Breathe, Relax And Be Still

Gurus: The Lights that Guide


An old man wearing a long grey beard and dressing modestly while sitting in full lotus position with his eyes closed. This is generally the image we have of a guru, along with other westernized fictional characters that have indirectly taken over this role in a somewhat peculiar way; such as Yoda from Star Wars, Rafiki from Lion King, or Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda. Most of us recognize words of truth and wisdom when we hear them, be it from a real person or an animated character on a screen. In some way, individuals and society as a whole have always needed an enlightened figure that can make sense out of the chaos and confusion that, at times, seem to be taking over our lives; but who are these illuminated beings? What is their duty or function and how are they important when it comes to your yoga practice and path?

With its Sanskrit word Gu standing for “darkness” and Ru meaning “dispeller,” the term Guru refers to that one who dispels darkness. In other words, these saint-like people are those ones who have already found light and thus help others find it too. They act like spiritual transmitters who radiate peace, love, and compassion in a continuous way; while helping their disciples get in touch with their higher Self. A Guru does not have students but devotees.

Some might confuse acarya or upadhyaya who are yoga teachers with Gurus, but the difference relies in that a yoga teacher knows about asanas, yoga philosophy and ideas and thus trains his or her pupils accordingly. A Guru, on the other hand, is an individual who has found unity and enlightenment and hence guides his or her devotees toward their own journey of illumination; because as master Paramahansaji once said “the blind cannot lead the blind.” Of course, an acarya or upadhyaya can become a Guru, just like any other human being, but not all yoga teachers are necessarily Gurus.

In ancient times, parampara or yoga knowledge was passed on from a Guru to a disciple as this was the only way to make sure that yoga teachings were effective, true and complete. The devotee was able to start imparting knowledge himself solely after having spent several years under his master’s tutelage. It is said that the Guru was a living example of his teachings and his presence would bring fulfillment to all relationships.

As it can clearly be seen, the world surrounding yoga has substantially changed, especially in the West were this venerable tradition was adopted with no in depth foundation, philosophy, and let alone history. Yoga schools keep being conceived by the second, while yoga teachers keep getting their instructor certificates by the minute and, so, progressively the importance of genuine Gurus and the overall basics of the Vedic philosophy that moves yoga are washed away. For many dedicated yoga practitioners, finding a trustable and authentic Guru may sound like an impossible or frustrating challenge, but when circumstances truly do not allow it; then one must not stop with authentically walking the path of yoga. Although there is no real substitute for a human being that has reached illumination, you can always find guidance in texts that previous or modern Gurus have left behind or in people whose positive qualities you truly admire. It is clear that we are the only ones setting limits to our own existence and experience; therefore, nothing should be able to stop you but yourself. You can be sure that when the time comes, you will find your way to that great sage you have been waiting for.


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