Once I was lecturing at the Oxford University, when a journalist asked me, “What is yog?” I told him, “Yog is guru”. He replied, “If you talk like this, we will not be able to publish this article, because in this part of the world, we do not believe in gurus.” I could not help but smile. I told him, “We are one billion Indians, we can export yog in a billion ways to you, but if you ask me about yog, there is only one. Yog is guru. You and I can do nothing to change that.”
This is a problem that one faces not just in the West, but in this yug. I was asked recently, “Why is India, which boasts of great discoveries and inventions in the past, today a ‘third-world’ country? What happened to the richness of our culture and advancement of our sciences?” It disappeared with disrespect of the guru. Start respecting him, and it will be back.
Take a look at anyone from the age of 18 to 80, across nations— hardly anyone is willing to accept the guru. In the guru’s absence, neither the young nor the old know where they are headed. You switch on the television these days, and will find all sorts of yantras and mantras being sold on the idiot box; actors and actresses endorse the products, and the sellers make strange movements with their hands, claiming the ability to heal a person on the other side of the screen just by asking his name. Such dramas in the name of yog and the Vedic sciences create doubt in the minds of the masses about the shakti of the guru.
Let me explain who the ‘guru’ is. He is not someone in a fancy robe, with an impressive beard, who dances around trees and promises to cure illness by breathing like a monkey; of course, after emptying your pocket. That is an entrepreneur, who has devised an innovative marketing strategy to acquire assets. A guru is the giver of gyan, one who puts you on the path of experience and takes you beyond the realm of the five senses. Someone who is himself tied to the pleasures of the senses cannot take you beyond—the ultimate purpose of yog.
Vishvamitra created a parallel universe; his guru was Agastya Muni. Rama defeated the mighty Ravan, his guru was Rishi Vashishta. Hanuman single-handedly put Ravan’s Lanka to fire and carried the entire mountain of life with the sanjeevani buti and his guru was Surya Dev. Krishna gave the gyan of Gita, his guru was Sandeepan Rishi. Bhishma was the greatest warrior of his times, blessed with death at will; his guru was Lord Parshuram. Arjuna became the greatest archer under the sanidhya of his guru, Dronacharya. The guru of the devas is Brihaspati; the guru of asurs, Shukracharya. Even Adi-shakti, from whose womb manifested everything, created a guru—Param Guru Shiva. Thus the greatest of kings, the greatest of sages and even Ram and Krishna, who were gods, had gurus. Such is the importance of the guru.
A guru literally carries the shishya on a spiritual journey. One should be careful of calling someone a guru, because what you follow, is what you become. Watch for the traits of a yog guru: one who does not charge fees, whatever he says happens, and who is sthir in the five yamas. When you come in the guru’s company, you too start exhibiting his traits—disease disappears, you feel healthy and glowing, your thoughts manifest clearly, you start getting the experiences of the subtler worlds and a state of detachment and bliss sets in. A guru is not just the physical body; it is an energy through which gyan flows into the shishya, yet it is important for the guru to be in body. You get a guru as per your karmas and shreni, and it is not necessary that who was the guru of your forefathers will be your guru as well. Whoever can transfer the experience of yog to you is your guru. So my suggestion is, look for a guru, give the subject priority and you will be called on board on this beautiful journey called yog.
Yogi Ashwini is the spiritual head of Dhyan Ashram.