Yoga, yogasana, YVFA...

The other day while chatting with a good friend, Rajiv, I recollected my own experiments with yoga and yogasana and how endlessly I've been postponing writing up on Patanjali Yoga Sutra (PYS). Over the past many years, not only has yoga become a style statement, but has grown into a billion dollar industry and beyond in the US alone; an obvious follow-on action is patenting anything that is yoga or yoga-related. We've seen enough of that nonsense and I'll avoid it. Also yogasana has been confused for yoga by more than 90% of the people who told me they are doing yoga and I've corrected them in all my bluntness! However, to clarify, Rajiv isn't one of them; I don't want him to throw his kungfu kicks at me... well, thats another thing he has been practising. :)

My experiments with yoga began in theory with studying many versions of PYS commentaries, before I joined YVFA at Rishikesh; I have some more versions to study. Around those years, I also experimented some with Kundalini yoga, AOL's yoga in practise but stuck with Sivananda's yogasanas and pranayamas from Practice of Brahmacharya. While at YVFA, I'd an interesting experience. When I hit YVFA, I argued with one Swamiji a lot about Yoga being rejected by Shankaracharya and so it not interesting me any more. Of course, I was neck deep in Vedanta then and my pure love for Vedanta was doing all the talking, heedless to the result of it! Obviously since the course was about Yoga and Vedanta, I got blasted. I was put questions and told that I do not know. Well, I smiled. The reason I smiled is not an egoistic thing, but I knew well enough to say that Shankaracharya rejected it, I knew where he did that and I knew why he did that. I argued some more and Swamiji did say in the end that the Bhagavatpada did reject it for the reason I was arguing about: what the end of PYS is! However, he said that I'll have to be attentive in class and over the next two months, I'll learn PYS, something I didn't know anything about, as concluded. My expressing having studied lot of commentaries didn't help anyway.

Back to the classes, since I was in the front row, I got a lot of love from Swamiji, each time with a smiling question thrown at me "Did you know this?" I smiled back and people wondered what was going on. I only knew well that there was no point arguing and I told my friends so... somehow, I felt that in the end its all going to be well, he will end up saying things about PYS that I said too.

Later during the daily asana-pranayama and karmayoga classes, I got so stressed out with my limited health back then, that I just couldn't take any more of active involvement in anything other than Vedanta, the very reason I'd parted ways with worklife! I announced this to the authorities, midway through the course, expressing my unwillingness to continue asana-pranayama and karmayoga classes with a partial commitment, while my love for Vedanta remained unmet and leaving me no time to study on my own. I said ta ta and readied my bags to leave, taking the onus for joining the course and wasting a seat thereby. Fortunately, they all liked my honesty and genuinely trying the asanas and karmayoga to the best of my abilities. Instead, they offered me exemptions in those subjects and gave me an option for each. Since my haemorhoids and lower back pain had set in totally, they wanted me to take long walks in the hills (just what I needed and craved for, regardless of the health); as for karmayoga, I myself took all the data entry work. Thankfully, all that worked out well, due to the immense love of Sivanandaji Maharaj's presence felt at the ashram and all those who follow his principles.

What came as a lesson to me when the course ended is from the marks. In trying to make a point about PYS, ego may have taken over without my knowledge, in some other disturbance over the course days in various forms. I wasn't doing much sadhana there either, health had taken a toll due to changing weather, irregular sleeping from mingling much with batch mates apart from the course focus and many heavy festival food servings. Then there were some deep satsanga arguments with other students, just trying to understand things better. Of course, I wasn't intending to top the exam or anything, so I didn't study at all. We actually spent lot of time roaming locally, meeting people, friends and their friends, etc too. Back to the exams, I did quite well overall, but what was shocking was the marks in Upanishads and PYS.

Just before the exam results, my roommate Datta and I had returned from Haridwar. We'd gone there to have a look at the Anandamayi Ma's ashram, after feeling a call from her. For some reason, walking by a bookstall at Rishikesh earlier, I suddenly turned around, looked at a photo of hers on a book, went in to look into the book and felt blissful! Strangely, at her ashram, the same thing happened; I was buying her books and photos, when suddenly, I looked at my left, my hand stretched itself out without knowing what book it was pulling off the shelf (no exaggeration here) and putting it on the counter in disbelief for billing! This book was one that I'd searched for years, even going over to MLBD at Delhi once and asking them to republish it, but all in vain... the book was Shankaracharya's TikA on Vyasa's commentary on Yoga Sutra!!!

As I recall, the marklists were being placed on the notice board when we returned to Rishikesh from Haridwar. The Swamiji I'd argued PYS with arrived late in the evening when marklists were already out and I was standing just next to the notice board when he came in. He looked at me and asked who had topped his subject, I kept mum, smiling. With his short memory, he tried recalling who Bhat is... "well", I said, "its is me, Swamiji". He went on "so, you're not a bad boy, after all" and then laughed and said "I'm just joking... you're a good boy". I just thanked him and it comforted my ego that he too thought that I knew PYS.

In the later many hours, I kept thinking "there's just no excuse to get less marks in Upanishads in comparison to PYS", the ego still speaking. Then it all came back to me, what had happened; I'd topped PYS and there was a reason for all this: to shatter my ego, understand what PYS is in practice, why the Bhagavatpada rejected it, and what is its place in traditional advaita vedanta following! I said this very thing (other than some things negative about karmayoga) when I was asked to speak of my experiences at YVFA among a couple more students at the valedictory function.

As a goodbye to YVFA, I met my Upanishads teacher and told him how I was upset having got less marks in Upanishads. While the beloved Swamiji thought the marks were good, I said they weren't, only because I got more marks in PYS! I'd taken Datta along and we all had a good laugh. :)

Hari Om tat sat! Jai Sivananda!
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