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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Yoga Mart

Sunday, 24 September 2006 / Published in Articles, Danavir Goswami / 15,255 views

From Danavir Goswami

All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!

I am of the opinion that the recent upsurge in gymnastic and meditational yoga-related courses being offered within ISKCON, for the most part, compromises the mission of the organization. Here are some reasons:

1.Gymnastic and meditational types of yoga cannot be properly practiced in the age of Kali, thus, such courses are unauthorized.
2.Such courses misrepresent their teachings as yoga when in fact they are not so.*
3.Such courses ignore Arjuna’s rejection of gymnastic and meditational yoga in Bhagavad-gita.
4.Such courses do not even teach the standard process of the eight-fold path of yoga (astanga) described in the Bhagavad-gita.
5.Such courses take undo advantage of the public’s misconceptions about yoga.*
6.Such courses deceptively present their teachings as authentic aids to spiritual attainment.
7.Such courses and their teachers’ credentials stem from impersonalist lineage.
8.Such courses facilitate inappropriate intermingling of males and females.
9.Such courses emphasize the gross bodily conception by promising sense gratification and mundane success to practitioners.*
10.Such courses beguile people away from the path of pure bhakti, even if unintentionally.
11.Such courses misuse the popularity and resources of ISKCON.
12.Such courses cannot be counted in the seven purposes of ISKCON.*
13.Such courses tarnish ISKCON’s and its founder’s good name through cheap caricatures of spiritual life.*
14.Srila Prabhupada purposefully never instituted such courses in ISKCON.*
15.Srila Prabhupada forbade such courses in ISKCON*

*1 Note: ISKCON members and temples must be careful not to join the drowning stone boat parties by condoning unauthorized methods of so-called yoga.

“Even if one does not accept Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His instructions are so exalted and beneficial for humanity that if one follows His instructions one will be saved. Otherwise one will be cheated by unauthorized meditation and gymnastic methods of yoga. Thus one will board a boat of stone which will sink and drown all its passengers. Unfortunately. although the American people are extremely eager to get out of materialistic chaos, they are sometimes found to patronize the makers of stone boats. That will not help them.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 6.7.14 Purport)

*2 Note: These gymnastics are not yoga and should not be called as such. They are merely gymnastics and nothing more. By failing to point this out, devotees also fall prey to the enticement of dhanam, janam and sundarim (the desire for wealth, followers and women).

*3 Note: Real eight-fold yoga cannot be taught in cities, yoga studios and to those engaged in a life of sense gratification.

“One cannot practice yoga in a congested city, living a life of extravagancy, including unrestricted sex indulgence and adultery of the tongue. Yoga practice necessitates controlling the senses, and the beginning of sense control is to control the tongue. One who can control the tongue can also have control over the other senses. One cannot allow the tongue to take all kinds of forbidden food and drink and at the same time advance in the practice of yoga. It is a very regrettable fact that many unauthorized so-called yogis come to the Western countries and exploit people’s inclination towards yoga practice. Such unauthorized yogis even dare to say publicly that one can indulge in the habit of drinking and at the same time practice meditation.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.15.45 Purport)

*5 Note: Today one can find some awfully bizarre activities going on in the name of yoga classes. A concerned observer pointed out that if such so-called yoga courses continue to proliferate, the society as it was established by Srila Prabhupada will be unrecognizable in a few years from now. The question may be asked, “Is this not exactly the cheating which Srila Prabhupada always wanted us to expose?”

“When we have a superexcellent process already present in Vedic scriptures, there is no need to concoct a new system, to mislead the innocent public. At present it has become a fashion to reject the standard system and present something bogus in the name of a newly invented process of yoga.” (Teachings of Lord Kapiladeva, Purport to verse 14)

*6 Note: My experience with Srila Prabhupada was that he wanted only the teachings of our Vaisnava books taught to newcomers. He wrote to me, “It is good to hold more classes with the bhaktas, but they should all be on the basis of our books. You should not go beyond the jurisdiction of our teaching.” (Letter from Srila Prabhupada January 26, 1977) Someone may object saying that these new yoga students are not bhaktas but only guests so it doesn’t matter that we teach them something outside the Vaisnava books. However, if material attachments remain uncorrected then they abide permanently and affect others.
The problem here is that Srila Prabhupada clearly did not approve of these asanas et al being used and taught by devotees of the Krishna consciousness movement.

“So if we infect the Mayavadi quality, karmi quality, jnani quality, yogi quality… I see some of the students, still they practice some yoga asana. That quality is not yet… He’s not yet free. But this is nonsense. This is nonsense. We should, by promise, we should not associate with any of their qualities.

asat-sanga-tyaga,-ei vaisnava-acara
‘stri-sangi’-eka asadhu, ‘krsnabhakta’ ara

Asat means bad element, bad association. So asat-sanga. We have to give up asat. Attached to women. He’s asat. And krsna-abhakta-and who is not a devotee of Krsna. So these Mayavadis, karmi, jnani, yogi, they are not krsna-bhaktas. They’ll say, “Krsna is not God. I am God. I am also God. Krsna is not God. I am God. But Krsna is not God.” This is their version. Therefore they’re rascals. “I am God.” They’ll declare, “I am God. You are God.” But Krsna is not God. Except Krsna, everyone is God.” This is their version. So how much rascal they are we must know. So therefore we should give up their company.” (Lecture by Srila Prabhupada, June 26, 1073 on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.10.13 in Mayapur)

*7 Note: Yoga teachers learn from impersonal yoga books and teachers and then pass on such contaminated association to others.

*9 Note: The Krishna consciousness movement should be training those who are very serious about learning the science of love of Godhead. Householders who are in need of money or who are unable to present Krsna consciousness directly may conduct yoga business and try to shepherd their flock toward ISKCON and devotional practices. That is acceptable to my mind.

“So yoga, yoga, this bodily practice, that if I am not body, then what shall I get by bodily exercise? Bodily exercises can help me little, but that is not spiritual platform. The (indistinct), kundalini, these are to the bodily concept of life. Actually, to tell the truth, those who are too much bodily absorbed, that “I am this body,” for them this yoga practice is recommended. Not for the intelligent man. Because one who identifies himself with this body, he is not very intelligent. But because such persons are not very intelligent, for them this bodily exercise of yoga, astanga-yoga, is recommended. Not for the intelligent person. Intelligent person, they take immediately to the devotional service, immediate.” (March 7, 1972 Lecture by Srila Prabhupada)

*10 Note: Hatha yoga and derivatives are unhealthy for one on the path of bhakti yoga.

“In addition, the creeper has to be protected from the desires of sense enjoyment, monistic liberation and perfection of the hatha-yoga system. They are all detrimental on the path of devotional service.” (Srimad Bhagavatam Introduction)

*12 Note: All activities conducted within the campus of ISKCON should conform to the principles laid out by the founder-acarya in the seven purposes of ISKCON:

1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna as revealed in the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, and thus to develop the idea, within the members and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtan movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the Personality of Krishna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler and more natural way of life.
7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books, and other writings.

*13 Note: The modern market wants mundane sense gratification and yoga at the same time which is like trying to ignite wood while pouring water upon it. Only the system of bhakti-yoga allows one to make progress even without giving up unwanted habits (yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet). That is why it is unique.

*14 Note: On one occasion His Divine Grace considered a suggestion to offer yoga courses for tourists in Vrndavana and Bombay during the busy months of December through February. The aim was to attract paying customers to stay in the newly constructed guesthouses. Srila Prabhupada’s formula for such classes began with dearskin and kusa grass sitting mats. This shocked the disciples present who had thought that such details mentioned in Bhagavad-gita were expendable. His Divine Grace next explained that the students would be taught how to sit down in yoga asana with back straight and eyes fixed on the tip of the nose. Then there should be a japa chanting session by the students. Then, over the period of two hours, the teacher would explain seven verses of Bhagavad-gita to the students stressing that only bhakti-yoga is feasible for this age and that other processes are cheating. The conclusion of the class was to be harinama kirtana. The dancing and chanting of the kirtana was to furnish the breathing and exercise portion of the classes. Srila Prabhupada stipulated that during the entire extent of the proposed yoga classes (in this case seven days) the students were not to indulge in any sexual activities which was to include their private time. In this way, Srila Prabhupada said, only then would they “get some benefit.”
Initially women were not to be admitted into the classes. His Divine Grace explained that only in the bhakti-yoga system could women take part—not other forms of yoga. Finally, however, with an appeal from the devotees that men came with their wives, it was agreed that women could also participate—provided they dressed conservatively.
Srila Prabhupada brilliantly demonstrated in this incident that he had no interest in compromising to please (or cheat) the materialistic tourists. Be that as it may, the proposed yoga courses never took place.

*15 Note: In the spring of 1973, I was staying in ISKCON Los Angeles (New Dvaraka). Srila Prabhupada’s servant, Nanda Kumara dasa, invited me to go up with him for a visit to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters. I was delighted for the rare opportunity. Once inside His Divine Grace’s room, both Nanda Kumara and I paid obeisances and took seats on the floor. Our entrance went practically unnoticed since the atmosphere was super intense. Karandhara and another senior devotee (most likely Jayatirtha) were reporting the latest activities from Hawaii to His Divine Grace. They described how Siddhaswarupa dasa (formerly Sai) was carrying on a program called “psychic sleep” as a means to interest people in Krishna consciousness. Guests of the temple were guided to lie down on their backs with their heads mostly toward the speaker or coach and the lights were turned down low. The leader/teacher tried to put them into a trancelike state by suggesting that they mentally massage different parts of their bodies beginning from the feet up. Attempting to sooth their consciousness he would say, “You are relaxing more and more.” At a certain point soft bhajan or just tape-recorded mystical music was added to provide background sound. The goal was to induce the guests to reach a stage of “psychic sleep,” which was expected to make them more susceptible to the gentle message about Krishna which the devotee guide would then impart. Gradually the group was led into understanding that they are not the bodies but eternal spirit souls etc.
When Srila Prabhupada heard about “psychic sleep” in Hawaii he became very upset. “But they were not doing that when I was there,” he said. The devotees in the room could only reply that despite not employing “psychic sleep” in his presence, the temple was definitely engaged in it now. His Divine Grace declared, “This is an adulteration, a contamination, it will ruin everything. Just as milk is homogenized then pasteurized and then so many things are skimmed out, the pure milk is adulterated. There is nothing left of any value in the milk, it simply looks white like milk. Similarly, your Krsna consciousness will start off pure but the first adulteration will be you think this psychic sleep is necessary to bring Krsna consciousness. Then more adulterations, until finally you’ll think that without LSD you will not be able to chant Hare Krishna nicely.” His Divine Grace adamantly ordered that “psychic sleep” be stopped at once.
I suspect that today’s introduction of different types of so-called yoga techniques within ISKCON temples would also fall into the same category as “psychic sleep.” In Srila Prabhupada’s milk analogy above, the pure substance of bhakti (devotional service to Lord Krsna) was adulterated by an invented form of yoga and meditation. The very act of introducing something unauthorized as a means of attracting people to Krishna seemed repugnant to His Divine Grace. Surely Prabhupada knew that the motivation behind psychic sleep was to bring more persons into Krishna consciousness. Likewise he understood that the devotees in Hawaii had proven themselves to be competent in doing that. In fact, a few years before, when Siddhaswarupa joined ISKCON with fifty of his followers, it had marked the largest influx in the movement’s history. Yet Siddhaswarupa’s attractiveness had been his willingness to embrace the principles of pure devotional service given by Srila Prabhupada and the Vaisnava acaryas. By adopting those practices and simultaneously renouncing his former self-styled yoga teaching, he and his students tasted transcendental bliss and knowledge unknown to them before.
Seated on a cushion behind his low desk above a white vinyl tile floor on the second story southeastern corner of his world headquarters, Srila Prabhupada, speaking to his small ensemble of disciples, pronounced “psychic sleep” to be a serious deviation from pure Krishna consciousness. On that sunny day in May, His Divine Grace discovered once again that Americans are prone to make unnecessary changes and that his own disciples maintained strong attachment for other types of mystical or yoga approaches. And as the founder-acarya of his fledgling organization, it was his duty to point out the defective judgment of his well-meaning students.


We find a growing conception among uneducated devotees that ISKCON’s success depends on not rejecting any type of so-called spiritual ideas. This monstrous misunderstanding needs rectification. Srila Prabhupada wanted multitudes to enter the open doors of Lord Caitanya’s loving sankirtana house, yet all unauthorized misconceptions and bogus practices carried by the members were to remain outside.
Once while visiting Houston, I was invited to chant and speak to a yoga group at a yoga studio near the center of the city. The yoga teacher who invited me was an ISKCON grhastha in good standing, chanting his rounds, giving donations and following the regulative principles. We had a wonderful program and everyone enjoyed the session. Sometimes the devotee-yoga teacher brought some of his students to the temple for programs and he encouraged them to visit on their own. However, the distinction between the hatha yoga he was teaching and the bhakti yoga that ISKCON was teaching was clear and unmistakable. That is how it should be —clear, honest and straightforward. We should not allow ISKCON to become a hodgepodge like so many other groups. In my opinion no such courses be taught, advertised, promoted, nor practiced on ISKCON properties. Hare Krishna.

9/11 slows down book distribution in LA

14 Responses to “Yoga Mart”

  1. Caitanya candrodaya says :

    From Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
    Prema Pradipa

    In answering Mallik Babu’s questions, Yogi Babaji compares raja-yoga with hatha-yoga
    When everyone became silent, Mallik Mahasaya continued saying, “Babaji Mahasaya! Kindly explain raja-yoga.”

    Yogi Babaji said, “So be it.” and began speaking.

    “The yoga practiced by philosophers and Puranic scholars is called raja-yoga. Yoga prescribed by the tantric panditas is called hatha-yoga. I’ve little taste for hatha-yoga, because it is an obstacle in the practice of Vaisnavism. Hatha-yoga is described in the sakta and saiva tantras as well as the scriptures written from those tantras, like Hatha-yoga dipika and Yoga-cintamani. Among those scriptures I consider Siva-samhita and Gheranda-samhita the best. During my stay at Kasi I studied those scriptures and practiced some of them, but ultimately I came to see that one can only get some bodily benefit from that system of yoga. Attaining samadhi by that process is not easy.”

    Babaji became extremely grave. He knew how to show young people the path of bhakti. He therefore said, “Let us leave these topics today.”
    Being enchanted by Babaji’s wisdom and devotion, Mallik Mahasaya became silent. While meditating on the description of hatha-yoga, he thought, “Alas! What fools we are! I went to Madam Laurence in Madras for insignificant things like mesmerism, demonology, and a few details on hatha-yoga. I haven’t seen such a great magnanimous yogi so far. By the grace of Nityananda dasa, I’m without doubt seeing auspicious days.”

    Yogi Babaji asks Pandita dasa Babaji how one can attain rasa-samadhi and raga-sadhana without practicing yoga
    Everyone was seated happily in the mandapa. One lamp dimly flickered in the corner. Most of those present were counting hari-nama on tulasi-mala in their japa bags. Yogi Babaji said to Pandita Babaji, “Your instruction has dispelled much of the darkness in my heart. But I have one doubt. It is this: if we don’t recognize and practice pranayama, dhyana, and dharana of the yoga path, then how can we attain rasa-samadhi? In order to awaken one’s constitutional position within the heart, one is required to execute sadhana. What is the sadhana for arousing raga, or spontaneous attachment?”
    On hearing the question, everyone expectantly looked toward Pandita Babaji’s grave, auspicious face. Mallik Mahasaya became a little astonished. Perhaps he had believed that Yogi Babaji was the greatest Vaisnava. On Yogi Babaji’s inquiry, Mallik Mahasaya understood that Yogi Babaji respected Pandita Babaji like his guru. He then looked on Pandita Babaji with great respect.

    Pandita Babaji’s reply:

    (A) The difference between material attachment and spiritual attachment, and attaining renunciation without performing Vaisnava sadhana or attaining spiritual attachment by yoga practice is impossible

    Pandita Babaji began to speak, “It is difficult for the conditioned soul to act on the spiritual platform with pure spiritual attachment. It is this pure spiritual attachment which is pervertedly transformed into material attachment. As material attachment increases, spiritual attachment proportionately decreases. As spiritual attachment increases, material attachment proportionately decreases. This is the natural characteristic of the living entity. It is not that subjugating material attachment awakens one’s spiritual attachment. Many people take shelter of renunciation just to subjugate material attachment, but they don’t try to increase their spiritual attachment. This ends in misfortune.

    “Thought and practice like dhyana, pratyahara, and dharana are advised for attaining the end result of awakening one’s spiritual attachment. And many people practice these. But they don’t sufficiently discuss how to attain spiritual attachment. That is why yogis often become captivated by yogic opulence and ultimately fail to attain spiritual attachment. On the other hand, Vaisnava practices are superior.

    “You see, any sadhana is just a special activity. One may develop attachment to whatever activities are required to be performed in human life, and one may only think and labor hard while endeavoring to achieve the Absolute Truth. Are those who work in this way able to quickly awaken spiritual attachment? If the sadhaka keeps his attempts to develop spiritual attachment as a separate activity in his life, then he will be pulled by material attachment on one hand and spiritual consciousness on the other. In that case, his life will follow whichever attachment is greater. A boat moves by the strength of oars, but when the water’s current carries away the boat, the oars are defeated. In the same way, as the sadhaka tries to cross the ocean with the boat of the mind and various oars like dhyana, pratyahara, and dharana, sometimes the current of attachment quickly carries him into sense gratification.”

    (B) Analysis of the superiority of devotional service in spontaneous love over yoga practice and cultivating impersonal knowledge

    “Devotional service to Visnu is executed with spontaneous love. The sadhaka certainly achieves spiritual attachment in no time through spontaneous devotional service. One should know what the current of attachment is. Whatever the heart of the conditioned soul naturally likes and whatever pleasing things he accepts for his maintenance are all material attachments in human life. After consideration, it is observed that among these attachments there are five kinds connected with the five sense organs. Being attracted to the sense objects, the mind runs towards them. One eats with the tongue, smells with the nose, hears with the ears, feels with the skin, and sees with the eyes. The mind of the conditioned soul is always attached to some sense object. What power can detach the mind from the objects of the senses? Though dry impersonal speculation could be helpful to some extent in this matter, still, due to the passive nature of impersonal Brahman, the worshiper is unable to get complete strength. Therefore the ogis and jnanis face so many difficulties. In devotional service there are no difficulties. The lives of Krsna’s devotees are not separated from Brahman. Material attachment and spiritual attachment in this path are nondifferent. When the mind wants to see the sense object through the eyes, good-let it see the indescribable beauty of the Deity. In this case material enjoyment and spiritual enjoyment are the same. You want to hear? Then hear the songs and talks which glorify Krsna. Do you like to eat palatable dishes? Then offer all types of tasty dishes to Lord Krsna and accept the prasada. To smell-there is the tulasi and sandalwood pulp which was offered to the Lord. Like this, all objects are spiritualized for the practitioner of Krsna consciousness. One who executes Krsna consciousness is always merged in spiritual existence. All of his activities enhance his spiritual attachment. For him, the activities of the senses are not impediments, rather they are the means of attaining love of God. I’ve briefly exlained the relation between spiritual attachment and other spiritual paths. You are a great Vaisnava. Now I’m finished speaking. Please forgive me if I made any mistake.”

    Everyone was enchanted by Pandita dasa Babaji’s explanation, and Naren and Anand Babu grow doubtful about Raja Rama Mohan Raya
    Everyone was amazed by listening to Pandita Babaji’s speech. Different persons had different feelings arise. Although Yogi Babaji was adept in the field of yoga, still, he was fully qualified in Vaisnava mellows. He was now free from doubt and relished the dust particles of Pandita Babaji’s feet. Pandita Babaji embraced him with love and affection. Mallik Mahasaya’s feelings could not be understood by anyone.

    Naren Babu and Anand Babu considered for some days the basic truths about Deity worship. Yogi Babaji gave them Sri Caitanya-gita to study. After studying and considering the various aspects, they more or less understood the purport, but still had no faith. They heard the grave, devotionally pregnant instructions of Pandita Babaji and they discussed together:

    “Alas! We are enchanted with foreign knowledge! We don’t know what priceless jewels our own country has!”

    Naren Babu said, “Anand Babu! What education made Raja Rama Mohan Raya neglect the science of Deity worship? Perhaps he was somewhat mistaken on this subject! Raja Rama Mohan Raya can make a mistake? I’m afraid to say this! This Rama Mohan Raya made us believe that our Vyasa and Narada were mistaken, so today how will we say that he is wrong?”

    Anand Babu said, “Why fear? For the sake of truth we can reject even Rama Mohan Raya.”

  2. Suresh das says :


    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    I understand how you feel. I can understand your feeling that ISKCON needs to be completely pure in its purpose. As far as I remember Srila Prabhupada never condoned any form of Hatha Yoga, or authorized at any time that it be taught on temple premises, or that it be practiced by his disciples. Srila Prabhupada did state however that very materialistic persons could practice Hatha Yoga.

    Before I joined ISKCON I had been practicing Hatha Yoga alone, for about 2 years. I met Jayananda Prabhu in Golden Gate Park in 1970, and he suggested that I try chanting the Hare Krishna mantra while I practiced my asanas. I tried chanting out loud, as he suggested, but found it too awkward and cumbersome, so I gave up the asanas, and moved into the temple, to focus on my chanting.

    I practiced yoga for my health, because my back always ached, I had neck pains, and migraine headaches, as well as suffered from Chronic Asthma. After living in the temple for about a year, and not practicing my yoga exercises, my back and neck were hurting so much, that I just couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I used to practice my asanas in the Brahmacari Ashram after everyone had gone to sleep, so that the devotees would leave me alone, and not hassle me. Sometimes I would practice in closets, so I wouldn’t be seen, and would be left alone. When I lived in one temple, I used to go out on the roof in the winter, and do my simple asanas, just so devotees would leave me be. Even though it was against ISKCON policy to practice yoga asanas, I needed to keep the pain away, which I found unbearable, so I had to do it.

    I moved away from ISKCON about 22 years ago, and stopped my yoga asanas around that time. In 1994, I started experiencing the extreme back pains, neck pains, and headaches, so I took up Hatha Yoga again. I find it brings me immense peace of mind, freedom from pain, and good health. I have even been able to beat Chronic Asthma, and am now completely drug free, as a result of the deep breathing. My breathing is so deep and so long now, that I can take one breath, while the rest of the class breaths three. I have experimented with many different styles, but finally settled on Ashtanga Yoga, which I practice 10 hours a week, for the last six years.

    What is special about my practice is something I discovered. I went back to what Jayananda Prabhu suggested to me, right before I joined Krishna Consciousness. I realized what I needed to do was chant silently instead of out loud. I developed a method of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, while I move through my asanas. As I said, I have tried many types of yoga, but I found the Ashtanga method works best for chanting the Holy Name. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to chant the Hare Krishna mantra every where we go, and in every place, all of the time. I have experimented with many types of exercise to keep up my health, and found Hatha Yoga is most compatible for chanting. My yoga is a perfect combination of breathing, Pranayama style, chanting the Hare Krishna Mantra silently on my breath, using my breath as a cadence, and movement though the postures.

    I inhale and exhale the Hare Krishna mantra. Whenever I get distracted or disturbed by external things, which undoubtedly must happen for someone imperfect like me, I gently bring my mind back to the chanting and begin focusing on one point again (the listening to the Hare Krishna mantra) – the true purpose of yoga, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita. The chanting is mechanical at this time, because I have no taste, being in the diseased condition of life. Several times though, I have entered a state of consciousness, while chanting by this method, of great bliss and joy. I don’t know what this state is called, but I find boundless joy in it, and at the same time I can’t sabotage myself there, no matter how hard I try. It is of course the same place one finds in Harinam kirtan, which is probably why Srila Prabhupada didn’t want us to take so much trouble in Hatha Yoga, to reach the same state so easily achieved in Harinam Kirtan. But I must spend some time each week doing my yoga to keep up my health, so for me I’m stuck.

    The highest purpose of Ashtanga Yoga, as conceived by Patanjali, the student of Srila Vyasadeva, is to meditate on and surrender to the Supreme Ishvara (the Supersoul, Lord Visnu). When a person reaches perfection (Samadhi), and can stay in that place, without falling down, then according to Bhagavad-gita, true Bhakti-yoga begins. Out of kindness to us, the people of Kali-yuga, the great sages like Srila Narada Muni, understanding that our lifespan is very short in this age, are allowing us to go skip right to the practice of Bhakti-yoga, without undergoing the various introductory processes of purification before the Bhakti-yoga stage begins. At the same time Bhakti-yoga is not divorced from the yoga system.

    I have been practicing this style of chanting for several years now. No one knows in the class that I am chanting, but at times a roaring kirtan is going on, and it is all in silence, with only breathing being heard by outsiders. It was something I always desired – to meditate silently, without falling asleep. I have now learned how to chant the Holy Name on my breath, as a moving meditation. I tried different mantras as well, such as “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”, the divine mantra Druva Maharaj, of the Srimad Bhagavatam, chanted while he practiced Ashtanga Yoga, to reach perfection. But I found for my purposes that the Hare Krishna mantra works the best.

    I have the freedom and ability to chant the Holy Name while lying in bed, while sitting on an airplane, or any public place without disturbing others around me, or when I am sick, and can’t speak out loud due to illness. I plan to continue to practice my chanting, because I may one day find myself passing from this body, and being unable to utter the words out loud, hopefully I will be able to continue chanting the Lord’s name in my mind.

    I have always wished to share what I have learned with the other ISKCON devotees, but unfortunately there is so much hatred and misunderstanding of Hatha Yoga and Pranayama breathing techniques by ISKCON leadership, with no openness to conceive of any ways that this very popular style of yoga could possibly be used to spread our movement, that I realized, and accepted, I just had to give up, and keep what I have learned to myself.

    Hare Krishna

  3. mayapur das says :

    Tamala Krsna: As you instruct us, Srila Prabhupada, we will carry out your orders exactly.
    Prabhupada: Two things. Visaya chariya. Material motive should be given up, and everything should be engaged for Krsna’s…, whatever favorable. Then it will… [break] … Rsi is doing nice. Who is that Maharaja?
    Tamala Krsna: Parivrajakacarya Swami.
    Prabhupada: Very nice. Good combination.
    Tamala Krsna: He’s been there now, Parivrajakacarya Swami, he’s been there now for, I think, two or three years now. He’s worked pretty faithfully there. He tricks them. In the guise of teaching a little hatha-yoga, then he teaches bhakti.
    Prabhupada: That is preaching.
    Brahmananda: You also tricked us, Srila Prabhupada, when you came to New York. You were just chanting Hare Krsna and speaking on Bhagavad-gita, and we came and we listened, and then you took everything. You took our lives, took all of our money… (devotees chuckle) We left our families.

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation — October 9, 1977, Vrndavana

    My Dear Atreya Rsi das:
    Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated November 18, 1974 with enclosed letter about the restaurant. Why you could not come to India? I had wanted you to come to discuss some matters. Bhagavan dasa also wanted you to come.
    Anyway I know the people of Tehran they like hatha yoga very much. I understand Parivrajakacarya Swami is teaching a course combining both hatha and bhakti yoga to attract the people. This is a very good idea. Somehow or other inject the bhakti yoga. That will save them from the degradations of sense gratification.
    Regarding the restaurant, what kind of restaurant it will be? The people of Iran are very rich and they can supply money for this purpose.
    I hope this meets you in good health.
    Your ever well wisher,
    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

    Dear Gopal Krishna Prabhu,
    Please accept my humble obeisances. I am in receipt of your letter dated 12-12-76.
    I have read your whole Letter to: His Divine Grace and the following is an account of His remarks.
    About the cox and Kings three day trip to Vrndavana, He said “nice work”. Regarding teaching other kinds of yoga. so that we may advertise an 8 or 9 day course for tourists, Prabhupada liked the idea. He said, “That will be very attractive. Other types of yoga are mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita. We can adopt that. Three or four men I can teach how to do it. Then you’ll be able to attract them. I can teach how to sit down, posture, asana, pranayama, without any difficulty. The yoga system as mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita we can take up , that will be bhakti-yoga, Use one. or two of the big rooms in the Gurukula building. I can teach the teachers how to practice.” You, Sarvabhavana, Dhananjaya and Mahavira were mentioned by Prabhupada as prospective teachers. About the Earthquake conference, Prabhupada said, “That’s nice, very good.

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => From: Jagadisha – SL_761222_A1

  4. dayananda says :

    Thank you, Maharaj. Spot-on. Your presentation was well balanced and liberal in that it suggested a way to dovetail exercise yoga: “the distinction between the hatha yoga he was teaching and the bhakti yoga that ISKCON was teaching was clear and unmistakable. That is how it should be —clear, honest and straightforward. “

  5. Tamoharadasa says :

    It was 1978, and Gour Govinda Swami and I were doing a small program in Jaggnatha Pura ( as opposed to Puri). I suffere migraines in this body, and to help, quite regularly did some basic hatah asanas, such as soorya namaskara. These I usually did in seclusion, to avoid hearing, “OOOM. It is all One”, from my Godbrothers. In this instance, a group of young village boys saw me doing my thing, and started to laugh and point at me. Maharajah heard and saw them, and he told them, “No no, you should not laugh. Doing these exercises is very healthy!” In this way, he saved me from the embarrassment of feeling I am deviating somehow, and at the same time showing the practical side of the accompanying yoga practices.

    All glory to Sri Guru and Gouranga!

  6. Shrutadev says :

    Dear Prabhus,

    A few years ago we had a preaching center in Albuquerque, New Mexico USA and as householders we were also teaching hatha yoga and selling incense, candles, health products etc. to pay the rent. We had a morning program, did some preaching at the campus and had Sunday feasts. Some of our yoga students came for prasadam and chanting on Sundays.

    And yes, Srila Prabhupada encouraged Paribrajakacarya Maharaja to use his hatha yoga classes as a means to attract people to bhakti yoga. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur also said to give them meat if necessary. I think we can all agree that that would be an extreme circumstance. P. Maharaja was preaching in a Muslim country and teaching hatha yoga to the ruling monarchy at the time. That certainly was a special circumstance. Unfortunately, do you know what happened to Paribrajakacharya? He left Krsna consciousness not long after that and became a very big hatha yoga guru who now, when interviewed, very sadly neglects to give even the slightest mention of Krsna consciousness or Srila Prabhupada.

    “Because they heard of our program in Bombay along with the Zavery sisters Manipuri Dancers, here in London they had arranged one program of lecturing by me along with a recital by one man playing on the vina just to attract attention to my speaking. I am not in approval of such arrangements, and it will be dangerous thing in future if we begin this type of program just to attract the masses. Already I see this happening practically all over the Society, so better we stop it now and get ourselves firmly on the track chalked out for us by Lord Caitanya. We are simply Sankirtana men, our program is chanting, dancing, distributing prasadam, and speaking high philosophy, that’s all.
    Hoping this meets you in good health.
    Your ever well-wisher,
    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”

    So I think it is better to simply be Srila Prabhupada’s “Sankirtana men.” Chanting, dancing, distributing prasadam, and speaking high philosophy, that’s all. That will keep us safe in Krsna consciousness and in the long run be the most effective “strategy” for attracting people to bhakti yoga.

    “Indeed, their effulgence is like the brilliance of a million suns. Nor have I ever heard the Lord’s names chanted so melodiously.
    Such are the symptoms of pure devotees when they are chanting. All the pure devotees are as bright as sunshine, and their bodily luster is very effulgent. In addition, their performance of sankirtana is unparalleled. There are many professional chanters who can perform congregational chanting with various musical instruments in an artistic and musical way, but their chanting cannot be as attractive as the congregational chanting of pure devotees. If a devotee sticks strictly to the principles governing Vaisnava behavior, his bodily luster will naturally be attractive, and his singing and chanting of the holy names of the Lord will be effective. People will appreciate such kirtana without hesitation. Even dramas about the pastimes of Lord Caitanya or Sri Krsna should be played by devotees. Such dramas will immediately interest an audience and be full of potency. The students of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness should note these two points and try to apply these principles in their spreading of the Lord’s glories.

    “I have never before seen such ecstatic love, nor heard the vibration of the holy name of the Lord chanted in such a way, nor seen such dancing during sankirtana.”

    “Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya replied, ‘This sweet transcendental sound is a special creation of the Lord known as prema-sankirtana, congregational chanting in love of Godhead.'”

    Prema Sankirtana ki jaya!! Hare Krishna.

    from a very fallen soul – your humble servant,
    Srutadeva das

  7. Japa Jim says :

    If we referred to hatha-yoga as “pysical therapy” for back pains, arthritis and infirmity, would that be more acceptable to you Maharaja?
    We know hatha-yoga is not viable for self-realization in this age, but physical pains and stress can be reduced with this hatha-yoga, which is actually no more than ghatastha-yoga or “pysiological yoga”.
    Having physical issues can be a distraction to bhajan. So, if physiological yoga helps reduce that, could it not be useful for a devotee?

    How about thsi reference in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu?
    “In the Padma Purāṇa there is a statement about remembering the activities of the Lord: “A person who is always engaged in meditation on the sweet pastimes and wonderful activities of the Lord surely becomes freed from all material contamination.”

    In some of the Purāṇas the evidence is given that if someone is simply meditating on devotional activities, he has achieved the desired result and has seen face to face the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this connection, there is a story in the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa that in the city of Pratiṣṭhānapura in South India there was once a brāhmaṇa who was not very well-to-do, but who was nevertheless satisfied in himself, thinking that it was because of his past misdeeds and by the desire of Kṛṣṇa that he did not get sufficient money and opulence. So he was not at all sorry for his poor material position, and he used to live very peacefully. He was very openhearted, and sometimes he went to hear some lectures delivered by great realized souls. At one such meeting, while he was very faithfully hearing about Vaiṣṇava activities, he was informed that these activities can be performed even by meditation. In other words, if a person is unable to actually perform Vaiṣṇava activities physically, he can meditate upon the Vaiṣṇava activities and thereby acquire all of the same results. Because the brāhmaṇa was not very well-to-do financially, he decided that he would simply meditate on grand, royal devotional activities, and he began this business thus:

    Sometimes he would take his bath in the River Godāvarī. After taking his bath he would sit in a secluded place on the bank of the river, and by practicing the yoga exercises of prāṇāyāma, the usual breathing exercises, he would concentrate his mind. These breathing exercises are meant to mechanically fix the mind upon a particular subject. That is the result of the breathing exercises and also of the different sitting postures of yoga. Formerly, even quite ordinary persons used to know how to fix the mind upon the remembrance of the Lord, and so the brāhmaṇa was doing this. When he had fixed the form of the Lord in his mind, he began to imagine in his meditations that he was dressing the Lord very nicely in costly clothing, with ornaments, helmets and other paraphernalia. Then he offered his respectful obeisances by bowing down before the Lord. After finishing the dressing, he began to imagine that he was cleaning the temple very nicely. After cleansing the temple, he imagined that he had many water jugs made of gold and silver, and he took all those jugs to the river and filled them with the holy water. Not only did he collect water from the Godāvarī, but he collected from the Ganges, Yamunā, Narmadā and Kāverī. Generally a Vaiṣṇava, while worshiping the Lord, collects water from all these rivers by mantra chanting. This brāhmaṇa, instead of chanting some mantra, imagined that he was physically securing water from all these rivers in golden and silver waterpots. Then he collected all kinds of paraphernalia for worship — flowers, fruits, incense and sandalwood pulp. He collected everything to place before the Deity. All these waters, flowers and scented articles were then very nicely offered to the Deities to Their satisfaction. Then he offered ārati, and with the regulative principles he finished all these activities in the correct worshiping method.

    He would daily execute similar performances as his routine work, and he continued to do so for many, many years. Then one day the brāhmaṇa imagined in his meditations that he had prepared some sweet rice with milk and sugar and offered the preparation to the Deity. However, he was not very satisfied with the offering because the sweet rice had been prepared recently and it was still very hot. (This preparation, sweet rice, should not be taken hot. The cooler the sweet rice, the better its taste.) So because the sweet rice had been prepared by the brāhmaṇa very recently, he wanted to touch it so that he could know whether it was fit for eating by the Lord. As soon as he touched the sweet rice pot with his finger, he immediately was burnt by the heat of the pot. In this way, his meditation broke. Now, when he looked at his finger, he saw that it was burnt, and he was wondering in astonishment how this could have happened. Because he was simply meditating on touching the hot sweet rice, he never thought that his finger would actually become burnt.

    While he was thinking like this, in Vaikuṇṭha Lord Nārāyaṇa, seated with the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, began to smile humorously. On seeing this smiling of the Lord, all the goddesses of fortune attending the Lord became very curious and asked Lord Nārāyaṇa why He was smiling. The Lord, however, did not reply to their inquisitiveness, but instead immediately sent for the brāhmaṇa. An airplane sent from Vaikuṇṭha immediately brought the brāhmaṇa into Lord Nārāyaṇa’s presence. When the brāhmaṇa was thus present before the Lord and the goddesses of fortune, the Lord explained the whole story. The brāhmaṇa was then fortunate enough to get an eternal place in Vaikuṇṭha in the association of the Lord and His Lakṣmīs. This shows how the Lord is all-pervading, in spite of His being locally situated in His abode. Although the Lord was present in Vaikuṇṭha, He was present also in the heart of the brāhmaṇa when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.”

    this devotee used pranayama and setting postures to meditate on the Lord and he attained perfection.

  8. Madhava Ghosh dasa says :

    While I don’t mean this compliment to be construed as an endorsement of Danavir Goswami’s views on Hatha Yoga, I would like to express my appreciation for its format. The premise is clearly and concisely stated immediately, and a summary of supporting points provided. IMHO, this is the most excellent way to post.

    In general, most devotees write way too long. The “huff and fluff” method of writing, as I refer to it, mistaking quantity for quality. To worsen matters, they simply start out on their supporting argumentation. While they may have a clear idea what it is they are trying to say, the reader does not. In most cases, if the piece is longer than 500 words, the reader bails out, unless they have an emotional interest in the concept discussed. Time is too short, and there is too much material to peruse to have to read a thousand words to figure out what the author is leading to.

    If, as a writer, you are unable to make your point in 500 words or less, then I strongly encourage you follow the example Danavir Goswami has displayed here: in 229 words he has clearly stated his position and points. As a reader, that gives me all the information I need to decide whether to proceed into the longer, more comprehensive exposition of those points.

    While the numbering in this case is very effective, it may not be necessary in every instance, but Danavir Goswami’s mode of presentation here is a model to emulate.

  9. Kula-pavana says :

    Dandabat pranams. There are many people who become attracted to Krsna Consciousness through such yoga schools. People who otherwise most likely would not have been reached with conventional preaching. What harm is there if some devotees make a living teaching yoga outside the temple? Is it worse than being a car mechanic? There are so many ways to reach people with KC. You judge by the results – that is a Srila Prabhupada quote as well. We need to appreciate all sincere preaching efforts, especially if they actually work.

  10. Babhru says :

    I agree with Madhava Ghosh about the clarity and conciseness of Maharaja’s article. In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Srila Krishna das Kaviraja Goswami cites a Bengali proverb describing real eloquence:”mitam ca saram ca vaco hi vagmita.” Real eloquence is making your essential point concisely. And, although I was prepared to gasp in incredulity as I read it, I found the gist of Danavira Maharaja’s article quite reasonable. ISKCON facilities should be used to directly facilitate the seven purposes for which Srila Prabhupada founded his mission. That’s not to say that programs such as Sitapati’s in New Zealand and others elsewhere aren’t useful for preaching, and certainly not to say that they should be discouraged. Srila Prabhupada personally told me, “Devotees and devotional service cannot be stereotyped. There is nothing that cannot be used in Krishna’s service. Simply we need guidance from the expert spiritual master how to engage everything in Krishna’s service. That is the only catch.”

    But temples and their facitlities should be used to teach the real yoga for our age: Sri Krishna Sankirtan.

  11. mahavidya das says :

    Thank you Maharaja for presenting this topical issue.
    I heard that HDG ACBSP said” one has to learn to go fishing without getting wet”


  12. hari.dasa.nv says :

    the problem with this presentation and the preceeding discussions is that some major points need to be taken into consideration.

    Now, while i definatly do not agree that Iyengar yoga seminars be taught at the Mayapura festival I do feel that if devotees need to do some exercises to keep fit so they can engage in service nicely then what is the harm?

    Prabhupada would always sign off his letters with “I hope that this meets you in good health”. Now , now we attain and maintain good health is an individual thing. Right now I can tell you for sure that my own health is pretty bad and although I am a Tai Chi instructor (I have got students chanting previously and switching to a veggie diet) and i watch carefully what I eat as well as take supplements, it is clear that I again need to take some regular exercise. If someone teaches me the external movements of hatha yoga then i do not see it as a deviation, rather it may help me feel better and as such my services may end up being more enthusiastically performed.

    The fact is that health is such a big issue these days with senior devotees dying earlier than they should and getting weaker due to austerities and bad diets etc… HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja hardly drunk water for years because of his prostate problem. WHen he visited me in Ireland in 2003 he said he only drinks about half a glass a day and was contemplating increasing his water intake. However, he was advised not to and then one fateful day he was diagnosed with melanoma cancer. It is common knowledge that one of the main causes of this type of cancer is dehydration.

    Many, many devotees have weak bodies and could strenthen them with proper exercise. There is nowhere in Prabhupadas books that states that exercise to keep fit for services is bad. Prabhupada himself would walk vigorously every day and have full massage-we all know this.

    One thing about Iyengar though, and the GBC would do well to consider this is that he is known to not just be a mayavadi but he also has a liking for his young female students, so i think the amount of siksa iskcon takes from him should be very limited indeed.

    Overall, I think Danavir Maharaja is just concerned that we dont take Iyengar and the like too seriously and I appreciate his concern.

    Cheers-heres to good healthy individuals and a more dynamic Iskcon

  13. Japa Jim says :

    Danavir Maharaja makes a good point. It really cannot be challenged. But, if grhastas prefer to practice some hatha-yoga at their home, then I think that is quite alright.
    When I was in ISKCON I did some hatha-yoga in private in a closet-like situation.
    I was never ridiculed or criticised for that. It helped me with controlling the flickering mind and focusing on my japa. Especially, I found the inversion postures to be good for concentration and focus.
    I agree that ISKCON temples should not officially offer or sponsor any yoga classes. That should be a private and personal practice of devotees if they feel a benefit from doing it.
    Senior devotess told me that Srila Prabhupada told his disciples that if they wanted to do hatha-yoga that they had to take time out from sleep to do it and that is should not cut into any time for doing service. That is what I have always believed. I still do.

    Even the yoga teachings tell us that yoga should be done in private and secretly.
    Its something akin to passing stool. It relieves one and reduces stress. Public yoga is a farce by the codes of the yoga shastra.

  14. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    If one practices some yoga asanas for health that’s something like using ayurvedic medicine, I think. Sometimes in ISKCON temples some devotees have half their closet filled with all kinds of ayurvedic and herbal medicine. Nobody seem to complain so much about that, and nobody seems to complain if a temple sells ayurvedic medicine in their temple shop. But of course the temple shouldn’t be converted into an ayurvedic clinic, just like it shouldn’t be converted into a hatha-yoga center. It needs to be done in a way so that no confusion arise as to what ISKCON’s purposes are. I therefore think that some yoga and ayurveda can be used by ISKCON devotees, also in the temple, if done in a way that doesn’t send the message that these things are important and good for everyone. Preferably it should be done privately and not in front of new comers. But TEACHING ayurveda and gymnastic yoga paths should be kept completely outside ISKCON.