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Respecting the Guru: Consciously Changing Prevalent Thought and Behavioural Patterns

Education in a Gurukula was the norm in our country for long, where young children were sent by parents to live with the Guru. Living with the Guru not only catered to the educational needs of acquiring knowledge but also enabled the individual to manage every aspect of life independently and more importantly moulded the individual through parampara. The following text from the Atharva Veda captures the spirit of the role of the Guru. The ācārya, while accepting a child, protects her/him as a pregnant woman protects her child in her womb. The Guru used to take the place of their real father the moment the children joined the Gurukul.

आचार्य उपनयमानो ब्रह्मचारिणं कृणुते गर्भमन्तः । 1

तं रात्रीस्तिस्र उदरे बिभर्ति तं जातं द्रष्टुमभिसंयन्ति देवाः

On the other hand, these characters were expected of a student in the Gurukula:

काक चेष्टा, बको ध्यानं श्वान निद्रा तथैव च । 2

अल्पहारी गृहत्यागी विद्यार्थी पंच लक्षणं ॥

The tall demands placed on both the student and the teacher, in terms of character, discipline and following a parampara as prescribed by the Sruti, were responsible for outcomes and reverence for the Gurukula system. As evident, the Gurukula system intrinsically made parents place utmost faith in the Guru. The current context is very different from the past. The prevalent education system doesn’t place any such demand on the character of either the teacher or the student. With the focus more on rights rather than duties, the relationship between the teacher and student has been reduced to that of a transaction - exchange of information. The result is that the levels of trust in the teachers have been eroded quite significantly. As parents, our expectation of the teacher is limited to him/her helping our children acquire knowledge. The relationship between the teacher and parent has been demeaned to that of a service provider and a customer. Lower trust in teachers has resulted in questioning the intent of teachers and judging their actions through a lens of cynicism, the dominant thought-pattern of modern society. While there may be reasons to justify such behaviour in the conventional system, we need to consciously adopt a different viewpoint at Samvida. After all, one of the very basic purposes behind Samvida is to have our children grow up in a culture where the teacher is respected - where गुरुभ्यो नमः is evident in spirit and action of both parents and children. At Samvida, the learning setup is deliberately different and it is our duty to reclaim the spirit in which the shishya approaches the guru to seek knowledge and wisdom. This Subhashitha tells us that the one who inspires you, makes you aware of the truth, shows you the path, guides and empowers you with knowledge - is your teacher.

प्रेरकः सूचकश्वैव वाचको दर्शकस्तथा । 3

शिक्षको बोधकश्चैव षडेते गुरवः स्मृताः ॥

Therefore, everyone who is helping our children at Samvida is a guru. Let us, as parents of Samvida, consider the following points:

1. The teachers at Samvida have the necessary competence in the subject and are capable of teaching much higher than what they are teaching our children. Beyond the subject knowledge, their alignment to the cultural and belief systems aren’t different from that of Samvida. 2. None of the teachers are part of Samvida as a means for earning a livelihood. All of them are here with a passion to teach and help our children become better. 3. They are helping our children become better individuals. Can this act, which is one of our most important desires and objectives, be compensated on mere financial terms? We need to realize and cultivate a sense of gratitude and indebtedness.

एकमप्यक्षरं यस्तु गुरुः शिष्ये निवेदयेत् । 4

पृथिव्यां नास्ति तद् द्रव्यं यद्दत्वा ह्यनृणी भवेत् ॥

4. When we genuinely respect the teachers and express such through our actions, they will also feel acknowledged and their bonding with us and our children will only increase. 5. We need to consciously eliminate the imaginary barrier separating us from the teachers - an inexplicable idea which makes us see ourselves and teachers to be on two separate sides - they vs. us - a thought which is prevalent in the conventional system and which has entrenched itself deeply in our societal thought pattern. 6. We need to make it our responsibility to develop ಬಾಂಧವ್ಯ (translated as propinquity, though doesn't mean the same) with the teachers. We need to consciously move beyond the transactional nature of relationships with teachers. 7. Just the way we scoff at the idea of celebrating Mother’s Day once a year, and argue that we should revere our mother every day of the year, celebrating Guruvandana once a year is equally meaningless. The ಬಾಂಧವ್ಯ with the teachers and the genuine respect should make us offer Guruvandana every day.

Our children will respect, conduct themselves with a sense of gratitude and indebtedness towards their teachers, if-and-only-if and when-and-only-when, we as parents, have such thoughts genuinely and conduct ourselves appropriately to reflect those thoughts.

I humbly request all the parents of the Samvida community to reflect on these. Let us consciously reclaim and nurture the culture where teachers are trusted and respected unconditionally. It is such a culture that creates individuals with uncompromising character and competence.


1 Taking the brahmachari close to himself, the acharya takes him into his garbha (womb). When a brahmachari, taking second birth from the stomach of his Guru, the gods gather for his auspicious darshana.

2 The five attributes of student - the perseverance of a crow, the concentration of a swan, light sleeper like a dog, light eater and willingness to stay away from home.

3 The one who inspires you, makes you aware of the truth, shows you the path, guides and empowers you with knowledge - is your teacher.

4 If a Guru teaches even a single letter of the alphabet to a student, there is no such thing on this Earth, which, on being given to the Guru can render the student free from the debt of learning from his teacher.

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