Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Sri Krshna Pattabhi Jois) 1915-2009

(title: Yogasana Visharada Vedanta Vidvan)

My deepest gratitude for Guruji for his knowledge, love and work to make this world a better place. You made our lifes a miracle.

Thank you!

The following text is edited from Petri’s primary series book. In the end you will find one of Petri’s last interviews (about God) with Guruji from February 6 2007.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was born into a Brahmin family under a full moon in July of 1915, in Kowshiki, near Hassan, Mysore. His father was an astrologer, priest and landowner and his mother cared for the home and their nine children. K. Pattabhi Jois was the fifth child, and when he was five years old his father began to teach him Sanskrit (their language is Kannada), astrology, mantras (religious texts from the Vedas), slokas (verses), and the rituals of the Brahmins. He began school in that same year in Hassan.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois began to practice astanga yoga at age 12. He had seen a demonstration and heard a speech by T. Krishnamacharya in Hassan’s community hall in March of 1927, and this impacted him greatly. After intense questioning by T. Krishnamacharya, two days later K. Pattabhi Jois stood on a mat as a student (sasthaka) of Krishnamacharya and received his first Astanga Vinyasa Yoga class under his soon-to-be Guru. He came and practiced daily with him for two years.

The path of yoga is not necessarily ideal for a child living in a regular Brahmin family. Yoga used to prepare the aspirant for the life of a monk (sannyasis), living outside of society and was not of particular benefit to being part of a family. This ended up causing some conflict with his parents, and for a time he chose to hide his intense interest in the path of yoga. The 12-year-old Pattabhi Jois woke up two hours before his school-classmates, walked five kilometers along a path to Hassan, where T. Krishnamacharya’s school was, did his practice while Krishnamacharya counted the vinyasas… and then went to regular school.

After he was officially initiated as a Brahmin in 1930 by his father (young boys are ritually brought into the Brahmins, and are given the characteristic thread {upavita} around their body), he moved to Mysore and enrolled himself in the Sanskrit university, Parkala Math.

In Mysore, he met his guru, T. Krishnamacharya, anew, as he had come to demonstrate astanga yoga. Krishnamacharya opened a yoga shala in 1931 in a wing of Jaganmohan Palace, upon invitation of his student and friend Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV (1894 – 1940), the Maharaja of Mysore. T. Krishnamacharya and K. Pattabhi Jois’s guru/student relationship began again and continued until 1953, at which point T. Krishnamacharya moved with his family to Madras (now Chennai).

T. Krishnamacharya’s teachings followed the teachings of Rishi Vamana in the Yoga Koruna. K. Pattabhi Jois and about a hundred other students performed the asanas according to the exact technique described therein. They learned all the asana’s numbers, the breathing, the movements from one asana to another, and deep concentration. Their guru did not accept even the least bit of fatigue or forgetfulness (when T. Krishnamacharya moved to Madras, he changed his teaching style and became much softer). K. Pattabhi Jois developed quickly under his guru’s burning eyes, and so their guru/student relationship deepened, and T. Krishnamacharya began to teach K. Pattabhi Jois daily in yogic theory according to ancient texts, philosophy and practice, as well as the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to heal various illnesses.

The Maharaja of Mysore, who was a famous student of T. Krishnamacharya’s, became convinced of K. Pattabhi Jois’s capabilities and invited him to teach yoga at the Sanskrit University in 1937. This year was very memorable in his life, as he both began his long teaching career and married Savitri (1923 – 1997).

K. Pattabhi Jois continued to study Sanskrit, teach astanga yoga, and began to study Advaita Vedanta (a school of philosophy based on Adi Shankaracharya’s 15th century non-dualistic, or egalitarian viewpoint… the main idea of Vedanta being “everything is Brahman”). This led him to being a professor of Vedanta (Vidvan) in 1956, and he was given the title Yogasana Visharada Vedanta Vidvan (he actually was given the title Yogasana Visharada in 1945 by Jagadguru Shankaracharya from Puri, professor in Vedanta Vidvan (Vedanta professor), and his students began to call him Guruji.)

In 1948, K. Pattabhi Jois’s students helped him to buy a house in Lakshmipuram, Mysore, to where he moved with his wife Savitri and their three children Saraswati, Manju and Ramesh. He founded a research center for astanga yoga, Astanga Yoga Research Institute (Astanga Yoga Nilayam), with the purpose of researching the method of astanga yoga according to the Yoga Koruna, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, his own guru’s teachings and other holy texts.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois wrote the Yoga Mala between 1958 and 1961, and it was published in Kannada (his language) in Karnataka in 1962. The model for his book came from the Yoga Koruna. In the Yoga Mala he describes the Primary Series of Astanga Yoga (Yoga Chikitsa), yoga’s age-old philosophy, and methods of combining yoga with modern life. The book is testimony to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s immense knowledge from 25 years of study, his complete dedication to the yogic path, and his belief in yoga’s healing and spiritual powers.

His other book, Astanga Yoga, contains both the Primary Series’ and Intermediate Series’ (Nadi Shodana) vinyasa technique, as well as short descriptions of some pranayama practices and basic information on the philosophy of yoga. This book was co-written by his Italian student, Lino Miele, and was published in 1994.

The first Western student who was interested in studying with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was a Belgian man, Andre van Lysebeth, who came to Mysore as Guruji’s student in 1964. He wrote about the teachings he received, especially the breathing practices, in his book Pranayama. The book was only published in French, and triggered an interest in Europeans to seek out practice with Guruji and make the pilgrimage to Mysore. The first Americans who traveled to Mysore (in 1973) were, among others, Norman Allen, David Williams, and Nancy Gilgoff. Deeply moved by their studies with him, David and Nancy invited Guruji and his son Manju to Encinitas, California in 1975. After this first journey abroad, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has held many workshops for thousands of students around the world and contributed to this current blossoming of yoga’s popularity in the Western world.

Until 2002, the Astanga Yoga Research Institute was located in Lakshmipuram in the, now legendary, yoga shala. In this shala, there was space for about twelve yoga mats, right beside one another. At most, there were 150 students at one time practicing in the shala, from 4:30 AM through the morning. There was a long line on the stairs to the practice room, and through a small window those waiting could listen to Guruji’s teachings (counting of vinyasas, corrections of the asanas, wonderful sense of humor, and the students intense concentration), and at times catch a glimpse of Guruji. These students remember Guruji’s wife Savitri Jois, whom the family called Sathu and students called either Savitramma or Ammaji. She happily spoke with the students after practice, and gave consolation after Guruji’s often difficult (though heart-felt) teachings.

In May of 2002 he opened a new shala on the other side of Mysore, in Gokulam. Since 1927, Guruji has followed his inner voice without tiring, and for 65 years has been a respected and well-known yoga master. In the new shala he teaches with his daughter Saraswati Rangaswamy and his grandson R. Sharath Jois, who began to assist in 1990 when he was only 19 years old. In Gokulam, he is in fact Guruji’s “right-hand-man”.

His teaching style is strict and clear, at the same time heart-felt and therapeutic. His, at times, alarming and demanding instructions, physical assists, and observations point out exactly where one needs to improve, though seem to leave out warmth, sympathy, and loving care. His powerful and often ringing laughter passes through practitioners’ minds and brings an almost transcendent energy to the practice.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois carries a living example of the traditional guru-student teaching method: complete devotion to the guru and God (bhakti) and following the sattvic way of life.

Guruji about God – from the Petri’s interview

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