Guru. The word breezily made its foray into the English dictionary fairly recently, though the earliest references to the word “Guru” are found in the Vedic Scriptures of Hinduism. Etymologically, “Guru” means “who can dispel the darkness.”
The Hindu culture places a great deal of importance the role of the Guru in every person’s life. In fact, there are a great many mantras dedicated to the greatness and importance of the Guru. No other culture in the world has explored the relationship with the “Guru” in such depth. As he is the bestower of knowledge, India dedicates a special day called “Guru Purnima” to celebrate the presence of this figure in everyone’s lives, the night of the full moon dedicated to meditation upon the Guru.
So, who is a Guru and why is he given an exalted position in the Hindu culture? Here are 5 deeper meanings behind the unique idea of a Guru.
SEE ALSO: Making Better Choices
The Relationship with the Guru is Never Merely Transactional
Indian history carries several references to the “Gurukul” system of learning. A child around the age of 5 or 6 is completely taken under the wings of a knowledgeable teacher and it is under his auspices that the child spends their most crucial learning years. The child eats, sleeps, plays, learns, works and lives there. The payment for the Guru is not in the mode of tuition fees, but in the form of “Guru Dakshina”- meaning “A gift for the Guru.”
The most significant thing to note here is that the “Guru Dakshina” is often expected after the student has completed his training under the Guru, which can take years of care and nurturing. Also, the Guru Dakshina is presented as per the financial capacity of the student, sometimes left completely to the discretion of the Guru. Automatically, the real thing of paramount importance is the child’s learning and development and not the “fee” he can expect in return. It is this sacrifice that earns him the highest esteem.
The Guru’s Training Begins with Faith and Surrender
When a child comes under the wings of the teacher, the Guru becomes everything for this child. Even the parents are only allowed occasionally to check on the child. Parents are expected to exhibit faith and completely surrender to the judgement of the Guru in all matters pertaining to the development of the child.
Every child in the Ashram bows to the Guru in his presence, regardless of his own lineage. Whether he is a King’s son or a pauper’s, his status and privilege as the Guru’s pupil is the same as the next fellow’s. The Guru’s word is considered supreme and is never violated. In Hindu scriptures, it is believed that (self) knowledge comes to those who surrender themselves to the cause of learning. The Guru is someone who can command such unflinching faith from his pupils, because they are dedicated to the cause of imparting knowledge to the true seeker.
The Guru’s Training is Grounded in Gratitude
The Guru is considered the esteemed conduit of knowledge, something that is considered non-negotiable as a life goal. It is said that the debt of a Guru cannot ever be repaid, and the attitude of gratitude towards this “giver of knowledge” is ingrained in children from a very young age.
Today, several studies confirm that gratitude is a major secret to good health and a joyous life. It is for this reason that we can find many people simply touching the feet of their Gurus for blessings. It is a sign of humble acknowledgment that nothing they do in exchange for the knowledge the Guru has imparted can ever be enough.
All they can do is simply and openly ask for the Guru’s grace. The faith in the Guru is so deeply ingrained that even after the training has long ended, Indian pupils of great masters are seen openly or silently praying to their Guru( Guru Vandana) just before a public performance or undertaking a major challenge. Yes – on the dais, even today.
The Guru Takes Complete Responsibility for his Pupil
The simplest way to put it is to call him or her a “teacher.” However, the translation of this word to “teacher” entails great dilution of this very deep and significant role. The Guru is not merely a teacher, and definitely not in the same sense that the modern day teacher is perceived. He/She is someone who takes complete responsibility for your life, not just the responsibility for teaching you math or science.
The Guru is someone who is responsible for helping you understand yourself, in other words, they are the tool for your attaining self-knowledge. Oddly, even in a country like India, the only context in which this meaning for the Guru is somewhat practiced is when learning traditional Indian arts. The teachers in the school are not seen in a similar light, perhaps due to rampant commercialization of the education system.
Typically, the music, art or dance teacher takes great responsibility for the general well-being of the pupil, even if it is not in the “job description.”
The Guru Guides Us Into the Various Sources of Learning
Hindus believe that the first Guru is the mother, since the child shares the closest bond with the mother and many firsts of a child happen with her. The second Guru is the father.
The third is the Guru, and he takes it upon himself to introduce various other Gurus to the child.Even though the Guru is the principal teacher, they gently guide their pupils into learning from everyone: from Nature, from people around them, from their circumstances, from books, from social situations. The Guru understands that the most effective teacher is the self and hence meditation, self-control and other life skills are part of every kind of education.
They say, “When the student is ready, the Guru manifests.”
Who wouldn’t agree that everybody deserves a true Guru in their lives?
Latest posts by Devishobha Chandramouli (see all)
- What Is A Guru? 5 Deeper Meanings You Should Know Behind The Phenomenon - September 5, 2017
- Maha Shivaratri: What Shiva And His Symbols Mean - March 15, 2017