The Guru Who Lived His Teachings
BANGALORE: Filmmaker Suchendra Prasad, who has made a documentary on B K S Iyengar, recalls that every conversation the two of them had revolved around only yoga.
Many such anecdotes feature in his Thale Thalaantara, a 20-minute documentary (part of a series of short films, Antarasarani), that was produced by Veerendra Heggade of Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala.
“So we barely felt like bringing up anything else,” says Prasad. “He didn’t talk of his struggles or pain either.” Or the fact that he was ill-disposed as a child, suffering from kshaya roga or consumption.
The director says Iyengar spoke only of how his journey with yoga began. “Likewise, the road accident that his son Prashant suffered, which permanently injured his right hand, was mentioned in the context that Prashant had been trained to become a violinist but fate had other plans for him," he recalls.
“I’m not a yoga practitioner,” says Prasad, also a theatre artiste and law graduate. But after filming the stories of a few other luminaries for the series, when he was struck by the thought that the world of yoga deserved a representation too, the name of B K S Iyengar came to his mind.
And the man credited for taking yoga to the west, who had refused interviews with national and international TV channels, agreed to cooperate with him and his team because they hailed from Karnataka, Prasad explains.
Born in Bellur, where he later set up institutions for health care and education, Iyengar lived in Bangalore for a few years before he started learning yoga in Mysore from Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, his sister’s husband.
“Unlike a lot of people who teach yoga these days, his was not half-baked knowledge,” Prasad opines. “He understood medicine too. He would tell you how medicines could help cure a disease, list their drawbacks and also explain how much more yoga could achieve." Even when he had heart attacks twice, once in 1996 and another in 1998, Iyengar refused to let doctors treat him; he preferred to take his health into his own hands and relied on yoga.
As people approached him — and the director has been witness to this — he could prescribe several asanas to hone and tune their bodies, to remedy any ailments they suffered. “That’s a rare gift,” Prasad points out.
While their discussions invariably centred around yoga, Prasad doesn’t claim to have assimilated it all. “People who have spent a significant part of their lives with him (Iyengar) have said they haven’t understood his teachings in their entirety. Then how could I grasp everything he said to me in two months?” the filmmaker asks.
A teacher to many celebrities, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin, novelist Aldous Huxley, philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti and, reportedly, Sachin Tendulkar and Kareena Kapoor, Iyengar is known for his humility, for saying that he was perennially learning.
“He often quoted his guru Krishnamacharya’s words: Speak on a subject as much as you want. You can improve upon it but don’t write it down because you can’t change it."
Yet, the pioneer of the Iyengar yoga authored several masterful books equated to treatises on yoga, including international bestseller Light on Yoga, also popular in its many translations. The filmmaker shares that Iyengar was always conscious that his writing had to be the result of much thought.
Blows, kicks and shots — that’s how some people apparently expanded Iyengar’s initials. “But I say they stand for benevolence, knowledge and serenity,” the master has been captured saying in the film which was completed in 2012.
“His grievance was that people didn’t really understand that he too was an artiste of sorts,” Prasad says.
'Thale Thalaantara (Ancestral yoga) - A film on the yogacharya the world looks up to’ is available on Totalkannada.com, at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan or with the director who can be reached on 9448067308 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Film clips can be viewed on http://www.voicingsilence.com/antarasarani.html