Most Respected Gurus in India

The word ‘Guru’ represents a perfect teacher/trainer with perfect practical wisdom on a particular subject. In India we can find many respectable gurus who are more spiritual but still are /were masters in one particular subject. This article is a tribute to the most respected Indian gurus for their contribution to spirituality.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born on 18th February 1836 in Kamarpukur village, West Bengal, India. He was a very reckless boy, reluctant to go to school, but he was God fearing and worshiped deeply. He was good with learning new things, creating clay models and painting. At the age of six, he got a mystical experience while watching a flight of white cranes in the black clouds.

Sri Ramakrishna ParamahamsaAt the age of sixteen his elder brother Ramkumar took him to Dakhineswar temple to assist him in the temple. After the death of his brother, Ramakrishna was appointed as the chief priest. He was a great devotee of Goddess Kali.

He also practiced different faiths and religions and finally came to a conclusion that though the paths are different the goal is the same and called this concept as pluralism. His teachings were in simple language using metaphors and parables and it attracted his disciples.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to speak in rustic Bengali. Some of his teachings are Kama and Kanchana which means lust and gold. According to him, the sensual desires and need for money are two main mental states that prevent people from knowing God.

He preached the concept of Maya in two types. Avidya maya represents dark forces of creation, like evil passions, sensual desire, greed, lust and cruelty. The other one is Vidya maya represents higher forces of creation, like devotion, love, purity, kindness, enlightening qualities and spiritual virtues.

His disciples were divided into two categories – householders and educated youth. He taught the householders to realize God while discharging their family duties. The educated youth mostly belonged to middle class and he taught and trained them to become monks. These monks became the torchbearers of his message to humanity. Among the monks, Swami Vivekananda was the chief disciple.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 12th January 1863. His parents called him Narendra. He practiced meditation from a very early age. He excelled in gymnastics, music and studies. He graduated from Calcutta University and acquired immense knowledge of various subjects, especially in Western history and philosophy.

Swami VivekanandaWhen Swami Vivekananda met Ramakrishna Paramahamsa for the first time, he asked ‘Sir, have you seen God?’. And, without a moment Ramakrishna Paramahamsa replied ‘Yes, I have. I see him as clearly as I see you’, only in a much intense sense.

In this way, Swami Vivekananda’s guru was Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. After his guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa died, Vivekananda and some other monks took monastic brotherhood (sannyasa).

As a part of his monastic life, Vivekananda traveled to many places in India. He saw the backwardness and poverty of the masses. He decided to educate them to remove backwardness through an organization.

He decided to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago to spread his guru’s message and for financial help for his project. He achieved great success there. He gave lectures on Vedanta (concepts from Vedas and Upanishads) and Yoga (Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga) for nearly three and half years in the USA and London.

After he came back to India, he established Ramakrishna Mission on 1st May 1897. Here, the monks and the general public’s aim is to work together to achieve the organization’s goals. The organization is open for one and all without any discrimination of race, religion and caste. It works on areas like running schools, hospitals, colleges, hostels, rural development centers etc., along with spiritual path.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda was born on 5th of January 1893. He got enlightened through his guru Sri Yukteswar. The book written by him ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ is one of the most popular books worldwide.

Paramahansa YoganandaHe established a school with spiritual and physical well-being for boys in Ranchi and worked there as teacher in 1917. He found “Self Realization Fellowship” in 1925 in Los Angeles, California. It served according to Yogananda’s committed teachings.

He gave many spiritual lectures throughout the USA and he was the first Indian swami who met the president (Coolidge in 1927) of America. He preached that the outer customs of religions are different, but the underlying concept of Hinduism and Christianity are the same. It helped to bridge the gap between East and West.

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi was born in 1878. His parents called him Venkataraman. Till the age of 16, he was a normal child and was keenly interested in sports and studies. At the age of 17 he got spiritual enlightenment.

Sri Ramana MaharshiRamana Maharshi used to make friends with animals and birds. He gave them the same importance as humans. His presence invoked a remarkable impression of dignity, kindness and simplicity.

He taught Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) through simple discipline of self-enquiry. His devotees and disciples built an ashram and named it ‘Sri Ramanasramam’, which taught Vedas, gave shelter to animals and birds and also has a department for publication, etc.

Ramana Mahrashi used to clarify doubts of people in simple terms. The Indian scriptures are very difficult to understand, but his teachings and explanations made it easy to understand. Some people (like Paul Brunton) explained the spiritual philosophies in their own languages.

B.K.S. Iyengar or Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar

B.K.S. IyengarB.K.S. Iyengar was born in 1918. He was a weak and sick child. At the age of 15, he started practicing yoga and as a result within two years his health improved considerably. He kept practicing the postures of yoga. He struggled a lot with the difficult yoga postures, but slowly he mastered them.

He taught techniques for difficult postures in a simple way to the public. In 1952 he started teaching yoga abroad. In the year 1966, “Light on Yoga” was authored by him and the book is an international best seller. It was translated into 17 languages.

Sri Aurobindo

Aurobindo was born in Calcutta on 15th August 1879. At the age of seven he went to England for education and lived there for fourteen years. He studied in King’s College, Cambridge. He was a brilliant scholar in Latin and Greek. He wanted to do his ICS to fulfill his father’s dream, but slowly lost interest in it and deliberately disqualified himself by not attending for a horse riding test which was necessary to become a Civil Servant.

Aurobindo came to India and was appointed in Baroda for civil service work in February 1893. He first worked in revenue department and then in the Secretariat of the Maharaja. He also worked as a professor of English and vice-principal in Baroda College.

Then he moved in to politics, journalism and later spirituality. In 1908, he was arrested and was held in jail for a year because of possession of weapons. In prison, he got interested in spiritual path, ‘Yoga;.

In February, 1910 he moved to Pondicherry and secretly retired from politics. He got an opportunity to become the president of National Congress, but he refused. He was devoted to his spiritual work and practiced yoga. He achieved a state of Nirvana within three days which took six years for his guru to achieve.

Some of his important works were – The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Secret of Veda and Isha Upanishad. In the beginning, he used to stay alone and with four or five disciples. Slowly his popularity grew and also his disciples increased. Then, it became as a foundation with the name of “Sri Aurobindo Ashram”.

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