Should We Be Tearing Down Statues? | Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

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Author: Mark Whitwell

Of course we don’t need to keep any old statues of dead egos and symbols of cruelty and the interlocked patterns of separate egos. 

I have watched the death of men, even of my own father, but men generally, where they have spent a life trying to create an identity of continuity that they imagine will never end. They spend their lives committed only to hoarding knowledge and institutional identity and grandeur. They are possessed with an illusory idea that it’s going to go on and on, in the revered form of “their legacy.” Men become obsessed with their own continuity, whether in the form of teachings or political glory, or literal statues, like the statues of Rome, or literal books. Their whole life is committed to that. Rather than being committed to Life in its glory, as it actually is, and the embodiment of woman as the glory of God, and the embodiment of man as the glory of God, and the living connectedness of the two. 

They have been oblivious to the sacred power of equals and opposites, one empowering the other — it’s not even about equals, it’s just that male and female are in an intrinsic union and there’s not one without the other. This is true of same-sex or opposite sex, and any gender identification or none at all. We are all male-female, or you could say yin and yang if you prefer. An atom is that. That’s what the life is, in the natural state, and what life can be for a human being. A sublime participation in this union of opposites. But we don’t have that, we have only powerful men, the Abrahamic fathers, and all the Buddhist equivalents who did same thing in their own form. These forms of patriarchy have sprung up all over the world, whether in Buddhism, or the Abrahamic religions, or Hindu renunciation. We have inherited these world power structures based on the success of a few deluded patriarchs, who have completely toxified human life in their search for transcendence. They were all creating this delusion of foreverness. Life is not about ensuring your own continuity. It’s about the embrace of life, including the embrace of sex as it actually is. 

Mankind has been doing it for centuries, building statues of themselves. I went to Rome, and there were all these statues of men on horses. Glamourous men holding swords, looking at the heavens. No women in sight. Rather than surrendering to actual people and actual women and actual life, human culture has been dedicated to trying to maintain male survival after death and fantasise about after-death states of heaven. It’s just fearful men who will not look into life as it actually is. 

The more they created dissociative culture, the more they needed to rely on some hopeful fantasy of an afterlife. Because they’d made such a mess of this one.

Why do people have such an obsession with being remembered after their death? Like Dickens’ cranky old men trying to control people after their death through their will. It’s ego identity with the idea of being a separate person. A separate entity. They can’t bear the simple fact that as a person they come and go. Instead they create all these attempts to last forever. 

And the impulse continues today. There is an obsession in America for men (and some women) to talk about their “legacy.” People are building edifices and writing books and trying to make permanent structures because they’re scared of death. They’re terrified. They’re terrified because they have wasted their lives. Buddhist author Susan Murphy called the city “a boast against death… that nevertheless will end in ruin and dust” It’s all so much nonsense. 

Men strive for a legacy and forget to enjoy life, enjoy relatedness right now, in this life. They strive so hard that they lose even the ability to feel relatedness. Women have been ignored in that, and then shamed for the emotions coming from neglect, from being made an afterthought to the ambitions of the man. “Honey, I’m home, and all of that.” So then the woman just learns to do the same thing that the boring, relationally-stunted male is doing. And it never amounts to much at all. Then they die, these men and women die holding on to the little shreds of belief and ideas of continuity. I’ve seen that kind of death. There is no peace in it. 

I have watched the insidious death of men desperately holding on to their life, who have not entered into deep abiding sex with their woman and whose women were filled with disappointment and grief. And the irony is that if they would come into relationship with their feeling life, which feels so fragile and temporary and like they might die, then that actually is eternity.

Is writing a book an attempt to create a legacy?

I’m not a natural writer. I have received great help from many people to get words on a page. Getting Yoga of Heart out in 2002 was a tremendous effort, and it is full of mistakes. I don’t have a mind for it. But it was things that needed to be said. But it wasn’t done in any attempt at continuity of someone called “Mark Whitwell”. We certainly don’t need any “Mark Whitwell” statues! Pull those ones down. There was no point in writing a clever alternative treatise philosophical wow book, where people go “That’s amazing,” and then just continue on as before. I wanted to address the public situation and give the practical means, share what has been shared with me by my teachers. For every person to participate in their own inherent male-female union. 

I want yoga to be understood as a spiritual practice and sex to be understood as spiritual practice. And for people to have the practical means to do that. That is a reason to put words on a page. Call the author whoever you like. 

People have said, you mustn’t talk about sex, you mustn’t criticize the yoga industry, be positive, it’s all valid, don’t stir things up, all of that. But it’s not intentional. There are just things that need to be said. After that, if people project whatever they project, fine. But I’m not that. We must not hold back from what needs to be said just for the sake of image maintenance and self-preservation. We have to get ourselves out of the kinds of situations where image maintenance becomes a priority, where we can be threatened like that. We are here actually living our lives, so we don’t care if the statue of us is pulled down. Because it’s a mad project to be trying to last forever anyway. 

The patriarchal culture that built modern society is based on the male obsession with being remembered after death, and the consoling mythologies of going to a higher place after death and continuing in some delusion of individuation. Life has been obsessively organized around those thought structures. This is the very denial of life as it actually is, that has denied real relationship, the power of the feminine-masculine collaboration, which is the substance and nurturing force of all form. And it is the denial of Reality, which we might call God. 

The only valid use of statues is to remember the Reality realizers whom have lived throughout human time, which is synchronistic with remembrance of Reality itself, the power of the cosmos that brought us all here and presently sustains us in pure intelligence, unspeakable beauty, and the utter harmony of the cosmic domain. 

About the Author:

Mark Whitwell is an author and international yoga teacher for many decades. He met his teachers Krishnamacharya (the grandfather of modern yoga) and his son Desikachar in 1973, and realized the gift of breath to all seekers everywhere. “Your body loves its breath,” was their teaching, and he has been sharing it ever since, from China to Greece, Iceland to Ireland to Japan, Fiji and New Zealand. Mark was the editor and contributor to Desikachar’s classic text, “The Heart of Yoga,” and is the author of “Yoga of Heart,” the “Hridaya Yogasutra”, “The Promise of Love Sex and Intimacy,” and “God and Sex: Now We Get Both.” Mark Whitwell has three children and four grandchildren in his birth country of Aotearoa, and lives between there, Fiji and Los Angeles with his partner Rosalind. He is the founder of global yoga education charity the Heart of Yoga Foundation, and can be found online at

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