Gurudakshina: Repaying an Infinite Debt

In learning, we grow. A soul chooses its script basis its past lives, lessons learnt, and still to be learnt. Then too we learn from the environment, from our experiences and from observing people around us. But most of all we learn from our teachers. Teachers dot every point on the map of our lives, starting with one’s parents and primary caregivers to our teachers in school, university and all those people who help achieve our life’s purpose. And then there are our spiritual teachers. The person or persons who help us realize the potential of our souls and connect to the universe. Each of these people impart infinite wisdom and in doing so shape and mold our lives and our consciousness.

The teachers we choose are based on what we imagine our life’s purpose to be. Think about it… as young children, we idolize our parents as they are larger than life. Growing up, our icons are our teachers, sports persons, rock stars, movie stars and so on. When we start work, it may be a corporate bigwig or a business tycoon based on how we envisage our lives to be at that stage. In more mature stages of our lives, we think of spiritual leaders as our gurus and put them on a pedestal.

In fact this ‘selection process’ starts at birth. For example, if one wants to become an actor, the soul chooses parents accordingly who either belong to the industry or will be sympathetic to the inclination. Then one finds people who will help achieve this dream. One merges with their purpose and eventually finds a new path to achieve one’s own purpose. Take Jesus for example; he was baptized by John the Baptist, so was John his teacher? Similarly Buddha learnt from many teachers before he achieved enlightenment. The important thing is that one may learn from multiple teachers in order to create one’s own philosophy.

When I look at people around me, especially those talking about spiritual gurus, they keep talking about who their teacher is and how great he or she is. My advise to them is to forget how famous their teacher is and focus on living the teachings of that person. In Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you want to see”; live his/her teachings; don’t just talk about it. If you are truly able to do this it will be the highest service you can carry out for your teacher. But this is easier said than done. Also, what is more important is to understand the spirit of the teachings and not to live by the letter. A word of warning here: Many of us have come across the term “the zeal of a new convert”. In the course of my spiritual journey I have come across many people who feel their philosophy is the only one worth following and set about trying to reshape the world to fit their belief system. New students constantly spout their teachers’ words but do not imbibe those teachings. It is important to translate thoughts to words and then finally to action, else the learning is meaningless.

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