Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

A Reflection on my Experience in the Gurukulam

by Maurizio Teodoro

In my professional career, I have been serving as a consultant to organizations and to individuals as well. For this reason, it is spontaneous for me to look to an organization, thinking about how well it works and whether some possibilities for improvement are apparent. In these notes, I will offer my reflections on the system of education of Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama. Regarding the content of the teaching as well as the factors which render the teaching effective.

I happened to visit the SRSG on one of the last days of my previous sojourn in Rishikesh. And within a few hours I realized that this was a place where I would have returned. The place in which all my spiritual and even practical needs could have been met. In fact, in that day, within a few hours, wonderful things happened. Perhaps, Swami Rama wanted to catch me? And he succeeded! See what happened and tell me if it could have been happening in other places.

Number one: In that day I listened to a Swami Veda’s talk. But what surprised me most (excuse me Swamiji!) is that, when waiting, sitting on a chair for the arrival of the master, one boy approached me, changed my chair with a stool and helped me by laying some well folded blankets on it to let me sit straighter (but not less comfortable). Because, he told me, if people are not sitting properly, the master would not start speaking.

Number two: Something analogous happened during the day. While participating to a Hatha Yoga class, led by an exceptionally talented teacher, as at my age I meet with some difficulty in following a HY class, one practitioner near me, instead of looking at the teacher, turned toward me and said: Look at me and follow me. In this way, I was beyond the difficulty to follow the movements of the teacher, and in hearing and understanding his words, felt myself completely at easy and taken care of. I felt so happy. But after half an hour, when I started feeling a little tired (in the ashram where I was living at that time there was no HY teaching), the practitioner said to me: If you feel tired, you may lie down and rest, which I did and would not have done, because of my ever present ego, without his suggestion.

Number three: And then, at the end of that day, when it was difficult for me to trace my way back to my ashram, I asked for some help at the reception and I was accompanied to my place by means of the car and the driver of the master. I was astonished once more.

Number four: But other residents of the ashram approached me in various ways and helped me familiarize with the place and its spirit (starting with the lady at the reception who as soon as I arrived unannounced there jotted down a short and complete program for my stay there).

And today, having come to SRSG after more than two years, and after six months in the SRSG, I still feel astonished.
Some reasons.

First, my early expectations have been met entirely.

Second, the fact that, even if I am not a youngster (73, but only for the registry office!), in no time, as I was eager to learn more and more, I have been affectionately been accepted in the Gurukulam, the family or school of the guru.

Third. And I have enjoyed an entirely extended support and teaching, from meditation to Vedanta and Samkhya, from effective breathing to relaxation, from learning to teach to the practice of silence, including a wonderful preparation to Hatha Yoga, but also independent from it, which is called Joints and Glands, which changes our entire subtle body and makes our mind and body more harmonious as the prana more freely flows through our nadis.

Fourth. As the great Swami Shivananda put it, besides all the techniques and paths toward illumination, the things are very simple. He taught: Be good. Do good. And this is the point on which I feel that this place, as an occasional guest or more so as a gurukulam student, is a place worth visiting. It changes your life! Here the smiling-index is very high!

Perhaps it is for this reason, even more than for the others, that I am not hesitant in declaring that my experience with the overall system of education in the SRSG is very positive and enthusiastic. This exceptionally complete Himalayan Yoga Tradition is presented here in its entirety (in relation to the possibility of imbibing it by still unripe sadhakas, as I am) and with much attention and love. And the way in which even the occasional guests can access it is easy and practically complete. Also the methods adopted for training the student-teachers in the Gurukulam are effective. And the TTP (Teacher Training Program), which I also attended, along with all Gurukulam’s friends, is a parallel complete expression and training, available also for people who cannot stay in the ashram for an extended period of time, of the whole knowledge and practice of the HYT.

I enjoyed a lot being in the gurukulam, because I found that it was really the family of the guru, a real family in which there were not separation at all based on external factors, such as nationality, age, sex, and so on. What is uniting us is our longing to experience the teaching and to experience friendliness and love. All the rest dissolves…

From the Gurukulam come the young or newly appointed teachers. Most of them are almost perfect and effective because they teach within the area in which they have been thoroughly trained (Joints & Glands, Hatha Yoga, relaxation and breathing, etc.), and the gurukulam is doing an excellent job in realizing this remarkable result. In fact, one learns also by teaching and, besides this opportunity for its inmates, in this way in the ashram enthusiastic teachers are always available. Every day, for different classes a day, especially on the basic subjects. And outside the classes as one approaches them. In this way, also the occasional guests can get a wonderful, practical and conceptual understanding of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, allowing them to continue their practice at home. In fact, Swami Rama’s motto is Practice! Practice! Practice!

So, everything is perfect in this ashram? I don’t want to say this. In the relative world, imperfections are always there. For example, accommodation is very good all over the different blocks. But, often good maintenance is lacking. But, when you ask for some device to be fixed, that always happens within a few hours. And if it is not well fixed, you may ask again.

But let me now consider in this regard of imperfections a more important topic: the teachings of our scholars and senior teachers in the ashram. I appreciate all of them. They are great. But their teaching is not always easily understandable. (Also because sometimes they use many Sanskrit terms and because they are also enthusiastic and want to share more and more teachings.) In our time the emphasis in the field of education is more in the learning process than in the content of the teaching itself. It is more on what people can learn and how well they can learn and less in simply transmitting knowledge. In fact today, concepts like life-long learning or cooperative learning are widely accepted. But, I could easily take advantage of this new approach to education and whenever I had some difficulties in following some advanced classes, I had the opportunity to ask for clarifications, during the same classes and afterwards at any time. And even open criticisms (from the point of view of communication) have been graciously accepted. In particular by my gurukulam director, who, because of this, also spontaneously asked my feedback on various subjects he treated. A much appreciated cooperation. One which make you feel at home!

In the gurukulam, many subtle processes are continuously going on. And sometimes are even painful. Let me share one of them. Life is a school, and every day we can learn something if we are open to change (and to sacrifice our ego). I happened to practice teaching in the Gurukulam. And I observed something which was not new to me. The same critical considerations which we address to others (as I have done) are generally even more applicable to ourselves. They are almost a reflection of what troubles us. In fact, the feedback which I received from my companions and my teacher in the last class was that my expositions, besides its merits, which they promptly acknowledged, were not always so clear, that they were a little too intellectual (as I am) and so on. And I even received some criticism which I perceived somewhat excessive and even a little aggressive. After some painful and difficult reflections of what had happened, and after a good sleep and a meditation, I more positively re-considered the whole matter of giving and receiving suggestions in this field. And these were some of the conclusions.

  • Every teacher and would-be teacher should consider that teaching is a very difficult job and that he/she should be prepared to receive any feedback with openness, spirit of service and with a little of detachment. We need to make an effort to be open, because receiving even a positive criticism involves the effort of a re-considering our perceived identity and self-esteem. In fact, perhaps even more than for other aspects of our behavior (e.g. breathing), the way in which we teach reflects so closely what we are on the human plan and on level of evolution…
  • Not only should the teachers being able to try to sacrifice their ego, but also their laziness, that is the lack of willingness and the patience and constancy to review over and over again their own preparation until it reaches both a reasonable standard and the needs of that particular audience.
  • Even the apparently unjustified criticism (excess, aggressiveness, etc.) that we receive in feedback generally carry a lot of meaning.
  • All these conclusions are helping me to better know and improve myself.
  • And, for all this (and much more) to fully happen, a long stay in an evolved and highly spiritually charged atmosphere, such as that of the Gurukulam in the SRSG, is really a necessity, a must, as we more commonly say.

Editor's Note

Admission is now open for Swami Rama Dhyana Gurukulam, the 3-5 year residential program of intense studies and practices for sincere spiritual seekers. First time applicants should send their application materials by 15th August 2012. This is a unique learning and practicing experience in the tradition of yoga and meditation of the Himalayan Masters.

Location: Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) in Rishikesh, India.
Spiritual Guide: Swami Veda Bharati.
Starting date: 1st October 2012
Website: www.srdg.ahymsin.org
Enquiry: [email protected]

To read “My Experience as a Gurukulam Student” by John Sellinger: http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1205May/04.html