As the guru is made up with two syllables gu & ru. Gu means darkness & ru means dispeller. Thus the term Guru means one who dispels our darkness.

As it is said,

शिवे क्रुद्धे गुरुस्त्राता गुरौ क्रुद्धे शिवो न हि।
तस्मात्सर्वप्रयत्नेन श्रीगुरुं शरणं व्रजेत्॥४४॥
Translation: When Śiva is angry, the Guru is the Protector, but when the Guru is angry, Śiva is not the Protector, undoubtedly. For that reason, with all one’s own effort one should take refuge in the venerable Guru.
Commentary:This famous stanza where He says that when Śiva is angry with you, Guru can protect you, but when Guru is angry with you, not even Śiva can protect you. Common human minds think that Guru is a guy maybe… or a higher entity (like a light or something). And Śiva is another light (or something like this). They think like this. No, it’s not like this. The meaning is like this. In this case (in the context of Gurugītā)… It’s vedic context with some touch of Śaivism… In this context, Śiva is your Self – your Self, your inner Self, your nature. And Guru is Śiva teaching (Śiva revealing nature). So if Śiva is angry with you –if Śiva doesn’t want to reveal that you are Him–, you are alone; Śiva doesn’t want to reveal that you are Him. You are Him! But He doesn’t want to… Guru can protect you. Guru can force Śiva to be revealed, yes? It’s very strange concept. Because it’s vedic. It’s Gurugītā. It’s the way they speak about Guru and Śiva. So Guru is Śiva teaching. So this aspect of Śiva can force the aspect like the Self to appear and to reveal that you are Him!

Now after this commentary, I want to ask -

  • Does guru necessarily be physically present? Or Guru is anything which dispels our darkness?
  • Guru means Simply Gu = Darkness ru = TakeAway Who enlighten you is Guru.one who take you to Light of divinity from Darkness is Guru Reference : An Autobiography of an Yogi
    – KD.
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 11:12
  • In short... Guru is a person. A teacher who can enlighten us. A guru need not be a priest or a saint. A guru can be anyone who has mastered any subject...and passes on the knowledge. We call religion teachers 'guru',language teachers 'guru', martial arts teachers 'guru' and so on... Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 15:34
  • For 99.9% of us it is a physical person. If you think you are that .1% exception, it is your own ego getting in the way and leading you astray. Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 9:52
  • Got it @SwamiVishwananda Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 13:03
  • No, didn't agree now. @Swami Why not going behind guru is ego? Who would decide what's ego? Guru is not mandatory. Jiddu Krishnamurti, Ekhort, Ramana etc are testimony. Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


The very thought that an idea/philosophy, concept or some Shastras can remove darkness is wrong.

None of the these create the darkness (Avidya or ignorance). So,they are not capable of removing it either.

If you think study of Shastras etc can dispel the darkness then you are mistaken.

Na VedAh KArnam MukterdarsanAni Na Karanam |
Tathaiva sarva ShAshtrani Gyanameva hi Karanam ||


Veda is not the reason for mukti (liberation),neither are the Philosophies (the six Darshanas) and nor are the other Shastras. Knowledge (of Paratatva,BrahmaGyana ) is the only mode for liberation.


MuktiDa GuruVAgeKA VidyAh SarvA VirambakAha |
KAshthaBhArasramAdasmAdekam Sanjeevanam Param ||


Only Guruvakya (the words of Guru) is the giver of liberation. Without Guru upadesha all Vidyas deprive us.

KulArnava Tantram ,Chapter 1,Verses 106 ,107

The Upanishads also tell us the same thing:

NAyamAtmA Pravachena Labhyo Na MedhayA Na BahunA Srutena|


Atma(or BrahmaGyana) is not obtained by Pravachana(discourses on Shastras),not by intellect(or by intellectual methods) neither by listening to a whole lot of Shastras.

Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.3


Na NarenAvarena Prokta Esha Suvigyo VahudhA ChintyamAnaha|
Ananyaprokte Gatiratra NAsyaniyAn HytharkyamanupramAnAth||


BrahmaVidya should be obtained only from a Guru who is himself BrahmaGyani. Brahmagyana (or self realization) is not obtained from that Guru's upadesha who himself is not self realized.

Kathopanishad 1.2.8

And, if you think that adhering to a particular philosophy will help you in dispelling the darkness ,then also you are mistaken.See the following verse :

Advaitam Kochidicchanti Dvaitamicchanti ChApare |
Mama Tatvam Na Jananti DvaitAdvaitavivarjitam ||


Some are the followers of Advaita, some others of Dvaita. But none among these know by my true nature which is beyond (or devoid of) both Advaitic and Dvaitic principles.

KulArnava Tantram , Chapter 1, Verse 110

Only Sadashiva , in the form of a mortal/physical Guru , can remove the darkness. Because he himself creates the darkness (mala, avidya or whatever you call it) so only he himself is capable of removing it too.

In fact,your physical Guru and my Guru might not be the same apparently, but in truth both are Sadashiva only.

Ataeva Shivaha SAkshAd Gururupam SamAsritaha |
Bhaktya Sampujito Devi Bhuktim Muktim Prajacchati ||


So,hey Devi, Shiva takes the mortal form of a Guru. Worshiping him (the Guru) with devotion results in both Bhukti (material pleasures) and Mukti (liberation).

Kularnava Tantram 13-52 .

ManushyacharmanAvaddhah SAkshAt ParaShivaha Swayam |
SacchiYAyAnugrahArthAya Guram ParjaTathi Khsithou ||


The ParaShiva himself comes in disguise of a human being and roams around secretly to do his favor on the disciples.

Sadbhakta Rakshnayaiva NirAkArohapi SAkritihi |
Shivah KripAnidhirloke SamsAriva Hi Chestathe ||

Compassionate Shiva is without form but still to protect true devotees he comes on earth and behaves like mortal.

KulArnava Tantram 13-54,55

Guruh SadAshivah SAkshAt Satyameva Na Samsayaha|

There is no doubt in the fact that Guru is none other than Sadashiva.

In Mahanirvana Tantram , its further stated that during each initiations, Sadashiva comes in the respective Gurus and speaks the mantra unto pupils' ears and thereby dispels their ignorance.

So,Guru has to be living person, a physical one.

But , in exceptional cases, a Guru can be anyone or anything who/that teaches you something. This was the case with Lord Dattatreya who had such 24 unconventional Gurus.

In the Uddhava Gita, a song embedded in the Bhagavata Purana (11.7-9), Dattatreya tells King Yadu about his 24 unusual gurus:

1. The Earth

The Earth is disrespectfully trodden on by all creatures but bears them all without complaint. So from Her, I learned to accept all of life’s pleasures and pains with forbearance.

2. The Wind

Wind is of two types, Prana refers to the internal life forces and Vayu refers to the external movement of air. Prana is in all bodies but takes on the shape and form of the particular body it is in. Vayu passes everywhere but does not remain in one place. So from Prana and Vayu I learned to avoid attachment to any place but to adapt to wherever I might find myself.

3. Akasha

Akasha is one and all-pervading. From it I learned that Brahman is one and all-pervading.

4. Water

Water purifies and sanctifies. From it I learned to be a source of purity and sanctity.

5. Fire

Fire burns things leaving only their essence. From it I learned that a yogi should see in beings not all the false opposites like rich-poor, old-young, high-low, but only the Atma which is the essence.

6. Moon

The one and same moon appears to go through changes, waxing, waning etc. From Him I learned that the one atman only appears to go through changes such as birth and death.

You can learn about Lord Dattatreya's 24 unusual Gurus and what he learned from each of them from this booklet.


Who is a Guru?

Upa=near; nayana=to take or lead (a child). Near whom or what is (the child) taken? Near the guru. That is what upanayana means.

Who is a guru?

One who has mastered the Vedas.

There is one guru during the brahmacaryāśrama (student-bachelorhood) and another during the last āśrama of sannyāsa.

The first guru is learned in the Vedas, Vedāngas and so on while the second is one who has forsaken all including the Vedas.

In the first āśrama you acquire vidyā; in the last āśrama you realise jñāna.

[Hindu Dharma » Brahmacaryāśrama » Upanayana]

Does Guru need to be physically present?

Yes & No.

According to Mahābhārata:

Without the aid of an understanding cleansed by study of the scriptures and without that true conception of all things which is known by the name of Vijnana, the attainment of Emancipation is impossible. That cleansed understanding, again, it is said, is unattainable without one's connection with a preceptor. The preceptor is the helmsman, and knowledge is the boat (aided by whom and which one succeeds in crossing the ocean of the world). After having acquired that boat, one becomes crowned with success. Indeed, having crossed the ocean, one may abandon both.

However, Ramana Maharshi had no physical guru.

Questioner: J. Krishnamurti says, "No Guru is necessary."

Ramana Maharshi: How did he know it? One can say so after realizing but not before.

Q: Sri Aurobindo and others refer to you as having had no Guru.

A: It all depends on what you call a Guru. He need not be in a human form. Dattatreya had twenty-four Gurus including the five elements- earth, water, etc. Every object in this world was his Guru.

The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of intellect and sense perceptions. So there must be a Guru.

Q: I mean a human Guru - Maharshi did not have one.

A: I might have had one at one time or other. But did I not sing hymns to Arunachala? What is a Guru? Guru is God or the Self. First a man prays to God to fulfill his desires. A time comes when he will no more pray for the fulfillment of material desires but for God Himself. God then appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him to Himself in answer to his prayer and according to his needs.

[Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi by David Godman]


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