Just the other day I followed up with a person who wanted to talk about what I do in life. Me being a life coach she understood, also about me being invested as a yoga teacher for adults and children, but when I told her about my Zen for Monday workshops, she cut me off and asked me if I’m some sort of a guru … I opened my mouth wide in surprise. “Oh no, I am not a guru!” I said. What was it about me that made her use a word so “big”?
I simply learned the beautiful philosophies and sciences that are yoga and Ayurveda. I love to pass on their rich teachings to people in my workshops, so that they can change their lifestyle and their daily habits for the sake of bringing in more mental serenity and better health to themselves.
I must admit that her remark challenged me. Do I have to introduce myself as a guru now? I have repeated what I said in my head quite a few times now and must say that nothing in my words suggested that I am a spiritual master, as is the definition of a guru.
The word guru, which comes from Sanskrit – one of the first known official languages in the world and the liturgical one of Hinduism and Buddhism, means teacher, guide or expert in a certain field. But in Indian tradition a guru is more than that, he or she is a master who dispels the darkness and brings his/her disciples forward to the light.
Generally, a guru has received the divine secrets of life and is considered a being who is the closest to God, or at least has an experience superior to the common mortal in his/her spiritual evolution. He/she is therefore a spiritual guide who accompanies his/her disciples on their journey by inspiring love and altruism from within and helping them overcome the limitations of their ego.
A yoga teacher is a spiritual apprentice, who, as we all, is on a path towards self-discovery and has acquired a certain degree of knowledge in yoga that allows him/her to teach it to whoever wants to learn more.
The word guru can sometimes be considered as such that has a negative connotation, because it is also the term used to name the leader of a sect or cult. In the latter case, a guru is so named because his/her role in the organization in which he/she is active, is indeed the same as the true gurus’. The major difference lies in that his/her intentions are governed by his/her ego whereas the true guru is inspired by the divine and is totally detached from the fruit of his/her actions.
Sometimes a guru of a sect really thinks him/her -self for a realized being whose duty it is to teach his/hers so-called clairvoyance to his/her followers, but sometimes a guru is simply an impostor who consciously manipulates poor people for achieving more money and power.
I personally had and still have no guru, but I was able to evolve my practice in a yoga “school” called Sivananda. Swami Sivananda was a real guru who came to be in the last century. In the 1950s, one of his disciples, Swami Vishnudevenanda, was sent by him to spread yoga in the West and many centers and ashrams (yoga retreats) were created, under the name of Sivananda. Till to date the teaching are very authentic and traditional.
If you are interested in discovering more about real gurus that are still alive to this day, I invite you to look up Sadhguru and Amma who are as close to true ones as they can be. You can find a lot of their teachings online and especially on YouTube.
If you want to dig even deeper, I would recommend looking up Sadhguru’s “Inner Transformation” and Amma’s “Choosing the Heart”, as well as “What Amma Tells the World”. If you are sceptical about the existence of God, or the word itself disturbs you and you prefer to speak of the laws of the universe or higher forces, then definitively focus on Sadhguru because Amma names God in each third sentence, so you will surely have some trouble to connect to her.
And if you’re interested in learning more about yoga and Ayurveda, even though I’m just a yoga teacher and coach, I’m looking forward to seeing you in my Zen for Monday workshops every Sunday morning in Geneva.