[Advaita-l] Traits of an Ideal Guru and an ideal disciple

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Mar 23 01:10:50 CDT 2010

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

In order to put in perspective the qualities of an ideal Guru and an ideal
siShya, this post, with a specific title, is presented here.

(The traits of the ideal Guru were presented in a different post under the
thread titled 'Nityananda'.  This is copied here for being accessed and read
along with the disciple's qualities in one place.)

Who is a Guru?

One crisp answer to this question is provided by Shankaracharya:

को गुरुः ?  [Who is a Guru?]

अधिगततत्त्वः, शिष्यहिताय उद्यतः सततम् [He who has Realized the Truth and
always strives for the supreme welfare of the disciple.] (The opening
question-answer in His प्रश्नोत्तररत्नमालिका 'A jewelled necklace of
questions and answers')

This definition is so crisp and deep in meaning that none can improve upon

Sri Mahasannidhanam, HH Sri Vidyatirtha SwamigaL of Sringeri Peetham has
rendered a benedictory talk, अनुग्रहभाषणम्, on the theme of the Ideal Guru.
He takes up a verse composed by Sri Vedanta DeshikaH and expounds on it word
by word for a full hour.  The verse and the meaning, in brief, is:

सिद्धं सत्संप्रदाये स्थिरधियमनघं श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्ठं
सत्त्वस्थं सत्यवाचं समयनियतया साधुवृत्त्या समेतम् ।
दम्भासूयादिमुक्तं जितविषयगणं दीर्घबन्धुं दयालुं
स्खालित्ये शासितारं स्वपरहितपरं देशिकं भूष्णुमीप्सेत् ॥ (न्यासविंशतिः १)

It is such an elaborate and involved description of an ideal guru that the
Jagadguru delves into its meaning giving examples for each of the traits.
Below are enumerated the various traits that Sri Vedanta Deshikar has stated

1. सिद्धं सत्संप्रदाये - He is established in a lofty sampradAya.
2. स्थिरधियं - He is endowed with a firm mind.
3. अनघं - He is sinless; the tendency to sin are absent in him.
4. श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्ठं - He is well versed in the ShAstram and is
established in Brahman, owing to his realization of the Supreme.
5. सत्त्वस्थं - His sattva guNa is very strongly developed.
6.  सत्यवाचं - He is committed to speaking the truth.
7. समयनियतया साधुवृत्त्या समेतम्  - His conduct is dictated by the demands
of the occasion and the confines of the scripture-prescribed rules and
8. दम्भासूयादिमुक्तं - He is free from the common defects of ostentatious
display, envy, etc.
9.  जितविषयगणं - He is a master of his senses; not a slave of the
10.  दीर्घबन्धुं - He is an all-time friend/relative/support/solace (to
those who relate to him)
11.   दयालुं - He is compassionate
12.  स्खालित्ये शासितारं  - When there is a slip, he is quick to correct it.
Here the 'slip' is with reference to the disciple; going by the qualities
described above, a slip in his case is ruled out.
13. स्वपरहितपरं - He is always intent upon the supreme welfare of himself as
well as the others (disciples, etc.)

देशिकं भूष्णुमीप्सेत् - One  aught to (I) reverentially worship such an
exalted Guru.
There appears to be a पाठभेदः or an error while rendering the Speech in
For the last word भूष्णुमीप्सेत् there is another rendering:
भूष्णुरीप्सेत्.  It looks like, going by the 'I ....worship' meaning, it has
to be ...ईप्से.  If it is 'One aught to...', then the existing reading seems
alright.  Suggestions/corrections are welcome.

One can see the verse to be a 'total' definition of an Ideal Guru.  All the
various qualities that some members suggested with regard to a 'good' Guru
are eminently incorporated in this Master Definition.  One can also
appreciate that Shankaracharya's crisp definition stands expatiated in this
verse with great sincerety and imagination.  Our humble Pranams to the Great

[At the end of the discourse, the Acharya asks a question: This verse is
that of Sri Vedanta Deshika.  Is he not a VishiShTAdvaitin?  And He replies:
For Me whatever is in accordance with the Shruti is agreeable/acceptable.]

The Sringeri Acharya has discoursed on the topic of an ideal disciple too,
taking a verse of Sri Vedanta Deshika:

Here is a verse on the traits an ideal student pursuing Vedantic enquiry is
supposed to be endowed with:

सद्बुद्धिः साधुसेवी समुचितचरितः तत्त्वबोधाभिलाषी
शुश्रूषुः त्यक्तमानः प्रणिपतनपरः प्रश्नकालप्रतीक्षः ।
शान्तो दान्तो अनसूयः शरणमुपगतः शास्त्रविश्वासशाली
शिष्यः प्राप्तः परीक्षां कृतविदभिमतं तत्त्वतः शिक्षणीयः ॥ न्यासविंशतिः ३ ॥

The meaning, in brief, is as under:

सद्बुद्धिः - he is a good-natured one
साधुसेवी - he is engaged in serving exalted persons, mahAtma-s.
समुचितचरितः - endowed with proper conduct
तत्त्वबोधाभिलाषी - a burning desire to know the Truth
शुश्रूषुः - he is intent upon serving the Guru
त्यक्तमानः - free of egotism
प्रणिपतनपरः - ever intent upon prostrating before/saluting the Guru
प्रश्नकालप्रतीक्षः - he is eagerly waiting for the opportune moment to pose
his questions
शान्तो दान्तो - is possessed of shama and dama (control of the mind and
control of the senses)
अनसूयः - free of envy/hatred
शरणमुपगतः - has surrendered to / taken refuge under the Guru
शास्त्रविश्वासशाली - has unshakable faith in the teaching of the Scripture
शिष्यः प्राप्तः परीक्षां कृतविदभिमतं तत्त्वतः शिक्षणीयः - when such an
aspirant, having passed the appropriate tests, attains to a Guru, he is to
be imparted the VidyA that he is seeking.

These speeches are transcribed in the Tamil book: Mukti Neri முத்தி நெறி
publshed by Sri Vidyatirtha Foundation, Chennai. Rs.30, containing 16 of His
speeches with copious quotations and appropriate references in Sanskrit and


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