The Gurukul of Dhyana
Constant self-appraisal. Going ahead or falling off?
Rightly inspired, one never despairs!
Ancient gurukuls: centers of education and sadhana,
What a cultured tradition did in India thrive!
The revered Master offering constant guidance to all,
And the pupil receiving each instruction with joy,
Mindful of life’s every, disposition!
Disciplined, sober, alert and bound to be great!
Q.The sadhak receives instruction in meditation and practices accordingly. After this instruction and practice, is there any provision for testing what he has learnt ? In the absence of a test, no sadhak can come to know of his progress or otherwise. How shall then we remove any obstruction met with in the path of sadhana?
Ans. An appraisal is necessary for determining the success or failure of any program. Particularly so, in the field of religion. If an individual practices religious meditation and it is not properly evaluated, he would not know whether his effort has been successful. The right understanding of sadhana is achieved only through its evaluation. A sadhak practising meditation under the supervision of his instructor generally makes progress but sometimes there is retrogression, too. The order of progress is sometimes disturbed and there is decay. There are many ups and downs in the path of sadhana too. In order to meet these vicissitudes with equanimity, it is necessary to properly evaluate all goings on. Otherwise, some sudden developments could demoralize the sadhak. However, a sadhak who is in close proximity to his guru, is able to resolve his problem whereas one left to his own devices, gets confused. This confusion is not without a cause. When through the practice of dhyana dormant powers are aroused, the centre of lust too becomes activated. This creates many kinds of problems. When the old sanskars rise up and the consequences of past deeds grow ripe for manifestation, one receives a kind of shock. That shock is so sudden that unless there is someone to support him, the sadhak stumbles or falls down. That is why the ancient acharyas ordained that sadhana should be practiced in the proximity of a guru. Uttaradhayan Sutra, while offering special guidance to the sadhak lays down:
The sadhak-monk desirous of attaining samadhi should be extremely careful in the choice of his food, helper, and place. Temperance in food should be his ideal. Even the little that he takes should be wholesome. His helper or guide must be accomplished in philosophy, because if the helper’s intellect is not sharp enough to seize the essence of the matter, he will not be able to resolve the difficulties of the sadhak practicing meditation under his supervision. Thirdly, the place of sadhana should be secluded. Because uninterrupted practice of sadhana is not possible in the midst of crowds and noise.
For one who wishes to enter the higher stages of meditation, it is necessary to have a sadhak-supervisor. Acharya Pushyamitra while preparing to go into mahaprana meditation, appointed a disciple as his sadhak supervisor. Although that disciple did not fully possess the virtues of an acharya, yet he was very capable, and was therefore appointed as sadhak-supervisor. The Acharya, while rapt in meditation, wanted no interference. Other pupils did not know of this. They inquired of the muni-supervisor about the Acharya. They wanted to see him. But the supervisor forbade them entry into the meditation cell where the Acharya was engaged in sadhana. The pupils mistook the muni’s prohibition: they feared that the Acharya had been murdered. So they repaired to the king who was a devotee of the Acharya. The monks expressed their fear before the king. The king immediately reached the place where Acharya Pushyamitra was engaged in mahaprana-dhyana sadhana. The king expressed his desire to see the Acharya. The sadhak-supervisor said, “‘The Master is in meditation.” On hearing this, the King’s mind was also filled with misgiving. He pressed upon the muni-supervisor his demand. Gauging the seriousness of the situation, the muni-supervisor went into the meditation cell and pressed the thumb of the Acharya’s foot. Consciousness returned to the Acharya. He got up and said, “Why did you prick me up before time?” The muni related the whole sequence of events. The King as well as other munis were relieved to find the Acharya alive. The Acharya’s sadhana was nevertheless disturbed. There are many other incidents which emphasize the indispensability of a supervisor during the period of dhyana sadhana.
Even an experienced sadhak feels the necessity of a supervisor for making progress in his meditation. For one who is just preparing to enter the field of sadhana, the constant supervision of a helper or guide cannot be denied. Such guidance or supervision was available in gurukuls. While living in constant proximity to the guru, any obstruction in sadhana could be easily removed.
Q.In olden times, there used to be gurukuls in our country. Now the tradition of gurukuls is extinct. Under these circumstances, the sadhak today can have no idea of what kind of system of education or sadhana prevailed in the gurukuls. What benefits did the sadhak derive from living there, and what achievements were possible? What have you to say about it, Sir?
Ans. Proper facilities for education and sadhana existd in gurukuls in ancient times. All the students and sadhaks living there were fully dedicated to the guru. Their daily routine was duly prescribed. Their living was temperate and food good and wholesome. Their devotion and dedication to the guru naturally provided the pupils with an opportunity for awakening their powers. In the absence of faith and dedication, no adequate progress is possible either in education or in sadhana. What is most important is that the resident of a gurukul could seek the guidance of the guru in every difficulty.. And he was never disappointed. With the guru’s help, he could face the most difficult predicament undaunted. Thus his education and sadhana could proceed without any interruption.
The responsibility for an all-round development of the pupil lay on the guru. The guru, therefore, was very mindful of his pupil’s every disposition and activity. Where there is no responsibility, such attention is totally missing. After all, the relationship between the guru and his disciple entails the acceptance of responsibility and perfect dedication. The dedication of the pupil in itself makes the guru accept responsibility for him. The pupil who surrenders his life to the guru, forsakes care, since the guru stands by him in all exigencies. Under the guru’s supervision, the pupil grows self-restrained and disciplined.
The ancient tradition of the gurukul has today become a rarity. Neither capable gurus nor gifted pupils are available to continue it. And how will talented pupils be attracted if the proficiency of the guru becomes questionable? The envoy of Chakravarti Bharat goes to Bahubali and says, “Bahlish! Bharat is your elder brother. Elder brothers are like gurus. You should present yourself and win your elder brother’s favor through humble and polite behavior.” Bahubali heard the emissary out, kept silent for a moment, then said :
It is shameful to prostrate oneself before a guru who has lost his gravity, and does not possess the qualities of a guru.
It is necessary for a guru to possess gravity and magnanimity. And it is as much or even more necessary for a pupil to be devoted and dedicated. Where there is no gravity and no dedication, there can be no good system of education or sadhana. From this viewpoint, the gurukul system has its own importance. If this system, in a refined form, is reestablished, it would mark a turning point and add luster to education and the technique of sadhana.