It's 23 of July, the day before Guru Poornima and I decided to put together some notes & knowledge of what I have gathered and experienced in the presence of my Guru.
Guru Poornima is a tradition dedicated to all the spiritual and academic Gurus, who are evolved or enlightened. Gurus need to share their knowledge! The word itself means heavy in knowledge & experience. They need to share, it’s their nature and duty.
Another meaning of the Sanskrit world guru is the remover of darkness. He who removes the dark heavy layer of ignorance & helps us to see the light of our true self.
Even before we realize we need a guru, we need to have a clear goal, a clear idea why we need one. Where do we want to reach in our life journey?
If we are looking for a deeper meaning in our life and we want to see what is beyond the world visible to our eyes or so called Maya – the layer of illusion, we need guidance. We need somebody who has already experienced it or is somewhere further on the path than us.
‘’If we want to understand how our body works on a physical level, we might consult a health practitioner, dietician, or even biologist. Such a person could impact useful information, and we should take advantage of the knowledge she/he could offer to us. It would be a waste of time, and possibly dangerous, to experiment on our body to determine whether the experts are correct.
We see by their credentials and training that they have proper experience in their fields. Therefore, we trust in their advice.
Similarly, if we have questions about our taxes, we consult a tax accountant. We explain our situation, and the accountant advises us on which forms to fill out, whether to incorporate, how we might deduct business purchases, and so on. Rather than read countless books on tax regulations, we simply take this person’s advice.
We should do the same thing when it comes to yoga. As yoga aspirants, we may not be able to choose the right path ourselves. However, if we are blessed with a sincere, full-hearted quest for knowledge, we will be led to the right person. When a yogi is available to offer guidance, it is best to take his advice. Having traveled the yogic path before us, yogis have invaluable information and advice that can make the journey easier. We should recognize our good fortune having met such a noble person and adhere to his guidance. We will gain confidence in his teachings as we use the results of our own experience to verify them.
The connection to a Realized yogi is by far the most effective way to achieve Realization. We learn through her/his words, his life, and if we are fortunate his silence. We should understand that a Realized person is the ideal representative of Nature. He/She is the very crown of Nature.
When she is available, it is best to stay near her rather than searching elsewhere. If we are able to live nearby, a supreme, positive impact or transmission may occur naturally, allowing us to find a connection to our true Self, and thereby, become Realized. This is why the role of the realized teacher is so significant and to be treasured.’’
From the book: The sacred Tradition of Yoga by Dr. Shankaranarayana Jois
Having an experienced teacher close to us is one of the most important steps to overcome Maya.
Beginning steps to overcome Maya according to commentaries to Bhakti sutras from Narada
1.Avoid bad company
Unnecessary attachment with the world has to stop as well as the company of bad people has to stop. We have so many past karmas & samskaras, good and bad-both. They are being activated and start to give us fruit depending on what kind of lifestyle we are living currently. If we are living a healthy lifestyle and having sattvic company (company of good people) we are all good because we are ‘’eating’’ our good karma.
But the bad karma is still there, stored, waiting to be activated. That’s why when bad people, bad energy and bad company enter our life, they are like a key which activates the bad karma, which was already there in us. Both good and bad are within us only, we don’t become bad because of somebody, they can be just an activation or trigger for the bad things to rise from within. Which impression you suppress and which impression you want to push up, it's up to you. The choice is yours!
Serve the great masters, be with them, spend time with them, live with them. Slowly they will reveal the secrets of yoga, spirituality, maya and maybe share their own experience.
To discover the truth ourselves takes a long time. But if you have a person close to you who has crossed the maya or is on the path for a long time, when you listen to their experience, it is a direct path and an easier way for you to overcome all the struggles in your life.
Many times, we try to study Vedas, shastras & old sacred texts by ourselves but it does not make much sense for us. When we list the same thing from a proper master or guru it will become clearer. When it comes to you through an experiencer's speech it affects you more.
Becoming free from mama, nir mama. Nir – no, without; Mama – my-ness.
Crossing Maya means swimming opposite to river flow, climbing a mountain, it is not just getting down the mountain. You have to be so light and not carry so many objects, beliefs & identities.
When you are climbing a mountain and have so much luggage with you, it is so hard. It’s very difficult to carry all the things up to the summit.
Less luggage – the journey will be much more comfortable.
You might say, I am a yogi already, I do not have many things, no attachment.
Maybe not the worldly objects but some spiritual attachments are there: my yoga mat, my philosophy books, my students, etc.
In this Maya ocean it is very hard to cross this samsara ocean individually, that’s why we have the concept of Satsanga – company of good people, masters, experiencers…if we have their company, it may get a bit easier for us.
Your effort is also needed! If you say I don’t do anything I only surrender to my guruji or my teacher. It doesn’t work. Your effort is needed!
Maybe you think: I am a big yogi; I have a strong personality; I have been practicing in the last 20 or 30 years.
It is not a matter of 20-30 years. Our journey is not 10, 20 or 100 years. It is 1000 of years. We have so many samskaras - good, bad impressions, karmas. So many emotions molded us in certain forms.
It is not so easy to overcome all these forms, it takes so long. That’s why, alone, just by your own effort it is hard. The Maya flow is so strong, all the time pulling you towards the ocean of samsara.
I have yoga books & access to all kinds of information, at this time you can find everything on the internet, I can study alone…
When you listen to speeches, explanations and answers from those who are already experienced and have been on this path for a long time, it will be a very effective and easier way to cross the Maya. Rather than you just keep reading 100 times and get information from different sources, it doesn’t make sense to you.
You can get countless information through your mind, that’s right, but there is a special essence in it when it comes from experienced yogi. It touches you in different ways.
The knowledge which comes to you from some experienced teacher or guru can make much more sense and you can understand much more.
In the scriptures they say, when you go to the big masters you have to act in a certain way:
You have to be humble - because they are giving some special knowledge, self-knowledge.
You have to have respect. Of course, it is important to be respectful to everybody but especially great masters.
You have to be honest and pure – you have to be very honest with your feelings, you should tell, when it is becoming very hard. He will discuss with you more or just advice to take some time and come back when time ripens.
What will actually happen in the presence of a great master?
In the company of great people, good qualities will start to appear. You will not get them from somewhere else, from outside. You already have the goodness in you, the company of good people just becomes a doorway to bringing it up and raising it to the surface.
Great masters are like a mirror, they reflect you, you can see good qualities in you. And all the defects also start to be very clear. Same as you look into the mirror, you can see some defects on your face, which you have to cover with some extra make-up.
If we do not have these mirrors in the form of great masters, we construct our own projections, characters we would like to have.
Only the master will show you; this is you – exactly like a mirror.
If you want to get rid of the defects first of all, you need to recognize them, know them properly & then you can work on eliminating them and slowly getting rid of them.
In order to see you need space, proper time, energy & atmosphere.
Self-enquiry starts in the proper place. It can not happen if you are running all the time behind something. It will not happen when you are in the middle of the crowd all the time running behind some things.
If you lead a simple life, have minimal objects with you and you are making space for yourself and your own daily yoga practice, only then, you can see these things.
The biggest challenge of these days!
How to find a great guru or great master?
There are so many masters out there nowadays. Not only nowadays, there always have been many.
So how to find a real one, how to find my one?
There are so many masters who take students' money but there are only few masters who take or attract students’ minds. In original sutra in Sanskrit, ''taking the mind'' can have 2 meanings:
1st – they can attract, impress a student's mind.
2nd - they can take away the student’s mind in a sense of freeing the student from their mind.
It looks like so much confusion is there in the path if I want to choose one. It is so hard if I have to stick to one teacher and follow his tradition. How do I know he is the right one, him I have to follow?
One might come to a conclusion not to follow anybody and find the truth himself.
The secret of dharma is hidden in the cave. It is so hard to find it independently.
What your master and great teachers are telling you, just follow it, it is good for you. That is the easy way.
In the spiritual path the relationship between guru and shisia (student) is so important.
How important the guru is for a student, the same importance the student has. If the real spiritual enquiry starts from the students' side, the guru will appear somehow. It's not like you choose a guru. If the enquiry is real, you will find a guru, you will find a teacher. The guru appears in front of you.
If the enquiry is not real, the guru may stand in front of you but you will not see him.
In Upanishads they say that the relationship between guru and student is unexplainable.
You can not really see that relationship externally; it is beyond everything.
The language between them is also very silent, no need to talk many times.
With the grace of God, great master & student will always come close, where-ever they are. They may belong to different countries, culture…. somehow, they will connect. And it is not a coincidence!
Same way a student attracts the guru by his strong inquiry, in the same way the guru attracts the student because he has to share his great knowledge.
Guru means heavy in knowledge, compassion, love.
In the times of Shankaracharya’s teachings the lesson was going in the bottom of the big tree (guru was sitting under the tree, close to its roots).
But what is more important, how the lectures were given.
Mouna vyakhyanam - everything was explained in silence. He was giving commentaries of all the sutras in silence and all the students were overcoming all the doubts.
When you start to concentrate more on silence lessons all the doubts by itself will disappear.
Meditation – reconnecting to ourselves.
Being able to observe the silence and reconnect to ourselves needs a lot of preparation. So, all the philosophy, discussions, and inquiry are there just to prepare you to be able to receive something in the great silence.
After meeting a great master, your life will become much easier because he is a living example, when you see how they live their life. When you see their life, how they deal with those things. In spiritual places and gurukulas they don’t talk much, they don’t guide you, you should do this or that. Just living together, that itself is a great teaching. Whenever a student has a doubt, the teacher will answer, but that’s all. Their life itself is a great example for you.
Even when you find a guru, teacher, it is not the end, it’s not over. The obstacles are remaining, maybe also different new obstacles come into your way.
Maybe you have experienced this in your life also how hard it is to go against the flow! You have really a great pull, but everything is stopping you: maybe you are lacking money, your family is stopping you, friends are discouraging you. So many questions, enquiries…why why why? Why can’t you live a ‘’normal’’ life like your friends, stay in your job, establish a family, buy a house, get a loan. Do all the ‘’normal’’ things which worldly life is requiring.
If you can dedicate at least some time to your practice, you can travel & visit your teacher and spend some time. It is not a coincidence. It means you have collected so much good karma from your previous lives.
When you meet a great master, the feeling is very important. He can be a common man in front of a hundred people but for you the connection is different – it is from the heart.
It is silent teaching processes.
''It’s the same process as a lotus flower blooms when one ray of the sun touches his petals. Sun doesn’t say anything, the sunshine itself will remove the darkness and the lotus starts to bloom after seeing the sunshine.''
Like that, when you meet a great master / guru, your ignorance will go away and you start to bloom - the knowledge light starts to take place in you.
There is not much more talking needed. Of course, when the student needs to clarify some doubts the teacher will respond. But other than that, there is not much talking, it is just a presence, it's experience - based process.
There is no need of knowing more, through your mind, through your intellect - it's something to experience.
If you are looking for some limited fruits then of course you should know some things – worldly knowledge. But if you are looking for unlimited knowledge /truth the experience is very important. At the beginning you will need some information about how your mind works, how your senses & mind fluctuation work but after that not much knowledge is needed.
How to find a great guru in your life?
You will have to cross through many dualities at the beginning, if your faith is not strong enough, you will suffer a lot at the beginning.
At the beginning there are many doubts: Am I in safe hands? Is he really the master or not? What if I am wrong? So many questions are coming.
Finally, you might decide to go away, but then you find out you can not really go away, something is attracting you to him all the time.
There are two concepts how to recognize a great master:
1.In front of a real guru you will find a lot of difficulties, it is not so easy to be in the presence of a great master. A lot of emotional imbalances might be there.
2.At the same time you can’t go away, something binds you all the time.
After faith starts to develop it will be easier and the surrender happens.
Company of great masters
It is very hard to get, hard to understand. And it is always fruitful. Even if it may look like a waste of time sometimes. I was there for such a long time, and he didn’t teach me anything! But once you leave, you will get it, you will understand many things.
It is very hard to find, but you should find one. Sooner or later, it is good to have a great guru around you.
The most important thing is to spend time with them, because sometimes they give direct teachings, sometimes it’s just indirect lessons. After spending some time with them you will understand, many things will change, many doubts will go away by itself, just by their presence!
They have some kind of sattvic layer around them, which is influencing you. There is no need to have 3 hours of philosophy class every day, 2 hours of yoga asana class in the morning or some chanting class. It is not needed. You might spend 10 years with them, but even after that time you might not understand what they teach you, when did they teach you…you never really understand – it’s a great mystery.
The great teaching
The great lessons might not even happen in the class, it might happen somewhere else, outside, when you talk to them, when you spend time with them, when you see how they are in life.
Guru – the strongest yoga attachment
If you want to overcome all worldly attachment you should have one strong spiritual attachment.
Maybe you will think, why should I create more attachments if yoga is about detaching? But in this case, the attachment to a guru itself will help you overcome this attachment later in the future.
Imagine that you ate a lot of food at the festival and it is hard for you to digest this food. You come to an ayurvedic doctor and he gives you a piece of ginger. Eat this, it will help you! You look at the doctor, why should I eat something else - I am telling you that I already can not digest what I ate. Doctor says, don’t worry, ginger will help you to digest the food and at the end ginger will digest itself, no more of your effort will be needed to digest the ginger.
In the same way, the attachment to the guru will be crossed at the end when you overcome the worldly attachments. Along the way he will teach you silent lessons on how to overcome attachment to him at the end.
It is very difficult to understand the relationship with the guru.
Yogic education is very similar to raising a child. Parents do not teach a kid anything direct at the beginning. The child is just close to them when parents do their daily activities, he is observing them, listening and gradually learns to talk. Only this is enough for the child to learn talking. In a similar way the connection to a realized guru works. Many things will be learned naturally.
Back in the days this was the only method which was used to teach yoga. There was no yoga teacher training and it didn’t cost a fortune to become a ‘’yogi’’.
You don’t need any money to be with a guru.
My teacher sometimes mentions in the class how it was for him, when he was living with his teacher. He didn’t pay him even a single rupee because he was a student and he didn’t have any money at that time. But his teacher let him stay for years at his own house, giving him a place to stay and a warm meal every day. He was spending many extra hours with him, giving him teachings, lectures, preparing him, responding to all the doubts. His compaction and deep love for the true knowledge was crossing all the limits. He just wanted to pass it to his student, to a person, who was hungry for knowledge. He didn’t look at the time he is, money, anything.
My teacher Vijaya Kumar Manja is continuing the method of his teacher and the method of how old teachings were passed to a student.
He built a Yoga Gurukula in small village Pandeshwar with approx. 3000 habitants in Coastal Karnataka.
The word Gurukula means the home of a teacher, a guru. When the students are living with the teacher it creates a special environment for teaching and learning. This allows both the students and the teacher to observe each other and to develop. It is the most recommended teaching style in the ancient Indian tradition. By long term observation and practice, a student is given a variety of spiritual and practical education from the teacher, according to the student's ability.
He is continuing the tradition of traditional teaching & living a simple yogic lifestyle with his family in the village. Every year dozens of students come to visit Vijaya and spend a few months or even years there. Gurukula is normally open from September until April, then the monsoon season starts & Vijaya travels to visit his students & teach there.
Searching for a teacher
If it is written in your forehead and your enquiry for true knowledge is strong enough for sure you will find a teacher. It may take years to find the right person, but once you find that person, you should remain committed. Shopping from teacher to teacher is like looking for a water source. If you start digging in 10 different places but don’t go deep enough you won’t find the source of water. Same with a yoga teacher, you have to spend some time, deepen the relationship and then the teacher might start revealing you experiences of his yoga journey.
Source of the knowledge
Anything I have written here does not belong to me. I am just a messenger of the knowledge which came to me. This article was written mainly based on two sources.
- Teachings & Lectures of my teacher Dr. Vijaya Kumar Manja. Maily teaching from the course of Bhakti sutras from Narada with commentaries of Shankaracharya, 1st & 2nd chapter.
- Book: The sacred tradition of yoga by Dr. Shankaranarayana Jois
I have added only a little bit of my own experience from teachings and living close to my teacher.