Something about Eddie Stern popped up on the Internet today, and I followed it to a site for Baba Rampuri.
I have to admit, I have never heard of him. According to the site, he’s an American expatriate was the “first foreigner to be initiated into India’s most ancient order of yogis and shamans, the Naga Sannyasis.” He’s been living there since 1970 and has founded a few ashrams and “was honored with a permanent seat in the Juna Akhara Council and given the title Antahrashtriya Mandal (World Circle) ka Shri Mahant.”
There’s plenty more at the site, if you want to check it out: rampuri.com. It looks like he has an autobiography, out about 18 months ago, that offers a look inside the sadhus of modern (and ancient) India.
Here’s what popped up on the site’s blog about Stern: “Our 2012 New York Kumbh Mahayajna has been canceled by successful New Age entrepreneur Eddie Stern, the lead organizer in New York, and ended our nearly one year of work to bring the gift of Blessings of World Peace and Prosperity when they are so sorely needed.”
I don’t know what that means, and I would have delved further but right below it was a very familiar name: Patanjali. Oh, I thought, this Baba Rampuri has something to say about our Ashtanga source. I am going to give it to you in its entirety, which I don’t typically do — it’s a nice virtual gesture to send people off to someone’s site, right? But in this case, I worry that pulling anything out of context would be the wrong step. But, still, you can find it here along with other thoughts:
Even a great translation of Patanjali’s definition of yoga doesn’t address some nagging issues. Being arguably among the 2 greatest grammarians of the last 2500 years, and the field of Grammar, Speech, is very sophisticated and wide spread in Indian culture, he composed a SUTRA, a compressed form of Speech, capable of delivering a lot of reference in very few syllables. It is called Yoga Sutra. Other sutras composed during his time and before are unfathomable without commentary. Certainly “Ashtadhyayi,” Panini’s grammar, also in Sutra, had to be redacted in the 16th century, because even the commentary had become too arcane for many students of the time.
Patanjali’s tradition was Speech, and he was one of the greatest masters of it. Yet, we want to read him, as if he was writing as, for example, a 19th century philosopher, presenting his speculations on Truth or God. Although we may assign him to a darshana, or philosophical school, he was not a philosopher, his compositions were not expository, he wasn’t writing non-fiction, he was writing CODE. Not that anything was secret, or he didn’t want others to know – “To the grammarian, to save even a single syllable, was equivalent to the birth of a son (source: shastra stuck inside my head).”
In these sutras and some tantric styles of composition, the references are NOT to ideas, but syllables, and indeed syllables appear where there were none, through decompression, as if we would unzip files on a computer. And the syllables, in turn have references. A master of grammar & composition can send the references in many directions at the same time. Patanjali was such a master.
To extract what looks like a word from The Yoga Sutra, and look it up in Monier-Williams English Sanskrit dictionary, is good for your professor at the university, but just doesn’t cut it among adepts and magi – or yogis. Patanjali is in a class of the greatest esotericists of the last few thousand years.
Yes, we can be inspired by all great literature, make our lives more conscious and happy, and we can do the same with Yoga Sutra. It’s part of its greatness and that of its author.
It’s a lot bigger than it seems. That’s the nature of sutra.
Umm… OK. So, I think I’m going to have to contemplate this one for a bit. I understand that sutras can contain more than appear from just their few simple words. But the idea of references being “NOT to ideas, but syllables” blows my little Deconstructionist mind. And I’m trying to reconcile it with this exhibit of contemporary Tantric art we went and saw on Saturday. (It’s a great exhibit if you are a Southern California reader.)
Emphasis in that sentence on trying.
Posted by Steve