An acquaintance once asked, “Wasn’t Elvis Presley’s life a tragedy?” The question opened a floodgate of memories. My relationship with Elvis Presley had begun in 1956. As a teenager, listening to Elvis’s music was one of my first experiences with meditation. Every time I listened intently to his music I felt happy–so happy in fact, that I began to associate Elvis and his music with my happiness. As Paul McCartney similarly observed, “I always knew that no matter how I felt, if I played an Elvis record it would make me happy.” Because of this experience, over the years I continued to freely give my attention to Elvis Presley.

For me, Elvis had charisma. To some extent, each of us has experienced the power of charisma. When someone has charisma, we feel an overwhelming, magnetic attraction that demands our attention. But from a yogic perspective, it’s interesting to question the karmic purpose of such a phenomenon. What is to be learned from an individual who commands our attention, our love, or even our anger?

Before responding about the tragedy or non-tragedy of Elvis’s life, I began to process some memories of him from the unconscious portion of the mind known as chitta. Because I had given Elvis my attention over the years, I actually knew quite a bit about his desires, choices, achievements and some of the painful consequences he experienced–many of which appeared to result from serving the passing pleasure of ego or sense gratification (preya). Elvis Presley was obviously a generous and loving man, yet many of his actions were not in harmony with the guru in the cave of my own heart. Observing all this, I knew that as a yoga scientist, Elvis Presley’s life was not a tragedy for me. Because I had been attentive to Elvis’s life, I was able to receive many important lessons that instructed me what to do–and what not to do. Yes, even Elvis can be a vehicle for guru.

In order to be open to the ever-present light of guru, in whatever form it may appear, each of us must be willing to be as innocent, open and non-judgmental as a child. When the outer guru reflects the truth of the inner guru, the advice is to be heeded and served. When a suggestion from the outer guru is not in harmony with the inner guru, as reflected by the purified buddhi (conscience), the advice is to be honored, respected and lovingly rejected, with gratitude–for your teacher has just taught you what not to do.

It’s all so very simple. Logically, it must be simple. In order to be available to every human being on an equal basis, the pathway to Happiness must be the common denominator, and that common denominator is pure consciousness–awareness within. You don’t have to be of a certain race. You don’t need a high school diploma or college degree, or to be the follower of any particular religion. You are merely asked to be awake, like every great sage, to hear and to serve the wisdom of guru in mind, action and speech.

Excerpt from The Heart and Science of Yoga: A Blueprint for Peace, Happiness and Freedom from Fear by Leonard Perlmutter. Available September 7, 2005.