BUDDHA & BISHNU
Buddha Bose was born in 1913, in Sri Lanka, while his British father and English mother traveled from London to Calcutta. His mother would only stay in India for 5 years before returning to London, leaving young Buddha behind. He grew up in the Garpar area of Calcutta, a block from the Ghosh home where Yogananda and Bishnu lived.
Bishnu Ghosh referred to Buddha Bose as his nephew and Buddha called Bishnu “Babu” or uncle. In 1929, when he was 16, Buddha began his serious physical training under Bishnu. Buddha is featured in Bishnu Ghosh’s 1930 book, Muscle Control, exhibiting the stomach control movements and difficult variations of nauli and uddiyana bandha. In 1931, Buddha wrote a letter to his brother Dennis in London, saying that he was entirely focused on developing his capacity under Bishnu Ghosh.
DEVELOPING A SYSTEM
A few years thereafter but before 1935, they began their focus on developing a full system of yoga. The story goes that while out traveling India by car and performing muscle control at an exhibition, Buddha pointed to person doing yoga and said, “That’s India’s physical system” and Bishnu replied, “You want to learn yoga?”
Bishnu had learned the traditional seated postures and Yogoda at the Yogananda school in Ranchi when he was young, and Buddha was able to pick up more from Kuvalayananda's Yoga Mimamsa publication. Their method also involved going into the hermitages and seeking out yogic methods from the villages. The extensive study by Buddha and Bishnu into the yogic system led to their touring India with Yogananda in 1935-36, and then Europe and America in 1938-1939.
After touring in Germany and London they went to the US, where they performed demonstrations with lectures in Universities along the east coast. They then went to Los Angeles and stayed with Yogananda, performing and teaching asanas and pranayamas to the westerners at the ashrams.
84 ASANAS - THE LOST MANUSCRIPT
In 1938, prior to their leaving Calcutta, Buddha wrote the preface and completed 95% of the instructions to include with the asanas. Upon arrival in London, in 1939, he performed before the camera the extended series of asanas that had been perfected over the previous years, which included 96 photos. This collection, of 84 asanas and 10 mudras, was never published in its entirely. Instead, a beginner's manual of 24 asanas was published later in 1939, when he returned to Calcutta.
This then, from the 1930’s to the early 1940’s, was the ‘golden period’ of the asana practice of Bishnu Ghosh and Buddha Bose. This 1938 collection captures the moment of when the full system of yoga was developed. They moved it beyond the traditional padmasana postures to include asanas while standing, lying down, and seated, in addition to the mudra practices.
The duo lived together for decades at the Ghosh Yoga College on Rammohan Road. Buddha Bose married Ghosh's eldest daughter. The Ghosh family lived on the 3rd floor, and the Bose family on the second floor, from the 1930’s until the demise of Bishnu Ghosh in 1970.
CHANGE - THE 1940s
After they returned to India, in 1940, things rapidly changed, with tumultuous personal and societal events which altered the focus of their yogic system. Their attention shifted from personal development along the spiritual path, to a more therapeutic focused system that served the people’s needs. In fact, that is why the entire album was never published. At the time, with the Bengal famine, World War II, and an Independence movement in India, the advanced practice was not seen as serving more than 1% of the population.
This 1938 collection, which he had dedicated to his Uncle Edward in England, was in London, with Buddha’s British family, until it was sold in the late 1980’s, and wound up in an estate sale in San Francisco. It has been with a 1930’s period art collector since that time. While in London, for 50 years, a couple of small girls had flipped through the pages, attempting to mimic the shapes of "Uncle Buddha.” Luckily, the photos have had covers on them through the years, and are still mostly in pristine condition.
Currently in the west, where most of what is practiced and taught is derived from Bikram’s beginning system of 26 postures, there are countless people that want a look into this yoga from a historical and advanced perspective, which the Buddha Bose book offers.
The reader will find that the instruction is keen on developing a personal practice. It isn't as focused on doing 84 asanas as much as it is on perfecting a few of them, and then adding more difficult ones once mastery is achieved. The progression includes a focus on increasing duration and repetitions of a single asana rather than doing a multitude of asanas in rapid succession.
Ghosh and Bose's system seeks to increase the oscillation between holding an asana for a longer duration, followed by complete rest in savasana for a longer duration. For instance, in one asana, Bhujangasansa (Cobra), the directions are to hold the asana for 30 seconds, then rest in savasana for 30 seconds, repeating this five times. When mastered, the student moves to 1 minute of holding the asana, and 1 minute of savasana; and over time, increasing the duration to 3 minutes of holding the asana.
For those in the west who have been diligently practicing a single system of 26 asanas in generated heat for years, Ghosh and Bose's system encourages us to ask ourselves: are we ready to move beyond being a beginner? A system of prolonged holding of asana and extended savasana moves us toward practicing the advanced directions laid out by Bose and Ghosh.
Through a highly successful kickstarter campaign, 84 Yoga Asanas by Buddha Bose will be published in a limited quantity. It will include professional photographic reproductions of Buddha Bose's original photos alongside his instructions in high quality book format. It will be a very limited, and most likely one-time publication.