In order to reach the top of any human endeavor or field of knowledge, one must have a teacher. One who chooses to tread a spiritual path seeking Brahm-Ashnute, or God-realization, needs a master or a guide referred to as a Guru in Hinduism. The word “guru” literally means “weighted one,” the one who is heavily loaded with spiritual knowledge or divine wisdom. It also means the one who leads his disciples from the darkness of ignorance to spiritual enlightenment by imparting divine knowledge.
A guru is the one who guides his or her disciple to become a jivamukta, i.e. a liberated soul that achieves salvation in his or her lifetime through God-realization. This important Hindu concept of guru dates back to the ancient Vedic times when seers revealed their spiritual insights, and sages taught their wisdom to a few select disciples called Shishyas. In ancient India, the guru served another purpose. Having attained God-realization, he would set an example for his disciples by living himself a life of simplicity, selfless-service and discipline. A guru commanded the disciples’ highest reverence by his actions. Therefore, a disciple would never question a guru’s word. Such a guru is known as Sadguru or a true (competent) guru.
In fact, Hinduism attributes a certain kind of divinity to the Sadguru. Guru represents all three aspects of God as creator, sustainer and regenerator,” says one of the Puranas, a sacred Hindu text. “He is the supreme being to whom I bow.” This concept spawned many sects and movements in Hinduism. This is also the foundation of Sikhism. With the advent of secular education in India, teachers and college professors have replaced gurus, but the traditional bond between guru and his disciple survived. In modern India, teachers are still accorded the highest respect, both by students and their parents. Teaching has always been considered a noble profession.
Many years ago, when visiting New Delhi, I bumped into my Grade5 English teacher, a gray-haired Sikh gentleman. I was so gripped by joy that I fell at his feet. He pulled me up by the arm to embrace me, and the tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. It created quite a melodramatic scene in the marketplace, but my embarrassment was worth the joy I had experienced in this encounter.
Teaching has always been considered a noble profession. Despite the changes in the educational system, modern India still has a large population of self-proclaimed gurus, but only a few are Sadgurus following the traditional system. Many of them were highly successful professionals before renouncing the material world in order to follow the spiritual path to God-realization. Their writings and public discourses on mass media have attracted thousands of followers, Hindus and non-Hindus, around the world. They motivate their followers to disavow the Western rat race of consumerism, and encourage them to keep their traditional values.
India is also infested with bogus gurus catering to the needs of devotees who, instead of God-realization, are looking for miraculous solutions to their personal problems related to health, marriage, infertility, unemployment, romance, business failures, etc. Many of these saffron-clad charlatans are in fact astrologers, bards, preachers, yoga instructors, faith healers and devotional singers disguised as gurus to earn their living. They prescribe sacred mantras, charms and rituals to ‘solve’ their devotees’ personal problems. They have amassed enormous wealth and live luxuriously in major urban centres. Many of them visit Canada regularly every summer when the weather in India gets too hot for them. I have rarely seen any guru visiting Canada during the winter. Their “devotees” or temples that pay them a fee for their performance sponsor them. Many ego centric gurus visit Canada for fame, in order to enhance their image in India as foreign-returned gurus so that they can become more marketable. Since there are not many in Canada seeking Hindu-style God-realization, these gurus, if they are genuine, should stay in India and serve the poor by emulating India’s Christian missionaries.
Article By: Ajit Adhopia
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