By Swami Shivapremananda
Facts and fiction are a part of life. Within it, as this manuscript illustrates, a basic spiritual philosophy is interwoven to emphasize the real goal of yoga. The orientation being Indian, the mythical figure transforms himself in these pages as Swami Ramesh Guptananda. It is the responsibility of the reader to sift the reality from fiction, and imbibe the true spirit of the book.
Profound philosophical teachings are expressed through stories, which is a good way to relate to the reader. Even though this work is written with the younger generation in view, it has a general appeal overall. The text is based on Patanjali’s Yogasutras, also comprehensively called Ashtanga Yoga. Technical terms as Gunas, Chakras and ‘energy sheaths’ are explained.
Tessa Hillman’s personal life-stories are interestingly illustrative. The foundation of all the branches of yoga is Yama and Niyama, or the ten ethical and regulatory disciplines. They should play a vital role among all those who practise and teach yoga.
The truth of a theory is in its viability through application, and the purpose of an ideal is to make an idea real. Without pragmatism an ideal remains sterile.
The four main branches of yoga are Gyana, Bhakti, Raja and Karma. They are essentially synthetic in their practice, although one can be more predominant as per the individual’s predisposition.
Dhyana Yoga is an adjunct to Raja Yoga, as also Hatha Yoga. However
Patanjali does not mention asana and pranayama as a system of physical culture, but as fixed sitting postures and regulated breathing, preparatory to meditation. By itself Hatha Yoga does not help in spiritual progress. In spite of their popularity worldwide, the practice of asana and pranayama alone does not make one a yogi. It is ridiculous that in the West some yoga students and teachers just do that, revealing their limited knowledge of yoga.
Being a yogi means a lot. It is a life-long process of integration of the body, mind and soul, as the term yoga implies.
I have known Tessa for quite a few years; reading this draft which she sent me for writing the Foreword, I find that she has done a good job.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
21 June 2002
Swami Shivapremananda was a real live Guru. He helped, encouraged, lectured to and taught hundreds of yoga students both in Britain and abroad. Indian born to a family of the Brahmin Caste, he was educated at a Jesuit school as a boy. At Calcutta University he graduated with a degree in politics and history. He entered the Ashram of the Divine Life Society at Rishikesh, where he studied and taught for 16 years. He had no time for self styled Swamis, and told me a Swami is a spiritual teacher who has studied under a guru at an ashram for at least twelve years.
Shivapremananda emigrated initially to the US and ran many yoga classes in various places. He established three Ashrams in South America and spent his last 30 years living and teaching in those places, in Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay. He placed much emphasis in his work on Karma Yoga – service to the poor, and of course to his students. He was the foremost Swami or teacher of the British wheel of Yoga for many years.
(The BWY is the largest regulatory body in the UK which governs the training of Yoga teachers and promotes the purposes and values of Yoga)
I was privileged to have Swami staying at my house for a week on two separate occasions while he was on his regular annual teaching tours in the UK. I asked him if he would mind reviewing my book. I was unsure if he would consider it to be of any merit, however he graciously agreed. He did not share my beliefs about spirit guides, it seems, not having had any personal experience of such entities, however he did like the book! A writer of many books on yoga himself, he was a modest, quiet, rigorous man, highly self disciplined, and a great inspiration to so many of us students and teachers of Yoga. I am most grateful to him for taking the trouble to read my book and write a foreword for me.