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Monday, September 29, 2014

Shraddhanjali to the great Master B.K.S. Iyengar



I would like to begin with few lines from Osho’s Alpha and Omega of Yoga vol. 2. In chapter 5 “The Master of Masters” he explained how a Guru flows into you and remains in touch with you. A brief of which is as follows:

“A Master is in touch with all the four layers of the Mind – The super-conscious, the conscious, the sub-conscious and the unconscious states of mind. 

The super mind which is possibility of the future, of which only seeds you carry – nothing has sprouted – only seeds just the potentiality. 

Then the conscious mind - a very small fragment with which you reason, think, decide, argue, doubt, believe – this conscious mind is in touch with a Master to whom you have not surrendered. So whenever this is in touch, the Master is in touch. If this is not in touch, the Master is not in touch. You are a student, and you have not taken the Master as a Master. You still think about him as a teacher. 

Subconscious is just below the conscious. That is possible if you love. If you are here with me only because of your reasoning, your conscious door is open. Whenever you open it, I am there. If you don’t open it I am outside, I cannot enter. Just below the conscious is sub-conscious. If you are in love with me – not just as a teacher and a student relationship but more intimate, a love-like phenomenon – then the sub-conscious door is open. Many times the conscious door will be closed by you. You will argue against me; you will be sometimes negative; sometimes you will be against me. But that doesn’t matter. The unconscious door of love is open and I can always remain in touch with you.

The third door is below sub-conscious: that is the unconscious. Reason opens the first door- if you feel convinced with me. Love opens the second door which is the bigger than the first – if you are in love with me: not convinced, but in love – feeling an affinity, a harmony, affection. The third door opens by surrender, if you are initiated by me, if you have taken the jump into sannyas, if you have taken a jump and said to me, “Now – now you be my mind. Now you take the reins of me. Now you guide me and I will follow:” And it is very difficult to close the third door – very, very difficult. It is difficult to open, it is difficult to close. It is difficult to open, but not as difficult as to close it. But that too can be closed because you have opened it. That too can be closed as you can decide some day to take your surrender back. But that never happens, because with these three doors the Master is working to open the fourth door, the door of super-conscious.

So there is very… almost impossible possibility that you will take your surrender back. Before you have taken it, he must have opened the fourth door which is beyond you. You cannot open it, you cannot close it. The door that you open, you remain the master to close it also. But the fourth has nothing to do with you. That is the super-conscious. All these doors are needed to open so the Master can forge a key for the fourth door, because you don’t have the key, otherwise you can open it. The Master has to forge; it is a forgery because the owner himself doesn’t have the key.

Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar had always showered me with his grace. He had given me more than I have asked for. My association with Guruji is more of non-physical than physical. From nowhere he came into my life in 2009 in the form of “Light on Yoga” and initiated me to the path of Yoga. I began my yoga journey with the sequences given in “Light on Yoga”. A year later, I was guided to one of his student Zarna Mohan who is teaching in Hyderabad. Finding her as my teacher, I really felt blessed and couldn’t have asked anything more. Then I got an opportunity to meet Guruji in 2011 which I never dream off. Things in my life have changed drastically after meeting Guruji. I was touched by his simplicity, generosity and humbleness. Yoga has become a part of my life as never before. Now I can’t imagine a life without yoga. Such an impact he made into my life.

With the blessings of my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan I had been regularly seeing Guruji since 2011. Guruji has touched millions of lives across the world individually and every individual has his own share of stories and experiences with Guruji. I have some wonderful and astonishing experiences with him which I would like to share here.

How can I forget the first encounter with Guruji? It was 16th July 2011, the very next morning to Guru Poornima day. Guruji was sitting on a chair in the office waiting to get into the yoga hall for practice. We all bowed before him seeking the blessings and our teacher said, ‘go and ask Guruji if you have any questions.’ I stepped forward and called, Guruji! He looked up and said what?? Raising his famous eyebrows! I looked into his powerful eyes and stood still staring him. I had hundreds of questions all my way to Pune but at that moment all of them disappeared and I felt totally satisfied as if all my questions have been answered by his eyes.
In November 2012, we were blessed with an opportunity to participate in his 94th birth anniversary at his birth place of Bellur. Before this I always saw him speaking in media and public gatherings. I was always anxious to know how he would be in his daily life. It was – I still remember the date, 28th of November 2012. He was sitting alone in the lawn of his guest house. We along with some of the teachers from Mumbai went to him and took his blessings. He later asked us to sit and shared some of his experiences with Dalai Lama and few other things related to the event held the other day. All that a while he never made us feel that he is the famous Yoga Guru B.K.S. Iyengar.  I was touched by his humbleness and simplicity. Before leaving I gone on to him and said, “Guruji, all these four days here, we felt part of the family and not even for a moment felt outsiders. In fact, I felt as if I am celebrating my own grandfather’s birthday.” I still remember the grand laughter he had falling back onto his sofa on hearing that.

 

After seeing him in Bellur, I got a strong wish or you call it a desire to see him in full action, practicing his asanas. A strong wish to join the classes at RIMYI and to practice alongside Guruji in the same yoga hall he practice; took shelter in my heart. I came back home and expressed the wish with my wife to visit Pune for one month. She said, why not? Save some money and go. I said you too are coming with me. What about my school job? They don’t permit me for so long! She replied. I said, No more talking you are going to resign the job and coming with me. So, I wrote an email to Panduji seeking a registration for 3 people I, my wife Tulsi and a friend Shweta for the month of August 2013.

Guruji again blessed me with an opportunity to study at RIMYI and left out few wonderful experiences behind during that month of our stay in Pune. I stepped into the yoga hall for the first time to practice with little bit of nervousness and excitement to see Guruji in action. I slowly passed through Guruji (who was getting ready for his practice) to get my mat and belt. Suddenly Ushaji a teacher from Rishikesh, pulled my shirt and pointing a finger at Guruji said, Look! What Guruji is doing? He was doing Sirsasana and he did a very long Salamba Sirsana and Niralamba Sirsasana for almost 40 minutes. You might be thinking what’s so special about that? He often does Sirsasana for long. But this Sirsasana was special. Just the other night, I mentioned with Ushaji that I want to see Guruji doing Sirsasana from close. And I asked her whether he is practicing this now? She said; never know because he is still recovering from the viral infection that made him sick during summer. The next day she took me very close to Guruji and I can’t explain how I felt. I was wondering how Guruji knew what I wanted? Is this a coincidence or does Guruji really can read my mind? But how is it possible as I was so far and he was not aware of my presence in Pune! Later, I came to know that he hadn’t practiced Sirsasana this long ever after that.


Another shocking incident occurred at the end of the month. We were about to leave Pune and wanted to seek Guruji’s blessings before leaving. He was staying away from people and office work due to a death in his family. It was our final day of practice at RIMYI. Guruji was in Savasana when I finished my practice. After keeping the things back, I walked across Guruji and uttered in my mind. “Guruji, we are leaving tomorrow, it would have been better if we could meet you before leaving.” I usually don’t used to go back to the institute once the class and practice is over. But that day a friend of mine visited from Mumbai along with her mother. I and Tulsi wanted to gift her a book of Geetaji and she also had a ladies class in the afternoon at 4 P.M. So we decided to go to the institute. Tulsi went to the class and after purchasing the book we were waiting for her to come. All of a sudden Guruji stepped in and sat on his chair. By his gesture, it looked as if he was waiting for someone. I slowly went to him took his blessings and said, Guruji! We have come from Hyderabad studying with Zarna Mohan. With a broad smile he said, I know… I know… nodding his head. I was really surprised to hear that. I added, Guruji! We came here for one month and tomorrow we are heading back to Hyderabad. He rose both of his hands and blessed saying “God Bless You!” It was such a nice gesture that I could never forget. He was full of love and compassion for all without any discrimination.

My teacher and a group of students from Hyderabad booked our tickets to visit RIMYI for Guru Poornima in July 2014. Reports came in that the Guru Poornima program has been postponed to 4th of August 2014 due to the absence of Geetaji and other teachers who were in China for a workshop. Further it is been reported that Guru Poornima event is cancelled as Guruji was not doing well. Many of the students got disappointed on cancellation of the event.

We were not very disappointed as we have already registered at RIMYI for the month of August 2014; though we were worried about Guruji’s health. This time we knew that Guruji is not going to be in the practice hall and went with a hope and prayers to see him in action soon. 8 to 10 people from our Hyderabad batch have decided to visit Pune but only I, Tulsi and friends Sirisha, Sridhar, Suresh and Mohit could finally make it.

I think we were the most fortunate people to be there at RIMYI experiencing and living the final moments of Guruji. We reached Pune on 31st of July 2014 and were there till 1st of September 2014. These were the most precious and memorable days for all of us who were there. 

We experienced few strange things during our entire month’s stay in Pune. We stayed in CPS Ashram which is one of the most peaceful and pollution free places in Pune. We used to have good and intense yoga classes and practice sessions at RIMYI. We used to get really tired when we go back home after the classes and practice. In spite of all this I and Tulsi could not sleep well at nights. Some unknown restlessness and uneasiness was felt during nights and we used to wake up at mid nights which neither of us are used to. When I mentioned it to my friends, they used to say, it is because of our rest in the afternoon. Last year same time, we used to take rest for couple of hours in the afternoon and yet we used to have a deep sleep. 

Another interesting thing that strike to my observation was that Guruji used to sit at the Verandah by the side of his door and observe the visitors silently. Knowing Guruji’s condition all the students would quietly surpass him paying reverence in their hearts. One day I could not believe my eyes for what I saw. Abhijata and her father were trying to take Guruji inside the house from where he was sitting. Guruji tried to hold the door for support and he was so weak that he was not able to grip the wood. He lost all his muscles and his thin hands were shivering to hold the door. My eyes filled with tears remembering the same hands which did 40 minute Sirsasana last year at the same point of time. A couple of days later, I saw him reading news paper again at the doorstep and he was looking really good. My heart filled with joy like a flower. His appearance was better and improved. Another day I saw Raya and Abhijata helping him in his practice at home and I thought Guruji is going to get back to his best shape soon. This happiness did not last long, the very next morning it is learned that he has been hospitalized. His news of hospitalization by the media has created some tension and nervousness in the minds of his students and well wishers.

Finally that fateful morning has arrived. The memories are still afresh in my mind. 20th August 2014, around 5 A.M. early in the morning Ushaji knocked my door calling Raaam….! Raaaaam! And believe me I immediately knew this is the news and I immediately sensed before opening the door that Guruji is no more. When she told me with unsteady breath, shaky voice and tears in her eyes that Guruji has left his mortal body this morning at 3-15 A.M., I sat on the chair with a bursting exhalation knowing what had happened. There were three things that made me sure of that news.

When a bigger tragic event is about to occur, the nature tries to indicate that before it happens. Just a day before in the afternoon, Pune experienced huge and I mean really huge rains. It has been raining continuously throughout the month but this was different. It was not a normal rain. It was something different. I experienced the same in 2003 in Nepal during my vacations to the Himalayan Kingdom a day before the Royal Massacre. It was just the same kind of rain.

The second thing was that we were very restless that night and could not sleep. The whole night I felt suffocated and dehydrated. I was waking up again and again to drink water but was of no use. When I shared these views with some of my friends and other Ashramites, they also expressed similar experiences. Even they told that they have not slept till 2 A.M. in the night. We later came to know that our teacher in Hyderabad miles away from Pune has experienced the same thing. I think many others might have experienced this no matter where they lived. A study by Scientists in America has proved that sometimes the level of mass consciousness rises before a tragic incident. The scientists in US have recorded the rise in mass consciousness of the people around New York City and Pentagon before the tragic incidence of 9/11. Guruji has touched the lives of so many people around the world; he would have definitely influenced the consciousness of all those people he loved.

The third indication was Ushaji. She would never knock at the door of someone at that hour of time until it is really important. She don’t even look at the door when she passes by, such is her habit.

I immediately informed my Ashram friend Cris about the news and asked his help to let me put up the news on facebook and other social networking sites so that people living far could know and come to see Guruji for the last time. In fact, even students of RIMYI have come to know about news only after I posted on facebook.

We then rushed to the institute for the last darshan of Guruji around 7-30 A.M. We walked into Guruji’s house and bowed on the feet of Guruji’s body for the last time. Prashantji was sitting near his feet with his eyes closed till he was taken for cremation. Geetaji and other sisters were all present with tears in their eyes. Geetaji is known as a very tough lady but she too broke into tears. I can understand what he means to her. The family has lost more than any other . Off course, the entire yoga fraternity has lost the Gem of Yoga forever.

As said, it was really an emotional atmosphere with hundreds of his followers started coming in with tears in their eyes. Some of his senior students like Birjoo, Rajvi, Devki and many others could not hold their emotions and broke into tears. Around 11-30 A.M. all the people from Mumbai and other places has began to come. My teacher boarded the first possible flight to catch the last darshan of Guruji. She reached there around 12 noon at the very last moment before Guruji was been taken to the Vaikunta cremation ground. I was observing her from the crowd; she was standing at the door to get in. She closed her eyes and broke down into tears. 

Guruji was later taken to the cremation grounds at Vaikunta amidst chant of Narayana… Naryana… Narayana..! I was calm and composed till then but the moment Guruji’s body is taken into the Ambulance amidst those chants of Narayana… Narayana by the women of Guruji’s family, tears began to flow from my eyes and I could not hold myself anymore. We then headed towards vaikunta cremation ground in an auto rickshaw.

People all around the world whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and all other religions have gathered in grief for Guruji and they remained till the cremation of his body in the graveyard. Where do you find such a sight to watch? It was a great feeling to be a part of this history is being made. It reminded me of the famous words of Robin Sharma’s father who told him before dying. “It is not relevant how many people smile when you are born, but how many people cry when you die is what matters”. Guruji has touched millions of lives across the world and everyone who was there or anywhere in the world has moved by his death. Every yogi who received the shine from this great “Sun of Yoga” will be thankful to him forever for the kind of service he did to the world of yoga.

All five of us were really fortunate to be with Guruji during his last days and to be part of his funeral proceedings. Had we were in Hyderabad, we would have never made it to his last darshan. We would have definitely come but by the time we reach everything would have finished. Moreover we got the opportunity to stay in Pune till his 13th day ceremony. We were really destined to be there. The grace of Guruji totally showered on us.

I thought the family would keep his body for couple of days before being cremated so that all his students and well wishers would see him for the last time. But, they had some other plans. They did not keep the body long and taken him for final rites by 12 noon and was cremated his body amidst traditional chants by pundits. Prashantji being the only son gave final pyre to his body. Usually women are not allowed to the cremation ground in many south Indian Brahmin families but Geetaji and all her sisters along with other ladies were present. Guruji was always against the Hippocratic ideologies against women. In many yoga systems women are not allowed to practice yoga during menses but Guruji understood this natural phenomenon of menstruation and realized the need to help women during menses by developing special sequences of asanas to be practiced during those days.

 

Everyone left the cremation ground including the family by 4 P.M. I wanted to live every moment of this day and therefore, we have decided to stay till the last moment. I, Tulsi, Sridhar, Suresh and Sweta from Hyderabad and couple of others along with Kishore ji one of the senior teachers were left out. We sat on a wall and observed till the logs turned into ash. This was the first time for me and Tulsi to observe a cremation till the end. Amidst the logs I could see Guruji’s skull which later completely exposed out. Once the cow dung burned, even his chest exposed and the flesh was melting down as the fire catches up. If left alone the body would have remained unburned. All the 8 or 10 people including Kshoreji sitting there immediately got up, collected few logs and dung pads and covered the body and the face again. Only after that; the crown of the skull burst out emitting fumes. In India it is believed to be inauspicious to let the skull unbroken. Therefore they break the skull by piercing a stick into the skull if unbroken. Anyway keeping the beliefs apart, in this way we were blessed to take part in his final pyre also.

We then joined Kishoreji who was sitting on the other side of the wall. He became emotional and slowly began to tell his experiences with Guruji. We have learned many interesting stories about Guruji from him which I think is not appropriate to share here. 

My respect for Guruji and his family increased further by witnessing the way Guruji’s final rites been conducted. It was completely a family affair of Iyengar yogis without any hullabaloo. Guruji arrived, lived and left the world very simply leaving a legacy of his work to do all the talking. No other yogi to the best of my knowledge has so much knowledge, experience and has practiced yoga till the last breath of his life in his 90’s. There was, is and will be only one B.K.S. Iyengar incomparable and shining as long as yoga survives.


After this tragic event the institute was declared to remain closed till 2nd of September 2014. The yoga hall was kept open with a garlanded photo of Guruji for all those visitors who have began to come from long distances and for those who could not have make it on 20th August 2014. Prayers, bhajans and Kirtans were held the whole day by the students and teachers of the institute. A shraddhanjali program was announced on 30th of August 2014 and a mass lunch was arranged on 1st of October 2014 as a part of Guruji’s 13th day Program.

 

There were no classes and we wanted to stay there till the final day of the proceedings i.e. on 1st of September 2014, our restless souls were looking for some peace after this tragic incident. Therefore we have decided to visit Shirdi and other shrines in Nasik and Aurangabad. We travelled restlessly throughout the week in search of peace which we found nowhere. Arrived back to Pune on 30th of August 2014 and attended the Shraddhanjali Program.

Abhijata and Prashantji spoke from the Iyengar family sharing their experiences with Guruji while Geetaji silently listen to them. Birjoo and Patricia Walden were others who addressed the gathering for a brief period of time. I am adding all these videos here so that you can watch and listen to them directly.


On 1st of September 2014, we attended the lunch provided at the institute for all the visitors. Paying adieu to all our teachers at RIMYI we headed back to Hyderabad with one and only advice from them ‘Practice’ and was also the last advice of Guruji ‘the Practice’. 

Thank you Guruji for all the love and grace you showered on us. I hope this continues to the rest of our lives as well. Our heart is always filled with love for you. Thank you very much again.
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