Yoga in Practice: Recognizing the Guru

recognizing the GuruBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

How can we develop skills for recognizing the Guru? Many people want someone who has all the answers. Has your Yoga practice ever challenged an established belief? Have you ever had your belief system turned upside down? For children, or young adults, to see a role model fall from grace, is painful; but adults base their beliefs on decades of experience. Let’s look at solutions for keeping our integrity intact. Recognize the guru from within. If you have been practicing Yoga, on a steady basis, for any length of time, you begin to hear a voice from within. There will eventually be a point in life, when our guru, swami, or Yoga teacher, is not around for advice.

 

This is a critical point, when we must seek answers from within. There is nothing wrong with seeking out another Yoga instructor, but we are not as young and impressionable as we once were. When we are younger, we want to fit in, and that puts us at risk of being psychologically manipulated. This is not meant to make light of youth, but the need to belong, and find meaning in one’s life, can be exploited by a teacher, who does not have your best interests at heart. Therefore, it would be prudent to search for the guru within your own being. Each of us has the ability to achieve self-realization.

 

There is some room for debate on this point. In some Yogic circles, it is believed that an enlightened guru is the only one who can pass knowledge of the self (Atman Jnana) to his or her followers. If this is the case, each of us must spend our lives searching for an enlightened guru with a pure heart. Have you ever met a perfect guru, swami, or Yoga teacher? If so, you have managed to meet one of the few enlightened individuals, who are living on this planet, at this particular time. This is truly like finding a “needle in a hay stack.” Now, you should prepare to serve your guru for years to see if you are eligible for a transfer of shaktipat energy transmission. Before embarking on your journey, you  should consider how many years you are prepared to live as a foreigner, while becoming a disciple.

 

There is a less complicated path for you to take, and it is based upon logical thought. Who would know more about you than anyone else? The answer is: You and God. Atman Jnana literally means: Knowledge of the self or soul. You can find this knowledge through meditation, self-analysis, prayer, pranayama, studies, and by applying the principles of Yoga toward daily life.

 

It is true that a person, who is not mentally balanced, will not be able to achieve Atma Jnana. For example: If we spend our lives doing harm to others, and other beings, our level of consciousness is “handicapped.” This is unfortunate because the first Yama (restraint) we learn is “Ahimsa,” which most of us forget quite frequently. If we are to take one constructive step forward, it is to avoid harming others with our words, thoughts, and deeds.

 

Lastly, when we make a mistake in our actions, or failure to act, we must do our best to make amends, forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and move forward without harming others. Knowledge is not only set in stone, our life path is to gain knowledge and to use it with wisdom. We learn in many ways, but it is least painful to learn from the mistakes of the past. Recognizing the guru will require each of us to look within and apply experience, based upon going after the best possible result.

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