Classical Yoga: The Guru-Shishya Paramparya
Isha seeks to bring back classical yoga in its purest form – not studio yoga, book yoga or the various innovations that are brought in around the world without any understanding of basic principles – but proper classical yoga, which is a phenomenally powerful science. It is a system that is precisely and meticulously put together as a means of reaching higher dimensions.
Our first article in the “Classical Yoga” series was on the basic unit of Hatha Yoga – the Asana, and then, we looked at the being who introduced yoga to humankind, Adiyogi, the first yogi, followed by a tribute to the Father of Modern Yoga – Patanjali. This week, we look at the method of transmission, at how yoga was passed on for thousands of years through the unique Guru-shishya paramparya.
The Guru-shishya paramparya thrived and flourished for thousands of years in India. In this culture, when there was a need to convey subtle and powerful knowledge, it was always done in an atmosphere of utter trust, dedication, and intimacy between the Guru (Master) and the shishya (disciple). “Parampara” is literally defined as “an uninterrupted tradition” – in other words, it denotes an unbroken lineage of imparted knowledge.
Describing the tradition, Sadhguru says: “India is the only place where this kind of tradition existed. That is, one person realizes something, and he looks for somebody who is truly dedicated, who holds this truth above his life. He looks for such a person and transmits it to him. This person looks for another like that and transmits it to him. This chain continued for thousands of years without a single break. This is known as Guru-shishya paramparya.”
Though they knew writing, spiritual aspects of life were never written down because once you write, all the wrong kinds of people will read it and misinterpret it. Only a person who is in a certain level of experience should know it; others should not. That is how it was transmitted. Only when the Guru-shishya paramparya started breaking up, did they start writing down the spiritual truths. Until then it was never written down. Once you write it, the first people who are going to read these books are the scholars. Once it gets into the scholars’ hands, it is finished. Truth is over.”
The science of yoga is all about making a person transcend the five sense organs and know one’s ultimate nature. In order to do this, it is important that he has the necessary energy support. Sadhguru explains: “That which is not in your experience cannot be taught to you intellectually. It can only be taught to you by taking you to a different dimension of experience. To take a person from one dimension of experience to another, you need a tool or a device, which is of a higher level of intensity and energy than you are right now. That device is what we call as the guru.”
“A guru is not a teacher. The Guru-shishya relationship is on an energy basis. He touches you in a dimension where nobody else can. There is a space where nobody else – your husband, your wife, your child, your parent – can touch you. They can only touch you in your emotion, your mind or your body. If you want to reach the very peak of your consciousness, you need lot of energy – all the energy you have and more. A Guru-shishya relationship has become so sacred and important because when the crisis moment comes in a disciple's growth, he needs a little push on the energy level. Without that push, he doesn’t have the necessary energy to reach the peak. Only someone who is on a higher plane than yourself can give that little push to you. Nobody else.”
Sadhguru has created many tools that assist the transmission of yoga. As we will see in the next segment of the “Classical Yoga” series, the spectacular Adiyogi Alayam was consecrated to be a powerful space for the transmission of classical yoga. However, in the context of the Guru-shishya tradition, Sadhguru talks of the value of another tool: “Because the Guru-shishya paramparya is breaking up, the Dhyanalinga is a tremendous tool in that direction. It is not a deity, it is just a tool. If you are willing to just sit there for a few minutes, you will see it does things to you. Even a person who is totally ignorant of meditation, who has no awareness of meditation, if he sits there, he will become meditative within a few minutes. Once he has been in the sphere of Dhyanalinga, wherever he sits, he naturally becomes meditative.”
Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.