In languages such as Sanskrit and Greek there are a number of words for what we might call love, each denoting a different kind of relationship. And though we have numerous words in the English language to describe our emotional relationships, we often choose one. Love. We love our children, and our spouse, and our car; as well as our cream tea …no I really, really love my cream tea… but what does that mean? It often means that they make us happy – or at least trigger a neuro-chemical response in our reward centers. It ends up a fairly selfish expression and does not actually coincide with some of the intention behind the way love has been expressed historically or poetically. Love is supposed to be about relationship. It is supposed to be about how we treat, or what we do to and for others. As noted by many; Love is a doing word.
So as teachers and leaders, how are we to love each other and our students. How do we teach each other through Love (for lack of a better word)?
There are popularly considered to be 4 major paths to Yoga – of the many indicated in the writings of the Vedas and the Upanishads, there have been 4 that have been most nurtured and cultivated. These are the Yoga of the intellect (Jnana Yoga) the Yoga of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga), the Yoga of service (Karma Yoga) and the Yoga of royal transcendence (Raja Yoga). If we look more deeply, we can see that these are all ways to love. To love the divine, or at the least, the divinity within each other. Let’s look at each one, and see how they are a manifestation of love.
Bhakti is the easiest to explore this concept with. It is divine love of devotion. Of Worship. The very feeling of love blossoming from the heart towards a divine object. Often through song. How much do we want to sing our love of the heart to the object of our pure devotion? A mother’s lullaby to her child, the gospel choir on Sunday morning, The call to prayer in the town square or the sweet chanting of God’s name on the lips of the worshiping practice of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Jew ( just to name a few). Join a Kirtan and see how much your voice adds to the room, creating more love for everyone to bathe in. Bhakti is often translated as Love, and is a near sight better translation then when we “love” a slice of our favorite pie.
Karma Yoga is love through sacrifice and selfless service. When a parent works for hours to give their family a special gift during the holidays, when a group of volunteers walk along the boardwalk feeding the hungry, a caretaker nursing orphaned animals in their spare time. There are many ways to engage in Karma Yoga, all of which require the love of life and consciousness in wanting to relieve suffering of one form or another.
Even Jnana Yoga(somewhat pronounced nyanah yo-gah). The yoga of the intellect or knowledge is a form of love. Jnana yoga is to know all of reality through conscious experience. When you fall in love with someone, the first thing you want to do is know more about them. We ask constant questions about favorite color, and song, food, movie,..et al. So to study Yoga, the mind, humanity and eternity, is to love it. To be thirsty for it. We sit with others to listen, to admire the wholeness of their presence.
What of Raja Yoga ; such as the sutras of Patanjali and the like? How, as a Yogin and teacher to love their students and one another through the path so popular?
We can do so by engaging in the first two limbs fully before moving up, and returning to them regularly. The Yamas and Niyamas are essential to loving one another through Yoga, and we should not meditate or do any other level of teaching until we are settled here.
(For expedience and uniformity I will stick to the 5+5 from Patanjali, there are others such as those from Yajnavalkya’s path and other Hindu/SanatanaDharma traditions.)
This is my dedication to my teachers, fellow Yogins, and students.
Through Yoga, I will love you this way.
Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings
Beyond not killing (the direct translation), I will treat you with care for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This means not physically harming you, not speaking poorly of your character directly, not calling you out to embarrass you. I will respect your life and livelihood as well as your reputation. I will treat you with respect and dignity at all time. I will not teach you something I do not know, or have only intuited, as we are dealing with sensitive areas of mental health, physical health, and trust.
Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
I will not lie to you. I will not use manipulative tactics and marketing to sell my practice to you. I will speak from the texts and point you towards the truths that have been handed down from generation to generation. You can trust in my lineage, in my status and in my knowledge. I will not fabricate my own teachings and present them as anything more either implicitly or explicitly. You will not be told fanciful tales to entice you to believe I am anything more than I am. I will continue to study the depth to find the truths within my practice from reputable sources and lineage. You can trust in my word, and I will be careful in my language when expressing or explaining things to you. I will only speak on things I know, and have researched, verified and experienced.
Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing
Beyond the fact of not taking property from you. My teaching was given to me to share. I will not plagiarize yours’s or other’s work and ideas. Your time will be respected. Your ideas that you share with me will only be used with your permission. I will not appropriate the teachings of others and call it my own without agreement or lineage. I will give back to the teachers who taught me to help continue their work.
Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint
This should go without saying, but sadly…it doesn’t. I will never touch you inappropriately. I will not think of you sexually. I will not develop a romantic relationships with yout. Only the purest of intentions, actions and ideas are to be set in our relationship – every unmarried person a sibling – every married person a parent. That is the way of the teaching through the ages.
Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice,non-possessiveness
What I take in will always be put back into serving Yoga and the students. My life will require less so I can give back more. I will not commodify the teaching in order to build capital, or manipulate the teaching to fit a market. Whatever I can teach and give for free, I will. I will only charge for teaching skills, and never for knowledge. Whatever you invest in Yoga will be put into Yoga. More resources, more training, more access. My work is to invest back into my student as much as they invest in me.
This is a bit more challenging as they are very internal towards oneself. However, as the saying goes. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. Sadly, this does not need a lot of repeating as I think we keep that commandment all too well. How kind are we to ourselves, how much do we care for our well-being internally? The anger we express at others is often the pain we feel inside.
Śauca (शौच): purity, clearness of mind, speech and body
Yoga is a purity practice in many ways. We are always finding ways to remove the dross both internal and external. I will strive to live an example of Yoga, to show the way forward. To remove the muck and mire that obscures the teaching.
Santoṣa (सन्तोष): contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances as they are
I will be happy for you when you succeed. My hope is you will do more, be better and achieve higher levels than I ever could. I am content in what I am given and my personal Dharma.
Tapas (तपस): austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, perseverance
I will work hard to be the teacher and Yogin that reaches towards the highest bar through constant practice of these principles. How can I teach you what I do not practice? I will strive daily to live an auspicious life and model the principles and practice.
Svādhyāya (स्वाध्याय): study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches and actions
I will remain open to your concerns and criticism to better myself and remain ever growing teacher and friend. I will continue my search for my highest possible self to be of service to others. I will work to refine my skills each day to be a better teacher.
Īśvarapraṇidhāna (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, Unchanging Reality), attune to the supreme consciousness
I will continuously peer into your being to see the divinity that lies within. I will bow to you – as a teacher cannot be of service without students – so it is the teacher that should bow in Namaskar. I will make my service to you my worship of the supreme. Only through others can I truly serve God, the supreme consciousness.
This is my promise and part of my teaching for all of the Yoga community. These are a way to express the traditional teachings in a universal way, regardless of cast, creed or culture. A way to keep rooting back to the classic texts that were given as a gift, not to be mishandled or thrown away. If we are to teach Yoga, we must cleave to them more, or change the name of what we teach.
These are the goals to strive for, for all students and teachers. Sadly these seemingly simple standards are often glossed over in our modern age. We want to feel socially liberated before doing so spiritually. The Yoga community keeps excusing bad behavior and talking about the “shadow side” of Yoga as something we must accept. So, we sweep it under the rug, protect predators, all in the name of some new-age ideal of non-judgement that flies in the face of the Vedas, and our own viveka (discernment). The only way to eliminate a shadow is to shine light upon it. We must expect better and love each other more. Dig into the teachings from the source, stop trying to force your desires and will into Yoga because it is uncomfortable to change. We are all on a path, and should be there to help one another. This is not to admonish, anyone, if we are able to lovingly ask each other about where we are on the path and help point the way, we will all reach the goal of Yoga faster together.