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A peek inside editing at The Economist

Pattabhi Jois

Pattabhi Jois

One ongoing thread on The Hannibal Blog concerns the art of writing per se, and thus automatically also the art of editing. In this post and perhaps a few more, I will give you an inside view of what the actual process of editing and re-writing can look like at The Economist.

To me, observing such changes to a narrative and to words, seeing the huge differences that can spring from the subtlest tweaks, is more riveting than the most suspenseful whodunnit. Those of you who like to write may feel the same way. But the rest of you, be forewarned: This post is long, and if you’re not totally sure you’re interested and would rather watch cat videos, you’re excused.

To business:

One of my pieces in the new issue of The Economist is an Obituary of Pattabhi Jois, a yoga guru. A few observations before we look at what actually happened to the “copy” (as journalists call text):

  1. For years, I practiced the style of yoga that Jois taught, and was immersed in the quasi-cultish subculture that is Ashtanga yoga. This is why his death meant something to me. At the same time, I knew that this put me in danger! The only thing more dangerous to a writer than not knowing what the heck he’s talking about is knowing too much and being too close to the topic.
  2. This was my first Obituary. I’ve written tons of other types of personality profiles, and love doing them (indeed my forthcoming book is essentially a story built upon character studies). But the Obituary page is the domain of Ann Wroe, one of our best writers and editors, and it is her job to preserve a style, tone, cadence on this page that is just so. It’s as though a chef were being invited into the intimate kitchen and home of a tight-knit family of foodies and told to cook “you know, something we will love.” Is it more important to cook your best dish, or to know the family?

What happened is that I sent one version, heard back from Ann with suggestions, and then sent a very different (!) second version. Ann then did something that is rare at The Economist (usually an editor will change only one or two words in my copy): She wove my two versions into a new third version. Something very interesting happened in that process:

Version 1 (my raw copy)

Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher, died on May 18, aged 93

YOGA has entered the mainstream of Western society, at least the urbane bits of it, and one sure sign is that its practitioners have splintered into separate and sometimes competitive tribes. In spas, resorts and studios from Byron Bay, Australia, to Big Sur, California, and wherever else one might also expect Priuses on the roads and organic kale on the tables, the question is less likely to be “Do you do yoga?” than simply “Ashtanga or Iyengar?”

If the answer is Ashtanga, that has everything to do with Pattabhi Jois. The word, meaning “eight limbs”, causes some confusion. Properly used, it describes the stages which all yogis need to traverse to reach enlightenment, only one of which, asana or “postures”, involves the physical stretches and balancing poses that Westerners associate with yoga. These days, however, Ashtanga means simply the style of postures taught by Pattabhi Jois.

For it was his luck, as a twelve-year-old Brahmin boy in the 1920s, to see those postures demonstrated most beautifully by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a charismatic yogi who performed them in a flowing series that was stunning in its grace, ease and power. Jois, able-bodied and strong, became Krishnamacharya’s student the very next day.

They called this vigorous style of yoga “vinyasa” because each movement was synchronised with one inhalation or exhalation. Each practice session began, usually at day break, with sun salutations toward the east until Jois was sweaty and hot. Then followed a never-changing sequence of standing postures to loosen up the joints.

Fully warmed up, Jois then began one of several series—progressively more challenging on each day of the week–of “seated” postures. In fact, there was precious little seating, for Jois strung each posture to the next by seeming to float, supported by his arms alone, into another sun salutation, then wafting effortlessly through his arms again and into the next posture. Each practice ended with backbends, shoulder and headstands, deep breathing in the Lotus position and meditative rest.

Jois soon went off to make a living by teaching this style of yoga to other Brahmins in relative obscurity. Meanwhile, Krishnamacharya had other students. One was B.K.S. Iyengar, Krishnamacharya’s brother-in-law.

Iyengar’s situation was the opposite of Jois’s, which may explain the intense and well-known, if rarely acknowledged, dislike between the two men. Whereas Jois was strong and vigorous, Iyengar was sickly and frail, recovering from malaria, tuberculosis and seemingly every other malady that India offered. Over time, Iyengar turned Krishnamacharya’s lessons into a very different style. His yoga was to be medicinal and bespoke for each student, depending on ability. Instead of sweaty acrobatics, the emphasis was on precise, almost mathematical, alignment.

Neither Jois nor Iyengar, however, was the first of Krishnamacharya’s students to become famous. That honour went to a Latvian woman who had the gall to burst into Krishnamacharya’s male, Indian, and Brahmin school, demanding to be taught. To his credit, Krishnamacharya did. By the late 1940s, this “First Lady of Yoga”, known as Indra Devi, had ecletic types from the Soviet Union to Hollywood breathing in the Lotus position.

By the 1960s and 70s, with summers of love and Eastern chic, the West was ready for the real deal: Brahmin men. Iyengar arguably got off to a head start, with the publication, in 1965, of “Light on Yoga”, often called the “bible of yoga”. Jois continued to teach his never-changing series of acrobatic postures until a few daring Westerners discovered him. One of them, David Williams, a hippie with a Carolinian drawl and spaghetti-like ligaments, brought Jois to California for a visit. His style and fame spread from there.

In time, the two branches, Iyengar and Ashtanga, became cult-like and easy to caricature. Iyengar studios drew the middle-aged women, who spent an eternity at the beginning of class simply spreading their toes properly while standing, then built complex poses with straps, blocks and chairs. Ashtangis were younger, more likely to have tattoos and rippling stomach and shoulder muscles. They began by chanting for “Guruji”, as they called Jois, then went into their hot sweaty routine, all doing the same exact sequences but at an individual pace.

The old teacher, Krishnamacharya, found plenty to frown about. He would live to the age of 100 in 1989, going ever deeper into the spiritual depths of yoga and now teaching his own son, T.K.V. Desikachar, a much gentler, more restorative style of yoga called “viniyoga”. He was not entirely happy with the cult-like aspects of the rival yoga camps in the West.

Jois, in particular, is said to have received a chilling sermon once when he met his teacher in later life. What had happened to the yogic principle of ahimsa, non-violence? In Jois’s yoga school in Mysore, it seemed, a good portion of the eager young things from the West were constantly limping around with injured knees or backs because they had received “adjustments” to yank them into Lotus or a backbend. And there were tales about the females receiving altogether different adjustments than the males.

Jois’s older students smiled at his foibles and were discreet about his contradictions. It was well known that Jois was estranged from his sons. One died young, the other emigrated to America and taught yoga, but kept his father’s movement at arm’s length for a long time; Jois’s grandson carries on the tradition instead. Most intriguingly, whereas Krishnamacharya, Iyengar and Desikachar all continued to practice what they taught, Pattabhi Jois long ago stopped doing his kind of yoga himself.

As you can see, the focus or “angle” I chose in this version was the amazing story of the heritage of yoga in the west, which goes back to one single teacher, Krishnamacharya, and has since branched out into different “tribes”. The unity of the origin and the rivalry and tension between Jois and Iyengar were what I thought might be most interesting.

As you can also see, I agonized over all those readers who were not already familiar with yoga. Hence what I would call an indirect opening, in which I was trying to give readers something familiar, before taking them into the arcane world of Brahmins to follow.

Ann wrote back and noted that the piece as it stood was “more about yoga than about Jois; as far as he’s concerned, it’s rather thin. The rivalry needs to be in the background, and J. in the foreground.”

I took this to heart, and completely turned the piece upside down. Preserving the length, I cut out almost everything about the lineage as such, and now went with a direct opening. Starting and ending with the man himself, with only a few side-trips along the way into yoga, would keep the focus squarely on Jois, as it should be. So I sent me second version:

Version 2 (my raw copy):

Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher, died on May 18, aged 93

A SMALL, smiling, potbellied Indian man in his undershirt and Calvin Klein shorts, Pattabhi Jois stood at the head of his yoga classes and counted, using Sanskrit numbers and broken English commands: “Ekam, inhale; dve, exhale; trini, inhale; catavari, exhale.” Before him, the lithe, mostly young and slim bodies stretched and balanced and swung through the air to the rhythm set by Jois, or “Guruji” as they affectionately called him. Their breathing was deliberate and audible, like Darth Vader’s; their perineal muscle flexed; their gaze fixed; their sweat dripping in rivulets.

This was just how Jois liked it. The ultra-athletic style of yoga he taught, known to his students as Ashtanga, was about generating intense internal heat to purify and cleanse the body. Jois disdained the fastidious and perfectionist alignment of postures that some of his rivals practiced in chilly yoga studios. To Jois, yoga was “99% practice and 1% theory,” as he liked to say with his squeaky and mischievous voice. Do the same sets of poses again and again, he believed, and the body will, over time, supply its own grace.

The yoga poses came in sets and sequences that never varied. They did not change when he taught his daughter’s son, whom he was grooming to carry on the tradition after losing one son to death and growing distant from another. Nor did they vary for new, pale and stiff arrivals from the West to Jois’s school in Mysore, India; nor for the Hollywood celebrities, from Madonna to Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow, who made the pilgrimage to catch Guruji on one of his world tours.

What changed was only how many of the six sequences—in theory, one for each day of the yoga week–the student was able and allowed to do. Each set had a theme. The first, with many forward bends, was cleansing and calming; the second, with lots of back bends, was very stimulating, and so on. Even the first series had its acrobatic moments, but the later ones began looking otherworldly in their contortions. It was said that only a handful of people in the world could do all six.

Jois first saw these yoga postures performed in one connected sequence in the 1920s, when he was twelve, as he was watching a demonstration by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a charismatic guru who would teach all the major yogis who later brought yoga to the West. Jois was electrified. He became Krishnamacharya’s student the very next day.

Jois was young, flexible and strong, and Krishnamcharya wanted to challenge him physically to keep him from getting bored. So they developed their style and called it “vinyasa” because each physical movement was synchronised with one inhalation or exhalation. Each practice session began, usually at day break, with sun salutations toward the east until Jois was sweaty and hot. Then followed that day’s sequence, and then shoulderstands, headstands, deep breathing in the Lotus position and meditative rest.

The word Ashtanga was not originally meant as a brand for this, or any, particular style. Meaning “eight limbs”, it came from Patanjali, the ancient sage of yoga, and described all the stages which yogis must traverse to reach enlightenment, only one of which, asana or “postures”, involves the stretches and balancing poses that Westerners associate with yoga. Krishnamacharya never in the hundred years that he lived lost sight of the other seven limbs, and was quite hoping that his students would not either.

As Jois went off to make a living by teaching what he had been taught—initially in obscurity, and only to other Brahmin men—Krishnamacharya had other students. One of these was B.K.S. Iyengar, his brother-in-law. Iyengar’s situation was the opposite of Jois’s, which may explain the intense and well-known, if rarely acknowledged, dislike between the two men. Whereas Jois was strong and vigorous, Iyengar was sickly and frail, recovering from malaria, tuberculosis and seemingly every other malady that India offered.

So Iyengar developed a very different style. His yoga was to be medicinal and bespoke for each student, depending on need. Instead of sweaty acrobatics, the emphasis was on precise, almost mathematical, alignment. From the 1960s onward, Jois’s and Iyengar’s styles would both spread forth and multiply in the West, but take the form of very different subcultures. A caricature of an Iyengar class might have middle-aged ladies spending an eternity studying how to spread their toes properly while standing, before building complex poses with straps, blocks and chairs. The “Ashtangis” might be younger and more likely to have OM tattoos and rippling shoulder muscles.

Jois and Iyengar also had opposite intellectual inclinations. Iyengar’s is a deep intellect. He is a prolific writer and his 1965 book “Light on Yoga” is sometimes called the “bible of yoga.” Jois, by contrast, only smirked when asked about the deeper reasons for his methods and quirks, looking bemused to some, evasive to others. Why, for instance, did he insist that one must enter the Lotus position right leg first? “Practice and all is coming,” Jois would say, leaving it at that.

Among his followers, Jois inspired a loyalty that became cult-like. Authentic “Mysore-style” Ashtanga classes in the West begin with Sanskrit chanting to a picture of Guruji. But some of his students have become estranged over the years and alive to ironies and contradictions.

What happened to the yogic principle of ahimsa, non-violence? A good portion of Jois’s students seemed constantly to be limping around with injured knees or backs because they had received “adjustments” yanking them into Lotus, the splits or a backbend. Or the yogic principle of brahmacharya, sexual continence? There were rather a lot of tales about the females receiving altogether different adjustments than the males. Most mysteriously, why had Jois himself, to all appearances, stopped decades ago to practice the yoga style that he was teaching?

As you can see, there is now much more about Jois, some direct speech, and still quite a bit about the contrast with Iyengar, because I thought that contrast brought out the character of Jois (who was not exactly an open book).

I personally much preferred this second version, including its opening, to my first and was quite confident that Ann would go with it.

Instead, she wove paragraphs from the two together, and put in smatterings of information that she had picked up on her own. Most interestingly, she opted for my original opening. And thus you have the piece as it is now published:

Version 3 (edited and published):

Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher, died on May 18th, aged 93

ONE sure sign that yoga has entered the mainstream of Western society, or at least the urbane bits of it, is that its practitioners have splintered into separate and sometimes competitive tribes. In spas, resorts and studios from Byron Bay, Australia to Big Sur, California, and wherever else one might expect Priuses on the roads and organic kale on the tables, the question is less likely to be “Do you do yoga?” than simply “Ashtanga or Iyengar?”

If the answer is Ashtanga, that has everything to do with Pattabhi Jois—“Guruji”, as his disciples called him. The word Ashtanga, “eight limbs”, originally meant the eight stages yogis must traverse to reach enlightenment, only one of which, asana or “postures”, is the sort of thing Westerners associate with yoga. But used in Mr Jois’s way, which is how most Westerners understand it now, Ashtanga meant stretching, balancing and swinging to the relentless rhythm set by a little, smiling, potbellied man in an undershirt and Calvin Klein shorts, crying “Ekam, inhale! dve, exhale! trini, inhale! catavari, exhale!”, until every member of the class was breathing like Darth Vader and running with rivers of sweat.

This was just how Mr Jois liked it. The intense internal heat generated by his sort of yoga was meant to purify and cleanse the body. For him, yoga was “99% practice and 1% theory”, as he liked to say in his squeaky, mischievous voice. Though he was the son of a Brahmin priest, and knew the teachings, anyone asking him for deeper philosophy would get a smirk in reply, or a scrap of his famously broken English. Why, for instance, did he insist that one must enter the Lotus position right leg first? “Practice and all is coming,” Mr Jois would say, and leave it at that.

He disdained the fastidious and perfectionist alignment of postures that some of his rivals practised in chilly yoga studios. He scorned Iyengar, the careful and medicinal branch of the art which, like his, arrived in the West in the 1960s, in which middle-aged ladies spent an eternity studying how to spread their toes properly while standing, before building complex poses with straps, blocks and chairs. His Ashtangis were younger and fitter, more likely to have Om tattoos and rippling shoulder muscles, and to start their exercises with a chant of “Guruji!” to a portrait of him pinned up on the wall.

His yoga poses came in sets and sequences that never varied. Do the same sets again and again, Mr Jois believed, and the body would, over time, supply its own grace. The poses did not change when he taught his daughter’s son, whom he was grooming to carry on the tradition after losing one son to death and growing distant from another. Nor did they vary for new, pale, stiff arrivals from the West at his school in Mysore, in India; nor for the Hollywood celebrities, from Madonna to Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow, who made the pilgrimage to catch Guruji on one of his world tours.

What changed was only how many of the six sequences—in theory, one for each day of the yoga week—the student was able and allowed to do. Each set had a theme, and they got harder and harder. The first, with many forward bends, was cleansing and calming; the second, with lots of back bends, was stimulating, and so on. The later ones were otherworldly in their contortions. It was said that only a handful of people could do all six.

Saluting the sun

Mr Jois first saw these yoga postures performed in one connected sequence in the 1920s, when he was 12. He was watching a demonstration by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a charismatic guru who would teach all the principal yogis who later brought yoga to the West. Electrified, he became Krishnamacharya’s student the next day. His teacher made him start at daybreak, with sun salutations towards the east until he was sweaty and hot. Then followed postures, shoulderstands, headstands, deep breathing in the Lotus position and meditative rest. Strong, flexible and easily bored, the boy had found a discipline that challenged him.

After running away from his village with two rupees in his pocket, Mr Jois eventually managed to study at Mysore and then began to pass on what he had learnt. At first he taught in obscurity, in one small room with a grubby carpet, and only other Brahmin men. But from the late 1960s onwards, as the perfume of joss sticks drifted over Western civilisation, yoga caught on there too. A hippie fan brought him to California for a visit in 1975, and his fame spread.

Among his followers, Mr Jois inspired a cultish devotion. But his students were not unaware of their teacher’s contradictions. What had happened, for example, to the yogic principle of ahimsa, non-violence? A good number of Mr Jois’s students seemed constantly to be limping around with injured knees or backs because they had received his “adjustments”, yanking them into Lotus, the splits or a backbend. And what about the yogic principle of brahmacharya, sexual continence? Women followers, it was said, received altogether different adjustments from the men. Most mysteriously, why had Mr Jois himself apparently stopped practising his sort of yoga decades ago? Was that another instance of the wisdom of the East?


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26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fascinating.

    Your first draft seemed more in the style of the New Yorker. The second and third versions I thought equally good in their different ways, although the third draft obviously benefitted from your editor putting in her two cents.

    The process of putting together the piece into its final form appeared to me to incorporate, mutatis mutandis, the Hegelian theme of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The optimum solution for almost anything contentious lies usually somewhere in the middle, as does the truth.

    Congratulations, by the way, on the good reception your book-draft has evoked from your publishers.

    June 4, 2009
    • My first draft “seemed more in the style of the New Yorker…”. And then we ditched it and did something altogether different. Hmm. Was that the right trajectory? ;)

      June 5, 2009
  2. Your 2nd draft opening paragraph, which wasn’t used, was better than the one selected.

    Ann’s final question, which really isn’t a question at all but rather an answer, did pull the reader back out into a place that Mr. Jois may have appreciated: a philosophic question about the rhythms (and breath) of life and where it all originated.

    As you might imagine, I enjoyed this post immensely. Thanks for sharing.

    June 4, 2009
    • Ann and I discussed her putting in that final question. I wasn’t sure it fit. But you seem to like it.

      As I said: fascinating. I could analyze how words steer people’s thoughts for hours….

      June 5, 2009
  3. Great read, Andreas… and it just feels nice to know that even The Economist’s writers have to rewrite their copy once and a while.

    You left Power Yoga out. But that’s ok. We’re used to not being taken seriously ;-)

    June 5, 2009
    • Ah, but Pedro: What you call Power Yoga is really just Guruji’s Ashtanga with some of the more contortionist acrobatics left out, is it not? So you are part of the tradition we are celebrating in remembering Guruji.

      June 5, 2009
  4. Crampibokee #

    Thank you for showing us the process.
    Here are some things that jumped out at me.

    Concerning the first paragraph of the published version:

    The most sought out and famous yoga method, is not Ashtanga, Iyengar , Power, Vinyasa, Forrest or Anusara. It is Bikram or hot yoga. (Source: Google Trends).
    Not many people ask “Ashtanga or Iyengar”. Most new agey, born in the USA yoga styles have more devotees nowadays. Ecstatic Power Flow Hot Yoga with music is a big thing. :)

    Second paragraph:

    Ashtanga Yoga still means 8 limbs of yoga and that is how PKJ used the word every single time he used it. Anybody asking PKJ for a deeper philosophy would get an answer grounded in the Yoga Sutras and other yogic texts that he studied endlessly. Unfortunately said answer might come in bad, accented English, Kannada and Sanskrit but insistent long time students kept digging. (Source: Any and all interviews with PKJ). He would give many different reasons to do right leg first in lotus. But this is India, no? Right side first always. Left side bad luck and dirty. And catvari, not catavari.

    Third paragraph:

    He did change the series a bit over time. (Source: Old videos of PKJ teaching and teachers/students who practiced with him 20+ years ago). The advanced series were changed more than Primary and Intermediate. Concerning the previous editions of this: Nobody can do the Advanced D series. It has been taught to PKJs grandson and current holder of the lineage, Sharath Rangaswamy but he has not completed it either.

    Last paragraph:

    Sure there are a lot of blind devotees out there, probably the majority but a lot of his students were and are well aware of his contradictions and foibles. As far as PKJ not practicing that is something many Indian Yoga teachers end up doing when they get older. (Source: Indian people and students of yoga). Iyengar himself was pressured by Krishnamacharya into limiting his practice when he reached a certain age but after trying it for a while he decided not to. ( Source: my Senior Iyengar teacher).

    Another note on the previous editions: Iyengar was easily as good or better than PKJ in his yoga practice of the physical Asanas, especially the backbends. (Source: A comparison of any pictures of PKJ and Iyengar practicing. Also the 1938 video of Iyengar and Krishnamacharya practicing). BKS Iyengar taught very vigorous yoga asana for many years before adding props and slowing it down so everyone could do it. ( Source: Old videos of BKSI teaching).

    June 6, 2009
    • Dear Crampibokee, thanks for your considered and elaborate analysis.

      As you saw from the three versions, the first and biggest difficulty with any article that has a fixed layout is length, or rather brevity. Since I can’t include everything I have to figure out what to exclude. Excluding Bikram was a very easy choice. I consider Bikram a) fun but b) not quite worthy of an article about, in essence, the legacy of Krishnamacharya.

      Re Ashtanga and the Lotus: Patanjali has no greater fan in the world than me. But I must tell you (and my sources are people who have known Guruji since the 70s) that Guruji was no profound thinker on the eight limbs, not if compared to his teacher, or Iyengar or…

      By the way, look at Patanjali in that famous depiction that I used in my post. What do you notice about his Lotus posture? Then look at the Buddha in this (or most) depictions. Then look at Shiva in this depiction. They ALL sit in Lotus left leg first. Interesting, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t the “godly” side be on top? The fact is that only Guruji claimed that it had to be, and even he apparently (so I was told by somebody who knew him in the 70s) only “decided” that this was so once he got the question from Western students.

      Yes, you’re right about how the sequences evolved over time. I could not get into that in the Obituary. It’s confusing enough as it is for people who are new to the subject. How do you say that the sequences evolved, but at each stage in their evolution “didn’t change”? Ie, each practitioner at a given time had no choice about what postures to do in what order.

      Yes, Iyengar did beautiful asana (and still does). But that’s not how he started. He was very weak and sick at the start, and used Yoga to get strong. But that video of him as a young man doing “vinyasa” is indeed beautiful.

      June 7, 2009
    • Crampibokee #

      Thank you for your answer.
      I have to say that I am arguing these points just for fun and the sake of a good chat.

      I was actually very surprised that the obit went so deeply into the whole Iyengar/Ashtanga thing. I was not surprised that the obit was more about that in the beginning and less about it in the final copy. I do not think that divide is that important or that it played a huge role in the life of PKJ. I think that fight was fought in the minds of western students and devotees. When I made my comments about Bikram yoga, that was my main point: nobody really cares Iyengar or Ashtanga, but some poor confused newbie soul.

      No matter how Iyengar started the reason why his system evolved to what it is today is NOT that he was a sickly youth. BKSI himself has talked about this extensively to his students. I am referring to what you first wrote:

      Whereas Jois was strong and vigorous, Iyengar was sickly and frail, recovering from malaria, tuberculosis and seemingly every other malady that India offered. Over time, Iyengar turned Krishnamacharya’s lessons into a very different style. His yoga was to be medicinal and bespoke for each student, depending on ability.

      As you can tell from the 1938 video Iyengar is already enjoying great health and he is 20 years old at the time. If he wanted to he could have constructed and taught a system as tough or tougher than PKJ and he did indeed teach very differently for many years early on.

      As far PKJ not being a great thinker on the Sutras, hearsay and libel I say. PKJ quoted the sacred puranas and sutras by heart every opportunity he got on almost every question he was asked. If anything he was a sanskrit scholar. Exactly who is enough of an authority to judge who the deepest thinker was?
      Evidently someone who considers himself to be more knowledgeable than all three men and very familiar with all of them on a personal level. PKJ speaking on yoga in his native Kannada was as smart and erudite as anyone I have ever seen or heard!

      Not BKSI, not PKJ and not T. Krishnamacharya in their 200 years of combined teaching have ever claimed to have reached enlightenment or taught Samadhi to a student. Now that is a real Instance of the wisdom of the east (and the folly of the west I might add).

      June 7, 2009
    • Admittedly, I have never heard PKJ speaking about the sutras in Kannada. Point taken.
      Namaste

      June 7, 2009
    • This is a little after the fact…

      I heard someone say once about lotus – right leg first before enlightenment – left left first after enlightenment. Hence, the statue of buddha you saw had the left leg first.

      October 22, 2011
    • Interesting, David. Do you remember who told you that?

      October 23, 2011
    • Don’t quote me on it, but I believe it was David Swenson

      October 24, 2011
  5. Rama #

    Read the obituary in the Economist without realising you had written it. Well written as usual and well edited.
    Without great editing , would “The Wasteland” d have ended up as the wasteland?

    June 9, 2009
    • Editing is a double-edged sword. It was here, and it would have been if the Wasteland had been edited (which I doubt). In general, the more individual the voice (eg, poetry, novel, memoir) the less appropriate is editing, I think.

      June 10, 2009
    • Rama #

      Andreas
      Why I cited “The wasteland” is that it is considered one of the most prominent editing exercises in Literature.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Waste_Land

      “Editing
      The drafts of the poem reveal that it originally contained almost twice as much material as the final published version. The significant cuts are in part due to Ezra Pound’s suggested changes, although Eliot himself is also responsible for removing large sections.

      The now famous opening lines of the poem – ‘April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, …’ – did not appear until the top of the second page of the typescript. The first page of the typescript contained 54 lines in the sort of street voice that we hear again at the end of the second section, ‘A Game of Chess.’ This page appears to have been lightly crossed out in pencil by Eliot himself.

      Although there are several signs of similar adjustments made by Eliot, and a number of significant comments by Vivien, the most significant editorial input is clearly that of Pound, who recommended many cuts to the poem.”

      Being originally from South India , I’m impressed by your knowledge of Yoga . I should read Patanjali one of these days.

      (PS : I’m the same guy who wrote the short letter with the Walt Whitman quote )

      Regards

      June 11, 2009
    • This is absolutely fascinating, Rama. I didn’t know anything about this, so thank you for pointing me to it!

      I would have never guessed that the Waste Land could have been through so many changes. It seems to idiosyncratic (and difficult).

      Incidentally, I’m interested in Eliot for other reasons, too: He was the quintessence of an ‘early peaker’. Love Song of J Alfred Prufroch, teh Waste Land, and then….. not a whole lot else that he was proud of for the rest of his life.

      June 11, 2009
  6. solidgoldcreativity #

    Hello Mr Hannibal,

    I too preferred your first opening, and I liked best the third version because it discussed Jois as a boy and thus I got the idea of his life’s journey.

    I’ve just found your blog and I’m spending way too much time reading it at work.

    Solid Gold Creativity
    Melbourne, Australia

    June 16, 2009
    • Welcome Solid Gold, and thank you for wasting your time on The Hannibal Blog.

      I see that you blog about creativity, so I’ll be visiting yours to get some help. (Your URL did not show up in your comment, btw. Be sure to leave it for the others next time.)

      June 17, 2009
  7. Hello again,

    Thanks for pointing out the URL thing.

    SG

    June 18, 2009
  8. Sridharan Madhusudhanan #

    Being one of the millions of readers impressed by the quality of writing as a craft and art in the Economist, I am now doubly impressed. Ann’s input is very relevant. There is always the predicament about writing to readers with wide range of depth of knowledge. The third version is the solution, in principle. What personally impressed me is your second version: with the indication of what Ann wants, you were able to completely go from version 1 to version 2, which look as if these have been written by two different authors. That’s mark of a master journo.

    June 21, 2009
    • Why thank you, Sridharan!

      Yes, I think that flexibility–word nimbleness–is a virtue for a writer: the ability to throw it all out and start again, totally differently, with no attachment to what is already on the page. I call that “doing violence” to my own copy.

      Come back more often. Namaste.

      June 21, 2009
  9. Hotsun #

    Interesting, I like version 1. and if I may make a comment on the subject;

    Jois had a well deserved reputation for being somewhat lecherous and enamored of american dollars and blonde white girls, source; several personal friends who spent years traveling to Mysore. I know students who returned from his school in a wheelchairs (albeit temporary) Western fame appeared to have altered his values.

    Iyengar on the other hand, has never has any doubt cast on his integrity but he is the victim of his sycophantic culture. He is the King of a worldwide yoga dynasty and is subject to all the powerplay from aspiring courtiers. Dont ever forget that in the end we a talking about men, indeed yogis who in the ultimate sense may be characterised by supreme practicality.

    Is there value in both mien’s approach to the subject? Of course but you wont distill the truth until you’ve been at it a very long time!

    G’luck

    January 21, 2011
    • I like your plain, clear language as you describe these two teachers, Hotsun. Usually, people slip into this weird, new-agey, adulatory cult guff when talking about them.

      Yes, they are men. That’s the thing to remember. Hardly a shocking allegation. And yes, there is value in their teachings, if one stays at all throughout life.

      Thanks, Hotsun.

      January 22, 2011

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