Trust and Dispassion
By Elonne Stockton
Throughout the history of yoga there have been the occasional scandals involving well-known teachers. With the scandals comehurt, confusion, anger, sadness . . . All of those natural human emotions are unavoidable. The love for the teachers may – or may not –prevail, and people might find a way to forgive, but the pain is unavoidable.
Even hearing about the recent scandal involving Anusara and its leader was enough for many to respond emotionally, which is understandable. Those who have devoted their lives to the study and practice of yoga cannot help but feel pain (and other emotions) for those directly affected. The tricky part comes when we try to have compassion without getting caught up in the hurt. If we do get caught up in the pain, as Tiwari would say, there would be two people crying instead of one, and what’s the good in that?
Is it possible to keep our emotions from interfering with our practice? Can we separate the teacher from the teachings? Can we experience those emotions without letting them completely color our perspective?
In the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that “Yoga is achieved by practice (abhyasa) and nondependence (vairagya)” (Yoga Sutras 1.12). Both elements are imperative. For many the practice part is not a problem, but isvairagya/dispassion truly possible?
Can we be a support for others without participating in the drama? Can we have the discriminative discernment to cut through the hype surrounding what is going on?Can we see through to what is real and offer something valuable without adding fuel to the fire with our comments and critiques?
None of this should be about pointing fingers or making judgments. It always comes back to us. Everything should only make us look more closely at ourselves, at our own behavior as we interact with ourselves and with others. And it should also make us examine how we respond to what unfolds.
Swallowing the Poison
Paul said something the other day that stuck with me. I am paraphrasing, but basically he said that sometimes our responses to topical events only createmore problems for ourselves and for others. Instead of being able to process and digest what is going on in a useful way, we create more disease and “indigestion.”
This reminds me of the story of when Siva drank the halahala (poison of the universe). One name for Siva is Nilakantha, which means blue-throated one. The name refers to when the devas and asuras(gods and demons) churned the ocean for amrita (nectar of immortality) and what was uncovered in the process was halahala, which only Siva could digest. When Siva drank the poison, his wife Parvati stopped the poison in Siva’s throat and the poison turned his throat blue.
Not that we condone wrongdoing, but we need to be able to digest both the good and the bad in life. We find both in this corporeal reality. And one cannot exist without the other.
We must be able to digest the poison because this must come back to us and to our practice. Paul will remind me to trust myself. He and Tiwari can advise us, help us, but nobody is infallible. In the end we only have ourselves to answer to and our own personal practice to support us.
We must always come back to our own practice. We need to understand that whatever happens, we will be fine. If one day we no longer have our teachers, for whatever reason, we still have our connection to practice.
Anyone who has gone to any depth in practice realizes that these practices are bigger than us as individuals and bigger than our teachers. And they are certainly bigger than any name, brand or trend.
We need someone ahead of us on the path to guide us, no doubt! And we need a practice given to us to work on, something that comes from a solid lineage. But any good teacher would never want us to be dependent on him or her or on anyone else. A good teacher will only want to help us find the real meaning of practice in and for ourselves. A good teacher empowers us; empowerment will not create dependency.
Tiwari will often differentiate between trust and faith. Trust is based on years of practice, questioning, experience. Faith is blind, and it is dangerous. It is when we are not encouraged to question and to formulateour own opinions based on experience that we run into problems and are easily led astray.
Let’s keep practicing. Let’s keep questioning. Ultimately we only have ourselves to answer to. And how we respond to and process things is critical.