Expectation from the yoga students towards the yoga teachers

“How come the teacher didn’t say anything about whether my execution is good or not, or whether I’m doing the postures and movements right, or not?”

In most of the “yoga classes” (yoga asana exercise classes), the teacher or the instructor will go around and adjusting the body of the students, correcting their poses and movements, and telling them whether they are good and whether they are doing it right, and constantly give encouragement to them to try harder, to do something that they don’t want to do, or are not comfortable doing, or what they think they can’t do. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.

In the yoga class of learning and practicing yoga to eliminate ignorance and egoism to free the mind from suffering, the teacher seldom or does not go around adjusting or correcting their physical positions or movements, or give them appraisement whether they are good, or not, whether they are doing it right, or not. Because how they look in the positions or how well they execute the movements are irrelevant towards the elimination of ignorance and egoism to free the mind from suffering.

Wisdom and compassion and the ability to let go and forgive, is nothing to do with making the body more strong and flexible to be able to perform many yoga asana poses beautifully or to mastering the skill to perform the yoga poses. It’s about putting the body in certain positions within the ability and comfort of the physical body and holding the positions comfortably as long as the body can stay in those positions comfortably without struggling, in order to bring the mind to be in the present to calm down and quieting the restless mind, to prepare the mind for meditation. And this is nothing to do with whether the yoga practitioner is performing the yoga poses in perfect alignment or not in the yoga asana practice.

Even when a person can perform all the yoga poses nicely in perfect alignment and executing all the movements correctly and gracefully also doesn’t guarantee that this person is or will be free from ignorance and egoism and impurities of anger, hatred, jealousy, pride, arrogance, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, agitation, depression, hurts, regret, guilt, craving, aversion, ill-will, ill-thinking, fear and worry, and so on, if this person doesn’t work on eliminating the egoism that feeds ignorance that gives rise to suffering and all sorts of disturbs and unhappiness.

The teacher who teaches yoga delivers the teachings and the guidelines for the practice to the students to perform their practice, and the teacher might or might not be observing their practice from time to time, but at the same time, without interference, judgement or expectation, allowing the students to experience the teachings while practice what they learn from the teacher about the teachings and the practice, disregards whether their understanding towards the teachings and the practice is perfect or imperfect, and whether they are following the guidelines accordingly, or not, but to inquire the truth of the teachings and the practice through their own direct experience, to develop understanding and awareness towards their own body and mind, to become the observer or the teacher towards their own mind, without attachment, identification, judgement, comparison and expectation.

The students learn to develop self-independence and self-discipline. They don’t need to depend on a ‘teacher’ to tell them whether they are doing their practice correctly, or not, as they should be able to have the basic awareness of whether they are practicing correctly, or not, by being aware of the consequences of the action of doing the poses and movements. For example, the teacher teaches the students who have never seen fire, “Fire can burn your skin and flesh and it might cause painful sensation and damages. And hence do not touch the fire.” and if the students still want to touch the fire, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and got burnt by the fire, that is not the teacher’s responsibility. The teacher cannot be there every seconds watching the students to make sure they don’t touch the fire so that they won’t hurt themselves. The students will have to learn from their own direct experience and be responsible for looking after their own well-being. Just like parents can give advice as much as they can to their children, but they cannot be there all the time to control their children how they should act or react or behave, making sure that they only do good and the right thing, and don’t do bad or the wrong thing.

Only the students themselves will know whether they are practicing yoga, or not. People can be doing yoga poses everyday for years, but they might not be practicing yoga at all, including yoga teachers. It’s not about looking at the teacher and trying to imitate the teacher or other people. The yoga practitioners learn how to perform all their actions, practice, duties, and responsibilities out of compassion, without egoism, being free from attachment, identification, judgement, comparison and expectation towards the actions, the practice, the duties and responsibilities, as well as the result or fruit of the actions, the practice, the duties and responsibilities.

If the students don’t feel comfortable while putting their body in a particular position or executing particular movements, they shouldn’t proceed further or force their body to continue to perform the position or movements that the body feels discomfortable or painful, whether it’s due the limitation of their body, or there’s mind blockage of fear and worry, or it’s due to incorrect understanding towards the practice. If it’s due to their incorrect understanding towards the practice, the teacher will redeliver the guidelines of the practice to them, without expecting them to be fully understanding the practice right away.

The students learn to be aware that all their experiences, whether it’s okay or not okay, are all impermanent. Through their own awareness and understanding, they learn how to make appropriate adjustment to put their body into the positions comfortably, or execute the movements in the way that suits their body most, without expecting a teacher constantly be there to make adjustments for them. Everyone has a different body with different condition and limitation. What is comfortable for some people might be very painful for other people. There’s no best way to execute the movements or the best perfect look of the positions or poses, it’s just what the body can do comfortably, in this present moment. And no body is aware of what is going on in one’s body and mind but oneself, not even the yoga teacher.

For those who have been doing yoga poses for many years, how they look and how they feel in the poses or movements could be different in every practice. It is the truth of impermanence and selflessness. One can’t even look and feel the same in one’s different sessions of practice, then why should one look and feel the same as any others or the teacher in particular in their respective practice?

So what if some people’s body are really inflexible and weak, and they don’t look like everyone else while performing the yoga poses or while executing certain movements? It doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to realize unconditional peace and love or to let go and forgive something that is hurtful. It’s really unimportant and irrelevant about the physical ability and limitation in the realization of selflessness, unconditional peace and love, and the ability to let go and forgive something that the mind perceives as bad, wrong, undeserving, hurtful, painful or disturbing.

A yoga teacher allows the yoga students to take their time to find their own way of putting their body comfortably in the poses without pushing or forcing their body beyond its limitation or disability in the present moment, or adjusting their body and mind by themselves to adapt and accommodate the practice, the poses or the movements with care and responsibility from themselves towards themselves.

What the students can do or cannot do, what the students want or don’t want to do, and how the students interpret and execute the teachings and practice or how they look in the positions or movements are the students’ freedom and responsibility. The yoga teacher is not here to control and judge every action of the yoga students. After learning the teachings and practice by coming in contact with the teachings from a teacher, it’s up to the yoga students to interpret and perform the teachings and practice in their own pace, in their own way, by experiencing and inquiring the truth of these teachings and practice.

The students should be learning how to be aware of their practice and understand the practice via direct experience, without attachment, identification, craving, aversion, judgement, comparison and expectation, and don’t depend on the teacher to look at their practice and constantly telling them about how good or bad is their practice. It’s not about how perfect do they look in the positions and how good they execute the movements, but it’s about via the positions and movements, they learn about what is going on in their minds, about the ignorance and egoism and the consequences of ignorance and egoism, about the suffering and the cause of suffering, about the impermanence and selflessness of the physical body and the activities of the mind of all the ceaseless thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions, reactions and impurities.

In order to perform the exercise safely so that the yoga practitioners won’t generate stress or injury onto the physical body has nothing to do with executing the yoga poses or movements in perfect alignment. It’s by understanding and listening to their own body, just do what their body can do comfortably in this present moment, in a relaxed manner, without forcing or pushing their body beyond its limitation, without trying to follow the standard of the perfect alignment, there’s no stress or risk of injury. In contrast, while trying to perform the positions or movements according to the perfect alignment that is beyond their physical limitation, to look exactly like other people or the teacher, building up tension from attachment, identification, craving, aversion, judgement, comparison and expectation, could generate unnecessary stress and injury to the body and mind while trying to perform the yoga poses perfectly according to the standard of perfect alignment. Putting the body in the perfect alignment also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is or will be free from ignorance, egoism and suffering. People who are physically fit, strong and flexible, and can perform many yoga poses skillfully in perfect alignment, are not necessarily be free from ignorance, egoism and suffering.

Be free.

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Go beyond all the desirable and undesirable experiences

Go beyond all the desirable and undesirable experiences.

Free from clinging and craving towards desirable experiences.

Free from aversion towards undesirable experiences.

Just do one’s best, perform actions to attain the life that one would like it to be, that one thinks is best for oneself and/or for others, but allow the fruit of actions to be what it is.

The sense of meaninglessness, disappointment, dissatisfaction, non-accomplishment, low self-esteem, hopelessness, depression, loneliness or emptiness doesn’t present/arise/manifest/exist in such mind, even when there is the presence or existence of mind perception of names and forms that are not necessarily the way that the mind likes or wants it to be. There are effort or action being performed from moment to moment, making use of the life existence, the body, the senses, the mind perception, the knowledge, the talent, the skill, the opportunity, the condition, the situation, to be doing something for oneself and/or others, without attachment, identification, judgment, intention or expectation towards the effort or action and the fruit of the effort or action.

When there’s dissatisfaction, unhappiness, disappointment, anger, meaninglessness, or depression manifest in the mind upon the absence of desirable experiences, hoping for something to happen but it didn’t happen, or upon the presence of undesirable experiences, especially unpleasant experiences that involve other beings or people, that’s the moment of the yoga practice of letting go takes place. Do not feed those thoughts/feelings/emotions. They will pass away, eventually.

None needs to be responsible for other people/being’s ignorance. There’s no need to suffer for other people/being’s ignorant thinking, action and speech. There might be complicated condition or situation arise under the influence of other people’s ignorance, but one deals with those complication without resentment, as resentment won’t undo what had happened or make things better. Allowing the reality that the mind perceives in this present moment now to be what it is, as it is, that it’s not necessarily the way that the mind likes or wants it to be, and it’s okay. Need not be disturbed or determined by the reality that the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t want. Even when the perceived reality is the way that the mind likes or wants it to be, that is also impermanent. Appreciate and enjoy the desirable experiences without grasping or clinging onto the experiences that are desirable.

Once the mind is able to go beyond the desirable and undesirable experiences, there’s no suffering or painful sorrow can manifest in this mind, even though the mind has to go through undesirable or unpleasant experiences.

Strength, flexibility, wisdom and compassion in yoga is referring to the ability of letting go both desirable and undesirable experiences, or to let go or forgive something that the mind perceives or recognizes as bad, wrong, undeserving, painful, or hurtful.

Having a fit, healthy, strong and flexible physical body doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Performing yoga asana practice and other forms of yoga practice as well as teaching yoga for a prolonged period of time also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Having many people and things surrounding oneself and existing in one’s life also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Having a positive, satisfied and happy mind when everything is the way that the mind likes or wants it to be also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Taking drugs, substances or intoxication that will give momentary relief, good feelings and calmness to the mind also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free. Attaining some sorts of extraordinary superpower of clairvoyance also doesn’t guarantee that the mind is free, as having the power of clairvoyance also can’t change the law of impermanence and selflessness.

But when things are not the way that the mind likes or wants it to be, when one is alone, when there’s no acknowledgement/agreement/support/companionship/interaction/encouragement from anyone or anything, when one receives all kinds of ill-treatment and experiencing physical or mental discomfort, pain, weakness or disability, under any difficult, challenging or crucial condition and situation, and the mind is still peaceful as it is due to the realization of selflessness, correct understanding/wisdom and unconditional love/compassion (without under the influence of the effect of drugs or substances or intoxication that is impermanent), then this mind is free.

It’s okay if the mind is not free, or not peaceful, or not okay. It’s okay if this freedom is not the freedom that people are looking for. It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want and don’t want. For those who are in search for this freedom of yoga, they can try to practice yoga, if they want.

Watch how the mind reacts towards all the perception of names and forms

What is yoga and what is the practice to realize yoga?

Yoga is the realization of unconditional peace and love that is undetermined and uncontaminated by what the mind thinks and believes as good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative, happiness and unhappiness, pleasantness and unpleasantness, enjoyment and suffering, meaningfulness and meaninglessness.

The yoga practice is turning the outgoing mind inwards, purifying and silencing the mind to allow the mind to see the truth as it is, be free from ignorance and egoism of attachment, identification, desires of craving and aversion, judgment and expectation, that give rise to suffering.

Developing the awareness that is being aware of or watching how the mind reacts towards all the perception of names and forms of what it sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches/feels, and thinks, without identification with the impermanent states of the mind or the mind perceptions and reactions that ceaselessly arising and passing away, without judgment or expectation towards the function and the states of the mind and the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses, without craving and aversion towards all the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses.

It doesn’t matter what the mind thinks and analyzes towards all the perception of names and forms as true or false, right or wrong, the yoga practice is training the mind to be open, being unattached towards the thinking and belief in the mind that is influencing the mind to judge and analyze everything as good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative, happiness and unhappiness, pleasantness and unpleasantness, enjoyment and suffering, meaningfulness and meaninglessness. Being undisturbed by something that the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, being unattached towards what the mind perceives as nice and good, without clinging or craving towards what the mind likes and agrees with, and being unattached towards what the mind perceives as not nice and not good, without aversion towards what the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with. Training the mind how to be at peace living in the world that is not necessarily the way that the mind thinks it should be or how the mind likes it to be.

Ask the mind, what really happens when the mind feels disturbed, offended, insulted, hurt, upset, disappointed, or angry? It’s when the mind comes in contact with something that the mind doesn’t like, doesn’t agree with and doesn’t want, or when the mind doesn’t come in contact with what the mind likes, agrees with and wants. “I am disturbed, offended, insulted, hurt, upset, disappointed and angry is not because life and things are not good, people are not good, or the world is not good, but it’s because I am experiencing something that I don’t like, that I don’t agree with, that I don’t want, or I am not experiencing what I like, what I agree with and what I want.”

If there are minds don’t like or disagree with this teaching and practice of yoga, they don’t have to take up this teaching or practice. But the ability of being undisturbed by what the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, is what the yoga practice is about, even if it’s about the teaching and practice of yoga. It’s everyone’s freedom for how their mind reacts, thinks and feels.

The minds that are peaceful, being free from ignorance, egoism, impurities or suffering, being undisturbed or undetermined by all the perception of names and forms don’t need to practice yoga. There’s no fear, no loneliness, no meaninglessness, no dissatisfaction, no disappointment, no painful sorrow, no suffering or the end of suffering. There’s no need to practice anything to be free from suffering.

The mind that doesn’t know this, then even after long time of ‘doing some forms of yoga practice regularly’, there’s no peace, as the mind is restless constantly attaching onto the mind perception of names and forms and generates craving and aversion towards the names and forms, being disturbed and determined by the likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, wants and don’t wants towards all the perception of names and forms, that is coming from the mind itself of how the mind reacts, and it’s not coming from the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses.

Suffering is not due to bad karma, but ignorance

Not everyone believe in karma, but there are quite some people believe in karma, especially in Asian culture.

A lot of time, people would relate or refer any kind of suffering as the result of bad karma (the consequences of bad actions). If someone is going through some kinds of difficult situation or very unpleasant condition or painful experiences in life, where the body and/or the mind has to go through certain difficulty or pain, people would say, “Oh, this is due to bad karma. And it’s good to go through suffering to burn-off the past accumulated bad karma.” Although by saying so, it might make the person who is suffering feels a little better and make it easier to deal with suffering, but most suffering is unnecessary and can be avoided if we know how to avoid behaving ignorantly.

People like to give their opinion and say, “Oh. Such a terrible bad karma exists in your family. Your family has to go through all these suffering is because of your family past bad karma. You all must have done lots of bad things in the past. That’s why your family has to suffer so much for it in this life.” This is such ignorant thinking and belief and saying.

Even good people who have been doing a lot of good and right actions, and didn’t do much bad or wrong in this world, and for those who believe that they have been accumulated lots of good karma in their past life are not excluded from experiencing physical, emotional and mental suffering if their minds are not free from ignorance and egoism. People like to say, “You are such a good person. You don’t deserve all these suffering. It must be bad karma from your past life.” And this is ignorant thinking and belief and saying.

For the strong ego, it would prefer to blame on past life bad karma for its suffering, than to acknowledge and admit that it’s due to its ignorance in the present.

Those who know about suffering and the cause of suffering do not blame on past life and bad karma. It’s ignorant behavior of actions and reactions in this life existence that people end up in many unnecessary suffering.

Most suffering is truly unnecessary, and the cause of these suffering is ignorance that gives rise to ignorant behavior, that leads to the consequences of ignorant behavior, which is unnecessary suffering that doesn’t has to be existing in the first place.

For example, if a person is suffering from an illness, which is treatable and not too complicated, if the illness is being treated properly and immediately, but for some reasons, due to ignorance, one is not getting the proper treatment immediately, and this person has to suffer more painful consequences that could be avoided in the first place, and/or it might be too late to do anything even though one tries to get the proper treatment later on.

Another example, one who ignores the little small problems that arise in life which could be solved easily and immediately, but for some reasons, due to ignorance, all the unattended little small problems would turn into serious unsolvable big problems. And it might be too late to do anything even if one realizes and regrets towards one’s ignorance.

Another example, one who knows that by mixing with those who have strong influence in getting into unnecessary troubles and by taking certain substances to get high can turn into addiction that would cause many forms of complication in health, life and relationship with others, but still want to take those substances to get high and hang out with those who have strong influence in getting into unnecessary troubles, and ends up in unnecessary suffering and troubles. That’s pure ignorance.

And for another example, due to the strong ego, one pushes the body and mind beyond its limitation to achieve what the ego wants to achieve, and causing unnecessary damages into the body and mind, losing one’s mobility and sanity, and requiring intensive care from others. This is not because bad karma. It’s purely ignorance.

Due to ignorance, egoism and impurities of dissatisfaction, disappointment, lust, desires, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, hurt, guilt, offensiveness, defensiveness, pride, arrogance, fear and worry, and so on, one would generate actions and reactions that give rise to unnecessary suffering onto oneself and affecting others either directly or indirectly.

Even the most intelligent or virtue person in this world also can’t escape the fundamental suffering of a life existence that is under the function of the physical body and mind perception of names and forms that is subject to impermanent changes and selflessness (All the impermanent changes and perception of names and forms are not in the control of an ‘I’, or how ‘I’ would like it to be).

If one is free from ignorance, then even though one is going through some kind of physical and/or mental suffering, one will not generate or react with further ignorant reactions that would bring further ignorant consequences. One would know how to transcend or go beyond the difficult condition, or unpleasant and painful experiences with correct understanding, wisdom and compassion, and remain equanimous being at peace, being undisturbed or undetermined by it, while being aware of the difficult condition, or unpleasant and painful experiences are impermanent and it’s not ‘I’.

Past life and karma (whether good or bad, easy or difficult) doesn’t mean anything to the one who has realized unconditional peace and love, who is free from ignorance. There’s no fear or aversion towards difficult condition, or unpleasant and painful experiences. There’s no clinging or craving towards easy condition, or pleasant and enjoyable experiences.

Be compassionate towards suffering minds

It’s not as easy as we would like it to be, to free the mind from suffering.

Though people might show sympathy towards other people’s suffering, those who have always been having a good life condition, might not truly understand the suffering that some other people are going through physically, mentally and emotionally, due to some traumatic painful life experiences.

We can’t tell people, “Hey, be grateful for all the little good things that you have. Stop being miserable.”

We can’t tell people, “Hey, be positive. Everything will be all good and nothing bad.”

We can’t tell people, especially when our life is in good condition, “Hey, life is so good. Don’t be so unhappy and bitter.”

People are allowed to be unhappy or bitter, especially when they are going through some difficult moments. It’s everyone’s freedom for whether they want to be free from unhappiness and bitterness, or not.

People might have gone through or are going through some really difficult or disturbing or painful moments, where we might have no idea how hard it is to be in their place. Even though people might smile, make jokes and laugh like everyone else, but deep in their mind, there might be some painful suffering that other people are unaware of.

It’s not difficult for those who have realized the truth to be able to let go even the most difficult and painful experiences, without vengeance. But it’s not easy for those who haven’t realized the truth to let go what was/is deeply troubling their minds.

It’s perfectly understandable that some of the suffering minds have become ‘hard’ and ‘bitter’, and we should be compassionate towards these minds that have become ‘hard’ and ‘bitter’ unwittingly, due to having been through some difficult traumatic life experiences that are not in their control and not what they wish for.

It’s normal that the suffering minds that are ‘hard’ and ‘bitter’ would feel very uncomfortable or irritable, disturbed and disgusted when hearing the teachings of yoga about letting go, forgiveness and compassion. It might take them a long time to be able to allow the mind to be open, to be aware of the suffering, without identification with the suffering, but to stand as a witness towards all the painful life experiences, and be compassionate towards the mind has to unwittingly go through some difficult traumatic life experiences, and suffers. And as yoga teachers, we can only be compassionate towards these suffering minds without judgment, but with thorough understanding and acceptance, knowing that none can take away another person’s suffering, but the mind itself to free itself from ignorance and egoism, the root cause of all suffering.