What does guru mean?

Posted by Jennie Lee

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Jennie Lee is a Yoga Therapist with 20 years experience teaching Classical Yoga & Meditation. Author of True Yoga: Practicing with the Yoga Sutras for Happiness and Spiritual Fulfillment. she is known for her humor and straightforward teaching style. She relies upon the wisdom of the Yoga Sutras to overcome difficulties in her own life, and is a compassionate coach for students who want to apply the deeper teachings of yoga to their goals and challenges on and off the mat. Her writing has been featured in Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, Yoga Therapy Today and more. She coaches on the island of O'ahu, and by phone or Skype internationally. Full Bio

What does guru mean?


Guru is a Sanskrit word that means “dispeller of darkness,” from gu, meaning "darkness," and ru, meaning "that which dispels." Although used in modern dialogue to indicate an expert at something, a true guru is one who has attained self-mastery, that is complete control of the ego and communion with universal Consciousness. Because of this state of realization (enlightenment), a guru is uniquely qualified to lead other spiritual seekers on their inward journey toward divine Self-realization. (Learn What Makes a True Guru.)

Just because someone is charismatic, knowledgeable in their field, or followed by a throng of devotees, does not make them a guru by the true sense of the word. Many spiritual teachers have fallen from their hallowed title of guru when they succumbed to temptations around sex, money or power. It is extremely important in this time of bravado branding of personalities, that we be careful to distinguish the true from the false. Only when someone is completely without egocentric, selfish motives can they possibly guide another from darkness to light of awakening. (Read about a real guru in Paramahansa Yogananda's Mission and Principles.)

Traits of a True Guru

  • Humble – They want nothing for their own gain, only the good of the student.
  • Honest - They are not seeking blind obedience or a cult-like following.
  • Peaceful – They are unflappable because their egos have no personal motive.
  • Kind – They exhibit pure, unconditional love and goodwill for all.
  • Respectful – They will never force their will on anyone or expect someone to renounce his/her free will.
  • Discerning – They do not use spiritual powers (siddhis) for show.
  • Compassionate – They work tirelessly and selflessly for the benefit of others.
  • Virtuous – They do not ask for adoration or sexual favors.
  • Self-controlled – They can enter the unblinking, un-moving, non-breathing state of samadhi at will. (Read on in How to Find Your Guru.)

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