Approaching a teacher asking to be accepted as student of yoga

Traditionally, when someone is interested in finding a teacher to learn, study and practice yoga and meditation under the guidance of this person (the teacher), one needs to approach the teacher humbly asking to be accepted as a student of yoga under this teacher, serving the teacher without asking/expecting “What am I getting from learning yoga under you?” or “What can you (the teacher) give me in return for offering fees/donations to you to be learning and practicing yoga from you and serving you?”

The teacher will then observe and test this person to see whether this person is fit to be a student of yoga. Once the person is accepted to be a student of yoga, this person will live closely to the teacher for many years, where in the first few years are merely doing some random ‘work/service’ in daily life, such like housekeeping/cooking/gardening/cleaning/washing serving the teacher (very important/efficient initial purification to eliminate worldly habits of egoism and impurities) before being initiated into the practice. There’s high degree of segregation/non-physical contact among the teacher and the student. It’s not like nowadays, most people are looking forward to be touching and hugging as the way to show friendliness, love and care.

The teacher doesn’t advertise/boast about “I am a certified/qualified/experienced/internationally recognized/affiliated yoga teacher” and “What kind of benefits/certification/qualification/result/achievement you will get if you attend my classes/courses learning yoga from me.” but instead, “It’s a hard-work. There will be lots of unpleasantness/pain and hardships/obstacles that you need to deal with by yourself. You have to walk the path alone by yourself. You need to be determined, persevered and vigilant to discipline your own mind until you attain self-realization.” And the students of yoga will be determined to finish their learning under the teacher no matter how much difficulties and obstacles arise during the physical/mental/emotional purification process, while developing discipline and independence in their own practice, as one day, they will have to leave the teacher, or the teacher will leave.

It’s not about to be ‘qualified’ as ‘yoga teachers/masters’, be ‘affiliated’ with ‘yoga alliance’ to be ‘conducting yoga classes’ to teach ‘yoga classes’ or ‘conducting yoga courses’ to be ‘training yoga teachers to teach yoga or conduct yoga classes/yoga courses to other people’. As a ‘yogi’ who knows yoga doesn’t need to be ‘trained’ to be ‘qualified’ to be ‘certified yoga teacher’ and ‘affiliated with’ such and such ‘yoga organization/alliance’ to be ‘recognized/authorized’ to teach yoga to anyone. It’s neither about ‘correct/proper physical alignments’, ‘teaching techniques’, ‘effects/benefits of the yoga practice’, ‘healing’, ‘connecting’, ‘sharing’, ‘hugging’ and ‘touching’.

Nowadays, this tradition is no longer be seen/practiced/appreciated. One of the reason would be the existence of ‘sincere teacher of yoga’ and ‘sincere student of yoga’ is very rare now.

In this modern commercialized world of ‘higher education and higher quality of life with worldly social values and practice’, the ‘yoga teachers’ have to ‘advertise’ or ‘boast’ about their ‘certification/qualification/recognition/affiliation/experiences/achievements’ and ‘to be presenting’ something ‘unique, enjoyable, innovative and attractive’ to attract people to be interested to come to attend the ‘yoga classes’ or ‘yoga courses’ conducted by them, while gratifying the people’s desire of craving and aversion, by giving them what they want/like and don’t give them what they don’t want/like, to make them feel treasured, appreciated, valued, pampered, satisfied and empowered. Both the teacher and the students also want to develop and maintain an inter-dependent ‘connection/relationship’ where the students ceaselessly need to receive attention, love, care, support, acknowledgement, advice or feedback from the teacher, while the teacher wants to ‘be close’ to the students, ‘be there’ for the students, ‘be connecting’ with the students, or ‘be loved/needed/glorified/supported/respected’ by the students.

Because most egoistic impure minds are being conditioned deeply by the worldly thinking behavior pattern, almost all of the ‘yoga enthusiasts’ or the ‘prospect/potential students/clients’ of the ‘yoga school/yoga studio/yoga centre’ will have some kind of ‘request’ or ‘expectation’ towards the ‘yoga school’, ‘yoga studio’, ‘yoga center’, ‘yoga classes’, ‘yoga courses’ or ‘yoga teachers’ to meet up their ‘requests’ and ‘expectation’ in terms of the ‘quality’ of the ‘professional profile/image’, ‘qualification’, ‘certification’, ‘recognition’, ‘affiliation’, ‘organization’, ‘experience’, ‘achievement’, or ‘result orientation’, and above all, “How much and what do I get from paying this amount of ‘fees’/’donation’ to the ‘yoga school’/’yoga studio’/’yoga centre’/’yoga teacher’ for attending the ‘yoga classes’/’yoga courses’.”

Many of the untrained worldly egoistic impure minds will have doubt/insecurity towards their own ‘determination’ being determined by whether they will like/enjoy ‘the teacher’s over-all presentation/image/charm/professionalism/credibility/teaching style’ or ‘the classes’ or ‘the practice’, or not, where they are unsure/unwilling to pay fees in advance which might be ‘non-refundable’ if they want to ‘give up’ when they experience discomfort or difficulty, or when they ‘don’t like/enjoy’ the ‘teacher/classes/practice’, while the truth of the purification process deriving from performing ‘serious/intense/persevered yoga and meditation practice to eliminate ignorance/egoism/impurities/restlessness’ is inevitably ‘unpleasant’ and ‘painful’ physically/mentally/emotionally for all egoistic impure minds. Even before the students come to the ‘yoga school/yoga studio/yoga centre’ to begin learning and practicing yoga under the teacher, the test/obstacle derived from the purification process already started. All kinds of obstacles manifest in the form of physical/mental/emotional discomfort and doubt.

Unfortunately, there are quite many stories of ‘impure yoga teachers’ existing in the world ‘taking advantage’ of the attention/love seeking ‘yoga students’, where people looking forward to be ‘touched’, creating many forms of ‘corruption’, and then there are ‘impure yoga students’ who didn’t get what they like and want from the teachers and they criticized and bitched about the teachers with the intention to hurt/damage the teacher’s reputation, that makes it even harder and more challenging for ‘yoga enthusiasts’ to ‘surrender’ all doubts/insecurity, to be opened to approach a teacher to ask to be accepted as ‘student of yoga’ and to ‘serve’ the teacher without attachment, identification and expectation, to be effectively purifying and eliminating egoism and impurities, to free the mind from restlessness and the veil of ignorance.

There’s neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad. It’s just how things are in this world.

Anyway, ‘sincere teachers of yoga’ and ‘sincere students of yoga’ will meet each other in due time and due cause. There’s no ‘attachment’, ‘identification’ or ‘expectation’ towards each other. The students/practitioners ‘serve’ the teacher humbly for years, surrendering the ego and worldly passionate desire/ambition/thinking/belief/social behavior pattern, and developing self-discipline. After learning/receiving the teachings from the teachers, the students retreat into seclusion and solitude, working diligently and independently towards purifying and silencing the modification of the mind, to perform self-inquiry upon the truth of everything, to attain self-realization and total annihilation of the mind or the mind perception of an impermanent and selfless worldly life existence of countless ‘births’ and ‘deaths’ of names and forms (thoughts/feelings/emotions/relationships) arising and passing away, of ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering.

“You are left alone now.” – Swami Sivananda

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Stop doing the things that the mind enjoys doing

Many people would prefer to hear this, “Do what you like to do. Go after what you like and desire. Life is too short and too precious.” instead of, “Live a life of discipline and dispassionate. Stop doing the things that the mind enjoys doing.”

Many minds don’t like a disciplined life, or be disciplined. ‘Disciplined life’ is being perceived by the worldly passionate minds as a form of ‘imprisonment’. Most minds want ‘freedom’. Ironically, the path of yoga and meditation of living a discipline and dispassionate life is also about ‘freedom’.

The ‘freedom’ for many people might be freedom of thinking, action and speech, freedom of identity and sexual orientation, freedom of culture and religion, freedom of illness-free and aging-free, freedom of war-free and violence-free, freedom of discrimination-free and prejudice-free, freedom of education and career, freedom of finance and comfortable living, freedom of movement and expression, freedom of unlimited enjoyment, freedom of unlimited happiness and pleasantness/void of unhappiness and unpleasantness, and freedom of gratifying all their desires.

The ‘freedom’ in yoga is about liberation from ignorance, egoism, impurities, restlessness and suffering through disciplining the mind to eliminate egoism and impurities by restricting the thinking, action and speech, letting go attachment, identification, expectation and desires of craving and aversion to silent the restless modification of the mind, to allow the mind to see the truth and realize selflessness.

It’s normal that people would disagree with many of the teachings and practice of yoga as all these teachings and practice is indeed oppose to the worldly thinking and belief and practice. Except the part of doing the yoga asana exercises which most people like very much, and hence, many yoga teachers and yoga centres only want to conduct yoga asana exercise classes of various brands and styles, to please the members or clients, to give them what they like and want, and avoid giving them what they don’t like and don’t want. And hence, they don’t like to give the essential teachings of yoga about discipline, dispassion and desireless, because it’s not just not good for yoga business, but it’s not good for any other consumer business that rely very much on the boundless passionate desires of the worldly people to be surviving. If majority people in the world renounce the worldly desires, habits, objects and enjoyments, and observe a disciplined and dispassionate life, the world will be out of business for many things. But, this won’t happen because very few people are dispassionate and desireless, and very few people are interested in dispassion and desirelessness.

There are so many new and ‘interesting’ things keep coming into the world to keep the ever-discontented minds busy and entertained. Life is considerably comfortable for many people in the modern society even though nothing is perfect or permanent. Most minds don’t feel the need to attain liberation from suffering, as they aren’t suffering, but they are enjoying a rather desirable interesting life. People say, “I am strong and healthy. I have good income. I have good family and many friends. I have good community support. I enjoy lots of activities in this world. I love my joyous meaningful worldly life existence. I love being passionate towards everything.” That’s their freedom.

And then, unfortunately, there are those who would like to know more about yoga and are interested in transcending misery and suffering, were being scared/intimidated by the many stories of sexual misconducts related to lustful ‘yoga teachers’ and pseudo Gurus.

“Stop giving the mind what it likes and desires. Withdraw the mind from its worldly habits and addictions of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.” The worldly minded might think that this is negative, going backward and life wasting.

Some minds like to chase after new things, new toys and different varieties, due to getting bored and discontentment towards the same old things, old toys and lack of variety. Because of the discontentment tendency of the mind, the mind will get bored easily with the new things or new toys after some time, and will chase after other new things and new toys to satisfy its craving for new excitement/experience, endlessly and restlessly.

Some minds feel unsettle and anxious towards new things, new toys and many varieties that it doesn’t familiar with.

Some minds cling onto certain things and certain toys strongly, and couldn’t let them go even when they are no longer available.

Either craving for new things/new toys/varieties or aversion towards new things/new toys/varieties will also lead the mind into restlessness. Giving the mind what it wants and not giving the mind what it doesn’t want might make the mind happy for a while, but it will not give liberation to the mind. In yoga, being determined by boundless desires of craving and aversion is indeed the real ‘imprisonment’.

Without discipline and dispassion, the mind will feel dissatisfied and unhappy when it doesn’t get what it likes, and getting what it doesn’t like, or losing something that it likes. With discipline and dispassion, the mind sees indifference between what it likes and doesn’t like, then it will stop chasing after what it likes, stop pushing away what it doesn’t like, and be able to let go what it likes, equanimously.

It’s part of the observation in the practice of silence – Mauna.

It sounds like one is tormenting oneself, as the mind will feel frustrated, disturbed, dissatisfied, disappointed, depressed, angry and unhappy for being unable to do what it enjoys doing, or unable to enjoy what it likes to enjoy. This is similar to the withdrawal symptoms of cutting down or cutting-off coffee intake. It’s very unpleasant for the body and the mind in the beginning for a period of time. Some people will give up, but some people are able to go beyond all the discomforts and unpleasantness, and develop a great mental strength.

It’s a fact that many minds don’t enjoy sitting quietly with minimal body movements observing the incoming and outgoing breath for a few hours a day, without stimulation, entertainment, excitement, pleasurable enjoyment for the senses, playing, talking, interacting, commenting, or seeing and touching someone or something that one loves.

Even though the impure egoistic mind might perceive the disciplined and dispassionate way of life as self-tormenting or life wasting, but it helps the mind to be free from all kinds of suffering. Just like most people don’t like to take bitter medicines, it’s not the enjoyable taste, but it could cure their sickness.

This practice of “Stop giving the mind what it likes and wants.” to annihilate the modification of the mind requires a prolonged period of time for it to be effective.

After a few days being in a retreat away from their family and friends, some people say, “My mind is quite strong in non-attachment already because I don’t feel missing my family and friends.” This doesn’t work because it’s just for a short period of time and the mind knows that very soon it will go back to the family and friends again.

Some people might think that their minds are quite strong in their yoga practice after they went away for a long holiday or working trip being physically away from their family and friends and their daily comforts and enjoyments for a few weeks or months, but what they didn’t realize is that even though they are physically apart, but somehow, they might still be having some kinds of regular communication and interaction with their family and friends throughout that few weeks or months, or they might be enjoying the company of some other new friends. And even though they are away from their usual comforts and enjoyments at home, but they might be enjoying other different kind of comforts and enjoyments. Again, this doesn’t work.

If only the mind is being completely cut-off from all kinds of physical, mental and emotional contact and communication with family and friends, and cut-off from all social interactions with other people, and refrain from all kinds of worldly enjoyable stimulating physical and mental activities for a prolonged period of time, one will then can truly know thyself and ‘reform’ one’s mind.

The worldly minds will be missing the family and friends, while restlessly thinking/wondering/worrying about what’s happening to the family and friends, being unable to receive any news or updates about the family and friends for a long time. The sense of boredom, loneliness and meaninglessness bubbling up in the mind due to refraining from all kinds of worldly enjoyable stimulating physical and mental activities.

The well-trained minds that have developed the strong foundation of mental strength/non-attachment/dispassion won’t be missing or worrying about anyone or anything. The mind is void of boredom, loneliness and meaninglessness. It doesn’t mean that this mind doesn’t love or care for the family and friends, but the mind has gone beyond attachment, identification, clinging and craving. The mind is free from suffering and painful sorrow even though being alone by oneself without the company of family and friends and other beings, being aware of the truth of impermanence and selflessness. This is true freedom for yoga and peace seekers. But, for the worldly minds, this is being perceived as ‘unhealthy’, ‘wrong’ and ‘abnormal’ mind behavior of ‘unloving’, ‘uncaring’, or ‘unconcern’. That’s their freedom of thinking and belief.

It’s everyone’s freedom whether they want or don’t want to inquire this teaching, and be free, or not.

Self-discipline, self-control, yoga and meditation practice…

In the traditional teachings of yoga about yoga practice, it depends very much on the level of self-discipline and self-control of the yoga student, whether the yoga student can mix freely in the society, or the yoga student requires certain amount of solitary and restriction about who the student mixes with.

As well as whether the yoga student is easily being distracted, disturbed, affected or influenced by other people’s thinking and behavior.

Yoga is about meditation, sublimating the modifications of the mind to transcend the perception of names and forms. Reducing inputs and outputs of the mind, or quieting the mind activities is part of the important practice for meditation.

There are some important observances that can help to quiet the mind for realization of the truth to transcend names and forms, especially for those who have no strong self-discipline and self-control yet, such like reducing newspaper and novels reading or movies watching, avoid excessive physical activities, talking, eating, mingling or any activities that will stimulate the mind, and make the mind very busy.

If the yoga student has very strong self-discipline and self-control, and is not easily being distracted nor influenced by anyone that the student mixes with, and is not being affected nor determined by the worldly activities that the student involves with, then this student can mix freely with anyone and engage in any worldly activities, but these activities will not affect nor distract the student’s spiritual practice.

To be compassionate towards ourselves and other beings, we need to take care of our own practice first. We need to know who we shall mix with, and have certain degrees of restriction and limitation, so that our mind will not be distracted nor influenced by worldly passionate influences that will pull us away from our practice.

If mixing with certain people will allow us to develop dispassion and right discrimination (knowing what is real and unreal), then these are the Satsanga that we shall mix with.

If mixing with certain people will pull us away from dispassion and right discrimination, then these are the Kutsanga that we need to keep a distance.

This is not being selfish, but it’s an noble action, to take care of our own practice, before we can take care of other beings.

If we think we are practicing ‘compassion’, try to be ‘compassionate’ towards other beings, and try to help other beings to be free from negativities and suffering, but ourselves has not yet develop firmness in our own practice of non-attachment, dispassion and right discrimination, and easily being disturbed, affected, influenced and determined by whatever the mind perceives through the senses of what it sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches and thinks, being influenced by likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements derive from egoism, then we need to have some kind of filtration or restriction about who we mix with and what type of activities we engage with.

How can we help other beings to be free from negativities, if we are easily being influenced by other people’s negativities? How can we help the world to be free from negativities when we are vibrating negativities into the world?

We need to be able to take care ourselves first before we can take care of others.

To be able to help the world to be a better place, it requires wisdom and compassion, dispassion and right discrimination, non-attachment and selflessness/egolessness.

This teaching is a guideline for those who seriously want to transcend egoism, ignorance and suffering. As it appears to be something ‘horrible’ or ‘disagreeable’ for those who enjoy gratifying craving and aversion, who don’t like about self-discipline and self-control, who are passionate and not interested in transcending egoism, ignorance and suffering. There’s nothing wrong with being worldly minded, and busy with gratifying the ceaseless craving and aversion of the egoistic mind. Be happy.

Om shanti.