Off The Mat

Invoking the Ancestors; The Opening Invocation

Dec 1, 2015 Michelle Dorer
Ashtanga  Yoga  / Opening Invocation

To me, the natural beauty of being connected to an authentic yoga lineage is clear. The reason perhaps so many forms of yoga are being splintered from this tradition to be marketed more widely is also quite obvious. The concept of the age old tradition of Parampara, which is the direct transmission of knowledge and wisdom, is foreign to the Western mind. Our culture and social values do not naturally coincide.

As a Western teacher and practitioner, I wanted to explain it from my own personal experience in hopes of helping communicate between these lines.

Yoga is a wisdom tradition coming from the ancient world. Like most traditions coming from the ancient world, it was transferred through oral tradition. The tradition of yoga is at least 5,000 years old. Due to the nature of oral tradition, we do not even know exactly how old it is. The basis of this wisdom might even predate this. Some scholars speculate it might even be 10,000 years old. The wisdom is worked, reworked, and refined through generations. This predates pen and paper, the printing press, and definitely computers, Ipads, and Iphones. The wisdom lived and breathed within the teachers and the students of the tradition and was preserved and passed on because of the deep respect and honor both had for it. It was a symbiotic relationship. The student becomes the teacher, and the ancestry lives on.

The other aspect of this is that Yoga is experiential knowledge. It is the deepest knowledge available to us. This is very different than memorizing facts or knowing things in the intellect. Yogic knowledge extends well beyond the conceptual mind. It is knowledge that is understood in our very beings. Lessons that have been learned so deeply they are ingrained in our hearts, minds, and spirits perhaps making up our very own cellular structure.

This kind of knowledge can only be transferred by being in the presence of someone that has achieved or received this level of practical experiential knowledge themselves. I do believe you can receive this kind of knowledge from reading, but I feel the process is sped up significantly when you are in a classroom in person with a teacher who carries this knowledge. The waves of their consciousness affect and help change the waves of your own, that is, if you are open to it and the connection is right.

The value of being connected to an authentic lineage is infinitely larger than if you were trying to figure it out and teach on your own. You are tapping into a vast Ocean of knowledge that predates your existence and will hopefully continue to exist well after you leave your body. You bring much more to the students you touch. There is power and wisdom beyond what one yogi in one lifetime could achieve. In tapping into a tradition you are able to access a collective storage of accumulated wisdom, understanding, and experience. In this, there is also support available.

I love and respect this concept. I feel it in my bones. I felt it from the beginning and after over a decade am feeling new waves of appreciation to be even a small part of this Divine heritage.

This brings up another aspect of Parampara, which is the basis of any lineage...

I believe in order to receive the transference you must be open to it, which means you have to Surrender. Surrender what, you might ask? You must surrender your Ego, your belief that you already know, the cyclical repetitive patterns that do not work for you anymore, and most of all, you must surrender to an experience that there is something greater and bigger than YOU and your self-centered view of reality.

Wow! Not the easiest thing to do!

This level of surrender requires humility and gratitude. When the Divine River is flowing, there is no tricking anyone. Spirit flows where Spirit flows. You must have an open heart and sincere intentions if you want to understand. You must let go of what you think you know. This is what lies at the Heart of the Eastern tradition of bowing at the Guru's feet. It is surrender. Wonderful things happen when you do.

I am not suggesting to throw discernment out the window. I feel the surrender happens quite naturally when it is right; when you are ready. It is a great blessing.

With this said, maybe now you will understand the significance of the Traditional Opening Invocation to the Ashtanga Yoga practice. It is a way of invoking the wisdom and power of the ancestors, keeping the tradition alive, offering respect and gratitude, and setting an intention for your yoga practice.

"Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarashita swatma sukhava bhode
Nishreyase Jangalikaya Mane
Samsara halahala mohashantiye
Abahu Purushakaram
Shankachakra Asi Dharinam
Sahasra Shirasam Swetam
Pranamami Patanjalim. Om"

Translation:

"I respectfully bow to the lotus feet of my teacher, who teaches the knowledge of the Self that awakens us to great happiness, who is the Jungle Physician and dispeller of the poison of conditioned existence.
Taking the form of a man up to the hands, holding a conch, a discus, and a sword. and having a thousand heads of white light, Patanjali, I bow to you."

For more information on Parampara visit KPJAYI website. Click here.

With Love,

Michelle Dorer
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC

Categories: Off the Mat