Guru-sishya bond is unique and forms a sacred link in the teaching/learning tradition. The early learning stage, known as Gurukula, was meant to provide ample opportunity to the disciple not merely to become knowledgeable in the scriptures, etc., but also imbibe the values of upright and noble living through service to the guru. The life of the saint-devotee Eknath exemplifies the truth that through service to Guru one could reach God, pointed out Sri Hari in a lecture.
Eknath was motivated by the ideal of Guru Bhakti early in life. Through God’s grace, he sought a preceptor, one Janardana Swami, who was well-versed in initiating the spiritual disciplines of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti in his disciples. Eknath volunteered to serve in the preceptor’s household. He did his work with utmost commitment and sincerity. Such integrity and dedication caught the guru’s notice and he prayed to God to reward the disciple suitably. This illustrates how a preceptor seeks God’s help to grace a deserving disciple. The Lord acceded to this request and Eknath had a vision of the Lord as Dattatreya. He was overwhelmed by this divine vision and immediately felt grateful to his guru for this grace. Such was the humble nature of his Bhakti bhava that he continued with his Guruseva. In his consciousness, there was no distinction between his preceptor and God. “I am having God’s darshan always when I am serving you,” he told his Guru.
The preceptor then advised Eknath to take up the life of a householder and contribute to the exposition of spiritual truths. Eknath’s scholarship helped him interpret Vedantic texts with felicity and his devotion overflowed into soulful abhangs that inspire devotion.
Legend has it that Lord Krishna in Dwaraka, impressed with Eknath’s devotion, entered his household as a boy offering His services. The story goes that a travelling devotee, who used to have direct communion with the deities in temples, once realised that the Dwaraka temple was bereft of the Lord; and that when he took up austerities to search for the Lord, the Lord Himself revealed the truth of His presence in Eknath’s household. Eknath was overwhelmed when he came to know of this truth.