Shabdkosh: The Meaning of Lineage in Hindu Philosophy
Have you ever walked into a conversation about lineage at a yoga studio? Many of us have experienced a yoga teacher talking about lineage as if the Holy Grail, but what exactly is lineage and how does it pertain to Yoga.
In Sanskrit, the word Shabdkosh, लिनीअज, means lineage. There are several definitions as cited in the Sanskrit dictionary, and they are as follows:
Definitions and Meaning of lineage in English
1. inherited properties shared with others of your bloodline
2. the descendants of one individual
3. a rate of payment for written material that is measured according to the number of lines submitted
4. the number of lines in a piece of printed material
5. the kinship relation between an individual and the individual’s progenitors
Progenitors is synonymous with originator, creator, founder, architect, inventor, or pioneer.
As black and white as these definitions are, the implication of lineage changes when one takes a look at the word through the lens of Buddhism.
In Buddhism, lineage implies, “an unbroken chain of transmission that can be traced from a Buddhist teacher all the way back to the historical Buddha or to another ‘enlightened being’,” this according to Dr Edo Shonin, a Buddhist Monk.
The relevance of lineage is further complicated if the studio is teaching Hindu Philosophy. This is because Hindu Philosophy is the parent of Buddhism, and Buddhism by definition is a simplified path to Enlightenment. Ultimately, in Buddhism ALL of the teachings ARE the Buddha’s teachings. The teacher is 100% empty and only a conduit to transmit the teachings of Enlightenment.
Since we are all living in America, learning from teachers who learned from teachers, who learned from teachers, who…. Well, you get the point. We’re all embodying someone else’s teachings and sharing them, not as our own, but in efforts to uplift collective consciousness. In Buddhism, the true teacher is a teacher that is completely empty and only lives to share the path of enlightenment. They are nameless, faceless, beings that are literal conduits of being.
Essentially, my teacher’s teacher, Annie Carpenter, learned from Lisa Walford, whom was taught directly from BKS Iyengar; as well as Maty Ezraty, whom was taught directly from Pattabhi Jois. Annie also studied with Swami Satchitananda. Essentially, my teacher, Shanti Kelly’s lineage was passed to every student she touches, and therefore my lineage is in the same vein.
What does any of this really mean? Well, it means that I had a wonderful teacher, that she had a wonderful teacher, and that each teacher before was an embodiment of divine excellence. How does it effect me as a teacher? Well, in my particular experience lineage didn’t mean what the dictionary defined it as, for me lineage translated to something else. I teach teachers to teach yoga because I know that there are not enough yoga teachers in the market. I teach because everyone has a right to know how to integrate yoga into their lives. I teach because everyone is enlightened, they just don’t know it… I don’t teach to further my agenda, my name, or my brand. I teach to help others find their breath.
I love my teacher, my teacher’s teacher, and all of the teachers that have empowered each and every one of us to stand up and be empowered. Lineage isn’t about manipulation, about saying someone should wait to teach, or about putting a teacher on a pedistal. It’s about family, it is about community, it’s about a shared philosophy that is being kept alive by love of the practice. That’s what lineage means to me…