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Gurus, Teachers and
AYP Plus Additions:
418.1 - AYP
Unstructured vs. Structured (certified) Teaching (Audio)
Practitioner Self-Sufficiency vs. Running in Circles (Audio)
July 8, 2010
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: I have always been told that a teacher or guru
in-the-flesh is required for advancement on the spiritual path. This has
also been the experience in my long-time hatha yoga teaching practice. When
students are left to their own devices, the practices don't get done. On the
other hand, we can only practice together once or twice per week, so there
is a built-in limitation in what can be accomplished this way. With some of
my students, it has been going on like this for years, without additional
motivation to practice beyond our weekly classes. In recent months, I found
myself looking for ways to break out of this rather static pattern, and was
pleasantly surprised to find "Advanced Yoga Practices" on the internet, with
its comprehensive system of practices, and an apparent large following as
My question is, how do I incorporate something like AYP into
current teachings here? How do I move beyond the weekly yoga class scenario
with my students to more individual practice? Is it even possible? I'd like
to become a believer in "self-directed" practice.
A: It is an
interesting question you have raised. It may be that certain students will
be satisfied with weekly group practice for a long time. It is not a bad
thing. On the other hand, there will be some who want more, more of the
limbs of yoga, and more to practice at home with. So it is certainly in the
best interest of your teaching mission and your students to reach beyond the
I think that, regardless of the means of providing
spiritual support to others, the ultimate objective has to be developing
self-sufficiency in the practitioner. By definition, there can be no
enlightenment without self-sufficiency abiding in the
Self (big "S").
No one else can give that to us, though many think that it works that way.
It does not. We each have to claim it (surrender to it) for ourselves, via
one means or another.
Both live guru/teacher
transmissions and written transmissions have their strengths and weaknesses.
Ultimately, all transmissions
of knowledge must be
preserved in some sort of stored media handed down.
The completeness and effectiveness of such transmissions determine
the future success of the knowledge over
generations. So, for the long term, it is the writings that count, to the
degree they can facilitate effective full-scope baseline practice, and the
ongoing evolution of effective "self-directed" practice in changing times
and circumstances. Regardless of our teaching mode, there has to be a solid
baseline of knowledge, combined with an ongoing
evaluation of causes and effects in practices, so adjustments in application
can be made as needed.
The internet provides a major opportunity for
written teachings, not only for the transmission of clear instructions on
effective practices to millions, but also for ongoing support
in the online environment. Internet support does
not necessarily equal a live teacher, but it does work, and can also greatly
reduce the inherent hazards that are found in live guru/disciple
relationships. It also can facilitate the effective application of
self-directed practice in a wide variety of cultures, environments and
circumstances. The internet has no borders (or not many).
Again, creating self-sufficiency in the practitioner is the key. All
true gurus go for this, even though their physical presence may foster
distracting co-dependencies with many followers. This is the main down-side
of the physical guru/disciple relationship. When bhakti becomes locked in a
co-dependent relationship, it is no longer spiritually progressive. This can
happen online too, though it is easier to avoid. It is why I am forever
reminding practitioners that it is about our relationship with knowledge,
effective daily practices and experiences, and not about the teacher.
The AYP experiment with real-time and archived written knowledge in a
large community of practitioners is working remarkably well so far, with
thousands tapping in according to their own inclinations, and with many
moving rapidly through the various enlightenment milestones. It is quite
amazing what is happening. It goes to show what people can do when given
unrestricted access to useful knowledge. While some may be prone to
dependency, others will fly with only a little encouragement and support. If
the knowledge and practices are accessible and effective, anything can
happen. A practitioners own experiences
provide all the motivation that is needed for ongoing practice and spiritual
Which is not to say we don't need hands-on teaching. We do,
and we are working on developing that at AYP also. There is also a vast
network of yoga teachers out there that
can become a springboard to self-directed practice of full-scope yoga for
millions. Whether the knowledge is gained through hands-on teaching, or
through written transmissions or other media, it can work for anyone who is
willing to commit to a modest twice-daily practice routine at home. It
always gets back to the seekers willingness to practice on their own.
A first step in your situation could
suggesting that your students practice deep meditation for 10-20 minutes
twice-daily at home, and assisting them in accomplishing that. This can be
supported by weekly group meditations, either in the regular yoga class, or
at another time. Adding daily deep meditation can have a dramatic
on hatha yoga practices, leveraging the
effects across multiple limbs of yoga through the inner connectedness that
occurs in our nervous system when we take on additional practices on the
tree of yoga. See Lesson 409 for particulars on that.
The step of establishing and nurturing daily practice of deep
meditation at home will provide your students a direct experience of rising
inner silence. This elevates the quality of daily life in practical ways,
and is a primary motivator for continuing daily practice at home. In time, a
natural motivation may rise to add spinal breathing pranayama and other
practices to the routine. Then the results keep coming, compounding like a
snowball rolling downhill, and there is more and more motivation to
continue. It works like that.
In this, the teacher becomes more of a
coach than a primary object of focus. This is as it should be. Weekly
classes should continue, with a primary goal to support home practice. First
we enable the student in a nurturing environment. Then we provide them the
tools and support to practice at home. We know the teaching is successful
when the student can fly on their own in abiding inner silence, ecstatic
bliss and outpouring divine love. That's all there is to it. It is our gift
to the world, and everyone we assist in this will pass the gift on in their
own way. And so it goes.
The AYP system is a "toolbox" that can be
used in whole or part by anyone either individually, or for assisting many
others. It is wide open, and being used in many ways by many individual
practitioners, group leaders and teachers. It is always about one thing the
seeker, and providing effective means for achieving self-sufficiency in
practices and spiritual growth.
traditional guru/disciple (teacher/student) relationship
will continue to play an important role in the information age. It
can work even better than in the past,
with measures included for enabling disciples
(students) to strengthen their self-sufficiency in practicing at home.
Self-paced twice-daily practice is necessary for steady progress. That
cannot be accomplished in group practice alone, except perhaps in an ashram
environment. That is fine, but we can't all
in an ashram.
We'd like to inspire many more
people to practice daily at home, and
out into the world everyday with their abiding inner silence. This is how
the mainstream will be transformed. There are not enough gurus and ashrams
to accommodate the billions on the earth. But it can be accomplished
with many more
self-directed practice at home. Internet transmissions of knowledge
and support are capable of facilitating such an approach. Thousands of
teachers and gurus can tap into this also, multiplying the effects of their
face-to-face teaching many times over by supporting self-sufficient
Wishing you all the best on your path, and
in your ongoing teaching.
The guru is in you.
Related Lessons Topic Path
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
Note: For detailed instructions on
building and maintaining a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the
Eight Limbs of Yoga Book,
and AYP Plus.