The Outer Guru


Although in the modern context we simply think of it as “teacher”, the word Guru is traditionally translated as “the destroyer (or remover) of darkness”. This obviously doesn’t mean literal darkness, but rather spiritual confusion, or association with the Ahamkara or individual self rather than the universal Self.

In a traditional setting, anyone who wanted to study Yoga had to commit to a specific Guru; they would live with them for many years, and the teacher would slowly share the teachings and practices of Yoga as the student’s level of commitment and understanding evolved. There was no flitting from one “teacher” to the next, no Yoga shopping; if you truly, deeply wished to learn how to be free from the false identity of individuality, you had to stay put, be patient, and allow the teacher to guide you at the pace they determined was appropriate.

This allowed for a deep level of understanding and trust to develop between teacher and student; often the teacher would be able to discern, from their own experience, what was going on in the heart and mind of the student even before they themselves knew! This deep relationship avoided many pitfalls in the practice, including false pride, attachment to certain elements of the practice rather than the purpose of the practice, and dilution of the teachings. It helped to keep the student “on point”, and hence expedite their practice.

There’s a little analogy I once read- if you want to dig a well, you don’t dig 50 shallow holes; you pick a spot and just keep digging down until you reach your goal. There are many good Yoga teachers in the world (and a whole load who don’t deserve to use that title!); every good teacher will have you dig your well in a slightly different spot, but if you keep to that same spot (the practices they share) you give yourself the best chance of reaching the goal of Self-realisation.

You don’t need to go searching the world over to find your Guru; when the time is right, and if you dedicate your heart and mind to the practice of Yoga, your teacher will appear, and often when you least expect it. They won’t ask too much from you; they’ll be delighted to share the path to true freedom with you! But always remember that a true teacher doesn’t care what shapes you can make with your body; they will always encourage you to practice with a clear, steady mind and an open heart. They will remind you always that the practice of Yoga is an inner one; and as they help to remove the veils of ignorance around your true nature, you will see, with certainty and clarity, that everything you seek is already within you, waiting to be re-discovered.

And that is when the darkness is removed. :-)

Categories: Yoga