By Kripamoya Das
I often get asked questions by people who are looking for a guru: “What sort of teacher should I be looking for?” is shortly followed by: “And where do I begin looking for someone like that?”
After they’ve thought a few moments the next question is: “What sort of things do I have to do before I can become someone’s student?” “What happens if I don’t quite measure up?”
Some time later the questions are more about what will happen after they become initiated: “What is he supposed to teach me?” “How do I know if he’s teaching me the right things?”
Lots of questions but, strangely enough, the same questions that people have been asking for a long time. Proof of this is that way back in the 14th century a great spiritual teacher named Vedanta Deshika gave answers to these questions in a short book – Nyasa Vimsati. The answers proved so popular and correct that Gopala Bhatta Goswami included them in his handbook of devotional practise, standard for Gaudiya Vaishnavas for the last 500 years.
This is one post for those who like lists! (But worth the effort of reading it)
Fourteen Qualities of the Guru
Taken from the Nyasa Vimsati by Vedanta Deshika (1268-1370)
As included in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa by Gopala Bhatta Goswami (1503-1578)
Sat-sampradaya siddham – He is firmly established in the sampradaya
Sthira dhiyam – His mind remains firmly fixed, even in debates based on deceitful reasoning
Anagam – Free from sin, and never swerves from shastra
Srotriyam – Fully conversant with the Vedas and Vedanta
Brahma nistham – He has resolute devotion to God, free from blemishes
Sattvastham – Dominated by sattva guna
Satya vacam – Free from deceitful speech, he always tells the truth
Samaya niyataya sadu vritya sametam – Adept at anushtanams (prayers and religious practices).
Dambha asuyadhi muktam – No inauspicious characteristics such as egoism or jealousy
Jita visayi ganam – Does not engage in conduct prohibited by the Bhagavat shastras. Has controlled senses
Dirgha bandhum – He is a friend and guide for all those who have sought his refuge, always seeking their welfare, and lifting them up to the ultimate destination
Dayalum – Has spontaneous compassion and kindness for his disciples
Skhalite sasitaram – Corrects his disciples and recommends improving actions for them
Svapara hitaparam – Determines what is mutually good for him and his sisya (disciple) and acts accordingly
Fifteen Qualities of the Good Disciple
Sadh buddhi – Good intelligence
Sadhu sevi – He has the disposition to mingle with, and serve, the sadhus
Samucita carita – He is marked for his righteous conduct, both personal and social
Tattva bodha abhilasi – Has an eagerness to learn spiritual teaching
Susrusu – He excels in helping the guru in his seva
Tyakta mana – He has become humble or at least free from the gross manifestations of pride
Pranipatena para – He has implicit obedience to the guru and bows down in his presence
Prasna kala pratiksa – He waits for the right time to clear his doubts about what he has learned from the acarya
Santa – He is peaceful and self-controlled
Danta – Controls both his mind and speech
Anasuya – Free from jealousy
Saranam upagata – Always eager to hear ‘instructions of divine grace’ from his guru
Sastra visvas Sali – Has total faith in shastra
Paristam prapta – Ready to undergo any tests set by the guru for assessing his state of preparedness to be accepted as a deserving disciple
Krita-vid sisya – He will be a grateful disciple for all that is to be received from the acarya.
Vedanta Deshika concludes: “Tattvata – abhimatam sikshaniya.” (Truly, such a person with these qualities is fit for instruction by the acarya).
Four Key Instructions the Guru must teach the Disciple
The creation, sustenance and dissolution of everything that is animate and inanimate are under the total control of the Lord and His consort. We have to comprehend the Lord as:
(a) Jagat Karanan – The Creator of all
(b) Jagat Rakshakan – The Protector of all
(c) Sarva Samharakan – The Destroyer of all Creations
(d) Karma Pravrtti Niyamakan – The Commander of all acts initiated by the soul
(e) Sarva Karma Phala Dhayakan – The Granter of the fruits of all karmas
2. Understanding this unique role of the Lord, please do not consider anyone else as your goal.
3. Do not seek anyone other than Him as a means to reach Him.
4. Knowing that both fear and fearlessness about samsara arises from Him, please do not break His commands in shastra.