The Iyengar family organized a kind of memorial program on Guruji’s first punyathithi. All the students were invited and the venue was full of students, past and present, teachers, family and friends.
In the spirit of his life, the program opened with the invocation to Sage Patanjali and the Guru. Abhijata gave a speech straight from the heart, which was followed by a short one by Rajvi Mehta, an oldtimer. A gentleman named Hari (I assume he was one of the grandchildren of Guruji) followed with his memories and finally Geetaji shared her memories and lessons.
I never tire of reading or hearing about Guruji’s life and sadhana. This program had some snippets about him that were little gems as well as the legendary ones. If I had to pick on a single story or idea from each of the speakers, it would be Abhijata’s story of how Guruji taught her to teach Uttanasana, Rajvi’s presentation of Guruji as a yogacharya, healer, psychologist, author etc., Hari’s memory of Guruji as someone who lived the Sutras and Geetaji’s lesson of compassion from her father.
As always, I feel like a kindergarten student when I listen to all these teachers. While they speak simply, their thoughts flow clear like a river and I catch only a few drops in my palms. Inevitably I lose on a lot but I believe that all those thoughts will express themselves to me when I am ready to see them.
Abhijata loved her grandfather but it is the loss of her Guruji that shattered her. Talking about him evoked a lot of emotions as she remembered incidents from her time with him. I can’t even imagine how it must have been for her to not have the teacher/grandfather she adored. As a teacher, she is firm yet she manages to get us to smile when we grimace at the thought of another virbhadrasana 3. Every morning as she would make her way to the Institute, she would look out for Guruji’s dhoti on the grill and that would mean hurrying up or not. Sharing about these poignant reminders of his physical absence made me feel her aching loss.
Rajvi began by talking about Sage Patanjali and his treatises on grammar, medicine and yoga. It seems like an exaggerated claim that one man could be an adept at three different sciences. She then presented a multifaceted image of Guruji as yogacharya, healer, psychologist, author, artist and went on to say that a few hundred years from now, people will shake their heads and say, one man couldn’t possibly be all that. Being an old student of Guruji and associated closely with the institute, she was direct witness to his efficiency and talked about how he never had any pending work, his razor sharp memory. She remembered how he wanted a particular book from the library while writing one of his books. He asked her to get a small green book in Kannada on a particular shelf and then proceeded to get it himself because he wanted to finish the task then itself.
She spoke about his generosity compassion and openness to new ideas.
Hari had a few personal recollections where he talked about Guruji’s patience and humility. He travelled widely and a lot of times there was discomfort but he never complained.
Geetaji recollected how as a child, she would sit on Guruji’s forehead while he would be on Sarvangasana. It was such a personal memory and it gave a glimpse into him as a father and her as a child. I am thoroughly awed by her knowledge and experience but even more so with the childlike ability to share freely just like anyone else. She shared about coming to terms with his passing away and how she got the strength to carry on. She talked about a dream she had about Guruji after he passed away and how that helped her to get on with life. It was a baring of her soul so simply and I felt like I was part of that experience as well.
There was a lot that was remembered about this great man and it comes in bits and spurts. Some of it comes back vividly with a thought or word read or spoken and experience. Guruji’s life and sadhana shows me a practical way to put theory into practice. Using my body as a playground, I work on my mind and heart. An hour on the mat gives enough food for thought to see how the principles from practice apply to the way I conduct my life.
In gratitude for the lessons of the master who lit the way so that others could find their road.