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July 23, 2005

Honoring the Guru

Mysore, India

The yoga shala was closed this week to celebrate Guruji's 90th birthday. It was a grand affair held in a huge local hall with over a thousand people in attendance. This year has added significance for me, as it is the 10-year anniversary of my first visit to Mysore. My first trip to Mysore was in 1995 when Guruji celebrated his 80th birthday. I remember it being such a special time because, just like this year, many, many of Guruji's longtime students made a special trip to Mysore to celebrate his birthday. It is incredibly heartwarming and inspiring to be amongst so many accomplished practitioners and teachers (Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, Lino Miele, John Scott, Eddie Stern and so many others). It was evidently clear that everyone in attendance had such love and devotion for Guruji. There is no doubt about how deeply and how powerfully Guruji has touched the lives of his students and just how much good has come out of his life's work.

For those of us who have been experienced the life changing power of this practice, there is a special urgency to honor it's place in our lives. Each of us can express our gratitude, respect and appreciation in many different ways. For me, I do that by returning to Mysore time and time again to deepen my practice to and to remind myself just how precious and powerful this place and Guruji's teachings are. I also continue to find ways to honor the goodness in me that has resulted from this practice and to continually look for new ways to deepen and expand that goodness (changes in attitudes and daily practices which include scriptural and Sanskrit study, mantra recitation, acts of charity and kindness). I also express my appreciation and love of the Ashtanga practice and for Guruji by teaching this practice to others in a fashion that is as faithful to the method as Guruji and Sharath has taught it themselves as is possible. Each of us, when we undertake the gift of this practice, become responsible for maintaining as high a level of integrity to the practice as possible. There truly is great power in this practice and it is very important that that power is not abused or misused. Each of us must look deeply into our hearts and soul’s to determine just what that means and to act accordingly.

In the end, this practice is all about the realization of our highest potential as human beings. As such, we must always be on guard not to lose sight of what is truly important or to get lost in the delusions of our own ego and sense of self-importance. This is not an easy task and inevitably we all will fall prey to the machinations of these darker and more immature aspects of ourselves. That is precisely the gift and the power of great teachers like Guruji. They are a constant reminder of what it means to stay true to your Self. At the same time, it is not enough to rely solely on the teachers we have blessed with. We must also find ways to connect with the highest aspects of our Selves in as many ways as possible. This is the power of visiting holy or sacred places, of studying scripture, of the numerous practices and resources that are at our disposal.

So let us not simply celebrate Guruji and what he represents on his birthday alone. Let us find the multitude of ways to celebrate and strengthen the highest levels of our Selves each and every day of our lives.

OM Shantih!

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