What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?

The hardest thing in life is to find a purpose. We are born with limbs and most of us are gifted with love from our caretakers. But we are born without purpose- no one but ourselves can give us that purpose. “What purpose?” you might be thinking. PMR is what I am talking about:

What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common

P- Purpose to live and keep living.

M- Being able to see meaning with all that life exposes us to and

R- have reasons to wake up and get out of bed morning after morning, after morning, after morning, after ...



There are times in my life where I feel so much purpose and awake with a smile each morning. Yet there are times when it all seems blurry and pointless and where getting up in the morning is a drag - I know you can relate to these feelings. The moments, when it all seems dark, is far from failure but rather an opportunity to reconnect with our PMR: life purpose, find meaning and reasoning to keep living.


And what does all of this have to do with ‘guru’? I will get to that shortly. But before, I want to look at the word ‘guru’ in more details.



What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?

Let’s look into the word guru, the supermarket part will come later. The word ‘guru’ is a Sanskrit word meaning teacher. There are many types of gurus, who are differentiated by their realization, function, style of teaching, and personal qualities. The function of the gurus is to, like a teacher, teach you to master a level/layer of self-realisation. Often it’s described that a guru is a remover of darkness (ignorance) and giver of light (knowledge).


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


Guru and Yoga 

Yoga is an initiatory tradition. Initiation is a “spiritual birth” of the practitioner by which his or her higher potential is made to come about quicker. This tradition of the initiatory teacher/disciple system dates back to the early Vedic period (4500-2500 B.C.). At that time, wisdom was transmitted by word of mouth. Those who studied and recited the texts were considered “learned.” It was forbidden to write down the texts like the Vedas. Education proceeded with oral instruction and strict memorization. This way of education was the responsibility of the guru/“learned”. Later on, texts were written down and the responsibilities of a guru took new shapes. Of course, texts and scriptures can not replace direct instructions and transformative presence of a truly realized master THOUGH texts are important and serve us the insights of realizers. This is why in anywhere in the world and in any traditions, texts and scriptures holds a central place and a serve as a key to knowledge to unlock wisdom.


At the time where knowledge was transmitted orally from guru to disciple, it often involved the student living with and serving the guru for a longer period of time. In this relationship, the disciple/student was under the care of the guru. But most likely the disciple/student accepted (I am unsure how voluntarily this acceptance sometimes was) a life of hardship and asceticism. Disciples/students were at that time expected to beg for food for the guru and first then find food for himself. Though the guru was expected to, as a swap, accept the karmic history (pieces of learning the disciples/students were to gain/experience in their life) of his disciples/students as his own. As a part of the training, the disciples/students were expected to give dakshina, a fee/token/gift to the guru for teaching the disciples/students. A guru would, at this time, have few disciples/students, perhaps a handful or less.


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


It all sounds good so far, but as we have more access to texts and scriptures, what have become of the role of the gurus?



I want to be real according to my own experiences and observations of gurus. Both from living extended periods of time in India and from the perspective of outside the land of India.

Spiritual realization is in no way bound by an institution, age, gender, race, or social status.

Despite the truth in that statement, currently one needs not to have wisdom or knowledge to share in order to obtain the status of a guru. Rather being the right gender (man), with a beard, a deep voice and an urge for authority are needed. Then one is even more likely to become a guru by either having (or able to mimic) an Indian accent (and a good portion of the money is definitely on the plus side). The gatherings, spaces and times of sharing created by this so-called “guru” (and the people around them) often leads to an environment that isn’t supplying the world with more light but rather they become longer periods of time where people (especially women) are exploited, mislead and hurt. There are plenty of examples of this, just by googling some of the big “gurus” names articles about scandals are almost inevitable, unfortunately. Why is that? And are we at all in need of gurus?



What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?



We do need gurus. If and when we sincerely engage with the process of self-transformation and self-transcendence, an inner sensibility awakens. This inner sensibility/wisdom helps us find a path of life where we are able to grow in and learn about spirituality. A living guru can, therefore, be regarded as an outward manifestation of this subtle inner principle/sensibility/wisdom. A person who then again guides us inward and shows us how to access and awaken the inner teacher. Yes, we do need gurus, but not the ones that are dressed in a specific way or that speaks with a certain accent. The guru we need, first of all, is within you and within me. That’s our inner voice that guides us (not the rude voice that constantly tries to take us down) but the deeper part of us, our gut feeling, our intuition.


We know that we are connecting with this part within each one of us when we have a deep experience of purpose when we are able to make meaning and see reasons. This inner voice is our guide for constant growth. I like to say that today’s perfection is tomorrow stagnation - the inner voice takes us on a constant journey of self-exploration and personal development.


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


Later, perhaps we meet with a guru, or a realised master or a person, whatever we choose to call this being. Alone on the path to enlightenment will not take us far. The path of realisation is not a lonely ride. For example and first of all, we all have so much going on around us and to silence the turbulent and turmoil around us to hear our inner voice, is a mission in itself where we all could need steady guidance. There is NO DOUBT: we must look around us to others for knowledge and inspiration to connect with wisdom. But just like it would be silly to read only one book in your life, over and over again, so it can be inhibiting to solely rely upon, trust and listen for advice and inspiration from one person, and really, this isn’t the idea of a guru either. Each guru you meet are able to unlock parts of your wisdom, and another guru another part. This is not to be confused with an unsteady practice!!





What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


But I truly see that a guru is here to set you free, to help your reach beyond THEIR OWN limits. Just like a piano teacher wish for their students to learn from him/her and then become even better - so a guru isn’t above you - a real guru has no followers because that person had been able to gift you his/hers knowledge and send you forth. A guru with lots of followers is holding us back pretending that they have reached some kind of enlightenment-limit.



But enlightenment isn’t a final or consistent state. If it was so, enlightenment would be the ultimate death, as there would be nothing to come after it. Enlightenment is the ULTIMATE LIFE and is therefore changeable and variable. Enlightenment is nothing like climbing to the top of the mountain and simply building a house there - thinking “done, now I see everything”. That is simply called deluded belief.



The presence of a claimed guru/master can be overwhelming. Telling the fake ones from the real ones can be a challenge. Therefore this isn’t the solution, to try and tell the fake from the real.



The solution is to stay in tune with your inner guru. A guru is first of all ALWAYS a student. Stay a STUDENT rather than a follower.


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?



What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common? HERE WE GET TO THE SUPERMARKET PART:


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


When we go to the supermarket and enter the fruit and veg section, we are drawn to the colours and deliciousness of the sweet fruit. The cherries look redder than ever before and the strawberries sweeter. We just have to pick up a package or two. Upon arriving home we notice that the berries don’t look as red and sweet as they did just a moment ago in the supermarket.


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


Why is this?!?


Because in the supermarket they installed light to make the veg and fruit look fresher and riper. They also spray water on them to make them look crunchy and freshly picked. As we arrive home we realise it was an illusion we were tricked into buying. In the same way, sitting with claimed gurus or masters we can often be tricked into thinking that they are wise, and perhaps they are, but sometimes its enough to be wise, and not necessarily a guru. In gatherings where the claimed guru is placed on a big white, soft-looking chair, lifted up, so we all can look up to him, he draws the pictures, we have entered his supermarket. He sets the light, the tone and draws the scenarios and tells the stories.


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


A story from my journey:

I was once in such a space, a guru’s supermarket. Here many things were said, will not as many as could have been in comparison of the time he took (ill come back to this in a bit). For example, he claimed that the practice of yoga was never needed before this “modern” society developed. He went on to say that (keep in mind this guru was from India) that farmers in India do not do yoga because they don’t need to, as they use their body in their daily life. I saw a whole room nodding along all thinking they got his point. But what he forgot to mention is that the average age of farmers in India IS SO LOW and that there’s a huge problem with farmers killing themselves as the only way to get rid of mortgage and leave their family with some money. It truly is a luxury to have time and money to do, practice and engage with yoga like many of us do. (Of course you do not need to be rich to engage with the practice of yoga, but perhaps it helps? Many of us travel to yoga destinations, take part in retreats, workshops or regular classes. Let’s keep doing this, let’s keep honouring our opportunities and share EVEN MORE!”)


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


And the guru went on to teach us the “right” way of moving. As he was showing us how to reach for an apple so you got a nice deep side stretch, and for sure, the stretch felt lovely, BUT I am 100% sure that no one has ever reached for an apple in that manner, yet at the moment the guru almost convinced me. He then when onto a  way of breathing called ‘scooping ice cream’, then I got confused, because when did people get a chance to scoop ice creams when living as hunter and gathers?? Or the farmers in India? I just can’t imagine that they scoop a lot of ice cream? And even now in his words “in modern life”, I feel like its a rare occasion you get the opportunity to scoop ice cream. Yet he got the whole room along and nodding to such silly things with NO BACKED up information or references. IT WAS HIS SUPERMARKET, he told the stories, decided the light and guided you on a path along isles.


What Is A Guru? And What Do Gurus And Supermarkets Have In Common?


Each afternoon this claimed guru would speak for 2 hours (after 1 hour of devotional music to him). In those 2 hours, he manages to cover less than NOTHING! Speaking in silly stories and riddles. As I sat there I was thinking of Tony Robbins's Instagram profile where he in less than 60 seconds says SO MUCH! This guru had no respect for his followers time, letting them, and that day also me, sit for hours getting nowhere. Tony Robbins would never hold back knowledge, not even for a pee-break or a lunch stop! YOU CAN’T PAUSE ENLIGHTENMENT



With a steady yoga practise, meditation practise or other self-contemplative techniques hold on to your inner teacher, be inspired and laugh with the people, gurus and masters around you, from whatever tradition they may be from, but remain a student!


You freaking ROCK!



“No one is ever really taught by another; each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion, which arouses the internal teacher, who helps us to understand things”

—Swami Vivekananda


“The guru is within the temple of my mind.

The guru is my wealth and affluence.

The guru is my body, mind and all.

The guru is my life indeed.

He is the donor of the whole Universe.

And he is Narayana Bhagavan.”

- Swami Satyananda Saraswati