Guru-Shishya Tradition or Parampara
From time immemorial, the knowledge of the vedas and of the self has been kept alive by the revered tradition of masters. The knowledge that we have today is ancient and has been passed on from the Guru (the spiritual master) to the shishya(student).
‘Parampara’ is a Sanskrit word that stands for the tradition of transmitting knowledge from the Guru to the Shishya in its most genuine and authentic form, in a way that is more experiential than just verbal communication.
Even today, many of us in India, know that we belong to a particular ‘gotra’ – or to say the clan formed under a particular Guru. The gotra we belong to is usually the name of a sage or rishi who has been the spiritual master to our ancestors. It is fascinating that even though the world has changed so much and is moving in a fast pace with respect to the Science and Technological inventions, the intrinsic wisdom of spirituality has been maintained the same as it was a may be a million years ago. The Guru Parampara is what has kept this precious wisdom alive even today.
The knowledge of the self, of the spirit, the knowledge of freedom from the shackles of birth and death, the knowledge of the truth are not something that were discovered a few hundred years ago. But, this wisdom has been there for millions of years. For instance, the Vedas were never written or discovered by someone. The knowledge was structured in the consciousness. And when the saints were in a deep state of meditation, they downloaded the wisdom from the eternal consciousness and wrote it out.
That is why every Guru-Shishya parampara mentions its origin in the eternal. The Guru Puja that is followed by many Guru-Shishya traditions begins with “Narayanam, Padmabhavam, Vasishtam….” Or “SadhaShiva Samarambhaam…”, which denotes the basis of this wisdom in the eternal Narayana or Shiva consciousness.
In order for the teachings on Yoga, self-knowledge, meditation, to be effective and complete, they should come through this Guru-disciple parampara. More than the mere bookish knowledge, or memorizing the scriptures, the spiritual wisdom can only be transferred to the disciples by the grace of their spiritual Guru.
Many spiritual masters of the past have been the lighthouses of knowledge and have protected and transferred it to the next generation in its pristine purity and form. If not for them, we wouldn’t be having this rich wisdom available to us today.
Sage Veda Vyasa, one of the main Rishis in the Guru Parampara, is said to have compiled the Vedas to what they are today. That is why even today, the seat of a teacher who shares the higher knowledge is called the “Vyasa Peetha”.
The spiritual masters of the Guru Parampara not only played a great role in preserving the spiritual wisdom, but they also presented the knowledge to the seekers in the way it was needed at each time in the History.
Traditionally, knowledge was transferred only when the student had spent and served with an enlightened Guru for several years. Only when the student had completely surrendered his body, mind, and spirit to his master, was he deemed fit to receive the knowledge. But, in the modern days, as Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, he does the opposite. He has been compassionate to give the highest knowledge at the beginning of a seeker’s journey itself. According to the capacity of the spiritual seeker, it is left to him or her to dive deeper and progress on the path.
It is so beautiful that when we remember that we belong to the Guru Parampara, it is similar to a drop of water remembering that it belongs to the ocean. When you feel connected to the magnanimity of the tradition, it brings so much fulfillment and strength. That is why every year, as spiritual seekers, we rejoice and express our gratitude on the day of Guru Purnima for all the strength and self-knowledge we have received. Honoring the Guru Parampara or tradition brings up the contentment and gratitude in our life. It paves way for more self-knowledge to blossom from within us.