Yoga for Masochists

WHAT IS LIFE if not a few spins on the wheel of pain? Our only hope of ennobling that experience is to grasp the eternal. And what do we find there? An intensification of worldly suffering. Life is pain, therefore eternal life means eternal pain. To be at one with the universe, to experience eternal life, and in so doing avoid probate, one must follow the path of pain—Maso-yoga.

Maso-yoga teaches us to confront the pain of daily living. By embracing and welcoming it, we turn the most unpleasant moments of our lives into the most sensual. Activities that provoke fear of injury are welcomed; Maso-yogis are among the nation’s leading hang-gliderists, bear-wrestlers, and strike arbitrators.

But the truly enlightened Maso-yogi need not court hazard; there are ample opportunities to experience transcendental pain in daily life. A foot left in a revolving door, a fork thrust into a toaster, or a thorough dental examination can bring an instant glimpse of the divine. Among devotees, a feeling like boredom can be honed to the razor’s edge of pain. So we see legions of Maso-yogis engaged in actuarial work, bus-conducting, and local government.

Maso-yoga originated in the East, where a life of pain and physical hardship comes easily. But what about us unfortunate Westerners, for whom pain is traditionally unwelcome?

The process of enlightening the West has been ongoing for centuries. A number of gurus have sacrificed their lives to teach the ways of Maso-yoga to the masses. We know them as sadists. In the East, as in the West, it is a greater virtue to give than to receive, and so the sadist is celebrated by Masoyogis the world over.

The best-known of all Maso-yogis, Indra Venus, has devoted her life to educating Westerners in the art of Maso-yoga. She is renowned as the author of Yoga to the Death and Yoga Joe Imperialist Swine. Born of a low-caste Delhi family in 1901, Ms. Venus is descended from a Sepoy captain, who introduced the ways of Maso-yoga to his family and his superiors. Ms. Venus’s grandfather died a penniless exporter of beds of nails, and her father, a tone-deaf snake charmer, died before her birth. She was weaned by her mother, a typist for Rudyard Kipling, who, on Kipling’s advice, sent the girl to live with his cruel aunt in England. Indra suffered corporal punishment silently throughout childhood, but pledged her life to inflicting pain on Westerners (honkiis).

It is not clear at what age Ms. Venus became a Maso-yoga instructor, but it is known that in 1931 she was arrested in Piccadilly for distributing anti-British tracts and administering prescribed beatings to followers. In the years preceding World War II, she supported herself by working as a shopgirl by day and robbing drunken sailors at night. It was during this period that she met Mahatma Gandhi, when he journeyed to London for the Round Table Conference. Ms. Venus is thought to be responsible for enhancing Gandhi’s theories about passive resistance and self-denial by burning his breakfast and pouring ice water on his bedsheets.

These happy moments of her life with Gandhi reveal a lighter side of a woman too often looked on as a stern and violent shrew. Ms. Venus is not only an accomplished practical joker but a talented singer of light opera with an upper register capable of shattering the eardrum of a Great Dane.

After World War II, Ms. Venus returned to India to lead the fight for independence. She accumulated a fortune through Maso-yoga-derived interrogation techniques used against maharajahs and British industrialists. Since 1950, Ms. Venus has lived in seclusion at her Ranchipur estate, tended by 2,000 British manservants. She spends her days writing books for Western audiences and investing royalties and contributions from followers in commercial ventures designed to increase the trade deficit of Western nations.

In her declining years Ms.Venus derives considerable satisfaction (in two senses) from the currency of the Masoyoga movement. Maso-yoga’s appeal is now pandemic, spurred on by the training of thousands of devoted instructors who now occupy positions of authority in universities, day-care centers, geriatric hospitals, and the fashion industry.

When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Gandhi is said to have responded, “It would be a good idea.” To which Ms. Venus would add only, “if it hurts.” □