The Sanskrit root “Gu” means darkness or ignorance. “Ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes darkness of our ignorance is a Guru. Only he who removes our ultimate darkness, known as Maya, and who inspires and guides us on to the path of God-realization is the true Guru. Students also refer to their school teacher or college lecturer as guru. The connotation of the word guru in this case is one who imparts temporal knowledge (Apara Vidya) and is thus accordingly offered respect. A spiritual aspirant, no matter how brilliant, can never attain such knowledge by his own endeavor. This is stipulated in the Shrimad Bhagwatam in which Jadbharat reveals to king Rahugan:
“O Rahugan! One cannot attain knowledge of Atma and Paramatma by performing penance, sacrifices, renunciation, Vedic study or worshipping deities of water, fire or the sun. But when the dust from the feet of a satpurush (God-realized Guru) sprinkles on our heads, then we can surely attain this knowledge.”
In essence, one can only attain salvation by serving the satpurush. Treading the path to God-realization by one’s own efforts is likened by the Katha Upanishad as walking on a razor’s edge. Adi Shankaracharya echoes a similar injunction: “If a person, despite possessing: a handsome, disease-free body, fame, a mountain of wealth, and even if he has studied the Vedas and all other scriptures, and has himself composed many scriptures, but has not surrendered himself at the feet of a Guru, then he has achieved nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
The Guru plays a vital role in boosting the aspirant frequently, when he loses track, becomes despondent or simply runs out of steam. The aspirant is thus better able to obey the Guru if he understands the Guru’s glory.
The human soul, even though initiated in the spiritual path, cannot love an abstract power; and it is for this reason that the scriptures advise us to venerate those who lead us to God and to love their physical presence as the Divine manifesting itself in human form. The Guru’s physical body is just a receptacle of the mighty Divine, and as such worthy of the utmost devotion and reverence.
God as the abstract Creator eludes our imagination, but when a human temple enshrines divinity we begin to understand through this familiar medium the purpose of our own ultimate destiny. Thus, when God assumes a human form, He establishes Himself as the Guru. Guru is manifested God- this is perhaps the most succinct and satisfying definition of the word, and eliminates the false claims of some so-called Gurus who are ready to assume the mantle of spiritual authority without the true manifestation of the divine principle.
The Guru as manifested God soon becomes the Light, the inspiration and the great exemplar. The life of the average seeker, as it is lived on the material and physical level, is barren and unproductive until it finds its focus in the Master. It requires the grace, protection and the powerful push of the Guru to release this imprisoned splendor which lies captive in each and every one of us.
The Guru and God are one because the Almighty and His medium of manifestation cannot be different.
The Guru embodies not only the Saguna (characteristics) but also the Nirguna(quality) of the Supreme Being, and so to that extent the Guru is approachable and accessible to man’s needs and comprehension.
Guru’s mission: The Guru’s mission appears to be two-fold. The first and most important concern of the Guru is to awaken, elevate and transform the seeker. The second and final purpose of the Guru is paradoxically to help the disciple seeker to transcend this state of complete dependence on the Master, which dependence the Guru himself had taken such pains to foster. The final spurt of realizing his true identity with God is exclusively the Seeker’s job.
“A guru is a person who can really show you the true nature of your mind and who knows the perfect remedies for your psychological problems. Someone who doesn’t know his own mind can never know others’ minds and therefore cannot be a guru.” The syllable gu means shadows The syllable ru, he who disperses them, Because of the power to disperse darkness the guru is thus named.