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Trading Profits for Presence in Yoga

Posted by on Apr 18, 2012

One of Choudhury’s Bentley’s?

The ‘industry’ of yoga is like any other where absolute power corrupts. The problem with calling yoga an industry at all is inherent in the very statement. When did spiritual development become as corrupt as the dealings of an ENRON or Monsanto? From sexual misconduct once named a rampant problem in yogic circles to ‘yogis’ like Bikram Choudhury bragging about his mansion in Beverly Hills and his 30 classic cars, including Rolls-Royces and Bentleys to self-references comparing his humble human form to Christ and Buddha whilst bragging about his “balls like atom bombs, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me,” it’s enough to make a seeker run for the hills, and not necessarily the Himalayas.

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Part of the problem lies in this duality: the fitness industry is a major component of helping to spread yogic teachings in developed nations, while the religious claim that yoga is being misrepresented in its new shape and form. I’m reminded of a quote I recently read by a prison inmate commenting on his own psychological healing, “The Dalai Lama says we need more kindness not more Buddhists.” I would argue that the yoga we have developed reflects our own cultural  sickness, and we don’t need more yoga gurus like Choudhury, but more self-effacing, humble, power-sharing leaders who support an Obese nation to take better care of their bodies and minds, and then, as B.K.S. Iyengar once made clear in a recent yoga documentary, the ‘spiritual’ side of yoga comes with ones own self-discovery.

Advanced yogis who entered into the practice for a real taste of enlightenment may have developed great qualities of persuasion and presence in order to sway the masses, but a balanced and centered yogi doesn’t see accumulating wealth as the primary goal to his success. Like a bodhisattva, they strive to eliminate the suffering of the masses. Any material gain they achieve is countered with an even more zealous attempt to reach out to the world, always acting as a true conduit for the Divine, no matter what name you ascribe it. . . Shaman, Priest, Yogi, Arhat, etc.

Plastic, Just One of Thousands of Man-Made Toxins

If we look at the depth of our illness, we can also see, very clearly the layers upon which one dysfunction in society overlaps another. We are a nation, and soon-to-be-world, of fat people starving to death. Our food has no nutrition. Our companies have no accountability. Our governments are broke and our spiritual strength seems to be at an all time tipping point. We need yoga, even as a purely physical vehicle to transformation because 5 out of every 8 people in the US (with Europe and even India trailing just behind) being obese. We need yoga as a means to combat rampant low-level stress. Even children are expressing worry about their families’ financial situations. Stress causes difficulty sleeping, learning and connecting with others. No wonder we all feel so isolated and cut-off. We also need yoga as a means to find quiet, even if its in a shiny, over-mirrored studio that looks like an LA movie set more than a peaceful retreat.

Ayurvedic Medicine – Yogic Wisdom

What we can do, though, is choose our medicine carefully. We can opt for chemo-therapy of the soul or look to more natural, less invasive approaches like the Gerson therapy or a Sattvic diet. We can try on more kindness (Ahimsa, a yogic principal not always taught in Big Box Yoga Studios) instead of more self-aggrandizing. Aren’t we big enough, literally, already? We can trade the egoic state that has brought us to the brink of world-wide destruction, polluting our rivers, lakes, oceans, land and air, and clear-cutting forests to a more intrinsic desire to commune. We can trade profits for presence. Only when we realize that even our yoga class (or teacher) can be another sick addiction when we aren’t mindful, will we become more enlightened. Light dispels darkness, it does not add to it. This should be our litmus test for any teacher of yoga from here on out.

(c) 2012 Christina Sarich creative common license.
Reprint of this article is welcome with reference to original site and author and all links in tact.

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