Very often, strangers approach me and ask me this question. Are you a guru? It's a funny question to which I cannot reply, Yes or No. A guru is a guru because there are shishyas, students. So, the word guru symbolises both an institution and a relationship. There are no shishyas, student that are there on their own nor are there gurus independent of the students. The word ‘guru’ in Sanskrit is self explanatory. The syllable ‘gu stands for darkness, ignorance, and the syllable ‘ru’ stands for the one who removes it. Therefore, the one who removes ignorance is called the guru. If there is no one who wants their ignorance to be removed, there is no guru. The word ‘guru’ is very loosely translated as teacher in English and we find the term is applied to all types of teachers, school teachers, music teachers, martial law teachers, even management gurus.
There are certain places in Mumbai and elsewhere where the local thug is also called a guru. Any teacher cannot be called a guru. It is reserved for those who teach the spiritual wisdom. Thus, there is a line of gurus and shishyas — gurus who have a shishya who in time becomes a guru and this continues forming the guru shishya Parampara. This is paid homage to on Guru Poornima that comes next week on Monday. All other teachers are honored on Dassera, which is at the end of the main Navaratri. So, if you really look at the word ‘guru’ it has a lot of spiritual significance and cannot be reduced just to be a teacher. We would be doing a disservice to the word when we refer to the word guru as a simple teacher. It was this tradition that kept the spiritual knowledge alive and available when temples and institutions were destroyed by invaders. The guru-shishya relationship is a sacred bond where the guru's compassion and commitment to the teaching is total and the students commitment to the learning is equally total. Then a dance of eternity, a dance of spiritual wisdom takes place.
The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org