I joined a Yoga class when I was 59 years old. My Yoga Teacher is a beatific person, who is decades younger than I. Initially, it felt odd to call someone my nephew’s age as “sir”. But in our culture, the teacher is always in Guru-sthaana, so the natural and only way to address him is “sir”.
Master-ji is a truly cosmopolitan man. Many years ago he migrated from Nepal and settled in Chennai. He speaks Nepali, Tamil & Hindi fluently and speaks a form of English that is the confluence of all three! And he is an intense communicator. Sometimes, at the end of a physically tiring class, he would speak on a philosophical concept that reflects the Yogic way of life. Recently, he talked about “Turning-point in life” — something like a Satori moment described by Zen Masters, or a flash of self-realisation, I guess. And he went to explain it with an example from his life.
When Master-ji came from Nepal he had no special skills. So he got a job in a commercial garden in a small town just outside Chennai. His job was to pluck the roses in the garden, bicycle to the market, sell them and collect the money; and in the mango season: ditto, with mangoes. What? Our Master-ji was an unskilled labourer? Master-ji laughed it off with “we come from an interior Nepali village, what else do we know? Only farming and security work”. Thus life went on in a pedestrian fashion, until one fateful day.
On that day, when he was cycling with the day’s harvest, the pedal fell off. He dismounted and tried to re-fix the pedal. After many futile efforts, he got disgusted and threw the pedal down. At that moment he felt the pedal taunting him: “is this the life you want?” Shaken, he quit his garden job and got a job in an office in Chennai. There, by sheer coincidence he saw a pamphlet advertising Yoga classes. Aroused, he went to the class and applied for admission. There was one hitch, however: the course fee was Rs.1000 pm, but Master-ji’s entire worldly possession was only Rs.500. Dejected, he was about to turn back; but the Yoga Guru spotted a spark in the young applicant. He said “pay me whatever you have now and train for 3 months. After that you can pay me”.
Master-ji joined joyfully. But the joy was short lived — at the end of 3 months he still had no money! He reluctantly quit Yoga class. Undeterred, he got a better job; this time, after a few months of frugal living, he had saved Rs.10000. Thus armed, he rejoined classes and gradually became an expert. He became so good that he started his own Yoga school. Initially, he struggled; he was inexperienced and not a native. But his sincerity attracted students and he became a successful Yoga teacher.
In tandem, he completed his BA and applied for admission for an MSc. course in Yoga. Unfortunately, the University rejected his application, saying that his secondary school certificate in Nepal was not enclosed. (Ironically, sometime later the same University invited him to train and evaluate its students!). That obstacle too was overcome and Master-ji got his MSc. in Yoga Therapy. Recently the Yoga school had its 6th anniversary and all the students (old and new) celebrated in the spirit of Yogic joy.
According to Master-ji the real “Turning-point” in his life was when the bicycle pedal “spoke” to him. I can understand that — I worked in a Bicycle Company, but never once has a pedal (or any other component) delivered a worthwhile message to me! Indeed, it must be because Master-ji is truly blessed.
Guru Sthaana = The exalted position of a Mentor / Guide
Satori = A Japanese word, meaning sudden awakening or enlightenment