08/04/2016 by Premadasa
There has been a sad resurgence and repetition of sordid patterns in the realm of yoga schools/studios, ashrams, and communities and I am extremely saddened to witness and think of these situations as a endless cycle of pain, disillusionment, and deconstruction.
What saddens me? The scandal as a facade or forefront to the immense power of yoga.
I know intrinsically that the practice and study of yoga has brought a lot of personal clarity, lessons, and opportunities to become a better person right here, right now – in body, breath, mind, intellect, and spirit. Yoga has opened the door to self-love, acceptance, and gratitude and though I feel that I haven’t arrived yet, I also know that I’m a lot closer now than when I started to practice in earnest almost 20 years ago and through my privilege to teach close to 12 years now.
I’ve been on both sides of this spectrum only to realize that I’ve been on both sides after-the-fact or perhaps this in itself is a cop-out? I’m still looking into that myself and I see it everywhere I turn, especially in the yoga community whether local or global.
Here is what I’ve come up with:
Yoga makes you feel great and you want that greatness to encapsulate everything that you come into contact with whether with yourself, another person, your community, or simply boosting your name and fame to preserve and maintain that greatness. As one feels great through practice, they would like to be recognized as such by a community hungry for love and acceptance. We’re all in this together so why can’t we all be happy, loving, and gratifying toward one another? Well we are but I sense that we’re swimming in our own story of how we would like to be perceived or in the least how we would like to perceive ourselves.
The answer to me is simply this: it is all an illusion or Maya according to Vedic philosophy.
The traditional relationship of one teacher (Guru) to one student (shisya) was set-up I believe so that each party can monitor the other while experiencing personal and spiritual growth. There is a certain accountability, responsibility, and transparency in this type of relationship. The system of yoga was traditionally taught only to men and we can theorize and rationalize according to our own values why this may have been but we cannot deny that in today’s yoga communities around the world, the schools, studios, etc. are predominantly populated by women in a ratio of roughly 80%-20% female-male at best.
We can look at this as a balancing act to make up for the male-dominated system centuries-old or we can choose to look at this as an awakening for a higher purpose. If we choose the latter, I’d like to consider this as one’s heart or boundaries breaking wide-open to the point which is in itself a very painful process but through pain and persistence comes expansion, awareness, and that ever-elusive self love that we’ve been chasing right from the start of our journey.
There has been so much scandal in the world between the sexes involving inappropriate sexual conduct in all areas and aspects of life and I feel that we are now past the saturation point and I wonder what will become of us now? We’ve taken something that used to be or represent the sacred and made it so base without value that we seem to have let go of any sense of morality as if we were dedicated to destroying any past sense of ourselves in sacrifice for the new aspect of being. The news I have to share is that we are here now and that is barely what we have due to being more concerned about past and future with little awareness on the present.
It is said through tradition that the system of Sanskrit and the Vedas, which inform Yoga philosophy, came through direct meditation which sages sitting on high in the Himalayas of India channeled and later documented eventually funnelling down through the ages to present day.
Yoga is powerful stuff and it is not meant to be taken lightly but this isn’t taught according to my experience and observation in today’s climate: we’re all in some incredible rush to know-it-all, experience-it-all, and be the first ones to arrive. The teacher-student ratio is unbalanced and there is little to none in terms of specialized or personalized attention, unless one can afford to pay a high price for this exposure. This is blatant ego at work in my opinion and without careful awareness, or discernment, this will ultimately and repeatedly lead us back into the cycle of pain, expansion, awareness, and back into pain again. I liken this to giving a newly licensed driver the keys to a drag-racing Ferrari while literally bombing around hair-pin turns along the side of a mountain – an impossible task at best.
The above words are informed and inspired by the web links copied below. I feel that this conversation has been happening for way too long and I’m certain that this conversation will continue and deepen as we get closer to finding our way toward that ultimate goal: Self-Realization. I hope that we can live through it to get to it, an oft-quoted saying of mine from my pre-college days. In the end, this is all we can work toward and visualize.
I wonder and wish however if we can manage to get there by truly following the 8 steps or limbs (Ashta meaning 8 + anga meaning limbs = ashtanga) as outlined in the great manual or ‘how-to’ book known as the Yoga Sutras by the sage or sages known as Patanjali.
The Guru is within. Follow the teachings, not the teacher.