Yoga Teacher Training Theology & Philosophy: Sutras, Bhakti and Kirtan

This weekend we made our shift from asana study to our theology and philosophy studies. We started with two days on the yoga sutras (which is an insane amount of information to pack into two days) and then our final day was spent learning a bit about Bhakti and participating in a kirtan.

From Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Bhakti, (“devotion,” from Sanskrit bhaj, “to share,” “to love”), in Hinduism, a movement emphasizing the mutual intense emotional attachment and love of a devotee toward a personal god and of the god for the devotee. According to the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, the path of bhakti (bhakti-marga) can be contrasted with two other religious approaches, the path of knowledge (jnana) and the path of ritual and good works (karma).

Their focus is on the divine masculine (Krishna) and the divine feminine (Rama) and many of their devotions are expressed through song and dance. We had a very popular group come and interact with us for the Kirtan (call and response chanting) and one of the gentlemen is so hugely knowledgeable on all religions, it was amazing the smriti (recall or memory) that he has for detail and comparison across the platforms. And yet even with all that knowledge it was never heavy or overwhelming, judging or strict, he comes from such a place of lightness and acceptance.

We sang several songs and danced around the room with hands in the air clapping. It was so cathartic and freeing, such a wonderful experience, if you ever have the opportunity to attend one? I highly recommend it. ESPECIALLY if it’s a Mayapuris event. When their time was up, none of us was really ready for it to be over so when we heard that they would be closing the Texas Yoga Conference at the nearby Hare Krishna temple in a couple of hours (well after we’d be wrapping up our class that day) several of us decided to go together and check it out together (after first stopping off for a beer and snacks at a very close bar, because isn’t that how you handle your religious devotions? snacks and alcohol before temple?).

I have rarely spent much time in church in my life and have never been to a temple of this sort before it was a true experience. We were greeted warmly at the door and then we removed our shoes and placed them in the numbered racks and hurried inside to meet up with one of our teachers. In temple the men and women are usually separate and shoulders are to be covered (I assume modesty in dress period but at the very least shoulders covered was definitely asked) it was later explained to us (we received a private tour by Gaura Vani-the gentleman I mentioned above) that temple is solely for the devotions to God and as such the sexuality of self is set aside in that space and time. The Kirtan was already in progress when we got there so we sat on the floor cross legged and joined in on the clapping but were also being informed as to where we should and shouldn’t turn our bodies and I guess slacked off on our clapping because a lovely older gentleman appeared between me and my classmate Margaret and started enthusiastically clapping and gave us both encouraging pats on our backs. HAHA.

When the Mayapuris were with us at school earlier in the day, we were encouraged to just sing out from the heart and not fret about pronouncing the words. Dance, dance out from the heart and not worry about the steps. So in that spirit when things really ramped up? We did the same. We danced. We sort of tried to sing (the Kirtan at the temple was much more complicated than the ones we had slowly learned at school) and we jumped in the air together with members of the temple. We bowed our heads on our knees (essentially child’s pose with tucked arms) and even though we had no idea of the prayers that were being spoken we joined in on their calls of Jai (victory). We were accepted warmly and openly with no judgements for obviously being new there, in our yoga clothes and sweatshirts, not knowing the words, not knowing the proper procedures. It was so lovely. Truly.

On the tour we learned that actual carved portion of the temple was all hand done and sent over in pieces from India and that the large statues of the deities are redressed twice a day. There are smaller statues that are taken out for the festivals and those too are also redressed twice a day. Their clothing (all pink this day, not sure if it’s always pink) is crusted in jewels and they are draped in flowers. That they value the lineage of the teacher so much so that there is a statue of the teacher in the temple and then huge paintings of his teacher and his teacher’s teacher and so on and so forth.

Next weekend is the Bhagavad Gita with the professor from Rutgers so I expect my brain is going to melt.

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