Role of a true guru

Role of a true guru

A common characteristic of all religions of the world is that they speak about the inherent divinity in man, the inner spark that resides in every human being.

They also exhort their believers to understand this truth in order to realise the true goal of life, that of attaining to divinity through being a better human being. Indian philosophy goes a step further in defining the role of a Guru or preceptor in assisting man in this quest for self-realisation.

One among the innumerable texts that throw light on the characteristics and importance of a true guru is the Vivekachudamani, a highly venerated treatise by Adi Shankaracharya , which expounds, catechistically, on the goals, ways and means towards a life of moral uprightness.

The very first and most important prerequisite for embarking on the journey of self-realisation is faith. Faith in the words of the scriptures and that of the preceptor.

Then comes a gradual detachment from material wants without any sort of over indulgence. Next comes devotion or Bhakti. This is defined as a sustained contemplation of one’s true nature, as a spark of the divine. Assisting the seeker in these pursuits is the guru. If he must lift the seeker to higher planes, what must be his attainments? The Vivekachudamani says thus.

“The guru must be a thoroughly learned man, one of peerless knowledge, if he must guide the student, a man who has himself traversed the arduous path.”

If in olden times this meant a deep knowledge of the scriptural texts, in the modern context it may be taken to mean a highly qualified teacher. Further, the guru must not be smitten by desire, for it is desire that leads man astray. As the Bhagawad Gita says, sense objects withdraw from an abstemious person.

As the Viveka­chudamani puts it beautifully, such a preceptor is like a smoldering fire that has consumed all the fuel and quietly lives in its embers, waiting to be rech­a­rged and thus spring up again.

Assuaging the troubles of others is natural to him, like, as the text says, the spring season which spreads happiness all around. Such a one is described as an ocean of compassion, who is a friend to the sincere and pure seekers who must be humble, devoid of jealousy and crookedness, must have a spirit of service and should not speak ill of others.

While all these requirements may seem impossible to be seen in one person, it must be remembered that such great souls did exist in India, who by their mere glance could redeem man from the morass of mundane life.