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Sparks of Divinity: words that could change your life

Have you ever read words that changed your life?

Here are some that recently changed mine:

“If doubt arises in your discipline, let it come. You do your work, and let doubt go about its work. Let’s see which one gives up first.”

I still hear the same negative chatter that accompanies any move toward work that’s important to me. But now, instead of arguing, pushing it away, or letting it stop me, I recognize it as the voice of doubt, no matter what the content of the chatter.

I can greet it with friendliness, like you might greet a neurotic neighbor who drops in just when you need to be getting things done.
“Yes,” I say to the voice of doubt, “You go ahead and do your work. I’m busy with mine.”

I found these life-changing words in Sparks of Divinity: The Teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar from 1959 to 1975a collection of quotes from B.K.S. Iyengar all dating from 1959 to 1975, and reprinted in a new edition by Rodmell Press in 2012. (The title is drawn from one of the quotations: “It is through and with your body that you have to reach realization of being a spark of divinity.”)

Noëlle Perez-Christiaens,
one of B.K.S. Iyengar’s first European students,
collected the quotations from classes she took with Iyengar, from letters he wrote to her, and from quotations other Iyengar students had saved.

She published the collection in 1976, in a French and English bilingual edition, with the help of two of her students, Georgia and Philippe Leconte.

sparks of divinity 2Rodmell Press publisher Donald Moyer says that he had approached Noëlle as early as 1993 to do a new English edition. Permission finally came almost 20 years later. The new edition includes Noëlle’s diary from her first visit to India in 1959, and selected excerpts from Iyengar: Un Hindou Mystique Ivre de Dieu (Iyengar: a Hindu Mystic Drunk on God) the biography of Iyengar that she published in 1976.

There are also photos of a young Iyengar and his family, and a dozen stunning photos of Noëlle and Iyengar in asana practice. If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious woman in the striped bikini in plate 162 in Light On Yogawonder no more. That’s Noëlle.

Light on Yoga is full of pictures of this vintage, but there, he’s posing, presenting a technically perfect image of the asana. In these pictures he’s fully involved, helping his student, or performing the pose with her.

Best of all, thanks to Donald’s careful editing, the quotations are now crisp and lively, no longer littered with typos and mistranslated words. The result is what Donald calls “vintage Iyengar, at his most creative and his most open.”

“With Sparks, you are nearer to the source,” he says. “These insights would be dropped in the middle of a class or come out of a specific situation. He is great at these piercing epigrams.”

Anyone who studies Iyengar yoga knows that the work is always changing and growing – not in its principles, but in their application.

“Just as a painter progresses, a teacher has to progress too,” Donald says. “A teacher is compelled into new exploration to keep freshness in his work, but that doesn’t negate his older teachings. I think there’s value in going back. Picasso’s blue period, even though it came early, is just as masterful as his later work.”

The quotations also show the relationship that Iyengar had with Noëlle, how he treated her as a colleague and a friend.

In Sparks of Divinity, he’s vulnerable; sometimes he’s a teacher with no students showing up. It’s from the time when he was just Mr. Iyengar, and not Guruji,” Donald says.

“That’s what he was when I first met him, and that’s the Iyengar that is still most real to me.”

Donald’s favorite Iyengar quote from the book?
“Your bodies are in the past; your minds in the future. When you do yoga they come together in the present.”

Do you have words you live by? Is there a quotation, from yoga or anywhere else, that changed your life for the better? Tell us what it was, in the comments on this page or on Facebook, and you’ll be entered in a draw for a copy of Sparks of Divinity, courtesy of Rodmell Press.

If this was your kind of post you might also like:

Happy Birthday to the Man Who Changed My Life
How to Turn on Your Willpower and Stick to Your Yoga Practice
Where Do You Find Your Inner Teacher?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Susie November 25, 2013, 5:07 am

    I get so much inspiration from you Eve….
    Your voice is wonderful in my ” yoga ” sessions with your App

    I want to read the book Sparks of Divinity too.

    A saying that inspires me as I go about my ordinary day
    Do small things with great love

  • grant November 23, 2013, 6:51 pm

    Here’s one I came across from a non yoga source that resonated for me while in Iyengar teacher training- from a brilliant local stand up comic. Call it cross- disciplinary humour!
    “Be loud enough, try to have your face out when you’re speaking, and everything will work out”
    Gina Bastone

  • min November 23, 2013, 6:30 am

    Thank you for the wonderful postings. I am really happy I found this site, the way you write about the practise is like a breath of fresh air! Here’s one from a yoga teacher I found useful when I was striving to get somewhere, wanting to find quick answers, sometimes fumbling and flustered – “Just practise, for the sake of practising.”

  • Ann November 22, 2013, 4:24 pm

    My favorite, that I quote to students often. “The body becomes a universe for the mind to travel within” From Basic Guidelines, p.38.

  • Debbie November 22, 2013, 1:20 pm

    One of my favorites is from yogi tea–“trust creates peace”.

  • Tru November 22, 2013, 1:05 pm

    I almost stopped reading after that first quote. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I’ve been reading and re-reading a lot of Pema Chodron’s work as I work through depression and extended joblessness. The quote on doubt dovetails perfectly with what I’ve been making the effort to put into practice.

    One of the quotes I’ve carried with me is from one of my favorite authors (I got most of my philosophy from science fiction). It’s a bit pithy, and it really helped sort out my thoughts on things like guilt.

    “Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other sins are invented nonsense. (Hurting yourself is not sinful–just stupid.)” [Robert Heinlein]

    • Eve November 22, 2013, 1:10 pm

      Thanks Tru!
      Your Robert Heinlein quote gave me goosebumps.