Conference Notes with Sharath Jois: KPJAYI, 26 August 2012

“We are like engineers. We are like scientists. We do and experience many things.” –Sharath

Today’s conference began by reiterating the importance of āsana in our spiritual practice. Sharath said āsana is a very big tool to get stability in our body and mind because we have a mind like a monkey, jumping here and there. Āsana helps us to have a mind more like a koala bear, sitting in one place. The monkey mind doesn’t like to concentrate. It is the āsana controlling the mind that makes the āsana so useful. He likened it to the sun’s rays. At noon, the rays are very bright and too harsh. A practitioner who sits in the third limb, āsana, learns to withdrawal the senses and control her rays to be more like a setting sun, the light more controlled, the energy more controlled. With yoga, we experience something different than before. We are changed by our practice. There are many different types of dosa—masala dosa, set dosa, plain dosa—but it is still a dosa even though the flavor is a little different. We each experience our yoga a little differently though the practice is the same. Sharath cautioned that finding yoga is like a treasure hunt. We must find real yoga. We know we have found real yoga when some changes happen within us. This does not mean “I was jumping with crossed legs and now I jump up with straight legs”—not that kind of change. We can go to gymnastics and learn to jump and do handstands. This is an external and internal exercise. When we bring vinyāsa, breathing techniques, to this āsana our minds will change because breath can control the mind. This change can happen anywhere in the āsana practice from primary to sixth series. We need not have to be advanced in the āsana in order to feel this change and learn the breathing techniques. We only need to experience the yoga. We are like engineers, like scientists, in that we do, and then experience many things.

When questions came, someone asked if we should go to temples and take pūjā when we are not Hindu. Is it a part of our practice? Sharath asked, “who has divided into communities?” He answered that it is not God who does this but humans, and for our own benefit. He said he himself believes in Krishna so when he does his practice he thinks of Krishna and it helps him. This all depends on our belief. Who is to say something is wrong? We have different names for the same God. Nothing in our practice says it must be one or the other. All is the same.

A student asked if we need to do āsana if we are able to sit in Padmāsana for long periods of time already. Sharath answered that yoga is Sādhana, action or ritual toward spiritual goal. Just to know the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali by heart is not enough and does not mean we are a Sādhaka, or one who applies that practically. T. Krishnamacharya had many degrees and knew many things but he wanted the experience of yoga within himself. He sought out his teacher, Sri Ramamohan Brahmachari. At first he was denied. He was told to leave but Krishnamacharya was determined and stayed until he was accepted as a student. Krishnamacharya later became Pattabhi Jois’ teacher. Sharath explained that the giver and receiver relationship between student and teacher is very important. It is why we should study with him at least one month at a time. He wants students to learn, and we must have dedication to learn. If we come just to have a job, to be a teacher, and expect in one month to become a teacher, our experience becomes limited in yoga. We must be willing to cross barriers. Once we say “I know,” that is the end of our learning. Once we say “I don’t know,” our experience with yoga becomes deep. Our experience with our teacher becomes deep. Pattabhi Jois never said “I know everything.” Sharath said even as the teacher, teaching us yoga and āsana, he is learning. He sees good energy and bad energy, different shapes in the bodies. In spite of this, Sharath said that sometimes he wishes Guruji were still here so he could get up and practice his āsana with him. He added that to be a student is the best life, though a little painful.

By Megan Riley