[Advaita-l] Guidance of a guru

Sanjay Srivastava sksrivastava68 at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 14 16:25:03 CST 2004

Vidyadhar Karmarkar wrote:

"Are you referring to Munadaka Upanisad 1.2.12 when you mentione 
"Srotriyam" and "brahmaniStham" as qualifications of a 

Yes. Though I do not exactly remember the verse number, it is from first ch. 
of Mundaka and goes like, " parIkSya lokAn karma-jitAn, brAhmNo 


Sanjay Srivastava <sksrivastava68 at hotmail.com> wrote:
In advaita tradition a guru has to be "shrotriyam" (well versed in 
vedas )
and " brahma-nishtham" (realized). In addition he should possess 
qualities that are necessary to be a good teacher in any subject viz. he
should be able to impart his knowledge effectively.

Though both the qualities viz. being a shrotriyam and brahma-nishtham are
essential, yet if one must make a compromise, one should go to a teacher who
is just shrotriyam than to one who is just brahma-nishtham. It is because if
a teacher is well versed in the method of vedas, even though he may not be a
realized person, at least his words will not confuse you. On the other hand
if a teacher is realized but does not know the systemmatic method of
vedanta, his words are more likely to confuse you and may even lead to a
wrong path. Such a person can be a mystic, not a teacher. Teaching can be
transferred to another person but there is no method by which to transfer

I have had experience with number of teachers trying to impart knowledge in
a mystical way..., " ah! my son!!...what is there to know?...when 
knower is
the known...and known is actually the unknown..." . It doesn't lead you
anyway. What you get at the end of the day are empty words. Moreover with a
mystic, there is no way to know if he is realized. As you have rightly
pointed out there are number of quacks in this field and it is difficult to
distinguish genuine from the fake. Even in shankara's time he had recognized
the problem of shabda-jaal-mahaaranyam. Today it must be worse. If the
teacher is from an established sampradaaya, there is lot of quality control
and peer evaluation and chances of going wrong are minimized. Therefore, it
is absolutely essential that the teacher is well versed in the method of
vedanta and is from an established sampradaaya.

For the same reason, the teacher has to be a living person who can unfold
the meaning of words depending upon the level of preparation of disciple's
mind. Since advaita tradition depends on shabda pramaana, teacher has to be
a living person with whom you can have frequent and physical contact
possible. A dead person can be teacher only to the extent that he can
inspire you, but he cannot clarify your doubts nor can he judge the level of
preparation of your mind to build or negate a concept. An absent or a dead
person can work as a teacher for an exceptionally prepared mind like
raman's-- not for lesser mortals.

Advaita does not depend on personality cult, but upon understanding the
correct meaning of words of vedanta. Therefore, there is no stigma attached
with having more than one teacher. Though people do develop emotional
loyalty to a teacher, it is not at all necessary. During my stay at
rishikesh I have seen senior swamis from one ashram attending classes at
other ashrams who were considered good in specific subjects. Esp. popular
were classes by late Sw. Tarananda Giri of Kailash Ashram, who had an
exceptional talent of explaining difficult concepts through simple examples.
Similarly, Sw. Krisnananda (of Shivananda Ashram) 's classes on panchadashi
were eagerly awaited by swamis of all ashrams and even by those of different
sampradaayas. Shivananda Ashram used to make special arrangements for
accoomodation in those months when Swami Krishnananda would take Panchadashi

My 2 cents.

Sanjay Kumar

8102, 14th
Avenue, Apt # 3

Hampshire Village

MD-20783, U.S.A.

Ph: 301-332-9082 (Cell)
301-434-3773 (Res)


----Original Message Follows----
From: "Venkat Shrinivas" <vsh at verizon.net>
Reply-To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta
<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
To: "'A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta'"
<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Subject: [Advaita-l] Guidance of a guru
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2004 07:48:41 -0500

Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

Note even this description is somewhat vague. There cannot be one fixed
recipe for mukti because every seeker is the result of a different bundle
of vasanas. This is why one is advised to seek the guidance of a guru.


On the "practical" side - finding the right guru seems the first
and most
difficult thing to do, especially when there are so many quacks and cons in
this kali yuga.

What are the qualities of a guru? How does one recognize his/her guru,
especially in the modern times and in western world? Is it necessary that
the guru be self-realized? Does one have only "a" guru or can
there be more
than one gurus? Does the guru have to physically present in this world now -
or can we Have a "virtual" guru through the works and teachings of
and sages who are not here with us now, say as is in Adi Shankara or Ramana
maharishi? Is it necessary to keep in regular contact with their guru - say
as in visiting their ashram often? Is it okay to change the guru if we think
that we are not making progress? Do we always need a guru - or is it
necessary only when we are starting out?

These are important questions - would appreciate if the members can share
their thoughts and knowledge in this forum.

Venkat Shrinivas.

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