Simple: How not to get suckered in by a false guru

We all know there’s a healthy history of false gurus, or fallen gurus, along the yogic path.

The docu-something Kumare looked at this. There’s been the whole John Friend issue. People slap the “cult” word on most anything different, including Ashtanga.

As I was traveling for work yesterday and reading old Namarupas on the plane and I read through a piece, titled “Guru” by H.H. Sri Swami Sivananda. As in Sivananda Yoga. And, as in Sri Swami Visnhu-Devananda’s guru.

It is in the Issue 11, Volume 04, from April 2010. It is all about the importance of having a guru — a topic close to many Ashtanga practitioners — and is well worth the read. You know where to find it.

Under the topic of how to choose your guru comes the following, which struck me as a very simple, and very good, litmus test for whether you have happened upon someone who shouldn’t be your guru (or probably anyone else’s):

He who is able to clear your doubts, he who does not disturb your beliefs but helps you on from where you are, he in whose very presence you feel spiritually elevated — he is your Guru.

It was especially the middle of that sentence, the part about not disturbing beliefs, that caught my attention. If a “guru” is throwing everything out of whack — telling you not to see family and friends, saying what you know or have been doing is all wrong — you might want to pause.

And reconsider the path you are on.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “Simple: How not to get suckered in by a false guru”

  1. I really like this post! I think a lot of people forget that a guru is still human. I think people have false beliefs about yoga teachers in that way too. Guru’s also make mistakes and are always still learning! I went to a great workshop about this once about how the guru isn’t meant to be worshiped, and the same issue was brought up that you mention here. The man who led the workshop said, the Guru should be a reflection of you and help to bring out your true self, but if the “guru” is trying to control you or telling you to jump into bed with him, then you still know right from wrong and when to step away.” That always stuck with me 🙂

    1. This part in particular: “What distinguishes a true teacher from an impostor? In the Presence of an Enlightened Being, one feels a tangible aura of love and tranquility. We can observe the equal treatment that all receive regardless of status or fortune, religion or race, from one immersed in Divinity. Each word and action of a true Master serves to awaken people spiritually. No trace of ego or selfishness exists in a Mahatma, who, with open arms, receives and serves all.” —Amma

  2. Steve – thank you I LOVE this post. Especially the quote you referenced from Sri Swami Sivananda – which I have not heard before.

  3. “Question: How can I make out whom to follow and whom to mistrust?
    Answer: Mistrust until are convinced. The true guru will never humiliate you, nor will he strange you from yourself. He will constantly bring you back to the fact of your inherent perfection and encourage you to seek within. He knows you need nothing, not even him, and is never tired of reminding you. But the self appointed guru is more concerned with himself than with his disciples.” ~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj excerpt from I Am That

    “Question: What are the marks of a real teacher (sadguru)?
    Answer: A steady abidance in the self, looking at all with an equal eye, unshakeable courage at all times, in all places and all circumstances.” ~ Be As You Are The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

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