I first met Trinetra (aka ‘Iain’ in the mainstream world) when I was studying yoga in an ashram on the central coast of NSW. Several things struck me about Trinetra when I first met him; firstly that he was perpetually dressed in ORANGE and he was VERY TALL (a bit like an orange totem pole… hehe). But what struck me most about Trinetra as I got to know him was what was inside him. During an often gruelling study schedule and testing conditions of ashram life, Trinetra became the person other students sought out for hugs. And most of the time, one didn’t need to ask – he seems to instinctively know when a hug is in order. This says everything about him – an unconditionally loving, generous human being who gives without thinking. Trinetra is one of those yogis who walks the talk. In fact, he doesn’t even talk it, he just walks it. It’s simply who he is.
Trinetra is now teaching yoga to his community. In daily life he works as a registered nurse. He lives with his family in a lovely little seaside town called ‘Sandy Beach’, on the mid-north coast of NSW in Australia. He was generous enough to answer some hard-hitting 😉 questions about why he chose to become a sannyasin and what yoga means to him.
Why do some people who practice yoga have spiritual names?
This is a personal thing and I don’t know if there is any one answer. It is a choice, but generally happens when a person decides to initiate into a particular yoga tradition. Where in the west we have names which are “identifiers”, a spiritual name is supposed to represent your inner qualities, or qualities to aspire to.
I just felt drawn to having one when I became more interested in the philosophical side of yoga. When I was given my name by Swami Niranjan (current Master of the Satyananda Yoga tradition), he told me it was to awaken the intuitive faculties.
What does ‘Trinetra’ mean?
Trinetra means “3 eyes.” It comes from one of the names of Shiva – sometimes known as “the three eyed one.” Shiva is seen as Universal Consciousness. The name was given to me by Swami Niranjan when I took initiation into the path of Sannyasa.
What is a Sannyasin?
This varies from tradition to tradition. In ancient times sannyasins were travelling monks who moved from place to place teaching yoga and living by the support of the communities they visited. They often also lived in forests.
Swami Satyananda saw that this didn’t fit well in today’s society and developed the system which we see (in Satyananda Yoga) today. The first initiation into sannyasa is called Jignasu and basically means spiritual seeker. The next is Karma Sannyasa and is a householder sannyasin. As Karma sannyasins we live in the world, have a family and a job and function as a member of society, while we follow an inward spiritual path. There is one more level up from this one – Poorna Sannyasa – which requires a different kind of commitment. Each initiation has its own set of yogic principles and practices which progress a person along their spiritual path. Although there are various codes, or behaviours to aspire to, such as being a good person, helping others etc. the emphasis is on trying and growing – no “you must do this or thats.”
I have chosen to stop at Karma Sannyasa – which suits my life.
How does one become a Sannyasin?
To become a sannyasin in the Satyananda Tradition, you take initiation from Swami Niranjan, or now Swami Satsangi as well. You first apply for personal mantra (practise for a year), then name and then into Jignasu. Initiation is a bond between you and your Guru.
And to put those at rest who might find this idea threatening, or think that this process is cultish – I can walk away whenever I like and I’m not asked for my money or the like. This is a personal path.
How did you first get into yoga?
I got into yoga after an interest in meditation and human potential. I was working with a lady at the time who was doing her yoga teacher training, through Satyananda Yoga. We used to have conversations about meditation and the human mind. I also was in a job with high stress and burnout levels. She could see I was burning out, and suggested I try yoga (because of my other interests). I got hooked and the rest is history!
Why Satyananda Yoga?
No deep reason other than it was the style introduced to me as above. I also saw that it was a very holistic and integrated style – and I wanted the meditative aspects as well as the physical benefits. It was later that my interest extended to yoga as philosophy, spiritual path and lifestyle.
What do you like about yoga?
That’s a huge question. I’m so grateful for what yoga has given me. It has helped me grow as a person in all aspects of my life; it’s kept me sane; it’s made me look outside the square; it’s challenged me; it’s helped me to learn to watch life and people; it’s given me balance.
I guess I’m still more into the meditative and philosophical aspects, though I am developing more of an interest in asana, lately. It has also lead me from my head to my heart, by introducing me to kirtan and seeing a broader spirituality, which has infused my life.
(Kirtan is a call-and-response form of chanting that involves the singing of mantras. It is a devotional practice in yogic traditions).
What are some aspects of yoga that you use in daily life?
Where do I begin? My life is yoga. It goes with me where I go.
I certainly use yoga to keep me healthy on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I try to incorporate the principles of karma yoga into my family and job – watching the way I interact, trying to stay focused, watching my thoughts, trying to see where other people are coming from – I can’t say I’m very good at not expecting an outcome, but hey, that’s a work in progress. I see yoga as something that helps me be the best I can be and hopefully I can share the benefits with others.
What is your sadhana?
Sadhana means spiritual practice.
I usually practice some kind of yoga every day. On weekdays, I get up at 5.00am, shower and practice neti (a practice that involves washing salt water through the nostrils). Then comes asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing practices) and some meditation – usually my initiation / personal mantra. I’ll often also practice more personal mantra before bed, though if I’ve had some wine with my wife, I usually don’t – I don’t like mixing the two 🙂
On the weekends, I will often just practice neti (a practice that involves pouring salt water through the nostrils) and personal mantra, though sometimes I will add another shatkarma – usually kunjal (a cleansing practice that involves swallowing and regurgitating salty water).
Once a month on a Saturday, we have a havan (fire ritual) and kirtan in the area – which I will play guitar for and lead as well. You’ll also often here very loud kirtan coming out of my car – which makes for some interesting looks when I stop at traffic lights.
I also like to read and will often read about yoga – such as classic yogic texts and inspiring work such as “Autoibiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda
What is your experience like of teaching yoga?
Teaching has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I used to be terrified of public speaking. I get really worked up and caught up when I’m planning and really nervous just before a class. When I get to the class, I will often get into a “zone” and things just seem to happen – I try not to think too much and just let things flow. I’m drawing on all of my teachers and inspirers that I’ve had in my 12 years of practicing yoga and I always think of my Gurus and ask for their grace before teaching. If I see people are happy after class, I will feel satisfied and hope I’ve done my best to share yoga with them.
What do you do when you’re not teaching/practising yoga?
Reading (other stuff as well as yoga), music, playing guitar, beach walking, movies, networking – like Facebook, and curling up on the lounge with my wife and just chillin’ together.
Why do you think people exist?
To learn how to love each other – plain and simple.
If you could have a meal with 3 people, living or dead, who would they be?
George Harrison, The Dalai Lama and Billy Connelly
…and I’d really love to jam with Krishna Das and Jai Uttal
Do you have a favourite quote?
I have many favourite quotes and flood Facebook with them most days. One that always makes me smile is:
“Today’s mighty oak, is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground”.
Visit Trinetra’s blog at http://trinetrasyogaspace.blogspot.com.au/ or find him on facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Trinetras-Yoga-Space/198093856939463
To learn more about Sannyasa and the concepts in this article go to: http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1998/ajan98/sannpath.shtml
© The Yoga Experiment, 2012