This first volume of Astadala Yogamala is' a unique book. It is part of a large project being undertaken to gather all the material in the form of lectures, articles, interviews, question & answer sessions, and teaching courses that have been given by Yogacarya B.K.S. Iyengar.
The works have undergone extensive editing all of which has been overseen by B.K.S. lyengar, bringing the wealth of his extensive experience to the subject.
This volume, as well as all the future volumes, will be of immense value to all students and practitioners of Yoga.
This is the first volume of ASTADALA YOGAMALA (The Garland of the Eight Petals of Yoga), a collection of my articles, speeches, talks, interviews, question-answer sessions and teachings written and delivered at different times and on different occasions.
These "Collected Works" comprise several volumes. This first volume contains my biographical works, the definition of yoga and the exposition of Patanjala Yoga The whole work is inspired of Patanjali's words of wisdom woven through the eight petals (astanga) of yoga, namely, yama, niyama, asana, pranama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi They are synthesised and presented in such a manner to ignite interest in the readers and inspire them to take to the practical aspect of yoga.
This collection is the brainwave of my pupils Sricharan Faeq Biria, PhD., of France, Patxi Lizardi, MA, of Spain, John Evans of London and my daughter Geeta, who have been instrumental in collecting the material from different sources spread in different countries, and compiling them over the years. Probably, this volume would never have seen the dawn, if they had not first gone through this disparate material, devoting hours and hours for months together in editing and re-editing the manuscript, and Stephanie Quirk who worked patiently on the computer day and night to bring it into a harmonious and cohesive form thus making my work of further corrections and revisions easier.
As the talks and articles are from different periods of my yogic journey, repetitions were unavoidable. Some of these have been deliberately retained for the readers to observe and study the developments that evolved in me from my continual practice since the early days.
These new thoughts are maintained with coherency in the text and in the course of time may flash new thoughts and new wisdom in your sadhnas. As such I request the readers to accept and investigate enthusiastically these new thoughts, which may imprint in your heart and head a lasting impression that serves and guides those who seek to undertake this yogic practice in their lives.
All my pupils, who have contributed in the preparation of this work, share with me the merit and credit of this ASTADALA YOGAMALA.
I express my gratitude to Dr. Siria, Mr. Uzardi and my daughter Geeta for taking on the onerous work of preparing this text They have done a wonderful job in presenting the nuances of the science and philosophy of yoga in a clear way, making it understandable to one and all.
My grateful thanks to Harper and Coli ins, Publishers (77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London, W6 8JB), who have published all my classical books that have been cited here in ASTADALA YOGAMALA This work is incomplete without reference to those publications.
I am also grateful to Allied Publishers, for willingly accepting to publish this work and the following volumes currently under preparation, acquainting the readers with the cultural and spiritual heritage of humanity.
This second volume of Astadala Yogamala is the vision of Yogacarya B.K.S. Iyengar. It contains the distillation of thought born from his long standing sadhana.
"The very heart of my teaching has been an attempt to demonstrate in the most practical and useful way how any perfected part of yoga contains the essence of every other aspect, the macrocosm inside the microcosm or the universal couched within the particular, like the genetic code which lies in the DNA of each of our cells."
All mankind lives unwittingly within the truth of yoga Yoga is one. Yet we find ourselves in the position of having to portion it up, to compartmentalise it, to search to grasp its mechanisms. Why? It is because we all misapprehend reality (avidya) Not just partially, but totally. Only the supreme bhaktan is capable, with one peerless gesture of surrender, of turning the Universe inside out We simply cannot We are like that man who has put on his shirt inside out and back to front The only way he can rectify his error is to take it off, work out how it should be and start again. Through yoga, we take off the shirt of our ignorance, study it and put it back on correctly, as a shirt of knowledge. To do this (like the man turning out the body and each sleeve of his shirt separately), we examine each petal of yoga as if it were separate. Just as' our man knows that there is only one shirt, we should not forget that there is only one yoga.
Though it is now some time since my own practice reached its maturity, the flow of my ideas on how best to present and communicate this subject so dear to my heart, never ceases to evolve. For this reason, although the following chapters remain substantially the same as when they were first delivered as talks around the world, I have nevertheless amended, amplified or cut as I deem necessary in order to transmit my teaching as clearly and precisely as I am currently able. Some slips of the tongue have been removed, as have some repetitions, but I have allowed some of the latter to remain so that each chapter should stand alone, comprehensible within itself without endless cross-referencing.
Because so much of this book concerns asana and pranayama, the two aspects of yoga with which my name is especially associated, I am naturally trepidatious lest this volume should fail to do justice to a subject which is at the core of my life's work I am perhaps equally anxious lest the emphasis that my teaching has placed on asana and prnayama be interpreted by some as intending to exclude or minimise other limbs of the great body of yoga On the contrary, the very heart of my teaching has been an attempt to demonstrate in the most practical and useful wa1how any perfected part of yoga contains the essence of every other aspect, the macrocosm inside the microcosm or the universal couched within the particular, like the genetic code which lies in the DNA of each of our cells.
It was the circumstances of my life that pitched me headlong into the practice of asana, and a tumultuous time I had of it For me, peace has only been achieved out of life's turmoil. Initially I had no special aptitude for asana It was by no means love at first sight. But I did persevere, and love of this subject was granted me. So it was that over the years I discovered that in the bubbling cauldron of asana, its practice, perfection, presentation and its teaching, is to be found the entirety of yoga.
Others may enter yoga by different portals. Through the inspired perfection of two aspects of yama, satya and ahimsa, Gandhiji realised the whole of yoga, and in doing so changed the world. The narrow door through which Sri Aurobindo passed was a burning desire for flawless, exalted knowledge. How many of us can, unaided, emulate such giants as these? Trying and failing we are forced either to abandon the attempt, or to act out a life of hypocritical pretence, paying lip service to ideals we cannot match.
The gateway of asana is broad and all may pass through it. Its benefits are immediate, tangible and visible. Though hard, it is accessible, sustainable, motivational and real. The juxtaposition of apparent diversity and underlying oneness, the conundrum at the core of the universe, is most acutely experienced in asana, and as Patanjali so clearly says (11.48), the beauty of asana is its ability to place us beyond the harm of dualities.
Even by his standards, Patanjali's words on asana are concise, in fact lapidary. And, like stones, they form the plinth on which yoga practice is founded. A plinth must above all be firm and stable (sthira) and this is the very first word he uses to describe asana From this base begin the techniques of yogic absorption. At their culmination, he says, when there is joy, effortless effort and all dualities are reconciled, then yama, niyama, asana, pranama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana inevitably, must be present.
For most students the grandeur of this statement, however logical, is difficult to grasp and far more so to bring to realisation.
Let me illustrate from my own practice. Look at the two photographs of Parivrttaaikapada Sirsasana and Parsva Sirsasana, some were taken when my physical prowess was at its height, the second when my yogic practice was mature. It is axiomatic that the shape of the self (svarupa)is identical to the shape of the body. Keep in mind that yoga is composed of practice (abhyasa) and renunciation or detachment (vairagya) Think of abhyasa as a centrifugal force, like a flower opening or a merry-go-round, and vairagya as a centripetal one, like a flower closing or the root of a tree spiralling down to penetrate the hard earth. Now, although these two words, centrifugal and centripetal describe a relationship which exists in duality, it is not a duality of conflicting or antagonistic opposites, but a complementary relationship of polarity. In other words, if you had to draw a line to join them up, it would not be by a straight line but by a circle. If they were antagonistic, Patanjali would not have been able to write sutra II.47 on effortless effort, sutra II.48 on an end to duality or the last word to his final sutrs IV.34 - iti - "that is all". meaning that there is an end, that a resolution beyond all temporary compromise can be attained.
This third volume of Aatadala Yogamala contains not only the matured intellectual vision of Yogacarya B.K.S. Iyengar, but takes the sadhaka into the interiou parts of the consciousness to savour the true essence of life force the Seer.
The volume is a 'Yogic cornucopia' of Subjects which will be of interest to the discerning reader, ranging from therapeutics to ayurveda to academics and sports, practice (sadhana) and the teaching of yoga as art, science and way of life.
I was hoping that this third volume of Astadala Yogamala would be released on the auspicious day of Guru Purnima (2002). But, unknown situations caused the delay and yet I am delighted in my heart that I could complete the volume on this day. After going through the final reading, now I hope this volume will be released on Vijaya Dashami.
God is one, but we attribute him in many different ways. Similarly, the trunk of a tree is one but the branches are many. These sayings go well with yoga too.
In this volume, I offer a yogic cornucopia of subjects which will be of interest to the first timer as well as the discerning reader. I have shown how yoga casts its glorious light on subjects ranging from therapeutics and ayurveda to academics and sports, practice (sadhana)and teaching as art, science and and way of life.
Here I have also discussed sadhana not only from different dimensions, but also dedicated the sequential steps of grading the sadhana as we improve in its practice, both as a teaching and a healing art In this compilation, I have especially introduced the wisdom of yoga and its parallelisms with modern science as well as with ayurveda.
Lastly, I have discussed how yoga can be introduced in schools and colleges.
Yoga helps one to become a master of circumstances and I have given guidance with hints to those who choose yoga as a vocation.
Here, I wish to acknowledge once again the help and assistance of those without whom the undertaking of this project would not have been possible. Smt Geeta S. Iyengar, for checking and helping with valueable suggestions for the subject Mr. Faeq Biria and Patxi Lizardi for jointly co-ordinating the entire project along with Geeta. Mr J. Evans for editing the work into a cohesive and cogent language. I also cannot forget Stephanie Quirk for her technical assistance for layout and editing, Uma and Raya Dhavale for further assistance at the computer, Mr S.M. Wagh for the line drawings, Mr. Chandru Melwani of Soni Studios for reproduction of photos. Mr. Kokate for cover artwork. I am indebted to Mr. Surojit Banerjee for his final touch on the work, and last but not the least to Allied Publishers (New Delhi) for whom am grateful for publishing these volumes.
The three brothers, Ravana, Kumbhakarana and Vibhisana, with different aims in life, together determined to practise meditation.
Kumbhakarana's meditation was tamasic and inert in nature, making him lazy and sleepy; though having a strong body, he remained empty within. Ravana's meditation was rajasic, filled with sensual and psychologic ambitions. Vibhisana's meditation possessed the qualities of satvic guna; perfect physical firmness, emotional clarity and intellectual wisdom, along with a pure intention and total surrender.
From the meditation of the three brothers we can learn a lot. From Ravana and Kumbhakarana we learn to sublimate the ego, discarding both laziness and ambition; through Vibhisana to cultivate humbleness and virtuosity, and surrender ourselves to the Paramatma, that being the highest quality of dhyana. In dhyana alone an inner order of rhythm to peace, sets in.
Today many people jump to meditation, but they end up with Kumbhakarana's inert state of emptiness, or they become egoistic and full of intellectual pride like Ravana.
Vibhisana never declared his devotion or his meditation. He personified bhakti and dhyana. He totally surrendered to Sri Rama, giving up all ties. He is the example for us to aspire for meditation.
I am confident that the discipline of yoga plays a major role for those who work for peace and joy, not only in themselves, but also for society. Being one of them, it is my duty to continue, at least with my pupils, to show what inner peace is.
Interviews that have been presented here have to be read keeping in mind how the psychologicai background of human nature works on different mental and intellectual planes.
Articles are ""jritten to convey ideas to the readers, and the frame in which the articles are written conveys the frame of the mind of the author, while an interview covers various things in many different ways. Interviews carry a number of questions, which give form to a number of human doubts, fears, complexes, expectations and wishes to the interviewer. The answers 'of an interview have to cover directly or indirectly the answers to the doubts and fears that are hidden in the questions.
Not only that, a valuable interview means that the interviewee should think emotionally and intelligently in order to answer to the general doubts and fears of human psychology as they pertain to each question. The mind of the interviewee should go beyond the mind of the interviewer to identify the deep doubts, fears and hopes of the human being. This has always been my state of mind while giving any interview.
The psychological background of humanity goes on changing as the world changes and the challenges to be faced are different. The psychological background of yoga practitioners also goes on changing as stability sets in as they go on improving in their practices. Sometimes an interview might have been given for a country with less understanding in the field of yoga Sometimes certain replies are made under particular situations and circumstances. I thought that I should also consider these changes and present day conditions. Keeping this present state of man's intellectual development, I decided to edit my own interviews. This is the reason whyyou may find small differences between the interviews published at those moments and the edited interviews you have at present in your hands.
This fifth volume of Astadala Yogamala contains a great treasure house of material compiled from interviews taken with Yogacharya B. K. S. Iyengar.
Like an explorer, who enters a dark cave and penetrates its depth with a beam of light, the torchlight of each interview iIIumines a section of the cave revealing the Gem of Wisdom, lying luminescent in the depth of the ardent, unceasing and devoted sadhana of Shri B. K. S: Iyengar.
Astadala Yogamala is coming forward again with the subtle intuitive essence of yoga through which the practitioner can become acquainted and practise keeping in mind these subtle qualities.
This volume covers the interviews I had with individuals and periodicals. I would keep in mind the background of the paper or magazine for whom the interviewer is interviewing. The answers have to be apt and short so that the readers are not bored, misguided or confused. But often the interviewer having only a background of bookish or theoretical knowledge, questions from the head rather than the heart I have therefore answered the questions from that theoretical angle which may seem abstract Answering in turn theoretically, I returned the interview back to earth with a concrete reply. Here, in this volume a reader will come across interviews which give the practical answers within a theoretical framework.
However, when pupils themselves approach me, their guru, out of inquisitiveness, doubt or sheer ignorance, then I have answered with a motherly touch to the issue.
Such interviews are like the diamond that shines through each of its many facets, bring illumination to the intelligence of the practitioner. The intelligence like a multi-faceted diamond guides the sadhakawith understanding to penetrate deeper and deeper with clarity and precision into the layers and coverings of the Self.
Just as a magnet magnetises and combs iron filings to move in unison, the magnet of yoga too combs the intelligence of the sadhakato go deep within and cultivate a unifying awareness to the body, mind and self.
This, the sixth volume of Astadala Yogamala continues to reveal the great wisdom housed in the treasure trove of the interviews of Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar.
It provides education for the sadhaka to accomplish an inner transformation freeing him from sensual pleasures, and making him move towards the Soul, where untainted wisdom illuminates the practitioner from within purifying his actions.
As you progress in your practice, the cloud of afflications and obstacles in life interfere less and less. They disperse revealing the glory of the Soul's eternity.
Astadala Yogamala is again presented to you with the incisive and insightful explanations of both the core as well as the content of the yogic path. They have been distilled from a sadhana that spans more than seventy years. There are many explanations that reveal to the reader a depth that penetrates far beyond their original inquiry, leading the reader to further ponder and reflect on this vast subject
In this volume, a number of interviews are from some of my senior most students, seeking guidance in their inquiry and to quench their thirst for knowledge.
Here I have tried to illumine them in the field of their questions and at the same time indicate the black holes of the body where their minds and intelligence have overlooked or failed to enter and search the deepest caves in the body. In this volume I have given them an intellectual mirror to enter the deepest caves of the body so that they can see and make right use of the directions that are needed to travel on this path of yoga.
At the same time I am showing the steps according to one understands so that each one establishes a bridge to further his or her own subjective experience, knowledge and wisdom.
There are several interviews by major international and local publications as well as media representatives. The reader receives a unique perspective of this subject each interview offers a rich and vital fund of the content of yoga. What the reader will find revealed in this volume is without doubt unlikely to be paralleled elsewhere.
For one who wishes to know both the depth as well as the breadth of the ocean of yogic knowledge, it is only through the total immersion of the whole self into this ocean. Only then can one know that the true spiritual odour in the whole ocean of yogic philosophy is the one worthy to savour with total attention and awareness.
This seventh volume of Astadala Yogamala presents to the reader the revealed insight and experienced understanding brought to light in response to questions asked of Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar over the years.
At times the questions express doubts of the questioner, at other times it is their thirst for knowledge. Sometimes a provoking challenge and sometimes a cry for clarity. The answers represented here nourish, alleviate and respond to personal queries as well as address the vast topic of yoga universally.
This volume is like a deep well; one can draw water from its surface and quench one's thirst, or one can, with effort, break the surface of the water and plunge into its depth where the cool waters are constantly fed from an inexhaustible stream of distilled knowledge that can come only from one who has totally immersed himself in the ocean of wisdom.
Inquisitiveness is an inborn trait in man. Without the knowledge of knowing and understanding his life becomes odourless and tasteless. The urge to know (jijnasa) is inherent in each individual. Even a child wants to know, explore and understand everything that it sees. We all like to know things around us as our mind, intelligence and consciousness are caught in the whirl-wind of what life is and why it has been bestowed. These inquiring thoughts, ideas and queries also convey an absence or a want of knowledge. Yet it is this same inquisitiveness that triggers and leads us towards constructive thinking for intellectual and spiritual development.
Fear, confusion and doubt activate the mind to know the value of life and the truth of its living. Innovation and invention help and guide man to discover and re-discover life's meaning.
In the veda and upanisad we see the same curiosity to know the truth through dialogues, discussions, debates and arguments.
The word veda comes from vid which means to know. It means the thirst for jnana. The seers . astonished at the wonders of the world wanted to know of themselves as well as the universe. They wanted to know how and why the universe was created and their connection to it.
In the Rgveda there are certain Sokta, in the form of a direct discussion with the deities. They indicate a praise and glorification with pure emotional feel sprouting from their hearts, for those deities.
The word upanisad means to sit closer. The sisya comes nearer to the guru physically, mentally, intellectually, he sits closer to the guru to study and learn. The upanisad contain dialogues in the form of questions and answers. The Prasnopanisad is an apt example wherein the sisya goes to the Guru to get the right answer. In Kathopanisad, Nachiketa talks to Yama, the God of death, to clear his doubts. In the Brhadaranyakaopanisad, Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi discuss together. Yajnavalkya, being the Guru, answers his wife convincingly. Similarly, between Yajnavalkya and King Janaka, who is well versed in spiritual knowledge. Yajnavalkya proposes questions to the King. As a King should never be questioned, he answers the questions himself, instilling the finest of the finest knowledge in the King. In Taittiryopanisad the acarya advise the sisya through discussion to know the truth. In Mundakopanisad, Angirasa advises Saunaka There are instances in almost all the upanisad where questions and answers lead to the development of knowledge and wisdom (viveka-jnana).
The Bhagavad Gita is also in a dialetic form where Shri Krishna instructs Arjuna The reputed Socrates, explains the philosophical approach towards life to his disciples through argument question and answer.
In Caraka Samhita (an ayurvedic text), like Atreya, Angirasa, Bhrgu, Vasista Jamadagni and others came together to discuss and deliberate on the subject.
When it comes to yoga most of us, though not well versed have a plethora of questions in our minds. Wherever I went people used to bombard me with questions. Their queries and doubts made me realise that there is a big gap in understanding the subject concerning its theory and its practical aspects.
Their questions were interesting, provocative as well as evocative, and I tried to convince them. Answering them helped me to bring to the surface my hidden experiences.
In this volume I have structured the questions systematically, codifying them through titles and sub-titles into main themes on the subject With this classification and elaboration on yoga the sadhaka can see the philosophical vision behind his sadhana. It will help aspirants to accede to the subject with ease and guide them to practise and know precisely how to reach the further finer aspects of yoga, from where doubts and confusions that taint their search evaporate. I hope this format will convince all readers to 'know the subject as a pre-requisite in practice, experimentation, deliberation and analysis.
This eighth and final volume of Astadala Yogamala brings the reader to the culmination of the entire project The author Yogacarya B.K.S. Iyengar has guided us carefully through the maze and intricacies of an apparently unsurmountable subject that is the terrain of yoga knowledge.
He has shone rays of light into every conceivable aspect of yoga sadhana, elucidating this difficult subject succinctly and with lucidity. Guruji (Yogacarya B.K.S. Iyengar) calls and encourages us to climb to the apex of the subject so that the reader may see for themselves its vastness, its purity and its brilliance.
One night in 1949, an extraordinary and momentous event occurred in my life. It was to become a turning point of my personal fortunes and it dictated the direction my life was to take.
With it there came to a close what had been my most severely testing period, grim years lasting from 1940 to 1949 and which had followed the termination of my job at the Deccan Gymkhana Club. I had served there from 1937 to 1940. Indeed it was for this position that at the request of Dr. V.B. Ghokale, I had moved away from the familiar language and society of my own upbringing. Dr. Ghokhale was a surgeon who had retired to Poona (Pune) at the end of his service to the government of the Bombay Presidency.
Even with the Deccan job, my situation had remained exposed, lonely and unstable but at least it had provided me with a livelihood and place to live, learn and grow. Each of us needs some vital base from which to participate in society and when mine was abruptly terminated, it fell on me as a catastrophic blow.
Yet some mysterious force kept me on my feet. It made me hold on to the one thing I had: Yoga.
I persisted and persevered in practice, and by dint of willingness to teach whosoever approached me, just kept our heads financially above water. I say "our" as I had recently married my wife, Ramamani, who along with yoga turned out to be both the rock and blessing of my life. And she participated equally with me in the singular event which took place on a night in 1946.
Simultaneously, we both had a dream......
Our family deity, Lord Venkatesvara (Balaji), came to me in my, dream and gave me a handful of rice with these words, "Now devote your time to yoga and the rest will be taken care of". That same night the Lord's consort Mahalaksmi, appeared to my wife, telling her, "I had borrowed 25 paisa from your husband and am now returning the same to you".
These remarkable dreams marked a new dawn in our lives. Fear, worry and anxiety began gradually to fade out Although I had been initiated into the practice of yoga at an early age, there had never before appeared any sort of divine injunction that yoga should be my path. I again started practising with increased vigour, rigour and confidence. The doubt which had constantly sapped my morale gave way to renewed enthusiasm and aspiration. By the grace of Balaji and Mahalaksmi, my sadhana began bearing fruit not only economically but also in the writing and publication of what become standard books on the subject; light on Yoga Light on Pranayama Tree of Yoga, Art of Yoga Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, light on Astanga Yoga light on life and now the eight volumes of Astadala Yogamala.
It has been a long journey and the way ahead has not always been clear. It is only now, in the fulfilment of this major undertaking to gather and organise, as one collected work, the entire fruit of my experience and distilled reflections that I find I can look back and recognise how, hour after hour, one book at a time, the discipline of authorship has refined, honed and crafted my thought.
Our dreams of long ago have been realised, their double visitation guiding towards the divine source of inspiration. At the conclusion of this final volume, I prostrate before Lord Shri Venkatesvara as I have now fulfilled his summons to yoga. My lifelong work is an offering to the Lord in gratitude for his benediction. My devotion to Him has transformed a life that could easily have lacked worth or meaning into a useful life of service and significance.
It has been an honour to present through Allied Publishers, these volumes on India's most valuable heritage. In the hope that these books will become a source of reference and research for the seeker of today and of tomorrow, I have included a comprehensive index for the entire series, from volume 1 to 8. In the event that these works serve as a foundation to aspirants of yoga, then both credit and merit must be shared not only between the publisher and myself, but with those innumerable students without whom, whether directly or indirectly, the formulation and execution of this immense work would not have been possible.
For millennia yogi have practised yoga as paths of karma, jnana and bhakti. These volumes of teachings are the karma, or the result of my dedicated sadhana Any Master on a particular path who has attained a level of exalted, yet subjective, knowledge, finds himself in a situation analogous to that of the newly enlightened Buddha, seated under the peepul tree. He realised that he had to find his followers, wherever they were, return to them and try to help them also to "See what he had Seen". In that insightful decision, he became a Teacher.
As regards the path of jnana, in the process of writing, I have had endlessly to sift my thoughts and reflections so as to clarify and bring lucidity to the deepest ramifications of my felt experience. It has been necessary to search the knowledge base of several languages to find suitable expression so that you may read my words and hopefully hear their message. Fortified by knowledge, you too will, I hope, dive into the great depth and richness that yoga-sadhana offers.
As concerns bhakti following Lord Venkatesvara's behest I pray to continue in yoga and provide a "sheltering monastery" for all who seek its cool shade. To this end I surrender to you the best that I can do.
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