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The Pursuit of Knowledge

The Taittiriya Upanishad (teaching for householders) says much about teaching and learning…

“Do your duty; learn and teach. Speak truth; learn and teach. Meditate; learn and teach. Control sense; learn and teach. Control mind; learn and teach. Kindle fire; learn and teach. Feed fire; learn and teach. Be hospitable; learn and teach. Be humane; learn and teach. Procreate; learn and teach. Educate your children; learn and teach

…’Truth is necessary’…

…’Austerity is necessary’…

…’Learning and teaching are necessary’…

Learning and teaching, they are austerity; they are austerity.”

The pursuit of knowledge is a funny one isn’t it? We start well - thirsty for progress - we want to understand, to walk, to talk, to read…then at some point (and I realise this isn’t everyone’s experience)…’learning’ becomes synonymous with ‘school’. I think for me it was around this point in my learning journey that I made the mistake of throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. I mistook my dislike of school for a dislike of learning and for a while there I shut down one of my greatest joys in life - to learn.

My love of learning was rekindled by yoga. It was through practising at yoga classes that I found I wanted to learn more. I did not set out to become a teacher, it was not a career decision. I simply wanted to know more, to study at a depth greater than the 90 minutes on offer. I completed two years of yoga foundation courses before finally (inevitably?) embarking on my 2.5 year teacher training course. I adored that course! I revelled in the books, the concepts, the studying in a group and by myself, in going to the library (oh how I love libraries), in writing essays, in critical thinking and in putting it into practice.

By the end of it, though nervous, I knew I was ready to teach but also that I would never stop learning. My practice is physical, it is meditative and it is also study and currently I am on course to take a GCSE in Sanskrit.

I also study Spanish. I have been taking lessons with my amazing teacher in a small group (just three students) for about 3 years now… me encanta apprender Español.

Very sadly in November we lost one of our group suddenly. It’s not my place to share her story except to say that Lisa LOVED learning and it was a joy to study with her. In fact it was in the very same email that she sent asking for the zoom recording so she could catch up on the class she missed that she told us just how serious things were - she died 3 days later.

To desire to learn when you know your time is severely limited speaks volumes to me of what learning is about - which is to say - that learning is about so so so much more than merely an accumulation of knowledge.

In the above passage from the Taittiriya Upanishad ‘learning and teaching’ are described as being ‘austerity’. Austerity here is one translation of the Sanskrit word tapas तपस् derived from the root word tap तप् which, depending on context, can mean heat, or burning, or pain, or being powerful. In the yogic tradition tapas is the fire that burns within the seeker in order that they are able to achieve the incrediably challenging task of enlightenment. In other words…that the pursuit of knowledge, teaching & learning…is what keeps our fires burning.

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