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 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 time honoured teachings of Self Knowledge, John joins two of India’s traditions going back to India’s great revivalist Adi Shankara and great Guru Boghanathar Siddha one of the 18 Tamil Siddhas. 

India is known as the home of knowledge. Having always held that knowledge of the Self as the most sacred, the teachings of Self Knowledge आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam are rarely given in English. Only open to those who know 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 German engineers are the best and Italians design the best cars or that the French cook the best food, India has always had the best knowledge. Because all knowledge and systems of thought relate to the one ‘I’, the Self, Atman, knowing the Self (आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam) has always been considered the ultimate. 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. 

Yoga Journey

Persuaded by his first teachers Yogiraj Alan Finger and his father Kavi Yogi Mani Finger to begin teaching yoga in 1969, John opened their first ISHTA Yoga Studio in downtown Johannesburg South Africa. Under the apartheid government 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 success as a singer and songwriter recording international hits. Fronting two of the country’s favourite bands John began composing music for film and television winning international awards at Cannes, New York and London. Despite his success in business the flame of yoga could not be extinguished. With the release of Nelson Mandela from prison sanctions barring South Africans from visiting India were finally lifted and arriving there in 2004 John journeyed across India as a western साधु sadhu.

Living in mud huts in the jungle of tribal Orissa and sleeping on concrete floors in central Tamil Nadu, hungry for knowledge he travelled north, south, east and west making friends with sampradayas and paramparas, different sects and lineages of India’s Sanatana Dharma. Finally meeting his Vedanta Master in the lineage of Adi Shankara and the Tamil Siddha tradition 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. Joining the small group of young Indian students as part of India’s ancient gurukula system, their master broke with another tradition. Teaching all their classes in English the students were taken 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).

It is through the grace and blessing of his Master H.H. Sri Pujya Suddhananda Swamiji and the blessings of the Boghanathar Siddha tradition of the Siddhas that John has been able to assimilate the wisdom of the Upanishads and share the secrets of Asta Yoga, the Yoga of Rishi Agastya.

Calling what he teaches इष्टम् ISHTAM John combines Self Knowledge with teaching the yoga of the Siddhas. 

“Without Self Knowledge ones life journey is incomplete. Every journey has a beginning and an ending. The  journey of yoga is no different. Self Knowledge completes the journey. Knowing oneself 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 word इष्टम् ISHTAM describes the flowering of the human spirit in Self Knowledge

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

A Self knowledge teacher uses a unique teaching methodology (अध्यारोप अपवाद adhyaropa apavada) to break open and reveal the timeless secret of the Self Atman hidden in upanishadic scriptures (शास्त्र sastra). Known as अनधिगत anadhigata, knowledge which is not available from any other source, the teachings of आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam have stood the test of time uplifting humanity and resolving the problem of human suffering in India for countless generations. 

Wanting to enquire into the nature of ourselves and question our existence we have always had to go to Self Knowledge.

‘As long as creation is still a mystery to you and you are still a mystery to yourself you suffer. While our education and upbringing tell us to look for happiness in the world, religion and modern spirituality take this one step further telling us eternal happiness is within or waiting in the hereafter. Both of these ideas are false. Because happiness is already your true nature (only hidden behind a cloud of ignorance) searching for happiness anywhere is a huge mistake and results in all our pain, misery and suffering. 

Fortunately just like the sun destroys the darkness, Self Knowledge destroys the darkness of ignorance. Knowing happiness is already your true nature ends our search and removes all conflict. What the sages and prophets have been teaching throughout the ages, burdened by ignorance, no matter how long one spends contemplating meditating and doing practices, as long as your true nature still remains a mystery, that long your suffering continues and doesn’t stop.’

Leaving India in 2011 John met his partner Rachel Zinman. Together they share 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 deadlines where little time is left for yoga practice, while studying in India John developed a home practice called इष्ट माला ISHTA-Mala**. Inspired by the Tamil Siddhas माला Mala is a set sequence of exercises designed to fit individual time frames and abilities. A practice for life इष्ट माला ISHTA-Mala is finding a following with students and teachers of yoga alike. 

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

 इष्टम् ISHTAM  consists of :

इष्ट माला ISHTA-MALA – A yoga practice for life.

इष्ट क्रिय ISHTA Kriya  Breathe for life – Power Siddha Breathing and meditation.

इष्ट विद्या ISHTA Vidya – Knowledge for life आत्मा ज्ञानम् Atma Gnanam Self Knowledge.

‘Arriving in India, thirsty for knowledge, I finally met my Master who showed me how long before I even reached out for the truth, 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 forget the formless

  Listening to divine melodies we forget 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 

Johns 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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