Svadyaya … and the Need For Guidance
Svadyaya is the basic foundation of yoga and any path of personal growth. It is the “study of the self,” a delicate process that really is the only thing that will ultimately lead us toward positive change. It’s not an easy practice, to be sure, and it can also be filled with potential danger …
If we want to understand anything, then we have to study it. That’s true for math, music and medicine
… and it’s true for our selves too!
Studying our selves is the basic exercise for understanding our selves, and understanding our selves is the starting point for improving ourselves. Without a doubt, svadhyaya is a primary tool for personal growth.
The concept of self study, however, is a bit of a paradox. It implies a solo effort, which it absolutely is, yet at the same time we cannot successfully go it alone. You may have heard it said that a guru is necessary in yoga. That’s especially true when it comes to svadyaya.
Because if you are like most of us, when you ventured into yoga you probably had a very vague idea about spirituality, a foggy sense of what this life of ours is really all about, and little conception of the real nature of your true self.
It’s not your fault. These are weighty matters and not subjects that get much play throughout the course of our modern education. That’s why, in the beginning of the svadyaya process, it’s very important to have a knowledgeable guide to help steer us in the right direction.
But Isn’t the Real Teacher Within All of Us?
Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean that everything we think inside our little brains is true! One of the biggest hurdles to knowledge is delusion!
No, I’m not saying that you are a raving lunatic. I’m just saying that you are probably like the rest of us. You see things the way that you’ve been taught to see them, right from the days that you were in diapers onwards … and quite often those perspectives are a bit skewed. Sometimes they’re even warped way out of proportion!
Your inner teacher is in there, don’t get me wrong, but we have to uncover him/her first. If we simply ‘go inside’ without any guidance, then we’re much more likely to come up with a load of nonsense; with a bunch of jumbled up theorems made from stitched-together ideas, wishful thinking and partial truths … much of which is just a reflection of all our subconscious conditioning.
“look within, seek within. Seek knowledge of the self which can set you free from illusions and delusions of the ego, the ‘non-self’”
~ Swami Gitananda Giri
I see this so often in this time of “new-age” spirituality. We’re now living in an era where anything goes … it’s a spiritual free-for-all, so to speak, where everyone decides what their “own truth” is.
The principles by which many people are choosing to live their lives now are just as likely to be based upon beliefs that re-enforce some deep-seated attachments, ideas that allow them to continue to live in a fantasy world, rather than realizations of truths that can liberate them from it.
The question is do you want to waste time on an intellectual rollercoaster ride in spiritual fantasy land, or do you really want to find wisdom and greater understanding? … Because the two are far from the same.
The Need For a Guru
To be successful in svadyaya, this journey deep within, it’s important to be able to discern reality from fantasy. That’s where the guru comes in. The word guru itself means “the one who dispels darkness.”
“’Man, know thyself!’ is an ancient dictum often forgotten by even the sincerest aspirant.
True unity of spirit cannot come to one bereft of self-knowledge.
~ Swami Gitananda Giri
We all do have wisdom and understanding of the highest truths within us. But that wisdom remains hidden beneath a veil of mix-up ideas, lack of awareness, and heaps of personal attachments.
Throughout the process of swadyaya, the guru teaches us what we do not know and sheds more light on what we think we know.
The guru helps us lift the veil of ignorance and dispel the darkness which inhibits our ability to see the true wisdom that lies inherent within us.