One of the earliest memories I have of the term “Guru” is that of dancing as a ten year old to the following Sanskrit shloka,
“Gurur brahmaa gurur vishnuh
gurur devo maheshvarah
gurur saakshaat parabrahma
tasmai shree gurave namah.”
Of course I memorized the lines given that we practiced the dance sequence at least for a month prior to the programme. The lines have never left me since! Though for the longest time they continued to remain just one of the many other shlokas that I inevitable picked up while watching my Grandmother do her daily “pujas.”
But now years later this particular shloka holds a very special meaning in my life and that is because of the following two reasons:
- I have over the years experienced and understood the profound significance of my Gurus in my life.
- I have since a few years undertaken a project that attempts to understand the phenomenon of the Guru-disciple relationship in today’s world.
My attempt to delve deeper into the intricacies of the Guru-disciple relationship has given me many new perspectives and insights and consequently a whole new understanding of the term Guru has been revealed to me. It is a vast and fascinating topic that includes some of the most profound principles of Indian psychology.
The Initial Story
It was a few years back that one particularly powerful experience made me realize the constant and protective presence of my Gurus in my life.
I have been born and brought up in a family of disciples of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and therefore since my childhood I have been exposed to their philosophy and beliefs. Their inconspicuous presence had always been around, be it a small photograph in the dining room or a page mark with one of The Mother’s quote or my grandfather telling me a story about them. They were, so to say, our family Gurus, at least that is what my Grandfather told me. But like all things that are “handed down” to us whether through our family, our culture or our education, none of them entirely become authentic until and unless we experience them in our own selves.
And so it was with me… Sri Aurobindo and The Mother were my Gurus but I had never actually experienced what that really meant. Till a few years back, when that one powerful experience shook me up and made me realize the indispensible role my Gurus played in my life. (I will come back to this experience in a subsequent blog.) For the first time the profound significance of that shloka I had learnt at the age of nine, occurred to me.
And it was with this crucial understanding and experience that I began my journey to explore whether the Guru disciple relationship still existed in today’s world and what was its true significance.
I decided to conduct interviews with long-term disciples of the following Gurus:
- Sri Ramana Maharshi
- Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda
- Swami Sivananda
- Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
To this effect I visited each of the respective Ashrams, spent a few days living there and spoke to the disciples who had consciously decided to dedicate their lives to the works and visions of their Gurus. These interactions helped me deepen and widen my quest for understanding the Guru disciple relationship. They have been a rich source of experience, insight and inspiration for me.
And in the following few blogs I will attempt to share parts of this fascinating journey. It will be a collection of learnings, challenges, accounts and experiences that I encountered during my journey, both as a researcher and a disciple.
I hope I am able to pass on to the reader first and foremost, at least some of the intricate magic that eventually takes place in this relationship and then perhaps also share some profound and incisive insights of Indian psychology as they are applied in the life of these disciples.