A yogi tale:
After many years of study, the devoted yoga student asked the ashram guru:
“You say everyone is divine. So if I am already divine why do I need a guru?”
The guru said: “As long as you are asking the question, you are building pedestals for me to climb on. And as long as there are pedestals, you will believe in the need for a guru. Search within! The answer lies in your question.”
Upon hearing this, the student smiled, bowed to the guru, and was never seen again in the ashram.
It is said that she became a very successful vegetable farmer.
As a student of yoga, you probably asked yourself the same question many times: why do I need a guru (teacher)?
Based on my personal experience as a yoga teacher, attempting to meaningfully answer this question proves difficult because any attempt to make sense of it – the question as well as the answer – will inadvertently create new mental concepts that can be equally confusing for the student.
One thing that is important to realize (from my personal experience at least) is that you won’t always know why your intuition is telling you to go out and look for a guru or teacher. Sometimes that becomes clear only after the fact or many years later.
Also, it can be difficult at first to tell the difference between the loud voice of mind and the softer voice of intuition. Is it mind that is telling you that you need a guru or teacher? Or is it your deeper intuition?
Mind is a bully
It can take considerable practice to get to know your own body and mind, and to distinguish mere mental chatter from your deeper intuition. With time and more practical yoga experience you’ll be able to distinguish mental concepts and intuitive guidance mainly by how they make you feel.
Mind is a bully (“I need”, “I should”, “I must”).
It creates feelings of insecurity and fear, and often hangs around and nags.
Intuition is a superpower (“That’s not me saying that”).
It makes you reflect on what is true and what is false, what is real and what is unreal. It creates clarity and ease.
Intuition bypasses the conscious (logical) mind with its distorted concepts, belief systems, and limited understanding, thereby showing you the direction to go that may not always seem logical, yet it will work if you trust it and act upon it.
When the conscious mind is quiet, intuition can be heard
Buddha said, “Intuition, not reason, is the source of ultimate truth and wisdom”.
Keeping Buddha’s words in mind, can you find the trust in yourself to let go of the mental concepts that you have created for yourself?
Gurus have been trying to teach us that for thousands of years. And that is that the greatest single trick existence plays on us is to make us forget that we are trapped (in mental concepts). The greatest single trick we play on ourselves is to believe in these mental concepts, including the illusory idea of what it means to be free from that mental chatter and how to achieve that freedom (with or without the help of a guru).
Fact is, that when we talk about truth and reality we lose sight of it. But when we intuitively understand illusion and belief we will find the truth right in the middle of it.
Thus, intuitive insight and personal transformation can happen anytime, anyplace, to anyone. Ashrams and gurus are no more an exception (or a necessity) than a comfy bed on Sunday morning or your best friend’s comforting words melting your periodic eruptions of irritability into complete bliss (happens often with yogis, especially females!).
Still, the best and the most surprising teacher is YOU. And Guru knows it. That’s why gurus exists: to convey this truth to you with compassion and kindness, knowing that sometimes it can hurt before it sets you free.
So the question as to why you may need a guru or not is NOT about making a choice. It is NOT about choosing or accepting to follow the reality of a guru that may or may not set you free. I is about being truly free from choice, no matter how much you crave the presence of a guru or believe in the necessity of following one.
Such a spiritual discovery can only be made intuitively.