Guru and “Guru”

Guru”s galore ! 


fashiongurulogos guru_cartoon

Cartoon Brain Lifting Weights

diet guru

[Source 1] [Source 2][Source 3][Source 4][Source 5]

Investment “guru”s, management “guru”s, fitness “guru”s, diet “guru”s, yoga “guru”s, computer “guru”s, spiritual “guru”s, religious “guru”s, how-to “guru”s, money “guru”s, media “guru”s, personal growth “guru”s, fashion “guru”s – you name them, I can find them all around me. They come in all shapes and forms. They come not in a vacuum, but with their retinue of disciples.  The gurudom is very much a crowded field today.

The word “guru” brings an inexplicable but definite resonance with it. It conveys a certain super-specialty of possession of knowledge. It also conveys a shade of fakeness and dishonesty. Some use the word as a mark of respect. Some others use it pejoratively.

teacher student

Ah! Those younger days![Source]



I flinch every time I hear or read the word “guru”. Not because it is a bad word. Which it is not.  Because of what we have done to the sanctity the word bears.

Guru” means many things –

Guru” also has come to mean a kind of charlatan, a person who cheats his followers.  

Guru is a Sanskrit word originally coined in the annals of sanatana dharma. The word is used extensively in English, German, French, Italian and other languages. Thanks to Google, I can travel a bit with this word in history.

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In advayataaraka upanishad, the rishi defines a guru.

The word “gu” denotes darkness. The word “ru” denotes removing that.  The word “guru” therefore denotes removing the darkness

gu sabdhah tu andhaakaarah syaat ru sabdhah tat nirodhakah | andhakaaranirodhitvaat guru iti abhidheeyate || [16]

When I enter a dark room, I see darkness. Even though I see the darkness, I think I’m not able to see and turn the light switch on. The room becomes bright. Now I think I’m able to see! This is the height of my folly. Even though I see the darkness I don’t relate to the fact I’m actually seeing. I don’t relate to the entity in me that sees but relate only to the darkness in the room. I relate only to my body and the external world and I need an external light to see things. Even then I mistake the external light bulb to be the source of light that allows me to see. In fact, the seer, the power of sight is within me and not elsewhere. This is true in all my dealings in my life. I carry around the notion I’m so and so, others are so and so, everything is such and such etc. I align myself with my body and mind only. I do not align myself with my consciousness, my sense of awareness or my conscience. I do not align myself with the seat of Love in me. This misalignment is my ignorance. The rishi terms this as “gu” – a darkness that points to the light ever-present. Much like the darkness in the room points to the “seer’ in me.

KDM light switch

Turn the switch on [Source]

When I turn the light switch on in the room, the darkness disappears and the light shines – both at once. The one action of turning on the switch achieves these two things simultaneously. The removal of darkness is not achieved separately or sequentially from the shining of the light. When the light shines, darkness disappears at once, not as a result but along with it. This removing act, the rishi says, is “ru”.

Guru is the one who removes the darkness of my ignorance by directing me to the light of knowledge shining within me.

The Bhagavad Gita describes such a guru. He sees only Love everywhere. To him, gold, stone and sand look the same. Brahmin, cow, elephant, dog and dog eater appear the same. He sees no difference because he is one with the seer, not the object seen.

Learn this wisdom from those who have the vision of  Love. Serve them with obedience and love. Seek to know from them through questions born of sincerity and humility. They will remove your ignorance. You will then shine in the Love you are.

tat viddhi pranipaatena pariprasnena sevayaa | updekshyanti te (a)jnaanam jnaaninah tatva darsinah || [4.34]

I must approach only such a guru.

But such a guru is a rare find in today’s crowded gurudom of spiritual “guru”s. I see many “guru”s in ochre, white and other colored robes. I see many giving articulate discourses and writing scholarly books. I see many, like parrots, reproducing what they have memorized by rote.  I see many with slick marketing and business acumen. But I don’t see many who practice what they preach. I don’t see many who convey their personal validation of the truth of the scriptural teachings. I don’t see many who have mastered their greed, anger and lust. I don’t see many who are not slaves to money.  



Gurus are as numerous as lamps in every house.

But, O-Goddess,difficult to find is a guru who lights up everything like a sun.

Gurus who are proficient in the Vedas, textbooks and so on are numerous.

But, O Goddess, difficult to find is a guru who is proficient in the supreme Truth.

Gurus who rob their disciples of their wealth are numerous.

But, O Goddess, difficult to find is a guru who removes the disciples’ suffering.

…  An intelligent man should choose a guru by whom supreme Bliss is attained, and only such a guru and none other.

— Kula-Arnava, 13.104 – 13.110, Translated by Georg Feuerstein

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches very clearly the qualifications of both the guru and the disciple: their conduct, scholarship, virtues and weaknesses, activities and characteristics. “The guru must study the virtues and qualities of aspirants who seek guidance; the guru must not be moved or prejudiced by their wealth, status, or position. The guru must be able to judge aspirants’ hearts,their real nature” [pp 45. Source]

The genuine guru is supremely self-sacrificing. He seeks to sustain truth, saturated with selflessness. He sees all people as equal, strives to secure sorrowless lives for all. He leads a sweet and simple life. He is suffused with strength-giving thoughts and is satisfied only by the chance to show others the path of good conduct and good character [pp 47. Source]

guru gita


I worship this guru. He is the form of eternal bliss and knowledge. He is sans dualities. He is infinite as the sky. He is the essence in all things. He is One, eternal, pure, unshakeable and is the witnessing entity in all beings. He is beyond emotions, thoughts and the three characteristics of nature.

brahmaanandam parama sukhatam kevalam jnaana moortim| dwanvaateetam gagana sadrusam tatvam asyaadhi lakshyam |ekam nityam vimnalam achalam sarvaadhee saakshi bhootam | bhaavaateetam triguna rahitam sadgurum tam namaami || [Guru Gita]

This guru is none other than my own conscience, the seat of Love in me. My conscience is my best teacher. It always takes me on the path of Truth and Love. 

The quality of the disciple begets the quality of the guru. If I want a guru like Krishna, then I must surrender totally to Him as Arjuna did. If I want a guru like Sukha, then I must do what Pariskhit did – sacrifice everything – wife, children, family, kingdom, power, wealth and sincerely seek the one right thing to do at any given moment. If I want a guru like Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, then I must emulate Narendra Nath Datta (Swami Vivekananda). I get the guru I seek. And deserve. [More on a true disciple in another blog post.] 

I do not need to go after every articulate speaker donning a flowing robe or scantily dressed, seeking knowledge and peace. He may have a distinguishing and differentiating head-dress and a beard also. But if he has not controlled his own inner enemies of desire, anger, greed and lust, what is the use?  The nectar of peace is within me. The light of knowledge is within me. The call of Love is within me. 

Acknowledging this truth is the beginning of the removal of my ignorance. Knowledge is what is already in man, says Swami Vivekananda. When ignorance is removed, knowledge at once shines forth from within. A genuine guru teaches, guides and shows how to remove the ignorance. Once I listen to Him, do as He says and please Him, He actually removes it for me In His infinite compassion.

Guru”s galore. I get the “guru” I seek. I must be ware! Because what I seek, I get.



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