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by Yogasharya Venkatesh

Indian tradition describes Guru as a reflection or rather a personification of the infinite, eternal truth called God.
But, in these days, where it is hard to find a teacher and most of the available teachers are mere instructors.

How can one find a Guru? Who is a Guru? What differentiates a Guru from a teacher or an instructor?

Patanjali, in his yoga sutras says that learning can arise only from 3 sources namely:

  1. Experience

  2. Logic

  3. Reference

One who attempts to teach on the mere basis of reference, is an instructor.

One who combines the referential knowledge with his logic and tries sincerely to experience the ultimate and teaches only what he has experienced is a teacher or Acharya.

But, a Guru is one who has the absolute experience of truth and hence, complete knowledge. And such a person himself will become a source of reference and the ground of logic for others. Hence, every Guru is a teacher or rather "The teacher". Because, only the one who has experienced the truth in full, is authorized to teach it to others.
Here comes an interesting question. Why should a guru teach? Is the experiencing of truth not sufficient for him?
The answer is simple. A Guru chooses to teach because, he is not selfish. Every Guru sees his own reflection in every one. He cannot differentiate. He loves every one irrespective of who he is. Unbound, Pure Love is a Characteristic feature of every Guru.
Generally speaking, human love is limited by expectations. It is limited by relationships of various forms and the happiness such relations might possibly bring.
To us, Love is a "wise investment" So to speak, the problem is not with love but our limited capabilities to project it towards others .Hence such Love can be no better than an attachment which is centered around our personalities. But a Guru’s love is unbound. It embraces everyone with the same intensity and hence is not an attachment, for such Love is not blind.
A guru will not hesitate to be harsh towards a student if he thinks that is needed. He is foresighted and what seem to be a punishment to a student could be a blessing in disguise. A guru is like a father who punishes a child to mend his ways. He doesn’t want to hurt the child because he himself will be hurt doing it. But still he does that for the betterment of the child. But a student should remember that, a Guru is never angry but he just pretends to be angry, and his kindness is unbound.
So, coming back to the Point,
A Guru teaches because he loves you and wants to rescue you from those inevitable miseries about which you are not yourself aware of.

The next important question, to whom does he teach ?

To anyone who deserves it.
Guru’s urge to teach transcends the bounds of time and space. A deserving person- may he be of any age, religion, social status, country- Will surely get what he deserves.
A Guru is not confined by prejudices. Because he is always centered upon truth and not the time sensitive reality-which generates the prejudices. And above all, a Guru is beyond all temptations. His knowledge cannot be bought. Temptations can tempt only those who love just themselves and possibly a few near and dear ones. But as told earlier, a Guru is one whose love extends to every form of creation- form an atom to the infinite. So, he is impartial. Mud and Gold are of no difference to him.
Though he respects his commitments and observes his duties, he is beyond his limited self and they are not his attachments.
What can tempt such a Person???
Yes. There is only one thing which can tempt him. A sincere, able and dedicated seeker of knowledge- a shishya. A shishya is a student is one who deserves to study under a guru, because of his true interest in the subject. It implies that a student is always self motivated and is detached from the results of the study. He intends to study the subject for the love of it and not for the possible benefits he might derive from it. He is a true seeker and hence deserves the knowledge the best. He is also the one who deserves the Guru who is a treasure of knowledge. But, before passing the treasure of knowledge to the student, guru tests him in a million ways.
A student should then remember that, teaching is not a personal obligation of the Guru. But, instead he is teaching only because he wants the knowledge to be placed in the deserving hands . In the hands of one who is patient, enduring and hence knows the true worth of it. A guru, hence has full right to find out the worth of the student.
In  situations as these, a student should not get his ego hurt. Ego is the root of all disasters.
Hence, when a student approaches a True Guru, he should sublimate his ego and offer no resistance, at least momentarily- till he starts seeing the truth. Remember, it hurts a lot when the wisdom arises. But, it essential for Life.
Hence, a sincere seeker should be submissive. But before accepting a guru, one should ensure that he is a true guru.
A true student doesn’t expect formal, structured learning. To him learning is not a class room experience. To him it is life.
Trust, Determination, Sincerity, Endurance, Grasping and above all, an intense and constant urge to realize the truth are the essentialities of a shishya.

So, to conclude, a verse from Katopanishad;


The one who teaches should be amazing and the one who learns should be equally skilful.
It is only then that the connection of Guru and Shishya becomes meaningful


This is an extract of the speech delivered by Yogasharya Venkatesh, founder and director of the AtmaVikasa centre in Mysore, on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of the centre. Atma Vikasa means "Evolution of the soul".