Two years ago, a couple of weeks after he died, I wrote this post about Guruji. Over the past few months I came to the conclusion I needed to better explain myself and what I wrote then. That year I had a one year old, we moved, Guruji died, and my mother died too. So writing wasn’t my highest priority, and I am not sure I was even clear, like the rest of us, on what we had lost.
And when we rewrite we risk overdoing explanations, but I think in this case and in this time its worth it to take the risk.
So here you are, from May 2009:
So over the past few days a large stream of people have been streaming from all over to Mysore in S. India. They are going to pay their respects to Guruji, who’s Vaikunta Samaradhane is scheduled for 1:30 pm tomorrow, Sunday the 31st of May. The Vaikunta Samaradhane is a ceremony to mark the end of the funeral and the 12 or so auspicious days immediately after his passing on.
I have found myself atypically quiet about Guruji. Many eulogies have spread their way over the web, facebook and twitter have been teaming with tributes to Guruji and all he’s done for us.
I’m really good at eulogies. The chance to say nice things about people, and something about standing back and pronouncing the highlights of a person’s life and being, it all fits with a sense of the world I like, the sense of all that is good being celebrated.
So why am I so quiet here?
Part of it is that it seems antithetical to all he has taught me to talk a lot. I came away from the first three months I spent with him with little to say. Little ability to explain or verbalize what he did with me. In some sense the longer I’ve been away from him, the more I, like everyone else have developed more and more words to explain his method. The reminder he always gave me, every time I returned, was how simple it really is. Not easy, but simple.
No treatise, not explanation, no props, just…
And the other part is that eulogy seems violently insufficient to encompass who he was. To just talk about the good with Guruji is something that leaves me feeling as if I am standing on one foot and not using the other.
To further explain:
One of the few things that Aurora truly dislikes in her little world is car-rides. We have our better days, and one of the things that Aurora has decided makes them more tolerable is Johnny Cash. She rocks out to Johnny Cash. Its a good thing I really like Johnny Cash, because we hear a lot of him when we have to drive in the car.
I realized the other day as we are exploring the outer bounds of Johnny Cash’s music in the interest of not becoming immune to his charms, that I couldn’t tell you why I really like him so much. I just knew that I really liked Johnny Cash, and I knew I wasn’t the only one. Something about the music and attitude make me really happy to be alive. And I have to admit, there is a part of him that is dark. He is, las Guruji would use the word, a Bad Man. Not just dark in the real bad sense. But mixed in with his talent and skill with music there is something not just about saccharin and sweetness. Johnny Cash was about a life that is real, gritty, hard at times, and real.
And to me, Guruji was the same. To not talk about him in this light is not to say the truth. It wasn’t his only side, or only self, but Guruji was a Bad Man too. In a world of happy yoga, of find your inner heart yoga, and know your inner truth yoga, he knew how to work the other side.
With all the eulogies of Guruji floating around, I was very happy to see one report on Facebook of Guruji, talking about how Guruij ripped her a new ___ in his office one day. It reminds me of many stories, too countless to numerate here, of how hard he was on us. He would over and over again use hard work and humor to take us apart. Granted he knew when to crack a joke, and did often. But he sure knew how and when to take us apart. When to question you, push you, and even when to put you down.
So many people from so many other yoga disciplines find much to fault. How can we be practicing steadiness or ease in a posture that’s so hard, strung together with vinyasas that make it harder still? How can he give us the impossible, and allow us to strive so hard to achieve it, and give us so little explanation of what it is we are doing? Is this really yoga? I can’t speak for all of his students, but I can tell you that for me, he taught me a great deal about yoga.
He taught me to focus when its hard to focus.
He taught me to find steadiness and ease in the places where it was the most difficult to find anything like steadiness or ease.
He taught me to be strong when I didn’t feel very strong.
And he challenged me to seek, to find, and to know more of what yoga is.
He took me, us, apart time and time again. He was a human teacher, he enjoyed the money and his human parts were out there for everyone to see. I know that there are people out there who got hurt. And I’m sure there are people that he hurt. But personally, I found that when I stuck around through my own hurts, through all the hard times, through all good and the bad the times he and the family were human, I learned a lot. I grew a lot. And I released a lot of what I previously carried in my body and in my heart. It was exactly what I needed to grow.
You can go places and read of all the good he did, how much he loved yoga and how much he loved his students. You can go other places and read about his faults. But from where I sit, I think he taught me how to hold both.
There is a Sutra for this.
After 2:46, sthira sukham asanam, in which Patanjali says asana is a steady comfortable posture, and 47, where he talks about how to find it, in 2:48 he says:
Tato Dvandvaanabhighaatah – Thereafter one is undisturbed by the dualities….
Thank you Guruji, for not making it all sweet.
Thank you Guruji for taking us apart again and again.
Thank you for the times you were a bad man.
While I am far from being undisturbed by dualities, at least you have given me a start.