A Tribute to Faeq Biria
Back in April, we lost a great teacher. On that Saturday, when the message arrived, it stunned me. For a while, I couldn’t find the right words to honor Faeq’s memory. Still, I find myself thinking of him often and missing him, so I decided to post some words (see some biographical notes on Faeq).
Faeq was an extraordinary person with great, almost super-human capacities and talents. He was of high intellectual caliber and incredible sensitivity. I always felt there is no use trying to conceal anything from him, as he sensed and perceived everything. When he hugged – a thing which he did a lot – you could feel his physical strength. He was amazingly strong and stable. You could see it by the way he carried his body; I once observed him from behind when he was sitting and thought how his erect and stable spine reflects so well his composure and his strong mind. It’s unbelievable that a malady could conquer such a strong person. Yet, I am certain the merit he earned will live on in the many of us who loved and learned from him.
He loved people and people loved him. He was a successful blend of East and West: a warm Eastern heart with an analytical Western brain. He often said that we, his Israeli students, also combine the good qualities of East and West, and he liked to come to teach in Israel and did so for many years.
He loved life and had a strong passion for life. He had what we call in Hebrew a strong ‘Yetzer’ this is a hard term to translate, roughly meaning a fundamental, core-driven passion for life. It is derived from the same root of the words ‘Yetzira’ (creation) and ‘Yetzur’ (creature). It is an intrinsic life force. Inherently, man manifests the constant battle between the ‘good’ Yetzer and the ‘bad’ one (see, for example, the story of the Bhagavad Gita – as well as many Jewish and universal folklore tales).
There is a Hebrew proverb: ”who is a hero – the one who conquers his Yetzer.” A human being whose enlightened, good side conquers his primordial low instincts. Faeq was a hero – he conquered his strong Yetzer. I remember once, during teachers training he taught in Israel, we were about to begin practice when someone brought a fresh cold watermelon from the kitchen – the best possible refreshment in the hot Israeli summer. It was tempting to take a bite from this watermelon, so I took one and told him to take a small slice. He turned to me, smiled, and said – “no, not at my age”. He renounced that urge, knowing that it’s not good to ingest food or liquids right before or during practice.
In the memorial held in honor of Faeq, Prashant Iyengar said that he was like a towering tree bearing fruit, with seeds that bear seedlings, that grew to be trees of their own right. I feel blessed and proud to be part of this beautiful forest.
May his memory will always illuminate our path!