Removing the Seeking From Yoga— Mark Whitwell on J. Krishnamurti and Yoga

J Krishnamurti was a dedicated practitioner of Yoga, first with Iyengar and then with TKV Desikachar, son of the great T. Krishnamacharya. Yet he often savaged Yoga in public talks. What was he pointing to in terms of actual practice beyond narcissistic self-improvement? Mark Whitwell offers a perspective on JK and yoga.

Mark Whitwell demonstrates the devotional posture padma danda namaskara (sticklike surrender in lotus position). Photo by Audrey Derelle.

J. Krishnamurti on Yoga: The word yoga means to yoke, but it is a wrong translation as it implies duality. Yoga means unitive perception, to see the whole of life as one. The seeing of it as a whole is to act as a whole. To see the whole of life as one unitary movement is yoga, not standing on your head and all that. As human beings do not see the whole of life as a unitary movement, standing on your head breathing properly will help you, at least one hopes, to see life as a whole.

Questioner: But would that help you really?

K: Wait. First, get the true meaning of it: not joining two things, the soul and the body — that’s all nonsense — but to observe, to perceive life as a whole, as a total unitary movement. Because you see it as a whole movement you act non-fragmentarily. Therefore your relationship is total. Not my wife, my husband, my family, my children and all the rest of it, but complete, as a whole human being.

How is that to come about? Therefore they say you must breathe properly, etc., and perhaps that will then give you that. And then we get caught up in asanas. You exercise and forget the other, becoming lazy, self-centred. I am not saying you shouldn’t stand on your head. I do it. But that is not going to lead to the other. So when you see the importance of a life which is non-fragmentary, you won’t get caught in the asanas. You will do them, but you won’t be caught in them. Because by itself, doing asanas you might be terribly selfish and egocentric and lazy.

J Krishnamurti at Brockwood Park 1971, Discussion with students and staff

So, how do we make sure that the Yoga practice that we do falls out of that habit of seeking, the attempt to join two things that are not and never have been separate, the habit of self-involvement, the habit of looking for God as if God is absent?

First, by understanding, that you, right now sitting there reading this, are already the power of the cosmos. There is nothing magical and special you can become that you are not already. And secondly, in the practice, there must be certain principles to ensure that it is your direct participation, absorption in the Given condition, and it’s not a struggle in the body or the mind to get somewhere as if you are not Somewhere.

Mark Whitwell in Bharadwajasana — named after the sage Bharadwaja. Photo Audrey Derelle.

You see, your asana is ha-tha, it’s the merge of opposites, it is strength—you might say male—that receives the feminine. Strength receiving, ha-tha, is asana. And if you do that as strength receiving, and you don’t understand really what I’m saying now, but you will soon, if you do it as strength receiving in the natural participation of the breath, without trying to go beyond the breath, in the natural elasticities of the body, the natural flexing of the body, then it will be this participation in the great form of Life, the ha-tha of Life, the male-female polarity, which is the very means by which we come into form.

We can see that the male-female union is the means by which Spirit takes form, from the unseen condition to the seen we come, right? So, it’s a way of participating in the Spirit that has formed as Life, and that is this Life and it’s so vastly intelligent that it even creates a new life as little babies running around and as you and me. That’s how extreme it is.

So, you just do this polarity in your own system which creates the clarity of the mind and the awareness in the system that I am prana, that I am Spirit, that I am this extreme intelligence that is Life itself.

I want you to know how to do that, I really do! I want you to learn this! And then if there is any query about it you must be in touch and you must get what you need in order to do this practice for yourself.

I hope I make myself clear. Yogasana comes from non-dualistic tantra, but of course, it is complicated because the dualistic schools saw the power of tantra and brought the yogasana into their religious base and turned it into part of its search.

As a result, we get this language claiming that the real high practice is meditation, and you are doing asana and pranayama to prepare for a future realization called meditation. That’s that dualistic schools, and that’s not how it is. That has diminished the power of asana and the value of asana.

In the schools of tantra, the asana and the pranayama and the relatedness to all things natural is the Yoga, and it is. Doing the asana, doing physical postures, is the primary spiritual practice, is the primary spiritual responsibility, you might say. Not an idea of meditation. So asana itself is devotion, you see, asana itself is meditation, asana itself is your direct participation, absorption in the nurturing force, the caring force, the healing force, the Mother condition of the Universe, the Mother condition known to be, in the non-dualistic school, but Source is known to be feminine, the Source intelligence and all appearance of Source is known to be Mother, Shakti! The power of this cosmos beats your heart and moves your breath.

So please, do the asana as the primary practice. And then something happens, and it can be in quite a non-dramatic way, no samadhis, no “Wow!” need be happening, but just a steady seeping in of the sense of well-being, the sense of nurturing, the sense of caring, the sense of love, the technology of love, that comes simply just by doing your practice non-obsessively on a daily basis.

That’s what I’d like to recommend that you do, really, for 20 minutes, starting 20 minutes. Maybe 20 minutes becomes half an hour, on a daily basis, where you’re no longer trying to align yourself to a standardized ideal of physical practice or spiritual practice, because this attempt of trying to align yourself to an ideal called samadhi, or universal love, or whatever, creates the idea of absence, and there is no absence, you see. You are not looking for anything anymore, you are just doing your asana and pranayama, that’s all… with the principles that the teacher of our teachers defined.

Have I said anything useful to you so far? Am I making some sense? For I’d really like us to wrestle with it and bring clarity to this. You are the yogis. Anyone who reads this consideration is someone who is falling out of the insidious struggle of trying to get somewhere as if you are not Somewhere. You are ready to do Yoga, a capital “Y” Yoga. There is only one Yoga, and it’s your Yoga. This is not some modern invention, like “Mark Whitwell Method, TM.” Krishnamacharya would be turning in his grave if he saw that all these divisions and styles of yoga had developed from his work. It’s not how it is, there is only Yoga, and it’s how you do yoga that counts … with the principles of breath and participation. No struggle. No search.

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This article is adapted from a talk by Mark Whitwell at the 2nd Yoga Conference of Germany in Köln/Cologne, Germany, 1st April 2006 and transcribed by Domagoj Orlić.



Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.