Sunday, March 20, 2011

Teacher's Day, Sanatana Style

On the occasion of the Guru Poornima on 30th July 2007, Let us Seek the Blessings of the Guru Parampara,
The Path Finders to the Eternal


Best Wishes
B.M.N.Murthy, 28th July 2007

Nowhere in the world does one find the total veneration and dedication to the teacher, the Guru, as prevails in India. In good old days, traditional education was considered sacred and learning was carried on in the sanctified atmosphere of the guru’s ashram. So great was the respect and reverence shown to the guru that he was considered divine. For the student, the shishya, the first priority was total loyalty and dedication to the guru who acted as his friend, philosopher and guide.

Worship of the guru is traditional in India. Though the evidence of guru worship is available in plenty in India, it is difficult to trace its origin. However, in spite of lack of historical records, Maharshi Veda Vyasa has been considered the first preceptor. Vyasa was the son of Parasharamuni and Satyavati and is also called Krishna Dvaipayana because he was dark [Krishna] and born on an island [Dweepa]. He is said to have lived in a village, which is now called Bilaspur in Haryana. His birthday which falls on the full moon day in the month of Ashadha [Ashadha Poornima] is celebrated all over as Guru Poornima Day. This is considered a day of worship of the guru and is highly auspicious. Tradition has it that on this particular day, Maharshi Vyasa verily inheres in every human guru. So the disciples who worship their guru in their physical form worship Maharshi Veda Vyasa and obtain his blessings.

The Hindu Shastras attach a wealth of deep significance to this word ‘GURU’. The word GURU is made up of two syllables; GU and RU. In Sanskrit, GU means darkness and RU means removal. In other words, Guru means he who destroys ignorance and imparts the light of knowledge. In the canvas of Vedantic literature, the guru is painted as one who has a thorough knowledge of the scriptures, a person who has a deep experience of the Supreme and as a person who practices what he preaches. He does not ‘condition’ the minds of his disciples but only nurtures them with right thoughts and right guidance. It is for the disciple to reflect, meditate and realize.

In the Hindu tradition, Lord Shiva in the form of Lord Dakshinamurthi represents True Knowledge and is considered the Guru of all gurus. All creatures belonging to the clans of Devas, Asuras and Manavas [the celestials, the demons and the humans] have accepted Lord Dakshinamurthi as the very first and foremost guru. However, since it was Veda Vyasa who propagated the subtle philosophy of the Vedas and the Upanishads among the common masses through the several Puranas, the Mahabharatha etc, he is generally considered the first guru of mankind.

It has been a tradition in India to make all philosophic thought available to the world through a regular line of teachers called ‘ Guru Parampara’.The Knowledge of Self Realisation, called Atma Vidya in Advaita Vedanta, also conforms to this tradition. From Adi Shankara, who has been considered as the greatest exponent of Advaita Vedanta, there has been a line of teachers who have carried on successfully till today the mission of Advaita Vedanta. Lord Shiva, in the form of Lord Dakshinamurthi, is considered to be the very first Guru and the originator of the Guru Parampara. From Lord Shiva, it was passed on to Lord Narayana, from him to Brahma, from Brahma to Sage Vasishta, from Vasishta to his son Shakti, from Shakti to his son Parashara, from Parashara to his son Veda Vyasa and from Veda Vyasa to his son Shuka Brahman. As Shuka was a brahmacharin [celibate] and that too a born Jeevanmuktha, the mantle of responsibility from Shuka’s time was no longer from father to son. Thereafter the line of succession of teachers was from the teacher to his disciple. Accordingly, Shuka passed on the mantle to his disciple by name Gaudapada. From Gaudapada it went to his disciple Govinda Bhagavatpada and from him to his disciple Bhagavan Adi Shankaracharya. Shankara passed it on to four of his disciples---Sureshwara, Padmapada, Hastamalaka and Totaka. From them it was passed on to their disciples. This is how the Guru Parampara has grown and spread
In the Guru-Shishya tradition, there was no tuition fee or any such remuneration that was to be paid to the teacher either at the time of joining the Gurukula or during the course of studies. It was clearly laid down that the disciple should give some ‘Dakshina’ to the guru after the completion of his studies before he returned home. This was only a gesture of gratitude for having received Vidya from the guru. There was no specific form or amount fixed for the Guru Dakshina, as it entirely depended on the capacity of the disciple; it could be cows, land, gold, clothes, gram, vegetables, umbrella, a pair of sandals etc. We are aware of the famous episode in the Mahabharatha where Ekalavya offers his own thumb as Guru Dakshina to his guru Dronacharya. It was the spirit of gratitude combined with a sense of reverence that mattered. After having completed their education, it was on the Guru Poornima Day that the students took leave of their teachers with whom they had been living and learning for nearly 12 years. Before leaving the Ashram they would offer the Gurudakshina reverentially and part.


Created: Friday, July 27, 2007


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