There is some lively discussion, even here at Ghosh Yoga, about the meaning and value of tradition.
What is tradition? The easy part to understand is that it is a practice or belief that comes from the past and has been passed down for generations. The sticky part is this: how static is the practice or belief?
Is a tradition defined by its unchanging nature through time? Or does each generation adjust the practice to fit the time and culture? Does its continued evolution and relevance define a tradition?
Obviously, it is silly to assume that something has more value simply because it is old. There are two underlying implications when we refer to something as "ancient" and mean it as a good thing. The first is the belief that humans in previous times were more connected, more insightful, more intuitive, etc. than we are today; that today we are disconnected and insipid. Is that true?
The other implication of an "ancient" claim is that of tradition; that is, a practice that has been passed down for generations. If it is an old practice, it must have been found to be valuable by generations of people. And if generations of people found it useful, it must be useful for me too.
A lineage is simply the traceable line of descent from one person in history to another. In the context of yoga, the lineage is not usually a bloodline but one of teacher and student.
The assumption that usually accompanies any discussion of lineage is that the teachings are the same, which is more a question of "tradition" than of "lineage." But tradition is not inherent in any lineage, whether it is family related or teacher-student. The practices of one generation could theoretically be drastically different from the last, and the lineage would be just as intact.
For the most part, when we talk about lineage, we are really talking about tradition and practices that have been passed down.
The real questions to ask ourselves are not "what is the tradition?" "how old is this?" or "who was your teacher?" They are "what am I seeking?" and "what are the presumed results of this practice?"
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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