Friday, February 10, 2012

The Last Words of Krishnamacharya

Below is AG Mohan's account of the last lesson he received from his guru, Sri Krishnamacharya. Sri Krishnamacharya was arguably the most influential Hathayoga teacher of the last century. He was the teacher of BKS Iyengar, PK Jois, Srivatsa Ramaswami and his son Desikachar, and in one way or another influenced most of the Hathayoga being practiced in the West today. Sri Krishnamacharya himself was a disciplined bhakta (devotee) of Narayana, a form of Vishnu; a very disciplined practitioner of asana and pranayama; a master of Ayurveda and Yoga texts; and a vedic mantra and ritual master.

One day at the end of January 1989, Krishnamacharya lay resting on his iron cot, which faced away from the door in his room. As I entered the room, he heard me and asked, "Mohan?"
"Yes", I answered.
He sat up and remained silent for some time. I waited. Then he said, "I have lived a hundred years. Enough. In those days, if it was a monk, the body should be discarded in the forest for animals; it should be burned if it is a householder. You know this- you have studied about it."
I was upset but controlled myself and kept silent. I knew what he was implying and that his will was inflexible.
"Here", he said, handing me the garland of beads (mala) that he always wore around his neck. "Keep these meditation beads." Both of us remained silent for some more time. Then, reverting to a normal mood, he said, "What is the matter?"
I hesitated and then asked him, "What is most important in life?"
Krishnamacharya smiled and responded, without hesitation, "Ah, Ah, Ah..."
I replied, lightly, "You are speaking like the sage Vyasa!" In this important moment I wanted to write down what Krishnamacharya was saying, but I found that I did not have pages in my notebook, so I wrote on the inside of the rear cover of the notebook.
He explained, "Money is not important. Arogya. Ayus. Atmasakshatkara." Health. Longevity. A tranquil mind.*
That was my last class with Krishnamacharya, though I visited him on most days after that for a month. On February 28, 1989, he passed away peacefully. I was among those who bore his mortal remains to the cremation ground.

- A.G. Mohan, Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings

* Please note that "atmasakshatkara" literally means "witnessing of the Self", or Self-realization. Thus it's traditional meaning goes beyond the idea of "tranquility of mind" which might be expressed by "sama", "samachitta", "shanti" or "dhyana" perhaps. AG Mohan and Desikacharya seem to favour more secular translations of some of Sri Krishnamacarya's language, at least that's my perception. "Atmasakshatkara" is also the name of a chapter in the Shiva Upagama "Sarvajnanottara Agama". This chapter was translated into Tamil by Bhagavan Shri Ramana Maharshi, and the Tamil translation was translated into english in Bhagavan's "Collected Works":