Ancient yogis were illiterate, homeless and penniless beggars, yet they claim to have found freedom. They arrived at such understandings of the body, mind and the universe it puts most high priced experts to shame.
Are the comforts we seek and the free information we receive liberating us or placing us in deeper bondage?
We live in a time of ‘free information’ that has many believing things should cost nothing. But there is nothing in life that is for free. Our very life itself is on loan, being borrowed for a brief period of time only to be eventually reclaimed.
Spend some time in an ashram and we quickly find out how free we are. Consider it a prison term compared to today’s average standard of living.
The way we act and think is not free. We have been wired and conditioned from birth to behave in certain ways, passed on from our ancestors who may not have gotten it right in the first place.
Even love and charity are expressed with many strings attached for most. We expect reciprocation, benefits, glory, recognition, something in return for our good deed. Most of us feel slighted and unacknowledged when not given due credit for our actions at work or at home.
What about acquired knowledge? Should it be free? Should it be handed over to anyone and everyone no questions asked? Should students expect teachers to give away everything they know in one sitting at the drop of a hat?
It is impossible to immediately understand and grasp in one workshop someone’s experience and knowledge that has been gained over their lifetime. The penetration of teachings unfolds over long periods of time, year after year of hearing the same things and repeating the same postures. But who has time or patience for that anymore? If we don’t get something in 10 seconds or less nowadays we move on to the next hashtag.
Information, as we now consider as being at our fingertips, is not even free. It comes at a price. When something is free it means we are the product. We are being statistically calculated and categorized into algorithms so whatever appears in our news feed is based on behind the scenes research that has been collected, targeting our patterns and behaviours online. We get fed more of what we already like, narrowing the gap for marketers to sink their fishing lines into.
We are the product, our very souls the price tag.
We don’t know what and how much is being extracted from us in exchange for the free stuff we are offered. What we can rest assured of is that this data will eventually be used as a weapon against us in the future, either to brainwash us into justifying an action or to sell us something.
We are in a culture of copy and paste and call it sharing. The internet has made it possible and justified to get everything easily, instantly and available to all.
But maybe all we are getting is unemployed and obsolete.
Are we now trapped under the avalanche of intelligence we triggered, being no smarter in the end?
In a way, there is little choice if everyone is operating in a certain manner, we are forced to either follow the derangement or fall behind and be ignored.
Offering everything out freely now reduces the quality that gets presented. Few seek no return for their effort, especially with bills to pay and mouths to feed. Because of some who give it away and undercharge, others are forced to follow just to stay in the game. It has always been like that. For the most part, those that seem successful at what they do may not necessarily be talented at their craft. They were simply good marketers or had the right connections. They could have put on discount specials that get the hordes through the door just out of being cheap enough. It’s a simple business tactic.
To charge or not to charge. How much to charge? What is this worth? Do we have to give it away to get the numbers and look more successful or do we charge its value and live with the results.
There are many that believe yoga should be free. Maybe this is coming from those that can’t afford the pricey membership fees of boutique yoga studios and exotic retreat registration rates. But that is just an industry created to feast on those with disposable incomes. It has little to do with yoga.
Yoga was never free anyways. Getting yoga for free is a delusion. The seeker pays a high price.
The enormous sacrifice an ancient disciple had to make for teachings far outweighed today’s average $15 drop in fee. Their very life was at stake, every hour of the day was devoted to practice, all possessions given away, family left behind and all attachments to worldly life shed. Students paid with their blood, sweat and tears. Few were up to the task. It gradually got watered down, adapted and became something we now pay to be entertained for an hour a day.
It has nothing to do with price. The value is in the worthiness of how much we desire the knowledge. If we don’t think it is important enough to pay for what the teacher is asking, we are unlikely to do the work required. Once a student understands how much work is actually involved, they rarely persist, free class or not.
Money cannot buy spiritual wisdom, yet to obtain it is far from free. Enlightenment was never free. It costs you all you have and takes your life in the end.
We always arrange our life around our desires. If we want something bad enough and if we are meant to have it, we will find the means or it will come to us. Wanting something to be free because other people have it is not what yoga is about. We all make choices and have our priorities, and we will spend our money on what we believe to be most important. This way the knowledge we seek has been earned through a hunger for it and diligence. Not because it was handed to us at the most affordable rates at a conveniently located yoga centre around the corner.
Wisdom cannot be bought. Wealthy or not, we must do the necessary work. We can have all the money in the world, attend all the workshops offered, vacation in as many retreat locales as possible. Wisdom will never come unless the effort is made and the difficult practice is done.
We must long for the same desires as the yogis that came before us had in order to generate their understanding of freedom. Wanting something desperately has little to do with money.
Pray harder. Don’t pray for money though, pray for what yearns inside you.
I see my teacher only once a year because that is all I can afford. It is up to me the rest of the time. Quantity will never outweigh quality. We must make the most out of what we have.
A yoga practice has nothing to do with business. Yogis had no money. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita to not be attached to the fruits of your actions. How many of us can actually do this?
Can we practice just for the sake of it? Merely out of curiosity, pleasure, discovery of ourself, with no attempt to change what is, free of attachment to outcome? Very difficult. When practice goes well, we are usually on top of the world. I did it, I nailed it, I’m so great, I made the effort and it paid off, life is fantastic, feel the love. When practice went poorly, it was yesterday’s food, the weather, the bad knee, lack of sleep, stress at work, uneven floor, noisy neighbours, distracting roommate, it was the cat’s fault. No ‘I’ is ever involved. We’ll claim the credit but never take the blame.
Maybe if we can recognize our birth comes at the price of death, perhaps we can take everything that happens in between these two stages less personally. Perhaps we can practice daily, free of expectations, judgments, praise or blame. Perhaps we will cease wanting what others have. Perhaps things can be offered more freely, with no hope of profit or gain.
A yogi’s mission is to be debt-free. No karmic debts that continue the cycle of coming back to this existence of suffering and bondage we call life.
The next time we must ‘google’ something for instant gratification, or the next time we go shopping for cheap stuff, let us ask ourselves if we are just accumulating more free suffering or are we finding freedom from it.
Radhasri (Rhonda Fogel) has been teaching yoga in Canada since 1998 and is the founder of Hatha Yoga Shala currently based in Montreal. She is an authorized Shadow Yoga teacher since 2005.