In India, teachers are revered as gods. The Tamil literary work Nannool says a good teacher is gracious, has clarity of thought and the ability to explain even difficult subjects to his students in a simple manner. He is patient like the earth; gentle like a flower; stable like a mountain. He has balance of mind, and he is like a weighing scale, in the sense that he tilts on the side of justice.
Avvaiyar, who wrote Avvaik-kural, included a separate chapter titled ‘Worship of the guru,’ indicating the respect due to a teacher. She wrote that one should follow the path shown by the teacher.
There are many difficult situations in life, and it is not easy to tackle these without guidance. He who is guided by a good guru will be able to realise God, said Malayaman, in a discourse. If we are to live life ethically, we need the guidance of an experienced guru. A teacher shows us the path of gnana, without which we will be like a frightened deer, caught in a hunter’s net. The deer may struggle to free itself, but it is trapped well, and cannot escape the clutches of the hunter. Likewise, samsara drags us deeper and deeper into its grip, and we lose all thought of the spiritual side of life. Having spent an entire lifetime without contemplating on God, we are doomed to be born again and go through all the problems that worldly life is full of.
One’s first teachers are one’s parents. The discipline instilled in a child by its father and mother will remain with a person throughout his life. According to a Tamil saying, he who teaches one to read and write, in other words he who imparts education, is God Himself. The order of persons to be revered is given as mother, father, teacher and then God.
Thus primary importance is given to the first teachers in a person’s life. Even God takes a backseat. The reason is that a person cannot reach the feet of God, if he were to fall into evil ways, and the ones who keep him on the right track are his teachers.
So ultimately, one reaches the Supreme One, only because of the proper guidance of a teacher. Our teachers instil morals in us and lead us to God and assume greater importance than God Himself.