In ancient Gurukula System after the education, the students are required to give Guru Dakshina to their respective Guru. Why is this practice when we have stayed with the master and served him all through the childhood? And why does the Guru demands for a particular thing as Dakshina ?
The Manu Smriti declares:
Manu Smriti 12.83. Studying the Veda, (practising) austerities, (the acquisition of true) knowledge, the subjugation of the organs, abstention from doing injury, and serving the Guru are the best means for attaining supreme bliss.
And,this service to Guru is four-fold as told in the Kularnava Tantra(KT):
Service to the Guru is fourfold: service by self, service by means, service by honouring, service by happy feeling(KT)
In Hinduism the Guru is equated with the supreme Para Brahman:
Verily, the Guru is none else but Sadashiva; that is the truth, there is no doubt about it.Shiva himself is the Guru; otherwise who is it that gives fulfilment and liberation?(KT)
The symbolic meaning of a Sisya(disciple)is also given in the Kularnava Tantra as follows:
Sisya: He who dedicates his body, wealth, the pranas to the holy Gurus and learns, Siksate, yoga from the Gurus, is called sisya(KT).
So, a Sisya can repay his debts to his Guru by his body and wealth but what is this debt all about?How big that debt actually is?
The Shastras say that the ultimate goal of each being is the the state of Moksha or liberation and also that it can only be achieved by the grace of a Guru :
Neither asramas (prescribed stages in life) nor philosophies nor sciences can give the deliverance; only Jnana can give it. And this Jnana is received through the Word of the Guru. All other ways are deceptive, oppressive; the Truth-Knowledge alone is life-giving(KT).
The Sruti declares that for those who seek for fulfilment and liberation, who aspire to attain to Brahma, Vishnu and Isha, devotion to the Guru is the Path and no other
There is no truth higher than the Guru, no Godhead greater than Shiva, no Science greater than the Veda, no Philosophy equal to the Kaula, no Knowledge greater than the Kula, no happiness greater than Jnana, no worship greater than the Puja of eight limbs, no fruit greater than Mukti.
And a Guru can only grant Mukti.So,the debt that a Sisya owes to his Guru is indeed very great.That is why he needs to repay the debt by paying Guru Dakshina.
But even ,here,devotion is what actually that matters:
Even if you give the whole of your wealth to the Guru but without devotion, then the fruit will not accrue to you. For indeed devotion is the only cause.
And,btw, a "Dakshina" is also offered to a Deity while offering Puja by saying "Dakshinam samarpayami" because,in general,the Shastras say that Gods,Gurus are never to be visited empty handed:
Do not approach royalty, the Deity and the Guru empty-handed. Offer in the measure of your capacity, fruit, flower, cloth and the like(KT)
So,these are,in short,the reasons why we offer a Guru Dakshina.
Why is dakṣiṇā given to a Guru?
Because it's usually a brāhmaṇa who can become a guru and he has no other source of income, he has to subsist on dakṣiṇā to lead a healthy lifestyle and to continue imparting knowledge to future disciples who may not afford to pay him a dakṣiṇā after graduating.
Why practice this when we've stayed with the master and served him all through our childhood?
Serve him how? Fetch him water? Wash his clothes? What about food? Maybe he has some cows and agricultural land, so you serve him by milking the cow and tilling his land. But what if one of his cows dies, doesn't he need more cows to sustain? There can be no rain and the land becomes barren. Think on those lines.
And why does the Guru demand a particular thing as dakṣiṇā?
He shouldn't. A guru who demands dakṣiṇā is not a proper guru. "He is permitted to receive a dakṣiṇā to maintain himself", says, Swami Chandrasekarendra Saraswati in the book Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life §
The Brahmin must be conversant with the fourteen branches of the Vedic lore. He must be proficient even in Gandharva-veda or music and must be acquainted with agricultural science, construction of houses, etc. At the same time he must give instructions in these subjects to pupils from the appropriate castes. His own vocation is the study of the Vedas and he must have no other source of income.
Visvamitra was the master of Dhanurveda (military science). When he performed sacrifices, the demons Subahu and Marica tried to play havoc with them. Though a great warrior himself he did not try to drive away the demons himself. Instead, he brought Rama and Laksmana for the purpose. Visvamitra thereafter gave the instruction to the two in the use of astras and sastras.
If the Brahmin is asked, "Do you know to wield a knife? " he must be able to answer, "Yes, I know". If he is asked, "Do you know to draw and paint" again he must say, "Yes". But he cannot wield a knife or become an artist to earn his livelihood. All he can do is to learn these arts and teach others the same according to their caste. He is permitted to receive a daksina to maintain himself and he must be contented with it however small the sum may be. The Brahmin's speciality, his true vocation, is Vedic learning.
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§ An older and copyright-free version of this book is available for free here.