YJ Asked: Is The Age of Gurus Dead?

Yoga teachers and scholars offer insights about the role of traditional, long-term student-teacher relationships amidst scandals and social media.
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Yoga teachers and scholars offer insights about the role of traditional, long-term student-teacher relationships amidst scandals and social media.
guru

Is there a role for traditional, long-term student-teacher mentor relationships amidst the proliferation of yoga scandals and social media yoga icons? Yoga teachers and scholars offer their insights.

Schuyler Grant
, Director of Kula Yoga Project, NYC, and Co-founder of the Wanderlust festival, Brooklyn, New York:

"In a time of unprecedented individual empowerment and skepticism in the mind-body community, any curious practitioner has a wealth of resources at his or her fingertips. Modern seekers can craft personalized spiritual practices, often under the guidance of multiple master teachers. While the age of the guru is six feet under, the true guru will never die. At the end of genuine spiritual inquiry, the answer is always the same: The guru is you."

See alsoMy Guru, My Self

Andrea R. Jain, PhD, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis:

"The age of the guru is alive and well, although the entrepreneurial guru has replaced the traditional guru. Modern gurus convince people to choose yoga as one part of a self-development program to achieve something specific, such as fitness. Surrender to a guru is not necessarily different from choosing a brand, such as Apple, because of a deep trust in its products. Gurus have evolved to fit into contemporary consumer culture."

Guru Rattana, PhD, Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Teacher, San Diego, California:

"When Yogi Bhajan was alive, he added 'guru' to the name of some of his students he felt were destined to teach and help people evolve to higher consciousness. A teacher gives you techniques, and then you have to practice them over years of self-study. But a lot of people may find it easier to idealize a teacher than to do the work themselves to attain self-realization. If we pay exclusive homage to a person, belief, idol, or symbol, we will never find our inner authority and our inner guru—Peace and Love, which are eternal."

Eddie Modestini, Director of Maya Yoga Studio, Maui, Hawaii:

"Although I say the age of the guru is dead, I do so with some sadness. I valued my relationship with my guru. He taught me more than how to practice yoga—he taught me how to live yoga. A guru can take us from darkness into the light, but studying with one comes with lifestyle restrictions that don’t fit into the modern yoga experience. The dogmatic approach of the guru may not be the only path to finding oneself. We’ve lost tradition, but we’re seeing practitioners try new things, and the emergence of amazing, innovative teachers."

See alsoEddie Modestini's upcoming online course Vinyasa 101: The Fundamentals of Flow

Radha Garcia, Founder, Boulder Bikram Yoga, Boulder, Colorado:

"The concept of “guru” is often misunderstood. A true guru invites us to believe in ourselves. In 1994, I found a study of hatha yoga through Bikram Choudhury that was so specific and healing that it saved my life. He never professed to be an incarnation of God or to give religious instruction. Rather, he taught a technique. Regardless of Bikram’s personal 'fall' from guru, I am proud to guide my students the way I was guided. In this way, I believe the age of the guru still lives."

See alsoAfter the Fall: The Ripple Effect from Accusations Against Bikram + Friend

Something on your mind? Send us your questions to start the discussion at letters@yogajournal.com.