Once upon a time... a young woman wandered through a forest and came upon a house in a clearing. Inside that house lived a great teacher. Students traveled great distances from far off places to learn from him. The young woman left her shoes on the porch and went inside. She had read Hansel and Gretel and knew all about cottages in the woods but she took a chance. Inside, sat about twenty or so students with open notebooks. The young woman sat down with them and listened. She listened and listened. She made the friends she would keep for a lifetime. Every year, year after year, she returned, with the others, to the little house in the clearing to study. Life was good.
That's sort of how it really was. I remember looking at the website, after my first year of weekend lectures with Douglas, and deciding that I was going to do one of those five day sessions of summer camp study with him. I was a little nervous. Everyone else seemed to have been through Teacher Training together. Everyone know everyone. Except for me. It was like grade school all over again. What if nobody sat with me at lunch? Also, how would I make up my mind whether to sign up for Hanuman or Kundalini? (Seriously, how does one make a choice like that?)
I signed up for both and didn't have to sit alone at lunch.
At some point that summer I had the realization that this was the real deal. It actually took me that long. For over twenty years I'd been searching for...I wasn't even sure what but for something and this was that something. I hadn't even known for certain that it existed. In fact, I'd actively doubted it and, yet, somehow I had been fortunate enough to find my way to the woods of Bristol.
I've never looked back.
First, we filled notebooks. Then came the era of the i-pod. We all bought microphones and began recording lectures. The sound quality of those early recordings was awful. Each recording preserved three or four hours of lecture as one long track, so if you lost your place as you were listening you'd have to start over.
It wasn't a super efficient system but that didn't stop us from eagerly collecting lectures as though they were bootleg live recordings of Grateful Dead shows. "I'll trade you Ganapati for Hanuman...," went the private joke.
I began to understand, to really understand, that in many ways, Douglas is the last in a line. He had lived in his teacher's home, and had made a life's study of original Sanskrit texts. There are notebooks upon notebooks filled with notes to himself in a combination of Sanskrit, Tamil and English. Without his help, not one among us would be able to make sense of even one of those notebooks. No matter how generously he teaches us, and the man is generous, we shall not learn everything he knows in this lifetime.
He is the last.
Then there's, well, us. The tradition will live on through those who love it and through those who pass it down. We are the hope of this tradition. It will morph but live on.
Douglas insisted, and I dutifully repeated it to myself, that in a tradition that honors the creativity, efficiency, efficacy and resourcefulness of a consciousness that evolves itself, change is inevitable and not a problem.
I developed an unquenchable thirst to preserve what I could, as much as I could. In the jungle of Costa Rica, I carefully salvaged scraps of paper upon which he'd written down dharanas, or practices, for us. I persistently held out microphones to record Appa stories told after dinner on curry night. In ten years, I have never once deleted any email the man has ever written me. I did, once, delete an email I sent to him on a subject about which I was not proud. Just the one.
Friends began calling me the archivist. They were poking fun, a little, but it was loving and true. With Douglas traveling to teach almost every weekend, it gnawed at me that there wasn't a central archive that preserved the great body of teachings. It, like, really gnawed at me.
I hatched all kinds of schemes to send recording equipment with Douglas in his travels but they've not panned out.
When longtime friend, Amy Ippoliti posted on Facebook earlier this week that Douglas would be in Colorado, speaking about The Ten Great Wisdom Goddesses, I felt a small pang. "Oh, The Dashamahavidyas...," I thought. "I love those teachings."
Douglas had given them exactly once before, in 2004. I learned these goddesses sitting on the floor of the original Virayoga. This particular teaching was evocative, and foundational for me, and I often reference it still, six years later, in my teaching.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a wistful moment or two.
I really wanted to be there.
Then, instead of crying over missed lectures, I remembered that, come February, we'll have Srividyalaya as a central sort of library. Here, these profound, powerful and exquisite teachings shall be both given and archived. Here, we will preserve the teachings and the tradition and carry them forward.
It is here, right here, through us, that the current of a lineage pools, turns and begins to flow in a new direction.
Also, you better believe we are getting those goddesses on the official syllabus.