Guru traditionally means one who dispels or removes darkness caused by ignorance, or avidya, and is one of the most important aspects to your spiritual evolution. In today's western world however, we have sadly diluted this meaning. We seem more concerned about becoming a guru than listening or studying from some of the Great Gurus that have come before us and sharing their wisdoms. We even call our asana teacher a guru or anyone who is experienced in a specific field. This common, yet improper use of the word weakens its true meaning and because of this I decided to write this blog and share Guru insights from one of the most famous modern eastern Yoga Gurus, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh India (pictured above).
In his book Bliss Divine Swami Sivananda states "The Guru is God Himself [Herself*] manifesting in the personal form to guide the aspirant. Grace of God takes the form of the Guru. To see the Guru is to see God. The Guru is united with God. He inspires devotion in others. His presence purifies all. The Guru is verily the link between the individual and the Immortal. He is a being who has raised himself from this to That, and thus has free and unhampered access into both the realms. He stands, as it were, upon the threshold of immortality; and, bending down he raises the struggling individuals with his one hand and with the other lifts them up into the imperium of everlasting joy and infinite Truth-Consciousness."
As Swami Sivananda continues explaining the definition and need for a Guru, I found this next section to be very interesting... and slightly contradictory to our western viewpoint of a Guru. We are often taught to think for ourselves, to be our own guru, to not follow any one path. Swami Sivanandaji simply professes, "Some teachers mislead their aspirants. They say unto all: 'Think for yourself. Do not surrender yourself to an Guru.' When one says, 'Do not follow any Guru!' he intends to be the listerners' Guru himself. Do not approach such pseudo-Gurus. Do not hear their lectures."
"The scriptures are like a forest. There are ambiguous passages. There are passages which are apparently contradictory. There are passages which have esoteric meanings, diverse significance and hidden explanations. There are cross-references. You are in need of a Guru or Preceptor who will explain to you the right meaning, who will remove doubts and ambiguities, who will place before you the essence of the teachings."
Now to get even more specific there are two kinds of Gurus, Siksha Guru and Diksha Guru. Swami Sivananda explains "Man has a twofold duty here on earth - to preserve his life and realize his Self (highest spiritual potential). To preserve his life, he has to learn to work for his daily bread. To realize his Self, he has to serve, love and meditate. The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of worldly arts [teacher of scriptures] is Siksha Guru. The Guru who shows him the path of Realization is the Diksha Guru. Siksha Gurus can be many - as many as the things he wishes to learn. The Diksha Guru can be only one - the one who leads him to Moksha," or liberation from the cycle of birth and death, the aim of yoga practices.
May this article help to clarify the meaning of a Guru and encourage you to honor and maintain the True definition of this sacred and powerful word. May this very life present each of us with a Guru who will aid in removing the ignorance that veils our ability to see the Truth of God, the Truth of Oneness, the Truth of Self. Infinite blessings to you always...
** Please note, in old English 'He' was often referred to as the pronoun for the human species as a whole. In no way is it negating the presence or honoring of the woman, goddess energy. In Swami Sivananda's writings it is clearly explained in the introduction that "he" equally refers to and includes "she."