We come to Rishikesh to learn the secrets of yoga, looking for perfect teachers who would be all knowledgeable, powerful, personification of enlightenment, mind control and superhuman power. When we understand that such type of yogis are not to be found here on every corner (or in every cave), we start to settle for something more realistic – a teacher who would be experienced and knowledgeable to teach us proper techniques of asana, pranayama, cleanses and meditation. There are several good teachers here who can offer such expertise. So we learn here and devote some (sometimes considerable) part of our life to learning and mastering these yogic techniques. We study right asanas, proper alignment, good injury avoidance techniques. We go deeper in our forward and backward bends, do some crazy twists, impressive arm balances. Maybe we learn some pranayama techniques and cleanses that help us keep our body purer. Maybe we learn some mantras and kirtans as well.
And this is all very good, but what is the purpose of it? Is the final goal of our “practice” to become more flexible or stronger or able to hold the breath longer, or being able to twist ourselves into some pretzel poses? Is this the end of it? Of course, you will say, better health. Agreed. You will also say, more patience. Fine. Better mind control. Certainly. But for me, the goal of yoga is not just that. Neither it is in becoming “enlightened”. Being used so much in all kinds of fairy-tale-ish legends about superhumans that nobody has ever seen, this lofty word does not bear any substantiality any more… For me, the path of yoga should lead to becoming a better person, and it should be seen in one’s attitude towards oneself and certainly, towards other beings. For a good practitioner and especially a teacher of hatha yoga, the yamas, moral conduct rules, ought to be something natural, engraved in someone’s nature. It’s natural that yogi should not feel violence towards others, that he is truthful, does not indulge in feelings of envy, jealousy, greed or lust. Yamas should not be a code that someone “adheres to”, this should become one’s nature. Goodwill to all people and the world around you, compassion, forgiveness, readiness to help when this help is needed, contentment and gratitude for what you have.
And can you imagine, in the world capital of yoga, there are a lot of good teachers that can teach you technicalities of asanas, pranayamas or kriyas, kirtans or meditations, but there are very few teachers who are just good persons by themselves. This may seem sometimes even discouraging. Too many teachers are working here not because of call of the heart and a longing for self-development, but merely because yoga is a good business in Rishikesh. But what we as “seekers” from the West really seek is a role model, someone who practices all these yoga practices and by his or her life and actions towards others shows that these practices help him or her in becoming better human being. There are really few teachers like that in Rishikesh, and Kamal Bhatt is one of them.
Kamal is a toga teacher who has been giving classes for about 10 years. His main speciality is shatkarmas, yogic cleansing techniques, natural lifestyle, and classic yogic asanas. When I was running a yoga school in Rishikesh, Kamal was our teacher and also helped us deal with everyday situations in the school. Not everybody in our school liked his style of teaching, the fact that he does not explain a lot of things or cannot provide you with lengthy intellectual explanations of why you do this or that practice and what physiological benefits it brings. He talks in simple language and explains effects from his experience. Because first of all Kamal is practitioner. One who really practices all these yogic techniques, and given the limitations of his knowledge of English language and maybe some rhetoric skills, speaks very briefly. But he definitely practices yoga and knows the benefits it can bring. He helped several severely overweight student with health problems to lose a lot of weight and become completely medicine-free in a few months. One girl lost about 25 kg under his guidance and corrected her hormonal balance to the point that she conceived a child right after the course in Rishikesh, something she and her husband fruitlessly tried to do for years. Kamal used combination of fasts, specific diets, serious yogic cleanses and asana/pranayama routine, which might seem to some boring, but turned out to be very effective.
But the most amazing thing about Kamal is his personal qualities. While working in our school, he was the most reliable person. I could ask him to substitute some teachers 30 minutes before the class, and he would always be there without failure. I could call him in the middle of the night saying somebody got sick and needs to be taken to the hospital and he would be right at the person’s door in twenty minutes, ready to drive them to any hospital in the vicinity of 50 kms. He never asked about the money, never said no to any request. He was a teacher with the smallest ego and biggest modesty, out of all we worked with.
One interesting instance happened a few months ago. I has not been involved with the school for 1,5 years and came to Rishikesh solely for personal practice. One day I received a phone call from my friend who has just received a head injury and called me, all in tears, to find out, where is the nearest hospital. I was some 40 minutes away from her. I had no scooter or bike. I was trying to think where the nearest hospital would be, so that she could get there as quickly as possible before passing out on the way. Who can help me? Out of all people I know in Rishikesh, I called Kamal. And certainly, he dropped everything he was doing and came to give the girl a ride to a hospital in Rishikesh. He registered her at the hospital, waited with her in the line, translated to the doctor her complaints and comments, paid her bills, rode her back home and without saying a word, proceeded on his business. Keep in mind, he does not know the girl. When I met him a few days later to give him some sweets and compensation for the costs that he spent on her, Kamal was really surprised. I said that he should take the money because he paid for her in the hospital. He replied “It’s everyone’s duty to do that in such circumstances”.
If more people thought like that, the world would be a better place.
So maybe if you’re in Rishikesh, you can drop in his class. Maybe he will not become your guru or the best teacher of all times, but it will be useful for you to see a practicing yogi and feel his light energy.