Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Recently I listened to a youtube presentation from a well known yoga teacher on the merits of following an established lineage as opposed to the Direct Path (guidance from the inner guru). This speaker was very articulate and he offered a cogent argument for following an established yogic path under the guidance of a qualified external guru. He pointed out that these traditions had been tested for many hundreds of years and had proved their benefits for generations of practitioners. They can be handed down from teacher to teacher, bringing the insights and techniques from ancient times into present settings. He insisted it was important to find an authentic guru, who himself was the disciple of an authentic guru, who also was the same.
Although this speaker felt he had benefitted from his choice to follow a prescribed tradition, there is much more to be said on this topic:
First, in ancient times the guru was virtually the only source of the kind of knowledge desired by spiritual seekers. There were no newspapers, books, T. V. presentations, workshops, or Youtube talks as is the case today, with information freely available on virtually all topics of interest, including yogic lore.
Second, he seems to assume that the seeker is incapable of following his/her own inner guidance, and ignores the possibility of receiving help from one's own inner teachers and guides. He compares the danger of following one's own intuition to having surgery from someone who lacks medical training, or building a house under the direction of someone not trained as an architect. He implies that by ignoring the traditional lineages, one risks getting nowhere in one's practice. He seems to advocate intense immersion into the classic sacred texts, for only they can offer the knowledge that is sought.
Now, I have no bias against studying the ancient texts (indeed, I read them often), but I think he makes a gross error of logic when compares those who function in the material realm (surgeons, architects) with those who are pilgrims on the spiritual journey. Awakening can occur in amazing circumstances and to those who appear on the surface to be the least ready. Sometimes past lives appear to be involved. The apprentice yogi can make dramatic progress or suddenly emerge as a master, bringing the ecstatic energies easily up into the head or other parts of the body. Further, some may follow the prescriptions of the ancient texts for years, disciplining the body through asanas, diet, mantra practice, etc., and still never arrive at the blessed moment of realization. Certainly, one profits from teachings on technique, such as asanas, tai chi, or chi gong practices. But even in these areas, one may choose to modify the technique to suit one's one purposes--when the energies flow, the practice is correct. One does not practice merely to attain perfect form. One seeks the feeling that is the desired product of the form, however it may be attained.
The writer does not deal with the danger of the "corrupt gurus," so prevalent in our society--we have all heard the stories of these false teachers who have taken extreme advantage of their pupils through sexual or financial or other forms exploitation,
For me, the proof of the method is in the results it produces. It is experience, not theory,
which offers the final test. The "jug and mug" method may please some, but for many of us, such surrender to "authority" is disempowering. We prefer to use our own minds to challenge all systems and to validate through personal experience the authenticity of the
"method," the pathless path that leads to the gateless gate.
I was for many years a classroom teacher in the humanities. Our aim was not to teach students what to think, but rather how to think. Without the capacity for "critical thinking," we fall into the class of those who prove their points by insisting that "the Bible says," or who follow blindly some ancient faith based on extreme emotion and sometimes dangerous perspectives rather than compassion and love,
Finally, it is important to note that these systems are themselves the creations of highly patriarchal institutions, where the "authorities" are given unquestioned allegiance and hierarchies are the rule.
(Picture found on internet)