What is the point of having a guru?

By Julie Bernier | Published: July 16, 2018 | Last updated: July 16, 2018

The purpose of a guru is to guide the student on their spiritual path. The guru is more than a teacher: he/she makes the student aware of their true potential.

Nearly every yogic text mentions the importance and necessity of a guru. The "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" instructs: “Yoga should be practiced in the way instructed by the guru” (chapter 1, verse 14). Here, “yoga” does not refer to asana, but to the entire process of spiritual growth.

A guru is the ignitor of the student’s sadhana, or spiritual practice. He/she is the illuminator of darkness. Broken down, gu means "darkness" and ru means "light." The guru’s guidance clears away the clouds that cover the student’s consciousness and keep him/her in a state of ignorance. It is through the guru’s own enlightenment that they can awaken the student’s consciousness, enabling him/her to see the luminosity and potential of his/her own spirit. Without the guru, the student may not ever know his/her full capacity for spiritual growth, nor how to achieve it.

(Related question: What does guru mean?)

The guru is not just a yoga teacher, and may not be a yoga teacher at all. His/her expertise does not matter; it is his/her ability to illuminate the student’s spirit that is important. Equally important is the student’s faith in the guru. Like a blind man being led by the hand of one who can see, the guru guides the student toward enlightenment through his/her own awakened spirit. The student must follow the guru’s instructions with complete trust; and through this trust, all of the guru’s guidance becomes fruitful.

(Read on for the answer to a related question: Do I need a guru?)


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Written by Julie Bernier | Registered Ayurvedic Practitioner. Certified Massage Therapist, and a classical hatha yoga teacher.

Julie Bernier

Julie Bernier helps women find wellness from the inside out. She lives and teaches the ancient sciences of Ayurveda and yoga, combining the two to help clients naturally restore their inner balance for lasting well-being. Julie has journeyed to India many times over to study this wellness wisdom at its source.

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