“The Cave of the Heart”: Eddie Stern on Guruji, the Practice, and the Past

In case you didn’t know it, Eddie Stern is co-editor (with Robert Moses) of a wonderful journal, Namarupa: Categories of Indian Thought. Eddie has an article in the most recent issue called, “Hoysala Brahmin Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.” It’s a must-read.

The April-June cover.

Not only does Eddie delve into the origins of Guruji’s life, but he connects those origins with Guruji’s faith, education and teaching (along with some regional history surrounding Guruji’s home in Karnataka). He also connects all that with the practice.

I’m mentioning it in part because on the way back from practice this morning, I heard NPR reporter (and Wiccan priestess) Margot Adler describe American yogis as disconnected from Hindu tradition. “Ha!” I said aloud.

Take this, NPR:

Eddie explores the philosophical underpinnings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s teaching, explaining exactly why practice is so important:

Guruji adhered to Shankaracharya’s philosophical perspective on the self, the world and God, and to his methodology of worship. The Smarta tradition held that Siva, Vishnu, and Shakti were all equal representations of the Absolute [ . . .]  Guruji used to sum this up succinctly, saying, ‘God is one, not two.’

How does this relate to practice? Because the mind can’t grasp the Absolute, and needs a form to focus its attention:

Samadhi means a type of sameness—the mind takes on the form of that which is being contemplated and we become that upon which we are meditating.

I was reminded, once again, of lines from the poet William Blake (frequently cited in this blog): “Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.” Also, of a frequently repeated refrain in Jerusalem: “And they became what they beheld.”

That last line from Blake carries a warning to the perceiver. Eddie warns us as well, that meditation can become a form of “delusion”:

Though meditation on the Absolute can help bring perspective to our relationships, we should take care that it does not become a form of escapism.

Eddie Stern has the amazing ability to throw out a number of threads of thought and to pull them together, either explicitly or implicitly. As I said, a must-read. Namarupa is available for the reasonable price of $3.00 for the download, but I’ve ordered a print copy—it’s beautifully illustrated and produced, and I like contemplating the object.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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