Hindi Language Blog

Guru Posted by on Apr 29, 2009 in Hindi Language

Sometime in your life you’ve probably heard the word guru (गुरु) used to refer to someone who is an expert in something. In Hindi the word guru (गुरु) is used to describe someone who is an authority figure in a particular field (like yoga) or someone who has much wisdom (like a teacher).

There is some debate as to how the word guru (गुरु) came about. Some say that the word guru (गुरु) means heavy as in someone who is heavy with knowledge. Others say that the word guru (गुरु) means dark and light in Sanskrit, and that this is meant to indicate a person who removes darkness (ignorance) and brings in light (enlightenment).

In Indian society, the guru-shishaya relationship is very important. A shishaya (शिष्य ) is a student. Basically a guru (गुरु) becomes a mentor to the shishaya (शिष्य ). The guru (गुरु) bestows knowledge and instruction upon the student and in return the student promises to uphold the precepts of the guru’s (गुरु) teachings. Some teacher-student relationships are so close the student lives with the guru (गुरु) at the guru’s (गुरु) residence as a family member. In some societies, the deep personal connection between the guru (गुरु) and the shishaya (शिष्य ) may be frowned upon, but I think I should mention that just because a guru (गुरु) lives with his/her student doesn’t mean he/she’s having an affair with the student.

Paramparaa (परम्परा ) is used to describe the process where knowledge is passed from the guru (गुरु) to the student. When this happens, the relationship comes full circle and the student who now possesses the knowledge of the guru (गुरु) becomes a mentor to another student.

In the West, the word guru (गुरु) has received some scrutiny. Some people believe that some gurus (गुरु) use their power to control or brainwash followers into doing the guru’s will. Like any teacher-student relationship, there may be an abuse of power by the teacher. Like in any other profession, there are always people who are going to fraud other people. Unfortunately, the teaching profession is not immune to this fact. So be careful who you decide to take advice from!

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  1. Sarah:

    I enjoyed this article about gurus. Is it expected that students/shishayas question the gurus, or is the guru considered to be all knowing and authoritative on everything? Or does this depend on the relationship?

  2. Kunthra:


    Hmm…well you say “question” the guru, do you mean “question” as in challenging the guru’s authority, or “question” as in asking the guru about things you want answers to? If you’re referring to the first example, then probably not. The relationship between teacher and student is one of respect. Now when the student leaves his teacher to become a teacher himself/herself, yes, he/she may disagree with the teachings of the guru and form his own teachings.