The profound function of Guru in Life and Yoga

Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Mark Whitwell
6 min readNov 4, 2020

The universal method of all humanity’s wisdom traditions is the mutual affection between two actual people. A Guru is no more than a Friend and no less than a Friend. This is the heart of yoga.

~ Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell | Yoga Guru | Heart of Yoga
Mark Whitwell

When you practice Yoga daily for yourself, your presence in your community becomes a source of nurturing, healing and empowerment for others because you develop the kind of strength that can receive another. To be received is to be loved, and in love Life flows robustly. Relieved of trying to be something you are not, your simple presence frees others to feel relief from the patterned roles of the usual life that interact with each other in endless complication. You stand free in your natural state. So others do too. Meanwhile you fit a practical yoga to everyOne’s personal needs. That is participation in the natural state and all polarities of the natural state. These Yogas throw out of your system all the imposition of societies pre scripted patterns of limits and leave you in the given wonder of life as it actually is. Reality as it actually is.

We could call this the guru function and it is a completely natural phenomenon of Mother Nature. Culturally it has been the predominant form of egalitarian societies for thousands of years. It particularly flourished from the 5th to the 14th Centuries in the period of the Tantras among all religious and language groups throughout India and Tibet. This was a time of profound male female collaboration as obvious equals and opposites. A time before spiritual transmission was thought to be delivered in hierarchy. And a time before male dominance was invented as normative institutional and social behavior. After the 14th Century in Asia priesthoods abstracted and claimed exclusive access and agency to indigenous Shamanic powers that had been available in folk life for millenniums.

The word guru is deep in the traditions. Guru means “heavy”. It is an important function of two people coming together. However, a mess has been created around it since the 14th century and in modern times due to male orthodoxy’s denial of the feminine and the natural world, intimacy with life has been removed from humanity. Both from the ancient “forrest dwellers”, true communities of the natural indigenous world where transmission of spirit was the whole point, and from personal intimacy of one to another.

Depolarized spiritual power structures disassociated from women in the utter Union of the natural state, are inept and destructive. Not being on the solid ground of Life itself, the impulse to manipulate others in some way or another inevitably arises. Exploitation of the public and individuals one to the other became the normative patterns of societies.

So we need the teaching function in all towns and cities everywhere. The teacher is the function of mother nature’s nurturing in local community. It’s a “heavy” thing to be in the transformative fire of relationship with another, and collectively we haven’t been given the skillful means to do for centuries and it is still avoided. Both in personal and public domains. But an actual relationship between two actual people is how Yoga works, and it must be there. That is the predoctrinal Yogas of participation in the given reality. Not the doctrinal search for future realization proposed by male orthodoxy. These systems were used only as instruments of public control and man’s heaven has created a hell of this abundant paradise.

There are only three qualifications to teach yoga:

1. first, you have a good teacher yourself, so you know first hand what the function is.

2. Second, you practice yourself, so you are in the direct embrace of Life yourself.

3. Third, you care about others because you know what it is to be cared for by your own teacher.

You know what it is to love, and you too will be a heavy intervention in a person’s life, should they ask you to be. Or even know of the phenomenon, so that they can ask. This is enough. You are enough.

To be a teacher is the most important job there is.

It is to pass on wisdom culture.

It is to love everyone.

It is to demonstrate absolute respect for every individual.

It is to empower each person with the tools of the Yoga Tantra adapted to individual needs.

It is to give the Yogas of participation in reality itself.

It is is also the most difficult job there is because it ends the karmas of society, vulgar patterned roles that interact with each other in ever complex presumption of social disease and obstruction. These are blindly presumed to be real rather than the reality context of Life itself… the Power of the cosmos that brought us all here and presently sustains us.

The childish and adolescent reactions to life dramatized in patterns with parents can be projected on to teachers in unconscious attempts at reparenting or just the unconscious perpetuation of patterned limit. The teacher must have forbearance in this human process. To suffer the limitations of another is to love. Patience, tolerance, compassion, are the signs and qualities of a teacher.

Or so called teachers can exploit the patterns, which is a universal pattern of limit itself. There is a mass pathology in the world of people wanting to be a teachers. To be wise, to be a knower is a disguise of fearful people who want to control their social circumstance to strategically stay separate and controlling of others. Teachers should always be kept at arms length for a while to make sure they are not afflicted with this pathology.

However the intervention of an actual teacher is regarded as a necessity in Yoga. It is a necessary intervention, a catalyst of change to the automatic patterning of limit that a person is born into. Yet the concept of Guru has been dreadfully toxified in the West and in India over recent decades. One thing is clear that the patriarchal imposition of the teacher as an authority, a know it all, even a knower, has led humanity a stray. The Guru is “no more than a friend and no less than a friend.” Not a social identity, not even a personal identity, but the “force of nurturing”. We need our Gurus! We need real teachers who are educated in Yoga. Who hold the practical means… of Yoga that empowers each individual to be intimate with their own reality and in the male-female intrinsic power, harmony, nurturing that is life. This could be you!

Most teachings are just imposition of patriarchy creating doubt in humanity. The concept of patriarchy’s “perfect person” implies that everyone else is not perfect. It has created the mess that humanity is in.

So I repeat. “Always hold the teacher at arm's length”. But if you find a good teacher you are lucky. It is grace and arises naturally in life like all other gifts or siddhis. You cannot make it happen, either as a student or a teacher.

Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell | Yoga Guru

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.