By Kimaya Singh
Outside of India, Hatha Yoga is well known. Hatha is one of the original fitness oriented styles from India. Yet, the most common form of Yoga inside India is Bhakti. Bhakti is clearly different from Hatha for many reasons. Hatha Yoga schools in the west tend to charge for lessons, materials, and other services, while Bhakti schools run on donations and volunteers. Some members of Bhakti ashrams give everything they have (work and money) for their Guru and ashram. On the other hand, Hatha schools in the west would be extinct if they depended on donations and seva (Volunteer work; selfless service or work offered to one’s Guru).
The giving of Dakshina or financial support to one’s Guru and the activities he or she supports is a very powerful practice on the Bhakti Yoga path. Bhakti is translated in Narada’s Bhakti Sutras as intense love for one’s teacher or Guru. This divine love and longing to merge with the teacher propels the Bhakta through all sorts of difficult obstacles on the spiritual path. Inherent on the Bhakti Yoga path is the element of active participation in the practices and community of that particular path. This participation can come in many forms such as worship, meditation, selfless service and mantra repetition. Active participation on the Bhakti Yoga path may also come in the form of financial support of one’s Guru and the retreat centers that disseminate his or her teachings.
The practice of Dakshina is a bit uncanny. At first, this practice may feel like an obligatory donation during the holiday season to your local charity organization. However, truly offering Dakshina to a living saint, the teaching facilities of that saint, as well as the spiritual community at large, immediately connects you with the divine grace of that lineage. The feeling is palpable and the effect is instantaneous. A feeling of deep protection and abundance are often experienced by a Bhakta who offers Dakshina to his or her Yoga teacher. As you circulate money into your Guru’s activities, more abundance will most likely flow into your life. However, both the path you have chosen and the Guru or teacher you have chosen to learn from must be “true,” or the practice of Dakshina will not bear the same fruit in your life.
The practice of Dakshina is common throughout the world. In Christian circles, it is called tithing. Generally, a church member is expected to tithe or give 10% or his or her income to the church. In Eastern spiritual traditions, there is a similar expectation. Just think of the roaming Buddhist monk who must beg for one meal a day from the “householders” in the area. The Buddhist monk traditionally offers teachings to the local people, and they in turn offer physical sustenance to the monk. It is believed that supporting the spiritual path that you are on, if it is a true lineage and resonates deeply with you, will bring a feeling of fullness, peace and abundance into your life. A word to the wise, only give what you are able to give while respecting your own needs. In this way, you will maintain balance, respect for yourself and a deep connection to your Guru and the profound blessings of divine grace within your own life.
Yoga teachers and practitioners sometimes have a misconception about money. Energy comes in many forms. Money is a form of energy, which can be used for good things or bad things. It is the way we use it that defines our true motives. To expect a local Yoga studio to run without supporting it is wishful thinking at best. To sacrifice everything for a Guru, who does not deserve it, is foolish thinking. Choose the moderate path and be aware of your Yoga teacher’s actions. Sheep are led by a shepherd or a wolf. If you allow yourself to blindly “follow the leader,” you might hope your Yoga teacher has the best of intentions. It is best to develop a relationship with a teacher who encourages you to think for yourself.
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