Kausthub Desikachar has written of the kapalikas, who were known for tantric sex practices, among other extreme practices, earlier on his blog, just months after the allegations of sexual abuse against him.
In 2016, he places nearly identical text in the introduction to his translation of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:
“Kaula or Kula described a particular form of Hindu Tantrism, more associated with the Kapalika sect of ascetics. Spiritual purity, sacrifice, freedom, the spiritual master (Guru) and the heart are core concepts of the Kaula tradition… …The main means are spiritual family, initiation into rituals, sexual rituals such as Maithuna, spiritual alchemy, controlling energy through Mantra-s and other mystical methods, and the realization of individual and universal consciousness.”
“It is highly possible that Svatmarama [the author of the text] and others in this lineage belonged to the Kaula tradition, and perhaps even to the Kapalika sect.”
In the introduction, he continues in more detail about the Kapalikas — describing them in an admiring tone, as rebels whose practices defied orthodoxy.
There is a difference between practices that are disempowering and dangerous, and those that are innovative.
He continues, linking the practices in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika with Vaishnavism.
“This is perhaps another key reason why Hathayogapradipika gained immense popularity among practitioners, especially those belonging to the Vaishnava traditions.”
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika had “immense popularity” among practitioners belonging to the Vaishnava traditions?
Generally, mainstream Hindu traditions were all against the kapalikas and tantric sex practices, as Kausthub Desikachar himself points out earlier — hence the kapalikas were rebels.
By all accounts of yoga masters in the twentieth century, Krishnamacharya, though being a staunch Vaishnavite himself, did not receive any significant support for even ordinary hatha yoga from his traditional peers, leave alone the more strange and dangerous practices in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika like those of the kapalikas.
So, when did the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which any casual reader can see is esoteric and strange in many ways, gain “immense popularity” among those belonging to Vaishnava traditions?
Then Kausthub Desikachar claims Krishnamacharya whole-heartedly supported the teachings of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and taught it to students:
“This an important reason why an Acarya like T Krishnamacharya whole-heartedly supported the teachings of this text and taught it to his key students.”
But in fact, Krishnamacharya was completely against the esoteric and left-handed tantric practices featured in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
How do we know this? TKV Desikachar himself has said so unequivocally earlier (e.g. see interview in KYM’s magazine Darsanam Nov. 1993) and Krishnamacharya’s other students have mentioned it too.
What is Kausthub Desikachar’s motivation in using Vaishnavism and Krishnamacharya’s name to build approval for the mystic practices and sexual rituals from texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika?
Given the history of allegations against him, what are we to think? Even viewed charitably, misinformation on these topics can be dangerous. Viewed more critically, this could be reflective of something very unsafe for students.
Kausthub’s translation of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika unfortunately has introductions from well-known yoga gurus and a professor of Sanskrit and Vaishnava scholar. As busy people, they may have been moved by his use of the name of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, and may not have actually read through his translation or introduction, for it is hard to believe that they can be supporting such skewed and risky messages.