Guru – The Ocean of Compassion

Guru – The Ocean of Compassion

“Dharmatma” Dr. Yegnasubramanian

( excerpted from an audio lecture from 2007 )

Vedas are fundamental scriptures of hindu culture. When we think of sanatana dharma, it is impossible to not think of one’s own Guru. Guru is the ocean of compassion. When we talk about the Guru, the first thing that comes to mind is the love and compassion of the Guru.

There are many people in our lives to give advice to us – our neighbors, friends , relatives, our spouse etc. The one person to whom one can always go and seek the help for troubles that cannot be solved by any of the other people mentioned above, is one’s Guru.

When we talk about Guru in our sampradaya, we just don’t talk about one Guru. We talk about the entire lineage of Gurus, called a Parampara. My Guru, his Guru, so on tracing back to The Lord who is the Adi Guru – the first Guru. The traditional Guru Parampara sloka in our sampradaya says :

सदाशिव समारम्भां शङ्कराचार्य मध्यमां
अस्मदाचार्य पर्यन्तां वन्दे गुरु परम्पराम् ॥

sadāśiva samārambhāṃ śaṅkarācārya madhyamāṃ
asmadācārya paryantāṃ vande guru paramparām

Namaskarams to the entire Guru Parampara starting from the Lord Sadashiva, continued by Adi Shankaracharya upto my own Guru.

Described in another sloka :

नारायणं पद्मभुवं वसिश्ठं शक्तिं च तत्पुत्र पराशरं च
व्यासं शुकं गौडपदं महान्तं गोविन्दयोगीन्द्रमथास्य शिश्यं ।
श्री शङ्कराचार्यमथास्य पद्मपादं च हस्तामलकं च षिश्यं
तं तोटकं वार्त्तिककारमन्यानस्मद् गुरून् सन्ततमानतोस्मि ॥

nārāyaṇaṃ padmabhuvaṃ vasiśṭhaṃ śaktiṃ ca tatputra parāśaraṃ ca
vyāsaṃ śukaṃ gauḍapadaṃ mahāntaṃ govindayogīndramathāsya śiśyaṃ

śrī śaṅkarācāryamathāsya padmapādaṃ ca hastāmalakaṃ ca ṣiśyaṃ
taṃ toṭakaṃ vārttikakāramanyānasmad gurūn santatamānatosmi

Starting from Lord Narayana, up to my own Guru, I do namaskaram to the entire lineage of Gurus

This is how we take the Parampara into consideration

If there is just an individual that is being worshipped, there is a danger of it becoming a cult. But when we worship the entire parampara, there is no cult. That is why our tradition places importance of worshipping the Guru Parampara starting from the Lord Himself.

Adi Shankaracharya wrote a great grantha called the ShataShloki. In it, the Acharya shows, whom we can compare with the Guru,  in the very 1st sloka as below :

दृष्टान्तो नैव दृष्टः त्रिभुवनजठरेसद्गुरोर्ज्नानदातुः
स्पर्शश्चेत् तत्र कल्प्यः स नयति यदहोस्वर्णतामश्मसारम् ।
न स्पर्शत्वं तथापि श्रितचरणयुगे सद्गुरुःस्वीयशिष्ये
स्वीयं साम्यं विधत्ते भवति निरुपमस्तेन वाऽलौकिकोऽपि ॥

dṛṣṭānto naiva dṛṣṭaḥ tribhuvana-jaṭhare sad-guror-jnāna-dātuḥ
sparśaś-cet tatra kalpyaḥ sa nayati yad-aho svarṇatām-aśma-sāram

na sparśatvaṃ tathāpi śrita-caraṇa-yuge sadguruḥ svīya-śiṣye
svīyaṃ sāmyaṃ vidhatte bhavati nirupamastena vā’laukiko’pi

Acharya says with what can we compare the Guru. There is a stone called the Sparshavedi Mani. It is called Philosopher’s stone. It can turn whatever it comes in contact with, into Gold. Can we compare the Guru with this Mani ? Acharya says, it is true that this particular stone can convert other material into Gold, but the Gold thus converted cannot convert anything else into Gold.

Whereas this Guru is one who can convert one’s shishya in-turn into a Guru who in-turn can convert his shishya to a guru, through which process an entire parampara can continue. How can I compare this Glorious Guru’s grace to anything including the Sparshavedi Mani ? says the Acharya.

That is why Acharya again says in Viveka Chudamani

दुर्लभं त्रयमेवैतद्देवानुग्रहहेतुकम् ।
मनुष्यत्वं मुमुक्षुत्वं महापुरुषसंश्रयः ॥

durlabhaṃ trayamevaitaddevānugrahahetukam
manuṣyatvaṃ mumukṣutvaṃ mahāpuruṣasaṃśrayaḥ

Three things happen only by divine grace – (i) being born as a human being, (ii) having been born, realizing that this is the only opportunity for us to attain Moksha ( as no other janma is capable of attaining moksha ) and (iii) getting a Maha Purusha as a Guru who can lead one in the Jnana marga to Moksha.

Who is this mahatma we talk about ?

मनस्येकम् वचस्येकम् कर्मण्येकम् महात्मनाम्

manasyekam vacasyekam karmaṇyekam mahātmanām

मधु मनिष्ये मधु जनिष्ये मधु वक्ष्यामि मधु वदिष्यामि

madhu maniṣye madhu janiṣye madhu vakṣyāmi madhu vadiṣyāmi

Thought according to Dharma, speech according to thought, and action according to speech – is what defines a mahatma. Deva anugraham has to be there to get such a maha purusha’s samshraya ( association ).

That is why Guru is worshipped as the Trinity itself in our tradition

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुः गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः ।
गुरुस्साक्षात्परब्रह्म तस्मै श्री गुरवेनमः ॥

gururbrahmā gururviṣṇuḥ gururdevo maheśvaraḥ
gurussākṣātparabrahma tasmai śrī guravenamaḥ

No one saw Shiva, Vishnu or Sharada. We see all these in the form of Sadguru. He is the one who can take us to them. When Sri Veda Vyasa is described in the scriptures, he is described in a similar manner

अचतुर्वदनो ब्रह्मा द्विबाहुरपरो हरिः ।
अफाललोचनश्शंभुर्भगवान् बादरायणः ॥

acaturvadano brahmā dvibāhuraparo hariḥ
aphālalocanaśśaṃbhurbhagavān bādarāyaṇaḥ

Veda Vyasa is verily BrahmA ji without 4 heads, Vishnu with 2 arms and Shiva without the 3rd eye. What is it that Veda Vyasa has done for the shastras to extol Him in such way ?

He’s the one who codifed the Vedas which were one mass of knowledge, and put them into 4 compartments called Rigveda, Yajurveda, Sama Veda and Atahrva Veda, so that for a learner, it will be coherent. Else, it would be impossible in this age to be able to memorize and understand the entire veda.

He divided each Veda into Samhita , Brahmana and Aranyaka portions. If we take just Krishna Yajurveda,  there are over 1 lakh mantras just in the Samhita portion. Many more in the Brahmana, Aranyaka portions. Similarly for other Vedas. We can then imagine the vastness of the Vedas. But, there are people who memorized not only 1 veda, but 2 vedas, 3 vedas , 4 vedas etc. which earned them the titles Dvivedi, Trivedi, Chaturvedi etc.

In a unique format of recitation of Veda mantras , called the Ghana Parayanam, each mantra is repeated 13 times. So, for Krishna Yajurveda, a GhanapAthi ( one who has learned the Ghana recitation) recites 13 lakh mantras, all from memory without the aid of books or any other supporting material.

Veda vyasa is the one who codified all the 4 vedas with their Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyaka portions. In addition, he wrote the Brahma Sutras, the 18 Maha Puranas, 18 Upapuranas, the great itihasa Mahabharata which contains in it, the great Bhagavad gita and also wrote the Vyasa Smriti ( a practical rule book for implementation of the teaching of the vedas ).

In Sanskrit Vedas are Prabhu sammitam – the order of a king. Common people cannot understand what is contained in the vedas. So, Veda vyasa simplified the principles contained in the Vedas and wove them into beautiful stories we can easily understand and follow.

Veda vyasa is such a great personality. That is why every year, we celebrate Vyasa Purnima, not only worshipping Veda Vyasa but the entire Guru and Acharya parampara.

Being an Acharya ( Acharyatvam ) is a very risky responsibility. The scriptures say :

राज्ञो राष्ट्र कृतं पापं राज पापं पुरोधस: ।
भर्तुस्स्व स्त्री कृतं पापं शिष्य पापं गुरोरपि ॥

rājño rāṣṭra kṛtaṃ pāpaṃ rāja pāpaṃ purodhasa:
bhartussva strī kṛtaṃ pāpaṃ śiṣya pāpaṃ gurorapi

If a citizen commits a sin, the king bears the responsibility. If the king commits a sin, the raja purohita is responsible. If a woman commits a sin, her husband bears the responsibility and the Guru has to bear the responsibility for the sins of the disciple.

That is why the scriptures caution the Guru on whom to accept as a disciple and whom knowledge should be given to. That is why even our acharyas , even though they are jnanis and are immune to virtue and sin, go thru that much anushthAna ( rigorous performance of one’s duties ), to show to the world how a Guru and a shishya should lead their lives.

But at the same time, the Guru should not feel lacking anything – अहं तृप्तोस्मि , अहं पूर्णोस्मि– then only he becomes a Guru. For such a guru to give his grace to the disciple, Krishna advises what the disciple should do :

तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया ।
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः ॥

tadviddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṃ jñāninastattvadarśinaḥ

The disciple must do service to Him.  Unless one does service to the Guru, one won’t get the phalam ( benefit ) of one’s learning. Guru is the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance and lights the lamp of knowledge. The difference between the Guru and Acharya is that while the Guru only teaches, the Acharya also shows what he teaches, in practice through His conduct.

आचिनोति च शास्त्रार्थान् आचारे स्थापयत्यपि ।
स्वयमाचरते यस्मात् तस्मादाचार्य उच्यते ॥

ācinoti ca śāstrārthān ācāre sthāpayatyapi
svayamācarate yasmāt tasmādācārya ucyate

To those maha purushas who are our Gurus and Acharyas who, with their infinite compassion, show us the path to knowledge and liberation, we can’t offer anything in return but doing repeated namaskarams at Their lotus feet.

श्री गुरुभ्यो नमः

  • Lecture by “Dharmatma” Dr. Yegnasubramanian
  • Transcribed by Srinivas Mallapragada

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