Power Grab & Myths: Kausthub Desikachar Has Family Right to Own Krishnamacharya’s Yoga?

In his book Gurus of Modern Yoga (2013), Mark Singleton points out:

“The “Krishnamacharya lineage,” which is foregrounded in much of the KYM’s teaching today, however, refers primarily not to Krishnamacharya’s relationship to his yoga guru, Rammohan Brahmacari, but to his purported descent from the patriarchs of the Sri Vaishava sampradaya, Nammalvar and Nathamuni.”

Kausthub Desikachar was with the KYM when his book The Yoga of the Yogi (2004) was published; the book strongly promotes the claim of the lineage of Krishnamacharya’s yoga descending through Desikachar as his son, and by extension, to his grandson.

So what is this yoga lineage of Krishnamacharya that Kausthub Desikachar pushes in his book, to which he is the “successor” and “lineage holder?”

Mark Singleton continues:

“In this presentation, Krishnamacharya’s yoga (and hence Kausthub Desikachar’s also) is invested with the authority of the Sri Vaishnava patriarchs through blood and through mystical transmission.”

The implication seems to be that, just as there is a Sri Vaishnava religious tradition, Krishnamacharya’s yoga is also a religious tradition.

But Krishnamacharya’s yoga is also apparently transmitted through blood and inheritance, to his family, and thereby to Kausthub Desikachar.

(A simple search will show that this actually misrepresents Sri Vaishnavism too. As with most Hindu religious orders, lineage in Sri Vaishnavism is through gurus who are monks and their disciples; it is not through family or inheritance. More on that in another post.)

If it is family inheritance that matters, why were so many great saints and yoga teachers monks? Even in this day, many prominent yoga teachers and spiritual masters in India are monks who are respected for their sacrifice and practice.

Kausthub Desikachar appears to have been pushing hard since the early 2000s, for his “yoga lineage by family” especially starting with his book, The Yoga of The Yogi (2004), despite occasionally paying lip service to the value of merit.

The dangers to the yoga community from his ambition should be obvious from the events surrounding him, and from the predictable result of this approach.

Shall we discard the multiple generations of teachers who worked to develop Krishnamacharya and Desikachar’s teachings for decades, and turn over all the students only to Kausthub Desikachar? That is what Kausthub appears to think he is entitled to as his birthright: he is the “lineage holder” of yoga teachings simply by being of a particular family, and not through any effort or growth in his practice or teachings.

It is unfortunate that we do not know if Patanjali had children and grandchildren. Surely, his descendants, if we can find them now, must be the greatest yogis.

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