Shared with permission from Julie Alagde-Carretas and Ashtanga Ottawa. Notes taken by Julie Alagde-Carretas
R. SHARATH JOIS CONFERENCE Notes
February 7th, 2015
*with the Highest Respect for Sharathji
Caksur Unmīlitam Yena
Tasmai Śri-Gurave Namah
“Many of you are new faces, many of you have come for the first time to Mysore…
imaḿ vivasvate yogaḿ proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha manur ikṣvākave’bravīt
evaḿ paramparā-prāptam imaḿ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
…in Bhagavad-Gītā it says, this Yoga is not new. Yoga has been there for millions and millions of years. All the rishis and the saints, the sadhus and sannyasis have been practicing Yoga for millions of years. Why they are practicing? To gain Higher Consciousness. We are all conscious but our consciousness is very low, we know just to handle this world, how to survive, how we have to behave, we are programmed. If you want to buy a toothpaste, you go to Loyal World, pay money, you know how. But what is this Higher Consciousness? This Higher Consciousness takes us towards the Divine; to understand this Life, understand what is Spirituality and how to get connected to the Divine. This is Higher Consciousness…once you get connected to the Divine…that is Spirituality.
Yama and Niyamas, how many of you are following that? Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Bramacharya, Aparigaha, Shaucha, Santosha, Taps, Svadhyaya, Ishvara Pranidhana. We all know, it is there in the text book…but how many of you…how many of us, I will include me also, practice? We don’t follow it. Once we get Higher Consiousness, automatically that will come within us; what Spirituality is, not just going to the Temple, sitting there, after you come and do bad things. That is not Spirituality. Spirituality means the Transformation which happens within us; we get sensitive to many things once we get the Knowledge within us. Bhagavad-Gītā says this Yoga has come from generations to many generations; Vivasvan, Manu, like this, one after the other after the other. So it has flown from many many generations.
Guru-Shishya Parampara. How this has come? A Teacher and his Disciple. A Master and his Disciple. A Master is who has mastered in this Yoga through Master to his Disciple; a disciple who dedicates himself to his Master, towards his Teaching, being with him, learning with him. Nowadays Yoga has changed, it is not the same Yoga which used to be there, millions of years back. You don’t want to follow a System, you don’t want to follow a Guru. This is very important in our Practice. This is the part of Sadhana. What is part of Sadhana? You devote yourself to one Guru, one Master. And he will transfer everything to you. Many years you devote to your Practice then only you will have better understanding. So as generations passed, in the Bahagavad-Gītā it says ‘yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa’…as generations passed one after the other after the other, it started becoming diluted. Not many people got interested in knowing Yoga Knowledge. Because it needs lots of Sadhana, lots of Devotion, lots of Dedication, lots of Determination. Lots of D’s are involved in the Sadhana. So when generations passed, people started forgetting about Yoga. ‘I’m going to teach you Yoga.’ That’s what Sri Krishna says to his disciple Arjuna in the Mahābhārata. It’s a very big epic, and in that comes the Bahagavad-Gītā, which has lots of Yogic and Moral Knowledge. In the Yoga Sutras it says, Ashtanga Yoga is the Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is very important, why it is important? It talks about Yama, Niyama, Ahimsa, Asteya, Bramacharya…it covers all these things.
yoga-aṅga-anuṣṭhānād-aśuddhi-kṣaye jñāna-dīptir-āviveka-khyāteḥ (YS 2.28)
So how does this Yoga happen? It’s a process. It should Happen. It’s not like a pain killer. When you have pain, you go buy and take the pain killer, the pain will go away. For Enlightenment, there is no tablet, there is no syrup, there is no medicine! Your Sadhana is the only medicine!…the only way you will reach Enlightenment.
Nowadays you get a certificate, you think you’re enlightened? You’re wasting money for nothing. Everything is instant now. Nobody wants to do Sadhana. Passing by Mysore to just practice for one month with Sharath or stretch your body because it feels good, like that Enlightenment doesn’t happen. You come for one month you think you like to do this, you like to do that, you’re thinking one month you will finish. One month in Mysore and you want to do everything. You will ruin your whole Sadhana. You will not do anything properly.
There was a barber, he had so many clients. He had to cut so many hair. So what he did? He cut little bit hair of this guy, little bit of this guy, little bit of that guy. After he sees, nobody is fully cut! Everyone is half-shaved! (laughter). He had to shave all of these people’s head, but he didn’t have patience. He didn’t concentrate on each person. He shaved little bit of everyone’s hair. So Sadhana is like that. You do Asana here, you do Pranayama there…it’s like Masala Dosa. You go to Durga and think you like to try this one, you like to try set dosa, you like to try plain dosa, all Dosas you’ll try. You won’t relish any of those dosas! If you want to relish Masala Dosa, you should eat only Masala Dosa! (laughter and relating) it’s like when you go to these big super malls and you go to the Perfume section. When you enter, one lady will come and sprays on you. You smell and it’s good first time. You go a little forward and another lady comes. Your whole body is full of all of these different perfumes. You go from here and by the time you exit there, the whole body is smelling badly! (laughter) You can’t enjoy one perfume.
So like this, in Yoga, you should also follow one System. This Ashtanga System is so beautiful! Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi…how beautifully it has been arranged. Yoga-aṅga-anuṣṭhānād-aśuddhi-kṣaye. Yoga Anya. Which are the Yoga angas? These eight. By practicing these eight limbs, step by step, stage by stage, aśuddhi-kṣaye. First, aśuddhi is the impurities that we have to get rid of, impurities of the body, impurities of the mind. Without getting rid of these two, how can someone think about Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi? It doesn’t happen if you’re mind is filled up with a lot of delusions inside.
The eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga Sutra has been divided. First four limbs are external exercise. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama. These are the foundations to build Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. These four (the latter) you won’t have to do, it will happen automatically, only when your foundations are correct. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama are the fundamental limbs. Once you correct them, then automatically Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi will happen.
Aśhuddhi-kṣaye, by practicing this, once we get rid of all the impurities in the body…what are the impurities in the body? Some people are sick, some people doesn’t have strength, some pele are out of focus. So this Asana is a Sadhana which will bring good health, bring more stamina, bring stability in you, you’ll be more focused. Of course, it depends how you do it. If you to the gym and you want to practice Yoga only as a workout then it will not give you the benefits. But if you incorporate the breathing, the focus, the Tristhana we say, with the breathing and the gazing, then it becomes focused practice. Now when you practice, where is your focus? Your focus is somewhere else. When you bring focus within you everyday, you become so focused in your practice, that becomes a Meditative Practice. Meditating is focusing, that’s all.
Dhyana is different. Withdrawing all the sense organs is Dhyana, a very very high level of Yoga. Focusing is Meditation. So, to focus in one place, bring oneness within you, that is very important in our practice. Once we develop that slowly, slowly, you will become stronger in your practice, stronger in your focus, bring you closer to the higher levels of Yoga. We get many understanding within us, we get more clarity within us once we practice Asanas through breathing. Then the aśhuddhi, all the impurities, of the body and the mind will be removed. First Asana is very important, why? To get better understanding of Yama-Niyama. Once you start doing Asana, all these breathing techniques, then you get better understanding, there is clarity. If you come here to study and then I tell you, okay, practice Yama-Niyama. Is that possible? No. First you have to get clarity within you, better understanding within you. That happens through your practice, then your mind will start thinking towards Yama-Niyamas. Only when the impurities of your mind is gone., then only Yama-Niyamas will follow.
Aśuddhi-kṣaye jñāna-dīptir. Then once we get rid of all these impurities, then Jñāna, the Real, True, Spiritual Knowledge, we’ll be able to understand. Jñāna-dīptir-āviveka-khyāteḥ. Then you will become wiser in your Spiritual Practice. So these are the benefits of doing Ashtanga Yoga. But then, in Yoga Sutras it doesn’t say Vinyasa, doesn’t say Paschimattanasana, Purvattanasana. Then you have to refer other books. As I said, this Knowledge comes from Guru-Shishya Parampara. This knowledge doesn’t come by reading books. This knowledge only comes by spending time with your Guru. That Master will teach you all these techniques. Anyone can read Yoga Sutras, there are lots of translations in English. Control your mind, but how? How to control your mind? By reading you can control your mind? It’s not possible. It’s not controlling the mind. It’s calming the mind. Your mind is like monkey. Mind jumps here, there like a monkey. Make it as a koala bear. It’s very calm. If you leave monkey for five minutes, it will jump fifteen branches here and there. Our mind is also like that.
My Father always used to say ‘Idle mind is Devil’s Workshop.’ The mind if you leave for five minutes, it starts thinking so many things. It’s like a Devil’s Workshop, ‘I want this, I want that.’ So how to calm this mind? How to bring this focus? Practice the Vinyasa Krama, what you do. It’s got so much breathing techniques involved in that, that inhalation, that exhalation with the postures. So there are three things happening. Pranayama is happening, Asana is happening, and Gazing; Focus, Meditation is also happening in the Practice. Pranayama means what? To extend the Prana, that is what you are doing. You’re extending the Prana, inhalation, exhalation. You’re expanding the Prana in each Asana. So you’re doing Pranayama. And Focusing is Meditation. So you’re doing all these things in your Practice. You don’t have to spend so much money learning Pranayama somewhere. So this Knowledge has come from so many generations, it is not new. As we know, it goes up to Rama Mohan Bramachari, Krishnamacharya, then Pattabhi Jois, then to me, then to you. So it has come like this, the Parampara, it has come.
I NOW AUTHORIZE THEE
Authorization happens only when you are eligible; once we have confirmed that you are able to transmit, you are able to teach this knowledge properly to others, then you will get authorized. I don’t know you. I do not know what you do in other Shalas. You need to practice here, regularly. If you say you have been practicing Yoga in the beach for many years, how would I know if you’ve been practicing properly or not? I’m staying here. Practice in front of me. I have to understand the student. I have to know that he knows something. If you are practicing, I don’t have Divya Drishti. Divya Dhristi is, I can be here, I can see the whole world. I need to see, I have only two eyes.
More practice for nose Drishti. It’s one advantage for long noses, if you have small nose…(fade out, laughter) Just practice. As I told you, you have to be more focused in your own practice. Once you do all these breathing technique and gazing in your practice, you will also get used to this. Put a red dot here (points to the tip of nose; laughter everywhere), you practice like that. But don’t put it and come to the Shala.
The string we wear is called Brahmin String. Once you become a Brahmin. It’s a great ceremony which Father will teach you the Gāyatrī Mantra. He will teach you all of the Brahmin rituals, and that is when you get that string. To perform all of those rituals you have to have that string, otherwise, you can’t do anything, according to Indian, especially Brahmin Tradition.
YOGA FOR EVERYONE JUST NOT…
An 80year old woman who has knee injury can do Surya Namaskara and some Asanas. She can’t do Eka Pada (smiles). Eighteen years back, my Grandmother had just passed away and we all moved to this opposite house (points to the house across the Shala). So Guruji came from Lakshmipuram and he was living here. So everyday, my Grandfather and me, we used to go to Lakshmipuram, in the early morning at four o’clock, and again in the evening we used to go. One day in the evening we went there, at four o’clock in the evening and we saw there was one man and a lady sitting outside Lakshmipuram Shala, on the small concrete bench. As soon as he saw Guruji, he was 86years old, and the lady was his daughter, she was 65years…he said ‘I want to practice Yoga.’ He was 86years, he’s older than Guruji! So he came. Doctor said he has Hernia and he had to go through an operation. But he said he would not get any operation and he would learn Yoga from Pattabhi Jois. So he came. Three months he did Yoga. 86year old man. So anyone can practice Yoga. Who can practice? Young man can practice. Young woman can practice. Old people also can practice. Very old they can also practice. Only one cannot practice, who is that? (everyone answers in unison) LAZY. Lazy (Sharathji nods with a smile). If I give 4:30am time to someone, they say ‘Oh I have to get up really early. I don’t want to come at 4:30am. Can you change my time?’ But I’m not sleeping to teach you. Everyday three hours, four hours I’m sleeping. Because I have to prepare for morning class, previous day. Have my dinner at five o’clock. I have to do my own practice 12:30am.
START THEM YOUNG
Children can start Ashtanga Yoga 10-12yrs. You have to understand Vinyasa, all these breathing techniques. That’s why at least you have to be 10-12yrs. Then you can understand when to inhale where to exhale. Before that, if someone just wants to play with Asana, don’t stop them. I started when I was 6-7yrs. I was doing all the Asanas, my Grandfather never stopped me.
Someone asked me a question, When do You practice Yoga? I answered ’24 Hours!’ What is this 24hours? 24hours of Yoga! Asana Practice for 3hours, Yoga Practice for 24hours. That means to think about what is Yoga. Yoga is not limited to Asanas. Asana is a tool to bring stability and strength to your body and mind. Your real Sadhana is beyond Asana Practice. Asana is very important tool, that is the Foundation, but that is not the Ultimate Goal of Yoga. This Foundation is very important. It’s like a vehicle, it reaches you to one destination. This vehicle will take you there. But for you to research, to go beyond that, again you have to have proper understanding of Yoga. So Asana is very important daily Practice, then to think about what Yoga is, how to follow Yama-Niyamas, how to bring Oneness within us, this is also part of Sadhana. You can do Japa. Japa also brings good energy within you.
Taj-japaḥ tad-artha-bhāvanam (YG1.28)
Once you do Japa, repeating the same mantra many many times, continuously saying, that brings positive energy within you. Again, once you do Asanas, your mind gets so focused, you’re breathing, lots of concentration, you bring so much stamina, you bring stability. So once you do this Japa, at that time, it becomes more stronger. Already through Asanas you’re generating Positive Energy within you. Asanas is not just bending your body. Through this breathing technique, through that focus, you generate positive energy within you. So once we get rid of all these delusions we have, then you get positive energy within you. So everyday, read books. Don’t waste time at coconut stand simply gossiping about something. You read Bhagavd-Gītā, Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, you can read many books. You can read Upanishads. Before reading Patanajali Yoga Sutra, you go through Bhagavad-Gītā first. It takes one year for you to read and understand. There’s lots of good things there. Gīta-sugītā. It means Gītā comes directly from the Divine. Krishna is Everything.
tapaḥ svādhyāy-eśvarapraṇidhānāni kriyā-yogaḥ (YG2.1)
Kriya means action. Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishvara Pranidhana, once you practice these three things, it becomes Kriya Yoga.
ONE SYSTEM, MT. EVEREST
You want to study Pranayama somewhere? If you are studying with me, see the application in the back. Terms and Conditions. You’re not supposed to practice Asana or Pranayama or Meditation with someone else. See, you’re following One System. Once you’re following One System you should follow That. As I told you, you should have one food. The food will be tasty. If you’re walking on the street, many pele will offer you many food. If you taste this, taste that, you will get stomach upset, throwing up all night. This System also, always my Grandfather used to say, when you have two Teachers, if you’re not following one system, you’re following two systems, one shishya, one student will die. When your fundamental itself is not correct, what’s the use of sitting there and doing Pranayama? Once you follow One system, you should follow That System. You are doing Pranayama here itself.
Prānāyāmena yuktena sarva-roga-kṣayo bhavet
(Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā 2.16)
The Shastras say that by doing Pranayama, you can get rid of many diseases but if you don’t do it properly, you will invite unwanted diseases. First lungs have to be strong, nervous system has to be strong. Your nervous system has to be perfect. First you have to bring stability to your body and mind, nervous system, then your lungs should be ready to hold and withstand Pranayama. That is why this breathing technique, this Vinyasa is very important to strengthen your nervous system, to straighten your lungs, to bring stability within you, to bring more focus within you. Then, Pranayama is possible. When you do that, then you’re ready for Pranayama. First you have to be ready. If someone asked me to climb Mt. Everest, I will if I go just climb. First I have to climb many small hills with preparation for five years. One and a half year practice combing Chamundi Hill. Then I have to go little taller, practice trekking. Then little bigger. Then I have to go to a mountain where there is snow, so that I get used to it. Then after five, six years of doing these things, then I can go to Himalayas to go to Mt. Everest, because I will be prepared with all my preparations. If I just climbed, I can’t even go to the base camp. So preparation is important. You should have patience, that’s all.
THE PILLARS OF SPIRITUAL BUILDING
Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi will come later. First you have to be stable. Yama-Niyama-Asana-Pranayama is what we are doing now. Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi will automatically happen. You have to nourish…when you want to grow a Rose Plant, what you do? You don’t grow the plant and pull it up. It doesn’t come like that. You have to nourish the roots. You have to put proper fertilizer, proper water, then the Rose will come. Asana is also like that, the Yoga Practice is also like that. First you have to nourish the roots. Once you have the strong roots, the plant will grow, the tree will grow, strongly. Then the flower or the fruit will come. If the roots are not strong enough, the tree will fall.
Vyādhi styāna saṁśaya pramāda-ālasya-avirati bhrāntidarśana-alabdha-bhūmikatva-anavasthitatvāni citta-vikṣepāḥ te antarāyāḥ (YS 1.30)
Alabdha-bhūmikatva…once you’re grounded properly, in your Spiritual Practice, the grounding is very important… the ground is not correct, you can’t build a Spiritual building. If you want to build a Spiritual building, first the Foundation should be proper. If the Foundation is not proper, the tall building which you have will fall. Once the four pillars are strong, then you can build your building, reach Higher Consciousness. If your ground is not strong, what Higher Consciousness can you think of? If you’re disturbed by many things, disturbed mind cannot think of Higher Consciousness or Enlightenment.
BOOKS VS. SADHANA
After reading Bhagavad-Gītā and Yoga Sutras, Practice! There are many books that talk about Yoga. Yoga Sutra says, Upanishads says about Yoga, Samhita says about Yoga, there’s many many books. But books are just to refer. The Sadhana is Practical. If you want to be academic then just read books. There are many scholars in Mysore who have read Yoga Sutras but there is no Internal Sadhana, they don’t have their own personal Sadhana. Whatever book knowledge is there, they will tell you ‘Control the Mind.’ Can you control the mind? Stop Chitta Vritti. Stop the mind. Can you stop your mind? You can’t even take one step if you stop your mind. What does that mean? To bring calmness to your mind. To bring the whatever delusions we have, whatever disturbance we have, to stop That disturbance. To stop That delusions, is called as Chitta Vritti Nirodhāh. Our own Sadhana is very important. Without that, Yoga is very difficult to understand.
*At this point, Sharathji returns a lost and found purse with identifications cards. Sambhav, his son, walks in. Someone asks Sharaji how old Sambhav is. Sharathji answers ‘Seven Years.’ Sambhav claims eight. ‘He turns eight years this September.’ He looks at his son and says ‘Only if you do Padmasam can you be eight years.’ Sambhav hurriedly comes down from his Father’s lap and galantly demonstrates everyone his Jois version of Padmasana, complete with Eyes closed with REM, nostril flaring in his Ujjayi breathing, and his childlike Mudra with one pointing finger clipping over a thumb. It was a sight to behold, seeing the pride in both Sharathji’s eyes and Sambhav’s display of what the Future has in store for everyone. While this is happening though, and everyone has taken their camera’s out taking Sambhav’s photo, Sharathji was correcting his son ‘Straight Back!’ Sambhav comes out of it, stand up, stretches his arms and cracks his uncles through interlaced fingers. Sigh…
LOST IN TRANSLATION
In reading the texts, Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad-Gītā, commentary is very important. That is how you get understanding. Who has done the commentary, that is very important.
THE GIFT OF MANTRA
When you find your Guru, you can ask him to give you your Mantra. Until then, keep it empty.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail email@example.com.