Step 14

Understand our tradition!

We are used to special days-mother’s day father’s day. Like that there is a special day for Gurus called Gurupurnima. Often I am asked by people who are not used to our tradition, “Are you a Guru?” The word guru is thus taken as a kind of generic term, even though it is purely personal. One is a guru to given person, like how one is a father or mother to another person. One is a Guru to a disciple; otherwise one is a pandita or sanniyasi. However, the word guru has a generic sense “One who teaches”. Therefore the word can be applied to anyone who teaches. So we have gurus for fine arts, performing arts and even martial arts. It is a term used by all and sundry to indicate someone who is an expert in a given discipline and teaches the discipline.

The word guru is made up of two syllables “gu” and “ru”. The syllable “gu” stands for darkness and the syllable ‘ru’ stands for one who dispels the darkness. One who dispels the darkness is guru. In our tradition darkness is always used as an example for ignorance. The darkness has a capacity to cover a thing that is existent. What is there does not come to light for want of light. Only when you bring the light in, you see the object that is there. This analogy of darkness and light is used to describe a teacher as one who brings to light ‘what is’. So the teacher’s job is to make the other person ‘see’. When I bring in the light, the light cannot produce a thing which is not existent in the room, but definitely it can bring to light what exists in the room. Similarly, a teacher cannot make someone else out of a person, but if the person does not know the fact about the world or about one’s body,mind or about oneself then the teacher can bring to light for this person ‘what is’- So the guru is one who dispels darkness and makes you recognize ‘what is’.

Veda-Vyasa and our spiritual culture:

On this day of the gurus we remember the sage Vyasa. In fact this day is called Vyasa-Poornima, the day of Vyasa, without whom there would have been no Vedic tradition of teaching. And without this Vedic-tradition, India would just be a population, nothing else. India is a great country. It has something very special to offer to the humanity because of Vyasa. He is considered our last link to the tradition for which we have no history. Vedas are looked upon as anadi, beginningless. So we do not know beginning of the Vedas but we know Veda-Vyasa. He collected all the hymns and presented them in the form of four Vedas and therby preserved this most ancient body of knowledge. Some people like Bala Gangadhara Tilak hold that Vedic culture was present even in the North Pole region (including Canada) when it was habitable long time ago. Even the western scholars, who generally insist that everything should be after Christ or just before him, accept this particular fact that the most ancient body of knowledge the humanity has is in the form of Vedas. And Vyasa is our last link to this knowledge. That is why he is always remembered with great reverence in our culture. Therefore Shankara in his commentaries uses the word Bhagawan as an adjective to him. Thanks to Vyasa we have in this culture I would call as “spiritual culture”

There is no spiritual pursuit in other cultures:
But one may say every culture is a spiritual culture and there are many numbers of persons given to ‘spiritual pursuit’ unfortunately this is not true. If you ask any person belonging to different cultures “do you have a well defined spiritual pursuit with a definite goal to be achieved in this life?” the answer will be “NO”. There are so many religious cultures in the world but they do not have a definite spiritual pursuit. Whether you are Christian, Muslim or a Parsi, you do not have a defined spiritual pursuit. It is amazing! The Buddhists do have some kind of pursuit because the religion originated from Hinduism. Outside this I do not see any where anybody saying “I want to achieve the spiritual goal in this life.”

The world Religions has only religious pursuit. They have a concept of what a human soul is and what it can accomplish. They have a set of beliefs and they go by these beliefs.

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