Spiritual Transmission: An Interview with Sri Dharma Mittra
Adam Frei interviews Dharma Yoga founding teacher Sri Dharma Mittra on spiritual transmission.
Adam Frei: I am fortunate to have been your student for a while now. Something I noticed early on and continue to appreciate is that the very atmosphere in the room changes when you enter it. You have said when asked that this is according to the students’ personal belief / faith that they experience this, but you have also said that when one is close to the teacher, you feel the heat. Can you explain / remark further?
Sri Dharma Mittra: The reason this happens is that most of the students in the class are to some degree reverent to me and respect my position. As soon as they notice my presence in the room, they feel more comfortable and peaceful, thus saturating the entire room with good vibrations. So, most of this is caused by the students and very little is from me. Everyone has an aura, a magnetic field of vibration. As we grow spiritually, the aura also grows subtler and is suffused with beautiful colors that are the result of thoughts and emotions. If the student is inside the teacher’s aura, he or she is automatically sharing colors (vibrations) with him or her. Later on, these colors turn into thoughts: the teacher’s thoughts manifesting in the mind of the student. Regarding the last part of your question, some people’s auras are really big. For example, if anyone was within 200 feet of my teacher, he or she would be greatly affected, bombarded by his thoughts of compassion, realization, love, dispassion, understanding, etc. The closer one is to the teacher, the more you receive. Well, I’m not the Sun, but the closer you are to me, the more heat you get.
Practicing with others
AF: You sometimes tell us that coming to class is not enough, that we also need to have a personal practice. I feel that I have to do so much less when I am with you. Why is that? Are you helping us psychically through the practice – sharing your knowledge and experience in a subtle way?
SDM: Actually, the classes in most cases last longer than your personal practice at home, and most of the students present for the classes here at the Center are really enthusiastic, thus generating good vibrations. When you are also present and a part of this, it’s really pleasant and satisfying. Psychically, everyone is sharing from each other all the tricks and thoughts. Also in this equation, the relationship of student and teacher is very important. If you have a good teacher, surely you don’t have to do much. Sometimes you may prefer to enjoy to simply be in his or her presence, rather than to practice.
The key to teaching is compassion
AF: After so many years of teaching, how do you still have the patience to explain everything repeatedly from the beginning?
SDM: For me, it comes really naturally and doesn’t require much effort, especially when I’m dealing with those that are seeking relief from pain and suffering. When I’m teaching, I see myself teaching to my own self and, when the student is not making progress, it makes me feel sad indeed. That is the result of compassion, which means literally to see your self in others.
Your experience is determined by your approach
AF: How do you know when teaching the students verbally whether to go deep or keep things simple? Is that a function of your experience, or is it by intuition?
SDM: The level of reverence and the ethical qualities of the student determine what he or she is going to get from me. If you approach me on a business level, I will discuss business with you. If address me with reverence and love, I’ll share all that I have.
AF: Is your patience with the students something that was part of your personality / tendencies in this lifetime from the beginning, or is it something that developed over time?
SDM: I have always had a desire to possess lots of patience, but it took a long time to succeed in this area. With yoga practice, that’s to say, good health and some spiritual knowledge, it slowly came. Now it’s easy and natural to me.
What goes into a class
AF: Do you spend time planning what you are going to teach in advance, or do you allow intuition to guide you in the moment under normal circumstances?
SDM: Yes. I do plan the Asana (yoga postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) sequences based on experience. Spiritual matters are in most cases by intuition, but in reality I feel like everything is just being done by itself. I can easily see myself as just a witness.
Realize who you are
AF: Lastly, any thoughts on turning 77 you would care to share with us?
SDM: I’m grateful and very fortunate for having a perfect life and to be able to continue teaching. Blessed indeed I am to have had a chance to have met all the students I’ve come to know along the way. Watch out! In a moment, you are 77. Realize who you are, then you become immortal.
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Sri Dharma Mittra is a globally renowned yoga teacher who first encountered yoga as a teenager. He then met his guru in 1964 and embarked on intensive and profound training. Sri Dharma Mittra founded one of the early independent schools of yoga in New York City in 1975 and has taught many thousands of students around the world since then. Today, he continues to disseminate the complete traditional science of yoga through daily classes, international workshops, and his Life of a Yogi teacher trainings at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.