Role and Importance of Guru in Yoga Tradition

Role and Importance of Guru in Yoga Tradition

by Chandra Om

Arise, Awake, approach the teachers and know the Truth. The person who is blessed with a Guru knows the Highest. He whose devotion to the Lord is great, and who has as much devotion to the Guru as to the Lord, Unto him, that high-souled one, the meanings of the sacred texts stand revealed.


The Saints and Sages of ancient times evolved and perfected over the centuries a system of self-development known as Yoga. This unifying objective is achieved through the self-development of ones own unique individual potential for Self-realization. Since time immemorial, the science of Yoga has always been taught from Preceptor to student—transferred from the lips of the Guru to the spiritual aspirant or disciple. The Guru is God incarnate and the doorway to liberation. To see the Guru is to see God. In the Guru, you have the ideal of liberated perfection and the human example from which to mould your life. The Guru will remove all doubts and ignorance and transform the vicious samskaras. Worship your Guru and bow to Him/Her with reverence.

There are foolish students who claim they do not need a Guru, or that they have several Gurus. You cannot serve two Masters. Books may serve the intellect, but they cannot provide ignition or transmission. We all have tremendous spiritual power inside of us, though in a state of spiritual ignorance it is latent, and will stay that way (to protect the disciple), until the disciple has purified enough. The true awakening can only occur through the ignition of the Preceptor. Initiation literally means “ignition”, and just as when you start a fire, you begin with small twigs and then slowly add larger amounts piece by piece and very soon the fire is quite large. But how do you begin? With one small twig—a small twig with the consciousness and potential to awaken the dormant consciousness of the larger pieces once they merge with the initial small twig. This is how it happens.

The Guru illumines the spiritual path by casting internal light. The disciple begins to see with the inner eye, due to the awakening of spiritual energy. Spiritual knowledge is a matter of Guru-Parampara. It is transmitted from Guru to disciple. The Guru’s grace enables the disciple to perceive the latent spiritual power within, and shows the doorway to the Super-consciousness. But it is the disciple who must step through it.

The dimension of transmission is directly proportionate to the spiritual qualities and thirst of the student. It is like turning the key to start the car. The Guru may assist in turning the car on, but unless the disciple is strong, determined and firmly committed to the Guru and the goal, the car will not move. The Guru can point the way, assist in directing the student to the right frequency and station, but the tuning in to that frequency is up to the disciple. Guru is the motivator and provides the initial boost. But it is the disciple’s responsibility to keep the fire going through tapas, abhyasa, sadhana and loyalty. There is no more powerful way of conquering the fickle mind and samskaras than personal contact with and service to the Guru.

The student who is under the guidance of Guru is safe from all. Guru is your fortress against your lower nature and all obstacles and difficulties. But you must follow the Gurus guidance implicitly. My Guru always said, “Yoga is complete obedience to the teacher”. The Guru forces you to look at your behavior, and a true Guru is never concerned with what people think of them. The Guru takes on the task of guiding the soul from identification with the material world, the senses and sense objects to the spiritual world of Divine consciousness and this at times requires criticism and pointing out patterns and behavior the student does not wish to look at. This can be harsh and unpleasant, but like surgery to remove a boil that is festering, once the pattern or behavior is removed, the healing can begin. The Guru is your spiritual surgeon. Guru may at times appear firm or stern, but that may be the treatment you need to clean away something that is festering in the mind, preventing you from going further into union.

In spite of much being written and documented on the relationship between the disciple and the Guru, there is still a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about this most sacred of relationships. The Guru’s grace transforms those who are utterly devoted, faithful, and reverent to their Guru. Devotion is unwavering loyalty and unconditional love of Guru. Faith is complete trust in Guru’s testimony and authority without any evidence or proof. Reverence is a mixture of both fear and respect. The disciple who has supreme faith in the Guru loses all sense of lower self and identification with personal desires and cravings by surrendering the lower nature to the purifying fire of the Guru’s grace, guidance and love. When the foundation of the relationship is complete loyalty and implicit obedience, then and only then can true transformation and transmission occur.

Discipleship of an enlightened sage is lifetimes in the making. The Guru knows the subtle signs in each disciple and knows which students are karmically his or hers. Of course, karma and the lifetimes of intense tapas that create such a holy meeting are not enough. The disciple’s responsibility is to be obedient and loyal to the Guru. Love and desire for liberation is not enough, for the mind is very fickle and mental and behavioral patterns are often very rooted. The Guru can teach the disciple about the scriptures, about surrender, how to concentrate the mind, to purify both body and mind, but the Guru cannot force anyone to love God. The Guru can only plant the seed. The Guru brings light into the disciple’s life, performing any necessary surgery on the disciple’s ego.

Those who are sincere will understand. It is impossible to describe in human words the experiences that occur in the presence of a saintly person. Human effort, when it is attuned to the Divine will, can achieve wonders.

Om Namah Shivaya Om Namah Shivaya Om Namah Shivaya Om Namah Shivaya Om