Guy Donahaye — the main guy, I think it is fair to say, behind the “Guruji” book — has started a blog.
His first entry from a bit ago is worth a read, and it inspires the headline on this post. It seems an interesting answer to our last post about practicing other forms of yoga. It is, suffice it to say, heavy stuff:
A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone wanting to invite me to a “Yoga Rave” – a party like none other in the world; a new concept in fun where the mind and body respond to a uniquely crafted sequence of high-energy music, movement, yoga & meditation. I responded by saying, a yoga rave is a contradiction in terms. “I can guarantee that the party will be 100% yoga compliant: it is substance free, it will end earlier than a typical party and all the proceeds will go to a non profit.” Came the response. My reply was obviously completely lost on the poor fellow which is probably not surprising considering the general lack of understanding of the meaning, purpose and practice of yoga in modern times.
Guruji’s perspective was that of Advaita Vedanta and his family Guru Sri Shankaracharya, therefore if we wish to understand what Pattabhi Jois’ vision was, how he saw yoga in the context of the process of Self Realization, some understanding of Shankaracharya’s thought is essential. These teachings are surprisingly accessible and fresh, perhaps because he attained realization at such a young age. His writings are poetic and his vision has the clarity to give us understanding both of the purpose and the culmination of yoga practice (Self Realization).
I’m reminded of Eddie Stern’s delving into this aspect of Guruji’s life and background, which Bobbie talked about here.
Donahaye has an interesting perspective that could be plugged into the recent discussion about whether yoga can hurt you:
If we try to apply yoga (asana practice) mechanically, we receive many negative results, including injury, sickness, mental disturbance etc. Yoga is not a band aid you can put on a festering wound. Yoga heals from within, but in order for it to do its magic, we have to put the mind in the right starting place and point it in the right direction.
But where the heart of his post lies (as best as I can tell) is on the integral role that Advaita Vedanta plays in Ashtanga — as Guruji taught it.
The idea of the Ashtanga Yoga Darshana is that it represents Guruji’s unique perspective and a fusion of two classical darshanas. In fact Guruji was also of the view that Samkhya and Yoga are one Darshana – as Krisna says in the Gita: “The ignorant make a distinction between Samkhya and Yoga, the wise know them as one and the same.”
In that sense, non-Vedantic takes on Patanjali miss the point. (Again, I think I’m summingDonahaye up correctly. He does write this: “Today we have Yoga Sutra interpretations from buddhist, christian, atheistic, dualistic, non dualistic etc – so many different perspectives (mostly by non yoga-practicing academics). This has caused a great deal of confusion, especially as these underlying perspectives are often not stated and the translators have little or no practical experience with yoga. In the mass of available information, original and true teachings are hard to discern, even when they are so plain to sight.”)
This raises an interesting issue for me — one that’s at the heart of my overly dramatic (for blog effect) reactions to yoga festivals as “earnest, love everything and everything will be OK” gatherings. Is Ashtanga, is yoga, really so interfaith, so embracing of every perspective?
Yoga certainly is that way in America. But what part of that openness has been added (for good or not) by the West? Is it a natural and OK expansion on the nature of Brahman? (Honestly, I’m not sure and haven’t found a very satisfying answer yet. I’d love to hear one.)
I think it also adds food for thought to the efficacy of other forms of yoga.
Posted by Steve