From Mukunda Stiles: What is the Role of a Spiritual Mentor in Yoga?
I recently was in touch with Mukunda Stiles and had a nice e-mail exchange with him. In the end I asked if he would like to submit something to the YogaScope Kaleidoscope so that some of my readers could become more familiar with him. I originally became familiar with Mukunda Stiles through e-Sutra when it was just an e-mail list. I remember reading many things he wrote and thinking his writing was sensitive, thoughtful and intellegent, demonstrating a great deal of knowledge. He also seemed fairly modest which was a breath of fresh air from someone who does know a great deal. I have only met him in person once and it was quite a while ago now, but when I met him one of the things I was struck with was the way he handled himself in the company we were in. He was accompanied by people who obviously cared for him and respected him. They were also students in his teacher training program and it was obvious that they looked up to him. For many this circumstance could have been a challenging situation. Some may have felt that there was pressure to live up to the standards to which his students were holding him. Some may have felt that pressure. However, he was magnanimous and graceful in his social interactions and it all seemed to come from a place deep inside him that was very organic and natural. He was not trying to be anything other than who he was and it was quite a pleasure to observe. One of the things I look for these days in a teacher is someone who has his house in order; someone I can respect and admire as a human being. To me that is the real test of a person's practice is how they actually live their life. Mukunda showed himself to be a true teacher in the deepest sense of the word and I am honored that he took the time to present this for this forum.
Thanks for the opportunity to share. I thought for a while and decided to share something I presented in a talk to Claritas Institute, formed by Joan Borysenko to train spiritual mentors. I gave the part about what is yoga spiritual mentoring.
What is the Role of a Spiritual Mentor in Yoga?
A mentor is one who helps another find how Spirit is present in all aspects of their life. Their own life must be deeply touched by Spirit, and ideally they are chosen by their teacher to have this role. According to the Yoga Vasistha the mentoring offered consists of four parts – scriptural texts, teacher, inner teacher and satsang – keeping good company. The study of yogic texts helps the student to see the continuity of yoga tradition. This develops wisdom. Key is right action that is spiritually motivated. The Siva Sutras I, 5 in II, 9 says jnanam annam -wisdom is food. This wisdom is not merely knowledge; for it literally transforms the grosser bodies as it nurtures the spiritual body that is the 4th kosha (dimension). The food that is nurturing to a spiritual student is self knowledge bringing joy and contentment.
A spiritual mentor is different from a spiritual teacher. A mentor suggests practices that they have been exposed to. A spiritual teacher has attained a steady state of elevated consciousness (Yoga Sutras I, 37) as a result of time with their teacher. The main qualifications that make a spiritual teacher unique include being a disciple (gone through the teacher’s fire), approved by their teacher to give spiritual instructions and share the teacher’s awakened prana Shakti. While the inner teacher is the guru of even the most ancient spiritual teachers (Yoga Sutras I, 25); until that is stable yoga students need the assistance of a spiritual mentor or teacher.
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Mukunda Stiles, author of Structural Yoga Therapy, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and soon to be released Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy; is offering trainings and individual sessions.