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Bob Meets Baba: Entrepreneur Meets Sadhu.

The following exchange originally appeared in 2010 in the comment section of Brooks Hall’s provocative blog Slim, Sexy Yogini + Car, and what the heck are we sayin’ here at Elephant? 

In one of those strange juxtapositions that sometimes happens in the Yoga blogging world, I found myself in a passionate debate with Baba Rampuri, who moved to India in his teens and is one of the few Westerners to become a full-fledged Indian Sadhu, or Holy Man.  He wrote a book about his experience called Autobiography of a Sadhu: a Journey into Mystic India 

So now we have a thirty-year veteran software entrepreneur turned Yoga writer debating weighty matters of Yoga history and Western historical methodology with an American who has spent those same thirty years living in India immersed in the most profound and authentic Yoga spirituality.   Does that sound like fun to you?

Next thing I know, Baba posted our entire discussion on his own blog, which I told Baba was “a very great honor”, and I meant it.  This generated thirty-one further fascinating comments on its own (which I have not reproduced here, but which you can read here at Baba’s site: Who Owns Yoga: Elephant Discussion with Bob Weisenberg ).

With that introduction, I hope you enjoy this interchange.  It won’t take you long to decide whether this is irresistibly riveting or a big snore for you.  It is definitely a specialized interest!

~~~

Bob Weisenberg says:

Brooks, This is a brilliant piece.

As you probably know by now, I’m a Yoga Universalist. I embrace and enjoy Yoga in all its forms.

…I Iove the diversity. I think the Yoga pie is infinitely expandable. There is plenty of pie for everyone and I see no need to push one thing over another. I see absolutely no turf or purity to protect. All forms of Yoga help support each other.

Let it all explode in every direction and each individual will gravitate to the type of Yoga that is right for them. We don’t need to lead anybody to the true path. We just need to keep it all out there and visible.

I have faith in the individual. I don’t think people are so malleable and manipulatable that they will end up in the wrong place for them.

People with a more spiritual bent will quickly move from [exercise yoga] to more spiritual kinds of Yoga. Those for whom it is a good fit will quickly find [the right blogs and books] and learn about more traditional Yoga.

Those who aren’t so spiritually inclined, or, more commonly, have their spiritual needs met in other ways because they are already Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or whatever, will still be better off for the health and fitness-oriented ….

People will find what’s right for them, given their individual interests and other spiritual involvements they already have.

The only thing to keep people from finding the right Yoga for them is never hearing about it in the first place. So, in my opinion, the more entry points and exposure points of all types there are, the better.

So, I am unconcerned about the Tara Stiles approach to Yoga.

That said, your blog above is one of the most balanced, fair-minded, and eloquent essays I’ve ever read on why I should be.

Fantastic work. Great thinking. Great writing.

Bravissimo!

Bob Weisenberg
YogaDemystified

Baba Rampuri says:

Bob, the attitude that all people in their own ways should find truth, happiness, and knowledge is the mark of a yogi, and I highly commend you for that. And to be a Yoga Universalist, if that Universalism is devoid of ideology, is clearly a mark of the yogi. Bravo.

Yoga, being many different things to different people, has truly broken away from its original context in Indian culture, and established its own rapidly expanding identity. And why shouldn’t people be able to invent new forms of yoga, as we do regularly these days? Put their ideas and theories into practice. And by this, people have the freedom to shop for the brand of yoga that suits their requirements best.

My question is about the yogas not mentioned in Yoga Journal, such as the Yoga of War, Greed Yoga, Me Yoga, and the Yoga of Selfishness. Do these forms of modern yoga not have their place, so that all people have the freedom to choose? There’s a lot of people practicing the above. We can see that as in any marketplace there is also the Yoga of Competition, and sometimes the competition means that one person’s Greed Yoga interferes with someone else’s Eat to Survive Yoga.

Imagine how long it takes nature to make a diamond. And among all the magnificent diamonds She creates, there is the Queen of Diamonds, the Koh-i-Nur. Imagine using that diamond to cut glass. A practical person might say, “Well, at least it has a real use!” But then, using our human genius, we invent a technology with which we cut glass with even more precision, and no longer require the Koh-i-Nur, so we put Her in the attic, in the box of antiquated technology along with our old computers.

We are very gullible. We believe what has been successfully marketed to us by people who are good at marketing. We fell for George Bush and now Obama. We will fall for just about anything, if presented in a well constructed narrative.

Yoga, in its former context was about “connection,” not consumption, about the fantastic, not fantasy.

Bob Weisenberg says:

Hi, Baba. Thanks for writing this fascinating comment.

I know you’re living Yoga at its roots, but “Yoga in its former context was…not…about the fantastic, not fantasy”

Even the spare, bare-bones, austere Yoga Sutra itself finds the time to get all excited about:
–Levitation
–Invisibility
–Acquiring the strength of an elephant
–Seeing previous lives
–Walking on water
–Entering another’s body, and
–Traveling through space

The conservative translator Chip Hartranft goes so far as to imply that Patanjali probably didn’t believe in these paranormal powers himself, but felt compelled to include them to appeal to those who did, i.e. for marketing purposes.

I’m not an expert like you are, but don’t you think you’re vastly understating the tumultuous history of Yoga? It seems that from the beginning it’s been about competing forms of Yoga and the marketing of them.

Here’s a good quote from Hartranft which illustrates all three of my points above:

…in the millennium preceding Patanjali, the possession of superhuman capabilities came to be considered a sine qua non of spiritual leadership, as the brahmnical priestly class competed [emphasis added] with a growing cadre of ascetic spiritual teachers (sramanas) whose appeal derived not so much form ritual or sacrifice as from meditative attainment. Thus, nearly every new teacher and program–including even the budda-dharma–boasted or at least acknowledged a range of magical powers.

Thanks again for writing, Baba, and for forcing me to think these things through.

Baba Rampuri says:

Bob,
 thank you for turning me on to Chip Hartranft. I just read his very insightful interview, “The Yoga-Sūtra as Practice,” which is I believe what you quote. It’s so refreshing to read someone so knowledgeable & dedicated to understanding and teaching yoga.

We have a very curious challenge when we interpret events, texts, recorded things that happened many years ago. One of the great weaknesses in the Human Sciences, and I am pointing at History, is we make these interpretations as if they were happening today, in the midst of our own culture and discourse. We live in a very dominant culture that is especially adept at this kind of agency.

We assign cultural attributes such as consumption, choice, and ideology, as well as the machine of mass media and the marketing of ideas to all time and all place. Curious that the theory the Aryan Invasion of India arose as European powers ruled most of the world as colonies, and they could say, “It’s always been done like this.”

But, no, Patanjali was not into marketing. He didn’t have an office, and there wasn’t much of a market, anyway, for what he taught. He didn’t have any books, there was no such thing as flyers, and no media with which to reach the “public,” if we can even use that word. He did possess texts, however. But they were in his head. Things were not read, they were articulated. He sat at the dhuni, his sacred fire, among his disciples. No one was writing down his words. It’s not that they were illiterate, quite the contrary, they were master grammarians. Patanjali didn’t feel the sudden need to express himself and give future generations the secrets of yoga. He didn’t get ideas and develop an ideology he wanted to sell. To who? For what? The ideas weren’t even his. They belonged to his lineage, passed down from generation to generation. His culture, teachings, and knowledge even though local, had access to information from the entire known world. There was no competition for market share, the market didn’t exist!

How do I know this? I’ve lived inside of this for 40 years. Patanjali is spoken of as if living down the street or as if way back in the 20th century. Yes, we are a couple of thousand years down the road, but inside these traditions, there are many things that have no reason to change very dramatically over the millenia.

There is only so much truth one can glean from Academic research, and what you quote from Chip about the Brahmanical priestly caste competing with sramanas is patently untrue, as both sides were Brahmins. This is a symbiotic relationship that I guess one can only understand by living it.

One must never allow the Academy to hold authority over Esoteric Tradition.

All that being said, I see no problem whatsoever with “yoga business.” Compete by all means! Market yourselves! Think of how many of us would have to go out and get a real job, if it wasn’t there. But why not call it what it is: a wonderful business that makes people healthier, more relaxed, and possibly a bit more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Why confuse this with Yoga Tradition, such as that of Patanjali? That only obscures both sides.

Here’s the issue: there is enormous value that lies in the Knowledge of Patanjali and others, and we are losing access to that value. Not because the Knowledge is going anywhere, but because our Speech, which has been reduced to the Speech of Consumption, the Speech of the Marketplace, is no longer able to connect with it. Our most valuable of all yogic assets has been handed over to Mr. McDonald.

Bob Weisenberg says:

Hi, Baba Rampuri.

No one really knows that level of detail about exactly what Patanjali was like. Historians can’t even pinpoint when he lived beyond a range of a few centuries.

It seems to me the competition of ideas is very clear in the ancient texts themselves, especially the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

I don’t know the full extent of what you mean by the Esoteric Tradition, but devout practitioners are notoriously unreliable as truthful chroniclers of accurate history, even though they can provide a lot of important source material and historical hypotheses.

I don’t know what you mean by “handed over to Mr. McDonald”. Any broad-brush statement like this about Yoga in America is wrong on the surface because American Yoga is astoundingly diverse, from Tara Styles to the Himalayan Institute.

I’m guessing that if one had the data, it would show that far more people are being exposed to good solid traditional Yoga Sutra training today than 10 years ago. Just look at the proliferation of ancient text and commentary book sales. (I am personally about to read Edwin Bryant’s 600 page “New Edition, Translation, and Commentary”, which just came out). Same with the number of Americans traveling to India for study in traditional ashrams.

In what way are we “losing access to that value”? It seems to me access is increasing along with access to everything else Yoga.

I wonder if you could address my response to your original point about fantasy.

Baba Rampuri says:

Bob, thank you for getting this going and for the important questions you are bringing up. I think this is an area that merits a lot of discussion these days.

I’m sorry for my long-windedness, I’m just taking advantage of not restricting it to 140 characters.

“No one really knows that level of detail about exactly what Patanjali was like. Historians can’t even pinpoint when he lived beyond a range of a few centuries.”

I think you mean “no one, that you know of, among Western academics know that level of detail…”  But among some traditions in India, there are those that know the minutest details about Patanjali and others.  I have known a number of yogis in my own lineage who have had this knowledge.  Historians may not know, but there are others that can tell you the day of the week he was born, under which star, and anything else you would like to know using the sky as the clock, because that’s how the oral tradition has always measured time.  When Western astronomy finally discovered the precession of the equinox, Indian historians had already been using it for thousands of years.

“It seems to me the competition of ideas is very clear in the ancient texts themselves, especially the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.”

Certainly as represented by those who consider competition among ideologies the “normal” and it is in our current discourse, and translated and read by those assuming a universal competition among ideologies as always being the normal state of culture everywhere, it is not hard to interpret many things out of an old text, read out of the context for which it was composed and used.  For one thing, it was never READ!  It was heard, it was memorized, and it was articulated.  Sort of like our White House Press correspondents.

What you are referring to are sacred texts.  They were not available in any market – they were not even books.  You had to be an educated Brahmin to understand the recitation, and that’s the only access there was to them.  The texts were not arguments that people would agree or disagree with, there was no debate.  This is before literary criticism, which came thousands of years later, what we had in its place was “commentary.”  The texts, in fact, are so loaded, that their true value and magnificence could only be understood by an elite that had access to the commentary.  And commentary was also memorized and passed down, so these texts never stood alone, they were always accompanied by a very sophisticated context and exegesis.  Without the context, the content may be wonderful, enlightening, and beautiful, but what the text actually is, what value it actually possesses, is lost.

So, to superimpose cultural values of our present Age of Consumption, upon a sacred text of an elite group of highly educated members of a priestly caste living thousands of years ago can’t possibly produce results other than what some people can obtain by reading tea leaves in a cup, which some people can actually do.

We can become inspired by great literature even in translation, it can give us amazing new thoughts and directions, we can realize certain knowledge – but all this doesn’t put us in a position to now represent this text, or this tradition without having the authority to do so.

If we were in the Halls of Academia, playing by their rules, this discussion would be very different, because we would assign authority to the consensus of academic work on Sanskrit texts or Indian History or other departments of the Human Sciences.  But since we are dealing with Yoga, then let’s be clear about who is informing us.

“I don’t know the full extent of what you mean by the Esoteric Tradition, but devout practitioners are notoriously unreliable as truthful chroniclers of accurate history, even though they can provide a lot of important source material and historical hypotheses.”

Esoteric tradition means that whatever might be in a text is not enough, and if someone wants the real stuff, the inside knowledge, how something “really” works, he or she requires inside access and inside instruction.  If you want to make a blockbuster Hollywood film, you had better have inside access and inside instruction.  Reading a book about it just won’t do.

If the people on the inside are unreliable, then how is that people on the outside are reliable when they only have artifacts.  This is the agency a dominant culture assumes, that the locals’ knowledge must be represented by the Colonizer, because the locals are not objective about their own knowledge (history included), i.e., they don’t have the same categories and methodologies as the Imperium.

“I don’t know what you mean by “handed over to Mr. McDonald”. Any broad-brush statement like this about Yoga in America is wrong on the surface because American Yoga is astoundingly diverse, from Tara Styles to the Himalayan Institute.”

I mean by that, exchanging a Speech of Connection for a Speech of Consumption.  That the very way we read the signs in front of us, the way we make the signs by which we are known will determine to a large extent what value will be realized.  When we shop among competing ideas for something to consume, something to add to our life to make it better, or so we believe, there are many things to buy into, but the Sacred isn’t one of them.  In the category of The Sacred, I would include Knowledge of the Self.

American Yoga is diverse from the point of view of American Yoga.  From the outside, from an Indian Tradition of Yoga, one can’t help but notice amazing similarities, and can’t help but come to the conclusion that much of it is basically the same, at least, when compared to the Tradition itself.  I find even the Russian and Eastern European yoga movements to be vastly different from the American one.  Let’s not universalize an American view of things, especially in world that has considerable diversity.  In fact, lets get rid of Perennialism and Universalism altogether, as in the end everyone fights over who’s Perennial philosophy is truly universal.  It’s an imperial exercise.

“I’m guessing that if one had the data, it would show that far more people are being exposed to good solid traditional Yoga Sutra training today than 10 years ago. Just look at the proliferation of ancient text and commentary book sales. (I am personally about to read Edwin Bryant’s 600 page “New Edition, Translation, and Commentary”, which just came out). Same with the number of Americans traveling to India for study in traditional ashrams.”

What would that data have to do with yoga.  It’s information to which a statistician would have to determine what is Yoga Sutra, what is its training, and, what is good and solid and traditional.  Again we hand authority to people who can only represent something on the basis of some somewhat sterile artifacts, numbers, yeses and nos, ones and zeroes.

We are talking about markets, sales of books, people attending yoga classes, statistics compiled for their use in marketing.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s great.  Much better than almost any other thing for yoga to be sold on markets.  Again, I question why not call a spade a spade.  Truth is our most precious commodity.  There is no need here to sacrifice it.

“In what way are we “losing access to that value”? It seems to me access is increasing along with access to everything else Yoga.”

20-25 years ago, a Japanese student of mine, knowing how much I enjoyed to cook, brought me one of those legendary Japanese knives that probably cost a fortune, and gave me great pleasure when I sliced carrots.  One day in my ashram in Haridwar, I took the knife out of a drawer and discovered to my shock that half of the blade was missing.  I called one of my Indian chelas and asked him if he knew what happened to it.  He admitted to me that the drawer was stuck, and as he tried to pry the drawer open with the knife, the blade broke in half.  I asked him if it had managed to get the drawer open.  He told me it did.  He accomplished his immediate goal, and I lost my knife.

Indian tradition possesses an intellectual capital, an immense treasure of uncalculatable value.  Much of the modern pharmaceutical industry is built on a random sampling of Indian knowledge of medicinal herbs in the 19th century.  The corpus of Ayurveda contains the knowledge to transform health and health care on the planet, and yet we sanitize it for the marketplace to the degree to which it becomes known as a new age massage technique.  The marketplace does not accept magic, but standardized science.  At least for the masses.

“I wonder if you could address my response to your original point about fantasy.”

Fantasy is a construction of thought, the fantastic is a compelling experience yet to be categorized.

Arun says:

It’s an interesting article, and the comments here reveal the range of attitudes and opinions held by many about yoga. It is important to note that the western style of historicism has limited application when dealing with oral cultures such as India, and the products of oral cultures, such as for example yoga.

Bob Weisenthal stated:
”devout practitioners are notoriously unreliable as truthful chroniclers of accurate history”

It is not a matter of piety (piety or devoutness is itself a western superimposition on Indian tradition and doesn’t make sense in this context) or belief (rational or otherwise), but of authority passed down through ancient lineage. Vedic Sanskrit was preserved for thousands of years by being passed down through word of mouth and memorised. It is almost miraculous that Vedic Sanskrit survives to this day as a liturgical language, through being passed on through word of mouth and human memory.

Therefore the authority of authentic lineages when it comes to the interpretation of the yogic tradition cannot be dismissed. Yoga is not a literary tradition but a system that’s passed down through these lineages. A guru teaches disciples, and authorises one or more to pass on the teaching of his forebears to the next generation. That is how it has worked since time immemorial. Baba Rampuriji is one of those who carries the ancient tradition of yoga that has been transmitted to him through his lineage of teachers, and has authority to speak on all matters relating to yoga. As Stephen Hawking has authority to tell us about theoretical physics, so the very few people in positions of authority in the ancient akharas, such as Babaji, have authority to tell us what’s what, in the field of yoga. The problem is that most people who pass themselves off as yoga teachers do not have authority, or license. They are just entrepreneurial opportunists or on some kind of power trip.

What place is there for western historians in all of this? Well, there isn’t really much of a place, as academia tends to rely on documentary sources and completely overlooks oral tradition. It is not valid to suggest that ‘historians’, in the sense of collective secular, western, liberal academic opinion, are the arbiters of truth and authenticity in the field of Indian religions. To ascribe them that right would itself constitute a sort of religious belief in historicism.

Regarding the article itself, I believe it identifies a real problem and that we should be looking in the direction of ancient Nordic religion and custom for the solution, as well as at the Greek and Roman mysteries. The problem here is that the vocabulary being used to express this tendency does not match up to the ideas in the mind of many modern ‘practitioners’ (practitioners of what?)
Therefore the tradition of yoga is being pillaged by consumerist, materialist forces that have, sensing some sort of lacuna in post-Christian western society, jumped straight to 19th century style Orientalist ‘othering’ for some cheap sense of the exotic, instead of looking at their own rich heritage. For example, the Roman cult of Venus (or Lucifer-Venus as the western expression of dualism through sexualised imagery), or Celtic fertility rituals, Babylonian mysteries or so many other things in the western heritage that make so much more sense in the context of the female coming-of-age rite of passage, consumerism, hedonism, etc. All of those things relate to the Primordial Tradition. But borrowing Patanjali’s language of yoga; ‘yoking’, or union with Ultimate Reality, makes absolutely no sense at all in the context in which it’s used in the western world. I am not trying to promote Luciferianism, Crowleyism or related ideas but things should be seen for what they are and ideas should have labels that connect them with their heritage. It would be seen as much more honest (as well as useful for the people themselves) if many more of the western people who describe themselves as ‘yogis’ or ‘yoginis’ or who abuse the Shiva-Shakti dualism rather tiresomely began to identify with more appropriate concepts connecting them with western primordialism rather than completely misinterpret the Indian tradition of yoga.

Bob Weisenberg says:

Hi, Arun. Thank for writing.

I have no comment on your last paragraph simply because I have no knowledge of any of those things.

As for history vs. lineages, let’s just agree that they are two different things.
They can learn from each other and feed each other, but let’s never confuse one for the other.

Let’s never think that history can possibly substitute for authentic lineage.
Likewise, let’s never confuse the sacred traditions of a lineage with historical fact.

These are two different things that offer different things to society,
and one cannot replace the other.

Another commenter here questioned the logic of my previous statement:

“Let’s never think that history can possibly substitute for authentic lineage.
Likewise, let’s never confuse the sacred traditions of a lineage with historical fact.”

I replied as follows:

Bob Weisenberg says:

If you look at the whole stream you’ll see that Baba was arguing that the oral lineages, particularly his own oral history, trumps all Western oriented evidence based history. He explicitly debunks Yoga scholars I know you respect greatly, like Feuerstein and, I assume Edwin Bryant. He pretty much told me I was wasting my time reading Bryant’s recent 600 page Yoga Sutra commentary, which I’m really enjoying, because it’s just some more of those Western historians who aren’t really tuned into the truth as he and his authentic lineage colleagues know it to be through their oral tradition. He claims that he and his associates know all the intimate details about Patanjali’ life, whereas Western scholars do not because they don’t accept oral history without corroborating evidence.

So in this final response to Arun, I was just trying to express my interest in and acceptance of both traditions and to state that they both have their place. It was my perception that Baba was unwilling to even consider the Western evidence based approach to history that set me off and led to my impulsive provocative response to Baba, which I have subsequently apologized for. But the issue of respect for the Western scholarly approach to history still remains. I think both Western history and the authentic lineages are important. But they’re two different animals.

All of the examples you gave above are clearly within the scope of both traditions, simply because your examples are all written down, and therefore accepted by both traditions, although Western historians like Bryant, will be trying to figure out whether any ancient text is literally true or just reflects the common thinking of its time, which, to the Western historical method, might be two different things.

I agree with you completely that there can and should be a lot of interaction between the two, and that’s what I was trying to say with my clarifying sentence: They can learn from each other and feed each other, but let’s never confuse one for the other.

Bob Weisenberg says:

We are in different worlds, Baba.

The only difference between us is that I accept you and your world,
whereas you do not accept my world.

I encourage you to live and enjoy your very special spiritual world.
You seem to have nothing but derision and disdain for my world.

I will continue to read about you and study your world.
You feel you have absolutely nothing to learn from my world.

I embrace you the way you are.
You only want to fix me.

I will continue to enjoy reading about you and your spiritual exploits.

I will continue to love and enjoy my Western world and Western rational values 
without ever having the slightest inclination to tell you you should be more like me.

You have experienced things I will never experience
and that I can learn from.

I can assure the reverse is also true,
but I have no need to push my values on you.

Thanks for writing.

Baba Rampuri says:

Bob,

What kind of response is that?

Don’t be so paranoid. Smile! I guarantee you that i don’t want you to be like me, think like me, or be anyone else but yourself. One of me is quite enough on the planet. I am not selling anything here, I’m pointing out what is obvious to many of us who have committed our lives to Yoga.

There is no need to be my agent, represent my feelings, my thoughts, and interpret them in such an opposite way. What you write are not my statements or intentions, but misrepresentations. I haven’t attacked you. This is not something personal. I thought that we were yogis in discussion, and that we were above pettiness, which is one of Patanjali’s main themes.

We are not in competition, Bob.

Of course we are in different worlds, it’s obvious. Is that a problem? Must the “Same” reject the “Other?” I suggest that unless the “Same” engages the “Other” there cannot be communication, love, or compassion. The fact we live in different worlds is the value. Magic happens where worlds meet.

I don’t reject your world, I haven’t a clue as to what your world looks like, your thoughts, feelings, relationships, and you couldn’t possibly accept mine as it is so obscure and has such difficult access. And I’m certainly not selling my world, there’s nothing to buy into. I don’t have an ideology to sell.

But I do fully accept the American Yoga movement, the marketing and selling of yoga, as I see it as a powerful alternative to a civilization in collapse. That people can finally sit on the ground again, on the earth, experience and tune their bodies, question what they always believed about their health, and for some to question even further – this is great. And that others may earn a living teaching, writing, and speaking about this instead of a boring, useless job is God sent. Selling Yoga mats instead of Coca-Cola is balancing for our society.

I tell traditional Indian Yogis the exact opposite of what I tell you. I tell them, “Look at these people in the West who have nowhere near the immersion in Yoga culture as you do – THEY realize the enormous value in this, be it monetary, spiritual, or health, and they have generated a multi billion dollar industry that is a sign, a mark of its enormous value while you guys take it all for granted, and sit on your asses. I really say it just like that. And its not money I’m talking about, it’s value, which is different. They don’t get offended, they understand I’m offering them some insight that I have because I have become equally a part of two worlds.

A number of years ago, I was having dinner with Bikram at his home in L.A., and in a tone not inconsistent with his public personality he bragged not untruthfully, “If I hadn’t done what I’ve done, there would be one million less people practicing yoga.” “Bravo,” I replied, “But if some ‘naked baba’ hadn’t sat in that cave for all those years, you wouldn’t have the yoga to teach in the first place.” I’ve known Bikram for many years, it’s the only time I remember him remaining silent.

Bob, we’re all in this together.

Bob Weisenberg says:

Hi, Baba.

Thanks for your very calm and measured response to my impulsive and ill-considered response. Thanks to your refusal to let yourself be provoked, I think and hope we’re back on track.

We disagree about many things, stemming from our very different and in some ways opposite life choices. But you can rely on me to stick to those things from now on, rather than question your willingness to listen to me.

I look forward to what I’m sure will be our many enjoyable future discussions.

Bob Weisenberg says:

Baba and I reconciled on another thread within this blog. He responded in a very warm conciliatory way and I apologized for my impulsive and ill-considered response above.

We still disagree on a lot of things, but we are on good terms, and the above response is now irrelevant and looking more and more ill-considered all the time!

Bob W.

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Rainbeau Mars: the Elephant Interview.

Bob Weisenberg, elephant yoga editor:
Hi, Rainbeau. Welcome to Elephant Journal. Recently you wrote, about your recent trip to India, “I tell my mind to not let the ego of doubt and fear control my soul’s ability to grow, let go, choose what makes my heart beat faster and expand.”  Could you tell us more about that growth you’re experiencing, and why this trip was so exciting for you?

Rainbeau Mars, yoga teacher:
Finding our truth is very interesting. If we are in our heads and rationalizing, or even worse, engaging and believing in the limited or negative thought patterns of others around us, we can easily stay stuck in one place. To find our true heart’s passion, we must journey to the inside.

Getting on the mat and practicing yoga is always helpful. The breath is the meditation, the body a prayer. By taking the time to deliberately re-calibrate the inner energy centers/chakras/discs of our inner being, we understand who we are, not as floating heads but as spiritual beings having a material human existence.

We use mantras, color visualizations and innovative movement to balance and re-align the inner and outer bodies in ra’yoKa to dial us into our brighter selves. Therefore, our choices and actions become clear manifestations, an example of the internal work.

My recent trip to India was especially exciting for me because it was to be part of a ceremonial initiation of enlightenment/Buddha Maitreya led by the Dalai Lama – something that has never been done before – and to hands on feel and experience the presence of 10,000 monks embodying prayer, discipline and compassion was simply something to be experienced first hand.

Bob: How do you reconcile the differences between East and West?

Rainbeau: The planet is going through a major awakening at the moment. We as the yogis and beings who are working on self-actualization must realize that each step we take into existence is also an offering and blessing to the people and places that influence us. There is urgency for us to learn from each other, take what is essential and leave the rest behind.

We are all learning from each other, the west from the east and the east from the west. Being on the humble and holy lands of India is always a reality check on not only the vast wealth we have in the west but the realization of our oneness with all things around and within us, from the dark to the light, we must find the darkness within our own 72,000 channeled material form and bring light there.

How do we do this? We are continuously learning. Then, we take this light, and we light the torch of others and so on. Now is the time, and we are the ones. To be part of this process on any level is a beautiful blessing and honor. To be standing and sitting among my spiritual teachers and friends is a gift, and I am dedicated to fully awakening and being of service to the planet. I will forever be a baby student with the realization of how much there is to learn everyday.

Bob: Do you ever find the demands of your commercial activities interfere with your personal practice of Yoga?  Is it ever hard to balance your entrepreneurial success with your spiritual practice?

Rainbeau: No, although funny, I just was talking to a Rimpoche about the Bodhi Satva philosophy – “no one gets enlightened until we all do.” He looked at me with glowing eyes and a bright smile and said, “If you want to make a billion dollars to serve the planet, then this is a good cause.” Here they needed to raise $200,000 in order to allow all the monks to attend this ceremony for free (unlike the spiritually enlightening rock concerts that we fork over money to get into). Someone must pay for the spiritual work these beings are doing. Where does it come from?

I dream of giving hundreds of people jobs and millions and millions of people the knowledge to heal their home, health, bodies and lives. Green energy goes and flows around in order to heal. I celebrate prosperity and realize that we cannot be attached to it. I am grateful for the partnerships Rainbeau Mars Lifestyles has had and the lessons we have learned from the corporate world.

It’s not enough to be on the right path, but we also must know how to walk and be part of the planet, so we are serving and becoming one with our brothers and sisters on earth. The Dalai Lama says…”Give until it hurts”, Empty yourself from grasping or judging, cultivate loving compassion and loving kindness and become empty.  The world is small, time is short and judgment worthless. All we can do is our own personal best and put our time and money to do things blessed. Our thoughts become reality and my hope is that we see the yoga community lead by example.

As my business relates to my own personal practice, I believe it’s all connected.  When I am in alignment with the commercial aspect of running a business, my practice and business are not separate, I am always in practice, regardless of whether I am on or off the mat. It’s all one and the same.

Bob: You are traveling the world as a kind of ambassador for Yoga.  What kind of differences do you find in various parts of the world in the approach to Yoga?

Rainbeau: Each culture has their different textures, styles, talents, foods, beliefs and limitations. At the core, it is usually the same – everyone wants equanimity, beauty, health, greater success, better postures.

In Asia, you see great warrior like discipline, Korea is balanced with health, Brazil, raw freedom, Sweden, aesthetic sophistication, Dubai, modesty and yet, great fitness, India an inner light with not as much attention to detail.

I could go on and on, but again, it’s the simple refinement and balancing out of the cultures tendencies and assets with whatever may be lacking. In some places, more grace may be needed, softening, in others, less shame, and still others, more focus, better food, more love. I say we go in to go out, down to go up and back to forward – but these can all be reversed as well… Where we begin and where we will end up no one knows, but the idea or strengthening, aligning, realizing, expanding and yoking or unifying is pretty universal I would say.

Bob: What is the most surprising experience you’ve had in your travels?

Rainbeau: Hmmm… Actually, I was very surprised on a pure yoga performance level with America… Is it the food, the freedom, the evolution of our mutual cultures? I don’t know. But I know that I have experienced a melting pot of talent that I am sure we as Americans must realize we have a lot to share with the rest of the world and the 6 billion people on the planet.

There is room for a lot more teachers and a lot more in-depth study, which is why we created a virtual teacher training on www.rayoka.com. We want people to be able to go deeper virtually with their studies and also give people around the world access to some of the information that we are accessing here. We all have room to grow and have a lot further to go… But the steps are being taken and it’s a very exciting adventure to be a part of.

Bob: What’s the most important thing you’d like your fans to know about your work that they don’t know already?

Rainbeau: Rainbeau Mars Lifestyles is an omnimedia company at your service to heal the planet one home at a time. Our focus is what’s in your life and sport is affected by what’s in your kitchen, what’s in your kitchen affects what’s in your bathroom (your beauty rituals), bedroom (how and why you make love or don’t), your home (inner cleanliness) and garden (tending to the fruits and flowers that are the earth’s treasures) affect what you do in your life.  We are here to help give you the tools you need to awaken all of these aspects of your life and the lives of others.

I want you to know that we are always thinking of your best interests and we exist because of you. I read all of your emails and suggestions and take them to heart – even if I can’t always immediately respond. We thank you for all of your support.

Bob: What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?

Rainbeau: “Who is your Greatest teacher?” Answer: My daughter is by far the most endless giving and strengthening project I have been a part of. I suppose all of my enemies, my judgments, the people who don’t just drink the kool-aid I am serving, my sicknesses, my fears, my egos. I have learned and continue to learn, not by what was handed to me, but every moment that has been hard. I am so grateful for every role that everyone has played to help me realize all that I am learning today.

Bob: Thanks for joining us here, Rainbeau.  And best wishes for all your ambitious projects.

Rainbeau Mars
(rainbeaumars.com)

Raised by a family of natural healers, Rainbeau Mars (yes, that’s her real name) brings a lifetime of learning and practicing yoga to her successful career, which includes being the founder of the ra’yoKa fitness and teacher training system. She was the Global Ambassador for a major sports brand and consulted for their clothes as well as co-designed her own clothing line. Rainbeau is also an author, a mother, the creator of numerous yoga DVD’s and a highly sought after yoga instructor in Hollywood.

Rainbeau has taken her yoga philosophy all over the world, participating in celebrated yoga events in over 20 countries and facilitating classes of up to 3,500 people to help bring yoga to the mainstream. It has been her infusion of modern day living with thousand-year-old roots that has allowed her to connect and resonate with cultures around the globe.

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Interview: special guest Lucy Edge: “Yoga School Dropout.”

(Since this interview Lucy has become a regular contributor to Elephant. See her blogs,
including several excerpts for Yoga School Dropout at 
her Elephant page.)

I’m very pleased to welcome special guest Lucy Edge,  author of Yoga School Dropout, to Elephant Journal.

Yoga School Dropout is a book you’re going to want to read, particularly if you’re into Yoga, but even if your not.  This book is entertaining on many different levels.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Lucy has agreed to answer your questions
in the comment section below.

Lucy Edge worked in advertising as a strategist for more than twenty years. Her campaigns for Marks & Spencer, Yellow Pages and Johnnie Walker were awarded the top prizes in the business and she built a reputation for creative and effective solutions to her clients’ business problems, a talent that was rewarded with board positions at three top ten agencies.

One day she decided to give it all up in favour of a quest for life’s deeper meaning in the five star ashrams, utopian villages and yoga schools of India. Yoga School Dropout her highly acclaimed account of this journey, records her encounters with Gucci clad gurus, hugging mothers and swoony swamis as she searches, ever more desperately, for mystic Indians, Tantric bliss and a boyfriend.

Named by The Independent as one of their books of the year, and a consistent bestseller on Amazon’s Yoga and Travel Writing rankings, Yoga School Dropout has become a traveller’s classic – inspiring hundreds of disenchanted workers to follow her yoga trail around India in search of a more meaningful life.

Lucy contributes to a wide variety of newspapers, books and magazines including Tatler, The Daily Express, Yoga Journal, Body & Soul Escapes and BA’s High Life magazine.  See her website, follow her on Twitter, read her blog, and join her Facebook page.

Bob: First of all, I’ve got to tell you I loved your book.  It is so vivid, I feel I was right there alongside you the whole time.

Lucy: Thank you – I wish you had been there! I would’ve loved some kindred spirits travelling alongside me.

Bob: Why did you decide to go on a yoga school pilgrimage to India?

Lucy: I’d spent more than a decade in advertising – working eighty hour weeks debating whether the Green Giant should extend his vocabulary beyond ‘ho ho ho.’ These hours would have been completely understandable had we been working for world peace but debating what song a sunflower should sing surely shouldn’t have kept us in the office so long? I had no time to go out and play, only time to stay in and recover before the next ludicrous deadline flew across my desk like a cruise missile. Guaranteed to seek, find and destroy all chance of finding a man before I hit the retirement home.

Clearly I needed to make some changes – find a different way of seeing the world and living in it, discover a more balanced way of life. The only things that sustained me during the singing sunflower years were clothes shopping, Pinot Grigio and yoga. I had found the answers to life’s biggest questions in the bottom of a bottle several times but, sadly, I had woken up in the morning unable to recall what they were, and despite many years of heavy investment, even I had to concede that lasting happiness probably didn’t lie in another pretty dress. That left yoga.

Leaving the singing sunflowers to make their own way in the world, I decided that I would take a six-month career break and go on a yoga school pilgrimage to India.

I would find a guru, someone to lead me from gu, darkness, to ru, light. Someone to help me unite body, breath and mind, and strip away the layers of ego. He would direct me in my search for deeper meaning, a fulfilling way of life. He would help me find my purpose, my place in the world. Perhaps that place would be up a mountain – where I would, like others before me, merge my Eternal Self with the big pool of cosmic bliss that is the universe.

In my dreams I returned a Yoga Goddess, the embodiment of feminine perfection – peaceful, happy, loving, wise, endlessly compassionate towards a suffering world – and a magnetic babe attracting strong and sweaty, yet emotionally vulnerable men. We would share profound moments, wrapped in hammocks debating the teachings of The Bhagavad Gita, the spiritual struggle of the human soul.

In my dreams not only had my purpose in life been revealed but also a pretzel-like body – light on fat, flexible yet strong. I would sit in the lotus position, or stand on my head, effortlessly performing advanced postures in designer clothes for a Sunday Telegraph feature on Yoga Babes. Vogue would photograph me in my favourite organic juice bar and designer friends would choose me to model their size eight scented knickers. In these dreams the lack of money didn’t matter because I was beyond materialism, and anyway I got free holidays when Sting invited me to his Italian villa to give him personal tuition.

Of course I knew that it might not turn out this way, but it had to be better than looking for meaning in a tub of marge.

Bob: Tell me what led you to write Yoga School Dropout?

Lucy: Needless to say things didn’t work out as planned and I had a lot of trouble gaining acceptance amongst my fellow yoga students. I was lacking the required number of spiritual epiphanies, I hadn’t read the Bhagavad Gita at thirteen and a holy man from Dharamsala hadn’t colour matched a pashmina to my aura. I felt like a fish out of water and my diary became my confidante – the place I went to smile, and cry, over the day’s happenings. By the time I left India I had amassed several volumes and from these emerged the divine comedy that is the Western obsession with India.

When I got home I wrote some chapters and a synopsis and then I went on a travel writing course where I shared the first few chapters with the group. The man who was running it liked my work and put me in touch with his agent – from there I got a deal with Ebury who were incredibly brave in putting out a yoga journey book that had no predecessors – lovely Liz Gilbert had yet to fall for Felipe when Yoga School Dropout came out.

Bob: Of all the experiences you had in India, which ones have stuck with you the most and affected your life today?

Lucy: I loved Rishikesh, the self-proclaimed yoga centre of the world. It didn’t start out too well – I had timed my trip to arrive mid January for the annual International Yoga Festival, only to find that it had been postponed for a month. It poured with rain for the four weeks I was there and I struggled to find a decent ashram or yoga teacher and eventually settled on a harsh regime of Iyengar yoga as some kind of penance for all the fun I’d been having at the Swoony Swami’s ashram in Kerala.

I spent a week trying to raise my inner eyelashes only to be told by Mr Prasad that Westerners were the only ones bothering about their inner eyelashes. Apparently ordinary Indians don’t worry about their eyelashes over the age of twenty five; they meditate instead. The real yoga of Rishikesh, Mr Prasad told me was Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion.

So I focused on trying to find someone to whom I could devote myself. I started by sitting at the feet of an enlightened ex park ranger from Oregon as hail stones rained upon the ashram’s tin roof. I enjoyed her ‘oceans of love’ philosophy, salmon pink and white robes, home spun homilies – ‘that’s just the way it is’ – and even the folksy sing alongs, but she got angry with a disciple one day and my faith was shaken.

I immersed myself in the Ganges to cleanse my sins and went in search of a Hidden Saint who chose to remain hidden. I even tried worshipping the money god at the five star Ananda Spa in the mountains above Rishikesh but everyone looked utterly miserable and I came back down to simple old fashioned Rishikesh realising that the Madras Café was my favourite temple and MP, the waiter, my chosen deity. I felt pleased with my level of devotion – I visited the Madras Café three times a day, rain or hail stones, for the duration of my stay.

It was from M.P. that I learnt that to the so-called ‘ordinary’ Indian yoga is a state of mind, an attitude to life, and the world is their school. For them yoga is ‘a harmonious way of living,’ not a one off physical goal. It’s something internal – a way of trying to increase the moments of seeing clearly, and choosing wisely in daily life – all they have to do is look within, to their own inner guru. It’s the shortest of journeys.

Bob: Have you been back to India?  If not, do you have plans to go again?

Lucy: I married an Indian man a couple of years ago and so we go back regularly; we both regard it as home. We want to retire there – the family own a ramshackle house in Goa which we’d love to renovate. I can see us now; sitting on the veranda drinking sundowners, watching the world go by.

Bob: I understand you have another book out now.  Could you tell us about that?

Lucy: I met my husband late, at forty one, and we started trying for a baby the following year. I really thought that it would be fine – after all I did a lot of yoga, I ate healthy food, and I’d read article after article in which forty something celebrities announced their ‘baby joy’. Two years later, with an FSH that warned of an approaching menopause, I was told that no fertility clinic would take me on with my own eggs, and that by the way, many of these ‘baby joy’ forty something celebrities had used egg donation and were not admitting it. 

The Handbag and Wellies Yoga Club is about that quest. It was a cathartic experience for me – I used writing it to come to terms with the fact that I would never have children of my own, and to let younger women know the facts about getting pregnant in later life.

According to some US research 89% of young successful women think that they will be able to get pregnant into their forties. Since this experience I have become something of an evangelist for twenty something pregnancies – it’s so important to make young women aware of the risks of leaving it later and letting them know that they may be successful career women who look young and feel young, but that means nothing to their ovaries – all of which are stamped with an indelible use-by-date.

Bob: How did you get through that experience?

Lucy: I just had to go with it. Yoga teaches you to accept things and that is what I did. I didn’t try to battle it, I just accepted it. I count my blessings every day. Although I don’t have children I have so many wonderful things in my life – including a lot of nephews and nieces, and the time to write.

Bob: What are you doing now and what’s next for you?

Lucy: I’ve just finished my third book – my first novel. Its feel-good fiction with substance; a heart-warming comedy of errors for any woman who’s dreamt of taking centre stage and ended up crying in the loo. It’s a commentary on our expectations of work, a timely examination of our obsession with quick fix solutions, with yoga, youth and self-perfection, and a meditation on self acceptance.

I have started a part-time job and I spend my spare time thinking about what I will write next; my experience of Auroville gave me a fascination with utopian communities and I’d love to write about seekers – what we look for and what we find when we get there. Maybe a something on the early travellers to Anjuna, Goa (so I can also renovate that house!) or maybe a novel set in Laurel Canyon in the late sixties/early seventies.

Anyway, these days what I do seems less important than who I’m being when I’m doing it. My life is no longer about what I have and what I can get. My life is about trying to be the best person I can be for everyone I meet along the way. Perhaps one day I will earn the honorary title ‘ordinary’ Indian – one with an enduring attachment to Pinot Grigio.

Bob: Thanks for being here at Elephant, Lucy.  It’s so much fun to be able to talk directly to the author of a book that is loved by so many readers.  I hope you will be doing a U.S. book tour soon.

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Steve Jobs Sought Enlightenment in India After Dropping Out of College

Steve Jobs

Fascinating excerpt from all about Steve Jobs:

It was at Reed that Steve started experimenting with Eastern mysticism. He delved into weird books and came to believe that if he ate only fruits, for example, he would eliminate all mucus and nten yearsa decade later, when he was a multi-millionaire). He tried LSDs, and became part of the whole hippie movement, although it already belonged to the past back then (he was a decade late). One of his best friends at Reed was Dan Kottke, who shared his interests in such philosophies.

The following year, in 1974, Steve desperately needed some money and he got himself a job at Atari. Atari was arguably the first video game company: it was created by Nolan Bushnell in 1972, and one of its first employees was Al Acorn, the inventor of Pong. Steve was hired although he would often call his co-workers names and smell pretty bad. That’s why he was soon moved to the night shift.

Young Steve Jobs looked up to Atari’s founder Nolan Bushnell. He was impressed by this iconoclastic man who made a lot of money by building pinball machines. He was clearly an inspiration for him to start Apple.

India

While he was at Atari, Steve convinced Bushnell of paying him a trip to India. Atari did pay his trip up to Germany, where he had to work on fixing some Atari machines. Then Steve was joined by his hippie friend from Reed, Dan Kottke, and they went to India in search for enlightenment. They came up pretty disappointed, especially after they met the guru Kairolie Baba, who, as they quickly found out, was a con man.

“We weren’t going to find a place where we could go for a month to be enlightened. It was one of the first times that I started to realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Kairolie Baba put together.”
(quoted in Michael Moritz’s The Little Kingdom“)

When Steve came back, he resumed his job at Atari, and would spend some of his days in primal scream therapy sessions or at the Los Altos Zen Center, where he befriended Governor Jerry Brown and his guru Kobun Chino. He also spent several weeks with his girlfriend Chris-Ann and Dan Kottke in a hippie commune in Oregon, the All-One Farm. Here they would cultivate apples and for some time, Steve would eat only that — when he wasn’t fasting, that is.