1. What’s your favorite part of your work?
My work allows me not only to expose students to the wonders of Indian civilization and philosophies but to bring them there with me, to see first hand the worlds that I first encountered nearly forty-years ago. My favorite part is now giving back to India, as best we can, in support of schools, contributing to the lives of the temples and their priests, and seeing how a life committed to these studies can at last offer tangible gratitude in return.
2. What’s your least favorite part of your work?
As much as I love meeting people and conversing with students, I almost always long to be at home (unless I can be in the great temple of Nataraja in India!)
3. What still excites you and keeps you engaged with teaching yoga?
Since I don’t teach asana, “yoga” means everything we engage that empowers and informs our lives. So, everything.
4. If you didn’t teach yoga, what else would you do?
I’ve never actually done anything else if again by the word “yoga” we mean life-studies or more particularly the worlds of south Asian spirituality and religion. This has been my professional pursuit since college and, well, I never left those worlds of learning.
5. What are you excited about learning next?
I study sources principally composed in Sanskrit, Tamil, and other related languages and I am happy to say that after all these years I feel now a far greater fluency and insight into the source materials. The work never gets easier (and that is very exciting to me) but it does go a bit faster and also with more real satisfaction. I’m always learning something more, something new. This is literature and culture so vast and beautiful and rich that it cannot be mastered in a lifetime. I’m also interested in almost everything, but I spend lots of time in comparative linguistics, world literature and criticism, science, politics, and the classics. Learning is excitement.
6. What’s your finest advice for a newer teacher?
Give yourself the forbearance to learn, not only because excellent things are difficult and rare but also because learning involves ardor, tapas, and that’s not always just fun. Then you’ll need good teachers who understand deference but never ask for your submission, keep you committed and mindful of life’s complexities, and help you examine honestly your true gifts.
7. Evolutionary biology or God(s)?
If the question means to ask how did life begin and how did we “get here” then evolutionary biology is the only plausible answer for the 21st century. I can’t imagine that this would be debatable except to the faithful religious who would have to divorce themselves from the realities of our most honest scientific findings. That said, the gods are ways of seeing ourselves, they are principals in the myths we need to understand further our human experiences, they provide reflections and refractions of our deepest explorations of thought and imagination and they help us inform the relationships that nurture our lives. Facts are truths verified and revised to empower our understanding of the natural world and the processes of our human experience. Myths are lies creatively interpreted to empower our capacity to see the more in life. We must live with the facts but life is so much richer when we live too with the power of myths. Let’s try not to confuse the two more than necessary.