Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Goddess Envy

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.

The End.  

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.

And yet...

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.


  1. The last sentence of this blog is SUCH a relief! I was the getting the "Wait, I don't have those goddesses!!!" anxiety. Phew, good lookin' out girl!

  2. I feel like I'm reading a reflection, thanks for the connection! Listening to the teachings this weekend, I got the sense that the Dashamahavidyas are like a well-spring from which all the teachings pour forth. So looking forward to dipping in next year at Srividyalaya!

  3. Every time I touch my hands together the vidyas spring forth ... same for me, foundational ... I remember when Scott Lewiki asked me if I would import his minidiscs to iPod format and my whole world opened up. Where to start !?! So I brought the Spanda teaching with me to the big island in Hawaii and sat up long after the family had gone to sleep listening and learning and diving deeper as the waves crashed on the black volcanic rocks just outside. And I still start many pujas with uma, gauri, chamundi .... Yeah ... hmmm ... sometimes one bija sets the whole party rockin' ...

  4. Beautiful, Bern!
    We should compare notes sometime and fill in the blanks - I have volumes and volumes of notes from 1999 on...

    And hey, not only can you "get your Goddess on" with Srividyalaya, but Douglas will be giving teachings on the 6 Pre-Karmic Goddesses (ie. pre-samskaric Goddess of pure LILA)next year.

    These are the teachings which can help aid you in creating new habits, redesigning your being, and beginning again).

    It will be here in Boulder, CO April 15th, 2011. Similar to the Dashamahavidya, Douglas has only ever given this teaching once as well...really looking forward to those.


  5. so, am I hearing that podcasts of past teachings will be available??? that the goddess envy reactivity will be sweetly drawn to the midline of--
    sigh, you too can KNOW??? Saraswati, Bernieji, I bow to your lotus feet and smile~ YES!!!

  6. as well, i began typing notes on my PC at the virayoga 204 and have word by word as bob too, filled in for me when i went to he bathroom, but as douglas says, each persons interpretation is what they see, not necessarily what was said and how it relates to the relevancy in the life the listener has. SUBJECTIVE. he lovingly pointed out that alana and i, mother and daughter, can take away TWO completely different things...each one needed for th growth of our individual selves..so to me, each bit, was really a ZIPFILE into another meandering vision to be reflected.

    i look to you as the recorders of the wise men of yesteryear, who wrote their interpretations of TORAH, and there are many commentaries and so much for reflection, one lifetime cannot digest the bijas lesson.

  7. funny, i was just contemplating this very topic as i am getting ultra stoked to see Douglas next weekend. woot, as they say! thank you for your loving devotion and awesome enthusiasm, Bernadette! so so excited for the school.