History & Culture

‘Sri Gurabhyo Namah’

The word ‘Gu’ means darkness or ignorance and the word ‘Ru’ denotes the one who removes. Therefore, the word ‘Guru’ refers to the one who removes ignorance, or the one who grants knowledge.

The Guru Stotram says - ‘Ajnana Timirandhasya Jnananjana Salakaya, Chakshur Unmilitam Yena Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah.’ Like a physician treats a person of his blindness, the Guru provides the light of knowledge that makes a disciple ‘see’ the Supreme Self. It signifies the role of the Guru who removes the blindness of ignorance caused by ego, through the use of the medicine called knowledge.

However, one cannot gain divine knowledge just by reading books. One needs the source of knowledge – the Guru – whose instructions alone can help one directly experience the knowledge. While knowledge can be transferred in written form, it can bring differences in pronunciation, translation or interpretation.

For any subject, a person who has understood the subject well and wants to transmit it to another person in a pure form, instruction through speech is known to be the best medium. Vedic knowledge should be received only through a guru – so has been the decree since primordial times.

The knowledge present in the ether was first grasped by the sages through their spiritual prowess. They, in turn, transferred this to their disciples, who imbibed them in their minds and only then acted upon them. Even today the study of Vedas is initiated by the utterance of the words - ‘Hari: Om Sri Gurabhyo Namah.’

The one who gives upadesam (instruction) is known as Guru, and the one who receives the knowledge (Siksha) is known as disciple (Sishya); they are mutually related to one another. During upanayana (sacred thread ceremony), the father becomes the guru, while it is the school teacher in the classroom.

The Puranic scriptures narrate that Lord Subrahmanya (Muruga) after his incarnation asks Brahma the meaning of the Vedas and punishes him when the latter is unable to provide the correct explanation. Subrahmanya then enquires his father Siva, who too is unable to explain it.

Then, the son himself assumes the role of the Guru to instruct the meaning of the Vedas to his father. That is why, Subrahmanya is called as ‘Swaminathan’, or the one who is the Guru to the Supreme Guru (Siva) himself. This story highlights the significance of the Guru, and that knowledge is devoid of ‘life’ unless it is transferred by the Guru through the Guru’s voice.

The greatness of the guru lies in his ability to instruct the next generation of disciples, so that the knowledge is passed on undiluted and unhindered through the Guru-Sishya Parampara (spiritual lineage) for the welfare of humankind. A human being attains wholeness only through spiritual inclination, without which one’s material life is akin to food without salt.

Vyasa, the first guru

Sage Veda Vyasa was the one who intuited the complete knowledge of the Vedas from the ether. Thinking that every person should become eligible for the knowledge of the Supreme Self, Veda Vyasa organised the Vedas into various parts, and imparted the knowledge of different parts to various disciples. Thus, ‘Veda Vyasa’ is referred to the one who separated the Vedas.

Since the spiritual knowledge of fulfilling the purpose of life is given in the Vedas and the essence of this sacred wisdom was first imparted by Veda Vyasa, he is considered as the first and the foremost guru. Hence, the day when Veda Vyasa is revered as guru is known as Guru Purnima or Vyasa Purnima. It falls on the Full Moon day during the month of Ashada (fourth month in Hindu calendar; mid June to mid July).

In fact, the Full Moon is considered the best time to approach the guru as one’s mental faculties are at their peak during this period, thus making a disciple fully eligible to receive knowledge from the guru. On this day, the guru can remove the biggest obstacle on the spiritual path – the disciple’s ego.

There is a famous chant - ‘Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnuh Gurur Devo Maheswarah, Guru Saakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah.’ It means that while we consider the Creator God Brahma, the Protector God Vishnu and the Luminous God Siva as Guru, it is the Supreme Self which is the real Guru. ‘Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum’ is how we refer to the Supreme Self that assumes the form of the Universal Guru.

It is this guru that we remember on Guru Purnima. To offer daily salutations to the guru, following his teachings and immersing oneself totally in his thoughts is indeed the highest form of gratitude to the guru.

The author serves as Member, Advisory Board, Astrology and Vedic Services, AstroVed.com. He is a distinguished Astrologer, eminent Ayurvedic Doctor, and former Principal of Sanskrit College, Madras.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 6:50:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/sri-gurabhyo-namah/article2226792.ece

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