Thursday, July 14, 2011

Guruji: A few thoughts and a personal tribute

[Image taken from here]

I just watched this really engaging and insightful video that David Garrigues posted earlier today in honor of Guruji. In the video, David discusses the teacher-student relationship in yoga at some length, in his usual seemingly-off-the-cuff-yet-very-engaging style.

I became a full-time Ashtangi sometime in the middle of 2009, when I met my teacher in Milwaukee. It was also around that point in time that I started referring to Sri K Pattabhi Jois as "Guruji". Which is a rather strange thing to do, in a way, since I never had the chance to meet him; which is also why I had desisted from referring to him as "Guruji" before that point. "Guruji", as we all know, is a term connoting great respect and affection; how can I possibly have any great respect and affection for someone I have never even met?

This is a question that bugged me a lot (actually, it still bugs me a little now, if I allow myself to think about it too much). But in the last couple of years, I have become more and more comfortable with using the term "Guruji". There are a few reasons for this:

(1) Even though I have never met Sri K Pattabhi Jois and established any kind of personal relationship with him, I practice the method established by him and Krishnamacharya everyday to the best of my ability. I believe that through these efforts, I am able to gain some understanding, however modest, of the kind of person he was, and the work that he has done in this world. And since I practice this method everyday, I owe him a great spiritual debt, and it would only be appropriate to express this in some way.

(2) Even though I have never met Sri K Pattabhi Jois, I believe that I have established a powerful connection to him and his legacy by studying with people who have studied with him; people who have shaped, and continue to shape my practice.

(3) Towards the end of his video, David mentions that it is so important to have a teacher that if you don't have a teacher, it is important to invent a teacher in your head, so to speak, and dedicate your practice to him (these aren't his exact words, but I think I'm not too far off). In light of this (and in light of (1) and (2)), I happily dedicate my practice to Sri K Pattabhi Jois, without whom I won't be practicing whatever I'm practicing now. 

For these reasons (and probably others which have yet to occur to me), I offer this humble post as a tribute to Guruji. Thank you Guruji, for everything: For the joys, jubilations, pains, struggles, and sweat and tears that this practice has given me.      


  1. Do you know much about the history of "Guruji" as a name for Pattabhi Jois? I wonder how David Williams and other early Western students referred to him during his studies. And I suspect Indian students addressed him differently.

    "Guruji" feels very appropriate, but it also sparks a little curiosity.

  2. That was just lovely Nobel. I'll check David's video next.

  3. Hey Mike, I don't know much about the history of "Guruji", beyond the obvious etymology: "Gu" means darkness and "ru" means light, so that a guru is one who leads you from darkness to light. "Ji", as I understand it, is a common term of endearment, so that "Guruji" means something like "Dear or Beloved Guru". I'm under the impression that Indian students refer to their gurus as "Guruji" as well, although I could be wrong about this.

    Thanks sereneflavor. I hope you enjoy David's video as much as I did.

  4. I definitely have Guruji to thank for inspiring so many amazing senior teachers and their students who ultimately became my teachers. Everyone in this lineage have contributed to brightening my life.

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  6. Thanks for sharing, Yyogini. I feel the same way too. :-) I hope you will give mysore a try again soon.