When the Guru is absolutely human

When we wrote about how the Guru doesn’t necessarily need to be right about everything (just about the teaching), we got responses on the post and privately that it is important to see the Guru as greater than normal, or superhuman.

We still fall to Eddie Stern’s way of thinking — that it is the teaching that is perfect; the Guru likely will show some human frailty, but we need to understand that that fault lies within the person, not within the teaching.

Chances are we feel this way because our teacher, Tim Miller, isn’t afraid to show off his own frailties, or put another way: his human side. And from our perspective, this helped to deepen the “guru-student relationship,” and not vice versa. Always curious to hear from others who feel differently.

This week — on the occasion of Fat Tuesday — we get another glimpse at the human side of Tim Miller:

For many years I have observed the tradition of giving up something for Lent.  This year I’m thinking of giving up giving things up for Lent, although it would be nice to be able to do some of those poses again that have slipped away over the winter—marichasana D, supta kurmasana, pashasana, tittibhasana, etc.  The list seems to get longer with each passing year.  One of my fellow teachers at the Ashtanga Yoga Center, Natasha Teran, is always after me to practice with her like we used to in the old days.  “Let’s do third,” she says, and I have to remind her that I am 63 years old and getting fat.  She tells me it’s all in my head.

Somewhere I suspect he’s hearing his own voice: “Avoidance is not the answer.”

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

4 thoughts on “When the Guru is absolutely human”

  1. “Whatever may be guru—-He may be a lunatic or any common person. Once you have accepted him, he is the lord of lords.”~Neem Karoli Baba

    “Finding a genuine guru is indeed a blessing. One must follow his advice unconditionally. While obeying the guru and treating him with reverance, one must not become attached to his personality. The true guru will naturally emphasize the fact that he is a mere vehicle of God and discourage personal veneration. It is the false guru-still in ego-consciousness-who permits the development of a personality cult.” ~ Sri Anandamayi Ma

    “Without trust there is no peace. You always trust somebody or other-it may be your mother or your wife. Of all the people, the knower of the self, the liberated man, is the most trustworthy. But merely to trust is not enough. You must also desire. Without desire for freedom of what us is the confidence that you can acquire freedom? Desire and confidence must go together. The stronger your desire for freedom of what use is the confidence that you can acqire freedom? Desire and confidence must go together. The stronger the desire the easier comes the help. The greatest guru is helpless as long as the disciple is not eager to learn. Eagerness and earnestness are all important. Confidence will come with experience. Be devoted to your goal-and devotion to him who can guide you will follow. If your desire and confidence are strong, they will operate and take you to your goal, for you will not cause delay by hesitation and compromise. The greatest guru is your inner self. Truly, he is the supreme teacher. He alone can take you to your goal and he alone meets you at the end of the road. Confide in him and you need no outer guru. But again you must have the strong desire to find him and do nothing that will crate obstacles and delays. And do not waste energy and time on regrets. Learn from your mistakes and do not repeat them.” ~ Sri Nisgardatta Maharaj

    “Question:Is a “living” Guru necessary?

    Answer: Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi:

    I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world’s destiny and worships him or does bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him onward. That Guru comes only to tell him, `That God is within yourself. Dive within and realize’. God, Guru and the Self are the same.

    Realization is the result of the Master’s (Guru’s) grace, more than teachings, lectures, meditations, etc. They are only secondary aids, whereas the former is the primary and essential cause.

    Guru’s grace is always there. You imagine it to be something somewhere high up in the sky, far away and which has to descend. It is really inside you in your Heart, and the moment, by any of the methods, you effect subsidence or merger of the mind into its source, the grace rushes forth,
    spouting as from a spring from within you.

    Contact with jnanis is good. They will work through silence. A Guru is not the physical form. Hence His contact remains even after the physical form of the Guru vanishes.

    After your bhakti to God has matured you, God comes in the shape of a Guru and from outside pushes your mind inside, while being inside as Self He draws you there from within. Such a Guru is needed generally, though not for very rare and advanced souls.

    One can go to another Guru after one’s Guru passes away.

    But after all, Gurus are one, as none of them are the form. Mental contact is always the best.

    Satsangh means association with Sat or Reality. One who knows or has realized Sat is also regarded as Sat. Such association is absolutely necessary for all. Sankara has said, “In all the three worlds there is no boat like satsangh to carry one safely across the ocean of births and deaths.”

    Guru not being physical, His contact will continue after His form vanishes. If one Jnani exists in the world, His influence will be felt by or benefit all people in the world, and not simply His immediate disciples. As described in Vedanta Chudamani, all the people in the world can be put
    under four categories: The Guru’s disciples, bhaktas, those who are indifferent to Him and those who are hostile to Him. All these will be benefited by the existence of the Jnani — each in his own way and to various degrees.

    From the book, Divine Grace Through Total Self-Surrender by D.C. Desai, Bhagavan read out the following quotations by Paul Brunton for our benefit:

    Divine Grace is a manifestation of the cosmic free will in operation. It can alter the course of events in a mysterious manner through its own unknown laws, which are superior to all natural laws, and can modify the latter by interaction. It is the most powerful force in the universe. It descends and acts only when it is invoked by total self- surrender. It acts from within, because God resides in the Heart of all beings. Its whisper can be heard only in a mind purified by self-surrender and prayer.

    Rationalists laugh at it, and atheists scorn it, but it exists. It is a descent of God into the soul’s zone of awareness. It is a visitation of force unexpected and unpredictable. It is a voice spoken out of cosmic silence – It is `Cosmic Will which can perform authentic miracles under its own laws’. In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru’s gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet, each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release.

    Each seeker after God should be allowed to go his own way, the way for which he alone may be built (meant). It will not do to convert him to another path by violence. The Guru will go with the disciple in his own path and then gradually turn him onto the Supreme path at the ripe moment. Suppose a car is going at top speed. To stop it at once or to turn it at once would be attended with disastrous consequences.

    ~ from the chapter ‘Grace and Guru’ in Gems from Bhagavan

  2. At the beginning of the relationship, teachers or mentors often get put on the pedestal. It’s common to do this. But, over time as you get to know the teacher better, you see the human side of them, that they are people like everyone else.

  3. I have never had the privilege of studying with Tim Miller (Ireland is a long way from California!!) but every time I read his posts I love him a bit more – I really hope I get to be in one of his classes or conferences one day…..

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