A yoga teacher acquaintance once said rather dogmatically to me that it was not possible to be a true yoga teacher unless one had a guru. He meant having a guru in the traditional sense — being devoted to a particular person as the embodiment of the divine and of the true teachings. I did not engage on the issue, thinking (perhaps unfairly) that he would not listen to another point of view.
I do not have a guru in the technical sense. It would be unlikely. I was raised attending unprogrammed meetings of the Society of Friends (Quakers), where services are premised on the idea that there should be no preacher or minister because the light of the spirit shines equally in all and that each person is equally able to connect through his or her own faith and practice to the spirit. My first major exposure to the teachings of yoga was through the writings of J. Krishnamurti, which a teacher in an alternative program in high school I attended gave us to read, along with the classic yoga texts. Krishnamurti believed that all change comes from within and eschewed devotion to a guru.
Although I do not have a particular guru to whom I give my devotion (bhakti), I strive to honor and recognize that our true teacher is the light and spirit that is within all beings. The first line of the Anusara invocation — om namah shivaya gurave — resounds with truth for me.
On this guru purnima, the full moon of July, I honor the teachings that have so shifted my life, my teachers, especially John Friend and Suzie Hurley, and all of my students and friends, who shine with light always, and who inspire me to try each day to live more aligned with the ideals of yoga.