Leela is the ancient vedic name for the theater of life. Life in all its forms is an illusion behind which we can find the ultimate truth of pure Being. Yet life is also a divine theater, a spiritual game played by us, the actors. Yoga allows us to hold on to the bliss of truth while playing the game. And also this yoga is a game, which we can only take seriously if we do not take ourselves and this game too seriously. That is the meaning of Leela Yoga, nothing more, nothing less.
So, Leela Yoga is a vision on yoga and also a name for a simple organisation that allows me to bring this vision into practice. I created this organisation quite a while back and to understand the how and why I herafter give some insight into my personal Leela, which started at birth, if not before.
I was born on the 8th of March 1963. With my grandfather already traveling to India long before I was born, my family had an early connection to the vedic tradition. As he left his body when I was only two months old, as a child I was mostly influenced by the Ganesha statue that he left behind, and by my grandmother, who remained remarkably cheerful, caring and wise up until she left her body when she was 101 years old.
While my family was not really into official spirituality, I grew up in a warm home where kindness, moderation, love of nature and social awareness were basic values. Already in puberty I found myself searching for answers, reading about yoga and the Buddha, attending my first yoga classes and dreaming of my first trip to India.
Everything accelerated at the age of 20, when I met Harish Johari Dada, succesful author and artist, a wonderful teacher and a true Tantric yogi. I could write a book about why I was so attracted to him - let it be enough to say that until he left his body in 1999, I cared for no other teacher but him. During that time I also traveled frequently to India and had the pleasure to stay at his home for many months. I also had the great honour to meet some of his many teachers, such as Narayan Rishi and Baba Dwarka Das. They also left their bodies around the same time as Dada did, so I was left behind with a lot of knowledge and far too little real experience. Along with my guru brothers and sisters, as well at with the family of Harish Johari, we founded Sanatan Society around 2001 as a worldwide networking association to promote Dada's teachings of yoga, tantra, worship, art and love.
Fortunately, I had enough understanding to realize that only practice could fill the gap that Harish Johari left behind, so then came a time of rather intense meditation and rasa sadhana. The universe provides what the seeker needs and I received further support and guidance from other teachers, such as Narmada Devi Puri, Avadh Behari Das Kathiababa and Swami Avdeshanand. With my dear son Sep born in 1998, during this period I was also living quite a normal life in Belgium, making ends meet as a green business consultant. The life of a householder yogi wasn't always easy, yet very rewarding.
Having had so many almost too great examples of what yoga is all about, I was quite reluctant to think of myself as a teacher. It sort-off happened in 2005 at the Santosh Puri Ashram in Hardwar-India. From the first class I enjoyed it very much however and I understood also from the reactions of people that I now had a duty towards my teacher to share what I had learned.
The worldwide emphasis on the purely physical aspects of yoga and on the often too intellectual interpretation of advaita vedanta, requires to be balanced. Following the example of my teachers and the spirit of ancient vedic scripture, the need emerged for what could be called a tantric jnani. Names & labels aside, combining the opposite principles of Tantra and Jnana in one single approach means to respect the ultimate complementarity of all yoga branches and techniques, including obviously also Ashtanga and Bhakti. Only through this integral approach all students can move beyond their specific limitations.
Harish Johari also left me with the task of writing a book on Rasa Sadhana, which was published as "The Yoga of Nine Emotions" in 2006. Deeper meditation led to some more understanding, which I expressed in the book "The Yoga of Truth", published in 2007.
In 2006 I made a first teaching trip to the U.S. and Canada, teaching at various locations related to Sanatan Society. During this time I understood that making a living by teaching ain't easy and I could clearly recognize the egotrap it might represent. Being already a somewhat reluctant teacher, I was even more suspicious of making yoga teaching my profession. When one only teaches asana and other practices related to the body, it is no big issue. But when one becomes a "spiritual teacher", teaching the yogic life style, meditation, realisation, etc... it is quite different. When such teacher becomes dependent on the students for his livelihood, the relationship changes. I had great doubts about the side effects of having to market myself. I really feared the impact on the quality of my teachings and on my own spiritual growth. This fear was somewhat irrational for sure, but one just needs to look at the "spiritual market" to understand it.
Fortunately I discovered Youtube that same year, which allowed me to fulfill my teaching duty without needing a change of career. In 2007 I started a free weekly class in my hometown of Gent-Belgium, which allowed for over 70 hours of teaching video's to be made available online. These classes also brought many eager students from the area, whom I would try to coach individually in as far as my private life and job would allow it. I was also teaching yoga teachers at the European Yoga Union and through the Belgian and Dutch yoga teacher federations.
In 2009 I met Kedar Upreti, a Tantric healer from Nepal, who brought my practice to a whole new level. That also created the new duty to heal people's inner blockages through rituals and particular kinds of sadhana. While I am still very much a student in this field, these techniques proved themselves rapidly able to help bring more harmony into the lives of the students, as well as an increased ability to apply the principals of yoga and meditation. This is not really my doing - the credit is with the spiritual world that makes all this possible.
Meanwhile I also could not escape from the ever increasing economic madness that dominates our world. My career required more and more time, leaving less and less energy available for teaching or personal coaching and healing. Kali yuga is Kali yuga.
In 2014 my son desparately wanted to visit the Mekka of basketball that is New York, so I was able to organize a donation-based weekend workshop in the Big Apple, with the kind help of Neta Katz, a local yoga teacher. It was very nice to meet some of the people with whom I had been communicating over the years, yet it was also clear that these people expected more from me. At that time however, no more could be done.
Since then, more and more invitations came for organizing workshops in other countries and for personal guidance of those that were inspired by the online video classes. Too many requests for healing also went unanswered...
As a change in my career as a green business consultant created the opportunity of having more "free" time and less responsibilities, I made a change by creating this new website in 2018. From this moment forward, I accept that my teaching, coaching and healing also contribute somewhat to my income, because it seems to be the only way in which these duties can be properly fulfilled.
Until this moment, with the exception of that try-out trip in 2006, I have only been teaching for free. People have praised me for that, but I have repeatedly pointed out some very good selfish reasons for this choice. Teaching for free keeps things simple and at least partially avoids the ego-trap that many teachers face. For my own spiritual growth, teaching for free seemed sensible, especially since also teaching is something that is learned by doing. Anyhow, times change, duties may require jumping some traps and I do now have over a decade of experience in teaching groups and individuals.
In order to reach more people, I now offer personal coaching and healing for what I hope are affordable fees. I am now also open to any proposal to teach outside of my home town. I hope this can also lead to the creation of more video's of these classes that can be put online for all to see for free. Whomever likes to support the Leela Yoga activities is very welcome to make a donation that helps to keep the teaching fees affordable, as well as allowing more video classes to be put online. I still have my usual green business work for my survival, yet I am curious to see what Leela the universe has planned, through me and all of you... - Aum Guru Kali Guru Mahakali Deviyaye Swaha.
Leela is the ancient vedic name for the theater of life. Life in all its forms is an illusion behind which we can find the ultimate truth of pure Being. Yet life is also a divine theater, a spiritual game played by us, the actors. Yoga allows us to hold on to the bliss of truth while playing the game. And also this yoga is a game, which we can only take seriously if we do not take ourselves and this game too seriously. That is the meaning of Leela Yoga, nothing more, nothing less. So, Leela Yoga is a vision on yoga and also a name for a simple organisation that allows me to bring this vision into practice... more about Leela Yoga & Peter Marchand
Belgium : www.leela-yoga.be
Harish Johari students sangha : www.sanatansociety.org
|in sweet memory
of Harish Johari
As the destination is the same for all, it is easy to make the error of assuming that the path must be just as universal.
The attachment that happens in the pursuit of happiness is the main source of unhappiness.
Don't think of going somewhere, because this somewhere will come along with you wherever you go, as you are already there.
Yoga requires unity between enjoyment and suffering, between bhoga and yoga, even between attachment and detachment.
How can anyone be "good" without a choice between good and bad?
While the mind creates the illusion of the universe through the senses, the intellect creates the illusion of understanding it.
When our day has been entirely ego-centered, then our meditation will probably have similar poor quality.
When the focus on the self is held strongly enough, the flow of kundalini energy happens on its own, naturally.
Tiptoe inside, don't make a sound, don't scare away that which cannot be found.
Enlightenment is nothing more or less than the final level of the game of life.