Why do we need a Guru? Who is a disciple? | Excerpts from GURU-STOTRAM talks, Part 2

…continued from https://vinayrnair.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/guru-stotram-part-1/

Moving ahead to the next question – Why do we need a Guru…why can’t we learn from books?

A simple answer given by Swami Chinmayananda to this question is, ‘Why don’t you ask this question to a book?’

The answer is self-explanatory. Not just that, while one is on a spiritual path and studying the scriptures on his own, there’s a chance that he might misinterpret something in it. This can be really dangerous. Hence, there arises the need of someone wise and knowledgeable enough, who has walked the path, to guide him the right way.

A Guru acts like a role model to his disciple. When the student is trying to grasp the idea of an ideal which is beyond intellectual comprehension, in the Guru he sees the ideal, in flesh and blood, whom he can look up to and pursue his path of spiritual journey.

As the disciple starts gaining some knowledge, he might start feeling that he has become another Guru and his ego goes up. At this point, the Guru crushes his ego, for; the ego is the one of the biggest hurdle in one’s evolution.


A Guru acts as an altar at which the disciple can surrender himself. The act of surrendering is very important in the life of a seeker. The attitude of surrender gives a lot of strength to the seeker and he feels secured that since he is working with an attitude to serve God, Guru will take care of him and he doesn’t have to worry. The disciple also dedicates his achievements at the feet of the Guru which in turn prevents his ego to get stronger. The disciple starts seeing his own work as the manifestation of his Guru’s vision. He starts realizing that it is not by his own merits, but the Guru’s grace that is working wonders. Thus the altar of surrender becomes very important for a seeker.

A disciple should have four types of faith:

1. Faith in the existence of a Higher Reality.

2. Faith in the scriptures.

3. Faith in the Guru.

4. Faith in himself.

Among the above, if he has only faith in the Guru, then also he will be saved.

Now that we have discussed who’s a Guru, the question is, ‘who is a disciple?

Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda gives a simple definition of a disciple – One who submits himself to discipline (of the mind) is a disciple. No learning is possible without proper discipline.

The scriptures also indicate the way to approach a Guru. One needs to be intelligent enough as to how to approach a Guru. Will one go and ask a Doctor about a legal advice in a civil case? In the same way, when one goes to a Guru, he should choose his questions very carefully. Guru is there to lift us up spiritually. If we go and ask them about family issues, cause of delay in our child’s marriage, etc., it would be really stupid. Guru may answer those questions but he’s sitting there for our spiritual upliftment not for solving petty domestic issues.


The Upanishads say that one should go to a Guru as a Mumukshu. A mumukshu is one who desires nothing else from the Guru but liberation.


…to be continued


Meaning of the word ‘Guru’ | Excerpts from GURU-STOTRAM talks, Part 1

Who is a Guru? Why do we need a Guru when we have books to guide us? How do we know if we have chosen the right Guru? These are a few common questions that usually come to the mind of a seeker. Below are the understandings taken down during a session given by Swami Swatmananda ji in Sandeepany Sadhanalaya, Powai for the Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) on 3rd Feb 2013 .

Guru Gita, hymns in the glorification of Guru, a collection of around 200 verses, finds its source in Skanda-Purana as a conversation between Lord Shiva and Parvati. Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda took 15 verses from it and gave it the present day form and named it ‘Gurustotram‘.

What is the meaning of the word ‘Guru’?

The word ‘Guru’ has several meanings. One meaning is: ‘Gu’ means ‘darkness’, ‘Ru’ means ‘remover’. So Guru is none other than the one who removes darkness, the darkness of ignorance and bestows upon the light of Knowledge.

Another meaning of ‘Gu’ is ‘Bhava-roga’, the disease of ‘Bhava’ (pronounced as Bhava not Bhaava). What does ‘Bhava’ mean? One meaning of ‘Bhava’ is worldly matters. But the actual meaning of the word ‘Becoming’.

Right from childhood we are trained to ‘become’ someone or something. When do we get the feeling of ‘becoming’, when we are not Complete. Every action of ours is with an aim to gain happiness, be it a job, winning a competition, getting married, or even seeking the company of a good friend. The scriptures try to tell us that our nature itself is happiness and that we are complete in ourselves. However, in our journey we have forgotten our true nature and try to seek happiness outside in the ever-changing impermanent world. It is very difficult for the common man to apprehend this idea, let alone experiencing it. Guru is the One who removes this disease of ‘becoming’ in us and make us realise every moment that we are That Absolute Reality which pervades the entire Universe. He reminds us that ‘Becoming’ is not what is required, all we need to do is – ‘Just Be’. By giving the knowledge of our own Being, the one who brings us back from ‘becoming’ is our Guru.

One might get a doubt that does the above mean we should never have goals in life? Is having a goal not good? One can have two types of goals – Goals in life and Goal of life. Goals in life are the goals of getting a good job; getting married to the person you love, seeing your children becoming successful, etc. However, these are only goals ‘in’ life. What ultimately is the goal ‘of’ life? What is the purpose of our birth? Is it only to achieve material success, get married, raise children, achieve a place in the society or even making the world a better place to live? Are these the only purposes of life? It is like the story of a pilgrim who sets on to a long pilgrimage. On the way, he might go to a good restaurant to eat food, do some shopping on the way, make new friends, enjoy the beauty enroute, etc. He can do all these things. But what if he forgets why he has set foot on this journey and takes a detour to enjoy all the fantasies he comes across? Then the purpose of the pilgrimage is lost. He forgot the purpose why he is on this journey.

In the same way, no doubt goals in life are good and make our life enjoyable. But in the process, one should never forget his goal ‘of’ life, which is to realize his true nature.

The third meaning of Guru goes like this. The word ‘Gu’ also represents ‘Gunateeta‘ (the one who is beyond all qualities) and ‘Ru’ resens ‘Roopateeta‘ (the one who is beyond any form). The three Gunas – satva, rajas and tamas does not affect a Master who has gone beyond the three gunas just like how gravity cannot pull down an object that has crossed the atmosphere and gone into 417space. Self-Realised Masters, even though they appear to us in their physical bodies, are the ones who have gone beyond their forms. Their realm of existence is not at the body level. They are nowhere affected by physical troubles. Such Masters, whose lives are engrained in the Truth and who stand firmly grounded in the Truth, they are the ‘Gurus’.

The fourth meaning of ‘Guru’ is – the one who swallows the sins of his devotees.

The fifth meaning of ‘Guru’ is – heavy. Heavy as in the one who is strongly rooted in the Absolute Truth.

There are many more meanings of the word Guru which truly adds on to the beauty of the Sanskrit language.

…to be continued