What is actually a problem

To follow up on the last article, let’s see what the tradition says is a problem and will cause failure in yogic practice, and what I found out.

If I had to sum up the traditionally described modes of failure, and if I don’t attempt to be too abstract or formal, it would go more-less like this:

Attachment. This is pretty straightforward; one is attached to the worldly things, doesn’t wish to let go, and thus either abandons spiritual practice or fails in it. My experience: yes, that’s a very common mode of failure. Basically, one gets interested in yoga, practices until their attachments are tested, and then invents this or that excuse to end the practice, or remains involved with the “movement” as a mere formality, but does absolutely nothing that would result in actual spiritual advancement because that would threaten their attachments.

Moral failure. This is also straightforward – if one becomes, or fails to stop being cruel, evil, a liar, fornicator, thief, murderer etc., they won’t make spiritual progress, and at worst will become practitioners of dark magic. My experience: unfortunately, this is also common. I could probably classify it under “attachment” as well, but since it’s attachment to very dark modes of behaviour, it deserves its special category.

Blasphemy. One invents imaginary failures of his guru, proclaims himself to be God or an enlightened master without proper qualifications, starts accepting students and invents his own theology that is centred around his own failures and hallucinations, proclaiming them special virtues. My experience: yes, this indeed happens, but I’m not sure if it’s a cause of a downfall or merely an ego-preservation strategy.

Lack of dedication. One lacks devotion to God, desire for liberation and spiritual improvement, loses focus and discontinues spiritual practice, or continues lackluster practice that fails to attain any results. My experience: yes.

Fanaticism. One practices too much and hurts himself, or goes around making foolish and exaggerated claims about virtues of his practice without actually attaining results himself. My experience: yup, that’s a thing, unfortunately.

Impurity. Eating meat, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, having sex, having lots of money, basically refraining from recommended ascetic practices. My experience: I actually never encountered a mode of failure of this type, which is funny because according to what people usually believe, one would think that this would be the main mode of failure, but it never is. If anything, people fail for other reasons, and then later degrade into abominable behaviour. Eating meat and having sex proved to be a non-issue, unless connected with other problems, such as having sex with a person that is trying to attach you to worldly things and won’t let go. Drugs are a bad idea in general but I never had an experience with someone who abandoned yoga because they wanted to take drugs or drink alcohol. It’s usually some of the aforementioned modes of failure as a cause, and debauchery as a consequence.

Hubris. Thinking you are so advanced you can perform immoral and sinful acts and count on the yogic technique, guru and God to save you. My experience: yes, this kind of a thing happened so often it looks like a pattern, and people tend to treat sin as an energetic impurity that can be easily remedied with yoga, while it is in fact a cause of strain within the soul and causes its fragmentation and inability to practice yoga properly in any way afterwards. Also, intentionally doing that is a sin against both guru and God and causes one to perceive them in a disrespectful manner, thus renouncing their authority and being unable to receive help.

So, other than this list, what would be my personal observations? Well, one of the most pernicious issues I faced is the propensity of students of yoga to create cult-like environments even when the guru has an obvious dislike for this behaviour and warns against it. Trying to establish and maintain “pecking orders”, or hierarchies of seniority and dominance, trying to assert their relevance to the junior students, abusing their assumed authority within the group to either play ego games with the new students, or get them to have sex with them and so on. This stuff kept repeating so much that I think it’s one of the most basic human patterns of behaviour, and it caused all kinds of trouble and mischief. It sometimes worked out fine as a form of social bonding or finding a compatible mate within the group, but regardless of the possible benefits it universally distracts everyone from actual spiritual practice, and the whole thing degrades into a cult. Apparently, spirituality isn’t a team sport. Specifically, the issue of an “idiot senpai”, more accurately a person who is a student for a longer time regardless of actual accomplishments, and who tries to impose himself as some kind of an intermediary, proxy guru, giving the less experienced people all kinds of advice, hints and alternative teachings, or even make sexual advances, is an endless cause of mischief. Apparently, being in some kind of a spiritual organisation or a movement makes people feel special and important without any good reason, and this becomes a cause of downfall for themselves, and is a nuisance to others.