Approaching a teacher asking to be accepted as student of yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are left alone now.” – Swami Sivananda

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Looking after one’s mind living in the present embracing silence

In the path of yoga, looking after one’s mind, through observing maximum silence and seclusion, renouncing ‘worldly connections/relationships’, retreating from ‘worldly affairs/activities’, to be focusing on freeing one’s mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities of pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, hurts, regret, guilt, desire, longing, craving, offensiveness, defensiveness, intimidation, hostility, agitation, depression, bitterness, misery, fear and worry, to be developing and maintaining the sanity, clarity and serenity of the thinking faculty, living in the present as it is, being at peace unconditionally, undetermined/undisturbed by the impermanent and selfless quality of names and forms, without violating/interfering/intruding all the different people/communities with different kinds of thinking/belief/disbelief/ideas/values/practice/way of life/behavior/action and reaction, without claiming ownership towards the world expecting ‘my world’ or ‘our world’ has to be in certain ways that the mind would like it to be, or the way that the mind thinks and believes how it should be, is the greatest form of selfless/unconditional love towards ‘the world’.

Many people including ‘yoga enthusiasts’ might disagree with this, where they perceive ‘silence’/’renunciation’/’non-association’/’dispassion’ as a form of ‘selfishness’/’irresponsibility’/’wrongfulness’, as they believe everyone’s duty of humanity is to be actively/passionately engaging in the worldly/social affairs/activities performing actions to ‘create’ a world/society the way that they like/desire/aspire, to ‘make’/’control’/’influence’ the world/society to be the way that they think how it should be, to be all ‘good’ and ‘right’ according to what they think and believe is ‘good’ and ‘right’, to be empowering/protecting/propagating their own particular ideas/visions/values, while either intentionally or unintentionally, condemning/interfering/intruding/oppressing/intimidating/eliminating/fighting/declaring war against others who are different from them, who don’t embrace the similar ideas/visions/values, who might be obstructing ‘my desire/aspiration towards ‘having’ a world that I think how it should be’. And that’s their freedom of thinking, action and reaction.

Looking after one’s mind embracing silence being at peace unconditionally free from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and all kinds of impurity, it’s the purest selfless/intentionless form of ‘karma yoga’ contributing to the society, even without much contact/involvement/association with the society and allowing the society being what it is.

Actions that arise/come from intention/desire/aspiration to ‘influence’/’change’/’control’/’create’ a world/society to be the way that ‘I’ desire it to be, that ‘I’ think and believe how it should be, are nothing to do with ‘karma yoga’, even if it’s out of what the mind thinks and believes as ‘good’ and ‘rightful’ intention/aspiration.

All and everything being here forming ‘the world’ being what it is, where the mind perceives ‘a world of names and forms through the senses’, but the world doesn’t belong to anyone or the mind. Once the mind generates attachment and claims possession/ownership towards the world, taking the perception of a worldly existence/manifestation of impermanent and selfless names and forms as ‘my world’ or ‘our world’, there will be intention/desire/expectation/aspiration/protectiveness to ‘make’/’influence’/’control’/’limit’ the world to be the way that the mind would like it to be, or the way that the mind thinks and believes how it should be, which unwittingly lead to the existence of all kinds of discrimination, interference, intrusion, intimidation, oppression, clash, conflict, violence, and etc.

Once the mind is free from ignorance and egoism, transcending all the different qualities of names and forms, being unattached towards or undetermined by ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’, ‘rightfulness’ and ‘wrongfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘negativeness’, ‘meaningfulness’ and ‘meaninglessness’, this mind could be performing selfless/intentionless ‘actions’ in the world that promote peace and harmony effectively among the different names and forms, while allowing the world to be what it is, being impermanent and selfless, without possessiveness towards the world, without expectation/aspiration towards the world has to be in certain ways that ‘I’ like/desire/aspire, that ‘I’ think and believe how it should be, is truly ‘loving’ the world.

Peace manifest as it is when the mind transcends ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’, ‘rightfulness’ and ‘wrongfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘negativeness’, ‘meaningfulness’ and ‘meaninglessness’, ‘action’ and ‘inaction’. But for that to happen, the mind needs to know how to look after itself that would free the mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and all kinds of impurity. Or else, the mind thinks and believes that everyone needs to perform actions to achieve ‘goodness’, ‘rightfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘meaningfulness’ and getting rid of ‘badness’, ‘wrongfulness’, ‘negativeness’ and ‘meaninglessness’, in order to have peace and harmony in the world/society.

Beware of the hidden/subtle ‘ambition’/’desire’/’aspiration’/’intention’ that feed ignorance and egoism, that pulls the mind further away from yoga, while thinking and believing that “I am a good yogi performing lots of karma yoga to help the world to be a better place.”

Look into the world, where most countries need to have ‘authority’ and ‘law enforcement’ to ‘control’ the society to behave and not behaving in certain ways, to ‘create’ a world/society that conform to certain ideas/values/visions/beliefs/practice. Peace cannot be achieved by ‘controlling’ people to behave and not behaving in certain ways, or to think and not thinking in certain ways.

Peace is there as it is, when everyone has self-control out of own free-will, minding their own mind and have peace in themselves, without interference/intimidation/intrusion towards others who are being different from one another, and there’s no need the existence of ‘authority’ or ‘law enforcement’ to ‘control’ people should and shouldn’t behave or think in certain ways, that leads to further ignorant actions and reactions, violence, unrest and disharmony.

Be free.

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.

Be free, we don’t need to be someone important to be happy and peaceful…

The one who needs to be and feel ‘I’ am someone important, and keeps looking forward to possess certain qualities of name and form to be attached onto and to be identified as who we are, to be better and greater, to feel meaningful and happy about oneself or one’s existence, is the ego.

The ego wants to be recognized, acknowledged and remembered as somebody ‘important’ or ‘great’. Some egos want to be recognized and remembered as bad and evil. As long as we attach onto either good or bad qualities to be who we are, we are not free.

Be free from the ego. We don’t need to be important or great, whether in good or bad qualities, to be who we are. It’s knowing how to love and accept the impermanent body and mind as they are, without expecting ourselves to be identified as somebody whom we are not, that makes everything meaningful. It’s not about ‘I’ want to be important, or ‘I’ want to do something great, or ‘I’ want to feel meaningful, or ‘I’ want my existence to be meaningful. We do our best by making use of the present condition and ability of the physical body and the thinking mind, to serve oneself and others, but without identification with all the qualities of name and form that we have or don’t have, without attachment towards the impermanent condition and ability of the body and mind, what the body and mind can do and can’t do, and all the past and present actions and inactions.

One can be free from the ego and still performing lots of beneficial actions in the world, for oneself and others, without identification of ‘I’ am good, or important, or great, without attachment towards ‘I’ am performing good, or important, or great actions. Without the desire or intention of ‘I’ want to serve humanity, or ‘I’ want to feel good and happy and meaningful.

Be free.

Selflessness and selfless service is not the same as self-sacrifice

Selflessness and perform selfless service is the main part of yoga practice. It’s about performing action without egoism. There is no ego or ‘I’, and hence, there’s no attachment or identification with the actions and the fruit of actions. Selflessness and selfless service is not about self-sacrifice. It’s not about sacrifice ‘myself’ to put other beings before ‘I’. They are two different things.

One can be performing many actions including yoga practice, rituals and self-sacrificed actions, but one isn’t practicing yoga if one doesn’t know what is performing action without egoism.

Be free from the idea of ‘I’ sacrifice ‘myself’ to put other beings and their benefits in front of ‘I’ and ‘my benefits’. But there’s no ‘I’ or ‘my benefits’ to be sacrificed for other beings. There’s no separation. There’s no this being and other beings. Be kind to others is being kind to oneself, and be kind to oneself is being kind to others.

There’s no sacrifice.

Om shanti.