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.

Yoga retreat for developing self-discipline, self-restraint, self-reliance, forbearance and simplicity

Many people who are interested in doing regular yoga exercises as a form of health and fitness activity, they might also interested in participating in yoga retreats once in a while. And there are many yoga retreats everywhere in the world that would cater the demands and expectations of those who want to participate in yoga retreats.

Some people are looking for yoga retreats that allow them to learn about yoga and to be focusing and immersed into the traditional yoga practice for a period of time, to develop self-discipline and self-practice in everyday life, to free the mind from ignorance, egoism and impurities, to realize unconditional love and peace that is beyond all the qualities of name and form, undetermined by life experiences, condition and situation, physical and mental ability, achievements and enjoyments. While many others are looking for yoga retreats that allow them to gratify the desires of craving and aversion, to be in a comfortable and desirable environment that emphasize on indulgence of the senses, self-pampering and socializing, that makes them feel satisfied, pleased, good, relaxed and peaceful, even though it’s impermanent.

Whether the retreat organizers are aware or unaware of it, most yoga retreats are not really about the yoga practice of guiding the yoga enthusiasts/practitioners into the yoga practice of annihilating ignorance and egoism to free the mind from the root cause of suffering – the desires of craving and aversion, but it’s actually providing the opportunity for empowering ignorance and egoism through gratifying their desires of craving and aversion, giving them momentary satisfaction and good feelings via pleasurable physical, sensual and mental enjoyments, by giving the mind what it wants and not giving the mind what it doesn’t want.

Most people are not really interested in the yoga practice of developing self-discipline, self-restraint, self-reliance, forbearance and simplicity, to free the mind from ignorance, egoism, and the desires of craving and aversion through participating in yoga retreats that allow the participants to learn about the essential teachings of yoga, to focus and immerse into the traditional yoga practice of annihilating ignorance, egoism and impurities, while not pushing away but confronting any impurity, difficulty, discomfort, fear, or blockage that the mind doesn’t like to confront with, that the mind would rather runaway from.

Most people are more interested in yoga retreats with holiday resort facilities that provide many types of pleasurable activities, facilities, services and enjoyments of sight, sound, taste, smell, sensation, and imagination, that emphasize on self-indulgence, self-pampering and socializing, to temporarily escape from what the mind thinks is ‘negative’, ‘unpleasantness’, ‘discomfortable’, ‘difficult’, ‘depressing’, ‘disturbing’ or ‘non-enjoyment’ in everyday life, to be in a relaxing comfortable environment that would gratified the desires of craving and aversion, to be doing activities that they enjoy doing, to be indulging in sensual pleasurable enjoyments, to be pampered physically and mentally, beside attending daily yoga exercise sessions, to feel good, relaxed, satisfied and pleased.

This type of yoga retreats that emphasize on pleasurable physical and mental enjoyments in a comfortable pampering environment are great for those who feel that there is a need to be temporarily moving away from everyday life where they have to carry out their duties and responsibilities, and dealing with all kinds of people whom are not like-minded, and situations and things that are not the way that they like it to be, that make them feel disturbed, frustrated, exhausted, drained, stressed or tensed, that they need to participate in a ‘retreat’ from time to time, to unwind and relaxed, even though it’s just a momentary relief derived from being away from what their mind perceives as undesirable disturbing environment or something that they don’t like, but to be in a desirable pleasant environment, while engaging in some activities that they like to do, the way that they like it to be, that make them feel good.

Though this is not what yoga practice is about, there’s nothing wrong with most yoga retreats in the world are of this kind as they are many people want and need this kind of yoga retreats. And it’s everyone’s freedom for what they like and want. It’s a business, where you give the customers what they like and want, to make them feel satisfied and happy, and to make sure they will continue to come back again and again to support your business.

The yoga retreats that are about yoga, the teachings and the practice, allow the participants to learn about their own mind and the root cause of suffering, and to practically immerse into the yoga practice of freeing the mind from ignorance to allow the mind to see the truth of things as it is, and freeing the mind from egoism through the practice of non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment and non-expectation, while developing self-discipline, self-restraint, self-reliance, forbearance, simplicity, wisdom and compassion, to become their own teacher to perform self-practice that is beyond time and space, that allow them to live in the world as they are, perform all their duties and responsibilities, without attachment or identification towards the body and mind, the actions and the fruit of actions, without being disturbed or determined by all kinds of life experiences, people, situations and things that are not necessarily the way that they like it to be, allowing them to deal with ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ condition and situation with wisdom and compassion, that allow them to be able to let go what the mind used to perceive as ‘negative’, ‘bad’, ‘disturbing’, ‘frustrating’, ‘exhausting’, ‘depressing’, ‘hurtful’, or ‘stressful’, that they know how to partially retreat themselves in everyday life to conserve energy for performing yoga practice and to silent the mind, that they know how to minimize or stop generating and accumulating tension or stress, that there’s no need to participate in a ‘retreat’ to be away from everyday life to unwind or relaxed as there’s minimal or no tension and stress building up, and realize unconditional peace that is beyond the qualities of name and form, and all kinds of condition and situation.

A yoga retreat that allows people to develop correct understanding, awareness, self-practice, self-discipline, self-restraint, self-reliance, forbearance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, simplicity, dispassion, wisdom and compassion, that eventually people don’t need to participate in any ‘retreat’ to retreat from everyday life experiences that are not the way that we like it to be of what the impure mind recognizes as ‘negative’, ‘bad’, ‘difficult’, ‘hurtful’, ‘distressing’, ‘disturbing’, ‘frustrating’, ‘depressing’, ‘discomfortable’, ‘non-enjoyable’, ‘unpleasant’, or ‘exhausting’. The mind is peaceful as it is and wherever it is, undetermined by the qualities of name and form, and all kinds of life experiences and impermanent changes, conditions and situations. One doesn’t need to go to a special place, or be with special people, or do special activities, or to participate in any kind of ‘retreats’ to find relaxation, calmness and peace that is determined by certain qualities of name and form, experience, activity, condition and situation, that is impermanent.

This type of yoga retreat is great for those who are looking for real peace or unconditional peace being free from ignorance and egoism through persevered discipline and restraint of one’s mind activities, but it’s not favorable for business. As there will be physical, mental and emotional unpleasantness during the purification process under going intensive yoga practice to eliminate ignorance and egoism. There will be rejection and disgust coming from the ignorant egoistic mind that doesn’t like to be disciplined or restrained. There’s disagreement and aversion coming from the egoistic mind towards the teachings of yoga that is different from the thinking and belief in the mind. And hence, this type of retreats are less popular, and are being criticized by those who expect pleasurable enjoyments, comfortable conveniences, customer service and social interactions in ‘yoga retreats’. Those who guide others onto the path of yoga don’t take it as a business, and hence, it doesn’t matter.

The importance of self-reliance on the path of yoga and meditation

The teachings of yoga in the scriptures has all the instructions and guidance that one needs for any yoga enthusiasts to progress on the path of yoga and meditation for Self-inquiry.

An untrained mind that is under the influence of ignorance and impurities, the impure intelligence is not able to fully understand or comprehend all the teachings of yoga. And hence, all the yoga practice are here to help us, to allow us to purify the mind to remove impurities and ignorance for us to realize the truth.

There will be doubts and confusion arise from time to time when we progress on the path of yoga and meditation for Self-inquiry.

Sometimes we might feel despair and have doubts in the teachings of yoga and the practice. We might want to attain help from somebody who might be able to clear all or some of our doubts, or to give us a lift on the path.

But, the answers that can clear all our doubts have to come from one’s self-realization.

We have doubts because our mind is under the influence of ignorance. If we are free from ignorance, there’s no need to seek any helps from anyone or anywhere to remove any doubts, as there is no doubt.

Even though somebody who has realized the truth is here to expound the Dharma to us, we will still have doubts about whether whatever this person said is true or not, due to ignorance. Same as even if we have read many books written by some enlightened beings about what they have experienced and realized from their yoga and meditation practice about selflessness, wisdom and compassion, but it still doesn’t remove the ignorance, egoism, attachment, craving, aversion, impurities, or suffering in us. Nor does it give us peace, or make us become compassionate.

Even if someone is speaking the truth, we still need to investigate the truth of it, through our own effort and inquiry, to find out whether it is the truth.

As all these information or knowledge are coming from other people’s realization. It’s not coming from our own direct experience or self-realization. And so, we will still have doubts being ignorant about the truth, continued to be disturbed and determined by duality that derived from the mind perception of different qualities of names and forms. The mind is still under the influence of egoism, attachment, identification, desires, craving, aversion, impurities and suffering. It continues to generate ceaseless reactions towards all the names and forms that it perceives through the senses based on what it likes and dislikes, agrees and disagrees with. It is over-powered by the desires of wants and don’t wants, being in a state of restlessness, swaying between satisfaction and dissatisfaction most of the time. It performs actions under the influence of egoism, subjective thinking and beliefs, judgment, expectation, selfish desires, craving and aversion. It is determined by the fruit of actions.

The answers to our doubts must come from one’s self-realization, then all the doubts will be cleared.

When our minds start to let go of egoism, attachments, desires, judgment, expectation, craving and aversion, be free from impurities and restlessness, naturally it starts to be able to connect with some of the teachings of yoga when hearing somebody expounds the teachings of yoga, and it starts to see the truth that it couldn’t see before, this is coming from the mind itself, seeing the truth as it is. It has nothing to do with the person who expounds the teachings, nor has anything to do with the teachings.

The teachers and the teachings are like the light, illuminate the space without intention nor expectation. They are just being what they are, exist without intention to illuminate particular space, nor expectation towards anything in return for their illumination.

In the dark, we need the presence of light to allow us to see. The light allows us to see, but it has nothing to do with what we see and don’t see. That’s why some might see the truth, while some others might still be ignorant about the truth, even though they all are hearing the same teachings, at the same time, from the same person.

Without the organ of eyes and the sense of vision, we can’t perceive sights. Without light, having the best vision in the world also can’t see anything in the dark. If the organ of eyes and the sense of vision doesn’t function properly or has some damages, we can’t see clearly or properly. If the vision is blocked by some other objects in front of it, we can’t see what is hindered by the blockage, even if the the organ of eyes functions properly and there is presence of light. We need to make effort to remove any blockages in front of us, or keep the eyes and vision function properly, so that we can see clearly or properly under the presence of light.

The light is just being what it is. It has no intention to be good or bad, to make anyone happy or unhappy, to allow anyone to see something or don’t see something. Some will make good use of the light to see what they want to see. Some don’t like the light, complain that the light is too bright or too dim not the way that they like it to be, or feel that the light is disturbing them, or complain that the light exposes something that they want to keep in the dark.

Yoga enthusiasts who realized the truth through self-realization, with or without the help of some teachers and the teachings, they become one with the light. There is no separateness between the teachers, the teachings and the students. All are one, when ignorance disappears. And the light continues to be what it is. Without intention nor expectation, some will make use of the light, some won’t make use of the light. Some like to be in the light, while some like to be in the dark. Some are grateful and appreciate the light, while some don’t show gratefulness nor appreciation. But all these won’t affect, nor disturb, nor influence, nor determine the light for being what it is.

As long as we still have doubts, then keep practice, without judgment, comparison, nor expectation.

Om shanti.