Originally written for Today’s Yoga Magazine – March 2017
We hear a lot of yoga teachers talking about gurus from India. What is the role of a guru? And how do we know we found one?
By Hannah M.
The Guru Gita (verse 17) describes the guru as “dispeller of darkness” (from gu, “darkness” and ru, “that which dispels”). Merriam-Webster defines a guru as a religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism. : a teacher or guide that you trust, a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject.
In my point of view, a guru can be anyone who is teaching you a lesson at the moment. My children teach me something everyday, my dog has taught me to be more playful, my students teach me about anatomy and heart. I don’t see a guru as a special human being with super powers or someone who needs to be treated any differently and if you have been watching the news, you know yoga gurus can get quite famous, demanding and even get in trouble for treating their students improperly.
According to many scholars, the term guru in India is used to define a spiritual or religious leader. Someone that has achieved a higher level of consciousness and is now at service by teaching others to do the same. In that country, they are treated with utmost respect and adoration, followed by many and idolized by all. India has many famous gurus that have written books, preached all around the world and taught incredible lessons to its disciples.
However, in the world of modern yoga, a well known teacher can be considered a guru and also idolized by many which conflicts with the teachings of aparigaha – non attachment and satya – truthfulness, since an enlightened person is supposed to not accept a special position or special treatment considering that such place could be based on an inflated sense of self. After all, how do we know who is enlightened and who’s not? What is the line that defines someone normal and a guru? And if we do find the guru, how do we know how to treat him/her?
To make things less complicated, more flexible and pure – as yoga should be – I believe a guru is a teacher, someone that brings you the light and that teacher can be found on a child’s smile, on someone’s perseverance, on a kind student, on a sweet grandparent, on nature and much more. If yoga is a way of living, my guru is life and everything in it. The good and the bad people, the sweet and the bitter moments and everything that surrounds me plus everything that is within me. We don’t need to idolize someone in order to find the light. We don’t even need to look for it as the light lies within each one of us. The guru is, and it has always been, you. Your heart. Your openness to love.
Keep sending me questions, comments and more!