Gurus (Ancient, Medieval and Modern)

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Item Code: IHG042
Author: M.L. Ahuja
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788129114075
Pages: 247
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.4 inch X 5.4 inch
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Back of the Book

Gurus Ancient Medieval and moderns is a well researched book that brigs to focus the lives activities and legends associated with gurus of ancient medieval and modern India. Sages like Vasishtha Vishwamitra and Valmiki are among the luminaries of the ancient world while the medieval ages are marked with the rich presence of gurus like Chaitanaya and Krishna. The book also covers several contemporary yogis and sages who have been largely influenced by Western thoughts and who have brought about a harmonious confluence of Eastern and Western thoughts and spiritually. Among the most popular of these have been Osho and maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This book is useful repository of information for all those who are interested in knowing more about Hindu mythology particularly the students and teachers of Indian philosophy. It is also a useful book all school college and university libraries in addition to those pursuing Indological Studies.

M.L. Ahuja the recipient of the Janseva Sadbhavana Award (2006) and Bharat Gaurav Award (2007). An MA, DLL and DCS he is the author of over twenty five books. He is associated with book publishing as well as distributing of books and journals. He has traveled extensively both within and outside India and has presented a number of papers at several national and international seminars. He has also contributed a number of articles to journals and books most of which are on publishing of books and journals. He is the Executive Secretary of the Afro-Asian Book Council.


For centuries the Vedas the smritis the Manusmriti the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have been regarded as sources of reference with regard to religion duties social customs and Hindu laws. Their injunctions have regulated the lives of millions of people in successive ages.

It is said that in the beginning there was nothing in the universe except Brahma the divine Creator of the universe. Brahma's first act was to meditate and it was while he was meditating that the Vedas the Puranas and the other shastras (sacred texts) emerged from his mouth. Ten sons were also born to Brahma created through his mental powers and they all became sages. These were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Pracheta, Vashistha, Bhrigu and Narada. Daksha was born from Brahma's right toe and the God Dharma was born from his chest. For the purpose of procreation Brahma created two beings from his body a man and a woman.

However the direct descendents of Brahma were sages rishis who are credited with the creation of the Vedas. They have been instrumental in the transmission of knowledge form one generation to the other and can be termed as our classical gurus. A guru is an enlightened person who guides his disciples to take the righteous path. The Sanskrit root Gu means darkness or ignorance and Ru denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes the darkness of ignorance is a guru.

According to the popular magazine Psychology Today, the development of one's personality should involve changes in one's style of living. Personality can be better construed as the sum total of attributes needed for success in life. A teacher, whether in school or college also helps in the building up of one's personality. As such student also refer to their teachers as their gurus. The word guru has now become synonymous with influential teachers or experts on a particular subject for example a management guru. In Sikkhim for instance each of the first ten teachers of the Sikh religion is referred to as guru. But for the purpose of this book the word guru refers to a spiritual teacher.

A spiritual aspirant no matter how brilliant can never attain such sublime knowledge by individual effort alone. This is stipulated in the Srimad Bhagavatam in which Jadbharat reveals to king Rahugan, 'O Rahugan'! One cannot attain knowledge of Atma and Paramamtam by performing penance of sacrifices nor can it be achieved through renunciation Vedic study or worshipping deities. But when the dust from the feet of a satpurush falls on our head we can surely attain this knowledge.' Thus one can only attain salvation by serving the satpurush. Treading the path to God realization by one's own efforts is likened in the Katha Upanishad to walking on a razor's edge. Adi Shakaracharya echoes a similar injunction. If a person despite possessing a handsome disease free body fame a mountain of wealth and the knowledge of the Vedas and other scriptures has not surrendered himself at the feet of a guru then he has achieved nothing, nothing, nothing.'

Thus a guru has been revered from the days the first Veda was composed. The Vedas the principal scriptures of the Hindus which constitute a body of knowledge and are said to be eternal were revealed to our great rishis who and purified their minds through meditation. From time to time great kings and rishis who had studied the Vedas and who had practiced mastered and experienced the essence of that knowledge in their lives communicated and taught the sruti according to the needs of society at a particular time and place. Thus the tradition of gurus in medieval and modern periods of Indians history has continued.

In this way the word 'guru' implies a person who imparts temporal knowledge (apara vidya) and is accordingly offered respect. The Skanda Purana has equated a true guru with God :

'Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu,
Gurur Devo Maheshwara,
Gurussakshat Parabrahma,
Tasmaya Shri Guruve Namaha.'

This can be translated as: the guru is Brahma, Vishnu and Mahdeva (Shiva). The guru is indeed the very Brahman (the impersonal Absolute form of God). I revere that mighty guru.

A famous couplet by Kabir, although dated to a much later time period echoes the same sentiments :

'Guru Govind dau khade,
Kake laagon paaye ;
Balihari guru aapki
Govind diyo bataye'

This can be translated as: My guru and God are both present before me whose feet should I touch first? Glory be to the Guru since he showed me the path to God.

Apart from guiding the aspirant on the path to God realization the guru throws light on the profound meaning of a vast array of scriptural knowledge. Hence the Mundaka Upanishad calls such a guru Shortiya which means knower of the true meaning of the scriptures. Adi Shankaracharaya forbids as aspirant from endeavoring to decipher the meanings of scriptures without guru. In his commentary on a mantra from the Mundaka Upanishad he says 'even if one possesses knowledge of the sericulture he should not attempt to delve into their meaning by himself. He should obtain the knowledge of Brahma only through the guru.

Indian history has witnessed a formidable number of distinguished gurus in its ancient medieval and modern periods. In ancient India in addition to Brihaspati and the ten direct descendents of Brahma we had kashyap, Valmiki Ved Vyas Shukracharaya Bharata, Patanjali and others who's saying and writings have guided the destiny of mankind through the ages. The medieval period is marked by the rich presence of gurus like Kabir, Ramanuja, Mira Bai, Tulsidas, Guru Nanak and Chaitanya who were proponents of revolutionary movements like the Bhakti movements and founders of great religious like Sikhism. Their teachings down the years have become some of the most sagacious teachings of our times. Among the foremost saints who appeared during the medieval years in Indian history were Ramananda and his disciple. Kabir, Kabir did not acknowledge any caste distinction which was a significant perspective in those days nor did he differentiate between Hinduism and Islum. The other two saints who exercised a deep influence on people during this period were Guru Nanak and Chaitnaya. While the former envisaged a casteless and classless society whose dream was equality among human beings the latter showed his disciples the path to free them from the mind forced manacles of materiality and to attain oneness with the supreme being Tulsidas, Surdas and Mahamati Pran Nath in the north and Kamban in the south were other prominent saints during this period each one known for his distinct contributions to religion and philosophy.

The year 1765 became the locus of a lot of changes that Indian saw in the years that followed with the Mughals becoming pensioners of the British East India Company the regions shifted completely. Further on the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries saw the expansion and consolidation of British power in India. Along with this expansion came the exploitation mainly economic - this shook the nation to its deepest roots. A number of European wanted to explore Indians past her apparently rich cultural heritage and the country vast partly resources the administrations encouraged oriental learning partly to satisfy local demand and partly to acquire knowledge of the culture customs and languages of a country they intended to rule for a long time.

Though Rammohan Roy the father of modern India brought home to the Indians the necessity of modernizing themselves Indians wisdom embodied in ancient Indian mythology found new interpretations in the writing of Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo Mahatma Gandhi, S. Radhakirshna and others who recognized divinity in man and put service to humanity above self proclaimed before the world the strength of Hindu culture. Osho was an enlightened master who phase by developing consciousness.

However what makes the modern period distinct is the universal approach of almost every spiritual guru who emerged during this period. Their messages are meant for humanity as whole cutting across geographical boundaries and religious constraints. They have a following in almost every country.

In this way India has been the repository of spiritual wisdom through the age's right from the ancient and medieval to the modern times. Each of them has been characterized with distinct features and our gurus have taken spirituality to a new dimension giving it a pragmatic approach in tune with the changing needs of the time. At a time when our mechanical life is inevitably associated with stress paving the way for unhappiness discontent and even criminal activities a guru's role in stress managements is extremely important. He alone can calm the tumultuous sea of life to bring about inner peace.

This book Gurus, Ancient, Medical & Modern provides an exposition of the lives and philosophy of some of the spiritual masters who have been guiding the destiny of mankind during the ancient medieval and modern periods of Indian history. I hope that their illuminating approach will enrich the vision of the readers to follow the path advocated by these distinguished spiritual masters. If the reading of this book can bring in placidity, harmony and tranquility to even a fraction of humanity I shall take my painstaking efforts as suitable rewarded.


Acknowledgements ix
Preface xi
Ancient 1
Devaguru Brihaspati 3
Kashyap Rishi 8
Maharishi Vishwamitra 12
Narad Muni 19
Patanjali Maharishi 26
Asurguru Shukracharya 34
Ved Vyasa 40
Maharishi Valmiki 48
Medieval 55
Adi Shankaracharya 57
Kamban 66
Ramanuja 72
Sant Kabir 79
Guru Nanak 88
Surdas 96
Tulsidas 102
Sri Krishna Chaitanya 112
Mira Bai 120
Bhagwan Swaminarayana 127
Mahamati Pran Nath 135
Modern 143
Ramakrishna Parmahansa 145
Swami Vivekananda 153
Swami Rama Tirtha 165
Swami Ramdas 172
Sri Aurobindo 176
Swami Prabhupada 187
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 193
Osho 205
Mata Amiritanadamayi 214
Sri Sri Ravishanker 225
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