be free, be happy, be peaceful

May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Saturday, April 3, 2010

About Ashrams

We may not know every yogi and ashram in the world especially those who are not advertising themselves or being publicized in the world of social media. There are many famous yoga teachers and Ashrams in the world but there are also many other saints and sages that are behind the commercial world of name and fame, doing lots of selfless work to propagate humanity, compassion and wisdom. Not knowing these selfless people doesn’t mean that we deny their existence. We know that there are many of these selfless yogis out there renouncing the worldly name and fame but continue to contribute to the world in many different ways. We respect all who directly or indirectly involve in the propagation of humanity, compassion and wisdom. Even though we don’t know everybody in the world, we will always know that there are many other people who are practicing yoga and sharing yoga and wisdom with many others. There are also those who are not necessarily practicing yoga in any particular form, but they are disseminating peace, compassion and wisdom into the world.

For many of us who are looking for a yoga place or a yoga school (Ashrams) to learn and practice yoga, we will have questions about which school or Ashram should we go to, which teacher or guru should we learn from, and should we stick to one guru and one ashram or should we learn from many different teachers and experience many different Ashrams or yoga schools.

Many people will first look at those famous Ashrams, affiliated yoga schools and famous yoga teachers because the habitual worldly conditioned mind is always looking at the “beautiful” appearances of things where the mind determines the quality of things from the appearance, such like the quality of the teaching curriculum and the recognition of qualification from the world of “international affiliation” and whether the "yoga teacher" looks like "what a 'professional' yoga teacher should look like" and being "certified and qualified internationally".

Nowadays, it is not surprising that people go to a yoga school or an Ashram mainly to obtain a recognized certificate for them to find a job called “yoga teacher” in the world of competitive “qualification”. No doubt that most of them also are sincere in sharing yoga with all, not because they just want to make money from teaching yoga class. There's nothing wrong with making a living from teaching yoga classes.

It’s just that the people in the world are heading towards the “importance” of a piece of paper recognition more than the real practice and spiritual enlightenment of the person. And what is stranger is that just one piece of paper certificate is never enough because the teachers think that they need to acquire and possess as many certificates as possible. The students also think that their teachers should possess or acquire many recognized certificates from attending many workshops and courses, or else they are not a good teacher because they are not up to date with the “latest” trends in the yoga industry, or are not learning the latest “technique”, and that they are not improving themselves in the competitive world of “elite or professionalism”.

Technically there is nothing wrong about wanting to learn more, to improve and to obtain certificates and recognition, and most important is being able to teach better quality classes. It is very good indeed. But obtaining many certificates and qualifications by going through many courses, studying and remembering a lot of names and terms, passing many examinations, learning and performing many complicated asana poses in a competitive manner (competing with others and with our own self, challenging ourselves to go beyond the limitation of the physical body), is nothing to do with the internal self-realization that derives from self-control, purification, dispassion, discrimination, compassion, wisdom, selflessness, ego-lessness, non-attachment, transcending the quality of names and forms, non-identification with the body and the mind, going beyond good and evil, and transcending the duality of good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative, success and failure, happiness and unhappiness, meaningfulness and meaninglessness.

A person who doesn’t know how to read and write, or not knowing the  ancient Scriptures, Sutras and Sanskrit, or not knowing any yoga asana, or not having any particular spiritual or religious belief and practice, it still doesn’t stop him or her from attaining self-realization without going to a formal yoga school, or Ashram, or having any teachers at all.

If a person has attained direct self-realization, this person will be transcending all these names and forms, and not needing any recognition at all. There might be superficial or technical value in these paper certificates but there is no spiritual meaning in these paper certificates because they cannot determine or represent the state of the mind of a person, nor can it determines the depth of insight development in a person and the continuing development unceasingly until complete self-realization takes place. And since everything is impermanent including the practice and the clarity of the mind are not permanent either, that’s why no one can be judged based on a piece of certificate about his or her state of wisdom and realization. We all are still under purification process to eliminate the ego and all the impurities.

There is no such thing as beginner practitioner and advanced practitioner under the presence of wisdom. Ignorance and wisdom is the same in everyone. When there is ignorance, there is no wisdom. When there is wisdom, there is no ignorance. Physically, people are having different level of strength and flexibility and this generates the different levels in the asana practice, but that cannot determine the mental state of someone. A person who is very stiff and weak, and couldn’t perform any asana, also can attain self-realization or unconditional peace. How long one has been practicing yoga also cannot determine the state of this mind.

A piece of paper means nothing to a person who has attained spiritual enlightenment and is one with the whole universe, or the sense of separateness is absence. Everything is he. He is everything. Nothing is separated from him. He doesn’t need a certificate to feel good and confident about himself and his achievement in spiritual understanding. Neither does he need to prove to the students that he is qualified and is good enough to make the student have confidence in him. The mind that is void of the sense of separateness is also void of the sense of loneliness.

If a person in search of a guru and want to look at the guru’s qualifications and certificates and looking at what type of certificates can the guru issues to him when he finished a course with the guru, then this is not about yoga anymore.

Yoga “studies” or spiritual ashrama sadhana is not about one month or one year course, and after that we are graduated and will have a certificate qualifying us as a successful yogi or a qualified yoga teacher. It is a whole life learning and practice, unceasingly purifying the mind, until the mind is free from ignorance, egoism and all kind of impurities. In the path of yoga sadhana, certification is just a game for the worldly minds. There is nothing wrong, but it cannot represent yoga.

Take Buddha as an example, did he attain an enlightenment certificate from a school, or from a teacher, certified him as an enlightened being, and hence, he was qualified to teach, guide and help other beings to be free from suffering?

A yoga school or an Ashram is a very good place for us to learn what is yoga and yoga sadhana, the discipline, the philosophy, the Scriptures, the Sutras, the Sanskrit, the spiritual development, the yogic way of living, the ancient wisdom, the traditional practice, the mantras, the mudras, the kriyas, the many paths of yoga, and other forms of different practices, and of course the technical side of the asana and pranayama practice, withdrawal of the senses, concentration and meditation. It is a good place for Satsanga – wise company and sattvic environment that is very important and conducive for our spiritual growth. But it is not a guarantee for spiritual enlightenment or guarantee as a compassionate and wise being. Enlightened or not, compassionate and wise or not, peaceful or not, are all up to our own self, our own mind. It is not the Ashrams, or the teachers, or the certificates, can give us that.

The toughest and most efficient place to be practicing and realizing yoga is in everyday life, dealing with all kind of ignorance and the consequences of ignorance in the world, while being established firmly in non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation, not being determined or disturbed by all kinds of undesirable, unpleasant and disagreeable interactions, affair, relationship, condition and situation in life and in the world. Feeling good, positive, calm and meaningful while being in a sattvic environment with a group of people that are like-minded and are being kind to one another, doesn't necessarily mean that the mind is free from ignorance and egoism, and won't be determined or disturbed by life experiences or names and forms that are undesirable, unpleasant and disagreeable to the mind.

It also depends on what type of “yoga” we are looking for. If we just want to learn fitness yoga or asana exercises only, then there are many yoga teachers and yoga centers in the world that can teach us yoga exercises. But if we are sincerely looking for yoga teachers or yoga schools that can teach us the ancient wisdom of yoga, then with pure intention and great humility, a guru or different gurus will come to us naturally when we are ready, or we will find and see the guru when the time is right. The mind is everything. Everything comes from the mind. It’s our thoughts attract what is coming to us.

Without humility, there is no use to go to any gurus, or Ashrams, or yoga schools. It will only bring more troubles for ourselves and to the Ashram and guru.

The real guru is with us all the time. All the other teachers are there to help us to see or to realize this guru in ourselves. Once we find this guru in us, everything is our guru. 'God' or the nature of things manifests in everything to guide us and teach us to realize selflessness. When we realized selflessness, we are free.

Teachers are not necessary limited to the form of human beings, they can be anything. A dog, a car, a house, a young child, an old person, an ant, a tree, our own mind, the senses, the ego, the likes and dislikes, our own feelings and emotions, actions and reactions, our relationship with everyone, all kind of desirable and undesirable experiences, sickness, injury, weakness, death, and everything that the mind perceives, are all our teachers. And so, it doesn’t matter if we are learning from many teachers or only from one teacher, in the end, it’s all about our own Self.

Yoga is here within us and in everywhere. Not just to be found in India. It is not with a yoga teacher, or a guru, or in an Ashram. The real Ashram is within us, in our lives. It is the entire universe. The physical yoga schools or Ashrams are there to help us to find the real nameless and formless Ashram in us. The physical guru is there to guide us to find the real nameless and formless teacher in us. This Ashram and this guru is not necessary a famous public figure nor they will issue us with a piece of paper that is being recognized by such and such international affiliation or organization.

Once we found a yoga school or found our guru (our instinct will tell us that that’s the one and it is not necessary that it has to be a yoga school under a building structure, because the whole universe is an Ashram indeed. A real guru can be teaching yoga everywhere and anytime, without any intention or aspiration, unlimited and unconditioned by time, space and causation), then stick to that one teacher even though the teacher might not be perfect from our point of view under the veil of ignorance. Don’t look at the teacher. See beyond the teacher and learn the essence of the teachings. If we keep picking out the defects of the Ashram and the teacher, our mind will be too busy with negativity and not be free for self-contemplation. If we keep changing schools and teachers, we will be learning too many different styles and different ways of practice, we will be confused and lost, and not going anywhere.

If we are devotional and artistic people, then Bhakti yoga is suitable for us.

If we are sociable, active and helpful people, then Karma yoga is suitable for us.

If we are quiet people (not sociable) and intellectually smart, then Jnana yoga is suitable for us.

If we are combination of all the above or none of the above, then Raja yoga is suitable for us.

Every path will bring us to purification, concentration and ultimately, wisdom. Unless we ourselves reluctant to let go egoism or to be free from ignorance.

It is us that walk the path and make the effort to realize the wisdom within us. Not our guru, whether the guru appears to be perfect or imperfect. Even the worst teacher or the most evil human being in the world can also teach us something about the mind and ignorance, and the consequences of ignorance and suffering, unintentionally.

Going to an enlightened guru, may not make us enlighten, but it will show us the essential teachings and the basic elements in our practice. At the end, we have to be independent, and walk on the path alone by ourselves. If we need to have a guru being there to tell us this and that, then forever we may not reach the goal of yoga - liberation from ignorance and suffering due to ignorance.

If we have been asking these questions, and are looking for “our” guru, we just need to be patient, the guru will appear in our life very soon, either the guru will come to us, or we will go to the guru. When we found him or her, respect him or her, and be very humble. Many people need to serve the guru for many years before the guru teach them anything technically.

This is to purify the mind and to eliminate the ego.

Once the mind is purified and the ego is eliminated, everything will come to the student naturally to unveil his or her wisdom that was veiled by ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities. With this wisdom, we are our own guru, the whole universe is our Ashram.

Many people went to the same yoga school or Ashram and the same yoga teacher, some people will be benefited very much, but some of them will be dissatisfied and complain a lot, and some people even walk out from the course. Not everyone will have the same reaction, understanding, effect or experience. The problem is not with the school, or the Ashram, or the teacher. It is our own mind judging, craving, expecting, rejecting and resisting. It is all up to our own self whether we will learn something, or not, from the Ashram and the teachers.

My teacher is not in India or in the Ashram. 'God', or the nature of everything, is everywhere in everything. But the Ashram and India was the place where I allowed myself to find my Self. Even though I never met Buddha and Swami Sivananda personally in this life but they are always my guru in a mental form. I would encourage anyone to go to any Ashram or yoga school to learn about the teachings and practice of yoga
, but not for its certification, and after finishing the course, leaving the Ashram or yoga school, be self-independent and self-disciplined to be performing the practice in everyday life to free one's mind from ignorance, egoism, restlessness and impurities.

If the mind is peaceful and kind, it doesn't need to be recognized and certified or qualified as "a peaceful and kind being". It doesn't need to boast and glorify itself as "a peaceful and kind being".

If we have a pure mind, everything is a teacher, and everything is okay. There is no problems.

If we have an impure mind, everything appears to be annoying and disturbing and hurting us, and we will have lots of problems everywhere.

That’s all.

In an Ashram there are many people, teachers and volunteer helpers. They all are still human beings. If we are wise and compassionate, we won’t see the defects in other people and won’t complain about anything. Just mind our own practice, don’t mind about other’s good and not good.

It is only when we don’t have wisdom and are not compassionate, we will see bad things and wrong things at everywhere and in everyone. But then we forget about our own self is not perfect too. Always keep looking at other people, judging people, comparing people and in competition with other people, and have lots of expectation towards the results, the teachers, the ashram, the people, the volunteering workers and our own self to be and not to be in certain way, is the biggest obstacle in the path of self-realization.

Ashram and guru (internally or externally, with or without names and forms) are important instruments for us to cross the ocean of suffering to reach unconditional peace. We should be thankful that there are many yoga schools and Ashrams everywhere, and we should support them to continue to serve all, and bring more wisdom, kindness and peace into the world, unless the yoga schools or ashrams don't really teach about yoga of eliminating ignorance and egoism, but it's about empowering ignorance and egoism.
It's everyone's freedom for their own thinking, desire, action and reaction, and what they want to do with their life existence. It's also everyone's own responsibility towards the consequences of their thinking, desire, action and reaction, and all the decisions and choices that they made.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reviews of Yoga Now Malaysia on Trip Advisor


About Yoga

Know thyself. Everything is impermanent and selfless. There is no 'I'. There is no 'I am selfless'/'I am not selfless'. There is no 'I am hurt'/'I need to be healed from hurt'. Non-blind believing, non-blind following, non-blind practicing and non-blind propagating, but be open-minded to inquire the truth of everything. Be free. Be peaceful. Be happy.

About Meng Foong

My photo
Inquire the truth of everything.

Link to Yoga Now Malaysia website

Link to Yoga Now Malaysia website
Yoga retreats and yoga workshops in Malaysia

Blog Archive

visitor maps