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Yoga and the Guru Question
by Jeff Martens
(excerpted from “How We Live Our Yoga” – Beacon Press, 2002)

Editor’s Note from Christina Seluzicki: Many yoga students wonder about the necessity of having a guru to guide them on their spiritual path. Yogi Jeff Martens illuminates us with his thoughts on the guru question in this essay that is short but sweet. Enjoy!

Long ago a farmer in desperate need of water for his crops started digging a well. When he had dug deep enough to cover his head without finding water, the farmer would climb out of the hole and trudge his way back home. Day after day the farmer kept digging new holes until, tired and exasperated, he would toss his shovel aside and walk home with the setting sun. Each night he would fall into bed and dream the promise of clear, cool water before waking to dig a new hole the following morning.

One day a neighbor made a rare visit to the farmer’s land, his brow raised at the site of so many holes.

What on earth are you doing? the neighbor called down to the farmer who was nearing the end of his latest hole.

Im Digging a well, the farmer replied.
But you will never find water that way!
What do you mean? asked the farmer. To find water, I have to dig a well!

That may be so, answered the neighbor. But the water table here starts ten feet below the surface. Unless you dig deeper youll never find what youre looking for.

This story is often told to signify the importance of sticking to one teaching or one guru on the spiritual path and staying with this chosen path rather than sampling many different paths in a shallow manner. If you dont persevere with one teaching or guru to the end, the story goes, you will never go deep enough to reap any benefits

In Sanskrit, the word guru is composed of two root terms.  Gu means darkness, ru can mean its opposite, or light. When placed together the word Guru is that which takes us from darkness or gnorance to light and wisdom. A guru’s role is to function as a guiding light to the chela or student in times of darkness. At various times in our lives, we are all gurus and students. Ulimately the light that a guru experience leads us to is the light of pure discernement which removes the blindness of misconception that comes from constantly separating ourselves from the world and each other.

vastu-samye citta-bhedat tayoh vibhakta pantaha (YS 4.15)

Same object, different consciousness (mind), separate path.

The classical text on Yoga, Patanjalis Yoga Sutra, tells us that when we are in a state of Yoga we see the world as it actually is (1.3) and that the characteristics of an object appear differently according to the observer (4.15). In other words until we make that ultimate transition from darkness to enlightenment, we are all living in our own self-created universe defined by memory and future expectation. A guru (or a guru experience) helps us to clean the windows of our own perception to the point that we see the world clearly without the influence of ego or expectation. For the spiritual student or seeker, past experience becomes a rigid prison that defines and limits the future. To break free of this prison requires the realization of Sat Parusa: that unchangeable essence within us that sees clearly and is unclouded by the filter of past experience and future expectation.

vastu-samye citta-bhedat tayoh vibhakta pantaha (YS 4.15)

Same object, different consciousness (mind), separate path.

The root of the Sanskrit Vritti which Patanjali uses to indicate the activity of thought means motion, a swirling, a churning, a wave or storm. Mind clings to its own view of the world and life because this clinging creates the tension necessary to stay in motion. Mind is a verb and must stay active to exist.  Mind is also a tool to be used and is not meant to be the dog walking its master — something all of us who have been kept awake in the early morning hours by the mind’s worry or anticipation have all experienced. Only in surrendering our idea of how we think the world should be and releasing this fabricated mental tension will we stop digging ourselves deeper into darkness and begin to see things as they truly are. To keep from developing a dependence on the physical form of a teacher or guru, it is important to begin to see the radiant form of the guru wherever we look. This is the Divine essence that unifies us all. Ultimately any person or experience we consider to be good or bad can function as a guru if we are open and dedicated to our spiritual path without clinging to any one form or idea of how we think things should be.



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About the Author

Jeff Martens has been teaching yoga and holistic principles principles since 1989. His understanding flows from diverse sources including a Psychology and MFA degree, a deep love of sacred stories, and a three
year study of the world’s sacred texts. His classes combine timeless wisdom, internal adjustment, practical philosphy and inspiring affirmation in a dynamic flow unifying the teachings of Classical and Tantra Yoga. Jeff is a writer, teacher trainer, co-founder of the Yoga-Vision Yoga Conference, founder of the Student Yoga Program at Arizona State University and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga in Chandler, Arizona. Check out his DVDs YogaFlow and YogaPower.

For more information visit, www.InnerVisionYoga.com.




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