Updated: Jan 31, 2022
Guru (गुरु) - Teacher or Guidance
In the Western society, the guru may be the teacher or guide who brings us into connection with Eastern holistic philosophy and spirituality. To worship or follow a guru often contradicts our western view of living an independent and mature life. Mostly, the word alone evokes images of spiritual movements, such as those around the spiritual leader Osho in the late 70s and often creates a negative alienating image. But does a guru always need to be an incapacitating figure that is dictating the right and the wrong?
By looking closer at the meaning and role of a guru, we can find that the guru itself is multi-layered and vast in its conception. In this Focus of the Month, we want to bring you closer to the meaning of the Guru and inspire you to find your very own approach to it.
It's not simply asking the question, "What is a guru?" or “Is it good to follow a guru?”. As a practicing yogi*ni, reflecting on the concept of guru plays an essential role in one's consciousness and awareness of the higher self. We ask ourselves about the importance of the guru for our own spiritual path. Do we need spiritual guidance to connect with our higher self? Or is this guru already within us to awaken and experience our innermost self?
On different levels a guru has many meanings but in the broadest sense it is a person who guides, teaches, inspires you both in everyday life and in your spiritual practice. In the Indian tradition, parents are seen as the first contact with a guiding force, especially our mother. She gives us life, guides us, and through her we receive life strategies to navigate early in life. On another level, it can be our teachers, professors or instructors as well as our closest social circle of friends and family that shape and form us as a social being. A guru has a very profound meaning for our connection to the world and to our higher self.
In Sanskrit the syllable "Gu" means "darkness" and the syllable "Ru" means "dispel". Together they mean "dispeller of darkness". Darkness represents the humans' ignorance and the strong ego mind.
It is said that the guru has the potential to bring light into the darkness, dissolve ignorance and awaken the inner truth and self. So, from a spiritual point of view, the guru is a person who helps us to experience our own higher self, our own divine essence.
In order to connect with one's highest self, with our inner guru, asanas and pranayama are important to stimulate and activate the Ajna Chakra, the third eye chakra. The third eye is our direct connection to our soul and our higher self. Spiritual awareness, a clear intuition and an active imagination are indicators of a balanced Ajna Chakra. In your asana practice, we want to always set an intention in order to focus and guide our energy in a meaningful direction. This intention can be a theme, affirmation, mantra or symbol that resonates with you. Simple postures like Balasana, child pose, or Tadasana, Mountain Pose, not only symbolize humility, but bring grounding to the Ajna Chakra. Sirsasana, the headstand is THE Asana to activate the Ajna Chakra and align yourself with your intuition.
Meditating with a mala necklace can help you calm your thoughts and connect with your inner voice. By sliding the 108 pearls through your fingers, repeating a mantra or phrase, your mind is challenged on different levels and at the same time brings calmness to your monkey mind. Find a nice and comfortable seat, take the necklace with your right hand, between the ring finger and thumb and count the pearls with your middle finger. With each pearl you repeat your mantra 108 times until you reach the 109th pearl, the Guru pearl “Bindu”. It is the start and ending point of your meditation and symbolises unity of all things. It's important to twist the necklace and not to skip the guru pearl but to start again from it.
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, devotion to God is described as the first means to reach the state of yoga. To overcome obstacles and ignorance on one's spiritual path, trusting in the divine in us and what we develop throughout life is crucial. We can achieve turning to the Divine by visualizing the attributes of God. The simple sound OM can be helpful, because it expresses all qualities of the divine in us. By chanting OM regularly, you can also activate the energy of the Ajna Chakra.
Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
The Adi Mantra is often chanted at the beginning of a yoga class. The NG sound creates a nasal vibration in the head area. The N and Ma sounds stimulate the abdomen and pelvic area, as the closed mouth allows energy to flow down into the body. The whole body starts to vibrate and can be opened for the yoga practice. Also the mind comes to rest and we can concentrate better in our practice. “Ong namo guru dev namo (Sanskrit: ॐ नमो गुरु देव् नमो)” means “I bow, or salutations to the divine teacher”, which also can be viewed as meaning, "bow to the teacher within".
It is considered a high vibration, protective mantra as it is believed to help the yogi to connect with its inner higher self but also with the power and insights of the community of yoga students and teachers as a whole.
Integration in everyday life:
In everyday life it is often difficult to listen to your inner voice. Thoughts, worries and other external factors influence us a lot in our actions. In everyday situations, always try to feel inside yourself and ask yourself what you need or what you don't want. In this way, your intuition will also become more powerful.
Further Readings, Podcast & Videos:
Sadhguru, how to activate your inner strength:
Yoga international, The idea of guru in Yoga:
Madhavi Guemos, Natural High, Wie du deine spirituelle Praxis kultivierst: https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/wie-ihr-stetigkeit-in-der-spirituellen-praxis-kultiviert/id1448379107?i=1000434572251