How Many Yoga Teachers Do You Know Who Ask the Big Questions? ~ Piers Moore-Ede

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Why do we practice yoga anyway?

Perfect bodies. Or just better bodies.

To be supple and limber, light on our feet.

To get that relaxed post yoga buzz which lifts up the day, making everything better.

We love the vibe: the shalas, incense, music.

Because we feel like we’re human beings on a journey to some eventual place that feels like home—and that yoga is the best method we’ve discovered for taking us there.

Some of those may be true for you, or you may have your own particular answer, unique from any of these.

I think it’s worth asking the question though, because, with all the millions of us trekking in and out of yoga centres daily, it’s kind of important. Yoga was originally conceived of as a remedy for the human condition, and a profound method for surmounting suffering. These days, it has fallen a great distance from the tree.

In my case, I went to yoga because I wanted a way out of depression.

I met a teacher who had a light in her eye that spoke of inner strength. It touched me and I went for a class. After that, I was hooked. That “feeling” was indescribable. I wanted more of it.

Fifteen years passed. A lot of asana. Three years in India. Many books on mudras, kriyas and pranayama techniques. Vipassana meditation. Panchakarma retreats. Sweatlodges. Ayahuasca.

The problem of surmounting suffering increased to the point where it took over my life.

I became the quintessential seeker: restless, very hungry, hoping for the one thing which would end the search for good.

I didn’t find it.

Then, one day in my mid thirties, with a marriage on the rocks and all the problems of my youth still with me, I heard the name of a teacher called Mooji. Having tried everything, meditated and sweated my way through endless practices designed to get me “home” I wasn’t there yet. I was tired, desperate and internally cracking up—I was at the end of the road.

This teacher seemed very kind. I Googled him, and liked his face immediately. He had an extraordinary peace about him and one of the best laughs I’d ever heard.

Ah well, I’d met gurus before. That wasn’t enough to impress me.

But he asked this question, “Who are you really?” It made me stop in my tracks. I’d read a lot of Ramana Maharshi before and heard the whole “Who am I?” koan, but it had never struck me seriously before.  It always seemed like a question that could never be properly answered by mere mortals.

“Who are you really?”

Mooji phrased it differently. The video I watched first was Laughing Buddha and it displayed Mooji and an Irish devotee laughing hysterically for approximately 20 minutes, as the Irish man recounted his discovery of  “not existing.” I sat there with absolute bewilderment, and then a series of chills and shivers rippled down my spine. Tears came.

This was the most absurd thing imaginable. Of course we exist! What an absurd idea! Of course there is someone here! And yet, these two claimed not.

The question was so absurd, I thought there might, perhaps, be something in it.

On that day a fuse was lit. Mooji calls this question, “the master key, because when one begins to grapple with it, everything else becomes irrelevant.”

This question took over my life.

As I pursued it, I discovered that, for all these years, through all the practices, pursuits, courses and rituals, there had never once arisen the question of, “Who is the one seeking?”

Piers was the hero of this story, the pilgrim on the road home, and whose problems were at the centre of everything. But who was he anyway? What was he? As what, did he exist? It had never once been examined.

Mooji showed me: I am not my body (If you lose an arm or a leg are you any less you?).

He showed me: I am not my mind—because thoughts are witnessed. They come and go like clouds, but they are not the essential me.

So if we are not a body or a mind, then what are we? Is there anything tangible, in fact, at all, that we can definitely say we are?

You are not, as Mooji puts it, “anything perceivable or conceivable.”

Sit with that for a second.

Really sit with it.

Because if that’s true, then who is this person that you think you are? What color is their skin? What gender are they? Is there are any one word which can describe you?

Brought to this place before all identity, before all conceptual thought,conditioning, history, memory or hope I saw a glimmer of true freedom for the first time. Someone once called it, “the peace that passeth all understanding.”

And this peace is not something Piers can get to. This peace is freedom from Piers. Realizing that, I saw at last what the big joke was. The joke was on me.

There never was a me.

So I ask you—yogis, meditators, seekers after truth to inject this, if you haven’t already, into your practice and your classes.

Yoga is not a process which will help an individual reach somewhere, become better, stronger, leaner, more peaceful. Initially, it might appear this way, and yet its true purpose is to chip away, slowly and persistently, at the entire structure which appears to be doing yoga in the first place.

As M. Eliade characterised it, “Yoga is a progressive dismantling of human personality ending in complete abolition.”

This one question has the power to make my eyes stream with tears.

It was the key in a lock, which was covered in axe wounds.

It’s the whisper in your ear, during your happiest moments. The shivers down your spine. The primal memory of a happiness you cannot name, but which you know intimately.

It’s the longing to come home.

Piers Moore-Ede is the author of two books: Honey and Dust and All Kinds of Magic.  He’s also a travel writer, gardener, yogi and currently living in Totnes, Devon.


Editor: Sara McKeown

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anonymous Oct 21, 2012 12:40pm

[…] […]

anonymous Oct 4, 2012 1:13pm

[…] was inspired by the teachings of Jnana yoga, in particular Mooji. He titled his article ‘How many yoga teachers do you know who ask the big questions?‘. Piers has also been in discussion with Being Ordinary about his experiences with Mooji, and […]

anonymous Oct 3, 2012 2:07pm

[…] own Awakening and the current state of Yoga in the west. You can read Piers’ article on Yoga here. We hope you enjoy this one. Be […]

anonymous Oct 3, 2012 1:43pm

[…] […]

anonymous Sep 24, 2012 5:19am

God bless my beloved Master. As an Ashtanga practitioner, Mooji has shown me that whilst asana is ok, the attachement to it and the ego that come with it is something to be watched. How I love to move in this body, blessed to be with my Master daily and blessed for the Sangha Om

anonymous Sep 4, 2012 3:44am

Wonderful piece. It really brought me a deep relief. Thank you Piers

anonymous Sep 3, 2012 11:30am

I don't think you give true yoga real credit here. Sure, if you want to know your true self as the witness, Mooji is a wonderful teacher.

True yoga masters have developed almost unimaginable control of their body, mind and spirit, and even of their surroundings, that goes far beyond just knowing who you are(not that this is lower knowledge or anything like that). It allows them to know and experience the creative power of God while in physical form. They have completely mastery over their life energy.

To imply that the practice of yoga is somehow lower than being centered in your awareness is, in my opinion, irresponsible.

    anonymous Sep 7, 2012 12:10pm

    Sath, the practice of yoga, in it's essence, is about freedom. Patanjali expresses that suffering is a basic phenomenon of existence, and that yoga is the means to overcome this. As Isvara Krsna. the author of the Samkhaya-Karikha states, 'Through the blows of triple suffering, one comes to the inquiry into the method of terminating it.' Control of body, mind or 'spirit' (whatever that is) is irrelevant, mere games and tricks, besides arriving at liberation. My point was that yoga teachers should remind their students of this, continually. Yoga is not about a better body, or finding control over the body or surroundings, but about recognising one's true nature. Everything else is a sideshow…

anonymous Sep 1, 2012 9:20pm

[…] likely to face dementia in old age. Source: Time Heartland Yogi and travel writer Piers Moore-Ede doesn’t exist. Alwyn Cosgrove beat cancer. Twice. As it turns out, his training regimen saved his life. Nearly 1 […]

anonymous Aug 31, 2012 8:41pm

[…] no paeans to the divine within, so common during classes in the west. “What is this?” was the usual question when a classmate did something she didn’t like and other students were to take note. Typically […]

anonymous Aug 23, 2012 2:54pm

So pleased you enjoyed it Jade. You got my point exactly. When coming from the wrong place yoga can be like feeding a fire with kerosene: the ego grows huge and powerful, fuelled by supple limbs and a 'spiritual' persona. Mooji pulls no punches in demolishing the identity of the seeker… for this and so much more, he is a teacher of huge heart.

anonymous Aug 23, 2012 1:44pm

Ooh I love this! Especially the 'yoga is not a process which will help the individual reach somewhere' part. Sometimes I think we forget that all this meditation 'stuff' is about the end of an individual rather than creating a super shiny and happy individual.

Mooji's such a dude! I love that he talks about the highest of the high in terms of Enlightenment and spirituality but in such a normal down to earth way.

anonymous Aug 22, 2012 10:16am

Nice analogy, Yogi_Scott. {Feels like biting your own teeth as well..}. The only exception to that rule, perhaps, is the universe itself which appears to have the capacity of being the object of its own quest: forgetting itself, waking it up to itself, and enjoying its own apparent remembrance….

anonymous Aug 22, 2012 8:00am

A thing cannot be the object of its' own knowledge. As Alan Watts puts it, it's like trying to bite your own teeth.

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