All spiritual life is self-initiated from within; we are both guru and disciple as Krishna and Arjuna symbolize in the Bhagavad Gita. Ultimately the yogi must be guided by the Divine from within his own consciousness. The God-illumined mind becomes our guru.
Quotes from the spiritually illumined
“The mind is itself guru and disciple: it smiles on itself, and is the cause of its own well-being or ruin,” wrote the great poet-saint Tukaram (Tukaram’s Teachings, by S. R. Sharma, p. 19).
“The mind will eventually turn into your guru,” said Sri Sarada Devi, the consort of Sri Ramakrishna (The Gospel of the Holy Mother, p. 340).
Swami Brahmananda, the “spiritual son” of Sri Ramakrishna, in speaking about the role of an external guru said: “Know this! There is no greater guru than your own mind. When the mind has been purified by prayer and contemplation it will direct you from within. Even in your daily duties, this inner guru will guide you and will continue to help you until the goal is reached” (The Eternal Companion, p. 120).
Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahashaya wrote to a student regarding the guru: “Guru is the one who is all; Guru is the one who is merciful. You are the Guru within yourself” (Garland of Letters (Patravali), Letter 45). In Purana Purusha by Dr. Ashoke Kumar Chatterjee it is recorded on page 224 that Yogiraj made these two statements: “I am not a guru. I do not hold the distinction of ‘guru’ and ‘disciple.’” “The Self is the Guru…the immortal, imperishable Guru.”
The great fourteenth-century yogini, Lalla Yogeshwari, sang about finding her inner guru, her Self:
With passionate longing did I, Lalla, go forth.
Seeking and searching did I pass the day and night.
Then, lo, saw I in mine own house a learned man [pandit],
And that was my lucky star and my lucky moment
when I laid hold of him. (Lalla Vakyani 3)
“Yoga truly becomes our teacher, revealing to us that which is far beyond the wisdom of books and verbal instructions.”
According to Vyasa there is another teacher: our yoga practice itself. He says: “It is yoga that is the teacher. How so? It has been said: ‘Yoga is to be known by yoga. Yoga goes forward from yoga alone. He who is not careless [neglectful] in his yoga for a long time, rejoices in the yoga.’” Shankara, commenting on these words of Vyasa, discusses the reaction that the awakening person has upon learning about the possibility of liberation from his present state of bondage: “Meditation on his own being, which is the cause that should lead to liberation, begins of itself, caused by karma of a previous life or else by steadfastness in renunciation in this present one. And it goes on of itself, without instruction from a teacher.”
The experience gained from yoga practice itself teaches us the reality and value of yoga. But even more, it opens our intuition and enables us to comprehend the inner workings of the subtle levels of our being and its mastery. Yoga truly becomes our teacher, revealing to us that which is far beyond the wisdom of books and verbal instructions. Moreover, it is practice of yoga that enables us to understand the basis and rationale of its methods and their application. The why and wherefore of yoga become known to us by direct insight.
In his commentary on Yoga Sutra 2:28 Vyasa says: “From practicing yoga, illusion [ignorance] is destroyed and perishes. When it is destroyed, there is manifestation of right vision. In proportion to the practice done, illusion is dispelled. In proportion to its destruction, the light of [spiritual] knowledge increases correspondingly. This increase is an experience of increasing refinement up to the realization of the true nature of the purusha [spirit].”
The Yoga Vashishtha says it clearly and truly: “God Consciousness is not achieved by means of the scriptures, nor is it achieved by the grace of your Master. God Consciousness is only achieved by your own subtle awareness.”
When Gorakhnath asked: “Who is the Guru that leads to the Goal?” Matsyendranath told him: “Nirvana itself is the Guru that leads to the Goal.” That is, the liberated condition of the Self, though presently buried beneath the debris of lifetimes of ignorance, is itself the inspirer and guide to the revelation of our eternal liberation.
More about gurus:
- Gurus: Yes or no?
- Real Spiritual Teachers vs. Super-Gurus
- The False Guru Test
- Podcast: Yoga, God, and Gurus: an Important Perspective