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What is Guru?

"Guru" is a word that has come to mean something different than its definition would otherwise imply.  It is a word that connotes that which is heavy and must be borne, like the weight of a late term pregnancy, or the obligations a head of household owes to their family.  It connotes a difficulty that must be accepted: as we must accept that we cannot see some things without a lens. It connotes impetus, the effect or shaping which cannot be avoided during profound interaction, or impact, whether physical and natural as snow striking trees in an avalanche, or psychological in the friendships and enmity we share with others.

From these meanings, it has been applied more broadly: the spouse, parents, and other loved ones of another cannot be known by direct familiarity, but are evident in the people we do know, for they have been shaped by the profound depth of those familiar relationships.  It has come to connote the respect you would show someone who is the head of your household, you are their burden, and they are your support; this bond cannot be broken.  It is the respect you have for one who has impacted you positively or negatively - they have very much become a part of yourself, and this bond cannot be broken.  Guru is a capital city, a capital letter, the longest vowels, a chieftain, the first among equals, great, utmost, superior, large, extensive, that which exemplifies a violent excess, devoid of moderation and mediocrity.  It is the meal that is difficult to digest, which sits extensively in the stomach or intestine.  And, in more modern times, it has become applied to those who would teach - for by teaching, they actually learn.  And with double-meaning, especially to a particular sect of "heads of household" (Swamis).

There are hundreds of kinds of teachers in Yoga, and especially in Sanskrit: far too many to list.  There is the Krishti who cultivates knowledge in themselves and others, the Ijya who is the merchant of knowledge, the Karanika who is capable of judging whether something is correct. And so forth.  But none of these are, truly, a "Guru."  Among the hundreds of kinds of teachers, there is made further differentiation: there are those who teach this or that, who specialize in technical skills, or pure knowledge, or even in particular methodologies - there are even those teachers who have the ability to teach how to teach.  There are those who teach by example, those who lecture, those who teach by socratic interrogation, those who teach by attacking and criticizing, those who teach by taking what is improper away, those who teach by giving what is lacking.  A teacher can be an enemy, or a friend, or someone who is indifferent.  And among so many kinds of teachers, there are instructors, masters, apprentices of greater or lesser degrees, there are those who are practiced, and those who are trained, those who are informed.  But none of these are a Guru.

The object of a teacher must necessarily be to cease their teaching.  The object of learning must be to learn how to learn.  The lessons of Yoga are such that you must necessarily teach yourself to learn.  And you learn that only You can teach your Self.  It is a fact that by teaching yourself you understand the truest nature of your self.  This is why "Guru" is the source and inspiration of the knowledge of the self: the nature of reality is determined by the seeking of one who seeks it.  Reality has no innate nature, and cannot be known until knowledge is conceived.  

The seeking, the seeker, and that which is sought is co-conditioned: thus, we always will find what we are looking for.  It is vitally important to be unbiased and detached in our search for knowledge.  In seeking a teacher, you will find what you are looking for.  You will find yourself.  You will find all your teachers inadequate, and eventually, learning only from yourself, find yourself inadequate as well.  You will discover your bias, and come to understand the truest nature of reality - and yourself.

Who do you seek for when you come to doubt yourself?  How will you give up your attachments to confidence, and be comfortable with degrees of uncertainty?  Western science has already caught up to the eastern in this sense: it is undeniable that perfect certainty is neither possible, nor desirable.  The line between fiction and fact must remain blurred.  It is a difficulty which must be accepted: we cannot see accurately without a lens obscuring our vision.

Therefore, the sacrifice of a guru is most important to learn: necessarily, you must give up your teacher, as you would turn close the back cover a book. You must excel, and exceed, your teachers.  You must exceed your own humanity.  The purpose of seeking a teacher is to not require that teacher anymore.  Do not lose sight of your goal, but let it guide your studies.

Om! Mahamuni. Svaha.  What is "Siddha Artha" but the skillful accomplishment of your own goal.  You will know a great teacher when you see one, they embody your Dharma.  You will know sufficiency when you see it.  You already have the capacity to judge whether something is correct, Karanika.  You already have the capacity to obtain knowledge from those merchants who peddle it, Ijya.  Or to obtain it directly, by cultivation, Krishti  Who will give you a mantra to sing, when you already break into song so freely? What mantra will you sing? And when will you be quiet in it? Who will train your knowledge into skill, Siddhi?  What will give you Siddhi, but your Self, through practice and training?  For what purpose do you seek Siddhis, except contentment, Riddhi?  Are you not capable of self-contentment? 

Class ends. Practice ends. Training ends.  What is the end, the purpose, of this study?  Embody the Dharma, and perform duties of sacrifice.  When you have become a better human being, a Brahmin, perform your duty and perform sacrifice.  Sacrifice is the using up, the giving, the sharing of something - the exchange for something better.  Self-sacrifice, and you will find it is insufficient to merely be a better person.  A Guru takes sacrifice to extremes.  A guru uses (up), gives (up), shares (into infinitely small parts with everyone).  This you can do too, if you truly understand the nature of self and reality.  The best teacher does not teach anything which the student does not already know.  It is insufficient to study, it is insufficient to teach, it is insufficient to perform the Dharma.  The Dharma itself must be given up.  The Vedas must fall silent.  Sacrificing must be sacrificed.  Only in this ending can something truly wonderful be begun.