‘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 yoga teacher, teacher trainer and Ayurvedic massage therapist Seattle USA.
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 Shankaraand great Guru Boghanathar Siddha.
Some people are born to teach
Despite his successful career, finding true and lasting happiness kept eluding him, John decided late in his life that the best success had to offer him was not good enough. Relinquishing success, he went off in search of a solution in India. Traveling extensively, hoping to catch a rare glimpse of what the prophets and sages call Truth, John discovered that there is only Truth. Blessed by his teachers, he learned that Truth being common to everything is the most common thing there is – he just hadn’t seen it yet! Finding out that happiness being our very nature is all there is – never absent, always present and ever available, changed everything.
India has always been the home of knowledge. Having always held knowledge of the Self as the most sacred, the teachings of Self Knowledge आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam are rarely given in English. Traditional and orthodox, Self Knowledge is only taught in sanskrit. Blessed by his Master, a PhD in English (who was happy to take on all types of rogues and rascals!) John received his training in English making his ability to share Self Knowledge and the Yoga of the Siddha rare and unique.
As timeless as the Self (Atma) is, so are the teachings of Self Knowledge आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam.
While it can be argued that Germany engineers the best cars and Italians design the best, India has always had the best knowledge. Because Self outshines and outlives everything, आत्मा विद्या Atma Vidya Self Knowledge has always been considered the most sacred. Remaining unchanged since time immemorial after receiving his education and initiation in परा विद्या Para Vidya, mandated by his Master to go out and teach, John has been travelling with the Knowledge and sharing ever since.
Persuaded by his first teachers Yogiraj Alan Finger and his father Kavi Yogi Mani Finger to take up teaching in 1969, John opened 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 to find a job. A talented musician from the age of seven, John found work as a singer and recording artist working with two of the countries popular bands. After recording a few hits John began composing music for film and television. Despite success, the flame of yoga could not be extinguished. Finally with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, sanctions barring South Africans from visiting India were lifted and in 2004 John arrived and journeyed across India living as awesternसाधु sadhu.
Arriving In India
Living in tribal villages in the jungle of Orissa and sleeping on concrete floors in central Tamil Nadu, hungry for knowledge John made friends with sampradayas and paramparas, different sects and lineages of India’s Sanatana Dharma. Finally meeting his Vedanta Master John spent the next seven years studying Self Knowledge and practicing Kriya Siddha Yoga. Breaking with tradition his Advaita Master invited John to join the 2 year Brahmacharya course on the ashram as part of India’s ancient gurukula system.Joining the small group of Indian students, theirmaster broke with another tradition teaching all their classes in English. Taking them through the principle Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and other key upanishadic texts, in the shadow of Arunachalam, the Holy mountain of Shiva in Thiruvanamalai, John received his education and initiation in परा विद्या Para Vidya (Supreme Self-knowledge).
The vedas are said to be the oldest books of mankind. As part of the vedas, superior to and perhaps even older than the vedas, are the upanishads. Being absolutely rational,because the vedas like mathematics, science, physics and chemistry, etc. only deal with the relative nature of the objective world we see around us, incapable of answering questions of a non-relative nature the job of unraveling the mysteries of creation has always been the responsibility of the upanishads.
It is through the grace and blessing of his Master H.H. Sri Pujya Suddhananda Swamiji and the Boghanathar Siddha tradition that John has been able to assimilate the knowledge and share the wisdom of yoga found in the Upanishads.
Combining Self Knowledge with the teaching of the Siddhas John calls what he teaches इष्टम् ISHTAM.
“Without Self Knowledge ones life journey is incomplete. Every journey having a beginning has to have an ending. Our yoga journey is no different. Self Knowledge completes the journey. Knowing yourself as the beginning, the journey and end of all journeys is इष्टम् ISHTAM the end of yoga.”
Taught by Sri Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita and revived again by Bhagavan Adi Shankara 2500 years ago, the wordइष्टम् ISHTAM describes the flowering of the human being in Self Knowledge.
A Self knowledge teacheruses a unique teaching methodology (अध्यारोप अपवाद adhyaropa apavada) to break open the timeless teachings of Yoga hidden in upanishadic wisdom. (शास्त्र sastra) Known as अनधिगत anadhigata knowledge not available from another source, the teachings of आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam have been uplifting humanity and resolving the problem of human suffering for countless generations.
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 are still a mystery to ourselves we suffer. Our education and upbringing teaches us to look for happiness in the world. Religion and modern spirituality takes this one step further telling us to look for eternal happiness is within or that it is waiting for us in the hereafter. Both of these ideas are false. Happiness already being our true nature (only hidden behind a cloud of ignorance) means searching for happiness anywhere is a huge mistake and results in all our pain, misery and suffering.
Fortunately just like the sun destroys all darkness, knowledge destroys the darkness created by our ignorance. Knowing happiness is already your true nature the search for happiness is over. The moment knowledge destroys our ignorance, all our conflict and suffering melts and disappears. Called moksha, or kevalyam this is what the sages and prophets have been teaching humanity throughout the ages. Burdened by ignorance, no matter how long we spend locked in contemplation or meditation, as long as our true nature is still a mystery, that long our suffering continues.’
Together with his partner Rachel ZinmanJohn 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).
A survivor of the frenetic world of advertising deadlineswhere 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 designed to fit the life of the individual. Fitting all time frames and abilities इष्ट माला ISHTA-Mala is a simple practice for life that is finding a following with students and teachers alike.
John and Rachel also enjoy sharing their love of music in Kirtanwhenever possible.
‘Arriving in India, thirsty for knowledge, I finally met my Master who showed me how long before I even reached out for the truth, the Truth had already reached and found me. For this understanding I am 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 (watering holes), from traditional healers (sangomas) in Africa, to sadhus living on the ashrams of Orissa, Nepal, Rishikesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, Johns teachings 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 ignore the formless
Listening to divine melodies we ignore silence
Chasing rainbows we forget the light of our own consciousness
Seeking ourselves we forget our effortless presence
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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.