This lovely photo (taken in 2000 by the equally lovely Eva Barash) has been generating a lot of interest of late. I can only guess that folks are feeling a little sentimental; it was recently announced that Swami Mahadevananda (in the photo) has gone into ‘seclusion’ or we could say a retirement of sorts after many years of teaching, travel and inspiring those around him.
How this inspiration works is very interesting to me. And I think this photo shows it quite well somehow.
I belong to a monastic tradition in yoga. Though I live a (by some standards!!) ‘regular’ life; I pay rent, I work. I belong to a tradition which values some more transcendent qualities. When we see a picture like the one above, or when we see a Swami or a Brahmachari, the shock of colour is supposed to remind us (and them!) of the possibility of other choices that may be made in life. Of the possibility of being dedicated to less selfish pursuits in life. And really, it is just a choice, nothing more or less.
Taking inspiration from abandoning self interest. When I go to the ashram, even for a short time, it is necessary to (mostly) abandon self interest. Who I am outside both does and doesn’t matter. In order to learn, I must let it go. And an ashram is a place of learning. We learn about ourselves and how to change ourselves. Which reminds me of one of my favourite quotations about yoga:
“Yoga is not for those who don’t want to change”. David Life
This is the yoga that I know. It is not about what I can do or can’t do. It’s not about how devotional I am or how much I know. But it is about how willing I am to work towards change.
Here’s a nice blog entry by a travel writer who recently visited the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp in Quebec. I especially liked her interest and curiosity about the monastic tradition and understanding of the necessity for change: