sa esa purvesamapi guruh kalenanavacchedat
Unbound by time, God is the teacher of all teachers
According to tradition, I should have my operating license to teach yoga revoked. I am not authorized by any higher authority to practice or teach yoga. I do not have slip of paper from the Yoga Alliance. I do not have a certificate from anyone or institution. I have never called any of my teachers 'guru,' and only once did I touch a teacher's feet, but instantly regretted it. His toenails were long and had some kind of fungus and worse still I didn't feel the true humility in my heart that one ought to have while bowing to another individual. I was a fraud and I knew it, and I'm pretty sure he knew that I knew that he was a faker too. He didn't like me much, but the feeling was mutual.
The word guru has several meanings, the literal translation being 'the one who leads from obscurity to light,' and I can safely say that I have had a few teachers who have beautifully illuminated one or two things for me. Hopefully you also know that moment, that gorgeous second when someone skilled shows you how to do something, or explains something in such a way that you really feel that the clouds part and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir organ plays a song just for you. I feel incredibly lucky to have had that moment gifted to me through other people once or twice. But even after such an experience, I still viewed them as people, humans with ignorance, limitations and foibles, just like me.
My early exposure to people in religious authority was not so hot. The priest at our church had more than one affair with married parishioners and lead grotesquely fake hippie sit-ins and Transactional Analysis workshops. In retrospect it seems like wife-swapping was a natural extension of his priestly interests. I found my Sunday school teachers to be radically unprepared to answer the difficult questions I asked such as "What about evolution?" and "Why is God such an asshole sometimes?"
It wasn't until I started practicing yoga that I was told that there was a requirement to submit to a teacher, no matter how unorthodox or outlandish his or her methods might be. A guru, according to tradition might have ways and means that elude regular human understanding. Enter Bhagwan Rajneesh and his Rolls Royces. Enter Jim Jones and his utopia in the jungles of Guyana. Enter Charles Manson and the Spawn Ranch.
Honestly, I wanted to believe that there was a teacher out there somewhere for me. A teacher who would exceed my expectations. I was hopeful there was a teacher who would completely and finally dispel all darkness. It was this desire that led me to India bowing to a pair of icky old toenails. And in that moment, I knew that I would never totally submit to another human in this way. Because I don't believe in it.
"See!"shouted my peers and comrades in India, when I sheepishly admitted to feeling nothing but a kind of embarrassed disgust at touching "Gurujii's" feet. "He showed you! He showed you how hard it is to submit. HE showed you that surrender is the MOST difficult lesson! He blessed YOU!"
Now I know I'm thick-headed, but this just did not penetrate. I tried to understand, I tried to wrap my head around it. I tried to believe that he had something to show me that I could not get from anyone, anywhere else in the whole wide universe.
Instead, I eventually left India feeling quite confused. I cast around for other teachers but often found myself arriving at the same sinking feeling that I was not able to surrender completely and this lack of ability was ultimately preventing me from growth and an authentic relationship to yoga. One simple dream liberated me.
I dreamed that I was in a cult. The leader was Adi Da, a real guy, who had a real cult on some remote island in the Pacific. Adi Da (Also known as Da Free John and Adi Da Loveananda!!) was leaving his compound in a bullet proof Hummer. I ran up to the car/tank to have a good look at him and he rolled down the tinted window and grabbed me by the shirt. He pulled me up to his face and shouted, really loud. "YOU ARE YOU OWN GURU!" And then he threw me down to the dirt and sped off with his giant entourage. Believe it or not, I woke up feeling forever freed from the idea that I need some external teacher.
I do believe that there are eternal wisdoms and they can be illuminated though modelled behavior in a great teacher. I know there are gifted guides in the world, and those gifted guides, such as my unconscious dreaming Mind will tell the seeking student—"YOU ARE YOUR OWN GURU."
This, however, does not keep the lucrative business of guru-hood churning and eventually I am sure I'll be arrested by the yoga police and taken away. But until then, I'm following the internal compass that I try to point to the ultimate teacher—The Great Self we all share.
Recall a great teacher in your life.
What were the qualities that made that teacher special?
Recall a disappointing teacher in your life.
What were the qualities that made that teacher a disappointment.
What do you think of the idea of total surrendur to another human being?
Do you think you are your own teacher, or that you can be your own teacher?