The Standing of a Guru
A Guru is a teacher or a preceptor. However, the ancient Indian culture equates him to God. Somewhere he is hailed as ‘Lord Brahma without his four heads, Vishnu without four hands and Shiva without his three eyes, and thus as the ultimate reality in the human form.’ Gods have reinforced this grand standing in the form of Dakshinamurthy, an avatar of Lord Shiva and Dattatreya, a combined incarnation of the supreme trinity of Gods. These two remain as shining examples of divinities themselves manifesting as Gurus.
The Role of a Guru
The term itself carries a profound meaning, as ‘the dispeller of darkness.’ This is his role — to pull one out from the depths of ignorance and provide enlightenment to lead a life of substance and nobility.
A Guru can stand for a variety of roles ranging from a spiritual master, religious head, revered counselor, teacher, trainer, coach, guide, mentor, influencer to even a true well-wisher. His fundamental contribution is to share his knowledge, expertise, experience, and wisdom with the pupils, and help them to advance in their fields and rise to higher levels of existence.
Apart from spirituality and religion, the fields that our ancient Gurus have handled include archery, dramatics, arts, economics and even sexology.
A Guru might have moved from the Gurukul or the hermitage of the olden times to the universities of the present days, and his expertise and the fields of operation too might have expanded. Still, our scriptures are unanimous in defining a Guru’s prime purpose, and that is, to make a human soul realize the supreme divine.
Many are the names, a Guru is called as and these include Acharya, Upadhyaya and even a Rishi, the sage. In fact, Maharishi Veda Vyasa, the great compiler of the ancient Vedas himself is considered as a renowned Guru and the day of his advent on earth is regarded as Guru Purnima, the day meant exclusively for revering the teachers.
Gurus and Sishyas
Legends are replete with stories about Gurus–Sishyas, the teachers, and disciples and their extraordinary relationships.
Scriptures like Ramayana and Bhagavatha give accounts of even Rama and Krishna, the celebrated incarnations of Lord Vishnu learning various arts and lessons from their Gurus, showing great respect to them and doing them immense service.
Epic Mahabharata speaks about the remarkable story of Ekalavya, the ace archer, who readily offered his right thumb to his Guru as demanded by him. This disciple’s devotion to his Guru was so total that he didn’t hesitate to part with an organ, which is most crucial for shooting an arrow and thus for practicing his chosen field of archery.
The same legend also elaborates about Guru Drona holding his disciple Arjuna as very dear to him and teaching him intricate skills in archery, which he did not do for his son.
We also come across the account of disciple Satyakama refusing to hide his not-so-honorable lineage even for gaining admission to the school, and the Guru appreciating his stand and accepting him willingly and gracefully as his disciple.
However, the other side is exhibited by warrior Karna, who concealed his true identity and projected himself as a Brahmin for learning archery from Guru Parashurama. When the truth tumbles out somehow, the upset Guru cursed Karna, and that contributed to his downfall and death, in the bloody war of Kurukshetra.