by Jasmine Tarkeshi
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara,
Guru sakshat, param Brahma, tasmai shri guravay namah
“Our creation is that guru (Brahma-the force of creation); the duration of our lives is that guru (Vishnu-the force of preservation); our trials, tribulations, illnesses, calamities and the death of the body is that guru (devo Maheshwara-the force of destruction or transformation). There is a guru nearby (Guru Sakshat) and a guru that is beyond the beyond (param Brahma). I make my offering (tasmai) to the beautiful (shri) remover of my darkness, my ignorance; (Guru) it is to you I bow and lay down my life (namah).“ -Translated by Sharon Gannon
I first heard and chanted this sacred mantra at the Jivamukti Yoga School in New York City on Second Avenue around 1996. My roller coaster of a life had me once more longing for a deeper internal happiness that nothing I seemed to achieve externally, no matter how hard I tried seemed to fulfill. So, I found myself yet again at the feet of the wise, wonderful and whimsical Sharon Gannon.
As someone who never had much guidance in my life, I loved that I had found a Teacher who seemed to know so much, not about Yoga and the Universe, but who spoke to me about love, life and loss, and hauntingly seemed to know everything about ME! This is the Guru’s roll, to shed light on the true self, and show us the parts of us we want to see and those we don’t. Gu means darkness, and ru means light; the light that dispels darkness or ignorance. During times of darkness and doubt, she was that light.
“Guru is the remover of darkness: Gu means darkness, and Ru means remover. Darkness refers to what obscures the light of awareness. Guru is the enlightenment principal that aids one in the realization of the true Self, the whole Self, the holy Self. The guru removes avidya, or ignorance, which is a case of mistaken identity. It is when you think you are your personality, mistaking your body/mind container for who you are and ignore who you really are. It is when you feel separate from the whole.” Sharon Gannon
One day when I was in quite a bit of despair, I ran to class and to my disappointment she was not there! Instead, it was her fiery assistant, Dana Flynn. With my attachment to who I thought was my Guru, I would usually leave and not take class, but on this day I was desperate and stayed. Flynn started class with the Guru Mantra and I chanted along in perfect Sanskrit. Then she read the translation on the Mantra sheet and I got it! Sharon was even teaching me about my ignorance without even being there!
Not only was Dana an incredible teacher in a different form, and someone who continues to guide me to this day, but my whole life, family and difficulties themselves that I had been running from were my very Gurus!
I have had the honor to sit at the feet of the Great Yoga Teachers and Gurus, traveled to India to Ashrams and the Kumbh Mela but the Maha Guru Mantra has been my guiding light. It is what informs my practice, life and teaching. Life IS our highest teacher when we bow our heads in surrender of our egos with our hands in prayer to each moment, and throw ourselves in full pranam or prostration to every experience no matter how beautiful or terrible. We truly learn about life when we become quiet enough to LISTEN with an open mind and heart to the great wisdom being whispered behind the cloak of our daily interactions with others.
Like the great Sufi Poet and Saint Hafez says:
“How do I listen? As if everyone were my beloved Master whispering to me their cherished last words.”
“Life and Guru are inseparable. Your life is the Guru tatva (principle). Throw light on your own life. The wisdom that shines through your life – you need to honor, that is honoring the Guru. See, life has taught you so many things – what you did wrong and what you did right, and if you don’t throw light on your own life, then the Guru is absent. So reflect on your own life and honor the wisdom that life has offered you. That is honoring the Guru. Are you with me? It is serious stuff.” ~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
And Hafez says again:
“How did the Rose ever open it’s Heart and Give to the world all of its beauty? It felt the encouragement of Light against it’s Being Otherwise we would all be too frightened.” – Hafez
During December, the darkest month of the year, we honor and celebrate our Gurus, the incredible beings who have devoted their lives to awakening and share their inspiring stories and teachings to uplift and encourage us all to open our hearts and give to the world all of our beauty!
This is the practice of Svadyaya, Self Study through studying the lives of great beings and spiritual texts as cosmic mirrors reflecting and sparking our own Light and Truth.
The winter solstice is actually the turning from darkness towards the LIGHT. The 21st will be the darkest day of the year and then the days will start increasing in LIGHT!
So it truly is a time of Celebrating all the magnificent teachers, prophets, poets and saints who we discover have at some time, also been sinners as well as soul and rock and roll voices, authors, artists, madmen and women and pioneers of the Spirit that have inspired change and revolution!!
During this time of reflection before the new year, it is great to look back and honor every teaching we have received from our lives, our own parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, nature, the Great Mystery and yes, even our foes and difficulties to inform our choices and lives in 2014.
Join me on December 13th at 5:30 for an Info session for our Celebrated Teacher Training in 2014 to soak in Yoga’s timeless wisdom and awaken the teacher within you to share the teachings from your own living experience.
On Friday, December the 20th, give thanks and praise to all life’s experience during Solstice Kirtan and Join me and Astrud for our Annual Yogic New Year’s Eve of exhaling 2013 and Inhaling into 2014 with Intention setting, fire ceremony, Yoga, and singing and Dancing into the New Year.
Namaste and Love,