Choosing your teachers in Ayurveda

Dr Svoboda's blog had an entry on how to find your guru. The internet is saturated these days with people that are afraid to make a bad decision (whatever that actually means) vs those that are more than happy telling others how they should think.  It's a perfect match, and I would never dream of suggesting this marriage break apart. We are all where we need to be, as they say.

But it made me start thinking about my own teachers. Some have come into my life for a short period and others have stuck around longer, but each added to the creation I am today. And in each evolution, as I inch closer to death, I have been fortunate to encounter teachers that have guided me in my strengths, and shown me that my inner voice was right....all along.

In the absence of a single sadguru, you can still accept good advice from the many teachers available who can aid you on the path. Even if you have a sadguru, you may find yourself learning from other gurus, as I have. Moreover, every being in our lives, from an ant to a pesky aunt, has something to show or teach us. Guru Dattatreya had 24 gurus, including a python, a honeybee, and a prostitute, none of whom knew they were his teacher. When we are receptive, anything and anyone can lead us directly to the divine.
— Sr Robert Svoboda

Dr Marc Halpern, at CCA, showed me a robust system. Coming from a business background, I found the simple system to be an excellent starting measure. There is the idea that once you're qualified, in any respects, you will no longer be learning. I say that no matter where you start, you have only just begun. The first school you choose will help you get your feet wet. I do encourage supervised internship. No matter how much you think you know, the application is another thing altogether. Each person comes with their own story, and to get to the heart of their story requires practise, practise, practise. I admire Dr Halperns ability to create a simple system for westerners. He pushed political boundaries both in association and state wide. For whatever the output of practise, he created a stake in the American way of Ayurveda.

Dr Claudia Welch encouraged inner vision in me. Through her post graduate studies, she taught us how to tap into the core essence of the issue. It was a focus on women's health, but more than that, she taught us how to think and how to feel. Working via case studies in a group from various schools gave me more insight into the various methods of getting to a solution. My teachers then became Dr Welch PLUS the other students. I saw the value of sangha and appreciated the ability to be able to bounce off others. It gave me confidence. And on a side note, when I was feeling really lonely here in Australia after I'd moved from the States and encountered a case I didn't think I was capable of handling, she called me directly and didn't give me the answer, but coaxed me into believing in myself, and in turn a successful result was found. At a point when I was feeling really downhearted about whether I would continue, she appeared to guide a turnaround in me. 

If Dr Svoboda is in the region I will go see him. We were so lucky to have him visit Australia a couple of years ago. The man is whom I aspire to when I write. He enters a room, looks around, and proceeds to blend the environment to ancient scripture. He is off the cuff, so well read, so elegant in his rendering, that he uplights me each time I'm in session. I feel inspired to read widely and stretch my imagination daily in my own unique way of expression. He's a self confessed contrarian and I've always personally liked a rebel. His contribution is not just that he was the first westerner to complete a BAMS certification but his story is so damn unique. I literally chew on his one liners for months, carry them around in my pocket like Ayurvedic snack bars.

Dr Rama Prasad is an Ayurvedic doctor here in Australia. He brought a few of us to Vaidyagrama in 2011 and I got to know him and some of his students then. When I was feeling lost in how to translate my education into the Australian parlance, he was at hand. He is always encouraging of anyone that enters the Ayurvedic market, he believes that there is enough for everyone and the only way we can truly change the common ground paradigm is to work together and across various modalities. His support on my arrival was invaluable. I had someone to explain the logistics on how to offer my services locally and I am indebted in service to his generosity.

And when I sat at the feet of Dr Vasant Lad, I had realised what it was to be in the presence of such strong prana. When I did Gurukula, at the end of the course, another student asked whether they felt I had learned anything as they were confused. It's a lot of information, most of us were not Ayurvedic medical doctors, but what you observe in session is watching how Dr Lad approached his clients, how he moves from using Vaastu to herbal treatment to marma therapy. I was fortunate enough to receive marma from Dr Lad when the week before Gurukulu I played up at Goa beach and fell out of a hammock onto concrete. My whole lower back was aflame. I couldn't stand up or sit down without using support. I was in pain for a couple of weeks and no matter what topical treatment I had found I wasn't recovering. In one session with him, I felt "connected". It took about 3 more days to heal itself and I was back to normal.

I once heard that the healing abilities of the traditional healer/shaman wasn't only about the knowledge of herbs and such but the actual prana the healer emitted in the presence of the patient. When I sit with Dr Lad my heart opens and I feel his compassion. I am striving to be as compassionate as he is. It's difficult to know what I mean unless you are in his presence and even then, it's not for everyone. Those that get it, know that I'm struggling to find the words to match the gift this man brings to the healing world.

These are just a few teachers that have made an impact in my Ayurvedic journey. There are small encounters with others that have shifted my perspective also because they believed in their contribution to the art. So in light of choosing your teachers, schools, continued education, I think every aspect has something to teach us. I do not believe there is only one way to honour the art. When I asked Dr Krishnkumar (AVP College in Coimbatore) about how he saw Ayurveda translating to the West, he said "you already have it, it's called permaculture."

And so just like Dr Lad tells us, even vegetables that are bad food combinations learn to get along when they're all cooked in the same pot.

The supremely wonderful Melbourne cartoonist Michael Leunig. 

The supremely wonderful Melbourne cartoonist Michael Leunig