Since time immemorial or pre-historic times, an unbroken lineage of has continued in the form of students turning into Teachers to pass on the knowledge to the next generation, that they received in the hands of their Guru’s. A knowledge with the power to sustain life, called Dharma. The only mode of dissemination was through the sound, spoken word. Even if one of the generations had not learnt the knowledge with fidelity the generations later would not have had access to its richness.
This unbroken lineage is called ‘Guru-shishya Parampara’.
Many ask if a Guru is necessary in our lives. The answer presents itself, very simply – if for the very actions of walking and talking we have to be taught by our parents, then by the same yardstick, is it not clear that to live a meaningful life we will require a teacher?
Life in this world is transitory. However much one possesses wealth, property, luxury, comfort, a good family, name and fame, there is no security in life. Everything that one possesses may be lost at any moment, however much one clings to it.
Man finds that all the happiness that he enjoys in life by possessing various things is smeared with the fear of losing them. At times he feels threatened by the impermanency of life, by the fact that everything is perishable. His condition becomes like one facing a huge storm which threatens to sweep him away. He feels fearful and does not really know where to turn in order to get assurance and solace.
In his heart of hearts he cries for someone who would hold his hand and show him the anchor in life; one who would show him the way to go across the worldly ocean in which he feels he is getting drowned every moment. Seeing the perishable and momentary nature of the world, he grows more and more dispassion.
At such a juncture of life, when the heart is sincerely yearning for liberation, a fortunate soul reaches the feet of a Sadguru. A Sadguru is one who is capable of giving relief to this seeker seeking liberation from the worldly miseries. He is the one who can show the way to go across the worldly ocean remaining afloat in the midst of vicissitudes. The Guru is the one who bestows fearlessness.
Sri Shankaracharya has described the qualities and attributes of such a Guru (verse 33).
श्रोत्रियोऽवृजिनोऽकामहतो यो ब्रह्मवित्तमः ।
ब्रह्मण्युपरतः शान्तो निरिन्धन इवानलः ।
अहेतुकदयासिन्धुर्बन्धुरानमतां सताम् ।।
- विवेकचूडामणिः ३३
śrotriyo’vṛjino-akāmahato yo brahma-vittama: ।
brahmaṇy-uparata: śānto nirindhana ivānala: ।
ahetukadayāsindhur-bandhurānamatāṃ satām ।।
- Vivekacūḍāmaṇi: 33
He says a Guru is one who is well-versed in the scriptures. Not only well-versed and scholarly, he lives the knowledge gained from the scriptures, every moment of his life. Realizing Brahman, he becomes Brahman.
The Guru is sinless. There is no narrowness in his mind. His mind is ever-expansive, limitless and taintless like the sky. This is so, because he is never smitten by any desire. He is pure and transparent. He is a Knower of Brahman of the highest order.
He is the one whose mind has completely withdrawn from the worldly attractions and it ceaselessly dwells on Brahman alone. Desire agitates the mind of human beings. The Guru, having no desire, is absolutely quiet and peaceful like a fire for which the fuel (desire) has got completely burnt off.
Above everything, the Guru is an ocean of mercy and compassion. Without any reason, he feels compassion for every creature. It is his nature. He cannot but be otherwise. And by virtue of this nature he becomes the friend of everybody who comes to him with humility.