The Evolution Revolution: Yoga, Ayurveda, and the Rise of the Soft Power Culture
By Mas Vidal (Maheshananda)
The word “guru” is probably the most recognized Sanskrit term of the yoga tradition, second probably to the word “mantra”, both of which have been bastardized by the media. In India, many sincere teachers are connected to the country's vast spiritual heritage through lineage (parampara) in an unbroken transfer of knowledge extracted from states of supreme consciousness. These individuals become part of a monastic order (sampradaya) and take vows as a renunciate (sanyasi). They renounce materialism and dedicate their life in service of the teachings of their lineage.
All types of people are recognized as gurus; however, while some are focused on promoting spiritual evolution, others are appreciated on a more academic level. Some gurus are highly regarded for their lofty levels of consciousness and their knowledge with respect to the practical reality. One such person was Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, a powerhouse of consciousness credited for initiating the modern renaissance of Vedic culture while also leading an inspiring social movement. This movement encouraged the youth of India to reclaim the soft powers of yoga, martial arts, and other great Vedic arts to overcome colonialism. Another such a person was Rabindranath Tagore who was an author, poet, and educator.
Traditionally, a guru can either be married and regarded as part of the Brahminical caste, or a guru can be regarded as a sanyasi who renounces any material belongings, practices chastity, and lives a more secluded life in a monastery or ashram. Those who follow the monastic path can eventually become a Swami, one who has been initiated into the Swami Order of India that is linked to the Shankaracharya, the spiritual figure head. Dashanami Sannyāsins, ten-subdivisions, are associated mainly with the four maṭhas, sacred temples, established in four corners of India by Adi Shankara who reorganized an old heritage going back many millenniums. There are several stages of the monastic life before one finally becomes a sanyasi, one that has renounced attachment to the material world. This type of renunciation is also a metaphor that any aspirant can embrace by renouncing the idea that anything from the relative world will bring inner contentment or happiness. Generally speaking, the teacher-guru student relationship is the most sacred of the Vedic-Indic culture. Their relationship sustains the extensive and sacred Sanskrit literature of Vedanta and the other five main philosophical expressions, (shad darsanas) as well as all the many subbranches (Upa-Vedas) of the Vedas, keeping them intact, for thousands of years, until today.
As a result of the law of karma and rebirth, one’s biological mother is considered the first guru and reflects the deepest human bond which exists between mother and child. For many obvious and obscure reasons, it is a relationship that influences most people for their entire lives. Just as the moon is closest of all the major planets to the earth, so it is between the human mother and her child. However, the mother-child relationship is not always rosy and can sometimes reflect a difficult relationship between two souls in previous lives. For example, a husband who treats his wife poorly in one life, through either personal neglect or disloyalty to his so-called beloved, may in the next life be born as the son of a mother who abandons him. Through this and various circumstances, he creates a distant relationship with the mother. The way a relationship begins is not as important as what the relationship becomes; of highest karmic importance is where they end.
The sun, as the largest planet, is the most distant from earth, although all life depends on it. In the same way, the inherent nature of every human being propels a search for truth and happiness that may be distant, far from one’s current location on the evolutionary pathway. Happiness and fulfillment in life depends on the sun (soul connection) as the indwelling soul; this inner sun is often referred to as the Self or sva. The search for a guru has more to do with an inner process of awakening to higher consciousness by connecting to the soul, rather than with actually finding a person who will teach us everything we need to know about getting enlightened.
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Article published: September 2021
1 This prominent and pivotal figure left an indelible mark on modern history of India. His educational principles are still being practiced today and his poems became the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh. He was the Noble Peace prize winner for literature in 1913. The father of yoga in the west, Paramahansa Yogananda dedicated a chapter in his famous Autobiography of a Yogi to Tagore, entitled, “Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools.”
2 Swami Rama Tirtha, In the Woods of God Realization, Notebook VII (Swami Rama Tirtha Pratisthan, Lucknow, India).