Guru Poornima, Celebrating the Evolved

Jul 12, 2022

Guru goes as is his wont, the disciple as is his
– Kabir

Guru need not be in a human form
– Ramana Maharishi

These are fools who don’t see what they do, wearing their robes to fill their bellies
– Shankara in Bhaja Govindam

Knowledge is garbage unless distilled by experience into wisdom
– Ram Ramanathan

The word Guru is one of the most misused in Sanskrit, misaligned with its deepest spiritual import. Etymologically, the word refers to the journey from darkness to light. In application, it refers to one who has experienced that transformation, implying the ability to guide another through a similar transformation. If only it were that simple!

The word Guru is used now for anyone who is a teacher, a teacher of knowledge. That is not what the word implies. It is about a source of spiritual wisdom, not the transmission of transactional knowledge. Knowledge is what we acquire through our senses. Sensory knowledge is perceptional, created as a mind map. This knowledge is garbage unless it is transformed to wisdom in the crucible of experiential reflection. In the absence of wisdom, knowledge makes us ignorant and often evil.

To makes sense of today’s world, this distinction between knowledge and wisdom is crucial. Most knowledge peddled around is fake and misleading. Its configuration grows like a monster as it traverses the meta media. This knowledge is used by predators to enslave and feed on their prey. We see this at global leadership levels.

If we open our eyes and truly see, we can see this falsehood around us in many we place on a pedestal. They are glib and fluent. Their words are mesmerising. They throw up regurgitated knowledge, often misleading and misinterpreted fake knowledge as if it’s their distilled wisdom. These are the ones Shankara called fools who wear disguises to fill their bellies.

Kabir, the poet-saint, draws a beautiful picture of the swan flying away alone, disengaged from the circus of the worldly spectacle, driving home the truth that we reap what we sow, whether as Guru or disciple. No Guru can help the disciple, even one filled in wisdom. Ramana, in my opinion, one of the rare Gurus to have lived in recent times, never accepted that he was a Guru. He said to look within and find one’s own Guru. Another great master Jiddu Krishnamurti doffed his robes renouncing his role as an anointed Guru in order to seek his own truth.

The greatest masters that the world knows had no one to teach them or guide them. They had no Guru. If they had, they probably couldn’t have been what they were. Buddha, the most celebrated Guru, had none. Guru Poornima, celebrated as the Guru Day, as if it’s another Hallmark Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, is partly in his honour. All that Buddha created was a community, Sangha, who would carry forward the truth of the Buddha, Dhamma. He did not want to be symbolised. He wanted the bodhi tree to be the symbol of the truth he experienced. Yet, within years of his nirvana, temples with him as god surfaced. Each time I step into a Buddhist temple, honouring that great soul who never wanted to be honoured in this manner, I can feel his spirit turning around in deep discomfort.

Yet, we celebrate him and others every year as a ritual. It will be that day soon. I cringe when I receive notes thanking me as a guru. I am grateful for the gratitude, but not as a guru. I haven’t seen light, yet. I am no guru. Nor have I had a true guru. I have had wonderful teachers, living and dead, from whom I learnt all that I know. That knowledge gradually distilled into wisdom with experience, sometimes traumas. I am grateful for the lessons that I learnt from those who feel that they learnt from me.

So, on this Guru Poornima, I thank all those I learnt from, which is almost everyone I met in my life’s journey. Every interaction happened for a reason. What helped me was to reflect on what that reason was, and how I could be my better self from that experience.

If at all you wish to thank me, thank me and appreciate yourself for what you learnt. That learning is your guru, not the one you learnt from. Have a great Guru Poornima!

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

Related Reading