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Shraddha and the Guru

Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara Guru Sakshat Param Brahma Tasmai Sri Guruve namaha

May I have the good grace to see the teacher in my creators, those helping to preserve my present life, and the lessons learned through calamity, illness, birth and death. May I become aware of those gurus around me all the time which may pass me by, and the teachers in those otherworldly forces I may not see or even understand.

The other day while explaining the meaning of the Guru Chant in class, a student in the front row of class asked gently, “excuse me, do I have to participate in this part of class? I’m Christian…”

I was glad that she asked this question since people coming to a yoga class for the first time, and in particular the Jivamukti class where there tends to be chanting and spiritual discourse, may be intimidated by references to Hindu Dieties, and talk about God, Faith and Spirituality.

Yoga in itself is not a religion. It may certainly co-exist and strengthen one’s spiritual beliefs, however, the yoga practice has no organized hierarchy of persons residing over a specific set of beliefs or rituals that one must follow to be admitted to the organization. The ancient texts of the yoga practice aim to aide the practitioner in understanding and attaining the state of yoga, and many of the western schools of yoga exist to keep these teachings alive through modernised methods. While there are books, schools and studios available to educate and bring structure to one’s practice, it is not necessary to read the texts or even to practice with a school of yoga to be a yogi. In fact, some of the great, enlightened beings have been self-taught or have even been born in that state (see Amma, Anandamayi Ma, Ramana Maharshi, Sai Baba-ji).

There is a sanskrit word shraddha, which translates loosely to faith, or as the great teacher Amma describes it “constant alertness arising from Love”.  It is with this faith that we can be open to the teachers as they present themselves to us in all their various forms. This faith enables us to believe in the teacher, as well as the teacher that we all have within us. This faith empowers us to become self-aware and to take responsibilitiy for our actions, particularly how we interact with and affect the planet and all its inhabitants.  In this context, yoga is a faith-based spiritual philosophy with limitless paths (sadhana) and unlimited possibilities for everlasting bliss and happiness (samadhi). It is the teachers in our lives – from our parents and ancestors, to those supporting us in our daily lives to those we may not even recognize as teachers at all – who help us to define our individual path and continue to evolve along the way. May we honor these teachers.

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