tasmai shri-gurave namah

om ajnaana-timiraandhasya / jnanaanjana-shalaakaya
caksur-unmilitam yena / tasmai shri-gurave namah

Salutation (namah) to that (tasmai) Guru (gurave) by whom (yena) the eyes (cakshur) blinded (andhasya)
by the darkness (timira) of ignorance (agnyana) were opened (unmilitam) with the collyrium (anjana)-
(applied with the) sharp pencil (shalakaya) of knowledge (gnyana).
Salutations to that Guru who applies the collyrium of knowledge with a sharp needle
to open the eyes blinded due to ignorance (lack of spiritual knowledge).

The purpose of approaching the Master is explained beautifully in this second verse of the Guru Stotram - ajnaana- timiraandhasya jnaananjana shalaakayaa.

We act to achieve certain end-results; we are happy when we are successful and unhappy when fail to achieve the intended result. Life consists of a series of transactions intended for our sukha praapti ; but many times, there is only dukha and we feel disappointed and dissatisfied. Ramana Maharishi in his Upadesa Saram has compared this sorry state of affairs to falling repeatedly into the ocean of samsara and has suggested self-inquiry as a way out to derive permanent satisfaction in our lives.

By middle age, when this dissatisfaction grows and we feel lost like one blinded due to absence of the light of relevant knowledge, we approach a Guru and seek his guidance to gain gnyana drishti for leading life in a manner conducive to yield a steady, happy state of the mind which will not be easily affected by set-backs and failures.. In other words, every effort that we make is for sukha-praapti, to reach a state of satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment, but the goal is not always achieved despite our best efforts. It is then that we approach the Master and seek his help to identify for us the steps that we should take for removing the obstacles which prevent us from being happy, which stop us from being contented. We realize that due to lack of knowledge in this matter, due to our agnyana, we are presently mired in this condition of dissatisfaction with life, seeing no way out.

The Guru is the Master who can remove the disease of ajnana. But it is not as simple as removing a something that is covering what is underneath. It is a very tricky process since there is nothing really to be taken out; what is required is a transformation in us that is necessary. The Guru-doctor applies the ointment (anjana) of knowledge to our affected eye and restores the sight – he grants us the gift of gnyana drishti.

But this Guru-doctor might sometimes speak harshly, making us uncomfortable and wanting to reject him. Why? A famous teacher has given a humorous definition of Guru that really hits home: —Jo shishya ko dekhte hi gurrata hai, woh Guru hai! His purpose in doing this is to disentangle us from our entanglements. But when this happens, our tendency is to react vehemently. Our sharanagati bhaava will be sorely tested!

The Masters role is similar to that of a sculptor, who uses his hammer and chisel to unlock the hidden potential in a stone. If the stone could communicate with us in words, it will describe the great pain it suffers with every stroke, every blow of the chisel and hammer. Finally, it seems that the torture has come to an end. The sculptor leaves the stone alone for many days. Then one day he returns and starts rubbing the surface of the stone with sand-paper to get rid of even the smallest of imperfections. The stone starts feeling, I thought everything was done. Why is he torturing me like this again?

But after having undergone this tortuous process, a beautiful murti emerges from the stone; the real glory of the stone is finally expressed. It is then installed in a temple. It becomes elated because it starts receiving flower garlands, it starts receiving alankara. The sculptor’s vision created from a piece of shapeless stone a beautiful art-piece that is worthy of being worshipped. But to reach that state the stone had to undergo the process of chiseling, and fine refinements. The stone acknowledges to the sculptor: What a great opportunity you have given me to bring out the best in me!" And in all humility the sculptor replies: I have done nothing. The potential always existed in you. All I have done is to remove that which was blocking the expression of your potential". If we substitute the words Master for the sculptor and disciple for the stone, we can fully understand the roles of the Master and his disciple.

The relationship between the Master and the student is beyond human understanding or expression in words. When we talk of the highest in love, we talk of the natural love of a mother for the children she has given birth to. The love and care of the Master for the student is born out of a deep sense of duty and responsibility that he has voluntarily accepted so that the student may reach the spiritual state in which he himself revels. His efforts to remove the ajnana, which are so painful for the disciple in the beginning, are intended for the purpose that the student can reach and enjoy the same kind of bliss that the Master is enjoying - nothing less. For, in the field of spirituality, either there is perfection or there is nothing - nothing in the middle. The Master directs all his efforts to help his disciple reach that state of perfection.

The Master is not going to change our lives, the Master is not going to change our environment; he is not going to change the world that we live in. The Master is only changing our vision, our perception. It is not the srishti that has to be changed, it is the drishti that has to change, and the Guru is the person who takes pains in changing that drishti. Here is a person who, with all love and concern, tries to tune our body, mind and intellect and dispel the darkness that we are living in so that we can understand the truth. He blesses us with that vision, drishti, so that, staying in the same srishti, we can enjoy the bliss and glory which is an expression of the Lord. In order to do this, the Guru has to wipe the slate of our mind clean and create a disciple out of us. Guru is thus Brahma, Guru is Vishnu, and Guru Himself is Mahesvara. Guru is nothing but that absolute truth and happiness which we are searching for. Why is the Guru called Brahma? Why is the Guru called Vishnu? Why is the Guru called Maheshvara? Because in spite of who we are, it is the Gurus mission to create a disciple out us. That is no easy task. It requires total surrender by the sishya to the Guru.

Sishya is defined as —Saasanaat sisyate yah sah sishya - the one who remains in disciplined mode, who is ready for any kind of discipline that is expected by the Master. Or, to put it in very simple words, the one who has accepted the fact that he is going to be disciplined and changed. This is where the concept of sharanagati comes into play. When the Master tells the student to do something, there should be no resistance from the student like, -- "but Sir"…absolutely no choice. It took the Lord Himself eleven chapters in the Gita to create a disciple out of Arjuna whom He knew very well. It is the Master’s responsibility to create that discipleship in us. He is Brahma creating that disciple in us. He is Vishnu, who sustains us as a disciple to reach the state of perfection. How does he do this? He does it by assuming the form of Rudra, destroying, removing the ignorance that we are holding on to and which is an obstacle to our progress.

This is also the cause of confusion in the minds of people because they see a contradiction in some of the characters depicted in the Puranas. The sages are called maharishis, but the puranic accounts depict them as if they cannot control their anger. For instance, we have the oft-quoted example of Durvasa, who was a maharishi well-known for his anger. In our ignorance, we question: - if he was a Master, a maharishi, how could he get angry? We forget that our anger and the anger foof the maharishi are worlds apart. We get carried away by our anger, whereas the Master uses it so that he can correct his students. The anger of the Master is born out of love. The purpose is the betterment of the disciple so that he can grow from his present state of limited existence to that unlimited blissful existence that the Master himself has reached. It is like a mother forcing her child to take bitter medicine despite its resistance and protests. Is the mother being harsh out of love and duty or a desire merely to hurt her child? The relationship of the Guru and the disciple is similar.

The grace of the Guru expresses itself in every seeker’s life as jnana and sakti - the knowledge as well as the capacity to use that knowledge at the right moment at the right time. Jnana-sakti-samaarudah, tattva-maalaa-vibhushitah. A very beautiful picture of the Master has been painted here. Jnana-sakti-samaarudhah, he is samaarudah, he enters our life integrating these two things; he bestows upon us, he blesses us with these two things - jnanam ca saktim ca. He blesses us with knowledge and also the capacity to use that knowledge in the correct place, in the correct environment; he builds in us the awareness of the knowledge.

When we listen to Vedanta discourses, we tend to feel that we already know these principles. But knowledge lies not merely in knowing, but also in applying that knowledge, or having the sakti, the saamarthya, the capacity to do so in the right place and at the right moment.

Reproduced above is an extract  from the article "tasmai shri gurave namah" by Br Uddhav Chaitanya;
the original article is at: