Sunday, March 25, 2012


Okay, no more weather updates — commenting on spring weather in Portland is like, as has been observed, commenting on traffic in Los Angeles.

In addition to the series of articles by Matthew Remski, another great bit of Yoga-related writing popped up earlier this year, an essay by Carlos Pomeda called "Reflections on Spiritual Authority."

I think this one is a great read for those of us who practice Ashtanga, as Pomeda discusses the tension arising from the intersection of traditional Hindu guru-shishya relationships, one of absolute ultimacy, with a more Western, individual-centered humanistic perspective.

The editors at Elephant Journal draw some obvious parallels to Ashtanga, as they feature a photo of Pattabhi and Sharath Jois in addition to John Friend.

In the article, Pomeda clearly spells out the different distinctions between types of teachers, from shastri and upadhyaya to acarya to guru. The question becomes, as he asks, "How do we determine the degree of authority?"

Ashtanga doesn't seem to me to currently have a sadguru in the sense of how Pomeda defines one, that is, a teacher whose authority rests on his or her own "spiritual attainment, which must be accompanied by scriptural knowledge and by the ability to transmit such knowledge and experience. This authority is conferred on such gurus by their own preceptors."

He does make the point that the "boundaries among these terms [for different teachers] are often blurry."

The article makes for an interesting read, at least to inspire consideration of where on the continuum our own teachers sit — to use the two models that Pomeda introduces, do they occupy an academic role ("The teacher holds more technical knowledge, and as students we will defer to him or her as much as he or she is best elected to the task." This idea of deference is quite different than that of submission)?

Or do they hold a seat within a more humanistic model ("The true guru is within").

As a side note, I still can't figure out the deal with Elephant Journal — I think you can read this article for free?

Also, I see that it's just part one; part two oughtta be a good one.

Carlos Pomeda "Reflections on Spiritual Authority"