churumuri.com records with profound regret the passing away of K. Pattabhi Jois, the legendary yoga guru, in Mysore on Monday afternoon. He was 94 years old, and had been ailing for some time.
Jois, born in tiny Kowshika in Hassan district, put Ashtanga yoga on the map of the world and was singularly responsible for restoring Mysore’s rightful place as the yoga capital in the country.
Starting out from a tiny nook in Lakshmipuram, Jois taught the way to achieve the union between the jeevatma and the paramatma. And on any given day, Gokulam, where he resided, resembled an Olympics Games village, with hundreds of foreigners practising the craft at the hands of Jois and his grandson, Sharath Rangaswamy.
The Guardian, London, noted last week:
“Ashtanga was introduced to the west from India by Pattabhi Jois—or Guruji. At the age of 12, Jois started studying with the guru Krishnamacharya who, in the early 20th century, revived the millennia-old practice of yoga. Jois visited California in 1975, and America was hooked. Jois’s six series of poses are the ashtanga practised today. He believes you must master each pose before you can proceed to the next (the only person certified to practise the sixth series, apart from himself, is his grandson).”
SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Like all of us, he too is playing host to age. But age, in his case, seems to be a casual cousin who just dropped by. Not a long staying relative who bears upon you the burden of his visit’s upkeep.
He’s more like a sun kissed flower. Vibrant, colourful, joyous and bright. Age alights upon him like a bee and buzzes off in an instant.
K. Pattabhi Jois has seen 91 summers. Or winters, if you like. But… But the eyes still flash bright hues. The smile is friendly and full. It doesn’t matter that it is denture assisted. The skin is taut and blemishless.
So much like his resolve to do what he has been doing in stages almost every waking moment for 77 of his 91 years. Learning, lecturing and teaching yoga. His has been a journey. Long, timeless, poignant, exciting, frustrating, fulfilling and in a sense, eternal.
Perhaps the greatest living guru of ashtanga yoga in the world, Jois lives in Gokulam, Mysore. If he is not teaching in London or Paris or Melbourne or New York or San Francisco, that is. His is the life of a man whose soul has been satiated by the sheer attainment of a life’s ambition; the fulfilling of a karmic yearning; the continuing of a tradition that is steeped in his very being.
To him life is yoga. And yoga is life. There is nothing beyond it. Not anything that he has tried seeking. He ran away from his home in the village of Kowshika near Hassan as a 14-year-old boy. Getting into the train to Mysore from the station at Ambuga, a neighbouring village, four miles away, because he didn’t want any one to notice him or even recognize him.
The mind had been made up. To answer some strange otherworldly calling.
Watching guru S.T. Krishnamacharya demonstrate yoga at the Jubilee Hall in Hassan one 1928 evening, stirring in him some irresistible awakening. “It’s the shaping of the soul over many lives,” he says. His answer to why he got so irrevocably drawn to the pursuit of yoga. Long years of ‘tapas’. At the Sanskrit College in Mysore.
In the early days, the meals were frugal but the insults to the heart were substantial. Poverty snapped at his heels like a persistent dog. He could only glare back and keep going. His resolve was cast in solid iron and his mind wavered only as much as a mountain would against a mild breezy waft.
The numbing sacrifices in life. The honing of his very internal rhythms to suit the lifestyle of a yogi. From an unearthly young age. Waking up at 4 in the morning. When the rest of the world remained snugly curled up in the folds of a hazy dream. Pushing his limbs to do the mind’s bidding. Yoga practice. And more of it until the sun was high up in the sky. Day after day. Week after week. Years went by.
There is to him the visage of a yogi. The mellow glow of knowledge and achievement. But there is not even a hint of the ego. Quite surrealistically humble. He doesn’t speak the English language beyond the customary ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’.
Yet there’s some unbelievable communion happening all the time between him and his tens of hundreds of western students. They call him guruji. And in return they get a soulful of benediction. Or so it seems going by the way they fawn over his presence.
I have seen him walk the long cavernous halls of airports in the west amidst the gloss, the glitter, the lights and the shrill crescendo of revved up jet engines taxiing for take off. But he is his own self. In his white dhoti and shirt and pump shoes.
He neither understands the thousand reasons his co-passengers have to be on the same plane nor does he want to know why else the world moves. To him he is on his way to Los Angeles or Encinitas or Hawaii because a student has invited him to be there.
Only the boy from Kowshika has touched 91 years of age!
Also read: The most-famous Mysoreans in the world