I have never had and/or worshipped a (yoga) guru. The word itself makes me quite uncomfortable, in the same way I feel uncomfortable with the word God. I think I wrote about the latter in another post. Obviously it is not the word itself that makes me uncomfortable but rather its connotations. Both words lean towards the same definition really, although, if I had to compare the two, maybe guru doesn't make me as uncomfortable as God. This last sentence sounds funny (well, to me at least). To be honest both annoy me really; however, even though I was not brought up any religion, I grew up in a catholic environment (my mum had had a strict religious upbringing which she thankfully spared both my sister and I from and most of my classmates had catholic education and we were taught about religion at school) which clearly affected my feelings and opinion about the matter. I remember being particularly annoyed one day in class as we discussed our belief in God or lack thereof and one of my classmates proceeded to blame God (she used the word to refer to a superior being then, separate from us mere mortals, ugh) for all the bad in the world and asked why he would let such things happen. Now, of course I understand where she was coming from due to her upbringing but I remember turning around to her and telling her that was just idiotic to blame someone's behaviour on God (superior being) alone and to take responsibility for ourselves. That did not go down well with my mostly Catholic classmates :)
Both words have many meanings and for the purpose of this blog I have selected the definitions which specifically apply to my feelings about either.
Guru (Sanskrit: गुरु. IAST: guru) is a Sanskrit term that connotes someone who is a "teacher, guide, expert, or master" of certain knowledge or field. In pan-Indian traditions, guru is someone more than a teacher, in sanskrit Guru means the one who dispels the darkness and takes towards light, traditionally a reverential figure to the student, with the guru serving as a "counselor, who helps mold values, shares experiential knowledge as much as literal knowledge, an exemplar in life, an inspirational source and who helps in the spiritual evolution of a student". The term also refers to someone who primarily is one's spiritual guide, who helps one to discover the same potentialities that the gurus already realised. (wikipedia)
1 : the supreme or ultimate reality: such as
a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe
b Christian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind
2: a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically : one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality
3: a person or thing of supreme value (merriam-webster)
Having read both of them, I think I just have a problem with authority figures :) I smile but there is a little truth in that. Although I love the definition of a guru as "the one who dispels the darkness and takes towards the light", I really can't relate to the idea that it points to someone outside of myself. I think that it is why I never believed in God as a worship figure or followed a "yoga guru". I remember always believing in myself more than in the idea of a superior being. Even that! Writing superior being bugs me, wow, 100% problem with authority here :)
My understanding of both words has also changed over time. Through the study of yogic philosophy (hinduism may well be the closest I will ever come to following a religion) I have come to realise that God or Guru as light, infinite potential, peacefulness and love is in all of us and maybe that is what I always believed in: my own potential and ultimately, that of others. Of course I have had teachers with whom I have been very thankful to cross paths and who have taught me so much but one can only teach someone who wants to be taught. It is not a one way street nor a question of someone being more 'advanced' or 'more knowledgeable' or 'illuminated'. We are all on the same path, hopefully we all keep on learning everyday (knowledge is very easily acquired to the one interested) and maybe being illuminated is just about recognising that we are all light.
So, to me, my friends have been my gurus. They have been soul mates, inspirations, guides, joy, support, love, life lessons, lights in the darkest of times and the source of absolute bliss.