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

Learn how to free the mind from all kinds of disturbs and hurts

When a mind/person feels disturbed, unhappy, angered, disappointed or hurt by something, usually the impulsive reaction will be expecting some kind of sympathy or empathy from other minds/people, and looking forward to be comforted, loved, looked after, acknowledged, or supported by other minds/people. And most minds/people would also think and believe that that is how people should react towards other people’s state of minds that are disturbed, unhappy, angry, disappointed or hurt, to be there to be listening to what they think is disturbing their minds and comforting these suffering minds/people by showing them love, care, acknowledgement and support, to be sharing and lessening their ‘unhappiness’ or ‘suffering’, in terms of generating a ‘loving kindness’ society/community. There’s nothing wrong with that and it might give the troubled/disturbed/unhappy/angry/disappointed/hurt minds certain degrees of relieve, to feel better, but it doesn’t help them to be free from the root cause of the suffering from disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment, or hurts. Instead, most probably it might be unintentionally empowering or feeding the attachment, clinging, craving or expectation in people’s mind.

Just like giving sugary fizzy drinks to the unhappy kids might make them feel happy, but they would crave for more sugary drinks to make them feel happy. As once the craving is being gratified, it would only intensify the craving. And if their craving is not being gratified, they would be more unhappy. That’s not freedom at all.

There’s clinging, craving and expectation towards receiving sympathy, empathy, love, affection, care, acknowledgement, or support from others, even though there’s nothing wrong with receiving sympathy, empathy, love, affection, care, acknowledgement, or support from others, as this is what most worldly minds/people believe and expect the society/community/family/relationship/friendship should be, but the mind is not free. If for some reasons, the mind doesn’t get what it thinks and believes it deserves to be getting from others, it will be more disturbed/unhappy/angry/disappointed/hurt and would do things that would hurt itself and/or others. This is not freedom.

As well as most egoistic minds would want to feel that they are needed by others to feel good and meaningful about themselves and their life existence, that they are capable to give and show love, care, affection, sympathy, empathy, acknowledgment and support to others who ‘need’ them. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, just that these minds would feel bad or meaningless if for some reasons they think that they are not needed by some others, or when they think that other people do not appreciate what they give. This is not freedom.

Only those who can go beyond worldly thinking and belief can penetrate the real meaning of this teaching and practice. It doesn’t mean that everyone in the society will become ‘cold’, ‘heartless’ or ‘lack of sympathy/empathy’, but the minds are free from clinging, craving or expectation towards receiving the ‘deserving’ love, care, affection, sympathy, empathy, acknowledgment and support from others to feel loved, cared, worthy, comforted, acknowledged or supported, to feel good and meaningful, by knowing what is going on in the mind and be free from ignorance and egoism, and thus, be free from all kinds of disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment, or hurts. One doesn’t need anyone to be there to be listening to one’s ‘troubles’, ‘unhappiness’ or ‘hurts’, to be ‘comforted’, as there’s no trouble, unhappiness or hurt existing in this liberated mind. One also can give and show sympathy, empathy, love, care and support to others without the attachment, identification, craving, intention or expectation in order to attain good and meaningful feelings towards oneself or one’s life existence. That is true freedom and compassion.

Yoga practice such like cleansing technique, breathing exercises, yoga asana exercises, chanting, prayer, or concentration practice, can also give the effects of relieving certain degrees of disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment or hurts in the minds, but again, it doesn’t stop the mind from continuing be disturbed, unhappy, angry, disappointed, or hurt by something that they don’t like, don’t want and don’t agree with, that they think is bad, wrong, disturbing, unhappy, frustrating, disappointing, or hurtful, if the mind is not free from ignorance, egoism and impurities.

Those who truly want to learn and practice yoga, it’s not about doing some forms of yoga practice to be getting some conditional and impermanent physical/mental/emotional benefits or getting some momentary relief from what they think is painful suffering, but they learn how to free the mind from the root cause of all kinds of suffering, of disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment, or hurts.

Naturally, the society will have more physical/mental/emotional healthy minds/people, where the minds/people realized unconditional love from within, know how to look after themselves and love others unconditionally, being free from clinging, craving, aversion or expectation.

But not many minds/people would understand and appreciate the greatness of this freedom. Most minds/people believe in and want a society/community/family/relationship/friendship that builds on ‘needing each other’ all the time to feel love, good, happy and meaningful, and to feel less lonely or to escape loneliness. That’s how people are being taken advantage by others who have selfish intention being in a relationship or friendship. Even in the world of yoga, some yoga teachers or so called ‘gurus’ take advantage of the yoga students for their vulnerability when the students longing or expecting to be receiving comfort, sympathy, empathy, kindness, love, care, affection, acknowledgment, or supports from the yoga teachers or ‘gurus’.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they think or don’t think, believe or disbelieve, want and don’t want. People don’t have to practice yoga of freeing the mind from ignorance, egoism and impurities, but just want to do some yoga practice regularly and engaging in social/community activities, to attain some momentary physical/mental/emotional benefits or relief, to attain some kinds of conditional and impermanent good, positive, loving, happy and meaningful feelings.

Work diligently to free the mind from ignorance, egoism and impurities, if one wants to attain or realize this freedom.

Learn to be alone and independent

If one wants to practice yoga and meditation, one needs to learn to be alone and independent, as well as allow others to also learn to be alone and independent, learning to look after oneself.

Somehow quite many people think and believe that ‘aloneness’ of solitude and seclusion is something ‘wrong’ and ‘selfish’. Many people, including health professionals and yoga teachers, would think and believe that it’s ‘abnormal’ and ‘unhealthy’ for the body and the mind if someone is being ‘isolated’ from other human beings for a prolonged period of time, that people would get sick and die due to loneliness and without any ‘physical touch/contact’ or ‘mental connection/interaction’ with other human beings. So they believe, and so they become. It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to think and believe.

For yoga practitioners, one must inquire the truth of everything. Do not blind-agreeing, blind-believing, blind-following, or blind-sharing any information of anything coming from anyone or any source.

Look into the history, of those who had been observing serious prolonged solitude and seclusion, voluntary being isolated from other human beings in the society to cut-off social activities, communication and interaction, to minimize mind inputs of worldly ideas, habits, thinking and belief, to quiet the restless modification of the mind, they were able to conquer their minds and attained the knowledge that liberates the mind from ignorance and suffering. These liberated minds were no longer be influenced or determined by all the others in the society of all kinds of thinking and belief and behavior.

Yoga practitioners who truly want to be free from ignorance and suffering, must inquire the truth of all those worldly thinking and belief coming from someone and somewhere, while letting go the worldly habit of minding other people’s worldly affair, allowing others to learn to be independent to look after their own minds, or not.

No doubt that all living beings must depend on nature to provide the source of energy in the form of food, water and air for survival, and human beings living in the modern society are limited by necessary dependence on some others for certain things. Such as those who don’t farm or cook, will have to depend on those who involve in farming, transporting, food processing, handling and cooking, to allow food to be available to them. Or, people who don’t know how to build a house need to depend on house builders to build houses for them. Or, babies, toddlers and young children need the attentive care and guidance from others who are physically/mentally/emotionally matured. Or, those who have physical or mental limitation or illness, also need to depend on other people to look after their everyday living and to rehabilitate. Or, most people depend on clean treated running water, gas and electricity supply to their home for modern living convenience. Or people who are critically sick need to depend on health professionals who have the knowledge of medicines and treatments for all kinds of critical illness, and depending on the availability of the medicines or treatments to counter that particular illness.

Otherwise, most people could be physically, mentally and emotionally independent most of the time for most of the things in everyday life, but people just wouldn’t, where people are either reluctant to look after themselves physically, mentally and emotionally even when they could, but they rather depending on other people to be there for them physically, mentally and emotionally, or people have fear and aversion towards the sense of lovelessness, companionlessness, loneliness, boredom and meaninglessness.

Survival instinct, love seeking, companion seeking, loneliness, boredom and meaninglessness are some of the significant reasons why people don’t like or don’t agree with ‘aloneness’ and ‘independence’. Meanwhile there are selfish greedy people in the world also don’t like the society to be ‘independent’ as that means they can no longer easily ‘manipulate’ or ‘control’ the society to get what they want.

It’s common that many people want to think and believe that all human beings somehow NEEDING each other in life. People like to think and feel, “My children need me”, “My family needs me”, “My friends need me”, “My partner needs me”, “My students need me”, “My pets need me”, “My country needs me”, and so on. Or “I need my children/my family/my friends/my partner/my students/my pets/my country being there for me, or else my life is empty, lonely, bored, joyless and meaningless.”

It makes the egoistic minds feel good and meaningful about themselves when they think they are needed by other people or beings, that they can contribute something to other beings. If everyone is physically, mentally and emotionally independent and doesn’t really need anyone to be there for them physically, mentally and emotionally, then this ‘craving for needing one another in life’ will not be gratified. People are no longer be able to attain that kind of good and meaningful feelings coming from the perception of “I am needed by some others. I am a useful being. I can contribute to the family/society/country/world/humanity.” But, this is only because of ignorance and egoism.

The mind can be free from the idea of “I am needed by some others” or “I want to be there for some others” and be free from the craving for attaining good feelings and the sense of meaningfulness coming from being needed by others, but still being kind and generous and helpful to those who really need physical, mental and emotional care and support from others, unconditionally without discrimination of ‘superiority or inferiority’, ‘people whom I know or don’t know’, ‘people whom I like or don’t like’, or ‘people whom I agree with or disagree with’.

And then there are those who become physically, mentally and emotionally frustrated, exhausted and restless deriving from pushing oneself beyond one’s limitation to look after other people who want to or need to depend on the others physically, mentally and emotionally. This is because the egoistic mind would feel bad, guilty and regret if they think they are not always there or couldn’t be there for people who want to or need to depend on them. And if their body and mind breakdown due to over exhaustion from looking after others, themselves need to be looked after by some others. If one can’t even look after oneself properly, then how can one look after the others efficiently?

When the mind is free from ignorance and egoism, it can truly serve the world efficiently, selflessly and unconditionally, under a pure, calm, dispassionate, desireless and selfless mind.

In the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre/Ashram, most people see the sequence of the teachings of Swami Sivananda as SERVE, LOVE, GIVE, PURIFY, MEDITATE, REALIZE. That is also what Swami Sivananda taught and had written in most of his books.

SERVE, LOVE, GIVE is when the mind turning outward performing selfless actions in the world (Karma Yoga) to serve the purpose of purifying the mind via the elimination of egoism through selfless service. While PURIFY allows the mind be free from impurities and restlessness to meditate and realize the truth of selflessness. MEDITATE is when the mind turning inward ceased all actions or studies in the world, stands as the silent witness towards the mind perception of a world of names and forms. And REALIZE is the fruit of meditation.

SERVE, LOVE, GIVE are supposed to help in the elimination of egoism while performing karma yoga/selfless service, however, it’s because most minds are not free from ignorance and egoism, that’s why they need to be purified. While SERVE, LOVE, GIVE under the influence of ignorance and egoism could actually empowering ignorance and egoism, and would generate more impurities and restlessness into the mind than to purify the mind, which in fact, hindering the mind to meditate and realize.

And so, the more efficient way might be first taking care of PURIFY (by turning the mind inward via dispassion, renunciation, solitude, seclusion and silence), MEDITATE and REALIZE, and then this mind that is free from ignorance and egoism can truly SERVE, LOVE, GIVE through performing selfless actions or Karma Yoga in the world, efficiently, selflessly and unconditionally. At this point, even though the body and mind is performing actions in the world, but the mind is unmoved/unaffected/undetermined by the actions and the fruit of actions. This mind is void of restlessness or exhaustion. This is INACTION in ACTIONS that doesn’t bind the mind to karma.

In fact, meditation practice being done with the correct understanding and attitude is the best mind purification, as during the time of sitting quietly by oneself, moving the body and mind away from worldly interactions and activities, turning the attention inward, withdrawing the senses from the sense objects, witnessing/observing the mind activities without association/identification with the modifications of the mind, without craving, aversion, judgment and expectation, without intention, the mind is being purified naturally and efficiently.

PURIFY, MEDITATE, REALIZE is indeed the mind SERVING, LOVING, GIVING the mind itself, and thus, purifying itself. Upon the realization of Selflessness, this mind can truly SERVE, LOVE, GIVE to others.

And hence, the importance of silence, solitude and seclusion, aloneness and independence for those who truly want to practice yoga and realize yoga.

One must look after one’s mind before one can truly benefit the others.

Those who disagree with this don’t have to take up this teaching. Be free.

Children grow up without a father or a mother or both parents

Of course, it would be good if the children grow up in an environment that they are being loved and supported by both ‘loving’ parents.

If due to unforeseen circumstances, one of the parents is not there to love and support the children as they grow up, it would be good if at least there is a ‘loving’ father or mother being there to love and support the children.

If due to unforeseen circumstances, both of the parents are not there to love and support the children as they grow up, it would be good if they can depend on some other people’s charity, love and support until they become independent.

If due to unforeseen circumstances, there’s nobody being there to love and support the children as they grow up, that they have to depend on themselves and nature, it would be good if the children know how to love themselves and be independent without self-pity, self-blame and bitterness, no matter how difficult and harsh it can be.

If due to unforeseen circumstances, the children grow up in an environment where one or both of the parents or the care taker, is ignorant, unloving, selfish and abusive, it would be better if the children grow up without the parents or any care takers. Growing up in an environment surrounded by and under the influence of ignorant people with ignorant behavior can be worst than being alone not be surrounded by ignorant people with ignorant influences. Children grow up under the care of one or both of the parents are not necessarily well brought up to have the correct understanding of life and be free from unhappiness and suffering, who won’t hurt themselves or other beings out of ignorance and egoism, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

If life appears to be challenging and difficult, most important is that one knows how to love oneself, and has peace and compassion. It’s not a suffering or unfortunate if one grows up being abandoned or unloved or unsupported or being abused, if one has self-awareness and self-realization, be free from ignorance and egoism. There’s no need of self-pity, self-blame, anger, hatred, envy, bitterness, defensiveness, offensiveness, fear or worry.

Being alone, by oneself, of solitude, is not something ‘bad’ or ‘difficult’ or ‘hardship’ or ‘suffering’. It’s indeed a great ‘fortune’ to immerse into the silence of solitude, of peace and compassion, being free from ignorance and egoism.

Many people are surrounded by some or many other people, of family and friends, but they are not necessarily peaceful and be free from suffering.

Be free.

The yoga students and the yoga teacher…

A doctor can diagnose ailments and prescribe medication for patients, but since the doctor might not suffer from the same condition the doctor won’t need to take the medication prescribed.

Nor will the doctor prescribe the same medication for every patient as they might have different diseases or conditions. Even patients with a similar condition might react differently towards a particular medication or therapy. In this case the doctor will need to adjust the dosage or prescribe something different.

If the doctor also suffers from a medical condition then medication might be required, but even if the doctor recovers through use of a particular medication, it doesn’t mean that this medication will be suitable for all other patients.

This is similar to the case of yoga students and a yoga teacher.

There is no need to look at others, not even our teachers, but concentrate on our own path and practice.

Be happy.

Om shanti.