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Mastery in teaching

Winter 2006

by Shobhan Richard Faulds

The following story is adapted from Swimming with Krishna: Teaching Stories from the Kripalu Yoga Tradition by Shobhan Richard Faulds.

Swami Kripalu held teachers in high esteem, praising their work as essential to society. He believed that anyone with a love for learning who teaches from a place of genuine caring for students is answering a lofty call, whether serving as a kindergarten teacher, a university professor, a career mentor, or a spiritual guide.

This is the story of a master teacher, an acharya, whose task was to ensure that the rulers of a kingdom remained noble and virtuous.

Once there was a wise Acharya who had served the royal family for many years. His character was noble, and in difficult situations his counsel almost always proved correct. Accordingly, the King hardly ever acted contrary to his advice.

After teaching the Prince for many years, the Acharya was told by the King that it was time for his son to assume the throne. A happy Acharya determined an auspicious day for the coronation ceremony.

When the appointed day arrived, the servants carefully bathed the Prince and were in the early stages of dressing him when a message came from the Acharya: "Come immediately to your study room."

The Prince started walking, clad only in his lower cloth. Arriving, he bowed low before his Acharya. As he bent forward, the Acharya delivered five strong blows with a long leather lash on his bare back.

The Prince did not understand why he was punished so severely. He thought, "Normally when my guru tells me something, he makes his point gently. Today he delivered the most severe physical punishment without saying anything. Although he didn't appear angry, I must have made some mistake somewhere."

As he stood back up, he looked closely at the face of his longtime teacher. The Acharya appeared completely balanced and peaceful, with no disturbance on his face or turmoil in his being. In fact, the Acharya was looking very kindly back into his eyes. The Prince had great respect for his Acharya and knew that he was not an impulsive or cruel person.

As the prince walked out followed by the Acharya, everyone could see the marks on his back. No one questioned the Acharya as to why the prince had been punished, but word of the punishment quickly spread.

The coronation ceremony was conducted, and it was the Acharya who joyously pronounced the former prince a king. Sitting back down, the Acharya found himself seated next to the kingdom's chief judge. Unable to restrain himself, the Judge asked, "Mahatma, why did you punish your disciple?"

The Acharya's response was simple: "I saw the need for it."

"Does this mean the prince did something wrong?" the judge asked.

"Your Honor, he has done nothing whatsoever wrong. The punishment itself was a teaching." Addressing his former student, the Acharya softly said, "My son, you were born in a king's family and raised with great love. Never have you disappointed me or anyone. But neither have you ever experienced physical punishment. Since you became King, it is necessary for you not to punish anyone without understanding how it feels yourself. It was thus my duty to provide a final lesson to you this morning. Whenever you punish someone in the future, you will remember this day and never give more punishment than is necessary."

The new king served for many years in this happy kingdom, carrying on the rule of a righteous line.

For more teaching stories, accompanied by Shobhan's commentary, order Swimming with Krishna at It's a fun read and a great resource for teachers and workshop leaders.

Complete list of articles by this author:

Kripalu's Non-sectarian Approach to Yoga

The Path to Tantra: The first in a series of articles on the evolution of Kripalu Yoga

The sadhana of Swami Kripalu: The second in a series of articles on the evolution of Kripalu Yoga

Yogi Amrit Desai, originator of Kripalu Yoga: The third in a series of articles on the evolution of Kripalu Yoga

Professionals with Heart and Soul: Teaching Yoga in the "Yoga Boom"

Eastern tradition meets Western disciples: Co-creation in Kripalu's resident community

The yoga of communication: Leading groups the Kripalu way

Kripalu Yoga: A path of transformation

What distinguishes Kripalu Yoga?

Facets of transformative teaching

Looking back to move forward: The guru-disciple relationship

Students, mentors, midwives: A model for transformative teaching

The journey from known to unknown: The first in a series of articles on yoga's transformative process

Purifying body and mind

A Kripalu Yoga definition of enlightenment: The last in a series of articles on yoga's transformative process

Mastery in teaching

Swami Kripalu’s Inspiration for Yoga Teachers

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