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Buddha use to teach not to take anything personally

Do not take anything personally

Do not take anything personally. It’s one of the keys to a happy life, Buddha taught us ages ago. In a world filled with social media, reviews and testimonials Buddha’s lesson might be even more valuable than ages ago.

I like to incorporate one of the many stories about Buddha in my classes. For me using a theme in my class is what makes it yoga. There are enough asana classes out there. Yoga is not about asana. Yoga is about looking inside, discovering why we do what we do, why we react the way we react and why we think the way we think. When I teach I like to make people look in the mirror. Look at them selves. If they can or do, is up to them. Buddha’s story is one of those stories that can lead to a breakthrough by people I found out on the last Teacher Training Course (TTC) I did for Sampoorna yoga.

Buddha’s story

When Buddha reached enlightenment he decided to teach his lessons about life and help people to find the bliss and happiness he had found. In one of the first towns he arrived the people had already heard of buddy. Curious all people gathered around him when Buddha set now on the village square. There he taught his lessons for one of the first times. All people listened in silence. When Buddha was done and wanted to leave the people asked him to stay a bit longer. Quickly they went to their houses and returned a few minutes later with all gifts for the enlightened master. Buddha thanked the people for their presents, but told them they could keep them. He didn’t want anything for his teaching.

Together with a few of his faithful helpers Buddha went to the next town. A very conservative town. The people there had also heard of him and saw him as some strange maniac who just wanted to dislocate their society. As soon as Buddha and his helpers entered the town the villagers started to shout at him and call him all names. Dispassionate Buddha went to the town square and set down. The villagers kept on yelling at him. Buddha closed his eyes and didn’t move a muscle in his face. Amazed by all this calmness the people of the town slowly became quiet. Buddha opened his eyes and started to speak. Again the villagers started to yell at him. Again Buddha closed his eyes and just meditated. The process repeated itself three, four more times. Every time Buddha stayed calm. Curious about this strange man finally the crowd became quiet and stayed quiet. Buddha opened his eyes again and started to teach his message.

People listened. When he was done, the yelling started all over. Slowly Buddha got up and walked of the square, followed by the still yelling crowd. When they were outside of the city gates one of his helpers came up to him, looked at him and asked: “Why didn’t you say anything back. Why did you let those people call you names, without defending yourselves.”

Buddha looked at his helper and smiled: “Do you remember the first town we went to?” His helper replied: “Yes, they loved you. They loved you so much they even offered you gifts to thank you for sharing your wisdom.” “And what did I do”, asked Buddha. “You didn’t take them”, replied his helper with a dreary face. “And that is precisely the same as I did in the second town”, Buddha replied. “I didn’t take their gifts, I left them with those people. And I didn’t take the insults as well. I left them also with those people.”


People around you are constantly judging you, but who are they to judge you? Do they truly know you and do they know where you talk about? And what does one opinion say about you? When I was still living in the Netherlands I was teaching yoga concerts: live classical music and a yoga class. We would have hundred people be on stage, with their yoga mat – in the Concert hall in Tilburg. I would teach, guided by one up until five classical musicians; depending on the kind of music. When the concert was finished around twelve people would approach me. Ten to tell me how much they loved the experience and two to complain that the class was to hard for them. Those complains said nothing about me. Nor the compliments. It said something about the people expressing them.

All concerts were sold out. Three seasons in a row. If I would have adjusted my teaching because of those few complaints maybe it wouldn’t have been such a success.

Teacher Training Course

Another example. I teach at Sampoorna yoga. In one of the 200 hours Teacher Training Courses I taught how to make a yoga sequence. One afternoon I explained how to theme a class. The first subjects was how to work with a peak pose, so I explained that extensively. When I was halfway another subject somebody asked me what I meant with point number one on the board: peak pose. I smiled, told her that I started the class with explaining peak pose, but repeated my whole lecture for her. At the end of my class when I explained the importance of warming students up at the beginning of your class I did that using the peak pose as an example.

Two weeks later I read the evaluations. They were all good. But to my surprise one person had written down that she was confused at one point during my teaching. She had to make a flow, based on a peak pose, but what a peak pose was, wasn’t explained by me in class. Because of that she felt forced to look it up on the internet, but couldn’t find a satisfying answer.

Is that an evaluation that says something about me? Or does it say something about this student and about how much attention she has paid in the class I explained a peak pose three times.

Do not take anything personally

The two examples are just examples, but you will see it happen a lot in your life. People judge you. Based on what? Based on the impression they have of the glimpse they see from you. Your colleagues at work see you as a colleague. They have no clue how you are when you are with your parents. Your parents see you as their child. They have no insight in you as a lover. And your lover might have an idea, but probably hardly see you when you are at work. So if all these people only see a glimpse of you, why would we take their judgement so seriously and so personally. Lets follow Buddha’s teaching; Do not take anything personally.

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