K. Pattabhi Jois dies at 94

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Jois at his 90th birthday in July 2005

From the LA Times:

K. Pattabhi Jois, leading teacher of Ashtanga yoga, dies at 94

By Jon Thurber
May 22, 2009
Jois taught Ashtanga, an extremely demanding form of yoga, for 75 years. Beginning in 1975, he taught widely in the U.S., where his classes become wildly popular.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the leading teacher of Ashtanga yoga who is credited with bringing the practice to a mass audience and introducing it to the West, has died. He was 94.

Jois died Monday at his home in Mysore, India, after a short illness, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Considered one of the most physically demanding of yoga practices, Ashtanga presents six increasingly challenging sequences of poses. A student must show proficiency in one sequence before going on to the next. Only a small number of practitioners have achieved every level.

“The goal of yoga is to create a unity of mind, body and spirit, and each system has a different quiver of tools to get there,” said David Swenson of Austin, Texas, who studied with Jois for more than 34 years and has written books and produced videos on the subject. “Some have likened it to meditation in motion.”

Read the full article here.


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13 Responses to K. Pattabhi Jois dies at 94

  1. I thought it will be insightful to read the views of krishnamacarya, who is the guru of both Bks iyengar and pattabhi jois. Their guru emphasized mantra and isvara-pranidhana more than asanas as is clear from this article. The pdf file shows that he was philosophically tuned to vishistadvaita and included yoga as part of his bhakti practices. He mentions vaikuntha as his goal in the pdf file.
    http://bhakticollective.com/2007/12/16/my-studies-with-sri-krishnamacharya/

    It will be good for people to understand the differences between Advaita Vedanta and Yoga. Yoga is dualistic and Advaita Vedanta is exclusively monistic, and people who equate the two in modern times completely do not appreciate the nuanced differences. I was one of those persons too.

    • I agree that more yoga practitioners would do well to read Krsnamacarya’s views on yoga. He was one of the greatest proponents of yoga in the modern age (as we see from his own work and from the work of his two world-famous disciples) and brought it back from near total obscurity practically by himself. That he was also a devout Sri Vaisnava (as well as a Sanskrit scholar) shows up in how he interpreted Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras–a prominent example being the isvarapranidhanad va sutra (“Or [one may pursue samadhi] through the worship of Isvara”) he rendered as isvarapranadhanat eva: “Only through devotion to Isvara can one attain samadhi.” I found it very interesting to examine the styles if Iyengar and Jois relative to their guru–both are very different from each other as well as from their guru’s. Yet it’s all yoga. It shows that different students understand the guru differently and will consequently have different emphasis in their teaching.

      Yoga is dualistic and Advaita Vedanta is exclusively monistic, and people who equate the two in modern times completely do not appreciate the nuanced differences.

      Clearly the modern yoga community is heavily influenced by Advaita Vedanta. The problem is it’s very easy to equate the two, at least as far as the goal is concerned. Even though Krsnamacarya’s example is there I think most yoga practitioners who have bothered to read Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras would disagree with you that yoga is dualistic. Every translation I’ve read renders kaivalya (in the Kaivalyapada section) as “isolation” or “oneness.” Since Patanjali only the barest definition of what the state of kaivalya actually is unless one is well read in other sastras then there really is no reason to render it otherwise–taken at face value and in the context of the Sutras themselves (i.e., without taking into account sastras from other darsanas) “oneness” is the most natural reading of kaivalya.

      As for bhakti (isvarapranadhana) in modern yoga, I think if we look closely we will see that in most cases such devotion in pursuit of kaivalya is at best sattviki-bhakti which retires upon enlightenment.

      • Every translation I’ve read renders kaivalya (in the Kaivalyapada section) as “isolation” or “oneness.” Since Patanjali only the barest definition of what the state of kaivalya actually is unless one is well read in other sastras then there really is no reason to render it otherwise–taken at face value and in the context of the Sutras themselves (i.e., without taking into account sastras from other darsanas) “oneness” is the most natural reading of kaivalya.

        Kaivalya indeed means “aloneness” or “isolation”, but how does that make the system monistic? Kaivalya simply means that a purusha becomes free of prakriti, and YS 2.22 makes it clear that there are many purushas since prakriti remains even after one purusha attains kaivalya.

  2. I think that that is more to do with the fact that Neo-Advaitins are using yoga together with Vedanta. But Sankara has clearly delineated the difference between Yoga school and his Vedanta school.
    Here a Advaita Vedanta practitioner clearly emphasizes the difference between the school of identity(Advaita Vedanta) and school of experience(Yoga).http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:AZuWBMpsoMkJ:www.shiningworld.com/Books%2520Pages/HTML%2520Books/Ramana%27s%2520Teachings.htm+%22difference+between+yoga+and+vedanta%22&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    As far as traditional commentators on Yoga Sutras are concerned they don’t see Patanjali’s yoga to be synonymous with Advaita Vedanta. This article addresses this issue and the idea of isvara in yoga sutra.
    http://bhakticollective.com/tag/patanjali/
    And Bhrigupada, a devotee who has been reading the commentaries of Vyasa, Vacaspati Mishra and Vijnana Bhikshu, makes it clear that Patañjali is certainly not a monist. YS 2.22 is quite explicit on this point.
    The fact that Vyasa has commentary on Yoga Sutra makes it clear that it cannot be exactly advaita vedanta because advaita vedanta of sankara is distortion of Vyasa’s vedanta sutra.( his two-tier system of reality etc)
    One more thing to note is that Sri Krsna himself had used yoga techniques during his daily life every morning,according to sastra. Dhruva also used yoga in his practice though he was a devotee.

    My basic point is that bhakti is also a form yoga and most devotee practitioners of earlier ages did employ techniques from yoga in their life to aid their bhakti. There is potential to actually break the strong association of Yoga with Advaita Vedanta by showing how Sankara himself attacks it. This will motivate yoga practitioners to move towards the goal of suddha bhakti.

    There was another of a good exchange I had with a yoga practitioner influenced by bhakti focusing on monistic concepts of asamprajnata samadhi.
    QUESTION: Could you please explain the the two stages
    of_samadhi:samprajnata and asamprajnata samadhi. According to my
    reading_samprajnata is a
    stage of one pointed attention (mental stage of ekagra) and_then when you are empty of all thought you reach asamprajnata samadhi. Isn’t_one pointed attention the highest stage in vaisnavism, how can we actually_become completely empty of thought(like in asamprajnata samadhi).

    RESPONSE: You’ve got the right idea here. When you are empty of
    samprajnata (“complete [sam-] profound [pra-] knowledge [jnata]”) as in asamprajnata,the idea here is that the self is so utterly absorbed by the very object on which one is meditating that one is no longer aware of such complete and profound
    knowledge. It is truly a state of ecstasis (“standing outside” of oneself),and in bhakti, this is the state of the Vrajagopikas in their hearts’ one pointed focus upon Krishna. Patanjali himself gives a definition of samadhi wherein he describes the self “as if” (iva) being completely devoid (sunya) of self (YS 3.3).

    > Many yogis want to progress from one pointed_attention to a specific form to
    > emptying any concept of form.
    >
    RESPONSE: Yes, but then it is a question of doctrinal perspective and philosophical understanding. Emptying any concept of form, as you state, either refers to a metaphysical status or a particular state of relating to the divinity in which the self is utterly self-forgetful and is no longer self- aware, only aware of the beloved Other. Thus this state of emptying does not necessarily mean that there is no metaphysical other, but that there can be, in divine love, no longer any distinction between oneself and the beloved object in pure love. This state is described in the Upanishads.

  3. Bhrgupada said:

    Kaivalya indeed means “aloneness” or “isolation”, but how does that make the system monistic? Kaivalya simply means that a purusha becomes free of prakriti, and YS 2.22 makes it clear that there are many purushas since prakriti remains even after one purusha attains kaivalya.

    You’re right; the yoga system is not inherently monistic just because Patanjali chose to use the word kaivalya. It’s all about interpretation of the text; those who do so through the lens of Advaita-Vedanta render it in a monistic way, in keeping with their chosen metaphysic. A practitioner of bhakti would never render the sutras in such a way as to do away with the purusa. That said, I think the explanation you gave here is not very well known yet, and among the more hardcore Advaitins will not sway them anyway.

    Gaura Vijaya said:

    My basic point is that bhakti is also a form yoga and most devotee practitioners of earlier ages did employ techniques from yoga in their life to aid their bhakti. There is potential to actually break the strong association of Yoga with Advaita Vedanta by showing how Sankara himself attacks it. This will motivate yoga practitioners to move towards the goal of suddha bhakti.

    I agree with your basic point that bhakti is also a form of yoga. After all, in bhakti we have the Gitopanisad, which is a yoga-sastra. In a broad sense yoga is any system or process by which the mind is subdued and made fit for meditation. Since bhakti begins with a controlled mind clearly yoga is a big part of bhakti.

  4. From the Tattva sandarbha (
    http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/editorials/sandarbhas/tattva/sandarbhas52.htm) we find this verse quoted and explained,
    Suta Gosvami replies (SB. 12.13.12):

    The subject matter of the Bhagavatam, non-dual reality, is the essence of all Vedanta. It is characterized by the unity of Brahman with atma, and it’s sole purpose is to grant kaivalya, or pure devotion. ”

    So here kaivalya is interpreted to mean ‘pure devotion’by jiva Gosvami. So this problem of interpretation is eternal and never will be resolved.

    • Love involves becoming one with another. This is Jiva Goswami’s idea, but it is clearly an interpretation from another darsana. But it seems clear that there are two interpretations of kaivalya within the yoga community, Paramatma sayujya and passive adoration. The latter really comes to santa rasa through yoga-misra-bhakti and is rarely understood, but it seems that from what Gaura-vijaya has written about the lineage of Pattabhi Jois that, at least in theory, this was his ideal.

      Earlier Gaura-vijaya cited a devotee who wrote this:

      When you are empty of samprajnata (”complete [sam-] profound [pra-] knowledge [jnata]“) as in asamprajnata,the idea here is that the self is so utterly absorbed by the very object on which one is meditating that one is no longer aware of such complete and profound
      knowledge. It is truly a state of ecstasis (”standing outside” of oneself),and in bhakti, this is the state of the Vrajagopikas in their hearts’ one pointed focus upon Krishna. Patanjali himself gives a definition of samadhi wherein he describes the self “as if” (iva) being completely devoid (sunya) of self (YS 3.3).

      There is some truth to this and I recently answered a question about this similarly during a lecture. However, it is hardly the enitre story. The absorbtion of the gopis is not comparable to that which what can be realized by yoga-misra-bhakti. It amounts to much more than citta-vritti nirodah, which may be more akin to ceto darpana marjanam as opposed to citta hari or havng one’s mind (citta/ceto) stolen by Hari. And the visya alambana of yoga misra bhakti is Paramatma, not Bhagavan.

      In the Bhagavata, we find the milkmaids of Vraja chanting so ’ham at the height of their love in separation from Gopala Krishna. After Krishna disappeared from the circular love dance, the gopîs, lost in thought of him, declared themselves to be Krishna (asav aham) (SB 10.30.3). However, even as they declared themselves to be Krishna, they were searching for him. They did not actually become Krishna, for if they had there would have been no further possibility to enjoy rasa with him for which they were so eager. Thus their feelings of oneness with him are described in the same Bhagavata verse as being vibhrama, mistaken. Theirs was a case of mistaken identity caused by love. Moreover, vibhrama means beauty. Thus they experienced a nuance of love within a beautiful pastime (vibhramavilasa) of lover and beloved. In Ujjvala-nîlamani 11.28–30, Rupa Gosvami identifies this nuance as the anubhava called lila, which he understands in this instance to mean “imitation of the beloved.”

  5. Thanks for your clarification. According to the writings of Krisnamacarya, he just uses yoga as a tool to aid in his bhakti and his ideal of dasya rasa in Vaikuntha. Perhaps it is similar to the person in Prema Pradipa of BVT who uses yoga, but only as a tool to aid in bhakti. There are other examples like Dhruva who use yoga as a tool to reach Narayana. And again it is perplexing to find Krsna, yogesvara himself employing yoga in his morning sadhana.
    There were lot of spillovers from one path to the another in earlier texts(B.G,S.B terms like kaivalya etc) and it seems that the compartmentalization of different paths was not as rigid as we see in the current times. There was fluidity in usage of terms like kaivalya sayugya and mukti, and they did not carry a negative connotation like in the current times.

    • Then again, it may be inaccurate to equate citta vritti nirodah of yoga to ceto darpana marajanam of nama sankirtana, becasue the latter speaks of cleansing the citta whereas the former speaks of arresting the vrittis of the citta through meditation. Looking at it like this would place ceto darpana marjanam—the first result of nama sankirtana—more closely to the result of niskama-karma-yoga that enables one to sit properly and meditate. Nonetheless citta-vritti-nirodah is far from Vraja-rasa.

      As for Krishna doing yoga, we find this in Dvaraka, but your point is interesting. Still the sadhya and sadhana of yoga and bhakti are distinct, as explained by the Goswamis.

      • How do we place the devotee who employs yoga as an aid to bhakti,like the one mentioned by BVT in Prema Pradipa. Is he only going to get santa rasa?

  6. Another interesting example is that of the sages of dandakaranya who employed yoga as a tool in their bhakti, the result of which was that they attained gopi bhava in dvapara yuga. Obviously mantra dhyana was the main focus of their sadhana.

  7. Certainly meditation is a part of bhakti. I was also referring to tools like pranayama, asana( a good posture) etc that can aid one’s mantra dhyana. Though Sanatana Gosvami had spoken about the use of pranayama in mantra dhyana, it seems like practitioners of Gaudiya Vaisnavism since Visvanath Cakaravarti Thakur do not view these tools favorably.

    I think it is hard to do mantra dhayana or harinama with absorption for many devotees including myself. I think advanced yogis are more qualified in that respect and if they for instance pick up gopala mantra or hare krsna mantra with the sadhaya of bhakti their results will much better than me.
    It is clear that there is more emphasis on elaborate deity worship than on mantra dhyana in modern day GV. In one lecture, I heard more qualification is required for smarnam( perhaps a more controlled mind). So aren’t advanced yogis more qualified than most devotees in that respect?

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