Kausthub Desikachar, Myths of Padukas (Sandals) and Vaishnavism

Browsing through the posts on this blog should leave the reader with little doubt over the lack of ethics and abusive behavior shown by Kausthub Desikachar over many years now.

One of the most damaging myths that Kausthub Desikachar has cultivated surrounds the padukas or sandals of Krishnamacharya.

Padukas are the traditional sandals worn in India by saints.

The myth of Krishnamacharya’s yoga sandals

Kausthub Desikachar’s family maintains a shrine to Krishnamacharya where he claims that the sandals of Krishnamacharya’s yoga guru, Ramamohana Brahmachari are placed.

Kausthub Desikachar has built mythology around Krishnamacharya’s yoga lineage through his sandals, claiming that power is transmitted through them, and of course, his familiar claim now—that only he, somehow, is the “lineage holder” of the yoga teachings.

The SKY Logo prominently uses a depiction of the padukas (sandals).

(These were the same sandals that featured prominently in the logo of the organization called Sannidhi of Krishnamacharya Yoga that took over KHYF temporarily in 2013 to cover up Kausthub’s sex abuse scandal.)

Kausthub’s stories can be challenged in many ways, but let us take up one key element here.

The sandals of Krishanamacharya do not belong to his yoga guru: they actually belong to his religious Vaishnavite guru. There is no “yoga lineage” here. There is only a Hindu religious Vaishnavite lineage, that Krishnamacharya kept separate from this yoga teachings.

Paduka is common in Hinduism

Paduka plays an important role in Hinduism in general and in Vaishnavism in particular.

The importance of Paduka is highlighted in Hinduism in a famous story from the epic Ramayana. Rama, the incarnation of the deity Vishnu, and a prince, was banished to the forest for 14 years. His younger brother, Bharata, was expected to rule in his place. As a mark of his devotion, Bharata took Rama’s sandals or paduka and placed them on the throne until Rama returned to reclaim the kingdom.

Paduka is particularly relevant in Vaishnavism

The Ramayana is the story of an incarnation of Vishnu. Therefore, it is not surprising that in Vaishnavism, paduka plays a particularly important role. From Wikipedia:

“Paduka Sahasram, literal meaning “1000 verses on the padukas of the Lord”, is devotional poetry extolling the virtues of worshipping the Paduka (feet) of god Vishnu…

…It is considered a sacred script of the Sri Sampradaya or Sri Vaishnavism. The Sahasram was composed in 1008 verses in 32 chapters by Swami Vedantha Desika, a follower of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy propounded by saint Ramanujacharya.”

Sri Vaishnavism is the particular devotional / religious pathway to which Krishnamacharya belonged all his life. The Parakala Math of Krishnamacharya’s religious lineage was established by Vedanta Desika, the saint who composed the above text titled Paduka Sahasram or “1000 verses on the Padukas of the Lord.”

For Krishnamacharya to have his Vaishnavite guru’s paduka is traditional and expected.

Paduka finds practically no mention in yoga

Google “paduka yoga” or “padukas yoga” and you will find that all the top links are to a small school of yoga with the word “paduka” in its name (and the reference appears to be religious), or to online shopping sites to buy the traditional footwear.

We find no references to traditional sources relating paduka/padukas and yoga.

In contrast, searching for “paduka,” or “paduka” combined with “Vaishnavism” or “Hinduism” gives us numerous links to traditional sources.

Manipulation of Vaishnavism and yoga

Krishnamacharya keeping his yoga guru’s paduka instead of his Vaishnavite guru seems to have no basis in yoga or in Vaishnavism. In fact, from what we understand, it would mean that Krishnamacharya was not true to his Vaishnavism as the guru lineage seems very important in Vaishnavism.

Kausthub Desikachar appears to have manipulated the tradition of Vaishnavism to which Krishnamacharya belonged in order to claim to have a yoga lineage for himself.

This does great disservice to both Vaishnavism and yoga. What “lineage” does Kausthub Desikachar represent, with such creations of his own?

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