Goa Shoot (18 of 18)

J o h n  W e d d e p o h l 

‘John’s depth of understanding of Self-Knowledge and Advaita Vedanta and the Bhagavad-Gita are beyond compare. Even more beautiful is his ability to communicate or translate in an accessible way the meaning and nuances of these vast philosophies and texts.’ Jodi Boone teacher, trainer and Ayurvedic therapist Seattle USA.

‘Anyone who knows the truth is a gnani. A gnani who is also a yogi is a Mahayogi, a great yogi.’ H.H. Pujya Suddhananda Saraswati Swamiji. 

John Weddepohl (Siddharthan) has always been blessed with teachers. One of few English speakers sharing the teachings of Self-knowledge, John joins two of India’s time honoured traditions dating back to the great revivalist Adi Shankara and great Guru Boghanathar Siddha one of the 18 Tamil Siddhars. 

Some people are born to teach

Deciding late in his life that the best success had to offer was not good enough and finding true lasting happiness kept eluding him, relinquishing success John went off in search of the solution. Hoping to catch a rare glimpse of what prophets and sages call Truth, travelling extensively eventually in India he discovered that there is only Truth. Finding out that Truth being common to everything is the most common, most ordinary thing there is – (he just hadn’t seen it yet!) – and that happiness being our true nature is never absent and ever available – (not something you can or have to work for) – changed everything!

As timeless as the Self (Atma), so are the teachings of Self Knowledge आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam

While it can be argued whether Germans make the best cars, or Italians design the best, or that French cooking is the best, India has always had the best knowledge. Because Self outshines all and outlives everything, knowledge of Self, आत्मा विद्या Atma Vidya has always been considered the most sacred. Traditionally only taught in sanskrit by orthodox teachers, blessed by his Master a PhD in English (who was happy to take on all types of rogues and rascals!) John received his education and training in English over a period of seven years (2005-2011). Mandated by his Master to go out and teach, John has been travelling with the Knowledge and sharing the teaching of परा विद्या Para Vidya ever since. 

Yoga Journey

Persuaded by his first teachers Yogiraj Alan Finger and his father Kavi Yogi Mani Finger, John took up teaching in 1969. Opening their first ISHTA Yoga Studio in downtown Johannesburg South Africa, under the apartheid regime ruling South Africa, it wasn’t long before the school was shut down by the authorities and he needed a job. A talented musician from the age of seven, John soon found work as a singer and recording artist with two of the countries most popular bands. After recording a few hits John began winning awards composing music for film and television. Despite his success, the flame lit by yoga could not be extinguished.
Finally with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, sanctions barring South Africans from visiting India were lifted and arriving there in 2004, John lived as a western साधु sadhu.


Living in tribal villages in the jungles of Orissa, sleeping on concrete floors in central Tamil Nadu, hungry for knowledge John travelled north, south, east and west making friends with sampradayas and paramparas, different sects and lineages of India’s ancient Sanatana Dharma. Finally meeting his Vedanta Master he spent the next seven years studying Self Knowledge and practicing Kriya Siddha YogaBreaking with tradition his Advaita Master invited John to join his 2 year Brahmacharya course on his ashram. As part of India’s ancient gurukula system, joining a small group of Indian students, their master broke with another tradition teaching all their classes in English. Being taken through the principle Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and other key upanishadic texts, in the shadow of Arunachalam, the Holy mountain of Shiva in Thiruvanamalai and on the banks of Mother Ganga in Rishikesh, John received his education and initiation in परा विद्या Para Vidya (Supreme Self-knowledge).

Upanishadic Wisdom

The vedas are said to be the oldest books of mankind. As part of the vedas, perhaps even older than the vedas are the upanishads. Like all our relative sciences of mathematics, science, physics and chemistry, etcthe vedas deal only with the relative world of matter and objectivity we see around us. Incapable of answering questions of a non-relative nature, this has always been left up to the upanishads. Absolutely rational, the upanishads take away the responsibility of unraveling the mysteries of this creation from mathematics, physics and chemistry etc.   

It is through the grace and blessing of his Master H.H. Sri Pujya Suddhananda Swamiji and the Boghanathar Siddha tradition of Tamil Nadu that John has been able to assimilate the knowledge and share the wisdom of yoga found in the Upanishads. 

Combining Self-knowledge with the yoga of Siddha Agustya John calls what he teaches इष्टम् ISHTAM. 

“Without Self Knowledge ones life journey is incomplete. Every journey having a beginning has to end. Self Knowledge completes the journey. Knowing oneself as the beginning, the journey and end of all journeys is इष्टम् ISHTAM.”

A Self knowledge teacher uses a unique teaching methodology (अध्यारोप अपवाद adhyaropa apavada) to break open the timeless secret of Yoga hidden in upanishadic wisdom (शास्त्र sastra). Known as अनधिगत anadhigata, knowledge not available from any other source, the teachings of आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam break down the barriers of time, uplifting and resolving the problem of human suffering for every generation. 

Taught by Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita and revived by Bhagavan Adi Shankara 2500 years ago, the word इष्टम् ISHTAM describes the flowering of the human being in Self Knowledge

“The highest aim of religion is Atma-jnanam, Self-knowledge.” The Holy Science by Sri Yukteswar. (Teacher of Paramahamsa Yogananda)

Wanting to enquire into the nature of Truth and nature of ourselves questioning our existence we have always had to go to the Upanishads.

‘As long as creation is still a mystery and we remain a mystery to ourselves we suffer. Education and upbringing teaches us to search for happiness in the world. Religion and modern spirituality takes this one step further telling us to look for eternal happiness within or that permanent happiness is waiting for us in the hereafter. Both these ideas are false. Happiness already being our true nature (only hidden by a cloud of ignorance), means searching for happiness anywhere is a mistake resulting in all our pain, misery and suffering.  

Fortunately just like the sun destroys the darkness, Self-knowledge destroys our ignorance. Knowing your true nature the search for happiness is over. Called moksha, or kevalyam, what the sages and prophets have been telling mankind throughout history, as long as we still remain ignorant of ourselves, no matter how much time we spend contemplating, meditating and doing yoga, as long as our true nature is still a mystery to us, that long our suffering continues.’

Together with his partner Rachel Zinman John shares इष्टम् ISHTAM at festivals, workshops and teacher trainings around the world.

Traditional without being traditionalist, John’s students love his quick wit, sense of humour and down to earth practical approach. (see testimonials below). 

The teachings of  इष्टम् ISHTAM  include:

इष्ट माला ISHTA-MALA – A yoga practice for life.
Old retro style yoga – Yoga for the uninitiated – taught in the style of vintage traditional teachers. 

A survivor of the frenetic world of advertising deadlines where little time is left for yoga, while studying in India John developed a sequence of yoga exercise called इष्ट माला ISHTA-Mala**. Inspired by the Tamil Siddhas माला Mala is a daily practice for life. Designed to fit any lifestyle, time frame and individual abilities माला Mala is finding a following with students and teachers alike.

इष्ट क्रिय ISHTA Kriya –  Breath of life – Powerful Siddha breathing and meditation practices.
Asta Yoga of Agustya consists of powerful siddha breathing and meditation techniques that can transform your life

इष्ट विद्या ISHTA Vidya – Self Knowledge. Knowledge for life – आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam. These teachings are taught in the traditional manner. By referring to a traditional text the teachings can take place over a few days or weeks. 

John and Rachel also enjoy sharing their love of music in Kirtan whenever possible.

‘Arriving in India, thirsty for knowledge, I finally met my Master who showering grace on me showed me long before I even reached out for the Truth, Truth had already found and reached me. For this understanding I will be eternally grateful to my Master H.H. Swami Suddhananda to whom I offer my eternal pranams. Without Swamiji this vagabond would still be a homeless, aimless sadhu.’

Drawing water from many different ghats (springs or watering holes), from traditional healers (sangomas) in Africa, to sadhus living on the ashrams of Orissa, Nepal, Rishikesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, John’s teaching reflects these different streams of knowledge.

Spending the majority of their time teaching abroad John and Rachel live between सुन्दरम् Sundaram Yoga Park and ashram in Plettenberg Bay South Africa and Byron Bay Australia.

 Hearing names we forget the nameless

Seeing forms we forget the formless

  Hearing divine melodies we forget the silence

Chasing rainbows we forget the light of our own consciousness

Seeking ourselves we forget our effortless presence

S i d d h a r t h a n  –  J o h n  W e d d e p o h l 

John’s Teachers in India

His Holiness Kaviyogi Maharishi Doctor Suddhananda Bharati 

Srilasri Sivananda Pulipani Pathira Swamigal (Boghanathar Siddha Kriya Yoga) 

H.H. Swami Suddhananda Saraswati (Vedanta Master)

H.H. Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Vedanta Master)

see  इष्टम् ISHTAM

Testimonials for John Weddepohl

ishtam testimonials

John’s depth of understanding of Self-Knowledge and Advaita Vedanta and the Bhagavad-Gita are beyond compare. Even more beautiful is his ability to communicate or translate in an accessible way the meaning and nuances of these vast philosophies and texts. The sign of a true teacher is when he can share his knowledge in a way that inspires, helps us to understand concepts and ideas through our own deep knowing and experiences, as well as leave us with the desire to want to know more. John is this kind of teacher.

Jodi Boone Seattle Washington

testimonial for john weddepohl

John Weddepohl taught philosophy on my Yoga Teacher Training course in Goa. The students loved him and I’m impressed by his kindness and humility. He teaches in a way that dusts off the old manuscripts and brings the Gita to life off the page. As a lecturer, he brilliantly takes difficult concepts like Advaita Vedanta and renders them simple and comprehensible. He is a brilliant teacher of Self Knowledge and shares his knowledge in a way that inspires others. John’s Kirtan performances are filled with beauty and bhakti. He teaches with humour and compassion – a truly great soul.

Heather Elton Yoga Teacher, Writer, Photographer- London, England


Brunch at Brenners with Rachel & John was great. And most of all John’s lecture at AIRYOGA was very very inspiring – after class I tried to push every thought away and just be me – it was most relaxing (even in a terrible traffic jam I was smiling) and to be not caught up in a thought:) Thank you so much John. Can’t wait to have you back at AIRYOGA next year!

Dagmar Sturh – Director at  AIRYOGA München – AIRAYOGA Zurich.

testimonial from Lyns and Pace

We had the good fortune of experiencing John’s wonderful energy and colourful teaching style during a YTT 200 course. His shining baby blue eyes and radiant smile tell the tale of his joyous approach to teaching…and life. John has the ability to speak about the burning questions to life with a childlike wonder and fascination. By breaking down complicated philosophical teachings through the use of real world examples and stories, the lessons became easier to grasp. The stories also provided as much entertainment as learning value…we will never see ice-cream the same again! Our only complaint was not having more time to sit and learn from such a generous soul. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment with John and will take advantage of any opportunity to study with him in the future!

 Simon Pacey and Lynsay British Columbia February 2012

ishtam John’s suggested practice and thoughts about self-knowledge make for a full week of yoga. I’ve since incorporated his sequence into my daily practice, and I’m liking it. Bradley Zeve Carmel Valley, California



Simone Sipply

As a teacher of Self Knowledge (Jnana Yoga)- John is really open to questions and discussions and has a seemingly endless pool of examples to help you understand the knowledge of who you are.  John manages through his in depth teachings to create a unique experience that brings you to yoga in a broader context helping you to find yourself and get a different view on your life. 

Simon Sipply- Dusseldorf

testimonial for John Weddepohl

John has a way of giving meaning to your life in a fun and clear manner.  He thoroughly enjoys teaching and sharing his knowledge and makes me laugh at how simple and beautiful life can be.  Azura Lallot -New Zealand.  

– John, your teachings really blew my mind in the best possible way. I was literally hanging on every word thinking yes, yes yes that speaks exactly to me and my experience, thank GOD someone has finally explained this to me in a way that makes sense so I can get on with my life!! All the therapy to try and think myself out of my depressed state that is caused by my thinking – trying to cancel thoughts out with more thoughts – imagine how stupid this is! And then the mindfulness training, knowing that I need to detach from my thoughts but not understanding how to do that because I didn’t understand the whole happiness concept because nobody had ever explained who I am in a way that I understood.

I feel this incredible freedom that I don’t need any of the shit I thought I needed to be happy –  some destination where I will magically find happiness – ha! I look at it now and it seems so stupid. …  and the idea that it’s ok to have desires, that I don’t have to become some swami who lives in a cave and eats dal every meal.

 – Madeline Lipson. Byron Bay. NSW

Sabine Kuhnert

I gained a lot from learning about Self -Knowledge and now after the retreat being back in Germany, I realised that I took something very special home with me. Thanks for this wonderful present. Sabine Kuhnert- Cologne

** The term इष्ट माला ISHTA-MALA derives from Ishvarapranidana the core of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. इष्ट माला ISHTA-MALA is a garland of practices used to balance the doshas and help build ojas thereby helping the practitioner prepare the mind for establishing a personal relationship with the Divine. A prepared and clear mind – called adhikari –  is a mind ready to glimpse the Truth (darshan).  इष्ट माला ISHTA Mala is a daily offering of Tapas on the alter of consciousness at the feet of the Divine – our Ishtadevata.


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