Our teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, has reinstated Yoga to its present glory. As a teacher he was strict, he demanded total presence, as well as the very best that his students could give. In addition, BKS Iyengar’s knowledge of the body is unparalleled and the help that he gave to the ailing is amazing to see, he was always discovering ever new things to help patients. His ingeniousness is often overlooked, but BKS Iyengar’s discovery of using props for alignment, relaxation and healing purposes is in itself a blessing for mankind.
"The rhythm of the body the melody of the mind &
the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life" B.K.S. Iyengar
In Hatha Yoga, the body is used as a tool to modify consciousness and to still the mind of disturbances. Iyengar discovered that, unless alignment was given full and detailed attention, the desired result could not be achieved. Thus, the teachings involve precise physical postures and breathing techniques, leading to harmony in both body and mind.
Hatha Yoga Iyengar Tradition
The Centre is dedicated to the teachings of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar, who is recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on Hatha Yoga. At the Centre, we aim to create an inspiring environment for learning and practicing, as well as to provide a meeting point for the community to exchange teachings and ideas, thus maintaining the vibrancy and purity of Guruji’s work. In giving particular attention towards the usage of props, the Centre has succeeded in incorporating every prop of the Iyengar method, giving a limitless and diverse opportunity for each practitioner to discover a deeper understanding of Hatha Yoga.
"Peace in the body brings poise to the mind."
Arudra Darshanam, a festival that commemorates the manifestation of Lord Siva as Nataraja, the Lord of Cosmic Dance, was being celebrated with great ardor in the Bhuminatha temple in Tiruchuzhi, South India, on December 29, 1879. The decorated icon of Lord Siva was ceremoniously carried in procession through the streets during the day and late into the night. Just as the Deity re-entered the temple past midnight on December 30th at 1:00AM, the first cry of a baby boy was heard in a house adjacent to the temple. The fortunate parents were Sundaram Iyer and his wife Alagammal. The newborn child received the name Venkataraman and was later known as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. As the child was being born, a lady with poor eye-sight exclaimed that the new born was enveloped in light.
Venkataraman’s early childhood was quite normal. He joined others of his age in fun and frolic. When Venkataraman was about six years old he made boats out of old legal papers belonging to his father and floated them in water. When his father reprimanded him, the boy left home. After a long search the priest of the temple found the boy hiding behind the statue of the Divine Mother. Even as a child he sought solace in the Divine Presence when troubled by the world.
Venkataraman completed elementary school in Tiruchuzhi and moved to Dindigul for further schooling. In February 1892, his father died and the family was broken up. Venkataraman and his elder brother went to live with their paternal uncle Subbier in Madurai, while the two younger children remained with the mother. Initially Venkataraman attended Scott’s Middle School and later joined American Mission High school.
The boy preferred playing sports with his friends over his schoolwork. He had an amazingly retentive memory which enabled him to repeat a lesson after reading it once. The only unusual thing about him in those days was his abnormally deep sleep. He slept so soundly that it was not easy to wake him up. Those who dared not challenge him physically during the day would come in the night, drag him out of bed and beat him up to their heart’s content while he was still asleep. All this would be news to him the next morning.
The youth first learned that Arunachala is a geographical location after asking a visiting relative, “Where are you coming from?” He replied, “From Arunachala.” The youth exclaimed with excitement, “What! From Arunachala! Where is that!” The relative, wondering at the boy’s ignorance, explained that Arunachala is the same as Tiruvannamalai. The sage refers to this incident in a hymn to Arunachala that he composed later on :
Ah! What a wonder! Arunachala stands as an insentient Hill. Its action is mysterious, past human understanding. From the age of innocence it had shone within my mind that Arunachala was something of surpassing grandeur, but even when I came to know through another that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai, I did not realise its meaning. When it drew me up to it, stilling my mind, and I came close, I saw it stand unmoving. “Eight Stanzas to Arunachala”
Sometime later he read for the first time the Periyapuranam, the life stories of the sixty-three saints. He was overwhelmed with ecstatic wonder that such love, faith, and divine fervor was possible. The tales of renunciation leading to Divine Union thrilled him with blissful gratitude and a wish to emulate the saints. From this time on a current of awareness began to awaken in him. As he said with his characteristic simplicity, “At first I thought it was some kind of fever, but I decided, if so it is a pleasant fever, so let it stay.”
The turning point in Venkataraman’s life came spontaneously in mid-July 1896. One afternoon, the youth for no apparent reason was overwhelmed by a sudden, violent fear of death. Years later, he narrated this experience as follows:
It was about six weeks before I left Madura for good that a great change in my life took place . It was quite sudden. I was sitting in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden, violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it; and I did not try to account for it or to find out whether there was any reason for the fear. I just felt, ‘I am going to die,’ and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or my elders or friends. I felt that I had to solve the problem myself, then and there.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ And I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ or any other word could be uttered, ‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’ All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that ‘I’. From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.
The effect of the death experience brought about a complete change in Venkataraman’s interests and outlook. He became meek and submissive without complaining or retaliating against unfair treatment. He later described his condition:
One of the features of my new state was my changed attitude to the Meenakshi Temple. Formerly I used to go there occasionally with friends to look at the images and put the sacred ash and vermillion on my brow and would return home almost unmoved. But after the awakening I went there almost every evening. I used to go alone and stand motionless for a long time before an image of Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja and the sixty-three saints, and as I stood there waves of emotion overwhelmed me.
HWL Poonja, lovingly referred to as Papaji, was born on October 13, 1913 (or more commonly and controversially 1910, see page 16 of Nothing Ever Happened for a discussion and for documentation), in a part of the Punjab that is now in Pakistan. He had his first direct experience of the Self at the age of nine. He met his Master, Sri Ramana Maharshi, in 1944. Shortly afterwards he realized the Self in the presence of his master.
As a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the renowned Indian saint & sage who died in 1950, Papaji offered to speak about what he had experienced with his teacher.
Tens of thousands of people from all over the world visited Papaji, especially in Lucknow, his home, during the last years of his life. Seekers of truth from around the world visibly woke up in his presence. He had an extraordinary ability to seemingly transmit the experience of what has always been true and present: You are That!
Papaji continued to work and support the many members of his extended family until his retirement in 1966. After his extensive travel Papaji settled down in Lucknow, India, where he received visitors from around the world. Papaji died on September 6, 1997.
You're invited to read a first-person account of Papaji's life, written by David Godman and approved by Papaji himself. It is published as the first chapter in the Papaji: Interviews book. His complete biography Also, Papaji's biography is published online at the Satsang Bhavan web site, www.satsangbhavan.net.
In addition, a moving, in-depth biography of Papaji is published in the 3-volume set of books called, Nothing Ever Happened, edited by David Godman. One reader wrote, that these books are a clear picture of a great and unassuming man. Another reader wrote, "My mind is permanently 'ruined' [by] reading this...[It] has increased my desire to be simple and free." Still another wrote,"This is one of the best biographies of a spiritual being and teacher I have ever read...He always stayed a simple, ordinary, caring, unpretentious man, never declaring that he was on a `mission'. He always remained, simply, a free man.
Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on 11 May 1895 in Madanapalle, a small town in south India. He and his brother were adopted in their youth by Dr Annie Besant, then president of the Theosophical Society. Dr Besant and others proclaimed that Krishnamurti was to be a world teacher whose coming the Theosophists had predicted. To prepare the world for this coming, a world-wide organization called the Order of the Star in the East was formed and the young Krishnamurti was made its head.
In 1929, however, Krishnamurti renounced the role that he was expected to play, dissolved the Order with its huge following, and returned all the money and property that had been donated for this work.
From then, for nearly sixty years until his death on 17 February 1986, he travelled throughout the world talking to large audiences and to individuals about the need for a radical change in mankind.
Krishnamurti is regarded globally as one of the greatest thinkers and religious teachers of all time. He did not expound any philosophy or religion, but rather talked of the things that concern all of us in our everyday lives, of the problems of living in modern society with its violence and corruption, of the individual's search for security and happiness, and the need for mankind to free itself from inner burdens of fear, anger, hurt, and sorrow. He explained with great precision the subtle workings of the human mind, and pointed to the need for bringing to our daily life a deeply meditative and spiritual quality.
Krishnamurti belonged to no religious organization, sect or country, nor did he subscribe to any school of political or ideological thought. On the contrary, he maintained that these are the very factors that divide human beings and bring about conflict and war. He reminded his listeners again and again that we are all human beings first and not Hindus, Muslims or Christians, that we are like the rest of humanity and are not different from one another. He asked that we tread lightly on this earth without destroying ourselves or the environment. He communicated to his listeners a deep sense of respect for nature. His teachings transcend man-made belief systems, nationalistic sentiment and sectarianism. At the same time, they give new meaning and direction to mankind's search for truth. His teaching, besides being relevant to the modern age, is timeless and universal.
Krishnamurti spoke not as a guru but as a friend, and his talks and discussions are based not on tradition-based knowledge but on his own insights into the human mind and his vision of the sacred, so he always communicates a sense of freshness and directness although the essence of his message remained unchanged over the years. When he addressed large audiences, people felt that Krishnamurti was talking to each of them personally, addressing his or her particular problem. In his private interviews, he was a compassionate teacher, listening attentively to the man or woman who came to him in sorrow, and encouraging them to heal themselves through their own understanding. Religious scholars found that his words threw new light on traditional concepts. Krishnamurti took on the challenge of modern scientists and psychologists and went with them step by step, discussed their theories and sometimes enabled them to discern the limitations of those theories. Krishnamurti left a large body of literature in the form of public talks, writings, discussions with teachers and students, with scientists and religious figures, conversations with individuals, television and radio interviews, and letters. Many of these have been published as books, and audio and video recordings.
The Core of the Teachings
The core of Krishnamurti’s teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said, “Truth is a pathless land”. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophical knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.
Man has built in himself images as a fence of security—religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man’s thinking, his relationships, and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind. The content of his consciousness is his entire existence. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all humanity. So he is not an individual.
Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not choice. It is man’s pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.
Thought is time. Thought is born of experience and knowledge, which are inseparable from time and the past. Time is the psychological enemy of man. Our action is based on knowledge and therefore time, so man is always a slave to the past. Thought is ever limited and so we live in constant conflict and struggle. There is no psychological evolution. When man becomes aware of the movement of his own thoughts, he will see the division between the thinker and thought, the observer and the observed, the experiencer and the experience. He will discover that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation which is insight without any shadow of the past or of time. This timeless insight brings about a deep, radical mutation in the mind.
Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.
Although Indian by descent, Mr. Goenka was born and raised in Myanmar (Burma). While living there, he had the good fortune to come into contact with Sayagyi U Ba Khin and to learn the technique of Vipassana from him. After receiving training from his teacher for 14 years, Mr. Goenka settled in India and began teaching Vipassana in 1969. In a country still sharply divided by differences of caste and religion, the courses offered by Mr. Goenka soon attracted thousands of people from every part of society. In addition, many people from countries around the world came to join courses in Vipassana meditation.
Over a period of almost 45 years, Mr. Goenka and the teachers appointed by him taught hundreds of thousands of people in courses in India and other countries, East and West. Today, meditation centers established under his guidance are operating in Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Australasia.
The technique taught by S.N. Goenka goes back two and a half millennia to the Buddha. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma – the way to liberation – which is universal. In the same tradition, Mr. Goenka's approach is totally non-sectarian. For this reason, his teaching has had a profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion and no religion, and from every part of the world.
S. N. Goenka came to New York for the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations. He was interviewed there byHelen Tworkov.
Tworkov: According to some people, Vipassana is a particular meditation practice of the Theravada School; for others, it is a lineage of its own. How do you use the term?
S.N. Goenka: This is a lineage, but it is a lineage that has nothing to do with any sect. To me, Buddha never established a sect. When I met my teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, he simply asked me a few questions. He asked me if, as a Hindu leader, I had any objection towards sila, that is, morality. How can there be any objection? But how can you practice sila unless you have control of the mind? He said, I will teach you to practice sila with controlled mind. I will teach you samadhi, concentration. Any objection? What can be objected to in samadhi? Then he said, that alone will not help—that will purify your mind at the surface level. Deep inside there are complexes, there are habit patterns, which are not broken by samadhi. I will teach you prajna, wisdom, insight, which will take you to the depth of the mind. I will teach you to go to the depth of the mind, the source where the impurities start and they get multiplied and they get stored so that you can clear them out. So when my teacher told me: I will teach you only these three—sila, samadhi and prajna—and nothing else, I was affected. I said, let me try.
How is sila generated by watching the mind?
When I began to learn Vipassana meditation, I became convinced that Buddha was a not a founder of religion, he was a super-scientist. A spiritual super-scientist. When he teaches morality, the point is, of course, there that we are human beings, living in human society, and we should not do anything which would harm the society. It's quite true. But then—and it's as a scientist he's talking here—he says that when you harm anybody, when you perform any unwholesome action, you are the first victim. You first harm yourself and then you harm others. As soon as a defilement arises in the mind, your nature is such that you feel miserable. That is what vipassana teaches me.
So if you can see that mental defilement is causing anxiety and pain for yourself, that is the beginning of sila and of compassion?
If you can change that to compassion, then another reality becomes so clear. If instead of generating anger or hatred or passion or fear or ego, I generate love, compassion, goodwill, then nature starts rewarding me. I feel so peaceful, so much harmony within me. It is such that when I defile my mind I get punishment then and there, and when I purify my mind I get a reward then and there.
What happens during a 10-day Vipassana course?
The whole process is one of total realization, the process of self-realization, truth pertaining to oneself, by oneself, within oneself. It is not an intellectual game. It is not an emotional or devotional game: "Oh, Buddha said such and such . . . so wonderful . . . I must accept." It is pure science. I must understand what's happening within me, what's the truth within me. We start with breath. It looks like a physical concept, the breath moving in and moving out. It is true. But on the deeper level the breath is strongly connected to mind, to mental impurities. While we're meditating, and we're observing the breath, the mind starts wandering—some memory of the past, some thoughts of the future—immediately what we notice is that the breath has lost its normality: it might be slightly hard, slightly fast. And as soon as that impurity is gone away it is normal again. That means the breath is strongly connected to the mind, and not only mind but mental impurities. So we are here to experiment, to explore what is happening within us. At a deeper level, one finds that mind is affecting the body at the sensation level.
This causes another big discovery . . . that you are not reacting to an outside object. Say I hear a sound and I find that it is some kind of praise for me; or I find someone abusing me, I get angry. You are reacting to the words at the apparent level, yes, true. You are reacting. But Buddha says you are actually reacting to the sensations, body sensations. That when you feel body sensation and you are ignorant, then you keep on defiling your mind by craving or by aversion, by greed or by hatred or anger. Because you don't know what's happening.
When you hear praise or abuse, is the response filtered through the psychological mind to the bodily sensations, or is it simultaneous?
It is one after the other, but so quick that you can't separate them. So quick! At some point automatically you can start realizing, "Look what's happening! I have generated anger." And the Vipassana meditator will immediately say, "Oh, a lot of hate! There is a lot of hate in the body, palpitation is increased . . . Oh, miserable. I feel miserable."
If you are not working with the body sensations, then you are working only at the intellectual level. You might say, "Anger is not good," or "Lust is not good," or "Fear is not—." All of this is intellectual, moral teachings heard in childhood. Wonderful. They help. But when you practice, you understand why they're not good. Not only do I harm others by generating these defilements of anger or passion or fear or evil, I harm myself also, simultaneously.
Vipassana is observing the truth. With the breath I am observing the truth at the surface level, at the crust level. This takes me to the subtler, subtler, subtler levels. Within three days the mind becomes so sharp, because you are observing the truth. It's not imagination. Not philosophy or thinking. Truth, breath, truth as breath, deep or shallow. The mind becomes so sharp that in the area around the nostrils, you start feeling some biochemical reaction that means some physical sensation. This is always there throughout the body, but the mind was so gross it was feeling only very gross sensations like pain or such. But otherwise there are so many sensations which the mind is not capable to feel.
Mr. Goenka was the recipient of many awards and honors in his lifetime, including a prestigious Padma Awards from the President of India in 2012. This is one of the highest civilian awards given by the Indian Government.
Satya Narayan Goenka breathed his last in September 2013, at the age of 89. He has left behind an imperishable legacy: the technique of Vipassana, now available more widely than ever before to people around the world.