"The Siva Samhita divides sadahakas (pupils or aspirants) into four classes. They are (1) mrdu (feeble), (2) madhyama (average), (3) adhimatra (superior) and (4) adhimatratama (the supreme one). The last, the highest, is alone able to cross beyond the ocean of the manifest world."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 50th paragraph of the Introduction.
The Siva Samhita (possibly from earlier than 1500) is one of the “three major surviving classical treatises on hatha yoga” according to Wikipedia. So according to this text there is a hierarchy for aspirant yogis. In the culture I come from, American culture, we are practically allergic to the concept of a hierarchy like this. We want equal opportunities. Anybody can become rich, materially or spiritually. Anybody can become famous. Anyone can be a success. Supposedly... This is what we are led to believe. But it might not be true. In the end it isn't true. If it were wouldn't more people be wealthy, enlightened, famous and successful?
I have no inclination towards categorizing students, nor do I want to be judged like this. This could be a case where I question the relevancy in modernity of this teaching.
How far do you want to go?
But when I look at the different distinctions in myself, it gives me a way to relate with this. There might be some days where my attention isn't so good, and so I'm less-than-inspired on such a day. And then there are times where my focus is great so I might be having a better day. So dare I say that on some days I'm "feeble", and on other days "average" and so on?
"The last, the highest, is alone able to cross beyond the ocean of the manifest world."
With the last, the highest, I don't think I truly relate. Would I really be willing to go that far? I don't even understand what that means. I seem to know the "manifest world." To go beyond this ocean and still have my body, is that possible? If not, what relevance can it have for me while I am in my body? I seem to understand the world from a body-centered perspective, and to go beyond that, well I can't speak to that just yet. And don't I need a mouth, a part of my body/manifest world, to speak, anyway?
Perhaps the spirit of the above excerpt is to just let people know that we should work really hard, and that many will not make it because for whatever reason we might not make the cut.