‘Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara Guru Sakshat Param Brahma Tasmai Sri Guruve Namaha’
‘Our creation is that Guru, The duration of our lives is that Guru, Our trials and hardships are that Guru. There is a Guru that is nearby and a Guru that is beyond the beyond. I offer all my efforts to the Guru.’
The Guru mantra is one of the most widespread and commonly chanted mantras throughout yoga studios in the west and in India. It’s a way of honoring our teachers and the teachings themselves. Here’s my understanding of this magical chant…
Guru Brahma is the lord of creation and represents all the times and moments of new beginnings and creation in our lives. Our parents are our original creators, and so they are our first Guru Brahmas. Guru Vishnu is the sustain-er, representing the stretches of continuity that make up our lives. Guru Devo Maheshwarah is Shiva as the dancer. This represents destruction and the hardships. The moments in our lives when something is ripped from us, relationships fall apart, when we are thrown into turmoil – even though these moments can be dark, the wisdom that dawns after and the ways in which we are able to grow as a result of these experiences make them essential to our lives and to our understanding of the teachings of yoga.
In this chant, we are honoring and recognizing these aspects of life as opportunities to learn. We are respecting the experiences of our lives as situations that can teach us. Learning to accept the darker moments as necessary parts of the cycle of life can make going through those moments easier. Before Brahma is able to create, Shiva has to destroy – and so on. When we can learn to view our darker moments in this light, we pave the way for transformation and new beginnings.