Yoga master Sri B.K.S. Iyengar went on a monthlong tour of the United States after the release of his 2005 book, Light on Life. First stop was the 10th Annual Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, where Mr. Iyengar, presided over a sold-out crowd of 800. The Iyengar Intensive session during the conference was a love fest. When he arrived the first morning, the cheer that went up, the sustained applause, the overwhelming love directed toward him, seemed to take him by surprise. He was greeted in a similar fashion everywhere he went. His final stop was Washington, D.C., where he made an appearance at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Afterward, he sat down with John Schumacher, founder and director of Unity Woods Yoga, for the following conversation.
John Schumacher: What did this trip mean to you?
B.K.S. Iyengar: This trip has given me such delight, which I never experienced in my previous trips to America. Before, there were always frictions. But on this trip there was such reverence for my work, and the respect people showed has touched my heart. Though I have come several times and taught lots of people, this is the first time all my pupils touched my heart, which was unforgettable.
What were you trying to accomplish by making this trip?
If I had any ambition, then I would have said for what purpose I came and what I accomplished. But when I looked at the faces of the thousands of people I met, I felt that the work I did must have touched their hearts and souls, as if we had known each other for centuries. That is the accomplishment. I feel that is the accomplishment of yoga, not me, that yoga through my system has accomplished something.The work of the past has fructified in such a way that we’re all together without difference between a guru and a sisya (aspirant), as if we are friends.
After 12 years, I’ve seen with my own eyes that such good work has been done and is going on. I’m sure that even if I do not come back, my heart will rest in peace that my pupils are doing the work.
Are there any important messages you would like to communicate to your students?
I think my pupils have taken my years of practice very seriously. My suggestion to them would be that they should not get disturbed, having practiced for so many years nonstop. They should continue, because in life disappointments do come, depressions do come, breaks do come, but even then they have to restart immediately so that they can recover. And they should see the light, which comes through this.
They should not lose what they have earned. Even if they maintain the experience that they have, that is a great achievement. They should uphold it. They should not fall from the grace that they have earned with hard work. God will come and protect them if they choose to do the work they are to do.
It’s like what you were saying to the NPR reporter this morning: You have to earn your health.
Yes. You may have earned it, but now you have to maintain it. Earning means learning is easier, but after learning, maintaining is difficult. If they maintain it, they can savor the essence of it with comfort.
You’ve talked about the delight of having the reverence of all the students. Was that a surprise to you also?
Yes. As I said, I had a lot of problems when I came here years ago. There were so many challenges, and having come out of those challenges, the fruit is visible after 12 years. So it has taken 12 years for people with confused minds to get confidence in the subject. It’s a great achievement.
Your book, Light on Life, will go a long way toward making an even stronger impression.
No doubt. Light on Life describes the essence of the efforts, which bring stage after stage. If the students have patience and tolerance and persistence, they are sure to experience the stages of illumination gradually. But if they jump ahead, thinking after reading the last chapter that they should reach that, then I’m afraid that what they have gained, they may lose. So it’s back to hard work and step by step practice.
One hundred percent inspiration and 100 percent sweat from the intelligence, not from the body. Up to now they have strengthened the body. Now they have to purge their intelligence, and they have to perspire from the intelligence so that the perspired intelligence may bring them the light on the soul. So this book, though it is called Light on Life, is the light of the soul, which fell on me through my practice. So the seers, those who are doing, if they continue, they will not search as if something is outside them, but will realize what fools we are, and that everything that we were searching for was inside all along.