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An interesting word that most people with a spiritual bent of mind will have come across is “Guru”. It is a Sanskrut word originally, and has been adopted into the English language to mean “an expert, an authority or a master in a particular area of life“.

Original terms in Sanskrut

Let us look at the word in its original context in Sanskrut. A quick note: I do not profess to be an expert in Sanskrit; not by any stretch of the imagination. I have been fortunate enough to learn from great Masters, and am simply sharing the wisdom and knowledge that they shared with me.

The word Guru is composed of two Sanskrit words: “Guh”, one of the meanings of which is “darkness” and “Ru”, which can be translated as “Light”. The Guru, then, is that principle which leads us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. It is that impulse or drive within us for betterment: of ourselves, and of our life, in any area.

Is the Guru a person?

People are often misled into thinking that only a specific person is their Guru, that they have to worship a particular person as as their Guru, and that they have to be “loyal” to “their Guru”. Some self-declared Gurus even encourage this kind of slavish thinking and behaviour. This could not be further away from the truth.

Yes, the Guru Principle may be expressed in the form of a person who is our trusted guide at a particular time in our life, for sure. But it’s equally important to remember that different people embody this principle in our life at different points in time. The principle can equally well be expressed as a book that falls into our hands at an opportune moment, a simple profound statement by someone we just happen to cross paths with, a thought that arises in our mind after watching a particular event, and so on. Even a person who teaches us an important lesson through a painful experience, who may seem like an “enemy” in that moment, is actually an expression of the Guru Principle in action, teaching us some wisdom that we need to learn!

A true Guru explains the situation like this: “When you need to cross a river, having a boat is very convenient and useful. It takes you across to the other bank without having to get wet or risk your life. But after you’ve crossed the river, there’s no need to carry that boat on your head for the rest of your life! Go live your life!

My own Guru said this: “You’re not meant to just find a Guru, but to achieve what the Guru has achieved. Then, finding the Guru has been worthwhile.

Finding Balance

Does this mean we should not respect anyone as a Guru? As with anything in life, the trick lies in balance. It is a good thing to be humble, and to accept that great wisdom can come to us from any quarters. A person who guides us selflessly through the difficult journey of life is worthy of great respect and love. Yet we must also remember that a a truly great being will never consider a student to be “beneath” himself or herself. They will consider a student as an equal and a dear friend. Would we not gladly help a friend if we could, without expecting anything in return? That’s exactly how the relationship between a Guru and a disciple is. Remember, if someone is speaking words of great wisdom and we are deaf, their wisdom might as well not exist as far as it’s practical use to us is concerned! The act of teaching or guiding requires two: the teacher and the student. Without the teacher, the student is lost, and without the student, the teacher has no one to teach!

Every person, situation, teaching that comes our way is brought forth by the same Guru Principle. It is that Principle alone which leads us from darkness to light, and that alone can be called the Guru is the fullest sense of the word.