According to the Indian calendar, the full moon day (purnima) in the month of Ashadah is a special day dedicated to celebrating and honouring spiritual and academic teachers or Gurus. It is given the name: Guru Purina, and festivals are held all over India in recognition of these great leaders.
However, there is an important difference between being a "yoga teacher" verses a "Guru." A yoga teacher should be knowledgeable about the practices and various philosophical ideas upon which this ancient discipline is founded upon, and hopefully he or she has attained a high level of mastery and competency in the actual performance of the many techniques that comprise its practice. A Guru on the other hand, is not merely an experienced practitioner of the yogic arts, but in virtue of his or her own direct experience of the Self, he or she is able to function as a spiritual transmitter of sorts, continually radiating higher vibrations of peace, compassion and clarity. As a student, when you are around such a person, you cannot help but experience these same sattvic qualities within yourself, and you can often touch upon higher states of consciousness with ease.
The word guru quite literally means "heavy" and more specifically in reference to a teacher "one who is weighty" that is, a person whose wisdom and experience carries a significant force. A more esoteric definition can be derived from its two separate syllables: gu and ru - respectively "darkness" and "destruction." Thus, a Guru is one who can dispel our inner darkness, our inherent spiritual ignorance, through his or her mere presence, making it easier for their disciples to see and connect to the true immutable Self. The Guru is a guiding light.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) was born on the full moon day in July 2015. This year, on Guru Purnima, July 31st, we will celebrate 100 years since his birth!
In my experience, Guruji had the abilities of a true Guru. He had a way of holding the space for his students, so that we might discover the deeper Reality buried underneath all the facade, stories and rubbish we created around ourselves. It was like he saw through all of our games and fears, and he would believe in us before we even believed in ourselves. He was able to do this with few words, and often with no words at all.
I can still hear his voice in my mind saying things like: "No Fearing!" "Why Rushing?! - You Go Back!" "You Take Practice, Practice, Practice - All Is Coming!" "You Take Practice, You Think God!" "God Looking - Everywhere God Seeing." There are of course many more things he said, some of which were personal for me, and much more was said for the benefit of everyone listening, but these were a few of his favourite phrases he would take great joy in reminding us of on a regular basis.
When I think of Guruji, I miss his jolly laugh and the compassion that would radiate through his eyes when he smiled. I also miss the fierce, piercing fire he would project through his gaze at other times. There was power in his look and at the same time a sense of penetrating peace. Most of all I miss the all-encompassing sense of surrender I experienced when in his presence. Not only surrender to him as a guide, but more then that, it was a sense of letting go into God, something greater then any one individual. He was like the finger pointing at the moon.
Guruji was both a support and a resource for me. He never attempted to create any kind of dependency, but would always give me back to myself. He was more like a deep well, from which I could draw great vitality and strength from, a guide for the process of inner unfolding and transformation. He was there to open the door, and to give me faith in my own ability to walk through it. For all this and so much more, I celebrate his birth, now a century ago, and humbly bow with deep reverence and eternal gratitude for his light in my life.
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri gurave namah
"I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I respectfully offer my reverence unto my Guru."