Guru


35. guru


Note: The article is not completely written in transliteration, specially verses quoted from guru gItA. Hence you will find guru written as Guru and pArvatI written as Parvati. As and when time permits, we will replace sanskrit words with correct spelling.


‘guru’ has many meanings as given in guru gItA. A guru is not different than conscious Self, Brahman. Guru is the remover of sorrows and ignorance. ‘guru’ in guru gItA is not the person (except in some verses), but formless Brahman itself. Hence meditating on guru means meditating on brahman. guru and Siva are one. Real nature of Siva is formless. Brahman is also formless. ‘guru’ has to be understood as ‘guru tatva’, who is formless and this supreme tatva (or state of consciousness) manifests through a body to guide us to our own Self, Brahman.


‘guru’ is the one who has realized his true nature, which is brahman and permanently abides in it. The supreme state of Self Realization is his natural state. While staying in advaita sthiti (non-dual state), it is not possible to communicate with others as in non-duality or in non-dual state, there is no second one that is experienced. Hence who will teach whom? Hence Adesha (order) and updesha (spiritual instruction) cannot be given. God orders Self Realized saint to come down from non-dual plane and stay in-between duality (that we see and experience) and non-duality. A guru is always in communion with God.


guru adheres to no single siddhanta. A guru can initiate any one in dvaita, advaita, yoga or give mantra dikshA of rAma, kruShNa, Siva or any other form of God to anyone. A saint and AchArya can only give initiation in their own siddhAnta and mantra dikshA (initiation by giving mantra) of his own ISTa devatA, but a guru has no such restriction.


‘Guru’ has many meanings as given in guru gItA. A guru is not different than conscious Self, Brahman. Guru is the remover of sorrows and ignorance. ‘guru’ in guru gItA is not the person (except in some verses), but formless Brahman itself. Hence meditating on guru means meditating on brahman. guru and Siva are one. Real nature of Siva is formless. Brahman is also formless. ‘guru’ has to be understood as ‘guru tatva’, who is formless and this supreme tatva (or state of consciousness) manifests through a body to guide us to our own Self, Brahman.


A guru is extremely powerful. S/he can initiate or give updesha anyone by mere look, by touch or even by wish. There is no limit to the power of a guru as God himself acts through him. His silence is the most powerful of all, capable of lifting the deserving soul to the ultimate state of enlightenment. The glory of param guru (simply called as guru) is unexplainable. They are the living power of God and the living vedAnta. guru is the knowledge himself. There is no doubt about him. A guru can grant moksha to even an ant or an animal, as in case of Sri Ramana Maharshi giving moksha to Laxmi, the cow, a crow and his mother even if the disciple has not practised intense meditation. It is said that a man can escape from the clutches of a crocodile or a tiger, but not from the clutches of a guru. Such a blessed soul is bound to get enlightened as God has himself chosen the soul to reach to him through his instrument, a guru. A guru is a medium, an agent between a devotee and God.


haTha yoga pradipikA in samAdhi-upadesha (fourth section) describes the importance of a guru


राज-योगस्य माहात्म्यं को वा जानाति तत्त्वतः |

जञानं मुक्तिः सथितिः सिद्धिर्गुरु-वाक्येन लभ्यते || ८ ||

rāja-yoghasya māhātmyaṃ ko vā jānāti tattvataḥ |

jñānaṃ muktiḥ sthitiḥ siddhirghuru-vākyena labhyate || 8 ||


Or, who can know the true greatness of the Raja Yoga. Knowledge, mukti, condition, and Siddhîs can be learnt by instructions from a gurû alone. 8.


दुर्लभो विष्हय-तयागो दुर्लभं तत्त्व-दर्शनम |

दुर्लभा सहजावस्था सद-गुरोः करुणां विना || ९ ||

durlabho viṣhaya-tyāgho durlabhaṃ tattva-darśanam |

durlabhā sahajāvasthā sad-ghuroḥ karuṇāṃ vinā || 9 ||


Indifference to worldly enjoyments is very difficult to obtain, and equally difficult is the knowledge of the Realities to obtain. It is very difficult to get the condition of Samâdhi, without the favour of a true guru.


Source and Credits


guru gItA is a scripture exclusively dedicated to ‘guru’. This shows the importance of the role of guru in spirituality. Please find some verses from guru gItA describing ‘guru’


35.1. Meaning of the word ‘guru’


The Guru is not different from the conscious Self. Without doubt, this is the truth; therefore wise men should make an effort to seek knowledge of Atman from Him. (22)


The hidden ignorance, absence of the Knowledge of Self, the world, Maya, the body are all caused by ignorance (Ajnana). By whose grace one attains direct Knowledge of the Self he is known by the name Guru. (23)


The syllable “Gu” is the darkness and the syllable “Ru” is said to be light. There is no doubt that the Guru is indeed the Supreme Knowledge that dispels (the  darkness of) ignorance. (33)


“Gu” Kara means the darkness and “Ru” Kara means the remover of the darkness. On account of the power of removing darkness, the teacher is known by the significant name “Guru”. (34)


The letter “Gu” denotes that He is beyond the three Gunas and “Ru“ denotes that He is beyond forms. Because He is free from Gunas and forms, He is called the Guru. (35)


The first syllable “Gu” represents the principles such as maya and the second syllable “Ru” the supreme knowledge that destroys the illusions of maya. (36)


The syllable “Gu” is that which transcends all attributes, and the syllable “Ru” is that which is without form. The Guru is said to be the one who bestows the state

that is beyond attributes (and form). (45)


O dear, Guru is the Shiva without three eyes; He is the Lord Vishnu with two hands. He is again Brahma with one face. (46)


I prostrate myself before that Guru, the Bliss of Brahman, the bestower of Supreme Happiness, who is Knowledge absolute, transcending the pairs of opposites, expansive like the sky, the goal indicated by the great sayings like “Thou art That”, the one eternal, pure, unchanging, the witness of functions of the intellect, who is above all Bhavas (mental conditions) and the three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). (51,52)


The Guru is one who instructs the disciple about attributeless, eternal Brahman, and there by reveals the Brahmanbhava (feeling of being Brahman) in his heart just like one lamp kindles another lamp is the Guru. (73)


Please find some selected quotes from Guru Gita.


35.2. Who is Guru?



The Guru is not different from the conscious Self. Without doubt, this is the truth; therefore wise men should make an effort to seek knowledge of Atman from Him. (22)



The Guru is one who instructs the disciple about attributeless, eternal Brahman, and thereby reveals the brahmabhAva (feeling of being Brahman) in his heart just like one lamp kindles another lamp is the Guru. (75)



35.3. guru is brahman, not person


Lord Shiva says to Parvati, “I shall tell you, the state of consciousness that arises in the heart when the consciousness personified Purasha of the size of the thumb is meditated upon in the heart.” (76)


“I am unborn. I am deathless. I am beginningless. I am endless. I am changeless. I am consciousness and Bliss. I am the smallest of the small. I am the greatest of the great.” (77)



There is none prior to me and none later. I am eternal. I am self illumined. I am diseaseless. I am ever pure. I am the eternal Akasha. I am without the least movement, am Bliss imperishable. (78)


O Parvati, Brahman is the unseen incomprehensible, without name and form and inexpressible by word or speech directly. This is the very nature of the Brahman. Know it thus. (79)


35.4. Real sanyAsin-s


They who understand the meaning of the great sayings (mahAvAkya) by doing service of the guru are real sanyAsI-s. The others are mere wearers of the ochre coloured dress. (72)



According to guru gItA, there are seven types of guru-s.


35.5. Types of guru-s


guru-s are of many types with different capacities. They are known by names, Suchaka etc. The intelligent one should know and test for himself and seek refuge in the one who is established in Self-Knowledge. (165)


sUchaka guru


The “sUchaka” guru is one who is well-versed (well-educated) and has mastery over atleast one external worldly science. (166) i.e. he has a Mastery over anyone science or art. e.g management Guru.


vAchaka guru


O Parvati, know the instructor of the duties of the different castes and orders (varNa and Ashram), dharma, adharma, etc. to be of the “vAchaka” type. (167)


bodhaka guru


The guru who initiates the disciple into the five lettered mantra etc., O Parvati, he is of the “bodhaka” type and he is superior to the vAchaka and sUchaka types named above. (168)


niShiddha guru


The guru who initiates one into the lower types of vidyA-s, like mohana, mAraNa, vashya etc. is called by the name of “niShiddha” guru (prohibited Guru). (169)


vihita guru


“The samsAra is transitory and an abode of calamities”- Viewing thus the world which is an abode of miseries, this guru shows the path leading to vairAGYa (dispassion), is known as the “vihita” guru. (170)


kAraNAkhya guru


The guru who initiates the disciple into mahAvAkya, tattvamasi - तत्-त्वम्-असि (तत्वमसि)  (Thou are that) etc. O pArvati, he is called the “kAraNAkhya” guru. He is the remover of the disease of this mundane world. (171)

parama guru, the Supreme guru


He, who is expert in total removal of all types of doubts, and who removes the fear of birth and death, is considered to be the “parama” guru. (The Supreme Guru) (172)


One gets such a Supreme guru as a result of merits acquired in many births. Having attained such a guru, the disciple never falls prey to bonds to samsAra, he is liberated forever. (173)


parama guru is the best


O pArvatI, there are in the world thus many kinds of guru-s, of all these, one should by all means and efforts, serve the param guru. (174)

Let us summarize these Seven Types of Gurus

sUchaka guru

Mastery over any one science or art. e.g. management Guru, Mastery in Healing, Mastey in martial arts & war tactics (dhanurveda), etc.

vAchaka guru

Initiates one into spirituality by giving a Diksha Mantra, which transforms the life of the Diksha Receiving Person.

bodhaka guru

Gives instructions related to caste, creed, religion.

nishiddha guru

Prohibited Guru. Invokes God’s Secret powers for personal benefit or with evil intention.

vihita guru

Shows Vairagya (Dispassion) in Society

kAraNAkhya guru

Guru who gives Sanyasa Diksha (initiates disciple into Monkhood). He is the remover of the disease of this mundane world.

param guru

Dispeller of doubts, removes the fear of birth and death is considered to be the “Param Guru”. (The Supreme Guru)  i.e. one who teaches and shows the path of Liberation (moksha). (172)


35.6. Glories / Praises of Param Guru (often called as Sadguru)


Just as the ocean is the king of waters, the Param Guru is the King among Gurus. (179)



A Param Guru is free from attachment, etc; peaceful, always contented in Himself, independent, and one who considers the status of Brahma and Vishnu like a blade of grass. (180)



One who is independent at all times and places, who possess an unshakable mind and always blissful, who experiences the homogenous essence of the Self, such a one is the Param Guru. (181)



One who is free from the feeling of duality and non-duality, who shines by the light of His self-realization, who is able to destroy the deep darkness of ignorance, and is omniscient, He is a Param Guru. (182)



By whose mere Darshan (look with devotion), one attains calmness, cheerfulness, and peace and steadfastness, and peace of mind, such a one is Param Guru. (183)



One who looks upon his own body as a corpse, and his Self as the non-dual Brahman, and who has killed the infatuation for wealth and women, such a person is a Param Guru. (184)

35.6.1. Sadguru, the only Saviour


Family traditions, wealth, strength, shastras, relatives, brothers, - none of these are useful to you at the time of death. Satguru is the only saviour. (188)

Always be the servant of Sadguru



At all times and under all conditions one should feel the non duality of the Self but one should never have this feeling with his Guru. (62)

35.6.2. Prayer and Salutation to Param Guru


Prostrations to Brahman, the unthinkable, the unmanifest, beyond the three Gunas(Sattva,Rajas & Tamas qualities of Nature) yet the Self of Gunas, the Substratum behind the whole universe.(1)



By whose grace that one realizes “I am everything, everything is superimposed in me, I offer my salutations and worship to my self-realised Satguru’s lotus feet. (215)



O Lord, by the gift of the light of knowledge, may Thy blessings be bestowed on me, whose eyes are covered by the cataracts of ignorance, and whose mind is captured by sense pleasure. (216)


35.7. How to behave in front of a guru


Wise disciples should never speak egoistically and should never tell a lie before the Guru. (60)


At all times and under all conditions one should feel the non duality of the Self but one should never have this feeling with his Guru. (62)



When the Guru is present one should never give teaching to others. If one does so, one becomes a demon. (65)



When the Guru is present one should not intoxicate himself or waste time in the Guru’s ashram. It is prohibited to initiate disciples, give lectures, show off and order the Guru in the Guru’s ashram. (66)



One should not stretch legs in the front of the Guru, nor indulge in personal luxuries, nor gratify the senses. (67)


One should never ignore the words of the Guru, be it just or unjust. Carrying out his behests, one should live, day and night like a servant, with the Guru. (68)



One should never enjoy the wealth not given by the Guru. Those which are given by Him, one should enjoy like a servant. One may thereby attain vital force. (69)



Sandals, seats, beds etc; and the other articles used by the Guru should never be touched by one’s feet. One should prostrate to the articles used by the Guru. (70)



While the Guru walks, the disciples should follow him. He should never cross the Guru’s shadow. He should not wear precious dress, ornaments etc. (71)



On the advice of the Guru, if one meditates with firm determination on the principle of “I am one without duality” need not resort to forest for penances, and the constant practice of the above principle brings about samadhi and his sins are burnt instantaneously. (94 & 95)



Therefore discarding all kinds of contacts with people, by all possible means, giving up all conflicts of the scriptures; one should take refuge in the Guru. (103)



The Guru devoid of Knowledge, who indulges in falsehood and who is full of vanity should be abandoned. Because when he is not able to find peace for himself, how is he to bestow peace on others? (104)

35.8. No way of Escape for a Disciple how has abandoned is/her Guru


Even though one is the knower of the entire truth (knower of all shastras); if he is a Guru Tyagi (abandoner of the Guru) he will face, at the time of death, great distraction. (64)


He who does not respect and honor the Guru, such a man takes innumerable births in wombs like that of a dog, and ultimately takes birth in the womb of a Chandala. (202)



By abandoning one’s Guru, one goes to death, by renouncing the Guru mantra, one endures poverty. The abandoner of the Guru and Mantra go to the hell known as Raurava. (203)



The unfortunate, the weak, those who have turned their faces against the service of the Guru, who do not believe in this teaching, suffer in terrible hells. (150)



One who speaks to the Guru in rude or insulting manner or who wins arguments with Him is born as a demon in a jungle or in a waterless region. (61)


35.9. Guru Gita - Gurus to be avoided


(Note: Online version of Guru Gita published by HariOM Group is not full version. Some verses are missing. Translation adapted from Shri Nandalal Dashora's Hindi translation, published by Randhir Prakashan)


Guru Gita extols Guru as parabrahman with whose power the trinity works. Guru is very holy to us and is often equated with ISvara (God). Some thugs or immature disciples take undue advantage of the reverence that our society shows to the true guru. In this process, both Guru and disciple are bound to perish. Guru Gita gives us the characteristics which should be absent in the Guru you believe. Translations are given in Hindi, Gujarati and English along with moola sloka-s. Please find the verses below:


The Guru devoid of Knowledge, who indulges in falsehood and who is full of vanity should be abandoned. Because when he is not able to find peace for himself, how is he to bestow peace on others? (104)


What special knowledge has a stone in saving other stones from drowning? If it cannot swim across the river by itself; how can it help other stones to swim across? (105)


They (such Gurus) are not at all fit to be worshiped whose reasoning creates painful delusion. Such Gurus should be abandoned from a distance. One should take refuge only in the Self-realized* ones. (106)


*The word used is धीरानेव meaning धैर्यवान् गुरु i.e. the guru who has patience


O Parvati, imposters, habitual sinners, atheists, those who are of the different temperament, slaves of woman, evil-doers, ungrateful, roguish, those fallen from Karma Marga, cruel, who indulge in vain discussions, sensualists, those who are angry, violent, unyielding to reasoning, devoid of knowledge, great sinners, crooks, fools, such Gurus should be avoided; and one should only take refuge in the Self-realized Guru with single-minded devotion and discrimination. (107, 108, 109)
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