Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back to School

So it is back to school week here in the Sell family household. Kelly started school on Monday. (After a 12-year absence, he finally returned to school full-time yesterday, which is a very big deal around here, if you know what I mean.) So it seems like an appropriate theme for classes this week is studentship.

And on that theme, I heard a great story the other day from the Chandogya Upanishad, I believe.

There once was a great guru who had a son, we will call Johnny. And while Johnny showed great potential, he was a bit cocky and quite unfit for The Teaching. So Guru Dad sent Johnny away to study with another teacher, (Non-Dad Guru) to prepare him more thoroughly. (Even in those days it was hard to for children to believe that their parents knew anything!) Johnny lived with Non-Dad Guru for seven years. They studied great texts, practices great rituals and yogas, and pondered profound esoteric secrets together. After seven years John returned home to his father.

Guru Dad quizzed Johnny on what he had learned and Johnny answered all of the questions correctly. But Guru Dad realized that while Johnny's knowledge had certainly increased, he was no more humble or fit for receiving The Teaching than he was before he had left. Finally, Guru Dad asked his son, hoping to stump him, "Did you learn the one thing that if you understand, will answer all other questions?"

Johnny: "Huh?"

Guru Dad:"Go bring me a seed from a Banyan tree."

So Johnny goes to get a Banyan seed, muttering some obscenities under his breath and cursing the day he was born into a family where his Dad is supposed to be some kind of Guru. But I digress. He searches high and low, eventually finds the seed and returns with it in hands. Now, the Banyan Tree is a very large tree but it has a very small seed. It is hard to even believe that such a big tree has such a little seed.

When Johnny hands Guru Dad the seed, Guru Dad crushes the seed and says, "What do you see now?"

Johnny replies, "Nothing."

Guru Dad, smiling, the way only a guru can or perhaps the way only a Father who is about to make an excellent point can, says, "Exactly. You are that. You are that Nothing out of which all life is created. This is the secret knowledge that answers all other questions. Understand this and you understand the universe."

And of course, BAM!, like a lightening bolt, Johnny awakens and understands the nature of Reality and so forth.

So certainly the story is a teaching about The nature of Reality according to the Upanishadic traditions. We are Nothing. We are that essential Nothing that is also somehow everything. But the other teaching here is that Guru Dad knew this all along. He could have told it to Johnny seven years ago. But Guru Dad also knew that his son was not ready to receive that teaching. He had to be humbled. So he sent him to learn, he made him study, he then made him find that seed and so on.

So it is also a story that teaches us that in order to receive the teaching we must be fertile soil. We must be ready to learn. Ahdikara is a Sanskrit word that means studentship. It is made up of two parts: adhi - to make and kara-ready. Adhikara is making oneself ready to learn. It is that aspect of studentship that implies we have passed the test, cleared the bar, become fertile soil and are now ready to take instruction. We are ready to go back to school.

The cool thing about practicing yoga is that every time we practice we can cultivate this fertile soil within ourselves. Each pose is waiting to teach us, each breath is inviting us into studentship, each moment is a teaching. The open, receptivity that the story is pointing to is the first principle of Anusara Yoga, Open To Grace.

Opening to Grace reminds us that we are not ultimately in charge, that we are essentially students of this Great Nothing, of this great Nothing which is also somehow Everything. And in wanting to study and align with that Force, the only right relationship to assume is one of humility, eagerness and receptivity.

So- that's this weeks game plan. Today's 4:30 flow class gets a little bit of everything and the 6:00 advanced class tonight back bends! Depending on who comes we are going to learn headstand dropovers. Yahoo. We shall see....


Jeri said...

This is some profound stuff. I think the whole notion of the the great nothingness being everything, the unfathomable (yet attainable somehow) has been trivialized and somehow it's become a bit taboo to get into these types of discussions. Some people do look at you kind of weird. I'm getting the tiniest, really oh so faint glimmer about this whole yoga thing. My awkward words. I think I'm supposed to here. That's all. (And I thought I didn't respond to the guilt thing on Anne's site - REALLY a joke now.)
Kelly, excellent news about going back to school. I can't imagine you would undertake this unless you had a fire. Best -Jeri

Christina Sell said...

Yes, you know the thing is that glimpse of a glimmer is so Real at times, isn't it? I love that our seeminlgy phsyical practices can deliver us, time and again, to something so profound inside ourselves. That is what I love about yoga- I certainly enjoy the physicality of it but it the glimpses of glimmers that keep me going.

(Sorry about the guilt trip- old tapes of sisterly competition, I suppose!!)

See you soon. Love.

Krishna said...

I loved your story about Johnny and the Guru Dad. In fact, I liked it so much that I borrow it for my class. The theme however was shunia. Yes, the profound and confusing concept about how being in a state of nothingness allows you to expand, and expand, and expand until you realize that you are actually everything. You are one with all. I'm not so sure how it went over. Everyone seemed pretty mellow when they left. (Perhaps it was because they had fully expanded?) But thank you for the story.

Enjoy you Labor Day practice. I'll be floating the river in the Hill Country.