Thoughts on Geeta Iyengar
"One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every endeavor is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker for whom the reactions of work have been burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge. Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to God; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled." The Bhagavad Gita, verses 4:19, 4:20, 5:12
I doubt that our beloved Geetaji would describe herself as having perfect knowledge - she is too humble for that. Yet, anyone who has seen her in action would agree that she is a steadily devoted soul. She is devoted to her father, the Guru. She is devoted to all of us, her students. And especially, she is devoted to God.
One can glimpse Geetaji in the mornings at the Institute in Pune, performing her prayers, her pujas. She has worked tirelessly, her entire life, to support her father in his endeavors, teach classes, transcribe his works, run his household. She has taught classes at the Institute month after month, year after year. Always, she gives credit to her father, yet her own teaching is completely brilliant, truly inspired. Along with the more experienced students who come back to India repeatedly, there are always newcomers, overwhelmed by the experience of India, and often fighting illness that can come with travel. In a regular class, there are people at the back of the room working on therapeutic problems, or with short term digestive problems, or women on their cycle. At times, it is like a three ring circus, yet Geetaji, the ringmaster, is always on top. Working with her small army of assistants, she seems to teach multitudes of classes at once, and she sees everything! All the students leave class knowing that she was working on their specific physical problem, yet they all have different ones!
Those of us with whom she has worked therapeutically are especially blessed; when you have that much kindness and compassion directed at you, it opens your own heart. When someone is willing to be that fierce, that unrelenting, in her insistence on your improvement, it guides you toward more of those same qualities in your own life. You can never give up, because she will never give up. She is Durga, the mother goddess, using all the tools at her disposal to help us, her children.
I was in a pose once. Geetaji was watching and I was avoiding stretching because it hurt. She approached me with kindness and humor, "You think you are saving yourself, but you are not, you are dying there." Thank you, Geeta, for helping me to live more fully: in my hip socket, in my body, in my heart, and in this short and precious life.
Originally published in Yoga Samachar, Vol. 8, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2004, the IYNAUS biannual newsletter.