Krishnamacharya was struggling. With a steadily dwindling number of students, his campaign to promote yoga was going nowhere. He had a family to support and his only source of steady income was now under a threat. Krishnamacharya faced a critical decision. Should he compromise and secure his income or should he stick to his values and all that he stood for?
In many ways a guru is different from a teacher. A teacher’s personal life is divorced from what she teaches. A history teacher need not worry that her personal decisions have any bearing on what she teaches. A guru on the other hand has no such luxury. A guru is a guide that shines light on the path to God. A guru’s life is an example and what he/she says has to reflect in his or her actions.
In the early 1900’s hatha-yoga (the yoga of postures) was on the decline. Krishnamacharya’s guru had asked that he make it his life’s mission to promote and popularize yoga. Krishnamacharya had accepted this challenge and had plunged head long into this task. But this was an uphill battle to wage for a single man of limited means living in a remote corner of the world. Krishnamacharya’s brilliance lay in the fact that he understood that his battle was not external but internal. His struggle was not in trying to make others follow what he wanted, but in mastering himself so that his life would be an example for others. He had to become a guru.
Let us jump back to Krishnamacharya’s story taken from A. G. Mohan’s wonderful book. In the 1950’s Krishnamacharya was teaching yoga in a college in Chennai. At this point in his life the income he earned from this was vital for him. However there was a difference of opinion with the management of the college on how he should be conducting the class. The management told him that he should change how and what he was teaching, and if he did not comply his service would be terminated. Rather than compromise Krishnamacharya responded, “Very well then. I will have more time for my own practice!”
This is a small incident but illustrates what goes into the making of a guru. Most of us at this point are thinking, “The burden of being a guru is too big to bear. Thank God I do not have to carry this burden!” Unfortunately for those of us who are parents or guardians, we cannot wish away this burden. A child’s first gurus are always its parents.
A quote by Robert Fulghum is appropriate to end this post. “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
Related: The Story Of Yoga