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
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 :
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
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.
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