Аштанга Йога Шала
Ashtanga Yoga Shala


Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: A Tribute

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: A Tribute

Your father was an astrologer. Did he teach you chanting or astrology when you were young? My father's father taught astrology — good astrology. He was a good vidvan (professor). My father didn't teach, but when people asked him questions, he would answer them. He was also a good astrologer, but I didn't take the time to learn it from him. I was young. He did teach me some astrology slokas (verses) every day, and Sanskrit and the amarakosha (Sanskrit dictionary), as well as shabda (phonetics; syntax). After that, I would go to Hassan. I didn't go to school in my village, but in Hassan, which was only five kilometers away. Every day, I would walk to school in the morning, and every evening, walk back. A lot of others came too, including my friends. One day, when I'd started studying at middle school, Krishnamacharya gave a lecture demonstration at the Jubilee Hall in Hassan. Different authors and so on would give lectures there every day. I didn't know who he was, but I went to see him anyway. My friend's sister told me that the man demonstrating was doing asanas perfectly, so I went along. I watched for an hour and (pauses and smiles) I liked it completely. I thought to myself, Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go to his house and ask him to teach me, which I did.

Who are you? he wanted to know. I told him, I am Pattabhi Jois.

Where are you from? A village near Hassan, Kowshika.

Who is your father? My father is an astrologer. I told him my whole history. Tomorrow, he said. Tomorrow, you come. So, early next morning, I went to Hassan at 7:30 — school started at 10:30 — so I went to the guru's home, where he was teaching some students Yoga practice, and I started that day. It was in 1927, in… November? Yes, November time. Afterwards, I was very excited. I took many big asanas many times: primary asanas, intermediate asanas, and some body-bending at that time. I was a young man, so whatever asana I was told to do, I did quickly. (smiling) My guru was very, very happy. After that, it was practice, practice, practice for two years, and then, in 1930, my father started my thread ceremony. When that was finished, I went to the Sanskrit College, where the thread ceremony was required for entrance. They asked me if I'd finished the ceremony and I said yes, yes. Show us your thread, they said, which I did.

What gotra (lineage) are you from? they also wanted to know. That was your entrance exam? Yes, the entrance exam. Why did you come to Mysore? The first time? I don't know. But I was very interested in learning Sanskrit. You were interested in Sanskrit? I didn't tell my father. (shakes head) No, he would have said, Come back… But there was a train to Mysore every day for seven annas from my village… you know, fourteen annas isn't even one rupee. Because I was young, the fare was half-charge — seven annas. I thought, I can afford that; I have three rupees!

Three rupees? (shakes head and laughs) I had three rupees. So I went to Mysore, where the Sanskrit College was. The other students had no problems because they had finished primary-level Sanskrit, which the college required. I hadn't done it so, before I could take the college examination, I had to complete it. I did this in Mysore for one, two years. Yes, one or two years… but food no.

No food? (shakes head) It was very difficult then. I would bhiksha anna (beg for food) at Brahmin homes… Bhavathi bhiksha dehi (O, lady, give me food)? Oh, yes, Bhavathi bhiksha dehi… one year begging for food.

Where did you sleep? In the Sanskrit College. One day, after I'd been at the college for a year, the principal put up a sign board asking anyone knew wrestling, back-bending , Yoga — whatever. If you did, he offered to let you do a presentation at the school's anniversary celebrations.

An announcement board? Yes. I knew a few asanas. I didn't know the philosophy yet, but my guru was teaching it to me. The principal asked me if I was doing Yoga and I said yes. Where did he want me to demonstrate? I started to run into his office to change (laughs), but he said, No, no, no! Don't do it here! There will be a public function; you can do it there. So, on the anniversary day, I did Yoga practice — this is Paschimattanasana… this is Purvattanasana… Matsyasana — I called out the asanas name by name and did them. (laughs) It wasn't the full method by any means, but afterwards, he was very happy. The principal knew Yoga and he called me to his office the next day. I was afraid, wondering why he wanted to see me. When I got there, he asked me where I was getting my food and which class I was in. I said first year. He asked me if I had a scholarship. No, I said.

Eating? No, I said. I am doing bhiksha anna, I told him. So, he said there was a choultry (canteen) sponsored by the Maharaja that served food every morning and evening to Sanskrit College students. Afterwards, they wrote a letter and the next day, I was eating at the choultry and I had a scholarship — a five rupee scholarship from the principal. (shakes head and laughs) It had been a long time since I'd even seen one rupee. I was very happy…

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