It is important to know that “Knowledge of Ultimate Truth” is the only means to attain spiritual liberation (mokṣa). To obtain the knowledge of Ultimate Truth, one needs to seek a qualified teacher (sadguru). Our scriptures speak in a unified voice about the unique role of a Guru in the life of a student (śiṣya) who expresses a desire to seek the knowledge of Ultimate Truth. Our scriptures also define the qualifications of a Guru and a śiṣya thoroughly. Scriptures state that it is very rare to find a student who possesses all the required qualifications to know the Ultimate Truth. In the Srīmad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 (jñānavijñāna yoga) talks about the “knowledge of the Ultimate Truth”. Particularly, verse 3 talks about how rare it is to obtain the knowledge of Ultimate Truth.
मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु कश्चिद्यतति सिद्धये |
यततामपि सिद्धानां कश्चिन्मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः || 7-3 ||
manuṣyāṇāṃ sahasreṣu kaścidyatati siddhaye |
yatatāmapi siddhānāṃ kaścinmāṃ vetti tattvataḥ ||
“Among thousands of people, a rare person makes effort for mokṣa. Even among those seekers making effort, (only) a rare person comes to know Me in reality.” (Bhagavad Gita, 7:3)
The qualifications of a student seeking the knowledge of Ultimate Truth is referred to as “Sacchiśya lakṣaṇāni” and they are explained below:
सद्बुद्धिः साधुसेवी समुचितचरितः तत्त्वबोधाभिलाषी
शुश्रूषुः त्यक्तमानः प्रणिपतनपरः प्रश्नकालप्रतीक्षः ।
शान्तो दान्तो अनसूयः शरणमुपगतः शास्त्रविश्वासशाली
शिष्यः प्राप्तः परीक्षां कृतविदभिमतं तत्त्वतः शिक्षणीयः ॥
sadbuddhiḥ sādhusevī samucitacaritaḥ tattvabodhābhilāṣī
śuśrūṣuḥ tyaktamānaḥ praṇipatanaparaḥ praśnakālapratīkṣaḥ |
śānto dānto anasūyaḥ śaraṇamupagataḥ śāstraviśvāsaśālī
śiṣyaḥ prāptaḥ parīkṣāṃ kṛtavidabhimataṃ tattvataḥ śikṣaṇīyaḥ ||
- Sadbuddhiḥ – The śiṣya should possess pure mind and nurture only good (satvic) thoughts. The mind should be devoid of impure and negative thoughts.
- Sādhusevī – The śiṣya should have the mental temperament to respect elderly people and sādhus. The śiṣya should be devoted to and perform service to sādhus (in particular to Guru)
- Samucitacaritaḥ – The śiṣya should possess righteous character and demonstrate righteous conduct.
- Tattvabodhābhilāṣī – The śiṣya should have true immense desire to seek the knowledge of ultimate truth (Tatvabodha). The śiṣya should not be seeking spiritual learning as a means to while away time. Guru is capable of identifying whether a śiṣya truly has the desire to seek spiritual knowledge and the Guru need not teach a śiṣya who does not possess the true desire for the knowledge of ultimate truth
- Śuśrūṣuḥ – The śiṣya should sincerely long to serve the Guru. The śiṣya should be very attentive to the words of Guru. The attention of śiṣya should not be on something else while the Guru is in the process of teaching.
- Tyaktamānaḥ – The śiṣya should disown false prestige or pride while learning from Guru. The śiṣya should not hesitate to express ignorance during the process of spiritual learning. Whenever a question arises in the mind, the śiṣya should ask the Guru at appropriate time and get the doubts clarified.
- Praṇipatanaparaḥ – The śiṣya should possess the internal disposition to prostrate at the feet of the Guru at all times. It means that the śiṣya should not possess even an iota of ego or pride.
- Praśnakālapratīkṣaḥ – The śiṣya should wait for the right time to ask question to clarify his doubts on the spiritual learning being pursued under the Guru. The śiṣya should not interrupt and ask questions while Guru is teaching. Śiṣya should wait until the right time or until Guru provides an opportunity to ask questions.
- Śāntaḥ – The śiṣya should possess a controlled and calm mind.
- Dāntaḥ – The śiṣya should be able keep all the senses controlled.
- Anasūyaḥ – The śiṣya should be free from jealousy. The śiṣya should not feel jealous about the accomplishments of other students learning under the Guru.
- Śaraṇamupagataḥ – The śiṣya should believe that the Guru is the only person who can lead him from darkness to light (from ignorance to knowledge) and hence śiṣya should have the internal attitude that Guru is the only person the śiṣya needs in life. Also, the śiṣya should not harbor any ill-will towards Guru and express disapproval towards words and actions of Guru.
- Śāstraviśvāsaśālī – The śiṣya should have total faith in the scriptures (śāstras). A Guru teaches only what is told in śāstras and the śiṣya should have resolute faith in the śāstras.
A student with all the above qualities only will be eligible to obtain the knowledge of Ultimate Truth from a Guru.
- “Qualities of a Disciple“, a discourse in Tamil by the Jagadguru Shankararcharya of Sringeri during the Vijaya Yatra 2012, Chennai.
- Lectures of ‘Dharmatma’ Shri S. Yegnasubramanian, NJ.