By Nirooshitha Sethuram
Though my professional career was in banking, I’ve trained to teach yoga as a Certified Svaroopa® Yoga Teacher. Born in Sri Lanka, I was brought up in a yogic culture. I have always been interested in spirituality. While growing up, I studied the Hindu scriptures in school. On my own, I read many books on these ancient yogic teachings. I learned that they advise us repeatedly on the importance of the Guru on the spiritual path:
aachaaryavaan puru.so veda.h. — Chhaandogya Upani.sad 6.14.2 [v30]
Only through a Guru can you understand the Vedas. [translated by Swami Mukundananda in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita 4.34]
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna states the importance of the Guru:
tad viddhi praṇipaatena paripra”snena sevayaa
upadek.syanti te j~naanaṁ j~naaninas tattva-dar”sina.h. — Bhagavadgita 4.34
Learn the Truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him with reverence and render service unto him. Such an enlightened Saint can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the Truth. [translated by Swami Mukundananda, Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God]
Yet even though the scriptures talk about finding a Guru, I wasn’t interested in finding one. Then everything changed the first time I met Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. I knew that I was in the presence of someone who had an extraordinary understanding of the teachings of yoga. Her skill at explaining these deep and profound teachings was exceptional. I realized I had been engaged in a “do it to yourself” spiritual process. Just reading about the great yogic teachings couldn’t give me experiential knowing.
After meeting Swami Nirmalananda, whom we affectionately call Gurudevi, I didn’t just want to teach yoga. I wanted to live yoga. I am forever grateful. It was truly transforming. That’s when I realized that having a Guru is more than important. This relationship is essential.
If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest and make it to the top, would you do it on your own? No, you would need a guide. You would need to be with someone who knows the way and would guide you. Gurudevi is my guide for the spiritual journey inside. Every step of the way, she is supporting me in scaling the heights. Yes, that is why I became a disciple of my Guru. God’s greatest gift has been bringing me to the feet of my Gurudeviji.
Having a Guru is essential because the human soul is clouded by ignorance from countless lifetimes. We don’t know the truth of who we are. We don’t know our Divine Essence. We need to receive this experiential knowing from a Self-Realized being who embodies the Absolute Truth. One cannot overcome their ignorance simply by their own effort. A person’s self-effort is essential. But without Guru’s Grace, individual effort is like a bird with one wing.
I was captivated by Gurudeviji’s unique capacity for teaching. She enables us laymen to understand the high philosophies of the ancient teachings. Her delivery of these great teachings suits the century that we live in. As I grew up, I felt one attained Self-Realization — liberation — only after living righteously for many more lifetimes. It seemed unattainable in my current life.
When I heard Gurudevi say that you can realize the Self in this lifetime, she certainly got my attention. Not only does she say it, she also leads us by being a living example. I am grateful to Gurudeviji for being the light dispelling the darkness, For that, I bow again and again!