B.K.S. Iyengar 14 December 1918 - 20 August 2014 …
We have a new member to our IYAC/ACYI community. Brian Hogencamp and his partner recently moved to Vancouver BC from San Francisco USA. Brian is a senior Iyengar yoga teacher who has travelled to RIMYI many times. He was at Yoganusasanam in 2014, a few months after Guruji passed, when in her opening remarks, Geeta addressed the students about her father. Brian has shared her words with us and granted permission to reprint an article from his website commemorating the event. It is a fitting reflection on Guruji’s life, and on Geetaji’s beautiful ability to articulate the significance of B.K.S. Iyengar and the importance for practitioners and teachers to pass on and carry forward his teaching.
My dear friends and students,
I left San Francisco for Pune, India in late November to volunteer with preparations for and participate in the 10-day Yoganusasanam Intensive and Geeta S. Iyengar’s 70th Birthday celebration, and then stay on for the remainder of December and January for study. As with past extended-study trips – this the eighth in ten years – the clarity of the teachings, depth of experience, and connection with community were remarkable and beyond expectation. But what remains salient, overarching this trip, was the experience of all these things in the absence of Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar’s physical presence.
Shortly after arriving, I walked alone up the stairs to the main asana hall. At the top of the stairs there is now a huge photo of Guruji just before the entry to the hall. As it was afternoon, the hall was quiet. I stepped inside. I was the only one. I found myself inexplicably fixated on the other side of the room where Guruji practiced. WIth each slow step the cool, worn-smooth slate met my foot. Absorbing the room, my eyes repeatedly searched the far side area, as if there was something for me to see. My senses were wide-open. As I came closer and then near, I became aware of what I was doing and paused to reflect. I stood there only. Looking. This was the place, the place where many had seen him the most. The man. So many memories. Observations. Interactions. Sparks. Intensity. Connection. Compassion. Laughter. And that’s just from my one, relatively tiny, tiny slice of experience. What of those who have been here daily, monthly, for years and decades. How deep the imprint! How large the absence. He practiced, taught, and guided from here. And now, these practices, teachings, and guidance are to be carried on – Geetaji made this clear in her opening remarks of the convention.
Geetaji’s 70th Birthday marked 10-years of study with the Iyengar family for me. My first trip was in 2004 for Geetaji’s 60th Birthday celebration and teaching – Yogsadhana. The 70th Birthday convention, held 1-10 December, was itself a complete and whole experience, earthy with Guruji’s absence, yet buoyant with his light. The theme was Yoganusasanam (discipline of yoga, see Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I.1). Geetaji was a steady force, offering us strength, courage, wisdom, and practical guidance to proceed onward. With 1200+ in attendance from 60+ countries there was a palatable sense of unity, community, healing, and inspiration.
What I want to share with you now are some of the words so beautifully expressed by Geetaji on the opening day of the convention. As students, these are for you. I do so with the simple intent to give a hint of the feeling from that day which touched us all deeply. Here are her words:
A BIG PILLAR
“I don’t know from where to start,
a big pillar,
a live pillar,
who was enlivening us,
bringing life in us,
is no more with us.
That great shock,
for us to the life,
to be just alone.
We have been left lonely is the fact.
the memory is such a gift for us,
we have to apply that memory,
though it is a vrtti,
its a aklishta vrtti right now,
its not a klishta vrtti,
in our heart,
in our brain,
in our breath,
in our body,
Guruji will be existing forever,
until we are in this earth.”
who came in our life,
apart from as my father,
but for all of us as a Guru,
when he entered into our life,
it has left such a great impression,
a deep samskara in us,
and he showed us the path,
not just merely guiding us,
not just merely with the instructions,
not just merely with the teaching,
all these words are useless.
But somewhere deep inside,
deep inside the heart,
he has left the yoga samskara,
to which we have to be grateful forever…”
HONEST TO HIS TEACHING
“I’m sure that I won’t be able to do justice to what he did all of these years,
Guruji is Guruji,
guru is guru,
nobody can come to his level, that’s the fact,
but still I will try my level best,
to come close, as close as possible to Guruji,
if God gives me the strength.
But yet at the same time the fact remains,
we are all supposed to,
carry the message, coming as close as possible to Guruji.
We are now on the threshold,
Guruji won’t be here to see, with his naked eyes what we are doing,
but from that world he will be definitely looking,
let us not bring that pain to his heart,
let us remain honest to his teaching,
whatever we know, whatever we can do,
we should carry, this fact, that whatever Guruji has taught,
with all the honesty and the justice… to the subject,
we should carry on.”
HONESTY FROM INSIDE
“The human nature is thus, its such that,
in absence of, guru,
when physically we don’t see him,
we may divert our attention, suddenly.
Many a time people feel,
that since physically he is not available,
bodily he is not existing,
let us find somebody else who is bodily existing,
and that will be injustice.
Once if you have decided,
or if we have decided,
to follow the path shown by Guruji,
we should not give up,
we should not leave it.
Its not only merely the responsibility,
but in his own words,
it’s the honesty from inside.”
because I cannot do anything else except requesting,
and praying the Lord to give us that strength,
so that we remain on this path shown by him,
the divine path shown by him.
And that’s why we chose the name Yoganusasanam.
Because its Yoganusasanam,
the discipline has been given by Guruji to us,
and its our duty to carry,
in the similar manner,
with the same intensity,
with the same depth of understanding,
so that we will be able to pass on,
the knowledge to the next generation,
who will be missing to see him.”
“Having this in our mind, before we start,
I will add one more mantra from the Vedas, from Upanisads,
in which all of us will be reciting,
in which it is said that when the students, the pupils, learn from Guru,
though we are not equal to the Guru,
but yet what he has passed on, the knowledge to us,
we will carry forward, always remaining together.
We will carry that further, with all that honesty in us,
and we will be always together.
In simple words the Upanisad says, the mantra says…
we will eat together,
we will be together,
and we will carry on this knowledge without having any kind of,
jealousy, malaise, or any kind of klesa within us,
with the purity of the mind,
we will carry on the knowledge,
with our teaching process.
And that is how, even if we are,
living on this earth at different areas,
we have to feel that we are always together.”
– Geeta S. Iyengar
NOTE (from Brian): All words above in italics are transcribed from the Yoganusasanam DVD without permission. Section titles in BOLD caps are my own.
The remainder of December and January was enriched with open practice, classes with Prashant Iyengar, Sunitaji (Guruji’s daughter), and Abhijata (Guruji’s granddaughter), assisting medical classes, observing beginner, intermediate, and children’s classes, and time with dear friends and “family” in India.
As with all teaching and steeping with the Iyengars, the essence of what was imparted can only be thoroughly understood through practice – observing, percolating, reflecting, filtering, seeping. This takes time. There are no shortcuts. Yoga is a subjective art. For certain, I will share what I can, when I can. I look forward to seeing you in class, to being together. Let us remain on this path.
You can also read Brian’s article (and more) on his website by clicking here.