|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 444 ]
A guru is essential on the evolutionary path. The word guru itself means "the one who dispels darkness."
Yes, we all do have within us wisdom and understanding of the highest truths. But that wisdom remains hidden beneath a veil of ignorance and worldly attachment. The guru teaches us that which we do not know. It is the role of the guru, the one who has clarity of vision and understanding, to help us lift the veil of ignorance and dispel the darkness which inhibits our ability to see these very truths within us.
The guru, I, or anyone else cannot step inside of your mind and supplant profound insight. I have passed, and will continue to relay to you in various forms and from differing angles, the wisdom of the ancient teachings of yoga. It is upon your sincere reflection of these things that understanding will eventually come.
In svadhyaya, this 'exploring of the self', you will uncover the ‘conditioned self’—the samskaras—the manufactured personality and the delusional biases with which you have come to see the world. It is the rooting out of base desires and the extinguishing of ignorance that the 'True Self' will be revealed.
Svadhyaya is the putting into motion or the practical integration of these teachings of yoga. Through our studies, we have begun to know what truth is. Through svadhyaya we take that knowledge and apply it to ourselves in order to remove ignorance and to evolve.
As we near the close of our introduction to the yamas and niyamas, you have no doubt begun to see the immense power of all these practices for uncovering the Self. It should be readily apparent to you that svadhyaya is not a practice that exists only in and of itself, but it is an integral partner of each and every yama and niyama. Without svadhyaya, how could we exhibit ahimsa? How could we adhere to satya?; How could we engage in sauca and purify ourselves in body and mind?
Thus, svadhyaya is the basic exercise for understanding the self, and understanding of the self is the starting point for improvement of the self. It is a primary tool for evolution. Through it alone one gains wisdom, which leads to the ultimate display of spiritual acumen in the ability to totally submit to the will of the Divine, our next niyama, Ishwara pranidhana.
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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