From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Guru literally means ‘one who is praised due to his great qualities’, ‘one who teaches the śāstras like the Vedas’.

In any religion and culture, every thing has to be learnt directly from a competent teacher in that field. Since learning is considered as a tapas (austerity, discipline), the teacher has to be looked upon with great respect and reverence.

Characteristics of a Guru[edit]

  • The word ‘guru’ is used in a more comprehensive sense. It is defined as the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance.
  • It invariably refers to a spiritual teacher who is an advanced soul and an expert not only in the knowledge of the scriptures but also in Brahman or God.[1]
  • A guru should be a person of pure parentage, of a sinless life and great self-control.
  • Apart from having a deep knowledge of the scriptures, he should be an adept in the various modes of meditation and worship also.
  • He is envisaged as the personification of compassion and love towards his disciples.

Characteristics of a Disciple[edit]

A disciple is expected to look upon his guru as if he is God himself. A disciple should choose his guru very cleverly.

Gurus of Scriptures[edit]

A teacher of the scriptures is called an adhyāpaka or an upādhyāya or an ācārya. The former two teach the chanting of the Vedas whereas the last one teaches their meaning and significance also.

Different Gurus[edit]

  • Bṛhaspati, the teacher of the gods in heaven is also known as Guru.
  • Guru is also the name of the planet Jupiter.
  • ‘Guru’ was also the nickname of Prabhākara (A. D. 700?), a prominent teacher of the Purvamīmānsā school of philosophy.
  • The word has been widely used in the Sanskrit works in several other senses such as:
  1. Father
  2. Mother
  3. Husband
  4. Any teacher in any field of knowledge
  5. God


  1. Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore