Bob Meets Baba: Entrepreneur Meets Sadhu.

Via on Jan 23, 2012

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.

About Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg: Editor, Best of Yoga Philosophy / Former Assoc. Publisher, elephant journal / Author: Yoga Demystified * Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell * Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology / Co-editor: Yoga in America (free eBook) / Creator: Gita Talk: Self-paced Online Seminar / Flamenco guitarist: "Live at Don Quijote" & "American Gypsy" (Free CD's) / Follow Bob on facebook, Twitter, or his main site: Wordpress.

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8 Responses to “Bob Meets Baba: Entrepreneur Meets Sadhu.”

  1. ricosoma says:

    The consumer mindset is so ingrained in Western culture that we take for granted that it is the only way to interpret life. All that we experience passes through the cultural filter of some scientific "objective" model. Even when we are aware of an alternative our speech betrays our bias. We base our decisions on what appears to be best for me and mine. That same paradigm leads us to choose the means to self improvement much the same way (to paraphrase Baba Rampuri) as we choose breakfast cereal. As a culture, as a civilization, where has all this object choice led us?

    I realize these are broad generalizations but they are offered to make the point that this consumer mindset is destroying the planet and leading to increasing misery for its inhabitants. Yes, the Westernized brand of yoga may be a means to open eyes to the possibility of a different way of living but it is the authentic traditional approach that Baba Rampuri reflects that can be the means for re-balancing a culture teetering perilously close to oblivion. Until I met Baba Ji the best definition I knew of yoga was that it meant union. In that context, union with some undeveloped awareness of my true nature. I now find that connection is a much better meaning. Connection with my fellow travelers, connection with the Divine Mother in her manifestation as the world I live in. The Yoga of connection cannot be sold or marketed only experienced as the Love we feel when there is no object, no other.

  2. Yogamamba says:

    A fine piece – thank you. Regarding debates and arguments about the truth – I would like to point out that the whole tradition lives on the basis of logical argument. The ability to argue the truth – which finally rests and resolves in ourselves – is key to understanding the knowledge about truth and the truth about knowledge. A teaching must be able to answer all questions regarding the truth of the human being and have answers for which there are no questions! Truth is defined as that which is never subject to cancellation upon verification. Once verified as the truth it remains true forever. Flat earth round earth – etc. Once it is known that the earth is round it can never go back to being flat. Truth is never subject to change or cancellation and is not decided on by popular vote. Shankaras debate with the Buddhists is a classic example. The tradition at the time was that when you lost a debate to someone you either took your own life or you accepted the others faith or truth and were allowed to live. This meant that because 2500 or 3000 years ago Buddhism lost its debate with Adi Shankara Buddhism virtually disappeared from India. (It had already begun flourishing in Asia though by this time). 5000 years ago Varanasi (Kasi) was the place you would go to debate and make a name for yourself. One does not just accept something because it is written in a book. Because the truth exists all the books and traditions (Upanishads Vedas Oral traditions etc.) talk about it.

  3. freehugyoga says:

    Very interesting exchange, Bob! What I see,is that we may have as much opinions as we want…but Yoga reminds Yoga. It does not really matter what we do with, Westerners or not, it is lived tradition and it will reminds, because it is the path of Truth. Our partial truths will change with the time and experiences, or not, but the Truth is here forever.

  4. Linda-Sama says:

    “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."

    Did you ever think that those "powers" that Patanjali wrote about are used as metaphors and are not to be taken literally?

    • Hi, Linda.

      Yes, and that's certainly the way many people read them today, myself included.

      You would know better that I do, but my impression is that there was probably the same wide variety of belief and debate back then as there is today in say, Christianity, running the gamut from literal truth to all metaphor.

      Bob

  5. dattatreya says:

    HariOm ,

    Its impossible to talk Authentically on hidden things as Rishi Patanjalis Yoga Sutras and have no experience about it. Its just a mirage to talk about it without realising. Regarding the Indian Oral Lineages, they ARE authentic as result of Serious spiritual work of Babas. WEST must bow down, get Silent, Listen and be Quiet … then something happens.

    Love,
    Dattatreya

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