A sea of sombre grief enveloped the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga institute here as thousands of disciples gathered to pay homage to Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed away early Wednesday morning. He was 95.
But in this sea of grief were islands of grace, as Mr. Iyengar’s followers kept up an impressive solemnity while assembling at his home to pay their final respects even before the break of dawn.
While some found it hard to fight their tears, a majority preferred to reflect and reminisce on their Guru’s rich legacy of coping with life and death, something which Mr. Iyengar himself would have approved.
“He was an ideal in life and an ideal in death. Like all thinking souls, he strived towards that ideal. Like few great ones, he achieved it,” said Dr. Manoj Naik, Mr. Iyengar’s disciple since 1995, who eventually became the yoga guru’s family physician.
‘Subjectivity’ or experiencing the pain felt by others was the key to his immense compassion, said Mr. Naik, speaking to The Hindu.
As a perennially sickly youth, a doctor prophesied that Mr. Iyengar wouldn’t survive his teens.
“Until a month before his death, he was still practicing his asanas. At 92, he set a rigorous schedule while touring China that would have put a man in his twenties to shame – seven hour-intense yoga sessions, seven days a week,” recounts Dr. Naik.
‘The body is my temple; the target is the soul’ was Mr. Iyengar’s shibboleth.
“It is a platitude when I say Guruji was a force…he used to almost disappear in his room while practicing yoga. It is as if all the external forces were assimilated in his body. He stands for everything I am now,” said a disconsolate Birjoo Mehta, one of Mr. Iyengar’s prominent disciples and a noted Iyengar Yoga exponent in his own right.
An indefatigable autodidact who taught himself English by preserving shredded newspaper pieces in which bhel-puri was served, Mr. Iyengar’s personal intensity inspired widespread love among his legions of followers spread across continents, say his disciples. Today, there are Iyengar Yoga centres in 77 countries, from Australia to Mexico, from Uzbekistan to the Czech Republic.
“I have been practising with Guruji since the last 14 years and yet he rendered me speechless every session. One becomes so humble and can feel the change taking place in your life. He has drastically altered my world-view,” said Monica Calvetti, a resident of Bologna, Italy.
“While visiting Colorado in the early 2000s, he said he often came back to a place for his students. Guruji, quite simply, was a revelation,” recounts Cindy Cordle, a long-time student of Yoga who resides in San Diego.
Mr. Iyengar’s existence was a perfect symbiosis of the physical self and the intellect, remark his disciples.
“His yoga was transcendental, something which experimental fads and trendy derivatives of today cannot hope to cope. It effortlessly cut through barriers of class and religion, embracing anyone and everyone,” said actress and Iyengar student Ratna Pathak Shah.