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30 July, 2015

Guru: The Journey and the Goal


       Guru purnima is an Indian festival dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers.  This festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, to pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude.  The festival is celebrated on the full moon day of (purnima) in the month of June-July which is the Indian national calendar and the Hindu calendar.


       The celebration is marked by ritualistic respect to the guru.  The guru principle is said to be thousand times more active on the day of Gurupurnima than on any other day.  The word guru is derived from two words, gu and ru.  The Sanskrit root gu means darkness or ignorance, and ru denotes the remover of that darkness.  Therefore, a guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance.  Gurus are believed by many to be the most necessary part of life.   
       On this day, disciples offer puja (worship) or pay respect to their guru (spiritual guide).  Guru Purnima is also considered an especially beneficial day to practice yogic sadhana and meditation. In addition to having religious importance, the festival has great importance for Indian academics and scholars  Indian academic celebrate this day by thanking their teachers as well as remembering past teachers and scholars.

       Vedanta declares that our bondage and suffering are caused by lack of right thinking and knowledge.  Therefore, we need to undertake the right inquiry to correct our thinking and become free from all bondage.  Since our bondage is caused by ignorance, it can only be dispelled by knowing arising from inquiry.  Right inquiry depends on the availability of proper tools/means of investigation.  The Upanishads, containing the Vedanta vidya [knowledge], or the Vedanta sastra [scriptures] are the right means for this line of inquiry.

Why a Guru?  The question and the Key

       But how do we understand the meaning of Vedanta sastra?  To unlock that wealth of knowledge, somebody has to give us the key.  Some locks have numbers or combinations, but if we don't know the right combinations, we will not be able to open them!  Even a standard lock requires the right key.  To unlock and gain the right meaning of sastra, we need a guru.  Further, the body of scriptures, with its countless statements, is like an endless forest.  We would get completely lost in a forest without the help of a native of that place who can lead us out.  Similarly, in a maze we won't know the techniques to get out, until a guide help us.  In the same way a guru is required!


Who is the Guru?  The preparation and Search

     First, we have to examine how intense is the longing for that knowledge.  The need for a guru will be determined only by how urgently that knowledge is wanted.  

       Therefore, Shankaracharya has said, "Intensify your desire and longing for knowledge, and when you have that, you will get appropriate guidance, according to your evolution, and according to your need."  At first you may need only some instructions and that will be enough for you.  But as you go deeper and deeper into your inquiry, when there is a real need for someone to guide you, when you need to sit at the feet of a teacher to learn, you will also get that!  So you don't have to go guru hunting.

Kinds of Gurus

       There are many kinds of gurus.  The word, "Guru" is defined by its Sanskrit root as "granti" - the one who teaches you."  We learn so many things from so many teachers.  While we know the teachers in various secular fields, we can also notice of that there are different kinds of teachers through the stages of religious practices [rituals] up to the spiritual search for the highest knowledge.  Let us take a closer look.  Many priests come to Hindu homes and do various rituals.  They guide us to perform special karmas with instructions and methods of worship.  The aim of this is the concentration and purification of our mind.  Such a priest then becomes an "upasana guru".  Thereafter, someone comes as a jnana Guru, one who enlighten you.  He teaches you what is Atma and what is Anatma and he may or may not give you a mantra.  Teaching can come to us in many ways.

How does the Guru Teach?

     It is said in Vivekachudamani that there are three things that are gained only by God's grace and that they are very rare:  One is a human birth, and having gained a human birth, to have the desire for liberation.  But the most difficult thing is to get protection and guidance from an enlightened person.  So a guru is required to guide us on this inner journey, but what does the guru do?

     We may have guru, but how do we gain knowledge?  In our scriptures (sastra) it is said, "A person who has a teacher, that person will know this Truth."  It is also said, "The one who has faith in the teacher and in scripture, that person gains knowledge."  Thus, when you get a teacher, you must have full faith in him, for it is only then that you gain that knowledge.  And you must look upon your teacher as God, he should not be taken as a human being!  In the scriptures, there are very clear instructions.

      "The Upanisad mantras reveal their true hidden meanings to that seeker who has supreme devotion to God and the same devotion for his guru."  A real seeker does not see the difference between God and guru.  But there are people who say, "This is all guru-worship.  These gurus want to be revered and therefore they say all this. There are so many teachers in all walks of life; in the same way guru is also a teacher and a human being.  So gurus are only human!"

What is guru's job?

       Now what is guru's job?  When a seeker, who has already passed through the states of karma and upasana, meet the guru, the guru's job is to give him the higher knowledge.  Karma and Upasana are the primary steps for purifying the mind and making it ready for higher knowledge and as the seeker is now of a higher caliber, he should be given the higher knowledge.  That guru must give him the knowledge by which he will realize the supreme Truth.  There are such beautiful mantras in our Upanishads:

"When a qualified student has reached the teacher, 
then the teacher should give him the highest knowledge."  

      The teacher then will not tell him to do any particular ritual for the student has gone beyond all that.  Receiving this Knowledge, this person reaches Truth.
Source: Article written by Swami Tejomayananda in Mananam Series.