Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Parambrahma
Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha
The guru is Brahma, the guru is Vishnu,
The guru is Shiva.
The guru is nearby and the guru is everywhere.
To the guru, I offer all that I am.
This manta, it's a doozy. The teacher is Brahma, the creator. The teacher is Vishnu, the preserver. The teacher is Shiva, the destroyer.
Gang's all here.
What I love most about this mantra is how it's literally always relevant. It can be applied to almost any circumstance. It can be a reminder that everything is temporary and that “this too shall pass” when we face hardship. It can also be a reminder when things are going well that we should learn to appreciate the ease because it will also pass. It shows us that life is cyclical (the triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva of birth, life and death) and we don’t have to get too attached to any one way of living because it can all change in an instant. We are constantly learning from our teachers, our friends, our experiences and from ourselves. I know I, personally, need all the reminders I can get that change doesn’t have to be scary, it can just be something you learn from, good or bad. And that every day we do the best we can with what we have.
I also think this is a really unifying mantra because if we understand that we’re all constantly learning from our life experiences, our backgrounds, our families and our current situations then that can build empathy. And honestly, if there's one thing this would could use more of right now it's empathy.
Everyone has their own unique experience. If we are learning from everyone and see everyone as a “guru” then we begin to see ourselves in others, and that kind of interconnectivity with other humans can only be a positive thing in this time where it feels like we're more divided than ever.
This mantra says that within every single instant there’s a chance for us to learn and I love that because it means that as long as we’re open and receptive we can find spiritual growth anywhere. Simply living becomes the teacher and that sort of access can be the great equalizer. You don’t need to have the money for a yoga retreat or a certain amount of physical strength to receive knowledge from a guru because the guru is all around.
The reminder to keep a “beginner’s mind” is also really important because I feel like I, and many others, get really caught up in nailing the perfect-looking yoga pose or having a nice apartment or the right juicer or the right brand of yoga pants that we forget that none of that really matters. It’s how we get there that matters a lot more than where we’re going. It’s a reminder to set our egos aside and learn from one another and learn from ourselves.
There’s so much in this mantra to contemplate, including that the guru could be in ourselves. We’re informed by our experiences and how we react to them and how we react to other people. Whether it’s listening to our bodies in yoga class, listening to another person explain their experiences, or even just observing people on the subway or in line for our morning coffee, if we’re really present we can take all that in and remind ourselves that every moment is an opportunity to learn and grow.
We don't need the trendy yoga mat, the hottest new mushroom elixir, the crystals, the self-help book, the esential oil, the meditation retreat or the juice cleanse to tap into our spirituality and grow as humans. We just need to be present.