Dec. 15, 2017, Govinda’s Gardens, next to the Ragwada Hotel, near Baner road, Pune, India. 4:00 onwards, dinner at 7:30.
A sweet reunion; the intimate family, five sisters and one brother, with the extended spiritual family of students and teachers from over 60 countries, all honoring the man, the father, the Teacher, him who we call Guruji.
When I showed up for my first intensive in 1986, Guruji had recently retired from active teaching. However, while Geeta taught, Guruji interjected constantly. She would repeat exactly what he said, and add to it. I did not realize at the time that Guruji had supposedly retired, for he could not stop teaching!
Prashant explained that Guruji never really taught them yoga. He and Geeta learned through watching him practice, teach, and through their own observations. We did not have teacher’s training courses like you all have, he chided us. We had to learn our own way.
Great grandchildren raced across the stage, oblivious to the crowd glued to the stories being so vividly shared. As one sister spoke, the others brightened up at the memory. It was the best commemorative celebration I could have imagined. Abhijata, Guruji’s granddaughter and the next generation in the Iyengar yoga legacy, had arranged the festivities. Every detail was special.
Geeta said that at first she felt really lost without him, and she went through a very dark phase. “We never really understood him,” she began, as she often does. Her respect and devotion for her father far exceeded anything rational. I sometimes think that this is her way to de-emphasize the value of her own teaching and experience. Everyone saw him as a flexible man, stern, she said, but he was transforming the entire human being. While the sutras speak of Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha, there are many other niroddhas. We must stifle the Ahamkara niroddha, as she rattled off five other niroddhas that we must subdue. Even in story telling, Geeta was teaching.
Sujeeta told a wild tale of yoga magic. Kids can do stupid things, and she did! She put a watermelon seed up her nose and did not tell anyone when she had trouble getting it out. Her nose began to swell, and she had trouble breathing. As doctors were making plans to operate. On the spur of the moment, Guruji showed her Kapalabhati. She blew so hard that the seed flushed out.
She had a wild mind, could not focus, and found that school was boring. Guruji had a big stamp collection from all the correspondence that he was beginning to receive. He asked her to remove the stamps from the letters and glue them into an album. In the process, she learned about countries, capitals and landmarks from all over the world!
Prashant went on and on about how he was a slow, dull, torpid kind of fellow. Anyone who knows him would be chuckling now, for Prashant is one of the most fascinating men I have ever met. Yet he slunk away from school to visit the maid’s house. When Guruji found out, Prashant received the spanking of spankings, he remembered. Guruji encouraged him to study mechanics, then a visual art, and finally music. It seemed that the boy was being given the tools, with his hands, with his eyes, and with his heart, to make the choices he would need to make in life.
This coming year will be the centennial celebration of the gifts and guidance that Guruji has left the world. Communities everywhere are planning different ways to come together. For me, this public reunion fondly opened up the circle of family to include all of us who have been so deeply shaped by Guruji’s life and teachings