His Holiness Jagadguru
Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal
Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
It is said that Guru(preceptor) is greater than God, devotion to preceptor is more meritorious than that to God. If we ask why, the answer is that God has not been seen by any one, But the preceptor is present here and now before us. If a Preceptor who is immaculate and pure, full of wisdom and steadiness of vision completely free from weakness, were available to us, the mental peace in search of which we pray to God is at our reach by devotion to the preceptor. Hence it is declared
“Gurur – Brahma
Gurur – Vishnuh
Guru -devo Maheswarah
Gurur – sakshat Param Brahma
Tasmai Sri Gurave namah”
The Preceptor is Brahma, Vishnu, is the God Maheswara, is verily Brahma itself. Salutation to such a Preceptor
In this verse it is to be noted that total identity between the Preceptor and Brahman reality is declared. Incidentally, since in this verse both Siva and Vishnu are clubbed together, if we prostrate before the preceptor uttering this verse we will get the sense of the identity of Siva and Vishnu.
God performs the works like creating and protecting the world. But the preceptor does not have these responsibilities. God has an ‘office’ while the Preceptor does not have one. is much easier to get things done by the grace of the preceptor than by the officer God whom we will have to disturb.
Whatever great and auspicious qualities God possesses, the Preceptor also has, namely, blemishless purity, truth, devoid of deceit or dissimulation, complete control of the senses, infinite compassion and wisdom. The only difference is that we are able to see the Preceptor by our eyes, while God is invisible. Hence if we begin to develop devotion to the preceptor clinging to his holy feet we will gain with ease all the benefits that we expect from God with effort. That is why our elders said that devotion to Preceptor is superior in its effects than that to God.
However we should not forget to practice devotion to god, because we are led to the presence and proximity of the Preceptor only by God. if the grace of God were not operating, how could one get near the Preceptor at all?
Acharya Sankara has stated in the beginning of the Vivekacudamani that three things are hard to obtain without God’s Grace. They are(1) birth as a human being, (2) desire to know the truth and to get liberated and (3) the attainment of holy Preceptor.
“Durlabham trayameva etat devanugraha – hetukam
For all people at all ages, the Preceptor is one only. He is Dakshinamurthy.
“Sa purvesham api guruh
How could true knowledge have been transmitted to one Preceptor except through Preceptor of that Preceptor except through Preceptor of that Preceptor and so on? If we thus trace the line or Preceptor backwards, God Himself ultimately will become the First preceptor to his first disciple. That is why we are told not to forget God.
Sometimes this matter is stated in a different way. If instead of speaking of God and Preceptor as two different persons, if we treat them as one and the same and assume that God has appeared in the form of a Preceptor, we need not practice two-fold devotion separately as devotion to the Preceptor. we can consider God Himself as the preceptor and surrender to Him totally. He will save us by His grace through the preceptor in human form who after all is only His manifestation. Hence we are taught even at the very outset that the preceptor is the basis of trinity of God viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.
“Gurur – Brahma
Gurur – Vishnuh
Gurur – Devo Maheswarah
Gururs – Sakshat Param Brahma
Tasmai Sri Gurave namah
The meaning of the above verse is used sometimes to be explained more tastefully with reference to Sage Vyasa who is the most important of all the teachers of the Brahma-vidya.
“acatur-vadano brahmaa, dvibaahur-aparo-harih;
Aphaalalocanah sambhuh, bhagavaan baadaraayanah.”
‘Baadaraayana’ is another name of Vyasa. He is Brahmaa without four faces. He is Vishnu with only two hands; He is Siva without the eye on the forehead. Such is the greatness of Vyasa-Baadadraayana.
There is no one greater than the preceptor. We should have full faith in him. It should be genuine faith. if we have faith that God himself has appeared in the preceptor’s form, then even God is not necessary. This faith and the devotion that we nourish towards Him, will of themselves redeem us.
For the Vaishnava, devotion to Preceptor is the most important and primary.
If we commit and offence against God, there is no need to seeking pardon from God himself. It is enough if the Preceptor pardoned us. God’s anger will at once be appeased. On the contrary, if one offends the preceptor, and seeks pardon from God, nothing would happen. God himself would tell him that He is helpless in the matter. he will ask us to get the pardon from the preceptor alone.
The Preceptor can intercede on behalf of the disciple and recommend to God to pardon the sinner. God will never disregard this recommendation. If, on the contrary, the preceptor is sinned against there could be none to protect the sinner. There is a verse which tells us this.
“Gurur-pitaa, gurur-maataa, guru-daivam, guru-gatih,
Sive-rysgte gurustraataa, gurur rushte na kascana”
That is why the scriptures enjoin the devotion to the preceptor. If a Preceptor, perfect in all respects is not available, one has to take to some Preceptor as a spiritual guide even though he is of a grade less and practice devotion to him and through him to God.
No benefit accrues to God or Guru by our devotion to them. The great benefit is only ours. What is that?
We have impurities and are fickle-minded. We are not able to fix the mind in one point even for a second. Only when we set our thought on one who is ever pure, is full of wisdom, is constant and inflexible like a dried wood, that state of immutability will be won by us also. We will become the same as He. The object of our thought need not necessarily be God. It may be any object or any person whom we consider to be possessed of such spiritual qualities as those of a Preceptor. We will become one with Him. Only when the mind stops to wander, self will shine forth. That is, we will know our true nature of bliss. Devotion to Guru or God is indispensable for the restraint of the mind.
In the Chandogya Upanishad itself it is declared that only by the grace of the Guru true knowledge is possible. It says “aacaaryavaan purusho veda” (only one who has a Preceptor, gains true knowledge).
It puts the idea in the form of short story.
A man belonging to Gandhara (now known as Kandahar) was kidnapped by some dacoits and was abandoned blindfold in a forest. what will be his predicament? How could he return to his country not knowing where he was?
Similar is the case with us. Maya, the deluding power, has left us blindfold in the world. In the above story, some wayfarer happens to come on the way in the forest. He removes the blind and instructs him on the way back to Gandhara. The poor man follows the instructions and reaches his place.
Similarly, we are now blinded by ignorance and can, following the instruction of the Preceptor, get our ignorance removed and attain release. This is the parable in the Chandogya Upanishad.
Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, renowned as the world teacher (Jagadguru), sings the praise of the Guru everywhere. He asked “What if one has all the glories? What is the use of it all if his mind is not bound to the lotus feet of the Preceptor?” He asks “what if?” not once, but repeatedly. In the poem Gurdvashtakam (consisting of eight verses), he asks as a refrain at the end of every line “What if” in all the 32 lines.
And also in the teaching just on the eve of his casting off the mortal coils he commands; “Take to a Preceptor who is a savant and is pure. Then do service at his holy feet every day. Seek the instruction on Brahman, symbolised in the single syllable Om! Listen to the Mahavaakyas of Upanishads!”
“Sad-vidvan upasrpyatam pratidinam
tatpadukaa sevyatam brahmaika akasaram
arthyatam srutisriri-vaakyam samaakarnyataam.”
There is no parallel to the Guru. He may be compared a philosopher’s stone which turns the base metal into gold. But even this comparison is not Quite correct because the philosopher’s stone turns base metal only into gold. it does not transform that metal into another philosopher’s stone. But the Preceptor turns even the dullard into a wise sage like him.
When we look at the line of the Preceptors one by one, and our Paramacharya, the doubt deepens whether there could be any one comparable to him. We should contemplate on the Paramacharya not merely as a God walking amidst us but the Supreme non-dual Brahman who is beyond all difference and determinations.