Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute Revisited

RIMYI - Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune always has a special place in the hearts of Iyengar Yogis across the world. It is the destination that every Iyengar Yogi no matter where he lives, wants to visit at least once in a life time. It is the place, where hundreds of yogis groom every year under the blessings of Guruji BKS Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Prashant Iyengar and many more efficient teachers of Yoga. Guruji during his illustrious career of 85 years taught yoga to thousands of students across the world. Each one of his student is still in association with this great Maestro. RIMYI celebrates Annual day of the institute, Sage Patanjali Jayanti, Guruji’s birthday, Guru Poornima and Hanuman Jayanti etc. on a grand scale where all the students studied yoga under Guruji directly or indirectly through his students visit Pune to meet him and seek his blessings and few words of wisdom. It is always exciting to visit Guruji in Pune every time the opportunity comes.

Some times, life is quite funny. Guruji had been teaching yoga for such a long time, he is so famous world wide and I was still living in the dark. I never knew that someone called BKS Iyengar has ever existed on this planet until I discovered Guruji’s book ‘Illustrated Light on Yoga’ and began my yoga journey in the year 2010. Then I began to explore about Guruji’s life and was quite impressed by his achievements and modesty. I described in my earlier blog “Guru Poornima with Legendary BKS Iyengar” how Guruji inspired me in taking up yoga and how the practice of yoga transformed my life.

Guru Poornima @ RIMYI:

A group of 8 Iyengar Yoga students from Hyderabad along with our teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan boarded the train Mumbai Express to Pune in the evening at around 8-40 PM on 2nd of July 2012. The journey was pleasant without any delays. We reached Pune by around 9 AM next morning. 4 of us booked the dormitories in the railway station itself and the rest stayed in the hotel rooms nearby the institute. We later had our showers, breakfast and rushed to the institute at around 11-30 AM.


Our Meeting with Guruji:

When we reached the hall Guruji was nearing the completion of his practice session. Raya and Abhijata were there assisting Guruji with the props. It was unbelievable sight to see Guruji at the age of 94 still practicing for 3 hours a day. He usually begins his practice in some corner of the hall at around 9-30 AM. By the time we reached there it was already 11.30AM. 5 minutes after our visit Guruji finished his practice and walked towards us. Zarna Madam introduced us to Guruji and told that we were also been to Bellur last winter. Guruji with his thunderous smile looked at us and said that he remembered some of the faces who visited last time. He possesses a superb memory power. It is said that Guruji recognizes people just by touching their skin. He says that he gets some kind of sensation when he touches the person who had been there to him before; even if he comes after 10 or 15 years. We bowed before Guruji’s feet and took the blessings of his and later Guruji walked back to his room with grand daughter Abhijata.

We then decided to go upstairs to have the darshan of the Lord Hanuman, whose idol has been established on the roof of the institute. There is a great significance behind the unique design of RIMYI. The three floors represent the body, mind and soul. It’s height is 71 feet and has 8 columns which represent the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga i.e.yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

We then walked down the stairs and spent more than 1½ hours taking pictures, watching the photos of Guruji mounted on the wall tops all over the yoga hall, the awards and mementos received by Guruji from all over the world over the years of his illustrious career. We then walked out for Lunch and got back to the institute by around 2 PM in the afternoon. We were sitting in the office premises, Guruji walked in after finishing his meals and spent some time in the Library downstairs reading and replying his correspondence.

Guru Poornima Proceedings:

By 4 PM people began to gather in the Yoga hall where Guruji was supposed to address the visitors in the evening. People came from all over the world. Some of them are old students of Guruji (as our Madam), some of them are their students (as we are) and some of them are new pupil who came from distant parts of the world to learn yoga at RIMYI. We happened to have some interaction with few teachers and students who came all the way from USA, Australia, New Zealand, Norway etc. Every one in the hall is seen quite happy and excited to have attended the ceremony. At last the awaited moment arrived with Guruji’s entrance to the hall. All of a sudden there was a hush in the hall as soon as he arrived.  Guruji quietly observed the proceedings sitting on the chair laid down for him at the corner of the hall opposite the platform where usually sits. Proceedings began with a regular invocation on Patanjali, followed by few traditional renditions by Asha Tai and Geeta Tai if I remember correctly, (Tai is called Aunt in Marathi). However, any mistake in remembering the names be forgiven.

The Guru:

Guruji was later felicitated by one of his oldest disciple who is being associated with Guruji since 1962. Guruji then released the current editions of the magazines Yoga Rahasya and Yoga Shastra. Later, Guruji’s elder daughter Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar was invited to the podium for speaking few words about Guruji. She started saying, “today is Guru Poornima day, which is very important and precious for us. These days to get the Guru itself is very difficult and the student to go on choosing a Guru is further more difficult. We are fortunate that we have a Guru who is ready to pour his knowledge and we are the incapable week links who cannot take it.”

How truly said? Today, large number of fake Gurus gives darshan to you everywhere. There are many who pose themselves as Gurus. It is really difficult to choose a real Guru from the lot. Since we are attracted by and fascinated by false Gurus so much that we fail to recognize the true Guru. Another difficulty in finding a real Guru in this modern era is that the term Guru itself. These days the word Guru has become a fashion. Guru has become a very casual term. Anybody and everybody who teaches are called as Gurus these days. But there is a big difference in a Guru (Master) and a Sikshak (Teacher).

Like any other student even I used to think that a person who teaches or gives you the knowledge is called Guru. That was what we were taught from our school days. I never gave a serious thought to learn the real meaning of Guru. It was only after visiting RIMYI, the previous year on Guru Poornima and meeting Guruji, I realized Guru must be something special and superior than the teachers. Great teachers of Yoga all over the world were present on the occasion including Geetaji and Prashantji. None of them is either posing themselves as Guru or being called the Guru. They were at their modest best, very down to Earth, still ready to take the knowledge from Guruji BKS Iyengar and what more important was that Guruji is still welcoming with a broad smile, heart and arms wide open to share his entire knowledge and wisdom who ever comes to him. Guruji has an unknown Charisma which attracts the world towards him. It is not only Iyengar Yogis but also all the yogis across the world who are practicing yoga irrespective of their styles and forms are being attracted by this Charisma. This unknown Charisma makes him the most adorable and respected Guru in the Yoga circle.


During one of her discourse our teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan said that Guru is an enlightened person who removes the darkness through his knowledge and wisdom and guides towards enlightenment.

Once, I came across the discourse of Acharya Yogeesh on internet where he said, it is difficult to differentiate the fake Gurus and the Enlightened Gurus as they appear and speak in the same way. The only thing that differentiates the Enlightened Guru from fakes is that he doesn’t pose himself as God, doesn’t take the shelter of God and doesn’t try to attract you with bunch of followers, big establishments and miracles but he looks like a Vairaagi or a Fakir, the beggar.

It gave me a further clarity when I read Master Osho’s discourse on internet where he said, Guru is a person who has achieved the true self and teaches whatever he had experienced through his inner experiments in achieving the self. On the other hand, the teacher is a person who hasn’t achieved the self and teaches the experiences of the Gurus who have attained the self. The former can surely remove the darkness of ignorance and leads his pupil towards enlightenment and truth through his sacred spiritual knowledge and wisdom; where as the latter can only show you the path. In ancient days, the former was being termed the Guru but as the time passed by such Guru’s declined, fake Guru’s emerged and the teachers replaced the term Guru.

The term Guru is actually derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Gu’ which means darkness and ‘Ru’ the light. Guru is a person who removes the darkness of ignorance and leads his pupil towards enlightenment and truth through his sacred spiritual knowledge and wisdom.

My teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan once shared very interesting information about Guruji during our trip to Bellur, the birth place of Guruji. When she was learning, Guruji used to say, “You are my children. You may go out and teach few children, they become my grand children and when they teach to somebody, they become my great grand children and so on. This way, my blessings are with all those are associated with yoga”. Millions of people across the world are being blessed by Guruji. It is said that Masters need not present before you to bless or guide you. They bless and guide you esoterically wherever you are.

This proved true in my case. Guruji guided me in the primary journey of Yoga through his book “Illustrated Light on Yoga”. I learned the baby steps of Yoga by holding the finger tips of (Illustrated Light on Yoga) Guruji. After learning the initial moves of yoga, it took me almost a year to choose a teacher who could teach and guide me in the further practice of yoga.

Today like any other art and science, yoga too has undergone a makeover; thanks to the media. Geetaji during her discourse rightly said, “Today yoga has become popular because of the Media and we must thank media for that. In a way, I am not sure whether to thank heart fully”. Unlike the past, yoga has now become a commercial corporate business for making money. Whether you blame the media or western influence, the fact is that Yoga has become a business for many these days. Hyderabad is not left untouched by this influence. Actually, there are not many famous yoga schools in Hyderabad as you have in Mysore, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Calcutta, New Delhi etc. Of late, yoga culture is developing in Hyderabad too. Some of the famous yoga schools from many of the above cities have opened their branches in Hyderabad.

So, I stepped out in search of a yoga teacher who could help me in this path. I stumbled upon the internet for Iyengar Yoga teachers in Hyderabad and found Smt. Zarna Mohan’s Name, Address and her contact number in the official website of Guruji. Two things were playing in my mind at the time. Can I afford to join her? Since she was the only Iyengar Yoga teacher in Hyderabad, I assumed that she might be very expensive as ordinary yoga teachers in Hyderabad are charging in an average of Rs. 1,000 per month and I was going through a bad patch financially. Secondly, her place was around 18 kilometers away from mine.

Before contacting her I decided to join any yoga school nearby to remain in touch with yoga practice and join Smt. Zarna Mohan once I overcome my financial crisis. I visited some of the famous yogis in Hyderabad for an enquiry. I am not mentioning the names as it would be inappropriate to do so. Some of them really shocked me with the amount they are collecting from the students. Rs. 25,000 to 60,000 per year. I never imagined it would be that much in not so Yoga frenzy city like Hyderabad. I almost dropped the idea of meeting Smt. Zarna Mohan assuming her fee would be closer to that range. I met many other people but I was not satisfied with their teaching or you can say the style because I have come from Iyengar Yoga and I didn’t wanted to mess up. So, I decided to wait for some time and save some money for my yoga. In the mean time I had been visiting and meeting yoga people here and there in search for a teacher who could help me. Almost 8 months have passed away in the quest for a good yoga teacher. One fine morning I made up my mind and visited Smt. Zarna Mohan but she was not present at home. There I came to know from the security person that she teaches yoga twice a week, Monday and Thursday as she works in the Reserve Bank of India. I walked back home and called her the next day. Zarna Madam was again not available on phone and I think it was her daughter who picked up the phone. She said, Madam takes up the yoga classes but she doesn’t offer any certificate course and therefore there is no fixed duration. You can learn as long as she is teaching. When I enquired about the fee, she said it’s Rs. 100 per month. It sounded unbelievable as some of the Iyengar Yogis are charging in lakhs as well. I reconfirmed the fee and joined her in the very next class on Thursday. Ever since I never looked back and I am in constant association with my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan. Some times, I guess it might have been Guruji who guided me esoterically to call her up instead of going here and there in search of a teacher. And believe me I couldn’t have found a better teacher than Zarna Madam. I thank Guruji from the bottom of my heart to guide me in my quest for a good teacher. Had I not met Zarna Madam, I wouldn’t have met Guruji. It was because of my teacher I met Guruji. She has become the established compound element in my meeting with Guruji.

My association of 1 ½ years with her is really an unforgettable experience. She has been showering love and blessings all the time. I began my practice as Ekalavya student of Guruji by reading his book for 1 year, before joining her. Believe me, not even a single day I ever imagined or even dreamt of meeting Guruji in my life time. When my Madam announced the visit to Pune last year in 2011, I was really excited. I felt, a glimpse of Guruji is enough for this life. But when my Madam introduced us to Guruji personally I couldn’t believe my self. While introducing she asked us to ask anything that we wish to with Guruji as he was sitting on his chair. I stepped forward to ask something; but the moment I went close to Guruji I felt complete and full. No questions arose. Not even a word. I just asked him for a photograph which he reluctantly accepted and we had a wonderful group photo with Guruji. Every moment of last year’s trip to RIMYI is still afresh in my memories. I have to make a special mention of my wife Tulsi here. During that time I was going through bad financial condition. My income was not sufficient enough to pay the debts I borrowed. In desperation to meet Guruji I Okayed my trip to Pune and the tickets were booked but I had not enough money to visit Pune. It was my wife who arranged Rs. 5000 out of her salary cutting all her household expenses. I was reluctant to take that money but she said; don’t miss this opportunity and who knows things might fall in track after having the blessings of Guruji? Believe me, things really began to fall in track and the worse is over. Though the best is to come!

I am basically a self centered person and a very temperate speaker since my childhood. It takes me very long time to make friends. Once I make a friend, I don’t break that easily. Though I am an easy go person, I hardly gel in a group very quickly. It takes time to gel. Well, that’s my nature and I can’t help it. There was hardly any interaction with Madam apart from wishes while attending and leaving the class until our trip to Bellur. Madam has blessed me with another opportunity to visit Bellur, the birth place of Guruji. It was a great learning experience for us apart from knowing the Guruji’s birth place from close. We had a great fun practicing yoga and moving around the countryside. It was a small group of 12-13 members. We used to practice yoga in the morning, walk around the village in the day and practice again in the evenings. After dinner we used to have a group discussion on various issues before sleep. This was the first time I openly interacted with Madam and the group.

I again got an opportunity to work with her in a video shoot. I think I am really fortunate enough to get that opportunity. It was really a life time opportunity as I got a chance to practice Yoga one on one with her. Since we were only 4 people in the group and were preparing ourselves for the recording, she concentrated personally on each of us. It was only during this period of time, many of my flaws in forward bending, back bending and standing asanas have come into light. The lessons I learned from those 15 days of practice with madamji is very valuable in my life.
I once happened to read Osho’s Quote which said; you need not ask your doubts and queries to your Guru. You only have to keep your cup empty and the Guru pours his energy without even asking. This proved quite true in my case. When I joined Madam I was empty and still I am. She has been continuously showering which I never imagined of. I couldn’t have asked more than what she has given to me already. I not only met Guruji last year, visited his birth place but again got an opportunity to visit Guruji this year during Guru Poornima on 03rd of July 2012. This wouldn’t have become possible without my teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan. All thanks to her from the bottom of my heart for all the love and blessings she is being showering on me. I wish for a long association with her and pray for her long life so that she can keep on showering her blessings and love further. I wanted to dedicate this blog to my teacher for all the love and blessings she has showered on me.

Geeta Ji’s Discourse:

Coming back to Guru Poornima Celebrations let us start with some of the excerpts from Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar’s speech. The main focus of Geetaji’s speech was to address the new students and to share a few words on Guruji. You can watch the entire speech of Geetaji in the below listed videos.

Guruji’s Discourse:

Guruji’s talk was again on how he practices his yoga and how one has to practice yoga integrating his senses, intelligence and mind. You can watch the entire discourse of Guruji in the below listed video.


Blessings of Guruji:

The program ended after Guruji’s discourse and all the students gathered around Guruji seeking his blessings. So we too the Iyengar yoga students of Hyderabad along with our teacher Smt. Zarna Mohan met Guruji and sought his blessings. I remember that last year I took an autograph of Guruji on his book “Light on Yoga”. I wanted to have an autograph this year as well, but there was a large queue of students waiting for Guruji’s blessings and I didn’t wanted to irritate Guruji by asking his autograph. So, I waited patiently for the entire crowd to disperse and went back to Guruji and took his autograph on his book “Light on Life” this time. Let me tell you, Guruji was in a great mood on this Guru Poornima day. He was looking in a fresh and jubilant mood since we met him in the noon after his practice. Since then he had been receiving hundreds of people with his charming smile. I saw no tiredness, no fatigue, no hesitation and irritation on his face. He addressed and received all the visitors with same love and oneness. That was an incredible sight to watch.


After seeking Guruji’s autograph and blessings I along with two of my friends paid adieu to our Madam and rest of the group as they were supposed to board the train back to Hyderabad in the next evening.

Our first visit to Osho International Meditation Resort:

I wanted to visit few places in and around Pune viz., Osho International Meditation Resort, Lonavala and Shirdi (if everything went right) before returning home and therefore I remained there. Three of my friends Suresh, Sridhar and Mohan showed their willingness to visit the Osho’s Meditation resort. So, four of us visited the Ashram early in the morning at around 7 AM. There we found that the resort opens up for visitors at 9 AM. We then decided to visit the famous Zen Garden of Osho. It is a beautiful garden with lush green trees, vast variety of flowers, bamboos all over, the stream of water flowing in the surroundings. It was a beautiful breezy morning with slight drizzles from the skies; the climate was simply perfect to be there. The sounds of the birds, the sound of the water flowing by its surroundings, the fountains etc made us feel as if we were somewhere in the forests. Four of us then chose separate rock benches meant for meditation and spent some time meditating there. It was quiet and pleasant place as complete sanctity and purity is felt everywhere. Then the drizzles turned into heavy rains and we had to take shelter under the trees for some time. As the rain slowed down we walked out of the park. It was already 9.30AM. We were totally lost in the Zen Garden which is also called the teerth sthal of Osho which we learned he made with great love and affection.

On reaching the welcome center at the Osho International Meditation Resort we were given a booklet with an Osho note on its front page saying, What I am doing here is very simple, very ordinary, nothing spiritual in it, nothing sacred. I am not trying to make you holy persons, I am simply trying to make you sane, intelligent, ordinary people, who can live their lives joyously, dancingly, celebratingly – Osho.

The second page of the note contained information on the CDs/DVDs and books of Osho to be sold at the Multimedia Gallery, to the left of the front entrance mentioning the opening hours of the Multimedia Gallery from 9AM – 1PM and 2PM – 4PM.

The third page contained information on the process of Registration for Meditations at the resort. We learned that one has to go through a registration process where you need a Photo ID plus Rs. 1000 for national citizens and that includes Registration fee, HIV/AIDS test, welcome morning fee. And it is Passport, Valid Visa plus Rs. 1000 for foreign nationals.

Then there is a daily entrance fee of Rs. 480 for nationals and Rs. 980 for foreign nationals plus additional charges for Meditation Programs, attires and everything you use inside like swimming pool, table tennis, and gym whatever. We have been told that it is going to cost around Rs. 3500 for the entire day in there.

When we were about to register, we found that one of our friend hadn’t carried any Photo ID card and they said it is compulsory to have original photo ID. We then decided to walk back as we didn’t want to leave him disappointed.


We then travelled back to the railway station as some of our friends were about to arrive. As soon as they arrived we picked them up and had some breakfast in the nearby restaurant. Paying adieu to one of our friend Sridhar who was supposed to return back to Hyderabad along with rest of the group, we boarded the train to Lonavala.

Fun at Lonavala:

The fun we had last year in the water falls of Lonavala is still afresh in my memories. It is one of the most enjoyable places for nature lovers. Lonavala is full of lush green mountains, steep valleys, lakes and electric waterfalls during rainy season. Last year we experienced how the Mumbaikars love the place of Lonavala. It was a rainy Saturday and all the roads from Mumbai lead to Khandala ghats and Lonavala. I never experienced such a huge crowd thronging into any hill station before. After having a great time in the waterfalls in the surrounding hills of Lonavala, Bushi Dam in particular we decided to visit Lonavala every time we visit Pune in July.


Lonavala experiences huge rainfalls during mid July of every year. Unlike the previous year, Guru Poornima came in early the 3rd of July this year. When we visited Lonavala the rainy season has just began. We learned that rains were delayed this season. But that did not disappoint us for long. As soon as we reached the Lonavala terminal we sensed the sigh of Joy expecting great fun in water falls as it was raining heavily. We landed in the Bungalow of one of our friend, had our lunch and booked an auto rickshaw to the trip to the water falls of Lonavala. Bushi dam is my favorite place in Lonavala. Though we were little disappointed with the water level in Bushi dam as it was not overflowing yet, we had a great time in the water falls ahead of Bushi dam. We spent hours and hours trekking the rocks and playing in the roaring waterfalls. It was raining heavily and at few points the waterfalls looked quite dangerous as if it’s going to sweep away. The force of the water was such that it if you just don’t have a tight grip at the rock you would be drowned away. We had great fun in the waterfalls till the fall of dusk. On return we found that the dam was ready to overflow by next morning as heavy floods were reaching the damn from all over the hills. We decided to come again next day to have some fun in Bushy dam. But we were full and tired of the waterfalls by the next day; so we decided to visit the ancient Karla Caves and Khandala ghats. After visiting those places we stopped at the famous A1 chikki store in Lonavala. Visiting lonavala and coming without tasting the world famous chikkies? How is it possible? We bought few handmade chikkies of different varieties and boarded the train at Lonavala to Hyderabad.

This is how our trip to Pune ended by getting the blessings of Guruji BKS Iyengar, experiencing the Zen Garden of Osho, having a great time in the water falls of Lonavala.

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