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Guru-Shishya Relationship

The Guru

In the context of Yoga and spirituality, a Guru or a Master is a spiritual teacher or guide who possesses deep knowledge and wisdom in a particular tradition or path. The word “Guru” is derived from Sanskrit, where “gu” means darkness or ignorance, and “ru” means remover or dispeller. Therefore, a Guru is one who dispels the darkness of ignorance and leads the seeker towards spiritual enlightenment or light. 

A Guru is someone who has walked the path of spiritual growth and realisation themselves, having attained a deep understanding and direct experience of the teachings. They serve as a source of inspiration, guidance, and support for their disciples or students, helping them navigate their own spiritual journey. 

The role of a Guru goes beyond imparting knowledge and techniques; they offer personal guidance, support and often serve as a living example of the teachings they espouse. They may provide instruction in various aspects of Yoga, meditation, philosophy, and spiritual practices tailored to the unique needs and progress of their students. 

A Guru-disciple relationship is built on trust, respect, and mutual commitment. The Guru provides guidance, while the student approaches the teachings with humility, openness, and a sincere desire for self-realisation. The Guru helps the student uncover their own inner wisdom, encouraging them to explore and experience the truth for themselves. 

It is important to note that the Guru is not worshipped as a deity but rather revered as a spiritual guide. The Guru’s role is to point the way, offer teachings, and provide support, but ultimately, it is the responsibility of the student to integrate the teachings and embark on their own spiritual journey. 

The Guru-disciple relationship is deeply rooted in the traditions of Yoga and has been upheld for centuries as a means of transmitting spiritual wisdom from one generation to another. However, it is essential to approach the search for a Guru with discernment, caution, and an open heart, as finding the right Guru is a deeply personal and transformative journey. 

Yogic culture outlines six different types of relationships between the Guru and the Shishya(disciple). Yoga emphasizes that in all these types of relationships, it is of penultimate importance to be connected to divinity. It is the knowing that you are the self and the master that concludes that I am in the infinite space. This is the highest knowledge that one can reach step by step or get this knowledge in one stroke through the Guru’s grace, for it is the Guru that makes you learn or unlearn – unlearn by discarding what does not serve your growth and learn what supports your growth.


This is the most basic kind of relationship where there is no divine connection between you and the Guru, but yet you learn something from the Guru. This can be best understood from this statement – “I salute the wicked ones first, as they taught me what should not be done, before the wise ones”. This shows that this kind of learning can come from anyone, as by experiencing the outcomes of their actions the aspirant can learn what to do or not to do. In this kind of relationship, the Guru may teach or refrain from teaching based on an assessment of whether the student is worthy of the time spent.  


In this case, the relationship borders on the divine and yet is not so divine. Since there is no close bond between the Master and the student, the student lives in his own world and sometimes steps in and out of the relationship, thereby getting the occasional benefit of learning from the Guru.


In this kind of relationship, there is a connection mixed with different types of emotions – sometimes joy, sometimes sorrow. In this kind of relationship, the student often finds him or herself questioning one’s faith. The shadows of doubt often give rise to many other questions, thereby affecting the learning.


In this kind of relationship, there is still a gap between the Guru and the student. They are not in perfect sync, but there is understanding. There is an effort from both, the Master and the disciple to understand each other’s point of view. Sometimes the student chases the teacher to teach him, which causes them to connect. At times, it is the Master who recognizes the greatness of the student and vice versa.


Here, the Master and student share a great relationship. They don’t see the shortcomings in one another. No imperfections in the student can the Master see and vice versa. Their minds are merged as one. There are no questions, one just radiates energy and bliss, soaked in wisdom and joy.


Here, the Master and student are not two but one (Sohum). This relationship can be expressed as “Thou is that that is thou”. You don’t differentiate as to who is the Guru or the student; they are just one. This is the highest form of relationship that an aspirant can aspire to.

How do I find my Guru?

Identifying a Guru is a deeply personal and transformative process. It requires careful discernment, introspection, and an open heart. It is often said that when the student is ready, the Master will appear. Firstly, one needs to have a clear understanding that the Guru is the one who is going to take you from where you are to where you want to go, someone who can take you from the known and the familiar to the unknown and the unfamiliar. Each individual aspirant will connect to a different Guru, based on where they are in their growth, and one they can relate to at that stage of development. Each one has their own needs and aspirations. So also, the path they choose to move forward will depend on what brings them to take the journey. Therefore, understand that you need to identify a Guru who you connect with and feel motivated to follow. Remember, finding a Guru is a deeply personal journey, and it may take time and exploration. Be patient, listen to your inner wisdom, and trust the process. It is essential to approach the search with discernment, seeking a genuine Guru who can guide you on your spiritual path towards self-realization and inner transformation. Trust in divinity to guide your way.

Here are some considerations to help you in identifying a potential Guru:

A genuine Guru embodies and teaches the principles and values that resonate with your spiritual path. Evaluate if their teachings align with your beliefs, values, and aspirations.

Look for a Guru who demonstrates authenticity, integrity, and transparency in their actions, words, and interactions. Trust is essential in the Guru-disciple relationship, so ensure that the Guru's character and conduct align with their teachings.

Explore the Guru's spiritual lineage and qualifications. A Guru with a respected spiritual lineage and a solid foundation of knowledge and practice can offer deeper insights and guidance.

Establishing a personal connection with a Guru is important. Attend their teachings, workshops, or satsangs if possible, and observe how you resonate with their energy, presence, and teaching style. Trust your intuition and inner guidance.

Consider the practical aspects of the Guru-disciple relationship, such as geographical proximity, availability for guidance and support, and compatibility with your lifestyle and commitments. Assess if it is feasible to establish a consistent connection and receive regular guidance.

Seek testimonials and recommendations from individuals who have studied under the Guru or have experience with their teachings. Hearing about others' experiences can provide valuable insights into the Guru's effectiveness and impact.

Reflect on your own commitment and readiness to embark on the Guru-disciple relationship. It requires dedication, humility, and a willingness to surrender to the Guru's guidance. Assess if you are prepared to honor the responsibilities and expectations that come with this relationship.

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