How Yoga Failed in Aurora.

Via Dr. Katy Poole
on Jul 25, 2012
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What’s the real goal of yoga—to perfect the body and mind for one’s own enlightenment or to inspire a world free of stress and violence?

I once posed a similar question to Swami Vishveshva Tirtha, the head of the Madhva Vedanta lineage in Udupi, India—a saint who started practicing meditation at the age of five.

His response?

“A yogi is a fish in water. (S)he purifies the society by eating all the debris.”

Traditionally, India has always revered the yogi as a benefit to society at large. Like a fish in water, it not only depends on the water for its life, it serves to clean the water.

The ultimate benefit of your yoga practice, in other words, is that it influences a larger collective field—if you can get beyond the self-obsession that dominates the individualistic Western embrace of the practice.

As an American yogi, I never believed that my daily yoga and meditation practice had any benefit other than what it offered my mind, body and emotional management—until I was sequestered in a remote central Indian village for three months while conducting my dissertation research.

I was staying with Nani (my best friend’s grandmother) where I shared a bed with five other women, bathed at 4 a.m. in the Narmada River (with the rest of the villagers) and helped milk the cow for my morning chai. Privacy was a luxury I resigned myself to sacrifice. And then I found it—an abandoned storeroom, which was a perfect sanctuary for my morning yoga and meditation practice. No one could bug me in there.

The first morning, I slipped out from under the leaden arm of one of my bedmates, tip-toed to my private sanctuary and unfurled my yoga mat. I relished the flow of each breath as I invoked the sun in my body. Alone with myself at last, I really missed being an American.

And then I saw them—many pairs of credulous eyes staring in at me through the windows. Where had they come from? How did they know I was here?

Ignoring the steady watch of their unflinching gazes, I continued with my practice.

But inside, I steamed with anger. Couldn’t I just be left alone for one hour? Was that too much to ask? I was really tired of being the village freak-show.

As I got up from my meditation, a sizeable crowd of onlookers who’d stared at me for well over two hours followed me as I made my way to the cowshed. They huddled around me requesting many things that seemed strange and out of place:

“Can you come to my field later today and bless my crops?”

“My auntie is very sick. Could you pronounce a mantra to help her get well?”

“Our daughter is getting married. We’d very much like it if you selected the proper bridegroom for her.”

I thought these people were out of their minds, until Nani explained something that changed the way I viewed my yoga and meditation practice.

“You are a yogini and you’ve come to this village. Because you are here, the people believe that the rain will be not too much and not too little this year. The fields will yield more food than we can eat. People won’t argue as much with each other. And we’ll all enjoy good health.”

The body of the yogi, Nani further explained, is a channel for the Divine to come through. The yogic practices purify the mind, emotions and ego until the individual sense of self dissolves. Ultimately, the presence of a yogi is a conduit for peace and non-violence.

“It’s said in the days of Buddha,” Nani concluded, “that his aura spread light across thousands of kilometers attracting followers with its magnetic non-violent vibrations. Kings stopped fighting wars and became monks. And India enjoyed hundreds of years of peace.”

In a real yogi’s presence, in other words, all violence gets subdued.

Hostile animals and people lose their aggression. A higher principle of peace dominates the collective instinct, which in its lowest expression is geared toward self-preservation and survival of the fittest. Yoga is ultimately an evolutionary system—to raise society at large up from its basest tendencies.

If this true, then why with so many people practicing yoga in the Denver area alone, did the worst public shooting in American history take place in its own backyard?

Perhaps we yogis have our focus in the wrong place. Perhaps the practice of yoga is too me-driven, when it’s really meant to surpass the demands of “I” and “mine.”

Maybe the shootings in Aurora are a wake-up call to really put our yoga to work for the collective good as it’s been traditionally regarded for thousands of years in India—the only country in world history, I might add, that won its independence from a major colonial power without firing a single bullet.

Because Gandhi was a yogi.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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About Dr. Katy Poole

Katy Poole, Ph.D. helps yogis who have a thirst for deeper experiences of samadhi discover it in Sanskrit, which is not a dead classical language that only geeky academics who hang out at Berkeley or Harvard can decipher. Rather, Sanskrit is a vibrational technology with which to enter higher states of consciousness. It's the gateway drug that causes addiction to effortless meditation. And it aligns your biorhythms with the pulse of nature at its source. Dr. Poole offers a free online introduction to Sanskrit video course that you can access at her website:


72 Responses to “How Yoga Failed in Aurora.”

  1. Suri_k8 says:

    Respecting the person that holds a certain belief is important but beliefs should never be off bounds for criticism …otherwise society as a whole cant evolve.

  2. Vik Zutshi says:

    Thank you Katy for raising the bar on 'meaningful discourse' on EJ. Much needed!

  3. Vik Zutshi says:

    @MikeG – 'action' or 'karma' can mean virtually anything – any action performed by the human body qualifies as Karma, whether you're swatting flies, watching brain dead television or trolling on the internet.. Therefore 'calisthenics', yoga, chanting, meditation or simply doing nothing at all, are also 'Karmic' events. Non-doing is also doing – a yogic principle that Gandhi understood completely..which frustrated the colonizers, because they had not seen anything like it before. His 'action' comprised of non-violent and passive resistance, which as history has shown was highly effective in getting rid of the British. Truly, 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind'. Mindless un-enlightened action, springing from a gung-ho, winner takes all, frat boy approach is a lot worse than not doing anything at all.
    Thanks Katy Poole for raising the bar on EJ. The reactions to this article are enlightening indeed!

  4. Vik Zutshi says:

    @Suri – when you go to skidrow in LA,NY,Chicago or visit any of the barrios and ghettos of inner city America,inhabited by crackheads, pimps, dealers and hookers, do you automatically equate the whole country with it's impoverished, downtrodden, disenfranchised segments? No you do not because you are aware that it is one aspect of the American reality and not the whole. In the same way, you should avoid making sweeping generalizations about 'India' or any other place which you have meager knowledge of. India also has the largest upwardly mobile, educated, cosmopolitan population in the world – 400 million plus. Rather than chastise Katy Poole on having a 'romantic' view of India, you need to educate yourself on the realities of the world you live in and not succumb to every trailer park stereotype thrown your way. Katy is a respected scholar, thinker and intellectual who has spent a big chunk of her life in India, and is a lot more qualified to comment on it than most of the wannabes on this thread. Just the fact that you spend so much time on yoga blogs trolling the writers shows that you have a hidden fascination with esoteric systems that you are afraid to articulate. If you were disinterested or indifferent you would not be here. Maybe try It may be just what you're looking for… 🙂
    ps – regarding the scientific basis behind Sanskrit, mantra theory, classical music, Ragas and the science of sound in the Vedic context do check out 'Nadabrahma – The World is Sound' –… – "A mind blowing compendium of Philosophy, Metaphysics, Quantum Mechanics,Maths, the physics of Sound and omnipresent Harmonic proportions."

  5. Suri_k8 says:

    Did I hit a nerve? I can see you are upset , maybe you dont like it when people question your absurd beliefs ….. I fail to see how a music journalist-Osho disciple can explain such a a complex subject as Quantum Mechanics when he is not a physicist himself , Quantum Mechanics is not something the lay person can really understand …which reminds me of Deepak Chopra and all the other charlatans that use nonsensical language disguised as science just to wow gullible people like you ….it is really funny ….. All these Indian Gurus-charlatans who speak of vibrations and other dimensions are so deluded it is histerical.8D ))))) *Laughs histerically*

    Also, where I choose to spend my online time and where I post comments is non of your bussiness. BTW India is ranked 145 of 179 just above Camerun and Ghana in the Worlds Education Index so perhaps you should educate yourself a little bit in statistics before posting silly comments.

  6. SQR says:

    I've been reading lately how people seem to know what they would have done at the Aurora movie theater… "tackle and subdue the motherfucker", etc etc. I've had extensive firearms training (and I've been shot at) but I'm not prepared to say what I would have or wouldn't have done because I wasn't there, and neither were any of the other folks posting that nonsense.

  7. Harleigh Quinn says:

    There's this WONDERFUL book, I believe it is called "the history of yoga" that refutes this view point, as well as pointing out what is practiced in the west really isn't yoga.
    This dilution of yoga has done nothing but attract broken, narcissistic, self absorbed people now turned pious, bulletproof ego'd hedonists that have are now protected by a community that not only does not speak up concerning their abuses toward others, their ever inflating and grandiose egos now couched in "spirituality" so they can do such things as walk into a village feeling like a god, and not have any reason to feel or exhibit true humility, but also defend them in these actions.

    Modern yoga has helped support the problem of them bringing their problems into it with them, and converting yoga to a community of problem people who now feel they are "holier than thou".

    Until people learn to not pervert everything they touch, yoga has no purpose in the west except exercise.

  8. Harleigh Quinn says:

    It is easily found when the tibetans chose to leave the US and turn their backs on the lost children of buddhism here.
    And seeing what I have seen in the last couple of years, I do not blame them.
    They have "returned", in a way, with the Diamond Way Dharma centers, but, to be honest, egos have invaded it so much I do not see it being what it is meant to be.

  9. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Agreed, and I will say, by reading the EXACT wording of this post, there is NOTHING disrespectful within it.
    However, I have had MANY a narcissistic "yogi/yogini turned mc buddhist" tell me how I was too thin skinned, only to display how overly sensitive they actually were themselves.

    They can dish it out, but they can't take it.

    I would love for someone to tell me PRECISELY what is disrespectful within that comment.


  10. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Again, what PRECISELY is disrespectful in this comment?


    Because it causes Dukka?

    Then maybe the Dukka should be explored, not the comment of the person admonished.

    The buddhha said many things agianst the status quo and apologized for NONE of it.
    And no one told him to be kind to others egos, because his exact point was that the ego was limiting in the first place.

    So we are told, now, to have sympathy for stating an opinion in a respectful manner?


    Buddhism and yoga are turning out to be worse than congress or the NSA…..

  11. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Thank you, Suri.

    Does anyone know how Japan ceased to have an emperor?

    They used to worship their emperor as a GOD, they thought he made the sun rise and fall.

    One day, a new and young emperor came out and addressed everyone and said

    "I am not a god. I am a man, just like you."

    Yogi/yogini is an honored title in india, and what I see here is that that title has gone to someone's head.
    A true yogi or yogini would not basque and glorify this title, as has been done, if for no other reason then the yamas and niyamas.


    This story reminds me of someone saying, in response to my story of saving some hit by a semi while everyone stood by

    "Well, I was studying abroad, and, well, this is silly, but I just HAPPENED to be in the Kremlin and we just HAPPENED to get locked in. I know, it was soooooo silly….."

    And that was the end of the story. Nothing else.

    Selflessness countered with selfishness.

    One didn't care for accolades and the other does.

    Is it now disrespectful point out this is how this story sounds to ME?

  12. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Agreed, except there are FEW truly devoted practitioners.
    The majority are hedonistic narcissists that have found a new social club that not only does not question their behavior, but DEFENDS IT.
    There is so much wrong with the article above, so much that is NOT yoga in any way, I couldn't begin without being told I am being disrespectful.
    And when I say this, I mean pulling sentences and paragraphs point by point and addressing them, point by point in how….just forget it, I am about to cross the line by utilizing "G Rated" dictionary vocabulary to be descriptive.

  13. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Thank you.

  14. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Answered above.

  15. @Suri_k8 says:

    Ha,ha yes! yoga people are really not different …they want to impose their way of living and their ideology on everyone. They even want yoga in schools now …if it is only the excercise part of yoga , its not so bad otherwise how is that different from creationism in the classroom?

  16. Harleigh Quinn says:


  17. @Suri_k8 says:

    The problem with EJ is that they are so lost in their dogmatism that it is like a " gentle" or "nice" police state , you have to be nice and only post nice comments that preferably agree with what the author is saying otherwise you are an AH or a troll and your comment can be erased as is the case of Guest below …his comment was erased only because it questioned the education of the author…and I agree, like you said , there are so many things that are wrong with this post ….. It doesnt look like something a Phd expert in Sanscrit would write…..of course this is my opinion.

  18. Harleigh Quinn says:

    And I agree with your opinion whole heartedly.

  19. Thaddeus1 says:

    It's obvious that you have a lot to say. I'm looking forward to reading the piece you're working on.

  20. Pankaj Seth says:

    From the Charaka Samhita, one of the source texts of Ayurveda… a cautionary tale.

    "In the Primal Age, men and women were endowed vitality equal to that of the progeny of Goddess Aditi (Unbounded), exceedingly blameless and unhampered in their powers, had direct knowledge of the gods, the godlike sages, the divine law, sacrifice and ritual, possessed bodies that were compact and firm, had clear senses and complexions, speed, strength and prowess like those of the wind. They were devoted to truth, rectitude, compassion, charity, self-restraint, moral discipline, spiritual endeavour, fasting, continence and religious vows. They were free from fear, desire, aversion, infatuation, greed, anger, despondency, pride, disease, sleep, indolence, fatigue, languor, sloth and the spirit of acquisition; and lastly, they were imbued with unlimited longevity. For the benefit of these people of heroic minds, qualities and deeds, the crops were replete with wonderful taste, potency and virtue, for the earth during the dawn of the golden age was charged to the full with all excellent qualities.

    As the First Age wore on, those who were better circumstanced gave in to lassitude. Lassitude gave rise to indolence, indolence created the need for the accumulation of goods, accumulation necessitated acquisition, the spirit of acquisition engendered greed. All this came to pass long ago, in the First Age.Thereafter, the bodies of human beings failing to receive sustenance as before from the progressively deteriorating quality of food and afflicted by the heat and wind, soon succumbed to the attacks of fevers and other diseases. Thus, there was a gradual decline in the span enjoyed by successive generations.

    Thereafter, in the Second Age greed brought malice in its wake; malice led to falsehood; falsehood let loose lust, anger, vanity, hatred, cruelty, aggression, fear, affliction, grief, anxiety, distress and the like. Consequently, in the Second Age, virtue found itself deprived of a quarter of its plenitude. From this quarterly loss in virtue, there followed a similar deterioration in the duration of the succeeding Age and in the beneficent power of the Earth. It is in consequence of this deterioration that there took place a corresponding deterioration in the sap, purity and potency of herbs."