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Radha's Life of Service XV

November 14, 2008 by Swami Durgananda

The series continues,  tracing the evolution of the Yoga Development Course to its beginnings as the Yoga Teacher’s Course in 1969.  In Swami Durgananda’s words, There is not enough space to give a description of what and how Swami Radha taught in the early Yoga Teacher’s Courses ~ She said that she learned as she went along.

In 1987 Swami Radha made a tape telling about how the Yoga Teachers’ Course started. (It later became the Yoga Development Course with a separate Teacher Training Course). She taught the first one alone and after that she had some help from former students. We start with her words about how the idea evolved.

“Well, first of all in Vancouver I could see already that I couldn’t do much for people. I had somehow to remove them from the influence of telephone, children, family, and of running a household. Then when I came out here, I wasn’t quite clear how it would work. Once when I was visiting in Spokane I met a lady who said to me that she took some yoga lessons in California, a three-week course, and got a certification to teach yoga. She said, ‘But, I don’t think the people are as good as you. And you know? This cost me $500, plus three weeks cost in a hotel.’ When I drove back from Spokane, you can imagine I was really thinking, thinking, thinking.”

“So I started the first Yoga Teachers’ Course in November ’69. Stan had to help me in the evening to clear the furniture out of the room in Many Mansions for our hatha yoga in the morning. After their class they went for breakfast and we brought the furniture back in.” (Stan was one of the residents who took the course and also helped Swami Radha.)

“After observing that people had different concepts about common words— I started by giving out a list of eight or ten words, telling people to write down what they meant by each word. And this gave me then some understanding.”

“So when you say ‘philosophy’, what do you mean? What does yoga mean to you? I had everybody make a paper on that… ”

“Later on I found ways to remind me (of my connection to the Light), making a little sign on the top of my notes for the Divine Light Invocation, or the initials DLI. I would do the Light Invocation, put everybody—very carefully, with a great recollection of what they looked like—put them into the Light, making the request that where I failed, that the Light may balance it out.”

“It was my commitment to the Divine; that kept me going. And that also was where I derived the courage. I have never looked back, because I had to keep going. If I had looked back, I would have said, ‘Oh my God! No, I can’t do it.’ “

“I soon realized that three weeks were not enough, so after this we extended it. I said, ‘If you give me three months, I can do something.’ And then everybody wanted to be a yoga teacher.” (To clarify this situation I contacted Stan who told me that the decision was made to take a break for Christmas and come back to finish the course and he was quite sure it was for three months total which is what Swami Radha wanted. I am impressed that everyone could make arrangements for that amount of time.)

I listened to the tape of Swami Radha starting the Introduction to this first Yoga Teachers Course with the group of six sitting in a circle, and in a quiet gentle voice she started:

“Think of the Light, rays emanating, coming to each of us, penetrating each of us, filling each of us with Light. Illuminating our minds, filling our spines, illuminating every level of consciousness….We ask that the Light will guide us and Illumine these various levels of consciousness. When we travel along the ray, we meet in the center of the Light. In the center of the Light we find our oneness, where we are together with each other, all one Light. So we realize that only our various temperaments, and our various personality make-ups differ, but the life force that holds our bodily atoms together, that life force is the same.”

“We dedicate our course and sessions so that we may be of help to other people so that each of us may become a torch of Light to others we come in contact with, that this Light may be our guide, our true inner Guru, on the spiritual path. I ask that those things I transmit to you be seen not as a permanent, unshakeable and unchangeable truth, but a truth that you understand today and that I hope at the end of the course will have expanded into new levels of consciousness.”

“That we understand that there is no ‘the Truth’, only a truth, only an approach to that great wisdom of eternity that we call truth, as we approach it each one individually, This is your personal contribution and you are not only permitted but invited to maintain your individuality.”

“So you will dedicate your efforts in your course simply to help, to be a channel of that Light from which all wisdom flows. Light greater than all our intellects, all our intelligence, even our power of reasoning, and you will use this knowledge to the best of your ability. Do not waver, stand firmly on the ground, never be tempted to convince.”

“We shall dedicate this course to the Most High. We shall allow ourselves to be receptive, and yet we shall maintain the freedom to reject what we cannot accept. Now we will say a prayer for each other.”

I do not have other details of the course so we move ahead to find out what the future held. The Summer 1972 Ascent reports: “The guest lodge has been completed on the main floor and the first guests to inhabit it are just completing the yoga teachers’ course using one of the rooms as a class room.”

One of the participants wrote: “By the end of the course which lasted for three months, six and seven days a week, both instructors and students felt a deep sense of jubilation and achievement which transcended the natural exhaustion which followed such prolonged activity. Although most of us were hesitant, a little worried and timid when we first arrived at the ashram, the removal of many of our obstacles to growth and awareness has opened us up immensely to our own potential and the inner beauty of those around us.”

The courses always ended with a Rose Ceremony in the Beach Prayer Room where each participant had a chance to make a personal commitment to the Divine or his/her spiritual path.

A year later the Spring 1973 issue of Ascent reported: “The Teacher Course is very intensive, meeting seven days a week for between six and ten hours a day, but the result of this hard work is a tremendous feeling of personal growth. There are seventy-two days left in the course, and if the present rate of evolution continues, by March 31st all class members will be seventy-two steps closer to enlightenment.”

Since that early start hundreds of people have come for their own growth or for the training to become reputable yoga teachers of the Sivananda lineage.

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