Where Have the Yogic Students Gone?

The more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know — the less you know, the more you think you know. ~ David T. Freeman

A week ago or so ago, a friend and I were discussing the difference between the traditional yoga teacher-student relationship, where the student is expected to be subservient to the teacher, and the modern kind where there is more open discussion and communication between the two. Because of some incidents lately and my general experience when I was still teaching, I am more inclined to believe that there is still some room for the traditional type of interaction in our present time, even outside of the sphere of yoga. Let me tell you why.


Last Friday, my professor had to make some adjustments in our schedule for the rest of the term and some students took this as an opportunity to bargain not only for extended deadlines (although such behavior seems normal to all students, I still think at the graduate level they must have the maturity to distinguish what is necessary and reasonable point of negotiation from that which is merely whimsical) but also the course requirements, the topics for our papers, and the grading system. At some point, the professor exclaimed “Hey, this is grad school, you sound like undergrads.” The thick-faced did not get the message and continued bullying negotiating with the professor. And my classmates sounded exactly like my past students!

Yesterday, I brought my mom to the emergency upon the order of her doctor. The doctor told me that she won’t be in the hospital but her resident-trainee doctor would see mom instead. After four hours of tests and waiting, an ER doctor (who looks like a resident-trainee) approached us to have mom admitted to the hospital–confinement may last for four days, she said. Since I did not know her, I asked if it was my mom’s doctor who gave that order, to which she replied “oh, so you have a doctor?” Our exchange continued thus:

Me: Yes, I told the receptionist.
Dr: It’s not here in her record.
Me: We came here upon the instruction of her (mom’s) doctor.
Dr: Why? Did you speak with her? (question irrelevant, your honor!)
Me: No but we have been exchanging text messages. Are you her resident doctor?
Dr: No, but I will handle this. (say what???)
So I sent a message to mom’s physician to make sure that the ER staffs communicated with her the lab results. Much to our delight, mom’s doctor came to the ER! She told us to go home with a set of medicines and to see her three days later. I couldn’t believe that the ER lady even tried to argue with our doctor after the instructions were given, saying, “How could that be? She has pneumonitis”. Why couldn’t she take that from the consultant who has been looking after my mom for 11 years already? Well, our doctor was patient enough (pun intended) to explain to her why she was letting us go.
This is the second time I witnessed a junior doctor trying to challenge the consultant’s order. Read my other story here.
I think the younger, modern generation is better trained in asserting oneself, speaking out one’s mind, and being confident about what one knows than us, the older ones. There is nothing wrong with this per se; however, I think we have been missing something about listening to others, more so listening to others FIRST, thinking before speaking, respecting authority, and acknowledging that one does not have the monopoly of knowledge and thus can learn from others, especially from his/her seniors. Besides, as not all things are written in the book, many other lessons in life are gleaned from experience (like my mom’s doctor, she does what she does because she knows my mom and her case  like no other). I guess the bottom line here is humility. Or the lack of it. Is there any school that still teaches this virtue? Some of the top schools I know brainwash their students to believing that they are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, and they’re doing quite a good job at it. Being better than others is given more emphasis than genuine learning.
Thus, I now tend to uphold the age-old tradition of the teacher-student relationship, not because that will be so much easier on the teacher’s part or good for the teacher’s ego, but because it will allow the student to learn faster, if not more. As they say, smart people learn from experience; smarter ones learn from others’ experience. I wonder if there are still “yogic” students around who are open to receive from the teachers, open to instructions, open to be tamed and broken.


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