I remember during one of the many experiences being shared at Sivananda Ashram at Bahamas, one person was narrating a story; of a follower/student who had a spiritual guru based in the Himalayas. Intrigued by his quest and fascinated by the wisdom of his Guru, the disciple returned to this master every year for new learning and experiences. Master, impressed by the dedication and efforts to visit and spend time with him by this young student for over one decade, offered him the doorway to what he called sacred knowledge. The disciple was unquestionably happy and already in seventh heaven to have qualified to gain this trust and ability. When the master demonstrated a Yoga technique which seemed quiet easy the disciple was surprised and couldn’t hold his inquisition to comment – “this is such a common and simple posture, every studio back in my country teaches this“ !!!! Tears rolled down from the cheeks of the master followed by long silence. (I shall not be narrating rest of the story but the abstract of the same below)
The above story might sound silly but the emotions of the master associated with the path and its prerequisites were “sacred”. The profound understanding of the subject matter of Yoga for several millions Yogis across the globe even today is their path of self discovery which is their Spiritual journey (do not confuse with Religious affairs). For this master (from the above narrated story), one had to really walk the path and practice the 10 commandments of Yamas & Niyamas before the person was ready for the third aspect of Yoga known as Asana – holding of postures. “WE now live in a different world – where one can access any information and can be easily mislead to assume that as attained wisdom“
Often in most of my workshops I always comment that Yoga is not about twisting or performing acrobatics with your body, asanas is just one aspect of it. Not surprising, the way Yoga today is perceived, most of the people I encounter during the workshops often introduce themselves (mostly men) with their inability to practice Yoga (since Yoga is perceived only as asanas). This shortsightedness of understanding what Yoga is? is leading to & may continue to mislead & confuse the aspirants on this path.
Even the first aphorism of Yoga Sutra by Sage Patanjali starts with – atha yoga anushasanam – which means NOW THE JOURNEY OF YOGA BEGINS. The journey to this “NOW” is the most difficult one (in today’s world) and what takes years of self restraint from indulgence and practice austerity.
As long the perception of what Yoga is? Is not understood well, trying to acquire knowledge and mastering it is a distant fruit. Yet many people practice it and are in the business, and reap the benefits. This is indeed the root cause and most of the problems have originated from. It sounds similar to the experience and scenario of a medical student, learning all but anatomy and assuming it to be the complete knowledge of medical science – starts prescribing drugs. I am certain, there could be such cases in isolation but in reality this does not happen, for the simple reason and fact that a student knows what being a doctor is? and that it takes much beyond the study and understanding of anatomy (which is just a part of the overall subject and his journey) of being a successful doctor. Such understanding has to be “in”-culminated in a Yoga aspirant who wishes to be a teacher or master for teaching and conducting Yoga classes/workshops or camps.
In all the worldly experiences and haunting tales of “Dark side of Spiritual path”, a simple introspection helps. One doesn’t have to be (and cannot be) a perfectionist to start this journey. In-fact, it is accepted that one needs to purify and must have a zeal to overcome his shortcomings and hence the ten commandments talk about non-violence, truth and Bramhcharya (Celibacy) (to name a few amongst them).
It is unfortunate, that as aspirants young people and especially women face challenges and are getting bitter experience, but do not paint the picture as “Dark side of Spiritual path”. It is the inability of the person (the wrong doer) who has chosen to satisfy his hideous intentions with a path and journey, which is (and should) ideally help one to move out of it.
There will be instances of fraud, sexual assaults, venting out of emotions, people shaming and other heinous and deformed intentions practiced and perceived in Yoga (like in any other field). This is for the simple fact, that there is no screening mechanism that really exists and defines who is truly qualified to deliver knowledge and teachings of Yoga. For all we know, we live in a free world, with little restriction and rules about who can and should practice Yoga (or any other form of spiritual growth), which just requires a nominal investment of time and recognition with the help of TTC.
If one has to outgrow or avoid such experiences, keeping your conscience (and subconscious) and senses open and aware. One has to fend for one’s own self and search for a true master, whose thoughts and vision aligns with your path of spiritual progress and development.