My Yoga Teacher
K Pattabhi Jois – GURUJI or NOT,
ENLIGHTENED or NOT,
GURU or SEXUAL ABUSER
How do we recover/reclaim our adhikara, to ‘oversee’ ourselves, to reclaim our own authority? To reclaim our Purusha?
How do we change our conditioning, our attachments to our personal stories, change from our personal referencing to an expanded view, to realise we all have the potential to cause others great pain and suffering or the potential to take each other through the veil of avidya and conditioning to a realm of such extraOrdinary Love? We do our yoga.
My Teacher K Pattabhi Jois passed to me a yoga, a practice, a method of Mind Control, “Yoga is mind control”, Pattabhi Jois would say to me. My interpretation of this sutra was, not Government, an outside body of mind control, but Self Governing or Adhikara.
When the information of sexual abuse perpetrated by my teacher was brought to my attention I was in disbelief… I have reflected, I have ‘recounted’, I have meditated…
I have sat, Pattabhi Jois, dharinam – when I’m entering Dharana / Dhyana, leaving conditioned thoughts of memory, emotions, associations, assumptions, denial, fear and projections behind I ask, was K Pattabhi Jois Enlightened, Guru, ExtraOrdinary, Man, Teacher, Husband, Father, Son, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Ordinary, Suffering and Sexual Abuser?
Was Pattabhi Jois all of these?
Unfortunately Pattabhi Jois has passed, transcended all of these possibilities, all of these potentials. He is not here to tell us ‘his-story’. There are however not just one. There are many ‘her-stories’. Not just one photo of inappropriate hand placement. There are many accounts to be heard and listened to for us to Reflect and Learn from.
One thing is certain K Pattabhi Jois, Teacher, imparted to many a method of yoga that can lead us all to the path of ExtraOrdinariness. Though unfortunately it seems in K Pattabhi Jois’s life story, his ‘Work’ was ‘Greater than the Man’. I also ask what went wrong? Why did K pattabhi Jois fall from ExtraOrdinary to ordinary an end by causing others suffering?
When I sit “Posture, Free Breathing, Looking Place” and enter the looking place of my heart, I see we all have Darkness and Light within us (the human conditioning is suffering). We therefore all have the potential to cause one and other pain and suffering. I believe we only cause others pain and suffering when we ourselves are held in pain and suffering.
I do not see Pattabhi Jois as an Authority but rather an Exemplar. The validity of this statement is in the practice, held in the experience. What has come very clear is K Pattabhi Jois must have at some stage “Lost the Plot”, “Lost his Practice”. He did not Walk his own Talk 100%.
“Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is 99% Practice and 1% Theory, practice, practice, practice, do your practice and All is coming” is one of the many ‘Guruji Sutras’ (teachings that are passed from teacher to student). I know in my own life’s journey many times I have slipped from my ideals, got caught in reaction, caused others suffering, let myself down. So I get on my mat, I chant, I count, I breathe, I move, repeat and repeat, Tristana arises cleaning away the darkness and the light of adhikara shines once again and I am able to enter right action again, take responsibility, apologise and love again. If it wasn’t for my daily practice, I know I have the potential to slip back into samsara, the cycle of conditioned existence.
I guess my teacher Guruji was an extraOrdinary man when he was practicing, but for what ever reasons, and these are not excuses, K Pattabhi Jois stopped practicing, lost his adhikara and became just an ordinary man, and in doing so I now understand caused many pain and suffering. To those who did not experience his extraOrdinariness, his guru-ness but rather were traumatised by his inappropriate adjustments, to you, I say, I’m deeply sorry.
We can only take control of our own reactions and actions, take control of our “too much negative thinking”, take control of own minds adhikara, become our own overseers and to do this we must take hold Dharinam of our Asi, our sword, our technique our practice, follow with discipline and integrity the principles of yoga and become exemplars, not – Authorities…
…I met my ‘root’ (that which connects me to the source) teacher K Pattabhi Jois in March 1989, I had been sent to Mysore, south India, by my first teacher Derek Ireland. Derek, who was very anti doctrine, religion of any sort and ‘group hugs’, swore he would never call anybody “Guruji”. Derek had early in his life journey connected to his own inner ‘Authority’ and therefore, to give away his power to anyone was totally out of the question. However, I remember vividly Derek saying Pattabhi Jois greeted him at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute shala door with the most accepting and welcoming smile. Overcome by ‘something’, Derek said, “Hello Guruji, I’m Derek!”
In 1989 when I arrived in Mysore I was not looking for a spiritual teacher or wishing to become a disciple of a guru, I was just looking for direction, a change in life.
30 years ago, I too arrived self confident, full of myself, my stories and my conditionings. I referred to my new teacher as “Guruji” somewhat naive at this stage of my yoga journey – I understood the term “guruji” to mean an affectionate way to regard your teacher. It wasn’t until 3 years and 4 visits to Mysore to study with Pattabhi Jois that I understood the true meaning of our relationship, but that’s another story.
The question is who was Pattabhi Jois and what was he…?
Was Pattabhi Jois a Guru, an Enlightened Authority? Some students may have projected that he was an enlightened being but in reality NO! Pattabhi Jois regarded himself as the eternal student of yoga.
He was a simple man, an ordinary Brahman householder, married, with children and grandchildren and before he passed, great grandchildren. As a boy, after the Brahman thread ceremony, he ran away from his home village to Mysore in pursuit of an education in Yoga Philosophy and Yoga Asana. This plus teaching became his life, totally integrated into family.
No, Pattabhi Jois was not a Guru, not an Authority, he was an Exemplar…. he showed how Yoga Abhyasa and being a sadhaka of yoga can achieve stillness of mind, the doorway to extraOrdinaryness. He was also an Exemplar… showing that the steadiness and grounding of a practice, if lost, can give rise to the potential of being consumed by personal afflictions.
I am sad for my teacher that he fell from extra-Ordinariness to ordinariness and I am very sorry to those students who did not have my experience but have been deeply pained by his actions.
I learnt from my teacher to practice yoga, to not exercise and look outside to others for answers, but to turn the practice into a sadhana to discover from my inner teacher that Yoga is not to seek Authority outside of our selves but to look inside, to connect to ones inner guru. To then be an exemplar of the method, the teachings, giving the validity that each and everyone of us can connect to this inner light, consume our own darkness to hold our own inner light of love and shine this light for all until the day we transcend this physical realm.
In the years that I practiced under Pattabhi Jois’s guidance and instruction I never once felt that I had lost my own Authority, rather Pattabhi Jois managed my practice. It was my responsibility to turn up at the Shala each day and my responsibility to practice and make the most of the techniques that he was passing to me, to then pass on to others. I can say that I was empowered by my Mysore experience.
My mission now is not to lose sight of my own personal experience of the method of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga amidst all the current media reaction to K. Pattabhi Jois’s inappropriate actions, but to uphold the method of mind control and the principles of yoga – to be an exemplar of the method. To show and share that it is possible to follow the principles of yoga, transcend the temptations and vice of conditioned existence, not to be reactive, but rather act and reinforce how important and necessary a Personal Self-Practice is to hold ones own authority – adhikara dharinam.
To remind everyone that in a place of extra-Ordinariness we are:
All surrounded in Love and Light
Having come from the infinite source of pure Love and Light
That we are all, each and everyone of us an individual representation of this infinite Love and Light
That we all are this Love and Light in action
All on a journey returning to the pure source of infinite Love and Light