Prapanna Pārijāta | Chapter 4
On Serving the Guru
A great guru ought to be resorted to by one who is mentally afflicted by Samsāra and who is afraid of the three forms of suffering:
(Ādhyātmika: pertaining to the mind; Ādhibhautika: pertaining to the body; Ādhidaivika: pertaining to natural disasters)
and who has renounced the desire for worldly success or heavenly pleasures.
Having reflected upon the realms that are won by works, the sage (Vipra) with a despondent mind, knowing that moksha cannot be achieved by works, should seek out a Guru (spiritual preceptor) in order to obtain true knowledge (of Brahman).
3 – 4.
One should please the guru who is proficient in the Vedas and conversant with Brahman with articles that are dear to him.1
The guru should teach the disciple whose mind has become calm and who is submissive to Brahma-vidyā (knowledge of Brahman) by which he might learn about the Changeless One, the True, the Supreme Brahman Nārāyaṇa.
This is verily the idea the Vedas teach.
Bhagavān has revealed [as follows] in the Agama Śāstra, both in general and in particular the nature of a guru, of a disciple and of the teaching (Vidyā) and of the time (of initiation).
“He is called a Deśika (spiritual teacher) who is born of (any of) the three castes, who has taken refuge with Me alone, who is devoted to the observance of daily and occasional duties, who takes pleasure in serving those that are Mine, and is the same towards both what is his and what is others.”
“A disciple is one who is a believer in the Vedas, a practitioner of the Dharma, who is good natured and a worshipper of Vishnu, and who is profound, clever and courageous.”
This mantra (Dvaya) needs no favourable circumstances of time and place, no auspicious star, no accessories like holy places and objects and the like and no program of repetition (Puraścharaṇa) or daily recital.
Saluting the guru with any of the prostrations, commencing with that of the three2. The disciple shall receive the king of mantras even like a penniless person who is eager to possess a treasure.
The guru shall first teach him the lineage of gurus (guru-paramparā) and having made him pronounce the mantra Dvaya in its entirety, shall teach him about the theory of Prapatti.
Always loving the disciple as his own child, the guru becoming focussed shall teach him everything he knows without any limiting conditions (upādhi).
12 - 13.
With compassion and without the expectation of reward, the guru shall instruct the disciple who is peaceful, in the teachings of the Upanishads which foster belief (visvasa) and wisdom (jñāna) and other spiritual teachings suitable to the disciple’s state of mind.
The disciple should give a present (dakshiṇā) to the teacher as much as he can and as is ordained by the Śāstras. He shall worship him at suitable times and do what is beneficial to him.
15 – 16.
Also the treatise of the Pāñcharātra known as Jaya Saṁhitā proclaims the glory of guru as follows:
Guru alone is the Supreme Brahman; guru alone is the highest wealth;
Guru alone is the supreme wisdom; guru alone is the highest object of devotion;
Guru alone is the highest desire; guru alone is the highest God.
Because he is the teacher of Brahman he is the greatest of all teachers and should always be worshipped, revered and praised.
With love one shall meditate on him internally, repeat his name and bow to him in obeisance; with pleasure serve and worship him; with the thought that he is both the means and the end take refuge with him alone.
This is approved of by all the Vedas and by all the Śāstras. An intelligent person should regard the teacher of the Dvaya mantra in this way.
Even Nārāyaṇa becomes disturbed by the wicked who have neglected their duty to Guru. (Even as) The Sun withers the lotus which is taken out of water and does not nourishes it.
He alone and none else is considered a disciple who utilises his body, wealth, knowledge, home, actions, qualities and vital energies in the service of his guru.
The one who considers the icons of Vishnu to be merely metal [objects of art], and the one who regards the guru as an ordinary human — both of them fall into hell!
The Āchārya is [defined as] one from whom the general and specific teachings on the Eternal Dharma are obtained. He should never be deceived in any way whatsoever.
The syllable ‘gu’ is indicative of darkness and ‘ru’ the dispelling of it. By being the dispeller of darkness [of ignorance] he is known as ‘Guru’.
The sage Manu also says that the giver of mantra should be worshipped even though he be a youth, and it is also laid down that among the priests, seniority arises from the knowledge of the meaning of the Veda.
The child Śukrāchārya, the son of Aṅgiras, taught his fathers [the Vedic lore]. While teaching them he addressed them as ‘children’.
They became angry and asked the devas what it meant, and the devas came and told them their child had spoken properly.
Even though he be a child, a Vipra [a priest who has studied the Veda] has the privilege of age; and after giving mantra he becomes a father. Only an ignorant person is called a child and the giver of mantra a 'father'.
Not by old age nor by grey hairs, nor by wealth, nor by connections have the rishis taught the Dharmas. He who has learned the Śāstras from an unbroken line of teachers (anuchana) is our Guru.
Among the Vipras (Brahmins) the seniority is from knowledge; among the Kṣatriyas from valour; among the Vaiṣyas the seniority is from wealth, and among the Śūdras alone it is from age.
All the gurus of the guru ought to be specifically venerated. Towards the wife, sons and other relations of a guru one shall behave in the same way as towards the guru.
32 – 33.
If the guru deviates from the path of Dharma (virtue) he ought to be reproved in private.
If the degradation of the guru is unable to be rectified by remonstration, by praying to God on his behalf or by resorting to the company of good people3, then the disciple shall abandon him and serve a virtuous guru.
If he still continues to wish for the well-being of his previous teacher he will surely be liberated, there is no doubt.
If the disciple strays from the path of duty the guru should strenuously prevent him. He shall pray to the lotus feet of the Lord Vishnu for the rectification of the disciple.
He shall also encourage the Bhāgavatas (devotees of the Lord) to be gracious to him, while he himself should do everything in his power to uplift him. In case he is not rectified, then one should refrain from talking to him and socialising with him.
36 – 37.
One should not exuberantly express one’s affection for the guru in his presence.
Wherever detraction or disparagement of the guru is heard, a disciple shall either close his ears or immediately leave the place.
The one who sincerely believes that through the grace of the guru all cherished desires will be fulfilled is a happy person indeed.
The one who receives the teaching on surrender (Nyāsa-vidyā) regards the guru himself as Vaikuṇṭha (empyrean of Vishnu), the milky Ocean, Dvārakā and all.
The guru who gives the eight lettered mantra (Aṣṭākṣara) is considered to be [the fulfiller of all desires pertaining to] this world and the next. Those that do not think so should be forsaken by intelligent people.
One who insults the guru who has given even one syllable of mantra, even just the Prāṇava (OM) will be born as a dog for 100 births and thereafter shall be born among the chāṇḍālas. (Ātri Saṁhitā)
In the form of the mighty Varaha, Bhagavān Vishnu proclaimed that the human body is the boat for crossing the ocean of Samsāra. The self (Ātman) is the favourable wind, the guru is the pilot.
Therefore with the help of a guru one should cross the ocean of Samsāra.
That person is the self-destructive (atmaha) who first having secured the boat of a human body which is difficult to attain, then having met the dextrous pilot of a guru, crosses not the ocean of Samsāra when the sky is favourable.4
- 1. The teaching should be freely given by the teacher but should not be freely accepted by the disciple, the guru should be recompensed by the disciple with articles that are useful to the guru to maintain himself and his family and to continue with the work of teaching.
- 2. The 3 types of prostrations are:
simply bending down and touching the feet of the guru or the ground in front of him,
kneeling down and touching the forehead and joins palms to the ground
or lying full length on the ground with the joined palms extended towards the guru.
- 3. The student has the right of reprimanding any misbehaviour by the teacher.
This is to be done firstly by bringing the matter to his attention in private, then by praying to God on his behalf and resorting to the company of the good and Dharmic people — in the hope that the guru will be influenced by them to reform himself.
If all this fails then the disciple has the right to leave the guru and to take refuge with another. This does not mean a re-initiation but simply “serving” as is stated in the text.
- 4. Vishnu is sky-blue in colour indicating His infinity, the allusion to a favourable sky in the context of the boat analogy is indicative of the ever present grace of God.