Selflessness?

Just like ‘Self-inquiry’ and ‘Impermanence’, ‘Selflessness’ is one of the common words we come across in the teachings of yoga and Buddhism.

The ‘I’, where there’s a continuous stream of thinking/thought in the mind acknowledges as ‘I’ am an individual being with a physical body and thinking mind experiencing life, doesn’t exist. Out of ignorance, there arise the idea of ‘I’ exist as part of the modification of the mind acknowledging as an individual being, attaching onto/possessing such and such qualities of names and forms to be identified/recognized as this is what/who ‘I’ am, claiming ownership towards the physical body and the thinking mind (this is my body and my mind) and all kinds of connection with everyone and everything that the mind comes in contact with (my family and my belongings and etc), and at the same time also identifying with the physical body and the thinking mind as ‘I’ (This physical body and this thinking mind is ‘I’).

‘Selflessness’ is not something to be attained by accumulating certain amount of ‘merits and virtues’ or ‘good karma’ after performing many ‘good/righteous actions’ or ‘karma yoga/selfless service’, but it’s the ‘realization’ upon the mind seeing the truth of what is this ‘I’ where there’s a thinking in the mind thinks and believes as ‘I’. As long as there’s an idea, acknowledgement and identification of “I am a selfless being performing good actions or karma yoga/selfless service” the mind is still functioning under the influence of egoism.

The mind needs to be free from egoism, impurities and restlessness to realize ‘Selflessness’, where there’s no ‘I’ existing to enjoy or suffer, to be born or die, to know or don’t know, to desire or don’t desire, to be the performer of action and the receiver/enjoyer of the fruit of action, to be ignorant or be free from ignorance. It’s just the modification of the thinking mind perceiving all the names and forms through the senses via the sense organs of the physical body. It’s just the mind functioning and perceives, sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels, senses and thinks. There’s no ‘I’ existing to claim possession/ownership/control of the selfless modification of the mind or the ceaseless impermanent changes of the modification of the mind perceiving all the names and forms that are also impermanent and selfless. It’s coming from the mind being aware of the modification of the mind, while purifying and quieting itself to be free from restlessness, impurities and egoism, to be free from ignorance. It’s not something else ‘separated’ from the mind called ‘I’ being there to be aware of ‘my mind’ or to purify and quiet ‘my mind’, to free ‘my mind’ from restlessness, impurities, egoism and ignorance.

“I am not the mind. The mind is not ‘I’.” is not about ‘I’ am an existing being/soul separated/distinct from the mind. The mind is just being what it is, functioning as it is selflessly, where there’s no ‘I’ in the function of the mind which is supported/influenced by energy to be existing and functioning. Just like there’s no ‘I’ in all the cells/bones/muscles/organs/systems that forming the entire structure of the physical body which depend on nature to provide support that allows the physical body to be existing and functioning. The body and mind constantly functioning or performing actions selflessly, and there are also the consequences of actions following the actions (cause and effect). But, somehow, out of ignorance, there’s an idea of ‘I’ existing in the form of thinking claiming a personal identity and possession/ownership towards this and that, to desire and don’t desire, to agree and disagree, to enjoy or suffer, to aspire and expect, and so on. There’s an idea/identification of “I am the performer of my actions and I am the enjoyer of the fruit of my actions.”

It’s difficult/challenging for the egoistic mind that attached strongly onto a worldly self-identity attaching onto certain qualities of names and forms as this is ‘I’ or what ‘I’ am, to realize ‘Selflessness’. The egoistic mind that ‘possesses’ a self-identity thinks and believes that ‘I’ exist as an individual being experiencing life, this is ‘I’, this is my life, my body, my mind, my thinking, my belief, my feelings, my emotion, my idea, my creativity, my energy, my health, my fitness, my strength, my flexibility, my ability, my disability, my achievement, my failure, my look, my talent, my knowledge, my education, my house, my belonging, my pet, my family, my friends, my relationship, my duty, my responsibility, my rights, my aspiration, my inspiration, my sacrifice, my happiness, my suffering, my vision, my desire, my actions, my fruit of actions, my religion, my ‘God’, my world, my country, and so on. Not only there’s a personal identity, but there’s also a group identity, such like our family, our life, our thinking, our belief, our culture, our religion, our ‘God’, our action, our fruit of action, our achievement, our failure, our world, our country, our vision, and so on.

“I eat, I drink, I play, I work, I rest, I aspire, I inspire, I think, I believe, I feel, I express, I laugh, I cry, I learn, I share, I give and receive, I love and beloved, I perceive, I experience, I act, I react, I achieve, I live, I die. I am existing. How can it be possible that ‘I’ don’t exist?” It’s unthinkable for the egoistic mind about ‘Selflessness’ – ‘Egolessness’ – ‘I-lessness’.

That’s why it’s very essential for the mind to let go the attachment and identification towards any qualities of names and forms, especially the worldly conditioned egoistic way of thinking and belief in the mind that influence how the mind analyzes, judges, feels and reacts towards all and everything, as well as letting go attachment and identification towards the physical appearance/condition/ability/disability/achievement/non-achievement before the mind can reflect upon the truth of ‘Selflessness’.

Once the mind is free from the attachment and identification towards the impermanent and selfless qualities of names and forms as ‘I’, including the function of the physical body and the thinking faculty, naturally the mind will realize the truth of ‘itself’ or ‘the modification of the mind’, that there’s no ‘I’, knowing thyself. There’s neither “I know” nor “I realize” nor “I am free from ignorance” nor “I am free.”

As long as the mind is still mingling among the worldly passionate egoistic minds, that keep empowering/feeding the idea of ‘I’ and ‘the world of egoism of all kinds of attachment and identification’, it’s very difficult and almost impossible for the mind to be free from ignorance and egoism. And hence, the important practice of renunciation, seclusion, solitude and silence.

According to the teachings of Swami Sivananda, the mind just needs to spend at least five to six years in seclusion and silence being away/cutting off from the worldly affairs/activities/society/family/friends/relatives/connections/interactions that feeds/empowers egoism/restlessness/impurities/ignorance, the mind will realize the truth of ‘the mind perception of a worldly life existence of impermanent and selfless names and forms’. Although it doesn’t guarantee that everyone who try to practice silence in seclusion and solitude for a prolonged period of time will be free from ignorance and attain self-realization, as the mind might still be influenced by gross and subtle egoistic worldly/spiritual attachment hindering the mind from seeing itself/knowing thyself. And not many people are suitable for such practice, as most passionate minds would ‘go crazy’ after being in seclusion and solitude for some time. Worldly passionate minds can’t live or be without seeing/touching/communicating/interacting with other beings for even a short period of time, not to say for a prolonged period of time. That’s why it requires certain degrees of dispassion and right discrimination for someone to practice silence in seclusion and solitude, to allow the mind to realize ‘Selflessness’/’Oneness’/’Non-separateness’/’Namelessness’/’Formlessness’, where ‘suffering’ and ‘the end of suffering’ doesn’t exist.

Many people might understood ‘Selflessness’ as ‘an existing name and form such as a being/soul/mind that is free from selfishness, who is unselfish’, such as “I am a selfless/unselfish being/soul/mind”, or “I am performing selfless action to benefit other beings and other beings will be benefited from my selfless actions.”

If it’s selfless, then what/who is that ‘I’ being there acknowledging and identifying as “I am selfless/unselfish”? It’s just impermanent selfless function of the body and mind generating actions and the consequences of actions ceaselessly until the annihilation of the modification of the mind takes place, there’s no ‘I’ being there to be acknowledging/identifying as “I am selfless/unselfish.” or “I am good/bad.” And hence, silent the mind, or as Swami Sivananda taught, “Kill the mind.”

Selflessness is nothing to do with unselfishness. Regardless of living beings or non-living objects, all are impermanent and selfless or I-less, where there’s no ‘I’ within all the impermanent changes. There’s no ‘I’ existing to be identified as ‘I am selfless’, ‘I am a selfless being’, ‘I am unselfish’, ‘I am performing selfless service and other beings are benefited from my selfless service’, ‘I am kind and compassionate’, ‘I aspire to inspire others to be selfless, kind and compassionate’, and so on. There’s no “I want to be selfless.” or “I am becoming selfless.”

‘Selflessness’ is the realization of there’s no self or ‘I’, it’s not about training the mind to become ‘selfless’ or ‘unselfish’. None/nothing can train to become ‘selfless’, as there is no self or ‘I’ from the beginning. Everyone and everything is just selfless as it is. It’s due to ignorance, there is the idea of ‘I’ arise in the thinking mind materializing itself via egoism influencing the thinking pattern of the mind, where the idea of ‘I’ feeds on attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment, comparison and expectation, to desire and don’t desire, to aspire and expect, to enjoy and suffer, to love and be loved, to be continuing ‘existing’ in the form of thinking possessing a worldly self-identity with certain qualities of names and forms.

The idea of ‘I’ can be annihilated by eliminating egoism from the mind. As the ‘I’ appears to be ‘real and existing’ is nothing but the thinking pattern of the mind functioning under the influence of egoism, and upon annihilation of egoism or the veil of ignorance, the idea of ‘I’ will vanish naturally.

Upon the realization of impermanence and selflessness, naturally the mind also realizes ‘timelessness’. Time doesn’t exist, it’s just ‘what the mind perceives’, and ‘both the mind (the perceiver) and what the mind perceives (the perceived)’ constantly changing, and the ceaseless impermanent changes as well as due to the function of memory, there’s remembrance towards the impermanent changes generate the false impression of ‘time’ or ‘I’. The mind is going through countless births and deaths of ceaseless thoughts arising and passing away generating the different states of the mind. The body is going through countless births and deaths along with all the impermanent changes that are happening in the physical body generating the different condition/appearance of the body. The mind and the body is never remain the same mind or the same body even for a moment until the body and the thinking faculty ceased functioning and existing.

There’s no “I am performing yoga practice. I am a yoga practitioner. I will be receiving the benefits of the yoga practice. I am free or not free from ignorance.” It’s just the mind performing the practice, and whether the mind will be free from ignorance, or not.

Be free.

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Different teachings / practices catering the different levels of understanding

Sometimes people might feel confused by the different teachings or practices in yoga that appear to be ‘contradicted’ with one another.

Such as, there is the teachings or external practice of ‘Yama (refraining from immoral conduct) and Niyama (observances)’, ‘positive thinking’, ‘sattvic physical and mental inputs’, ‘breath control’ and ‘physical position’ to influence/balance/purify/control/manipulate the energy field to ‘change’ or ‘influence’ the state of the mind from agitation to calmness, from dullness to brightness, from restlessness to quietness, from negative to positive, from unhealthiness to healthiness, from selfishness to unselfishness, from impurity to purity, from ignorance to the end of ignorance. These are ‘the practice with names and forms’ with the intention to influence or change certain ‘lower qualities’ to be transformed into ‘higher qualities’, or to let go certain old ‘bad’ habits and to develop new ‘good’ habits. This is for the passionate ones who are being conditioned deeply by worldly egoistic thinking/belief/habits/behavior/desire/action and reaction, who still identified strongly with certain qualities of names and forms (family, relationship, given name/self-identity, gender, sexual orientation, personality, self-image, physical appearance/condition/ability/disability, states of the mind of thinking/belief/feelings/emotions, action and the fruit of action, culture, religion, spirituality, community, knowledge, experiences, relationship, nationality, political point of view, and so on), who are still looking for and being determined by the sense of love, happiness, satisfaction, success, meaningfulness, confidence, positiveness, goodness, righteousness, easiness, or pleasurable enjoyments in the qualities of names and forms.

Then, there’s the teachings and internal practice of the senses are being withdrawn from the sense objects, concentration and meditation, which include non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison, non-expectation, annihilating egoism or the idea of ‘I’, where there’s no ‘I’ existing being the performer of action or the receiver/enjoyer of the fruit of action. There’s neither ‘I’ am selfish nor ‘I’ am unselfish. There’s neither ‘I’ want goodness/happiness nor ‘I’ don’t want badness/unhappiness. It’s going beyond all the qualities of names and forms, being undetermined by the Gunas/energy fields, the physical condition, the state of the mind, quality of names and forms, duality, actions and the fruit of actions.

This is for the dispassionate ones who have firm determination to transcend the mind perception of a worldly life existence of impermanent and selfless names and forms, who have abandoned worldly egoistic thinking/belief/habits/behavior/desire/action and reaction, who are disinterested in chasing after worldly objects/enjoyments/relationships/satisfaction/meaningfulness/identification/recognition, who have gone beyond the sense of love, happiness, satisfaction, success, meaningfulness, confidence, positiveness, goodness, righteousness, easiness, or pleasurable enjoyments, upon the realization of selflessness, namelessness, formlessness, attributelessness, non-duality, oneness, or non-separateness derived from self-inquiry under a desireless equanimous mind, being aware of the modification of the mind or the different states of the mind allowing all the pleasant/unpleasant or desirable/undesirable names and forms of all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, feelings, thoughts in this present moment now being there as it is, without interfering with or controlling or changing the physical condition or the state of the mind to be something else that is not what it is, or to be ‘the way that I desire it to be’, allowing all the names and forms to be arising and passing away, allowing all the impermanent changes to be there, as they are.

There’s neither attachment towards nor identification with the impermanent and selfless physical body/the modification of the mind as ‘I’. These are ‘the nameless and formless practice’ without any intention to influence or change anything, but allowing all and everything to be there as they are, to be changing as they are, to be what they are, as they are.

If the external practice with names and forms are being practiced with the nameless formless internal practice, then one will know how to free the mind from egoism while performing all the external practice and allowing all the effects or benefits coming from the external practice to be there as they are, without intention to be receiving the effects/benefits of the practice, without desire of craving or aversion, without judgment or expectation, without attachment or identification with the practice or the result of the practice.

Just like the sun, the wind, the water, the earth and the space have no intention to be performing action, or to be interfering with one another and everything in the universe, or discriminating/judging/praising/condemning this is good or that is bad, but actions/activities are there constantly influencing each other.

All the different teachings and practices exist to accommodate different states of the mind with different degrees of attachment, openness, awareness, ignorance, understanding and/or realization. There’s no ‘contradiction’ at all. It’s just different stages of the entire yoga practice. However, many yoga enthusiasts might just stop at getting the effects/benefits from the yoga practice and don’t want to proceed any further to free the mind from egoism, impurities, restlessness or ignorance, to free the mind from being determined by the mind perception of different qualities of names and forms, and be free, as they are not interested at all in silencing the modification of the mind, as they are passionately ‘loving’ and ‘enjoying’ the impermanent and selfless worldly life existence so much. And that’s their freedom.

When the mind is being less conditioned by worldly thinking/belief/habits/action/reaction, this mind will be less disturbed by the mind perception of names and forms of all kinds of agreeable/disagreeable or pleasant/unpleasant experiences, and this will allow the mind to see the truth of things as it is, under a calm and quiet state of the mind, intentionlessly, effortlessly, spontaneously.

Observe silence to quiet the restless modification of the mind

When someone is performing yoga practice or meditation practice (self-practice), one is observing silence as much as possible practically, regardless of whether the mind is still processing some random thought activities, or not. One doesn’t talk, or grumble, or groan, or argue, or debate, or criticize, or inspire, or aspire, or communicate/interact with anyone not even so called ‘spiritual connection’ with ‘God’ or ‘higher spirits’. One doesn’t read any material, or ask questions, or looking at and listening to anyone or anything (teacher/other practitioners/scenery/video/music/podcast/conversation), or expect certain feedback/evaluation towards one’s practice, or expect particular result/effect/benefit/pleasure from the practice.

The senses are being withdrawn/restricted from chasing after the objects of the senses, and the outgoing mind is being channeled inward to be resting in the present moment, or to be aware of the practice/the breath/the pulse/the sensation/the flow of energy/prana/heat in the body, without attachment/identification with the selfless impermanent function of the physical body and the state of the mind, while allowing any result/effect/benefit/pleasantness/unpleasantness/ability/disability to be existing or non-existing, to be what it is, as it is, allowing any existing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts being there as they are, without analyzing/asserting/projecting/craving/aversion, without association with or attachment towards all these names and forms, to be quieting the restless modification of the mind effectively.

This is not really possible in a ‘yoga class’ where there is a teacher giving instructions/explanation teaching/leading a group of people performing the practice, while the group of people have to be looking at the teacher or other people in the group, and listening to while analyzing/understanding/following the teacher’s instructions to perform the practice, and expecting feedback/evaluation from the teacher and/or others towards one’s performance/practice, as well as expecting particular result/effect/benefit from the practice. “How well/correct am I doing the practice?”

Meanwhile some people’s minds are being ‘disturbed’ or ‘offended’ very much by certain teachings of yoga being taught in the ‘yoga class’ that are different from their thinking and belief, or be ‘disturbed’ or ‘intimidated’ by how the teacher teach/conduct the ‘yoga class’, or be ‘dissatisfied’ with the ‘yoga class’ is not being the way that they would like it to be (either too intense, or too gentle, or too crowded, or too quiet, too much or not enough attention, too challenging or not challenging enough, or not the kind of practice that they would enjoy).

For people who don’t know the practice yet, of course they need to learn from someone who knows the practice, such like attending ‘yoga classes’ for some time to be following instructions from a teacher to learn about the practice and how to perform the practice. Attending ‘yoga classes’ is mostly about ‘learning’. After ‘learning’ and ‘knowing’ the practice, one must develop self-discipline to perform self-practice in solitude and silence, truly immersing into the practice.

That’s why ‘yoga practice’ is always more ‘practical’ when performing self-practice in solitude and silence in terms of quieting the restless modification of the mind, where the modification of mind inputs and outputs are being limited to the maximum efficiently. Those who already developed their own regular self-practice don’t need to attend ‘yoga classes’ to be following instructions to be performing their practice, though there’s nothing wrong if they attend ‘yoga classes’ once in a while for some reasons.

There are some ‘silent self-practice yoga classes’ are about providing a specific practice time and space for yoga practitioners to be sharing a practice space at a specific time to be performing their own self-practice. Even though there are other practitioners being in the same space, everyone is observing silence to the maximum, focusing on their own practice. There shouldn’t be any social interactions during the practice.

‘Yoga teachers’ need to teach ‘yoga classes’ in the way that would allow the students to develop the essential understanding of the teaching and practice, as well as self-reliance and self-discipline, and be able to perform self-practice without supervision/instruction from other people, and this will allow the mind be trained to turn inward to be quiet and be able to process and solve most problems in life by itself.

There’s nothing wrong with ‘asking and receiving help and support from others’ when someone encounters ‘problems’ in life, especially in terms of some physical and mental illnesses that require special care and specific medical treatment, or some technical problems where everyone has their own limited knowledge and experience to be doing something, and people need to be helped and supported by other people who have the knowledge and experience that oneself doesn’t have. While for most non-technical and non-medical care/treatment related problems, such like ‘thinking/decision making/relationship/emotional problems’, the best solution or the best answer to one’s doubt, is coming from within of a calmed and quiet mind.

One just needs to learn to be by oneself and be quiet, be away from all kinds of advice, opinion or suggestion from different people who ‘would like’ to give ‘advice, suggestion, help and support’ in the way that they think it’s best from their own point of view, and observe/watch what is going on in the mind, seeing the nature and the root cause of what the mind perceives/recognizes as ‘problems/doubts/unhappiness/hurts’, to allow the mind to go beyond and be undisturbed by these ‘problems/doubts/unhappiness/hurts’. Once the mind sees the truth, all kinds of ‘problems/doubts/unhappiness/hurts’ will eventually cease existing. One doesn’t need to talk to anyone about anything to release tension/unhappiness, or hoping someone is there to be listening to and sharing one’s ‘problems’, to be receiving advice, love, care, help or support from other people, to feel better, or to influence oneself making certain decision.

Although there’s nothing wrong when most people would see this thinking and emotional independence of ‘self-reliant thinking/decision making/relationship/emotional problem solving’ as ‘unacceptable’, ‘inappropriate’, ‘wrong’ or ‘unhealthy’ social behavior, as most people in the society practice and encourage all human beings need to be ‘reaching out to other people’, ‘talking to other people’ and ‘receiving advice, help, support from other people’, and most people do ‘need’ to reach out to other people to get help and suggestion, as they are being conditioned by the society to be emotionally interdependent, that they don’t know how to deal with ‘the problems’ they have and making decision independently by themselves, or else, when they think and feel that their ‘problems’ are too much for them, when they think they are alone and have no one being there to be helping and supporting them, they might hurt themselves and/or others, whether wittingly or unwittingly. People think and believe that ‘all human beings’ need to hold onto ‘something’ physically/mentally/emotionally to live life, whether it’s family, friends, relationship, children, pets, hobby, interest, work, religion, spirituality, ‘God’, or anything that give/feed the sense of existence and meaningfulness. When something falls apart or during the most difficult moments, at least they think they have something that they can lean or hang onto. And that’s their freedom of choice.

People would think and believe, “Oh, what a pitiful meaningless life without family/friends/somebody being there to share, to talk to, to play with, to support one another, to enjoy life.” This saying doesn’t valid/apply to the minds that practice yoga, that are free from being conditioned by worldly social/cultural/religious/political thinking and belief, that are aware of what is going on in the mind and be unattached towards/undetermined by the selfless impermanent qualities of names and forms, that are free from desire of craving and aversion.

In yoga, this ability of ‘self-reliant thinking/decision making/relationship/emotional problem solving’ is true liberation for the mind, being undisturbed or being okay under any difficult moments and challenging condition and situation in life that one has to deal with by oneself, where one has clear thinking and self-control without hurting oneself and/or others. It doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have any family/friends in life, but one doesn’t need to rely on the existence of family/friends/somebody being present as supporter, or receiving help/support from anyone to deal with any difficult moments under challenging condition and situation. When ‘family/friends/somebody’ or external help and support from other people/teacher/Guru/’God’ appear to be absent or not available for some reasons, it’s fine. One doesn’t need to hurt oneself and/or others, as one is peaceful as one is, being undetermined by any ‘difficult moments’ or ‘existing problems’ that one is going through, repairing what can be repaired and letting go what has to be let go, making decisions without doubt/fear/guilt/regret, and taking full responsibility towards one’s actions and the consequences of the actions.

“You came alone and you will go alone.” – Swami Sivananda

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

Retreat and quieting the restless outgoing pleasure/stimulation seeking mind

Some people asked us, “What are the fun holiday activities we can do during the free time between the yoga and meditation practice sessions in the yoga retreat?”

Many people might be unaware of the yoga practice are being carried out in every moment whether during the yoga practice ‘sessions’ and outside the yoga practice ‘sessions’ during a yoga retreat, or in everyday life.

Not that ‘doing/enjoying some fun holiday activities’ are wrong or bad, but the yoga practice is all about changing the worldly behavior pattern/habitual action and reaction of the mind, filtering/reducing/restricting/limiting the physical and mental activities, to withdraw the outgoing tendency of the mind, to be quieting the restless pleasure/stimulation seeking mind, while freeing the mind from egoism of attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment, comparison and expectation, to prepare the mind for meditation, to see the truth of things as it is, be free from ignorance and suffering that derived from ignorance.

In a ‘retreat’, this yoga practice of restricting the activities of the body and the mind and quieting the restless modification of the mind is being put into practice, seizing the opportunity of participating in a ‘retreat’ for an extended period of time, to be retreating from all kinds of worldly physical and mental activities that gratify the desire of craving for pleasurable actions, adventures, thrills, achievements, enjoyment and stimulation. Retreat participants should make use of the free time in between the yoga practice ‘sessions’ or other than performing daily task such like tidying/cleaning the living space, taking meals and shower, to ‘take rest’ and ‘be quiet’ physically and mentally, as well as observing the habitual action and reaction and the desire of gross/subtle craving of the mind especially during the time ‘not doing anything particular physically or mentally’ not even doing some kind of physical or mental yoga practice to occupy the mind, or when ‘boredom’ and ‘the sense of meaninglessness’ starts to manifest in the mind urging the mind to go out there to be doing something to get rid of the ‘boredom’ and ‘the sense of meaninglessness’.

The untrained mind usually doesn’t like to ‘be quiet physically and mentally’ being in the present moment reducing/limiting/restricting the physical and mental activities or ‘doing nothing particular’ not even some kind of ‘spiritual practice’ or ‘healthy/meaningful activities’ to be occupying the mind with ‘something’, as the mind will get bored and feel meaningless, and hence, it needs to be constantly seeking actions/adventures/thrills/achievements, enjoyment and stimulation. And hence, the restlessness. And yoga practice is to free the mind from this worldly thinking/belief/practice/habit of ‘constantly need to occupy the mind with something to keep it busy/restless so that it doesn’t get bored or feel meaningless’.

We don’t just reduce/restrict/limit/retreat from worldly physical and mental activities during a ‘retreat’ for a few days or weeks, we also practice partial or maximum retreat from worldly social affairs, activities and interactions as much as possible in our everyday life to stop feeding the desire and the outgoing pleasure/stimulation seeking tendency of the mind.

Contemplate on this, and find out whether oneself is practicing yoga to free the mind from the habitual worldly behavior pattern, to quiet/silent the restless modification of the mind, by renouncing/retreating from worldly egoistic physical and mental activities that empower egoism and restlessness, or just doing some kinds of ‘yoga practice’ a few hours a day regularly to be gaining some impermanent/momentary physical and mental benefits to gratify the desire of craving and aversion of the mind, to feel good, healthy and meaningful. And there’s nothing wrong either if oneself is not practicing yoga to change the habitual worldly behavior habit of the mind, to free the mind from ignorance and egoism, to quiet/silent the modification of the mind. But for those who sincerely want to practice yoga, they can contemplate on this.