|Article by Sivananda Ashram photos by Jenn Crebas|
The term Guru is casually rebranded by the West, another Indian fusion byproduct common as chai lattes. But what does Guru mean, in it’s most essential form? It is the Sanskrit word for Teacher, and it is that which awakens the light that is within you, lying dormant. Everything is within you. It is the Guru that makes its presence known.
In asanas, we are learning to have mastery over our bodies. Learning to feel each muscle, each limb, each movement, and to be aware of and have control over what is occurring. In the same way, the Guru teaches us to have mastery over our senses. To master the volatile emotions that creep up on us, basic enemies like anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, fear, and greed. A Guru is one who teaches us to find peace within ourselves, loosening our engagement in these emotions. We practice becoming unaffected by the impermanent passing of a thousand thought waves.
They arise, but the Guru shows us how to quickly releases these tiny vrittis. He detaches himself from thoughts again and again and again, and remains in his own internal equilibrium. In doing so he inspires us to do the same. The work is our own to do; it is simply the Guru that gives us a glimpse into the peace achievable.
With this practice, the Guru becomes a source of inspiration, accountability, humility, and energy. Swami Vishnu wrote, “Let him pull you up and behind you all people will be tied. You’ll pull them up also.” A Guru constantly reminds us of the essential nature of our magnetism to yoga. We are in a search for supreme peace, and the Guru both guides us and makes guides of us as we progress. Through the Guru, we are able to share the balance that we’ve found and made. Our practice retains its purity by being removed from the ego, used toward a cause bigger than our own skin. The Guru shows us the permeating effects of the positive mind in the world we draw in.
Swami Vishnu writes “The highest state is surrender. It is the ego that is preventing you from surrendering completely. So surrender to your teachers, whoever they are. Surrender to them. The teacher is guru.” In accepting a Guru, we also must accept surrender. So much of our culture is focused on being independent, indestructible, untouchable. But what happens when we surrender, when we make ourselves vulnerable? It’s then that we open ourselves up to become truly affected by the teachers in our lives, in all their forms. When we are able to lose that state of ego, the state of “I”-ness, we broaden our view. The limited perception by which we see all things only as they relate to “me” fades, and we no longer see things only to suit our own nature and temperament. As the Guru, we begin to see the same essence in all of creation. He lives from a state of oneness, viewing all things as a manifest of the Divine, puzzle pieces in the great big Universe. And slowly, sparked by the Guru, we begin to do the same.
A prayer to the Universe, by Swami Sivananda.
Oh Adorable Lord of mercy and love
Salutations and prostrations unto thee
Though art omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient
Though art Sat Chit Ananda
Though art existence, knowledge, and bliss absolute
Though art the indweller of all beings.
Grant us an understanding heart, equal vision, balanced mind, faith, devotion, and wisdom.
Grant us inner spiritual strength to resist temptation and to control the mind.
Free us from egoism, lust, anger, greed, hatred, and jealousy.
Fill our hearts with divine virtues.
Let us behold thee in all these names and forms
Let us serve thee in all these names and forms
Let us ever remember thee,
Let us ever sing thy glories
Let thy name be ever on our lips,
Let us abide in thee forever and ever.