Sunday is Guru Purnima - the full moon in the Hindu month of Ashad, and the day to give thanks to the Guru.
It would have been Pattabhi Jois's 95th birthday.
The mother is the first Guru, of course.
In yoga, the Guru is the one who dispels darkness on the path to Self-Realization.
"It is great fortune to find the Guru in this lifetime, to be blessed with the spiritual knowledge and be fully charged with the aura and grace of a preceptor," says Chandra Om.
Says Swami Sivananda, "The spiritual path is beset with many obstacles. The Guru who has already trodden the path will guide the aspirants safely and remove all sorts of obstacles and difficulties. A personal Guru is therefore necessary.
"There is no more powerful way of overcoming the vicious nature and old Samskaras in the aspirants than personal contact with and service to the Guru. Guru’s Grace will, in a mysterious manner, enable the disciples to perceive the spiritual power within, though it is impossible for the Guru to point out God or Brahman to be this or that.
Initiation Transforms the Mind
"Initiation (Diksha) is not a mere change in outward forms. Real change of mind and clear vision and understanding come to the aspirant after the initiation by a Brahmavidya Guru. Many students, according to their own fancy, select their own method of Sadhana without considering the consequences. Improper diet, wrong Sadhana without a proper guide, hard and foolish austerities on a weak body, torturing the body in the name of Tapasya, have entirely ruined many aspirants. Therefore a personal Guru is necessary to give timely instructions according to the change of seasons, circumstances and progress.
"The grace of a Guru is necessary. That does not mean that the disciple should sit idle. A Guru can clear the doubts, show the spiritual path best fitted to the aspirants and inspire them. The rest of the work will have to be done by the aspirants themselves. It is foolish to think that one can have all Siddhis (psychic powers) and Mukti from a drop of water from the Kamandalu of a Mahatma or a Yogi. There is no magic pill for attaining Samadhi. It is mere delusion to think so."
I've had the good fortune to be in the company of (or sit in the audience and hear) several great Gurus:
Sri Dharma Mittra
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
The Dalai Lama
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma, the hugging saint)
Thich Nhat Hanh
Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji
Carol Ann Marticke
But you can commit to only one.*
Here are some of my favorite books about the search for the Guru, and the Guru-disciple relationship (all of which are available at the library):
Ramakrishna and his Disciples by Christopher Isherwood
My Guru and His Disciple by Christopher Isherwood
A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton
Radha: Diary of a Women's Search by Swami Sivananda Radha
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
Dharma Mittra: A friend to All by Chandra Om
So.... what should you do to honor the Guru?
From Swami Sivananda:
"Wake up at Brahmamuhurta (at 4 a.m.) on this most holy day. Meditate on the lotus feet of your Guru. Mentally pray to him for his Grace, through which alone you can attain Self-realisation. Do vigorous Japa and meditate in the early morning hours.
"After bath, worship the lotus feet of your Guru, or his image or picture with flowers, fruits, incense and camphor. Fast or take only milk and fruits the whole day. In the afternoon, sit with other devotees of your Guru and discuss with them the glories and teachings of your Guru.
"Alternatively, you may observe the vow of silence and study the books or writings of your Guru, or mentally reflect upon his teachings. Take fresh resolves on this holy day, to tread the spiritual path in accordance with the precepts of your Guru.
"At night, assemble again with other devotees, and sing the Names of the Lord and the glories of your Guru.
"The best form of worship of the Guru is to follow his teachings, to shine as the very embodiment of his teachings, and to propagate his glory and his message."
From Sri Dharma:
"If you have a Guru, the most important thing is to copy them. Mimic their posture, move your head and your body the way they do. One day a long time ago, Yogi Gupta noticed that I was copying his body language, and he said, 'That's the secret.' That's how you learn."
You may also chant this simple mantra:
Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwaraha
Guru Saakshat Para Brahma
Tasmai Sree Gurave Namaha
(Guru is verily the representative of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He creates, sustains knowledge and destroys the weeds of ignorance. I salute such a Guru).
More Guru Slokas here.
*NOTE: If you want a Guru, pray for a Guru. Then, you should watch the person you have chosen for some time before taking initiation, because initiation means total obedience to the Guru and a relationship that spans lifetimes. It is a bond more sacred than marriage, and it is the aspirant that must do the work; the Guru just leads the way. And remember: A real Guru will usually deny it.