Sharath started by reminding us that yoga is not new. It’s been practiced for many thousands of years as we can see from the numerous manuscripts where it is mentioned. He gave the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads as examples. Later many rishis began to practice yoga as a science to control the mind and to achieve higher consciousness.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sharath explained, Ajuna is confused and upset because he has to fight his grandfather, uncles, and cousins. Krishna tells Arjuna that the cause of his confusion is the fact that he has forgotten his Dharma (duty), which is to be a warrior and fight for truth. Krishna tells Arjuna that he will teach him about yoga again. This, Sharath points out demonstrates that even then yoga was not new, it had only been lost over time.
Even up to twenty years back, Sharath said, not many people were practicing yoga. Most thought it was for saints and renunciates. People were afraid to practice yoga thinking it would turn them into priests. It was only after Krishnamacharya started to teach that people began to realize that anyone can do yoga. Sharath said that this was because Krishnamacharya taught everyone, men, women, and children. In fifty years everything changed. Krishnamacharya taught and then only when he gave permission did Pattabhi Jois and his long term students start teaching. Sharath emphasized that then yoga teachers were simple. They were not “hifi”. For them the goal of yoga was self transformation and higher consciousness.
Sharath said that Guruji had no idea how famous he was. He was focused on these goals and daily did his chanting, teaching, and chanting again. Sharath warned that now yoga is everywhere but it has changed. Modern yoga is like aerobics. He reminded us that our goal should be for self transformation. If our goal is only to learn asanas and to be a teacher we will get that, but we won’t go further. If we keep in our mind that the goal is higher consciousness, there is no end.
Then Sharath said, “I can’t become bigger than yoga. Nobody can own yoga. Nobody can copyright yoga. Yoga is what happens in you. You can experience it, but you can not own it.” He went on to compare yoga to the sun which gives energy, solar power, good light, and a healthy body, but which we can not own. “We don’t own anything in this earth.” Sharath said, “We don’t even own this body. How can we own yoga?” “Clothes, body, you can wear for some time. After life goes, this body goes back to nature.” He reminded us that everything we have one day we give back. “We are like tenants.”
Sharath’s remarks moved toward nature and particularly the importance of clean air. Since we are practicing yoga which is harnessing the mind, and the mind is controlled by the breath, having air to breath is particularly important. Sharath said that each human needs about three and a half acres of land to breath properly. He expressed concern about air pollution, excess carbon dioxide and lack of trees, saying soon we will have to go to zoos or special conservatories just to look at a tree. He mentioned that instead of having a third child he was going to plant ten trees. (Three are already planted.) Sharath said that planting trees is yoga.
“We have to care for everything: plants, animals, each and every living being on this earth. They have the same right what we have.”
Next Sharath told a story of a village where people used to sit outside on a platform under a Peepal tree. He explained how a young boy wanted to cut it down thinking it of no use, but how an old man explained that this tree gave the purest oxygen changing the boy’s mind. Sharath used this to illustrate how we need some fresh air when we practice and should leave a window open so we aren’t breathing in other people’s exhaled air. He also pointed out that at that time, people sat and conversed with each other instead of sitting in front of the TV only speaking to comment on soap opera characters.
Sharath explained how before recent times, a student had to search hard to seek out a yoga teacher and the teacher would check first to see if the student really wanted to learn. He shared a story that Guruji told him about Krishnamacharya’s experience finding his guru, Ramamohan Brahmachri who was up in the mountains. When Krishnamacharya got there, Ramamohan didn’t even come out, but sent his son to see who this visitor was. His son asked him some questions and Ramamohan came out to give Krishnamacharya two rotis and telling him to be on his way. But Krishnamacharya had come to Ramamohan to Learn yoga, not to Try yoga. He would not leave, and when Ramamohan saw that he could converse in Sanskrit, he let him stay and took him on as his student. Together they studied many yoga manuscripts including the Yoga Korunta which our system is based on.
The texts all explain yoga as withdrawing our senses to see our inner soul – inner purity. Yoga is described as putting our vision inward. Sharath said a yogi is not bothered by what is happening around him, but wants only to realize the purity within. To do this he must first get rid of the 6 impurities that we all carry, known as the six enemies. They are: lust, anger, attraction, greed, pride, and jealousy. Sharath described them as six shells incasing the pure soul which is like a pearl. He said anyone can break through the shells and become enlightened if he uses proper effort in the right way. But sometimes we have delusions which won’t let us go higher.
Then Sharath took Questions.
One student asked if at home she should do self-practice or practice with a certified teacher. Sharath asked what it was she wanted to get from the teacher. He wanted to know if she wanted more poses. He ultimately answered by saying she could study with an authorized or certified teacher or do self-practice.
Another student asked if Sharath lost his friendships as he got deep into his disciplined practice in his youth. He said no, but that friends have moved on due to marriage and life change. He said that when he started his practice he had only himself to think of. Then he got married and he had to think of two people. Then he had his children and his concern was for four. Now it is for six. The fifth is his mother and this sixth is all of us. Sharath said that he didn’t mind because it is his karma. He said, “This is my karma to teacher others, to help them how I can. I try to teach what I can, what I know. I don’t say I am a master. I have no Ph.D. No Masters.”
Then he told us a story of two big scholars who were in a village of thousands of people. The scholars had studied all the yogic texts. In the village a boy sat down under a Peepal tree. He just sat quietly and closed his eyes. All the people from the village came and also sat in silence in dhyana. The scholars saw the boy and couldn’t believe all these people were sitting in silence around him. They decided they were going to expose him by asking him a bunch of questions to see how much he really knew. They went up to the front, but when they got there they could not remember any of their questions. They sat in silence.
Sharath explained that it is like that when you are around someone who has immersed themselves in yoga. You feel it. Then he said he had told too many stories. He said Guruji’s conference’s were one sentence because all the philosophizing in the world could not make a person experience yoga:
“Practice and all is coming.”