Sex, Lies & a Great Master.

Via Karl Saliter
on Feb 4, 2012
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Red Shocker by tibchris

He never told us to open our hearts.

He told us we each had a part of God, “smaller than an atom”, located on the right side of our hearts. And baby let me tell you, when he said those words, they took life. You felt God inside you from his eyes. Sri Dharma Mittra spoke those words with a conviction you just never see.

It was not born of emphatic gestures or a raised voice. It came across from the place of knowing. Given as a teaching, it swiftly took root within you, born from the experience of the teacher. Dharma opened our hearts.

             Dharma Mittra is arguably the most accomplished yoga practitioner alive.

Nobody we know has equaled his physical conditioning, as clearly reflected in the breadth of his asana work.  But more importantly, the clarity and focus of his approach to living the ethics of yoga are balls to the wall awesome.

But let me stop there, this isn’t an Urban Dictionary bio. Take my word for it, the guy is yoga asana on wheels, and more.

Photo Courtesy of Otam Yoga Shala


The important thing is, I love Dharma. 

My commitment is that when he teaches, I will learn.

I’m not a disciple or a devotee or anybody’s flag waver, but Dharma doesn’t call for that anyway. He has always held that “The best teacher lies within.” So having said that, I love the guy. I love him for how he makes me feel. Good beyond any good I knew before.

Photo Courtesy of Otam Yoga Shala.

I went to Sri Dharma’s “Being Receptive To Grace” immersion at Omega Institute last year.  The three days left me higher than you were at that after-party you’re not telling us about. I floated away from Omega, gentler than a kitten on mushrooms.

by Joel Olives

You would have loved me then. I would have given you no choice. Mastery and divine love were swirling around me like things in motion around a carbon-based life form. The effects were, of course, short-lived. Life has a way of re-inserting itself.

Dharma’s New York studio, an impressive space in Chelsea, left me cold. I love this teacher, and so vowed to return to Omega annually for his gem of a weekend.  Sad to say, it is not on for this year. Our teachers do not always offer what we “want” to learn. Are we big enough to nonetheless learn? How much can we look to content, rather than messenger? Are they the same?

Is our trust placed in the teacher more, or more in the process of learning?

Dharma is funny in the best way. Come to the retreat for a sec. We are all doing our chatty thing during break on day two, and Dharma starts stretching. His poses get deeper and deeper into the “ninjas only” realm, until finally not a sound is heard, and we are all breathlessly watching this man, in his seventies, peacefully floating on the tips of one hand. Dharma, for all the world unaware of us, feigns spotting a bug on the floor in front of him, picks it up with his free hand, and pretends to eat it. We all crack up, and the sparkle in his eyes when he looks up at us could stun a whale. Not that you would want to use it for that.

Photo Courtesy of Otam Yoga Shala


 So what would this

one-man love force

have to say about

current events

in the yoga world?

Fortunately, I own an imaginary phone, and I just rang him up on it. He wagged his finger when I asked about sexual wildness and lies. (That imaginary phone has Face Time.)

“Keep Yamas and Niyamas. Every religion ever has had its ethical rules. Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation of yoga. The best of yoga.”

(He also mentioned that Ahimsa is the very heart of yoga, and that not eating flesh is foundational to any serious practice. He mentions that a lot)

Photo Courtesy of Otam Yoga Shala

               Now in his seventies,

he runs two Manhattan studios and gives more than two classes a day. He embodies devotion and love of the divine force in all beings like a Japanese Whaling Boat Captain embodies lust, greed and blind, insatiable hunger. If that’s the metaphor I’m after.

Asked by magic phone what I should do regarding recent events and stories in the yoga world, Dharma would remind me of Karma. Of all the bicycles which have been stolen from him over the decades in New York, and of his certain belief that each theft was a karmic release from wrongs he committed lifetimes ago.

by sliid

I believe Dharma would tell me to mind my business, to trust absolutely in karma, and to lock my bike.




Child’s pose is a good place to start. The return, again and again, to the centuries-old practice which heals, opens, and stretches me, holds all the answers I need.

I love my teacher. There may be things about him (in my case, the enormous studio on 23rd street) which fail for me. They will either be enough to drive me from him to another teacher, or they will be something I endure to be near him. In any event, they will be lessons from my beloved teacher.

The practice of yoga invites us to wake from a dreamless slumber. Ideally, awareness of this body, harnessing of the attention, and occasional glimpses of the force which animates us combine to eclipse the dramas and diversions which our sleeping selves so ceaselessly seek. Or, we are getting a firmer butt.

Dharma might tell me that when I am learning from the teachers around me, and using this understanding to fuel my practice on the mat, my yoga is pure. That when I view failings and shortcomings in others as opportunities to explore the practice of humility and the cultivation of grace, I am on the path. That when I am assimilating events and excitement around me by constituting myself as a source of love, my yoga is perfect.

 Or, he might not. But in whatever form, and I do mean whatever form,the embodiment of the wisdom he brings benefits me when I choose to derive benefit. This is true of all teachers.


About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He has written two novels, "Compassion's Bitch," and "Breakfast In A Cloud," and has published neither. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck. That careening down route 66 at speed, he leapt up into the cab, took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you frequently feel the same.


27 Responses to “Sex, Lies & a Great Master.”

  1. I really did love it :))

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Braja Sorensen
    Lost & Found in India
    Editor, Elephant Spirituality
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  2. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks Braja. Absolutely knew I was out on a limb with that one, and good callout on the "arguably"
    I had artfully poised as backup gunner in case of deep trouble. On careful and deep reflection, presuming that
    someone somewhere has performed it, "Best thing since sliced bread" might have been the more mindful descriptive
    phrase. No use derailing what the article posits with difficult claims, but there we go, damage is done.

    And I am honored to have locked down your favorite quote of the week. Cheers,

  3. Jenifer says:

    I only managed to make it to the studio with the funky green carpet and the lady in the shorty-shorty-shorts who always showed her innermost bodily self to my hubbie who always graciously moved his mat to one side so that she could squeeze in next to him. I don't know who she is, and she was different every time, but my goodness, every doggone time.

    I miss that tiny spot and that pink carpet and the pictures of gurus and dieties hung too high and people hero-worshipping and the sweet fellow shurgging it off with humor and grace and him saying to me "you need to let go, and then you will grab your foot, see? Then, to the floor!" Deepest I've managed in that lungy-back bending thing and i still practice it that way most days.

    Truly, he was and is a sweet man.

    I left my studies with him with a great deal of self knowledge and new awareness, and always with my hubby saying "what is it with these girls in the shorty shorts? why is she always putting her stuff in my face? I really only like one girl!"

    I win. 😀

  4. Jenifer says:

    green = pink, I was thinking about the carpet in the back. I think that one was replaced. I always plunked myself by the windows on the pink carpet. 🙂

  5. karlsaliter says:

    PS, did you spot the link to your article? Hint: check under "Yamas". Briliant piece.
    The pigs in a blanket met cracked me up.

  6. karlsaliter says:

    Jennifer, thanks for reading and posting. I agree with you re: "Truly, he was and is a sweet man. " Love the hero-worhip shrugging.

  7. karlsaliter says:

    GIVE it a week or two. Sheesh.

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Yes, apparently. there is something afoot.
    I'm assimilating by sleeping in tomorrow.
    Loved your ES Facebook quote. Gracias.

  9. maru says:

    A few yaers ago, several (dozens of them) had the idea of redoing the famous poster of Dharma Mittra, the 908 poses )hung in every shal in the world, even though not all know this is Sri Dharma Mittra, he took the pictures himself, he literally cut and paste each and one of them, he is alive and he STILL can do them all) as a tribut eof him. They were not able to accomplish this, not even between all of them, were able to replicate this matster piece not only of asana but of a whole life devoted to service humanity. So, I may be biased, because I have hosted Sri Dharma and had a few life changing experiences only by having sat in his presence. I do consider him the yogi of this century and one of the few spiritual masters alive.

    I loved the article, the humor in it, the tribute to this incredible man and all of it!

  10. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Wish the system Dharma innovated taught more about alignment (via several of his 500 hour proteges) and I probably would never have left a certain studio in a New York City outer borough …

  11. __MikeG__ says:

    You are cracking me up.

  12. Yes but are you in your undies, and have you done a Mikequinox video yet? Sheesh….

  13. Linda Morelli says:

    Closest thing I will get to an asana this morning but works for me! Sent it off to my Vegan Lover just to let him know I made an effort at being wonderful for him! And you Karl, remain one of my life's treasures in this amazing technological and timeless way! Don't ever stop being the beautiful gifted prolific genius you are!

  14. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks for that Maru. I'm not sure how many people know the man behind "the poster". Dharma's life informs his amazing asana work. I feel very lucky to have learned some yoga from Dharma.

  15. karlsaliter says:

    Linda thanks for that. I am in a conversation with a friend of mine, we are wondering why we are driven to write, to be read, to communicate in this form. I know it feeds me somehow, and I know that when you read and comment, I am encouraged. Hope your cool vegan lover enjoys the article.

  16. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  17. karlsaliter says:

    Gracias, Tanya.

  18. Ann says:

    First paragraph….epic! The part about kitties on mushrooms? Really makes you wonder! Love it, thanks Karl.

  19. karlsaliter says:

    Cheers Ann! Thanks for your support, and for reading and clicking.
    Kittens on mushrooms… odd, yet strange.
    A metaphor for being gently, gone awry. Loved the photo on that.

  20. karlsaliter says:

    Oops, I mean being gentle.

  21. Ben_Ralston says:

    Karl, to answer your question: isn't it out of love? When you experience expansive beingness you begin to perceive other as self, and then isn't the most natural thing to want to share your joy and wisdom?
    Of course, there can also be a little ego mixed in to the recipe sometimes… 🙂

  22. Ben_Ralston says:

    Loved this piece Karl. Kittens on mushrooms – genius 🙂
    The imaginary phone part – wonderful 🙂
    I think you will find this interesting –

  23. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  24. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks, Tanya.

  25. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks for that, Jennifer! Its all about love.

  26. […] So having said that, let’s begin this interview. […]