THE GURUKUL OF DHYANA
Constant self-appraisal. Going ahead or falling off?
Rightly inspired, one never despairs!
Ancient gurukuls: centres 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 lifeís every, disposition!
Disciplined, sober, alert and bound to be great!
Q.The sadhak receives instruction in meditation and practises 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
programme. Particularly so, in the field of religion. If an individual practises
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 practised 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 practising 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 enquired 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
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
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 favour through humble and polite behaviour." 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.