It was Robert Adams, the great writer and devotee of Ramana Maharshi, who said: “There’s a secret in the universe…there are no problems.”
In Yoga, we start from the recognition that every person is the power of the cosmos already; that every person is at one with the universe in all its tangible and intangible conditions, already. Connection to Nurturing Source, which some cultures call God, is prior. And no matter what the mind is up to with its presumptions of separation, every person lives and dies in Her arms. Nobody needs to give this to you and nobody can take it away.
And so, when it comes down to it, there are no real problems here! Life does not come in the form of a problem, nor a solution; nor a question, nor an answer. Society may be deeply dysfunctional but Life stands alone in its radiant harmony and you are That. The sun is the radiance and your whole body is the radiance too.
As Yoga teachers, our recognition of prior connection to the intrinsic intelligence, beauty and harmony of Life takes our teaching function right out of the world’s usual commercial and religious offerings. In order to make money and to entrain obedience within power structures, conventional teachers encourage the idea that people are lacking connection, that they are problematic, and that they hold the solution which will get them connected to Nurturing Source again.
Everywhere we look, solutions are being marketed to us in order to fix a presumed problem. The problem/solution model of spiritual practice is true as much in the East as it is in the West.
When I went for lessons with TKV Desikachar at his home in Madras in the 1970s, he was fiercely critical of the spiritual business of India. In his modernism and eclectic education he described spirituality as India’s biggest commercial export; furthermore, as a scam in which religious hopefulness and the seduction of enlightenment is sold to a gullible public.
It is the shabby practice of selling the holy personality, the agency to realize God as “other,” as if God is not the present condition of Reality. Teachers and methods are marketed as being exclusive or special; for the chosen few or, even more cunning, “secret teachings.” Organizations seduce and just as quickly reject their members when business agendas are not served.
But, most insidiously, the invention of a medium between God and ordinary people became the assumption that societies have been built upon. This entire male getup is abusive and only now is up for inspection. There is no medium between me and you and God.
It was the great philosopher J. Krishnamurti who famously declared that “Truth is a pathless land.” During their friendship, Krishnamurti said to Desikachar: “Don’t become a guru. Don’t become one more monkey.”
Desikachar followed Krishnamurti’s advice and attained ordinariness. He saw the presumption that a teacher is a special person who is closer to God than the student to be the problem itself. He did everything he could to dissolve that presumption, including always wearing very plain clothes! He was no more than a friend and no less. He taught in the mood of friendship and respect.
The function of the Yoga teacher is to be a friend to any person who comes to you. Not necessarily a personal friend, although maybe, but a friend in Life. The teacher simply affirms that connection to Nurturing Source is given and that the cultural patterning that assumes separation has implication to Reality. The pain and trauma caused by the thought-structures of society are real but the cause of this pain is a cultural mistake, without substance.
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Appropriate practices of moving and breathing are then given that empower the person to be intimate with Reality itself: the power of the cosmos that is arising as the whole body.
Yoga teaching is not a matter of giving spiritual information but a matter of perception and love. The teacher sees themselves as Life Itself and so they are then able to see the student as that power too. We see and relate to one another in local community as we actually are.
In the traditions, there is spontaneously given event called Shaktipat, in which a student suddenly experience Reality and realizes that they are in fact the power of the cosmos; then, they respond to that experience of grace with a steady and non-obsessive Yoga practice.
At some point, another Yoga phenomenon may spontaneously be given called Shivapat. This is the ability to teach authentically, transmit and empower others to the fact of reality. Shivapat comes from the authority of one’s own experience and practice; thus, Yoga is transmitted through the ages.
To be a Yoga Teacher is not really a career nor a social role or personal identity. It is a spiritual function that chooses you organically and naturally in a mystic way. If you are reading these words, perhaps this has happened to you.
So please make yourself visible to the world. The world needs to your face and to see that you are a person with dignity and grace and intellectual integrity who is offering specific teaching that is desperately needed.
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Mark Whitwell is an internationally renowned Yoga Teacher who has spent the past thirty years traveling the world on a mission to make authentic Yoga available to all people.
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