As I write this it has been almost three months since B.K.S. Iyengar died. He passed away on August 20, 2014. Since his death there have been many great articles written in tribute to his life’s work. Teachers from all over writing testimonials about how his work has changed their lives and in turn the lives of their students. His approach to yoga has touched so many and has indeed altered the course of my life. He is quoted as saying “It is my profound hope that my end can be your beginning.” I do believe that something in me changed on August 20th that has shone the light down a path I didn’t know was there.
I was incredibly sad that the man who had inspired me to practice was dead but I was also so touched by the bravery he displayed in the face of his own death. The accounts of his days leading up to August 20th describe someone who not only knew he was going to die but also accepted his death with a sweet and calm heart; saying that he was pleased with what he had done with his life. [Please note that these are my interpretations of stories I read in news articles and messages I received second or third hand from those close to him and his family].
Of the five afflictions (called kleshas in sanskrit), the fear of death (abhinivesah) was always the one that was easiest for me to remember. The instant I first learned about this klesha I thought, that is me – I am definitely afraid to die. This fear has gripped me in the throat at stronger or lesser degrees over the years. In my early 20’s I was plagued by this fear and it nearly lead to my demise. Of course, during that time I didn’t know it was the fear of death that was causing so many problems, but looking back I know that to be the case.
Iyengar’s quote that he hopes his end can be our beginning is printed in Light on Yoga, which was first published many years ago and therefore leads me to believe that he has been contemplating his death for numerous years. He practiced yoga with a dedicated heart virtually his entire life and it was his yoga practice that delivered him to the place of peace. A place of peace that was unshaken even by his own death.
Hearing these accounts of peace right before he died changed me in an instant. On August 20th I spent a lot of time crying because BKS Iyengar had died but also because my fear of death been vastly vastly reduced. Yoga has brought me so much acceptance and peace. Using Guruji as my example I saw that I could indeed practice yoga for the rest of my life, and be hopeful that this peace would stay with me, right up to my own death.