2011-01-20

Truth is, no teaching, no teacher, no taught


These lines might feel like unhelpful directions to a person looking to be told where to go, how to do it and what to do. But according to the Avadhoot Gita, a non-dual text, and interpreted by Mark Whitwell in Yoga of Heart this is how it really is.

The truth is, "no teaching, no teacher, no taught" is the path of Yoga and many other practices that ultimately are about the inner quest.

Funny, as connected to this esoteric discussion are the timeless questions of why are we here? what is the purpose? and who am I? I write funny because posing these questions to the modern-day student seems to provoke no reaction at all (as if they have been answered already) OR hostility in that this is getting "too deep".

Too bad, because these are the age-old questions that have been asked a thousand times over by the Masters, saints, sages and all those who have gone before in search of their earthly purpose. But in yoga's popularity today, it doesn't seem many people care to ask the questions or to know more. Perhaps it is fair to say that it is a portion of yoga that is losing face temporarily while exercise takes over. People will naturally evolve into the deeper realms just by keeping up the practice. While this is a seductive point it can also be argued that if the deeper meanings of yoga are not addressed one could miss the point for several years of their practice.

I have always found it interesting to learn how Zen Masters sat and meditated for years with no progress. They literally said, "they sat on stuff". It was not until they understood something of themselves and the deeper elements of practice (or were OPEN to receiving it) that they moved forward.

When I first read the line "no teacher, no taught" I was reminded of the book entitled, "If you Meet the Buddha on the Road Kill Him." This book, which gained some noterity in the 80's, sugggests a similiar notion in that someone 'teaching' you is a myth, a lie. No teacher can teach you anything unless you are prepared to walk the path and to test it out. If a teacher tells you this is the way and I will teach it to you, it is akin to meeting someone selling tickets to englighenment. The Buddha and the teacher are not outside; they are within.

It is also similiar to what the poet Gibran said on teaching...

Re: The teacher leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

This is how I see Yoga. This is why I practice. This is also why I teach.

The body is the external means, it is not the end. It is a journey in learning and being reminded of how we keep coming back to the body level only to be fooled again. We do many things with the body, but what do we do with the mind? People like to discuss how body/mind are linked and what you do with the body, you have done with your mind. Or, is it that you just keep repeating the same thing with no higher awareness. Kind of like going through the motions, brushing your teeth and all things that become routine.

Hm, this also sounds a bit like the dilemma of, "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?" According to the texts of yoga, however, the body came second and the mind created it.

These are of course murky waters. For how do we explain why people get into accidents? Why are some people born crippled? Why are some people less intelligent and others brillant? Buddhists say it is karma. And while this may seem a bit trite it is fashionable today to blame your situation on either karma or your parents!

Still, and getting back to being taught or not being taught it is all about taking responsibility. In my own journey, my teachers have not "taught" me anything at all.

Really.

They have set out a frame-work and a structure from which it has been up to me to explore. One of the misleading and vast assumptions made is that the teacher's role is to "teach" you. As a teacher, I feel the only way around this is not to enter into the arguement as to how people should see things better or even a particular way. But rather to lead them in a way that brings them to closer to this simple point.

For example, when someone learns to do the headstand pose (shirshasana), who has taught themselves how to get there? It certainly is not me. I only showed what could be done technically to get there...the rest was up to them. The student has done headstand not the teacher. The student has taught themselves based on what the teacher guided them to do.

In part, education can be blamed for the attitude that the teacher will show you the way in 'every-way'. Modern education provides very little importance to self-exploration and inquiry. And as Jack Miller, a professor at U of Toronto has stated in books on a holistic education, "education ignores the inner life."

Starting off with Yoga may begin at the physical level. But the truth is, as well, it does not end there and teachers should make no mistake in reminding their students of this. This never takes away from becoming more flexible, strong and agile, but according to Sage Patanjalim these were secondary not primary goals. They were the by-products of yoga but not the central aim.

Many times, and for fleeting moments, I have discovered and felt the time-limited quality of this body (re: death). We may 'think' we understand this basic idea, but the notion of it actually being this way is something entirely different. A bit scary also since I am not familiar with death yet.

I, myself, started with Yoga as a means for body 'perfection'. But this very desire has, fortunately, lead to an understanding of the way that the body is decaying, subject to injury, prone to decay and never the same each day. And what's more, how deeply rooted the mind is to one's body identity and image.

Ah, body identity...a thousand images competing with each other. Which one is true, which one is real, which one is "me"? Being fat, thin, short, long, lean, tall, stocky, petite, small, large, etc...etc...There are no end to the adverbs.

Once many years ago I had the questions enter my mind:

"If you were not this body and this identity to this body WHO would I be?"

"What choices would have been different?"

0 comments:

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

My Photo
Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
View my complete profile

Translate

PICTURES

Must Reads

  • Eleven Minutes
  • Illusions: Handbook for Advanced Souls
  • Le Petit Prince
  • Letters to a Young Poet
  • The Philsopher and the Wolf
  • The Witch of Portobello