This week I feel the need to express some thoughts about recent press regarding scandals in the yoga community, in particular, regarding John Friend. The details of the scandals are not important to me, but the general reaction to them in the press more so. We are all flawed and beautiful as we walk this Earth together.
“Yoga and “scandal” seem to walk hand-in-hand these days. It’s a “union of opposites” that’s growing more comfortable with time.” – Stewart Lawrence, Huffington Post
It saddens me to see a beautiful life art-form and science-of-life misunderstood and misinterpreted. But I guess that is what we humans tend to do. If we are a people that can crucify a holy man, we can also easily throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
Scandals in the yoga scene are nothing new. We could cite here pages of stories depicted in ancient yogic texts such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana that illustrate the twisted acts of human folly while on a spiritual path. Yet the media, spearheaded by journalists that are clearly not impartial reporters doing thorough research, seems to proudly point fingers at seeming rot at the root of the sacred, while conveniently ignoring the fact that scandals are created by imperfect humans, not the eternal divine.
Human ignorance is as old as man. When we lift up humans to the realm of gods, they are bound to fall. We do it to our movie stars. We do it to our politicians. We do it to our spouses and friends. And we do it to our yoga teachers and leaders. If we make someone an angel, they will eventually become a devil. If we lift them up, the force of gravity will make sure that they will come back to Earth so that we make peace with shadows.
As the Nazarene once counselled, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” We all cast shadows. There is not one person on the planet whose darker side does not dot the Earth in some way under the light of the sun and the moon. The higher up we grow from the ground, the deeper the shadow we leave behind, the more humility we must have to embrace the dark, and the more likely our ego will try to go awry if left unchecked.
We live in a word of duality and opposites. We can see from nature, that what goes up also comes down; that if there is night, there is also day; hot counters cold; that which opens can also close; that which resists can also flow. Why then are people so surprised to find that those in the limelight have darker sides just as we do? Why do we hold such high hopes for people to only have light and be without dark?
It does not matter if a person promises eternal life, attests to be the best yogi ever or preaches the way of the holy. If they are not a fully realized master, they will cast a shadow. Whether or not they are in touch with it or in denial about it, it is there. And it is up to us to use our discernment to see only part of the picture, or look deeper to see more fully.
At our core, unless we are fully enlightened, we all are uncomfortable in some way with our shadow. There are parts of ourselves that we do not like, and certainly that we do not want others to see. When we are presented with the possibility that we may avoid doing the work in our own dirty basements by following a shiny leader on a path to the promised land without turmoil, we sign on the dotted line and project perfection on a limited individual in an imperfect world. We are bound to be disappointed. Disillusionment is just the collapse of illusions that we needed to humbly see beyond in order to evolve. Disillusionment is an act of Grace.
From an early age, our culture teaches us to believe in saints and saviours that will take away all our sins. We are persuaded that our sinfulness will be cured by another’s super powers that will magically remove them, while we lie back and avoid our responsibility for our own evolution. Like yearning children, we hungrily want to believe that some mystical big mummy or daddy will dissolve our pain and do our uncomfortable work for us. But we are not little children living in lack, but adult children of the divine who are fully supported to do our very important inner work and take responsibility for the shadows that we – no one else – cast and leave behind us. Yet we distract ourselves from our pain as we look to others for escape. We amplify their light, so that it may, for a while, free us from the darkness we fear.
I do believe that there are real Buddhas on the planet, true realized masters who have fully integrated their own shadow and live in the oneness of absolute, eternal love. But the light of pure consciousness is not a conditional light like that of day and night. The light we cultivate to embody in the practice of yoga is not about luminosity to outshine the dark, but about the ultimate dissolve of the ego’s need for duality into the eternal substratum that is the essential underpinning of all of creation. We are limited humans with limited words, so we call that substratum “light”. How can a finite word in a dual world ever capture the perfection of such a force? That is where mystical poets like Rumi take the floor.
Continues tomorrow with “The Light of the Satguru“