Gary Kraftsow – “I didn’t come to yoga to be a teacher.”
From an early age, I wanted to understand what was going on in life – I always tried to figure things out.
Before I was six years old, I remember talking to my parents about life and death. Later, I was drawn to the study of religion, because I thought that was where I would find answers to the deepest questions.
I was always trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of life.
As a boy, my mom was into Chinese art. She had lots of books around the house, and I became intrigued with Chinese philosophy and martial arts. I encountered Lao Tzu, and then had the unique opportunity to study Tai Chi with Flora Chow Yen, whose uncle was a direct disciple of Grand Master Yang Lu-Ch’an, the founderof Yang style Tai Chi
I went to college and began the study of world religion. I began by studying Taoism and Buddhism. In 1973, I even did a one-month personal retreat, reading and meditating on the Tao Te Ching, with occasional dialogues with my professor.
Then, in 1974, I encountered Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Six months later, I was in Madras. I began the study of Yoga in Krishnamacharya’s house with his son T.K.V. Desikachar. I also began the study of the Tantric tradition known as Saivite Siddhanta with the famous mystic scholar V.A. Devasenapati at Madras University.
I didn’t go to India to become a Yoga teacher. I was a student of life, interested to study world religions to find answers to life’s deepest questions.
In Yoga, I found a practical path to realize and actualize the promise of world religions. I continued to study world religions in a graduate program after many years of living in India. In graduate school, one of my main teachers, Raimundo Panikkar, was a Catholic Priest, Vedic scholar, scientist, and thought leader in inter-faith dialogue.
I am both grateful and honored that life, from an early age, has brought me into close contact with extraordinary teachers who have helped me understand the teachings of the ancients, and have given me insight into the meaning and purpose of life.
I have learned that life is impermanent, and that the moment of death is uncertain. Time is short, and each moment is precious. We should think carefully about how to spend the time we have, and what we want to achieve in this life before it is over.
What I see is that our desires, emotional reactivity, thought and behavioral patterns get in the way. Unless we work hard to become free of these patterns, we won’t be able to actualize the things that are most important to us. We are too easily distracted and preoccupied doing other things.
If we focus on what we really want, we can attain it.
It’s important to reflect deeply upon our values and priorities and what we want to achieve before it’s over. The end is coming soon. Wake up and pay attention. Find happiness and fulfillment as quickly as you can!
1st part of The Yoga Blog interview series at Yoga Journal Live 2015 in San Diego, CA
Interviewed by Hung Tran
Join Gary June 24th-27th, 2016 at Yoga Journal Live San Diego in Coronado, CA
Photo credit: Gary Kraftsow
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