Guru - Teacher
The term ‘guru’ literally translates as ‘heavy’ or ‘venerable.’ It refers to a teacher or guide, and in Hindu tradition describes an intimate spiritual teacher, ‘heavy’ with the spiritual knowledge required for spiritual awareness, and worthy of intense devotion and respect.
Within yoga, a guru is an enlightened mentor from whom the practitioner grows and learns. In Western culture, a guru is considered the link between the modern world and Eastern holistic philosophy and is deemed to be crucial to the practice.
Within guru yoga, the guru is often seen as a deity. Visualization elevates the guru to this higher position, and the energy of the practitioner is focused entirely on that guru during the meditation and yoga practices. This dedication will help them to absorb the wisdom the guru has to share.
One must feel a genuine, deep connection and devotion to the guru. This response must be a legitimate one - merely thinking of the guru to create a sense of loyalty and faithfulness is not enough.
This distinction is the difference between a guru and a simple teacher, and the split between yoga as a workout and as a spiritual practice designed to connect the individual with a higher authority. In the former, a teacher demonstrates and teaches the moves and asanas required, and the students learn from them.
With a guru, there is an intense devotion which almost parallels with a sense of worship; to learn from the guru, the yogi must first truly dedicate themselves, their practice and their spiritual development to this wise expert.
Gurus themselves transcend the role of mere teacher. They are the focal points for meditation and placed on a level of deities. Their wisdom is the ultimate goal, and their students desire to try and achieve this level of spiritual awakening.