For yoga teachers who want to gain a higher level of knowledge about the original wisdom texts of yoga, acquire a deeper understanding of why these teachings still matter, and learn simple techniques for bringing these teachings into classes and workshops. This short course includes an overview of essential concepts, Sanskrit terminology, and categories of knowledge in the Vedic tradition.
Here’s how the course is organized:
Yoga-sutras, Part 1: Conceptions of Identity in Yoga Philosophy – covers the psychology of yoga in terms of spiritual identity and material mis-identity. Includes a detailed description of the three qualities of material nature, impressions on the mind, and the essential tension between modern western culture and traditional yoga philosophy.
Yoga-sutras, Part 2: Yoga as a Moral Philosophy – covers the values, ethical imperatives, and moral actions associated with living a yogic lifestyle as well as the relationship of morality to the acquisition of knowledge.
Keys to Understanding the Bhagavad-gita – includes a summary of the back-story of the Gita, the literary structure of the Gita, the five topics of the Gita, an overview of the four systems of yoga described in the Gita (karma-yoga, astanga-yoga, bhakti-yoga, and jnana-yoga), and the Gita’s hierarchical conception of reality.
Life Lessons from the Bhagavad-gita – Includes key verses and passages that offer specific insights into Arjuna’s moral dilemma, our own personal challenges, applying yogic values to social issues, how navigate relationships, and living a purpose-driven life.
The Perfection of Yoga – Covers the central position of devotion in both the Yoga-sutras and the Bhagavad-gita, why devotion is the indispensable element for the success of any system of yoga, and how Bhakti-yoga incorporates and subsumes all of the other methods of yoga. Includes discussions on the definition and attributes of Isvara, the concept of Krishna, spiritual plurality and inclusion, and the intersection of yoga and religion.
Participants will gain a comprehensive understanding of the ancient philosophical foundation upon which modern yoga stands.
**This is a component of Faith Hunter’s 300hr Yoga Teacher Training Program.**
Investment: $525 or $475 (early bird by June 28)
The Bhagavad-gita describes three paths of yoga – the yoga of action, the yoga of mystic perfection, and the yoga of knowledge – that are informed by and find their ultimate fulfillment in a fourth path: the path of devotional service. This workshop combines lecture, discussion, and experiential learning exercises that will illuminate the teachings of this foremost of ancient yoga wisdom texts. Suitable for both yoga teachers who want to integrate the wisdom of the yoga tradition into their classes and serious yoga students who want to deepen their understanding of and appreciation for the philosophical foundations of their physical practice.
Well, that was intense… and scary and strange and tragic and wonderful – so long, 2019!
It’s natural to look back at the end of the year and reflect on what we’ve done before we look ahead to what we hope to do.
Personally, my tendency is to think more about what remains to be done rather than about what I’ve accomplished. I find it easy to forget that each step before the final step is what makes the final step possible.
But when I looked back at my 2019 calendar it showed me how many steps I’d taken: how many classes I’d taught, things I’d learned, milestones I’d reached, people I had a positive influence on, and people who positively influenced me.
Have you looked back through your 2019 calendar yet? If not, check it out – you might be amazed at what you accomplished, what you survived, whom you helped, and who helped you.
So now that I feel a little better about how last year went I’m ready to look ahead to 2020. And whatever intention I set or goals I have, if I can remember three things throughout the year then there’s a good chance I’ll be able to feel good about how things go.
The first thing I want to remember is that I am very small and my time is very short so I should use the time that I have to cultivate a sense of humility in recognition of my actual position as an infinitesimal part of an infinite reality.
The second thing I want to remember is that commitment to the process without attachment to the results is the real key to success. In yoga, the endeavor is the perfection.
The third thing I want to remember is that I’m not doing anything.
The Sanskrit word ‘ahaṅkāra,’ usually translated as ‘ego’, is more accurately understood to mean a ‘false ego’ in juxtaposition to one’s ‘true ego.’
Ahaṅkāra is the element of material nature that binds us to a conception of identity that’s based on what kind of body we have or what our karmic circumstances are. You could say that my ahaṅkāra is my conception of myself as a white, middle-aged American man. This, of course, is a temporary material condition and therefore ‘false’ in the sense that it’s not my eternal spiritual condition.
The word ahaṅkāra is actually a compound word that we can gain an even deeper appreciation of when we look at the two words that form it: aham, meaning ‘I,’ and kāra, meaning ‘doing.’ Together, they form a word that’s most accurately translated as ‘I am doing’ or ‘I, the doer.’
The false ego is the condition of thinking ‘I am the one who is making things happen.’ And this certainly appears to be the case; it looks to me as if I’m the one who’s thinking these thoughts, typing these words, scheduling this email; that I’m the doer who hits ‘send.’
And yet, however it may appear to us, yoga philosophy tells us otherwise:
prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni – guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ /
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā – kartāham iti manyate //
“One who is bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks, ‘I am the doer of activities.’ In actuality, all activities are carried out by the three qualities of material nature.” – Bhagavad-gita 3.27
If all of my efforts to move the universe into alignment with my desires are illusory then I have to say that it’s a pretty convincing illusion. I’d certainly like to believe that I’m making things happen, that I’m the doer, that I have some control over my destiny.
The Sanskrit word for ‘controller’ is Īśvara, which is also defined as ‘Lord, master, or ruler; one having the potency to perform actions.’ The compound word yogeśvarā means ‘the masterful performer of yoga.’
We would like to think that we have the potency to perform actions that will move the universe into alignment with our desires. It looks like that’s what we’re doing. But we’re very small and the universe is very big and what we’re really doing is responding to the universe as best we can within the limitations of the qualities of material nature that bind us to a conception of identity that’s based on what kind of body we have or what our karmic circumstances are.
In other words, our true identity is that of one who is controlled, not the one who controls.
This can be a little disconcerting at first.
So if we’re not the controllers of material nature then who is?
ajo ’pi sann avyayātmā – bhūtānām īśvaro ’pi san /
prakṛtiṁ svām adhiṣṭhāya – sambhavāmy ātma-māyayā //
“Although I am, by my very nature, unborn, imperishable, and the Lord of all living entities, I appear in every millennium by my own inner power, standing within and yet presiding over my material energy.” – Bhagavad-gita 4.6
Krishna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita (who is also known as Yogeśvarā) seems to be claiming dibs on being the controller of the material energy that’s controlling us.
How does this information help me? It’s totally liberating! It takes a huge burden off of my shoulders because I can stop trying to move the universe into alignment with my desires!
And you can, too!
yadṛcchā-lābha-santuṣṭo – dvandvātīto vimatsaraḥ /
samaḥ siddhāv asiddhau ca – kṛtvāpi na nibadhyate //
“Content with gain that comes of its own accord, unperturbed by duality or envy, accepting both success and failure with a steady mind – such a person is never entangled by reactions to the actions they perform.” – Bhagavad-gita 4.22
So the pressure’s off: I can go about my business fully invested in the process without attachment to the results. And since fine-tuning and focusing on my process is one of my New Year’s resolutions, this looks like a total win-win for me.
How about you? What are the principles that will guide you in 2020? It’s not a rhetorical question: please leave a comment and let me know.
Happy New Year,
After a couple of weeks of watching the competing narratives coming out of the impeachment inquiry, I felt inspired to sit with the question: how do we know what’s true?
Conventional wisdom tells us that we live in a post-truth world where up can mean down, forward means backward, and left and right mean really left and right.
Separating fact from fiction has probably never been harder. And technology isn’t helping; it hasn’t the means and its handlers, for the most part, don’t have the will to be helpful when fake news is as profitable as real news.
So who or what do we accept as an authority on what’s true and what’s false?
There’s no question as to whether or not we accept an authority on any given topic; it’s just a matter of whose authority we accept: our own or someone else’s.
Personally, I don’t consider myself an authority on anything, at least not enough of an authority to rely on my own opinion alone. Instead, I rely on yoga’s theory of knowledge to help me separate fact from fiction.
The yogic theory of knowledge – pramāṇa in Sanskrit – has three parts: direct perception (pratyakṣa), logic (anumāna), and verbal testimony (āgamaḥ or parokṣa).
Since my senses are limited by imperfections such as the potential to be mistaken, to be influenced by illusion, or to interpret information according my personal biases, I start with the last item, verbal testimony, and work my way back.
‘Verbal testimony’ is also divided into three categories: guru (one’s teacher), śastra (scripture), and sadhu (exemplary practitioners). We hear from a teacher and, rather than accept what they say on blind faith, we look to authoritative yoga wisdom texts such as the Yoga-sūtra or the Bhagavad-gītā to see if what the teacher says is reflected in the traditional literature.
If it is, the next step is to look to those upon whom history has conferred a reputation for exceptional spiritual achievement to see if their teachings match those of our teacher and what we’ve read in yoga wisdom texts.
If all three – teacher, scripture, and exemplar – are saying the same thing then we can accept the teaching as legitimate, at least in the context of the tradition from which the teaching arises.
But does the teaching make sense?
There are four reasons why we might not understand something: we might not be smart enough, we might not be pure enough, we might not have heard a proper explanation, or it might just be that thing we’re trying to understand doesn’t make sense.
We shouldn’t be too quick to accept something just because it sounds authoritative or sell ourselves short on brains and purity if we don’t fully understand what we’ve heard. There’s plenty of ‘wisdom’ floating around the yoga-verse that doesn’t make sense once you think it all the way through, to say nothing of the flotilla of nonsense sailing across the ocean media-driven misinformation.
So the second step is to think about what the implications of the teaching are. This is where the practice of active contemplation comes into play: we have to ask ourselves if what we’ve heard makes sense when taken to its logical conclusion.
If a teaching passes the logic test, then the last step is to put the teaching into practice. The acquisition of knowledge in yoga is a scientific process: you take a reasonable theory into the laboratory of your life and do an experiment to see if the theory is true. The experiment validates the theory when we experience the truth of the theory by direct perception.
This is the practice of turning jñāna – theoretical knowledge – into vijñāna: experiential knowledge.
And experiential knowledge, acted upon repeatedly over time, eventually evolves into wisdom.
In a polarized world where convictions about right and wrong are intensifying toward the opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s increasingly important to have a way to distinguish between real news and fake news, between authentic, sensible, and beneficial teachings and speculative nonsense that’s bereft of any practical value.
In one sense, the news is always changing and, in another, it’s always the same: conflicts come and go, disasters arrive and subside, losers become winners and winners become losers. All of these little pictures fly by within the context of a bigger picture. Seeing the ephemeral events of the material world in the context of a changeless spiritual reality can help us find a peaceful center in the midst of all the breathless whirligig news cycles.
To ride the roller coaster of current events without getting queasy, we need to be anchored by the bigger picture. Yoga wisdom tells us that there’s a permanent spiritual reality beneath the paroxysms of material insanity. We can apply yoga’s theory of knowledge to both in order to know what’s true and what’s True.
What does yoga philosophy have to do with what we do on our yoga mats? Is ‘reality’ really an illusion? What does ‘karma’ actually mean? Are there ‘correct’ interpretations of Sanskrit scriptures? In this workshop we’ll look the origin and historical development of yoga philosophy, de-mystify its terminology, and explore some of classical yoga’s more challenging propositions. Participants will gain a frame of reference for recognizing different schools of yoga philosophy, learn techniques for accessing the essential messages of classical yoga wisdom texts, and have the opportunity to consider whether the traditional ideas of yoga philosophy are still relevant to life in the 21st century. This workshop is for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the philosophy that forms the foundation for our yoga practice. Discussion and experiential exercises - recommended for both teachers and practitioners who want to deepen their experience of yoga.
Two things differentiate yogic meditation from mindfulness meditation: an emphasis on a transcendental object of meditation, such as a mantra, that has the power to elevate consciousness and a systematic approach to concentration and contemplation on objects of meditation that brings one to the state of spontaneous absorption in a trance of self-realization. This workshop is an experiential presentation of techniques of yogic meditation for yoga teachers who want to introduce both individual and guided meditation (Yoga Nidra) into their classes and workshops and for serious practitioners who want to expand their knowledge of yogic meditation and deepen their experience of meditation as an integral part of their yoga practice.