The Vedas venerate the guru-sishya tradition as the backbone of spiritual pursuit. The disciple is expected to serve his preceptor. He learns the scriptures in the time left over from service to the teacher and his family. The Chandogya Upanishad narrates an incident in which both Indra (leader of the celestial beings) and Virochana (of the demons), desirous of knowledge, become disciples of Lord Brahma. Brahma merely asks them to engage in guru service and meditation for a stipulated period of time.
In a lecture, Sri K. Srinivasan drew attention to the fact that the Upanishad pauses to comment on this remarkable service to guru that Indra patiently practised for hundred and one years. It is clear that such an exercise allows the disciple to pass through different stages of perception to reach the highest knowledge.
Service to guru is held in high regard as it is believed that this discipline removes the sin or avidya that prevents and obscures the self-effulgent vidya. It is said that Adi Sankara, believed to be an enlightened incarnation of Siva, himself sought Govinda Bhagavat Pada as his preceptor, to reinforce this guru-sishya tradition.
The ultimate truth has to be experienced and realised in the inner depths of our Self. The ultimate knowledge jnana is to be gained by meditation and service.
The water in a well is not created when the well is dug. It is already there. But to access the water, we have to clear the layers of mud, stones, vegetation, etc., that have covered it. Similarly, jnana or enlightenment is innate in the Self; but in the case of a jivatma, it is enveloped by layers of unwanted matter such as individual vasanas, karma, etc., that have to be removed. For this knowledge to become self-effulgent, one needs the grace of a preceptor who is himself a realised soul, God’s sankalpa and self-effort.
The cosmic grandeur of the Lord includes His uniqueness, transcendence and absolute nature. But in spite of all this, He reveals Himself both in His personal and impersonal aspects in the heart of one who meditates on Him in true spirit.