Gurukrupa hi kevalam


S. Ainavolu

4/25/2022 7 min read


We often hear the phrase “Gurukrupa hi kevalam”. It means the grace of the Guru is the only saving factor that can push the Shishya, the disciple to the highest orbit. Shishya may strive hard and try reaching higher orbits and even may succeed too. But reaching the highest peak in the hierarchy, the grace of the Guru alone can make it happen is the essence. Often interpreted wrongly that no Sadhana may be required if only the grace of the Guru is sufficient. It is one’s Sadhana makes one become eligible for the grace to flow should be the understanding. One’s sincerity has to speak out. One’s endeavour has to reach levels like “Shadbhagam manushya yatnam”, six out of seven portions done, the effort filled 6/7ths and the grace flows to completely fill the vessel.

We know that etymologically, the word “Gu+Ru” means dispeller/remover of darkness. Guru word can be used for a teacher, mentor, and guide in this sense. There are broadly two types of Gurus, one who are “Shiksha Gurus” and who are “Deeksha Gurus”. We may draw from “double-loop learning” here. One who transfers knowledge (helping us learn) and the other one initiates us, making us master the learning process itself. Guru is also used synonymously as something or someone “weighty” or heavy. We also have antonyms as Guru and Laghu, meaning heavy and light/small in weight. Guru is used as “gravitas” too.

In the current context and topic of Gurukrupa, meaning the grace from the Guru, the word is used as teacher or mentor. Effectively Guru becomes the saviour and the Gurukrupa becomes the aid and the tool that can take one to the destination. Here the wise tell us that the destination is within. We are offered the analogy of Kasturimruga, who runs around for the sugandha (scent) when it is within. Similarly, the seekers are often told that the journey is “within”, the destination and the journey are the same, and we are already at the end-point. We need to realize it. As the wise say, we keep knocking on the door without realizing that we are already in the sought room!

In the tradition

The tradition clearly says that one has to have a Guru. Unguided journeys are not only difficult but also can be dangerous. It is like traveling in darkness, on an unknown path, alone, and with many dangers lurking around. It is so precarious, and we may appreciate the risks. Guru here serves as the mentor/guide. It is said that when no Guru is available in human form, one may take Lord Shiva as the Guru and feel initiated. So, “Shivaya Gurave Namaha”, the mantra for the uninitiated, communicates the facility of treating lord Shiva as one’s Guru. The complementary phrase “Shri Matre Namaha” tells us to treat the Goddess as the mother.

Additionally, when we appreciate Guru’s role as the remover of darkness, the questions arise: where is the darkness and why it is there. Here the darkness we are mentioning is of internal nature and it is the absence of “feeling of the light”. What stops the light from being felt that is already "here and now”? When we are in the present, the light is ON and we are THAT. Then where is the question of darkness? Or we are experiencing the darkness inspite of having light around or we ourselves being the light or we are the part of the light? Possibly, all these are correct answers.

The realized say that Maya is what is preventing the realization of light and realization dissolves the Maya. It is like dropping the curtain to see the other side. Was the scene not there earlier? It was there but we refused to acknowledge it. Realization is attaining ONENESS and seeing THAT everywhere. When Guru lights the lamp of wisdom, illuminated is the state. Guru dispels the tamasic heaviness, rajasic over-action, and sattvic pride. It is Gurukrupa, the grace of Guru that helps the Shishya in realizing the truth and becoming one with Guru. This is the enlightened state. Gurukrupa is said to be the only potential power that can make the Shishya “raise the game” and become equal to and one with his Guru. To say the least, the process is intellectually interesting and practically exciting.

During ancient times

The role of the Guru in one’s development is known in Vedic times and practiced during the Puranic ages. References of Sages Vashishta and Vishwamitra teaching Shri Rama, Shri Krishna attending Sandeepani Gurukul are well known. Vashista being the Kulguru of the Ikshvaku clan, initiated the four brothers into the knowledge world and trains them well. Then Vishwamitra desiring to use Rama as an instrument to clear the demons around their meditation place, arrives at the court and asks for him. Rama and Lakshmana were sent with him on the advice of Vashishta and were taught different techniques like Bala/Atibala and were given different fighting “ammunition” in the form of upadesha. Vishwamitra during this stage and Agastya during the war with Ravana, mentored Sri Rama and helped him attain the targets before him.

Similarly, Sri Krishna learns what all had to be learnt from his Guru and offers the rare Gurudakshina in the form of getting the son of the Guru back from the “point of no return”. During the Kurukshetra war Sri Krishna himself played the role of Guru to Arjuna, and through him to the entire mankind. Hence, the saying “Krishnam vande jagatgurum” is apt.

In Mahabharata the Pandavas and the Dhartarashtras learnt the weaponry education from Dronacharya and his brother-in-law Kripacharya. The mention of Bhishma getting educated from Parushuram is there. Puranic mention of Brihaspati’s son Kacha coming to Shukracharya and learning Mruta Sanjeevani vidya is known. The lofty tradition was, that anyone who sincerely seeks and requests for vidya was offered the same even if he is from enemy camp (as was the Kacha’s case). Also, sometimes there could be an instance of youngsters becoming the Guru to the elders. It is said that Skanda/Kumara initiated (or re-initiated) Shiva when the occasion arose. Here, the father being “taught” by son, but seen as normal in pursuit of wisdom. Reverse mentoring, we all heard by now!

In ancient times, the traditional knowledge was passed on to the next generations as “shruti” and “smriti”, meaning heard and remembered respectively. The reason why there were no written texts is simple. Intonation is very important as multiple nuances are possible for the same set of syllables. Face-to-face learning with coordinated eye-hand-tongue practice was the way. Based on stressing a part/portion, meanings can be different. The movement of the hand that we observe in Vedic reciting communicates the pace and emphasis. Given the dense set of possibilities, learning had to be “Guru mukhata”, in the presence of the Guru. Thus, when Gurukrupa flows, the Shishya becomes complete, becomes Guru himself.

The Guru tradition

Traditional literature mentions the importance of the Guru. The avatars of Dattatreya are worshipped as Gurus. Sripada Shrivallabha was the first of such incarnations. Nrusimha Saraswati was the next. The Guru tattva is complete in such avatar forms. Often the Gurus may appear as Avadhutas and one may mistake them as ones with unsound minds. Wise says that the outer form is misleading and intends to keep off the non-serious from approaching them. It is little complex and many novices and even experienced often make same or similar mistake in identifying. We know Type I and Type II errors and here they come.

During the recent centuries many Guru forms are attributed to the Dattatreya tradition. The inherent “completeness” is worth noting and emulating. It is “Purna”, as is mentioned in “Om Purnamada Purnamidam Purnaad..”. Here, the question arises whether the completeness or purnatva is being brought in from outside or is already inside. In other words, whether gravitas or fullness is “given” by the Guru or Guru facilitates the process of experiencing the purnatva. The wise say, the purnatva is inside and Guru makes it possible for one to experience it. Here the experiential learning is important, not intellectual knowing. The problem during recent centuries was lot of energy has flown and efforts were spent in intellectual discourses and the “act” of experiencing has taken a back-seat. This, trend needs to change for benefiting larger number of seekers is the humble view of this seeker.

Pragmatism has to be brought in pursuits. This seeker’s Guru and father used to tell the story of a king who made learned court scholars quote shastras on how many teeth a horse has, whereas the direct action should have been making the horse’s teeth counted by the staff! Intellectual debates, commentaries and commentaries on previous commentaries made the situation tough and complex for novices. Hopefully, the universal Gurus shall guide the system so that approachability is there. One interesting incidence narrated in “Autobiography of a Yogi” is about Babaji asking Lahiri Mahashay to “initiate the deserving”. Lahiri mahashay requests for grace and asks Babaji to relax the condition and make it along the lines of “initiating anyone who approaches and requests sincerely”. It was granted and the tradition spread among many.

On a fulfilling note

Guru is ONE and the grace flows from ONE to others to make them ONE. It is lit lamp lighting another lamp and making it equal to itself. The Shishya is akin to the vessel that is cleaned and empty. It is waiting and the grace flows in like the “ksheera dhara”, the viscous milk pouring into the vessel. When the filling happens, no space is left. The indriyas / senses are satiated forever, desires disappear and the quest for everything is over. Earlier “moksha-kami” becomes now “nish-kami”. The desire for liberation now becomes the desire for nothing. There is nothing to be pursued after the flow of the grace from the Guru which is the divine grace. The process is simple and straight. The eligible Shishya prepares himself/herself, the Guru appears, lifts to his/her level, fills with grace and the process is over. It repeats number of times, inter-generationally too. Thus, the Guru shapes the Shishya, sets the life path for him, and becomes part of the Shishya. Gurukrupa makes the Shishya become the Guru.

Guru for the sincere seeker is larger than life. The feeling is of gratitude and not servility. Guru had traveled the seeker’s path earlier and mastered it. Hence, he can guide Shishya. Guru brings up the Shishya to his level, eventually making him a Guru. Traditionally, the Guru played the role of a mentor and is larger than even father in one’s life. We have “Snataka” (Convocation) ceremony in the traditional marriage process. Here, Guru talks of the good qualities of his Shishya, so that girl’s father is inspired to do Kanyadan (offering daughter). It is not the boy’s father who vouches for the boy but boy’s Guru. The Guru’s responsibility is completed when the Shishya assumes the Grihasta (householder) stage, starts another Gurukul and continues the selfless tradition of the knowledge/wisdom dissipation. And, the tradition continues.