The film “Guruji Lives Here” was released on the blue moon of July to commemorate the teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The film is a montage of practice scenes from around the world, and it offers a breathtaking view of the global Ashtanga community.
The film goes inside some of the finest Ashtanga studios and shows some of the most revered faces, but it graciously refrains from identifying any of them. By threading together so many unique and iconic images, the film manages to make a profound statement on the organization of our tradition. It quietly suggests that, like the serpentine hood of Patanjali, the Ashtanga community has not one but one thousand heads, all singing in harmony.
This is a brilliant tribute to the richness and depth of Guruji’s teachings. It reminds us that Guruji’s teachings are too full to be captured in any single interpretation, and we cannot begin to appreciate their fullness unless we contemplate them through a multiplicity of forms. With its procession of familiar faces, the film invites us to contemplate Guruji’s teachings where it matters, in the diverse personalities of the people who have absorbed them.
Most of the people who are featured in the film studied directly with Guruji for a very long time. These people, the senior teachers of our discipline, all learned something from Guruji that changed their lives. What they learned was not some formula or technique, but something infinitely finer, which became personal as soon as they absorbed it.
After decades of practice, our senior teachers have come to embody the intelligence of Guruji’s teachings in their own unique ways. That intelligence has flowered within them and colored their personalities. Far from obscuring the essence of what they learned, their personalities give substance to the teachings and provide a moral foundation for our community.
The beauty of prakriti lies partly in the fact that while she produces an overabundance of similar forms, each one is irreducibly unique. To appreciate her beauty is to appreciate how her singular intelligence expresses itself through each of her individual gestures and forms. This kind of appreciation, which is essential to classical Ashtanga, requires viveka or discrimination, the double-edged sword that cuts through the tendrils of ordinary consciousness to expose the brilliance beneath.
The film invites us to use viveka to contemplate the personalities of our senior teachers, and so to appreciate the singular brilliance that they all share. It invites us to look directly into their myriad differences of concept, method and style, and to see how those differences reflect the intelligence of Guruji’s teachings in uniquely revealing ways.
If the Ashtanga community has a subtle body, the senior teachers are the nadis or channels through which the intelligence of Guruji’s teaching flows. And when we open ourselves to receive that intelligence, we become part of the same nexus. Then we can taste the sweet nectar of Guruji’s teachings dripping down into our hearts. The means of receiving this nectar is love, and more specifically, the loving contemplation of the singular brilliance that is reflected in the personalities of our senior teachers.
When we contemplate these personalities, it might help us to remember that Siva, of whom Pattabhi Jois was a devotee, is not only the divine patron of yoga, but a loving friend to all misfits, to all who find themselves outside of the dominant order. As the embodiment of absolute consciousness, Siva rejects nothing. He embraces everything whatsoever, including everything that lies outside of the presiding schemes of organization. He represents the sacredness of sesa, or the remainder.
The practice of yoga demands that we embrace sesa. It demands that we embrace everything that falls outside the boundaries of our ideas. Then we can expand our awareness beyond our limiting preconceptions and open our eyes to the way things actually are. In a sense, we Ashtanga practitioners are all trying to become sesa. That is, we are all trying to escape from the confines of our conditioned minds, so that we can rediscover ourselves, as it were, in our fullness.
However differently we might all approach the practice, we are all searching for the same thing. And part of Guruji’s non-dual teaching is that, once we find it, we will realize that we were together all along. The reality that we are looking for does not exclude any of us but, on the contrary, connects us all together in perfect intimacy. And the inner movement that awakens us to that reality is love.
Here then is the inspired message of the film: Though Guruji has departed, the intelligence of his teaching lives on. It lives in the nexus of loving relationships that have formed around the senior teachers of our discipline, who spend their lives sharing the brilliance of what they learned with us. Through these relationships, the intelligence of Guruji’s teachings flows down into our minds and bodies, quickening our senses and nourishing our community.
Our love for one another, and for the ecstatic promise of Ashtanga yoga, is the true substance of our tradition. Within this love, Guruji lives.