Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana Yoga Pose

The colonial modernist guru maintained as an essential point that he was the heir to a guru tradition of transmission. However, listening closely to his rhetoric we also realise that he was highly fluent in Western modernist thought. Like Sivananda, Yogananda, Sri Yogendra and others he was often educated at Western style universities. Freud, Marx, Darwin and Einstein were always an intrinsic part of his knowledge and vocabulary. So we wonder how much remained of his ancient Indian habitus under such strong Western socialisation? Still the guru ignored this question and maintained that he and his mindset directly represented the past and denied that his was a hybrid identity.

However the early 20 Century guru was also once a student himself. As a student, when he met his guru, he was, as we have seen, already deeply influenced by Western science and culture (many were trained in universities) and hybrid colonial habitus. It was with that background of late colonial ears and eyes that the soon-to-be-popular-yoga-guru started to listen to his guru or started to study yoga scriptures. Even these old scriptures had been processed, translated, signified, categorised, adjusted and compiled by Orientalists and hence were not as authentic as one would wish them to be. Anything the student could absorb from the cultural past would have to be filtered through his modernist colonial sensibilities – his modernist hybrid habitus.1 Any modern observer would wonder how could such a transmission of knowledge be neutral? Of necessity, cultural memory is not cloned but filtered. This also applies to the soon-to-be-popular-yoga-guru’s guru (the granddad guru): in the late 19 Century he was also a student and a soon-to-be-guru, who digested and signified the cultural memory he was taught through the sensibilities of his cultural background and horizonhis late 19 Century habitus. Not even gurus – despite their claims of uniqueness – can transcend language and habitus.

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