One day I'm in the car with a couple of fellow yoginis. We were in the middle of the 500 hour yoga teacher training program and I was lamenting that I felt like I needed a guru. My wise yogini friend asks me why I feel like I need a guru. "I need someone I can talk to about my troubles. Someone to help me make good choices and decisions" I tell her. My wise friend replies "You don't need a guru - you need a therapist!"
I have spent many hours pondering the idea of a guru. What exactly is the role of a guru? How does one find a guru? What qualifies someone to be a guru? Yes folks, I have questions. So let's begin......
Wikipedia says: A guru (Sanskrit: गुरु) is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others (teacher). For our discussion tonight, let's say that we are looking for a spiritual guru. Someone who has great knowledge and wisdom in the areas of spiritual living. Someone who uses his/her knowledge to guide others.
The saying goes "When the student is ready, the teacher appears" but we modern day yogis aren't buying this. We set out to pick our guru. Do you have a list of qualifications you want your guru to have? Let's see... The guru should be loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving. Anything else? Oh yeah... the guru should be someone who doesn't require anything of us. We don't want a teacher who holds us accountable for our actions so we choose a guru who isn't really involved in our lives. Perhaps the teacher lives in India and only visits a couple of times a year in a public program or maybe the guru has even left their body.
Back to my original questions... 1)What is the role of the guru?
My opinion: The role of the guru is to guide us along the path to self-realization. To teach us, by their example, how to live a spiritual life(even when no-one is looking). When we forget the yamas and niyamas the guru reminds us. The role of the guru is not to judge us but to hold us accountable for our actions. When our ego becomes inflated the guru is there with the pin to pop it! Put us back in our place (so to speak)
Question #2) How does one find a guru?
My opinion: We don't. The guru finds us. We follow the example of the great saints and sages that have walked this spiritual path before us to the best of our ability. We do daily spiritual practice. We love and serve others. We should remember that through our interactions with others we are interacting with the Divine. When are hearts are pure and we have transcended the ego - then and only then may we consider ourselves ready for the guru to appear in our lives.
When reading the autobiography of the yogi and other stories of the great saints, I've often thought that I'm not ready for a guru. If I had a beloved guru and he spoke harshly to me or reprimanded me bruising my ego, it would break my heart. Would you be ready for that? I still have work to do.
Questions #3) What qualifies someone to be a guru?
My Opinion: A guru should be someone who has NO ego. Someone who has walked the walk and not just talks the talk. Here's the thing.... (IN MY OPINION OF COURSE) If the person tells you that they are enlightened and for hire as a personal guru - Run the other direction! In other words - If he has a big ego - he's not guru material. I believe that if I am in the presence of someone who is enlightened - I will know it. My heart will tell me.
The Yoga Sutras talk about the fact that sometimes along the spiritual path when we have made progress and begin to develop spiritually the ego shows it's face again to distract us from the goal of self-realization. Unfortunately, some of these spiritual seekers, who set out with good intentions become distracted. They fall for the ego's tricks and begin to think that they have reached the goal of enlightenment when in reality they have taken a detour that is leading them to a dark and dangerous place called "ego-land".
There is no elevator on this journey to Enlightenment. We must walk this path through daily spiritual practice. That means both on and off the mat/meditation cushion. It's not enough to spend several hours a day in meditation - you need to live and breath your yoga (including the yamas & niyamas) in every moment and in every breath. Then and only then can you consider yourself ready for your guru to pick you.
Or you can find a therapist.....