A Perspective: On Guru
om ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
chakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my guru, my spiritual master, opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.
The word Guru is extensively used around the world nowadays, and often misused, unfortunately.
Who is a Guru? What is the necessity of Guru? What are the qualifications an ideal Guru should have? What is Guru’s position and significance? These questions are rarely discussed helping to boost the “ease of doing business” in the name of religion and God.
Let us understand a bit about Guru on this Guru Purnima.
Who is a Guru?
The word Guru is made of two syllables Gu and Ru — gu meaning Darkness or Ignorance and ru means to dispel darkness. So Guru is someone who brings his disciples from darkness to light — ignorance to knowledge.
We often use the word guru as a replacement for the word teacher. The refined vocabulary of Sanskrit gives us a clear understanding of the various kinds of teachers, listed in the image below.
The word guru also means “heavy”. A guru must be heavy with knowledge and must not be perturbed with worldly difficulties.
What are the qualities of an ideal Guru?
How do we know that someone is a Guru? Generally, we consider a person wearing saffron robes and/or having a long white beard to be a Guru XD. But what is the test?
Let us consider this — when someone claims to be an engineer, the first thing we check for is their degree and alma mater. Further, if you wish to hire them, you check the many other qualifications they may have. In the same way, we need to have a similar process for choosing and approaching a guru.
Well, the scriptures of Sanatana Dharma mention various qualities necessary for one to qualify as a Guru. The 13th century Sri Vaishnava saint and literary giant Swami Nigamaantha Desikan (Vedanta Desika) compiled an exhaustive list of such qualities into a beautiful verse in his Nyasa Vimsati.
सिद्धं सत्संप्रदाये स्थिरधियमनघं श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्ठं
सत्त्वस्थं सत्यवाचं समयनियतया साधुवृत्त्या समेतम् ।
डम्भासूयादिमुक्तं जितविषयगणं दीर्घबन्धुं दयालुं
स्खालित्ये शासितारं स्वपरहितपरं देशिकं भूष्णुरीप्सेत् ॥ १॥
siddham satsampradAyE sthira dhiyamanagham SrOtriyam brahma nishTham
sattvastham satya vAcam samaya niyatayA sAdhu vruttyA samEtam |
Dambha asooyAadi muktam jita vishayi gaNam deergha bandhum dayaaLum
skhAlityE SaasitAram sva para hita param dEsikam bhUshNureepsEt ||
Let’s understand the 14 qualities mentioned in the verse:
(1) siddham sat sampradAyE —One who is well-versed in an established tradition as taught by Acharyas of a bonafide sampradaya. Sampradaya is crucial here, know more about sampradayas here.
(2) sthiradhiyam — One who has a strong mind and stable views.
(3) anagham — One who is blemishless(in thought, word, and deed) — spotless and pure. The purity must be such as to purify all those who come in contact with them.
(4) shrotriam — One who is well-versed in the Vedas and their teachings.
(5) brahma nishta — One who is absorbed in the contemplation of the supreme being — deeply attached to the Lord and who lives, moves and has his being in Him.
(6) satvastham — One who is dominated by sattvaguna to
the total exclusion of rajoguna and tamoguna. (It is sattva
guna alone that helps one to achieve what is good for him
and to others.)
(7) satyavAcham — One who ever speaks the truth and truth alone.
(8) samaya niyatayA sAdhu vrittyA samEtham — One who possesses
good conduct as per the pure tenets.
(Vritti means, means of livelihood and also conduct. Samaya means time or occasion and also a siddhanta or school of Philosophical thought. The way
the Acharya has to conduct himself must be in tune with the times and also with the code adopted by the righteous.)
(9) dambhAsooyaadi muktam — One who is totally free from arrogance, jealousy etc. Humility must be the hallmark of an Acharya.
(10) jita-vishaya-gaNam — One who keeps under control the senses prone to go after worldly pleasures.
(11) deerghabandhun — One who is an all-weather friend and guide for
those who seek his/her shelter; Always seeks the welfare of those
who have sought his refuge both in this life and the next.
(12) dayaalum — One who is ever full of mercy and compassion.
(13) skhaalitye shAsithaaram — One who checks and corrects the students
on seeing them swerve from the right path.
(14) svaparahitaparam — One who is a selfless thinker and doer of what is good for the whole world.
These are the 14 qualifications we need to look for in a Guru.
This is all for today. Further, you may have some more questions like “What is the necessity to approach a Guru?” and “What is the process to approach a Guru?”. Well, the scriptures speak thoroughly about these questions and I hope to discuss them on some other day.
Please feel free to respond with your thoughts and highlight your favorite points and show your appreciation through claps. You may read some of my other writings here.
Thanks for reading. Cheers!