The science of Ashtanga in the Kali Yuga

It’s been a while — nearly a year — but Guy Donahaye is back with a new blog post: Vijnana – The Science of Ashtanga Yoga in the Kali Yuga. It touches on Krishnamacharya, Guruji and Patanjali. A few excerpts to get you to check it out:

Krishnamacharya was a highly religious man, a member of the vaisnavara faith. He believed that in this age of Kali Yuga, the way to realization was only accessible through bhakti – religious devotion. He did not believe that people today were suited to the stages of non-attachment required for the higher levels of Patanjali Yoga.

This perspective, though maybe based on an accurate perception of early 20th century Indian society, was also heavily colored by his Vaishnavara faith. Krishnamacharya was many things but his primary interest was his devotion to god.


Contrary to what Krishnamcharya believed, I think Guruji had great faith in the yoga system as a means to emancipation – at least that is what he taught. He drew on all available scriptural sources including those of Advaita Vedanta and believed that all the scriptures which speak about yoga constitute an integral whole.

Guruji was also religious, but the lineage of Shankaracharya to which he belongs is not quite so passionate in its religious devotion. While Krishnamacharya was an expert in quite a few different fields, Guruji was more exclusively concentrated on the yoga darshana and advaita vedanta.


I believe it was one of Krishnamacharya’s great achievements to re-integrate two paths of yoga which had apparently split off from each other –  Patanjali Yoga and Hatha Yoga. But beyond this, the father of modern yoga leaves us with a meagre philosophical or spiritual legacy. Neither he nor his disciples – Guruji and BKS Iyengar put yoga on the map beyond its expression as asana and pranayama.

As a result there is a lot of unclarity about the path of yoga beyond these physical practices. Indeed, there is almost a fanaticism or obsession with the minutiae of these physical practices which is perhaps what causes blindness to anything beyond them. Today yoga has spread to millions of people around the world but where is the clear enunciation of its deeper meaning as a spiritual practice?

Must we just practice with faith and devotion or is there a guiding light which can help us find the way?

Guy’s thoughts on why asana came to dominate Guruji’s teachings are, in a word, really interesting. OK, in two words.

Check it all out.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “The science of Ashtanga in the Kali Yuga”

  1. Guy’s blog becomes very interesting when he writes: “At any one time there are realized yogis hidden in plain view. Since we don’t know how to recognize them they go unnoticed. One such yogi was Sriranga Mahaguru (1913-1969).”

    Fascinating. I met Sriranga’s student Dr KLS Jois at Guy’s Shala in NYC. He lectured twice a day for a week and the lectures were outstanding. He presented complex Yogic philosophy in an easy to understand manner using wonderful metaphors but with conviction. Acharya brought peace and wisdom to the Shala that has not left the room since his departure.

    I was fortunate to get some private time with Acharya and what he said to me changed my life in such a positive way. I highly recommend yogis to get Acharya’s book and hear him talk. The same goes for Guy Donahaye.

  2. I highly suggest the book “Emergence of Yoga” by Krishnamacharya’s son, Sri T.K. Sribhashyam – Quite frankly, the assertion that Krishnamacharya “leaves us with a meager philosophical or spiritual legacy” is so shocking to me that I simply can’t believe that Guy Donahue has spent much time researching Krishnamacharya. You can also read the fascinating book, Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya, written by Desikachar from Krishmacharya’s notes. Additionally, Srivatsa Ramaswami – not only Pattabhi Jois or BKS Iyengar – has also kept Krishmacharya’s Vinyasa Krama lineage alive. I suggest that a cursory glance at Mr. Ramaswami’s Facebook page will provide a glimpse into the guidance which he implies is absent in his practice.

    Does Mr. Donahue understand why there is such a strong emphasis on hatha yoga? Here are a couple of articles which help explain why hatha yoga IS very important:

    Please don’t get me wrong – I have tremendous respect for Mr. Donahue. I simply disagree strongly with his assertion that Krishnamacharya’s spiritual philosophical and spiritual legacy is meager.

    As a final note, I think its important to realize that Patanjali Yoga is, essentially, a dead philosophy, or at least it was dead for a very long time. Substantially similar, and in some cases identical, philosophy and guidance can be found in Theravadin Buddhism, without, of course, the use of hatha yoga. But that is for another discussion.

    I hope you are well!!!

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