Guru,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy

Lessons From a Drunk Spiritual Teacher

There is a story about a drunk spiritual teacher told in some tantra and wisdom traditions. For the purpose of this blog, I will paraphrase it and make it super westernized.

There was a student who was in line to take over the lineage when his teacher died. He had been studying with his teacher for over 20 years and had never once been invited to his teacher’s house….until now. He was super excited. He dressed up in his best clothes and picked the perfect gift for his teacher. Probably some prayer shawl made of unicorn tears. He knocked on the door. When his teacher opened up, cigarette smoke was wafting on the air. His teacher was drunk and reeked of alcohol. The student walked in and the house was a complete mess. There were liquor bottles, drug paraphernalia and half naked women everywhere. The student was horrified. He had dedicated his whole entire life to the teachings and the teacher only to find out that his teacher was not practicing what he was preaching. The teacher quietly watched the student’s reaction. Eventually, the student, looked at his teacher’s face and realized that after 20 years of practice, he was still the same reactionary, judgmental person he was when he first started. The End.

The story is not told to convince you to stay with a bad teacher. The purpose of the story is to show that life is a revelatory process. If you get caught up in your own victim hood and or self righteousness, you might miss the lesson.

In this day and age, everyone wants to be their own guru. Well, learning from what happens to you is the only way that self guru-ation is going to work.

In the story above, it is not revealed whether the teacher set up the whole scenario or if it is was real. It does not reveal if maybe the teacher had a life event that spiraled him out into drinking, smoking and sexing. It does not reveal whether the student quit practicing, told the world about the teacher’s debauchery or went on to be the lineage holder. I suspect that is because the lesson does not change. The lesson he needed to get from the scenario was the same no matter what choice he made.

In your righteousness, don’t forget your lessons.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *