I have a confession to make -- I'm not up on the latest Anusara Yoga/John Friend hulaboo. I've heard rumblings about well-known teacher defections and sexual advances and I did see an announcement that a new CEO was taking the helm (I still find it funny to read about yoga empires that have CEOs -- seems like a bit of an oxymoron, stress on the moron). My response to this? Here we go again...
This reminds me the phenomenon that happens with sports endorsements. Invariably, some advertising person thinks that more products will be sold if endorsed by the flavor of the month in the professional athlete world. Said athlete hawks said product, lots o' products are sold, money is made and everyone is happy. Until said athlete has an oops. It could be in the form of a DUI charge or a rape accusation or an extra-marital affair or wild and rowdy behavior...oh, just look at the headlines and you'll see plenty of examples. Suddenly, the manufacturer of the product starts freaking out because they've conned people into buying into the face of the product rather than the product itself. And when the face takes a fall, so does the product (and sales).
Welcome to guru-land -- a place where people in a place of power step over boundaries or violate the boundaries of others when they get a wee bit too big for their spiritual britches. Or maybe it's more a function of the people around the guru putting him/her in a place of over importance. When someone is put on a pedestal, it's a long way down. Stephen Cope tells the story of Amrit Desai and Kripalu. Many know the story of Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman. And now we have the story (well, I don't exactly have it, but it's out there) of John Friend. This is nothing new -- it isn't the first time this has happened and it won't be the last time we hear of yogis behaving "badly."
I've never had a guru, so I don't know the disillusionment that comes from the fall from the pedestal. I did, however, have a similar experience with a teacher whom I respected. Or perhaps I should say that I wanted to respect her. She had studied decades in a lineage that I had a great respect for. I admired her teaching ability and her commitment. Still, I felt that something was a bit off when I interacted with her. I pushed those feelings down and continued on as her student until, one day, I realized that I was trying to apply infinite traits to a finite being.
This teacher was human. I could still admire her skill and her depth and breadth of knowledge, but that didn't mean that I had to agree with her methods (nor did it mean that I had to study with her for an extended period of time). After coming to grips with my feelings about her, I stopped studying with her. I still have a great deal of respect for her teachings, but I don't care to be her student. Did I lose faith in yoga because of this experience? No.
I have faith in yoga and the practice of yoga. I have respect for teachers -- some more than others -- but ultimately I go with my gut. I feel that faith is often heaped unfairly upon the teachers of yoga rather than the art of yoga itself. And that's where the trouble arises.
For me, it's very similar to relationships. I firmly believe that one should not rely on another to make him/her happy. That's an inside job and putting that Herculean task onto another person is not only unfair but it's a recipe for disaster and disappointment and expectations that couldn't possibly be met. It's one of the reasons that I cringe a bit at the term "soul mate." I've noticed that this word implies a whole host of thing that no human could possibly achieve -- mind reading, 24/7 romance and passion, 100% compassion and unconditional love, inspiration, love, and happiness. I don't know about you, but if I had to provide all of this to a partner 100% of the time until death do us part, I'd fail miserably. I'm human. I make mistakes, I don't get it right, I can't make a person do or feel anything.
That's not to say that I don't have an enormous amount of faith in love because I do. Yes, love is many a splendor thing. It's us humans that tend to mess it up with ego and need and a whole host of other stuff. Truth be told, if I could banish one movie line from the group think of this culture it would be, "You complete me." BLECH! Talk about setting relationships up to fail...
Which beings me back to yoga -- where is your faith? Is it in your teacher or a guru or in yoga itself? What are your expectations of your teacher/guru?
I heard an amusing story from a teacher, which I am going to paraphrase here: a student freaked out when seeing his guru smoking. "You're smoking?!?!? I can't believe you're smoking!!!! You can't be smoking, you're a guru!!!!! You shouldn't have an attachment to cigarettes!" The guru's response: "I see you're attached to my smoking."