In Defense of Gurus – Part 1

kumare2Unless you’re a yogi who’s been living in a cave (which you’re not because cave-dwelling yogis are so passé), you’ve noticed, and perhaps support, a renewal of calls from the collective voice of modern yoga to banish, once and for all, the institution of ‘guru’. This is understandable: in the last few years many modern yoga ‘gurus’, and some presumably traditional ones, have betrayed the trust of those who placed their faith in them. The revelations of abuse and duplicity have been sufficiently flagrant and injurious as to inspire the assumption that anyone who claims to be a guru is really a wolf in guru’s clothing.

We have high standards for gurus but low expectations of people: we think a ‘real’ guru must be a flawless embodiment of supra-conscious morality and that no one is actually capable of such perfection. After all, we’re not: why should we think anyone else is. Our idealism crashes headlong into our cynicism and we conclude that there is not now nor has there ever been a ‘real’ guru so throwing the ‘guru’ out with the bath water will ensure that we won’t get ripped-off by smooth-talking Svengalis offering rose-colored promises in exchange for blind obedience.

With such reasonable doubts in mind, critical thinking about whether or not there’s a place for the traditional guru/disciple relationship in modern yoga is obviously a good idea. In considering the question the first issue that needs to be addressed is one of criteria: what are the qualifications for being a ‘guru’? [Read More…]