New York-based Eddie Stern has started to blog again. Here’s an excerpt from one of many interesting posts he has written recently (hat tip Danielle):
Swamigal Chandrashekarendra Bharati, in his book The Guru Tradition, said that the flaws of the guru are to be expected and accepted, but not followed. There is very little possibility of a human being existing without flaws. The guru tradition, however, is not about people, it is about knowledge, and knowledge is carried by vessels, like water is carried by a pot. If you put pure water into a gold, silver or clay pot, the water will still remain pure whether the pot is in perfect condition or whether it has a few dents. As people, we all have a few dents in us, and that is to be expected. It does not, however, invalidate our knowledge or experiences, or our ability to pass them on. In fact, it is quite often those who have the most dents in them, but have learned from those dents, that make the best teachers. The expectation we place upon teachers to be perfect is unrealistic, and unfair, as it puts them in an impossible position to not allow them to freely be the flawed, individuals that they may be. And we do that when we want to deny our own flaws, and cover them with so-called spirituality.
So is lineage important? Can I not learn from a book, or a video? The answer is yes: you can learn quite a lot from a video, but you will miss out on feedback. A video cannot monitor your progress, correct you, or fill in the unseen details. Lineage has made it possible for us to learn what we know of yoga today. If it were not for lineage, we would have never learned anything about yoga. To answer the question: why is lineage in Ashtanga yoga important to us today? It is not important just for today, it is important for all time. Without lineage, yoga will be lost.
When you look for a teacher, look to their experience, look to their character, and most importantly, check to make sure the practice itself makes you feel like you are doing yoga. If you do not feel, inwardly, in your intuitive self, that the practice is truly yoga, then keep looking.