Questioning The Guru: A Yoga Practice

guru“If you know how to listen, everyone is a guru.”
~ Ram Das, from
Be Here Now

The word ‘Guru’ has taken quite a ride lately, breaking away from the world of yoga and traveling everywhere else. You’ve got computer gurus, marketing gurus, quilting gurus, and on and on.

Sure, there are a few traditional gurus kicking around India and the rest of the world, some more qualified than others. Occasionally there is a person who truly deserves the description ‘guru’, but often this person would be so humble as to not need the name at all.

In the yoga world the word ‘guru’ conjures up many ideas.

For some, there is the pure concept of the guru as a humble master with the highest intentions, truly enlightened and willing to share his or her knowledge. Then there are those who have called themselves gurus only to act in less than honest ways, of which there are too many examples.

Dr. Douglas Brooks is a well known philosophy professor with an enormous capacity for processing knowledge and explaining it with a profound sense of humor. I had the pleasure of listening to him speak at an Anusara® yoga training where he described his experience in India.

Douglas had found himself a real guru – a man whose wisdom and integrity attracted the scholar so greatly that Douglas spent years living and studying from him. One day Douglas addressed this man as “Guruji” which is a respectful, endearing term for a guru.

But the master corrected him. He said something along the lines of, “If you start calling me that, you may stop questioning me.” Instead, Douglas was told to call him “Babaji”, which is a word for father.

I love this story because it is empowering. This masterful man told Douglas to keep thinking for himself, to question what he was told even from such a high source. This shows even more wisdom, in my opinion, from an enlightened human being.

The word ‘guru’ means weighty one.

It literally refers to something with a lot of gravity. Jupiter is a good example, being the largest planet in our solar system. Thursday, which is related to Jupiter, is a day to honor teachers who have weight, or gravity, because of what they know and their ability to act upon it.

People who have the power of wisdom have more access to their personal potency through that power. They draw more Shakti – the creative energy of the universe – to themselves through their knowledge and abilities. This great power, because of the energy that goes with it, creates the gravity that attracts others. People with such great power have the responsibility to use it with integrity.

Questioning The Guru

‘Guru’ can also be described as one who brings light where there was darkness, which is a nice way to think of someone who offers enlightened ideas and shows perspectives that help you live more fully.

However, there needs to be discernment when you make decisions on whom to trust with your open and willing mind. Finding a teacher you resonate with, who is not only skilled but also humble, is sometimes a challenge but ever so worth it.

Rather than thinking of teachers as people to put on pedestals, consider the practice of questioning the information given to you. Does it feel right? Does it make sense to you? Is it life enhancing? Can it be backed up with more explanation?

Even if these questions aren’t directly answered by your teacher, they can spark your own creative juices and help you understand the practice or idea much more completely.

Questioning can also help you decide how much to open to your teacher. If, time after time, you have come to the conclusion that your teacher is imparting truths that make sense to you, there is an established relationship of trust. With this relationship the questioning becomes more low key, not as skeptical; simply a self respect that retains your own ability to think for yourself.

In Anusara yoga, the Kula is the guru.

The Kula is a community of the heart. In this instance the word refers to the merry band or family of Anusara yogis. By taking the premise that each person has something to offer, a gift to share that is unique to them, we all benefit. There is a constant evolution and innovative spirit, even though it all functions within the guiding principles of Anusara yoga.

To be sure, there is still a respect and deep honoring of the teachers with more experience. To me, John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, is a master. Maybe he doesn’t call himself one, but I do because, in my life, he has earned that title. He is a weighty one, and shines much light in places where I once thought there was darkness.

But the concept of spreading out the recognition of wisdom is radically different. This affirmation that each person is special, that every one is part of the ever ascending spiral of this yoga as it grows and reaches into hearts across the world – this is a new idea of the guru.

We all have access to the source of the guru’s power.

This power comes when we soften the idea of individuality and open to the universal energy that already pulsates within. It breathes you and moves you and plays in the manifested world as you. When you listen to this spirit, in all its forms and expressions, then you can hear the voice of the guru everywhere.

  • What seemingly unobvious source of the guru’s power have you connected with lately? A billboard, lyrics in a song, simple words of a child… Wisdom is everywhere. Share some by commenting below.

6 thoughts on “Questioning The Guru: A Yoga Practice

  1. I think that a person chooses his guru based on their needs. Similar to the way a person chooses their parents based on their needs.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Chuck.

    For sure, when you find your true teacher it is a blessing and orchestrated on many levels. I like your comparison of choosing a guru (or many gurus) like you choose your parents based on what will support what you want to do in life.

    For those people who don’t feel they have found their teacher, it is encouraging to know that the guru doesn’t have to be one person, but can be many sources. And when you can see the beauty and teachings everywhere, then the essence of the teacher is honored.

  3. I think the one you are with is often your guru. Few relationships are as intense as spouse relationships and if you are open to it you are offered daily lessons in growth and enlightenment. Honoring your spouse as your teacher and guru gives the proper perspective to the relationship and creates all kinds of possibilities for new understandings and insights into how your mind works or doesn’t work, as is often my case.

  4. Well said. Indeed, relationships are the highest spiritual practice. The way we conduct ourselves in relationship to all others, including the earth and nature, is a constant practice. As you describe here, the partner you choose is often your most intimate teacher. May we always remember that and honor it.

    Beautiful comment. Thank you!

  5. Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

  6. Hello!

    Absolutely you may quote from my blog and include a link. I’m so glad you found it worthwhile.



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