Excerpts from “Guruji”
Guruji : The portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of R. Sharath Jois
How does asana practice create transformation? It seems like a big jump from doing asanas to knowledge of Brahman. What happens in between?
There are two types of practitioners. First, you can see yoga as a sport just to be healthy, but there is a limitation in that. When you see yoga in a big way, in a different way, if you see it as a spiritual practice, there is a lot of transformation that will happen to you.
When you start learning asanas you say, “okay, I’m learning asanas now so I need to know more about this. I need to know about the philosophy or I need to know what is real yoga.” Yoga is beyond asana and asana is one limb of yoga.
Yoga is chitta vritti nirodhah, that means to control your sense organs and realize what the divine is, that is Brahma jnana. So you have that thirst in you: “What is that?” we are not all yogis, we are trying to become yogis.
There are many people who practice yoga in India and also think of it as a sport. They do competitions. They think it is just to perform better than the other guy. That is not yoga. Yoga has a different meaning. It is a way of worshipping God. Nobody can compete worshipping God.
In a practical sense, what is making the change happen? Can you give an example? You have been practicing twenty, twenty-five, thirty years – I don’t know how long you’ve been practicing.
I think your whole personality will change and become softer.
Is it a mechanical thing in the sense of a physical process, or is it how you are using your mind in relation to your practice?
It is the practice. For example, if you take a small piece of gold from the earth, it is impure. You take that gold and then you heat it up and when you heat it up all the impurities, all the bad particles in the gold will go and you get the pure gold. Yoga is like that. When you start, you have lots of  impurities in you, and slowly by practicing, practicing, practicing asanas, all this time reading philosophy-but mostly it’s the practical experience that you have to go through- then slowly, it’s like the gold. Our body becomes more purified and so you get more and more understanding.
It still seems to me that the way practice transforms you is really a mystery.
As I told you, if you follow the yamas and niyamas in your daily life you won’t get  lost. Some people practice for so many years but they don’t understand what is yoga because they don’t understand what is yama and niyama. If you don’t understand those things, I think you won’t be able to understand what is yoga. So that is why they put these first.
Ahimsa, that is nonviolence. Even thinking badly toward someone is also himsa (violence). Not only should you not do it physically but also when thinking. When the mind doesn’t think bad things, then you won’t act, you won’t do it physically.
Yoga practitioners should practice yama and niyama, practice ahimsa in themselves. They should be an example to other people like Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “Ahimsa is my first dharma (duty).” He said, “I’m going to follow ahimsa, I’ll be nonviolent.” Many people were inspired by Gandhiji, he had lots of followers.
So each person should be like Ganhdiji. It’s very difficult to be like him; not everyone can be like him.  But you have to try, that is the real yogi. No matter if you read all the texts, if you are a bid scholar, if you had read all these things, but if you don’t follow this in your daily life what is the use of reading so many books and getting so many degrees, becoming a scholar? It’s useless. Yoga practitioners should at least try to follow this.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for most people in practice?
There are lots of obstacles. Westerners have lots of choice in their life, and if they don’t want they can leave this and do something else. They are not committed to one thing.
I am not talking about practice, I mean, practice is one thing. It should help you commit to one thing. It can be anything – your family or your job or your dharma–what you have to do. You have lots of choices.
Your duty?
Your duty toward society, or even teaching yoga is like social work. You are giving this knowledge to many people and many people are getting benefit from this. And then, the yogi or teacher, his dharma or his duty is to teach his students properly what he has learned from his teacher. Everybody has his own field: one is a yogi, one is an engineer-in that  he has to commit himself. Whatever his work is, he has to commit to that. His intention, his work, should be to serve people.
From the point of view of the physical asana practice, most students coming here are interested in that. Do you see one obstacle especially? Could it be lifestyle or work or diet or lack of brahmacharya? Is there one thing you think is strongest in terms of its negative impact on the Westerners?
I think the main thing is brahmacharya: committing to one person. That is very important I think that is reduced in the Western student. That is very important in life. When the mind gets distracted, then it also becomes weak. You should be committed to one thing. It can be your family, to your wife, and to your children and that’s all. You shouldn’t get distracted by other things.
What you’re saying is mental distractions are the most problematic.
Yeah, mentally you have to be strong. The strong mind is committed one thing. The yoga should help the individual to go in a straight direction, which goal you should be reaching.