Sunday, August 19, 2012

Collected conference notes from this trip

Some notable Sharath quotations/paraphrases collected over the course of several conferences

Re: yoga in the Olympics-- "Can you compete in devotion to God?"
"yoga is for self-transformation only"

On ekagarata:  Sharath recounted a story from the Ramayana in which, for some reason or another, Rama and his faithful friend Hanuman must fight each other.  Rather than fight his friend and master, Hanuman assumes an attitude of prayer and begins chanting Rama's name.  Hanuman's focus is so pure and intense that when Rama draws his bow to fire he is finds he is aiming at his own self.  If your focus on God is strong and pure enough, sky's the limit.

There is a similar story in Zen about an unruly monk who couldn't sit still for meditation no matter what.  The unruly monk had a pet ox that he loved deeply. As a last-ditch effort, the abbots lock him into a room and tell him to contemplate his beloved ox.  When the abbots return after a few hours to unlock the door the unruly monk doesn't come out.  When they ask him why, he says "my horns won't fit through the door."

Re: old-timers who complain that Mysore has changed.  They should get hip to the fact that they have changed too. They need to get over themselves.

Swara are the patterns of ascending and descending inflections intoned when chanting mantram for puja.  They are specific and codified and must be learned under the auspices of a Brahmin guru.  If you don't know the swaras of a given mantra, the Adityahridayam (which does not have Swara) is always correct, too, if you want to consecrate a place or action.  The Adityahridayam is a prayer to the sun from the epic the Ramayana.  It is taught to the hero Rama by the sage Agasta so he can gain strength and courage in his climactic battle with the ten-headed demon Ravana.

On the importance of Surya Namaskara:
Whether you're a full-fledged polytheistic Hindu who believes the sun is in itself a god, or whether an atheist, or an atheistic Buddhist, a Jew, a Muslim, a devout Roman Catholic, whatever, it cannot be denied that the sun is our primal source of all energy and therefore of life itself.  To perform Surya Namaskara is to acknowledge this simple fact and show gratitude for it.  The Surya Namaskara we practice in Ashtanga yoga is not the same as was practiced by other great yogis such as Krishnamacharya and Swami Sivanananda.  Our Surya Namaskara was invented by Guruji for our benefit, based on his vast, encyclopedic knowledge of the Shastras, or holy texts.  When done properly, Surya Namaskara kills three birds with one stone: it is an affirmation of gratitude for our very life, it sets the mind to focus on vinyasa (the timing of movement with breath), and warms the body up to prepare for the asanas to come.

Thin waist=clean body

"Many times I told you." Or,  "like I told you many times."

Catuari is not handstand.  Doing many handstands does not make a great teacher/practitioner.

A teacher who pampers you is not a guru.  Yoga should teach you to deal with things.

Yoga is like a Landrover.  It will be able to get you through any terrain or type of road that life offers you.  But you must learn how to drive it.

Re:  the inner teacher v the outer teacher-- it is true that we have a divine spark and teacher within us.  But without constant care and polishing from an external teacher, a guru, the inner teacher will quickly devolve into ego and vanity.

A true Guru never says "I am a guru." Only his or students can say that.

Asana is not the goal of hatha yoga, it is the foundation.  Without a solid foundation the higher levels of yoga will be flimsy and prone to crumble when confronted with difficulty.

"God is there where there is a hard-working man." This was not said by Sharath but by his friend and mentor who is the former Indian Minister of the Interior

And finally, a bit of Ayurvedic feng shui:  apparently it is best not to sleep with your head facing north. Or do savasana.  So it is acceptable to have your feet facing the teacher or the front of the room in savasana in order to avoid having your head face north.

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