My heart is so full today that it overflows with blossoms of gratitude and love. I attempt to offer these flowers at the feet of my Satguru and to my acharya, with this spontaneous flow of writing. This is also an appreciation post for small but significant acts of allyship in a largely hetero-patriarchal world.
In my chit-chats with Kriyacharya Jyoti, the topics of gender equality, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and pervasive patriarchy often come up. She is empathetic, sensitive, affirming, respectful and curious in her approach, while carefully eschewing any resentment or fanaticism with her awesome sense of humour. She is the first person who has resonated with me on questioning things that otherwise would be considered blasphemy, “Why must our God be a “He”? If my body allows, why must I not practise when I menstruate? Why must there be a need to “explain” and “accept” the fact that being queer is normal?”
Her encouragement, acceptance and readiness to learn and integrate new concepts is inspiring. I remember, she noticed my personal pronouns beside my name on Zoom window, and remarked that it should be a practice everywhere. That was a casual but hugely affirming statement. Today, while we were talking about heteronormative terminology in use everywhere, she told me that an apparent gender bias had crept in her early published writings of 2005. She felt a need to correct that and put out a statement, which I am sharing below.
On reading the honest and assertive statement, my respect for her grew manifold. Taking responsibility to make these amends was not really required on her part, but this act of accountability and integrity shines like a beacon of hope towards a world that is free of bigotry, dogma, sexism and bias. When she calls it a service, she indicates that it is nothing heroic but something that must be imbibed and offered by all.
Kriyacharya Jyoti conducts classes (check out Ayu) in the Siddhanath Yoga Parampara of our Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, in the ancient science of Kundalini Kriya Yoga of Mahavtar Gorakshanath Babaji. Her classes feel like a warm and loving embrace, a safe space for people of all classes, castes, religions, genders, sexualities and abilities. She tweaks various practices to suit all people, thereby ensuring that nobody is left out on account of disability, illness, accessibility or religious-atheistic beliefs. Her classes feel like an extension of the ashram itself, anchoring us into the practice and leaving us with an immense feeling of joy, liberation, relief and validation.
Although yearning for a relatable group or practice, I have always been sceptical of the market full of criminals and businessmen masquerading as “gurus”. My brother had found his Guru and I had heard a lot from him, yet I was always hesitant to accompany him. One day, in 2019, he told me that he was attending a retreat in Rishikesh and the acharya organizing it was a woman. Knowing my bibliophilic tendencies, he told me that she had written an autobiographical book “One Master One Disciple” (grab your copy from Amazon today!) and he was getting my copy autographed by her! When he returned, I read the book cover to cover in two days flat. Halfway through the book, I called her and expressed my excitement and willingness to learn from her. I was mind blown at reading about someone who stood her ground, followed her rational faculties, fought socio-cultural biases, questioned patriarchal authority, advocated for social justice and equity, and yet was able to find unwavering devotion, steadfastness, commitment, fulfilment, peace, joy, liberation and self evolution in a single practice taught by a single living Master. Through her book, I was introduced to this Himalayan Master who bares himself open to thousands of strangers who wish to find an enlightened master by the three litmus tests of Shaktipat, Pranapat and Shivapat, a Yogi who generously shares lifetimes of his spiritual wealth by freely giving away his no-mind state without any bias. It was equally exhilarating to discover the tall spiritual stature of Aayi, Gurunath’s wife, who is a powerful yogini in her own right and earns our deep respect as the Divine Feminine.
Kriyacharya Jyoti echoes the essential instruction of our Satguru about avoiding the pitfalls of ego and attachment, thereby guiding us to the source: Yogiraj Siddhanath, who further urges us to turn inwards and find our inner Guru. Gurunath, in his inimitable manner, tells us, “The form of a Guru is also a tool, a stage shall come when you must learn to go beyond that. I am your bridge and I am also your nemesis. I am the death of your ego.” Her wisdom to separate the Guru essence from the human qualities within everyone is an impeccable standard for us to emulate. This helps us to surrender and depend without attachment, to understand the rationale behind symbolism, to revere the enlightened ones without putting anyone on a pedestal that is beyond any falsifiability.
I am forever grateful to her for connecting me to my Satguru in this lifetime. I look back at the moment when I held her book in my hands and felt a connection that was to change my course of life. I am still a novice, still settling into the practice of Kriya Yoga and still learning to connect with the inner and outer Guru. I have a long way to go before I can speak or write something on the subject of spirituality or Yog, per se. However, my interactions with her instil a sense of strength and hope in me. She connects the mundane to the spiritual, the disciple to the Satguru, and the sacrosanct to the personal-political in her actions, speech and gestures. My innumerable salutations to Gurunath for answering each disciple’s evolutionary needs through teachers, situations, challenges and support that suit their temperament, individually.