Restraints and Observances of a don Juan Apprentice, Part 1 – Br. Shankara

March 22, 2020

Click to download at PDF of the Notes & Quotes from this talk.

This month we depart from our usual routine of taking up one of the four yogas for detailed study. Instead, we are introducing a parallel tradition of spiritual unfoldment, as taught by don Juan Matus. A Yaqui Indian, don Juan was a brujo of the Toltec lineage. Our second talk in this 4-part series is this Sunday.

brujo or bruja is a person who is in command of power. An accomplished raja yogi could be called a brujo — yet, as we’ll see, the comparison is approximate. Don Juan Matus was a great brujo and had many apprentices. One of them was Carlos Castaneda, who wrote several books about his time with don Juan. For these talks, we’ll draw from Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan.

Castaneda says a (brujo’s) basic premise is that the world of everyday life is not real, or out there, as we believe it is. For a brujo, reality (the world we all know) is only a description — our day-to-day life consists of an endless flow of perceptual interpretations which we have learned to make in common.

Don Juan taught his apprentices how to overcome the limitations of that description; he called this achievement “stopping the world.” This idea is not new to us. In the Mandukya Upanishad it is spoken of as the “cessation of all phenomena” (Mantra VIII). And in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra the goal is kaivalya — independence, through detachment from all thought forms.

Patanjali starts a yogi’s journey to kaivalya with yamas and niyamas (restraints and observances); they are the first two of his eight “limbs” of yoga. Don Juan’s apprentices also practiced a system of restraints and observances as they learned to “stop the world.” This Sunday morning we’ll explore the physical and spiritual disciplines that began Castaneda’s journey to Ixtlan.

Castaneda, Carlos. Journey To Ixtlan. Washington Square Press.