GURU CHOD HASBAMRER (Thai, ชด หัศบำเรอ) was modern Thailand's pioneer yoga-tantric authority. The family name, Hasbamrer, derives from Sanskrit harṣavarman and signifies Royal Khmer ancestry. He was born at the turn of 20th century in the fifth Rattanakosin reign of King Chulalongkorn near the empire's southerly Andaman Sea. In youth he attended Penang Free School and then continued his studies in Bombay, India.
Upon graduation from Trinity College, Cambridge, he remained in England and worked as a reporter. He furthered that profession in British India. By 1937 Chod was back in Britain and covered stories on the continent too. A few years later due to imminent war and serious personal health concerns, he withdrew to India and gained ascetic refuge with Swami Sivananda on the banks of the Ganges near Rishikesh. It took him two years to cure his disorders and he stayed three more to master yoga's higher forms.
After the war Chod moved to Bangkok and established himself as a national news editor. He sometimes ran two papers at once while writing internationally for Reuters news agency. He turned his home into a morning yoga centre and drove to the newsroom after lunch.
At the strong healthy age of seventy-five years Chod retired from journalism altogether and founded his yoga famed conservatoire-residence. Public demand was often unrelenting but he faced the challenges without complaint. "It's a good occupation for an old man," he said, "I like to be useful." Students and patrons came from all walks of life, yet most were of the kingdom's higher social rungs. High-ranking members of the Buddhist clergy similarly sought the guru's counsel. He looked to all with equal vision. He was furthermore esteemed as the yogi-raja-guru who initiated members of the Thai royal family. Chod never made such statements himself but those around him discreetly did. It was common knowledge at the time.
Even well into his eighty-eighth year the guru radiated charm and grace. He was typically surrounded by sparkling college girls, stunning air hostesses and breathtaking models, wives of industrialists, bankers, writers, opera singers and foreign diplomats. But road-tattered Western yoginis came as well, aglow from extended travels East having heard along the way of a certain living saint. This is probably what kept him teaching so long. "But everybody has to die," Chod affirmed, and he certainly gave us all fair warning. True to prediction near his eighty-eighth birthday, he stretched out on the floor and walked right out of there.
THIS ORAL TRADITION is internally exotic. It is the manifestation of a deeply seeded legacy that snuggles up-close to its jungle backdrop and spawns animistic views of life where body, mind and soul gain lusher, more succulent and integrated dialogue.
AS REGIONAL CUSTOM it commends its progeny to feed and even pander to the tantalising image of Old Siam as a soothing restoration at the end of the world. It furthermore advances the stimulating theory that the elements of « yoga », as imagined today, abide in abundance in the nativised vales where Khmer refinements historically poured, in the royal court customs of Ayutthaya and Phra Nakhon. It additionally declares this classical vernacular the world's first truly female yoga, if only for the fact that it comes from the region where ascetic poise and the feminine principle are socially diffused more than anywhere else.
NOT TO BE EVASIVE, you can think of this approach as a kind of Hatha Yoga mixed with Raja Yoga. It comprises a handful of rediscovered principles and the pedagogic methods that emerge thereof. These natural, precise and clearcut procedures are strikingly distinct from the replicated formulas that colonise contemporary corporate regimes. In fact, our analytic findings form a critical indictment of the whole industrial masquerade. We pity the droves of certified teachers lured by the pyramidal Tupperware balls completely unclued to the gem-like principles alive in their freshly minted clarity.
There is nothing romantic about yoga pedagogy. This common foundational life-technology is best presented in a simple, poetic and aesthetic setting where dignity and elegance are easily weighed, where the quest for learning is open and small, relaxed and inconspicuous, calm and graceful toward the varied activities going on at a site.
Guru Chod's legacy represents by far the most gracious, refined and structurally intact ascetic-arts lineage known to the world.