Harvard Divinity School



Tribute to B.K.S. Iyengar

Emerson Majestic Theater, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

October 9, 2005



For the past two centuries, and especially for the past half century, spiritual wisdom has been migrating from east to west, from India to the United States.  Eager adventurers, searching beyond the traditional orthodoxies of western holiness, have looked past Europe and the Middle-East where American roots are so deep, to the sacred mountains and rivers of India, in search of new gurus and fresh truths.  From Ralph Waldo Emerson to Martin Luther King, Jr., American visionaries have been drawn to India.  “Not as tourists, but as pilgrims, as Doctor King said upon arrival in Delhi in 1959.  Through those past two centuries, highly revered teachers from India have visited these shores and become, for many, America’s new spiritual mentors, challenging the secularism that had grown up in our culture.


Mr. Iyengar, sir, you are one of those mentors.  Your influence has been central in the spread of Yoga from India to the rest of the world and especially to the four corners of this country.  You are personally responsible for one of the best known traditions of yogic wisdom and practice in the world, now known for all ages to come by your name – Iyengar Yoga.  The gift of your spiritual practice has spread to millions of people through your writings, the teaching of eager students in Pune, and your mentoring of new yoga masters who are teaching on all the continents of the world.


You are teaching us the beauty and wisdom in our bodies, and the role of the our bodies in our spiritual journeys.  Because of you our breath is stronger, our posture is straighter, we dance more lightly on the earth, we are more peaceful within, and we are better neighbors.  Your visit to our country reminds us of the epic journey of Swami Vivekananda from Calcutta to this country in 1893.  Everywhere he went, people marveled at the renewal they experienced in his presence.  The same is already being said of you and this journey of yours.  We gather with you out of gratitude for what you have given us.  As the great Swami Vivekananda wrote:  “The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.”  Thank you, Sir, for leading us on the path of freedom.



The Reverend Dr. Thomas Mikelson

Lecturer, Harvard Divinity School 1992 – 2002

Parish Minister, First Parish in Cambridge (Unitarian Universalist) 1989 - Present