gauruiva-YNaugau-rudo-vaao mahoXvar: .
gauru: saaxaat\ prM ba`*ma tsmaO EaIgaurvao nama: ..
Gurur brhama gurur vishnur, gurur devo maheshvarah, guruh shakshat param brahma, tasmai shri gurave namah.
The Guru is
Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru is Lord Shiva. The Guru is
directly the supreme Absolute. Salutations to that Guru.
Namasté! I'm Mike Brooker (Keval) and you're not! Welcome to my "Guru's Gallery". On this page I offer some photos and information on the spiritual teachers who have guided me on this path since 1989. Since you probably came to this page by way of a link on my home page, or by an e-mail inviting you to visit this page, you know what kind of path I am on! :-)
Why do we need gurus? Mata Amritanandamayi explains the guru's role:
Once we know the particular shop from which we can purchase all our requirements, why should we wander among all the shops in the market? It is a waste of time and is of no use. In the same way, if we have found a Guru, we should stop wandering and do sadhana, striving to reach the goal.Yogi Amrit Desai (Gurudev) the former resident guru of the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA, developed and perfected Kripalu Yoga - a synthesis of traditional hatha yoga postures and seated meditation that he calls "meditation in motion". Amrit was born in Halol, Gujarat on October 16, 1932. After studying yoga for many years in India with his guru, Swami Kripalvananda, he came to the U.S. in 1960, not to become a guru but to work as an artist. By the mid-1960s he had abandoned his art career to devote himself to teaching yoga. Under his guidance the Kripalu organization grew from a few disciples getting together in his Philadelphia home and a small ashram in Sumneytown, PA to a multi-million dollar industry with thousands of devotees and trained Kripalu Yoga teachers worldwide. Kripalu was the "gateway drug" to my yoga addiction and Yogi Desai was my first guru on this path. I received initiation into the path of Sanatan Dharma and my Sanskrit name, Keval, from him in 1992. But he got the boot from Kripalu in October 1994 after admitting to having sex with several of his closest female disciples, including Kripalu's former CEO. Unlike many gurus, Yogi Desai was not a renunciate (swami). He was married, a father and a grandfather. But for many years he had preached strict brahmacharya (celibacy) and demanded it of all Kripalu resident staff. The revelations of his sexual indiscretions hit the Kripalu community hard - after more than ten years many devotees still have not healed, the Toronto Kripalu Yoga Centre never recovered, and there may even be lawsuits against him still pending or awaiting out of court settlements. While I don't condone Yogi Desai's actions, I am able to forgive him and am grateful for all that I have received from him. Yogi Desai seems like a choirboy compared to the sexual antics of some other gurus who abused their power after coming to the West, such as Swami Muktananda, not to mention ex-President Clinton! He has now permanently settled in Florida, where he continues to offer programs at his new home, the Amrit Yoga Institute. Legally he can no longer call his yoga "Kripalu", so he now calls his teachings "Amrit Yoga". He is once again back to traveling around the US to offer seminars, though of course he hasn't been anywhere close to Lenox 01240 since the coup d'ashram.
The Guru himself will come to the seeker. There is no need to wander in search of him, but the seeker should have intense dispassion towards the world.
A Guru is indespensible for a sadhak (aspirant). If a child goes near the edge of a pond, the mother points out the danger and leads the child away. In like manner, the Guru gives appropriate instructions when necessary. His attention is always on the disciple.
Even though God is all-pervading, a Guru's presence is unique. Even though the wind blows everywhere, we enjoy coolness only under the shade of a tree. Doesn't the breeze that blows through the leaves of a tree have a soothing effect on those who travel in the hot sun? Similarly, a Guru is necessary for us who live in the scorching heat of worldly existence. The Guru's presence will give us peace and tranquillity.
A real Guru desires only the spiritual growth of the disciple. Tests and trials are given for the disciple's improvement and to remove his weaknesses. A Guru may even blame a disciple for errors he has not committed. Only those who steadily withstand such trials can grow.
Even though one may come in contact with a Guru, he will be accepted as a disciple only if he is fit. Without Guru's grace, one cannot know the Guru. One who is really in search of the Truth will have humility and simplicity. The Guru's grace will be showered only on such a person. A person full of ego cannot have access to the Guru.
-- Mata Amritanandamayi, For My Children, San Ramon, CA: Mata Amritanandamayi Center, 1994, pp. 18-25.
Swami Sri Kripalvananda
(Bapuji) was Yogi
Desai's guru. Kripalu Yoga and the Kripalu Center are named after
him. His name means literally "the compassionate one" in
Sanskrit. Born in
Dabhoi, Gujarat in 1913, he was so frustrated at his lack of spiritual
as a young man that he made several suicide attempts before meeting his
Dadaji. After becoming a swami, Bapuji renounced all worldly
and travelled throughout western India, lecturing, writing, and
During one of Bapuji's visits to Halol in the 1940s the young Amrit
first met him and soon became his #1 student. In 1977, Yogi Desai
Bapuji to come to the U.S.A., and he spent 4 years doing intense
(10 hours a day) at the Kripalu Center, then located in Sumneytown and
Station, PA. Bapuji returned to India in 1981, because of failing
health, but also possibly because Kripalu was unable to secure a
visa or Green Card so he could stay in the U.S. permanently. I've
never met Bapuji in his physical body, as he attained mahasamadhi
(left his body, i.e. died) on Dec. 29, 1981. But I feel a strong
connection to him, especially after having visited the temple he built
in Kayavarohan, Gujarat, in 1995 on the anniversary of his
mahasamadhi. Bapuji was not
only a master of Kundalini Yoga, but also an accomplished musician and
Indian composer, who loved to chant and wrote many bhajans (devotional songs) in his native
Gujarati language. Read Bapuji's Introduction
Kripalu Yoga, courtesy of Pranayoga-la.
Bapuji's guru was Dadaji, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Although there was a teacher with a human body who instructed the young Swami Kripalvananda in the early 1930s in Bombay, Bapuji did not discover his guru's true identity until many years later when he visited Kayavarohan and saw for the first time this lingam (a represenation of Lord Shiva in his "formless" form) bearing the image of a meditating yogi, who appears to be holding a hand grenade and a stick of dynamite! :-). In an instant he recoginzed that his teacher Dadaji's true identity was in fact Lord Lakulish, the 28th incarnation of Shiva. Bapuji's vision inspired him to work to restore the ancient spiritual centre of Kayavarohan and build a magnificent temple as a permanent home for Dadaji. View photos of the Lakulish Temple on my India page. Dadaji is the great-grandfather of the Kripalu lineage, and Bapuji the grandfather, although there hasn't been much talk of a "lineage" around Kripalu since the Guru-gate scandal of 1994. The Kripalu Center is now more of a New Age retreat facility, health spa, or a low-budget Canyon Ranch, rather than a traditional ashram. The place is not even all-vegetarian any more!
! namaao Bagavato vaasaudovaaya
The LIFE Mission (Lakulish International Fellowship's Enlightenment) was established in 1996 to propagate the teachings of Bapuji and Dadaji throughout the world.
View some of Bapuji's compositions in Gujarati (with English
translations), on another of my "Keval's Korner" pages.
of Love Temple in Council Bluffs, Iowa was built by Leela Bruner, a
long-time devotee of Bapuji and Dadaji. Leela also offers CDs of
Bapuji's chanting, available by donation.
NEW BAPUJI BOOK!!
Pilgrim of Love: The Life and Teachings of Swami Kripalu, edited by Atma JoAnn Levitt, was published in 2004 by Monkfish. It's available from Amazon, and your friendly neighborhood mega-bookstores such as Chapters or Borders. ISBN 0-9749359-3-X. As a library technician, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Library of Congress and Dewey call numbers: BL1175.K68L38 2004 and 294.5092 respectively, from the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data - your actual library may vary!
Now on to the teachers who I might never have met if Yogi Desai's human failings had not been made public... Yogi Desai always said he wasn't perfect anyway!
Baba Hari Dass (Babaji), a
master of Ashtanga Yoga and the spiritual inspriation of the Mount Madonna Center in California and the Shri Ram orphanage in Haridwar,
U.P., took a vow of silence in 1952 and has not spoken a word ever
since. He communicates only by writing on a chalkboard.
This verbal silence is a process which gradually quiets the mind and
eliminates unwanted thoughts. While this concept may be initially
difficult for most of us to understand, and extremely difficult for
many of us to practice, the example of Baba Hari Dass is ample
expression of the potential for peace that lies within each of us as
the result of spiritual discipline and devotion to helping
others. Each summer, from the 1970s until 2003, Babaji and his
devotees would lead an Ashtanga
Yoga retreat in the
Toronto area. That's me with Babaji, at the 1998 Ashtanga
retreat. He's the one with the beard!
Om Shakti Narayani Amma is revered by his devotees as Narayani, an incarnation of the Divine Mother. Having a y-chromosome is no hindrance to being a manifestation of the Divine Mother. Some of his devotees even call him "her", using the female pronouns as if he were a she! Born in 1976, he (she?) is still quite young as gurus go but is beginning to attract a following in India, Sri Lanka, as well as in Canada and the U.S. One of his siddhis (psychic powers) is to manifest small murtis (icons) of various deities in the palms of his hands. At left is an Amma bumper sticker. The Tamil text in the upper semi-circle is the address of Amma's ashram in Tamil Nadu: Om Shakti Narayani Siddar Peedam, Vellore, 632055. (Indian zip codes have six digits, one more than the U.S.!) The lower semi-circle says "Malaikodi Thaaye Makkalai Kaappay" - Malaikodi (mountain dwelling) Mother, please save us. "Malaikodi" comes up quite often in Ammah's bhajans, though I'm not sure which mountain is being referred to. Thanks to a devotee in Switzerland, Ramadas Mannatil, who e-mailed me the Tamil translation!
the resident Sanskrit teacher and Vedic scholar of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Saylorsburg, PA and two Arsha Vidya Gurukulams in
India - one in the north (Rishikesh) and one in the south (Coimbatore).
The word "Arsha" means that which is from the Rishis - the great
seers of ancient India. The word "Vidya" means knowledge. Thus, Arsha
means the knowledge flowing from the Rishis. A Gurukulam is a centre
learning a guru's teachings. Swami Dayananda has been teaching
(the truth revealed by the Upanishads at the end of the Vedas) for over
years. He teaches Sanskrit according to the Paninian system
by the ancient grammarian Panini in the 4th century B.C. I would
call him my "Sanskrit Guru". In only one week at the Arsha Vidya
Gurukulum in Pennsylvania in July 1997 I learned the basics of Panini's
classical Sanskrit grammar (or at least I got the hang of the sandhi
Bhagavati Sri Sri Sri Vijayeswari Devi,
is revered by her devotees as an incarnation of
Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge, Music and the Arts. She was born
on the final day of Navaratri, a nine-day celebration honouring the
Divine Mother. Offering her love and blessings to all who
approach her, she says "Come one foot towards me. I will come a
thousand feet towards you", speaking in non-metric terms for her many
American devotees :-) As might be expected
from an incarnation of Saraswati, she speaks excellent English and
bhajans in a sweet, melodious voice. Her current projects
the construction of a hospital
in her home state of Andhra Pradesh and a "Peace Village" near Bangalore, Karnataka. Construction of the
Peace Village, which was scheduled to open in January 2000, was delayed
because local landowners were demanding high prices for their land and
access road. Non-violent, peaceful resistance - just as Gandhi
And last but definitely not least...
Although I haven't been searching for one and only one guru in the years since Yogi Desai's resignation from Kripalu, since 1997 Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi; Amma) has come close to being my "favourite" guru. A native of Kerala, she maintains an ashram in that South Indian state, as well as a center in California. Ammachi had no guru of her own, and received very little formal education even by Indian standards. But from an early age she exhibited bhavas (divine moods) in which she merged into the forms of Krishna and the Divine Mother. Ammachi is an embodiment of the Divine Mother's unconditional love, who is so well known for her hugs that she is nicknamed "The Hugging Saint". She hugs every devotee who comes to her for darshan (communion with a deity or guru). Sometimes she can hug thousands of devotees in a single day or night - she often stays up all night just to give hugs! Her devotees stay up all night with her, chanting bhajans while waiting for their hugs. Her hugs can bring healing, a spiritual high, or just a feeling of being loved and nurtured that you might not have experienced as a child from your biological mother. Ñaan amme snéhikkunnú. That's "I love you, Amma" in her native language, Malayalam.
Ammachi came to Toronto for the
first time in July 2004. It was one of her largest programs
India - more than 7000 hugs in one sitting (without even pausing for a
drink of water or taking a bathroom break!) Ammachi's Toronto program has since become an annual
mid-July event. Karunamayi came to Toronto in 1998 and '99, but
I had to wait a long time for her to return to the 416/905. A
planned visit in June 2006 was canceled due to
immigration snafu's (apparently someone on Karumamayi's tour, perhaps
one of her swamis, was denied a visa to enter Canada - could have been
anything from a jaywalking ticket to a narcotics conviction), but in
June 2008 she finally did return to Toronto for two public programs at
the Ganesh Temple in
Richmond Hill. Visit my "Ammachi
vs. Karunamayi" page, in which I compare and contrast these two
embodiments of the Divine Mother.
prmasauKdM kovalaM &anamaUit-ma\ WnWatItM gaganasadRSaM
ekM ina%yaM ivamalamacalaM sava-QaIsaixaBaUtma\ BaavaatItM i~gauNarihtM sad\gauruM tM namaaima ..
Brahmanandam parama sukhadam, kevalam jñana-murtim, dvandvatitam gagana sadrisham tat twam asyadi lakshyam; ekam nityam vimalam achalam, sarva-dhi sakshi bhutam, bhavatitam tri-guna rahitam, sad gurum tam namami.
the Sadguru who is the embodiment of the bliss of Brahman and
the bestower of supreme happiness, who is one-without-a-second,
knowledge personified and beyond duality, who is like the blue sky, and
is indicated by Vedic statements such as "thou art that"; who is one,
eternal, pure, immovable, the witness of all thought and intelligence,
beyond all states of being and beyond the three gunas, the
forces of Nature (sattva, rajas, tamas - purity, passion and
©1999-2008, Mike Brooker. Updated
July 7, 2008. Reproduction of this page in whole or in part without
express written consent is strictly prohibited, even if your guru says