1. one who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. An active adherent, as of a movement or a philosophy
2.one of the original followers of Jesus
Synonyms- adherent, cohort, follower, supporter
From Latin discipulus, pupil, from discere, to learn
I was talking about studentship in Tuesday afternoon's class, and at some point I stumbled into using the word discipleship interchangeably with studentship. On Wednesday, a student from class called me to say that he had found the word "disciple" objectionable. Now, I certainly was sorry that he found the word problematic. I really was. However, I explained to him that with 30 people in a room it impossible to insure that everyone in any given class will find what I say palatable at all times. So I apologized that it bothered him but that I certainly could not promise him that I wouldn't use the word again.
Because I love this word. I know I will use it again and again because I believe discipleship is at the heart of what we are doing in yoga. Now, I am certainly aware that the word is fraught with Christian connotations and for many that is not a positive thing. But for many practicing Christians in the world, it most certainly is. And stepping off that the Christian thing altogether, what does it mean to be a disciple, to be a follower of a teaching in the context of yoga?
From John Friend in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual:
"Yoga is a discipline of aligning with the pulsation and flow of Nature. It is a discipleship to the flow of God's love and will. It is the skillful practice of creating banks around a pool of internal energy in order to make a river of consciousness that flows back into the ocean of Supreme Bliss. Through this spiritual practice, individual beings reawaken to their true unbounded nature."
Obviously this is a very personal thing and I believe its expression has many different ways of manifesting. But in an Anusara Yoga class, the teaching that a "disciple" is following (regardless of religion) is a teaching that says, "The Nature of Reality is Essentially Good. Each one of us is part of that Intrinsic Goodness. As you discover that Greatness within yourself, you will naturally be called to serve It in yourself and others."
It is not so much that we are out to convert anyone to some strange religion or to go against their chosen faith or anything like that. (Just imagine the tent revival though, for a minute, if you will. Some charismatic person at the front of the tent would be waving their hands enthusiastically telling you that "You are great!" and "Believe in yourself" and "Life is an expression of God's radiant creative potential and so your life is, by its very nature, a blessed wonderful thing!' Pretty scary stuff, right? Kinda sounds like an Anusara Yoga class, now that I think about it! But I digress.)
The thing is, that to me I have no real interest in Samadhi, Salvation or even Liberation. What I have interest in is discipleship. Somehow I found, or I was found by, a Teacher, a Teaching, a community and a set of practices that I love. That have lifted me out of darkness and have evoked in me a feeling of resonance with something Real. So I am interested in that. That feeling of lining up that happens inside me, that feeling of Recognition that I experience time again through the many practices of yoga.
To me, being a disciple is one of the highest expressions of gratitude one can have for these teachings that are so life-changing. To be a disciple and a "follower" is not such a weird, scary or strange thing to me. A disciple, in this context, is one who follows their heart for these Ultimate Truths are said to be seated there, in that Kingdom of Heaven that is within each of us.