‘He gave away more of himself then most people could give in a thousand years’

Eddie Stern, not surprisingly, wonderfully sums up Pattabhi Jois’ life with the phrase that’s our headline — and he has parts of an interview with Guruji that he and Sharath did about 10 years ago up at his blog.

Here’s his full thoughts on the Full Moon anniversary (leading at his website):

July 31st is the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima, the full moon of July that is dedicated to the worship and expression of gratitude to all of the Gurus. The full moon of July is also the birthday of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, who popularized and revolutionized the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. In fact, today would have been his 100th birthday. To reach one hundred years is the crowning achievement in the Hindu tradition, for each being is granted 100 years of life, that is measured as well by how many breaths a person takes. Guruji fell a little short of 100 years, but he gave away more of himself then most people could give in a thousand years. His life was well lived, and the effects of his presence are as powerful now as when he was alive.

And from the interview:

He agreed to teach me, and we started from the next day. By the time he taught us ten asanas… sometimes we couldn’t do them… he would beat us. And the beating was unbearable, that’s how it was. We were about 10 or 15 boys who didn’t care. We carried on unmindful of the beatings we got from him. We learnt for one or two years, he taught us certain asanas. Then my father conducted my thread ceremony towards 1929/30. I hadn’t yet gone through the ceremony, you see. After the ceremony every time I opened my books to study they would sarcastically comment that I was some scholar in Ramayana or Mahabharata… ‘Go tend to the cows’, they would say.

I was fed up, listening to all this and left for Mysore. I had never seen Mysore. I was a small boy who had never seen Mysore. I was imagining all kinds of things. Two of my brothers had spent a fortnight in Mysore. They would tell me all kinds of stories about Mysore… about some Chatra (free pilgrim house). I had heard of these things but had never seen anything. So, I decided, I am going! There was a railway station here in our village.

But then I was apprehensive that the stationmaster would inform my family if I boarded the train here – and so, I decided to walk to Ambuga, the neighboring village. I got on the train in Ambuga and arrived in Mysore. I had heard that there were some two or three railway stations in Mysore… you had to get off only at the main station and not anywhere else… I had heard such things being said. At Mysore I remained in the train even at the so-called big station.

There is plenty, plenty more. Thanks to Eddie for posting it.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “‘He gave away more of himself then most people could give in a thousand years’”

  1. Thank you!
    Shri KPJ was a remarkable man.
    The interview gives a glimpse of life in 20th century rural India. That is an important context, when we look at the life and teaching of Shri KPJ.

    TK beating young boys is a bit of revelation to me. One would think a man with deep knowledge of yoga would act otherwise. Who knows, may be these methods were in Yoga Korunta!

  2. Beatings were, alas, a common feature of life then and there. Iyengar also talks of being beaten by Krishnamacharya — and he was definitely treated as the poor relation! I’ve seen interviews with Manju, and he talks about being beaten by his father, too. And I’ve heard Iyengar was not above whacking a student who did something incorrectly. Of course, people beat their children in the communities I grew up in, too, but luckily, apart from spankings, my parents didn’t buy into that.

    1. Et tu KPJ ?!

      Beatings may have been a common feature among common folks. But it kind of surprises me that folks learnt in yoga philosophy and with years of yoga practice would do it. The practice is supposed to help one see things for what they really are (and therefore beating kids for not being able to do an asana is ridiculous to say the least).

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