E.g., the guru says Earth is the center of the Solar System, or that Earth is flat or that aliens have been regularly visiting the Earth, etc., but the śiṣya (disciple) with a scientific temper knows some of guru's teachings are utterly false. What should the śiṣya do now;

  • go find another knowledgeable guru who's more connected with reality?


  • try to correct his guru and show him where he's wrong?


  • ignore some of the irrational stuff coming out of the guru's mouth (in order to spiritually progress)?


  • change his own views to be inline with that of his guru's (for the sake of spiritual progress)?

Should the śiṣya remain loyal to his own intellect or shutdown his ability to critically analyze things including some of his guru's claims?

How is he supposed to resolve his cognitive dissonance?

  • Just as Guru is allowed to test you before taking you as Shishya, you are allowed to test a Guru if I'm not wrong. So the whole issue of compatibility can be with some effort avoided initially itself. May 1, 2018 at 0:22

5 Answers 5


One should worship the Guru as God. One should acknowledge the guru's instructions in all things spiritual. Gurus, however, are men and their knowledge of the physical world is limited to their own past experiences and understandings. Swami Vivekananda said that one can have knowledge of clay, but having knowledge of clay does not mean that you have knowledge of every form that clay can take. One can have knowledge of Brahman without having the understanding of all the intricacies of the world. Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V8, Lectures and Discourses, Discourses on Jnana Yoga, Jnana Yoga V - available here - http://www.advaitaashrama.org/cw/content.php):

Menander was a Greco-Bactrian king. He was converted to Buddhism about 150 B.C. by one of the Buddhist missionary monks and was called by them "Milinda". He asked a young monk, his teacher, "Can a perfect man (such as Buddha) be in error or make mistakes?" The young monk's answer was : The perfect man can remain in ignorance of minor matters not in his experience, but he can never be in error as to what his insight has actually realised. He is perfect here and now. He knows the whole mystery, the Essence of the universe, but he may not know the mere external variation through which that Essence is manifested in time and space. He knows the clay itself, but has not had experience of every shape it may be wrought into. The perfect man knows the Soul itself, but not every form and combination of its manifestation. He would have to attain more relative knowledge just as we do, though on account of his immense power, he would learn it far more quickly.

Likewise, if one's guru slips, worship them from a distance. Don't turn a blind eye to your own understandings of right and wrong, good and bad. Swami Vivekananda gives the qualifications of the guru here (Complete Works, V3, Bhakti Yoga, Qualifications of the Aspirant and the Teacher):

In regard to the teacher, we must see that he knows the spirit of the scriptures. The whole world reads Bibles, Vedas, and Korans; but they are all only words, syntax, etymology, philology, the dry bones of religion. The teacher who deals too much in words and allows the mind to be carried away by the force of words loses the spirit. It is the knowledge of the spirit of the scriptures alone that constitutes the true religious teacher. The network of the words of the scriptures is like a huge forest in which the human mind often loses itself and finds no way out. — "The network of words is a big forest; it is the cause of a curious wandering of the mind." "The various methods of joining words, the various methods of speaking in beautiful language, the various methods of explaining the diction of the scriptures are only for the disputations and enjoyment of the learned, they do not conduce to the development of spiritual perception"

— Those who employ such methods to impart religion to others are only desirous to show off their learning, so that the world may praise them as great scholars. You will find that no one of the great teachers of the world ever went into these various explanations of the text; there is with them no attempt at "text-torturing", no eternal playing upon the meaning of words and their roots. Yet they nobly taught, while others who have nothing to teach have taken up a word sometimes and written a three-volume book on its origin, on the man who used it first, and on what that man was accustomed to eat, and how long he slept, and so on.

...The second condition necessary in the teacher is — sinlessness. The question is often asked, "Why should we look into the character and personality of a teacher? We have only to judge of what he says, and take that up." This is not right. If a man wants to teach me something of dynamics, or chemistry, or any other physical science, he may be anything he likes, because what the physical sciences require is merely an intellectual equipment; but in the spiritual sciences it is impossible from first to last that there can be any spiritual light in the soul that is impure. What religion can an impure man teach? The sine qua non of acquiring spiritual truth for one's self or for imparting it to others is the purity of heart and soul. A vision of God or a glimpse of the beyond never comes until the soul is pure. Hence with the teacher of religion we must see first what he is, and then what he says. He must be perfectly pure, and then alone comes the value of his words, because he is only then the true "transmitter". What can he transmit if he has not spiritual power in himself? There must be the worthy vibration of spirituality in the mind of the teacher, so that it may be sympathetically conveyed to the mind of the taught. The function of the teacher is indeed an affair of the transference of something, and not one of mere stimulation of the existing intellectual or other faculties in the taught. Something real and appreciable as an influence comes from the teacher and goes to the taught. Therefore the teacher must be pure.

The third condition is in regard to the motive. The teacher must not teach with any ulterior selfish motive — for money, name, or fame; his work must be simply out of love, out of pure love for mankind at large. The only medium through which spiritual force can be transmitted is love. Any selfish motive, such as the desire for gain or for name, will immediately destroy this conveying median. God is love, and only he who has known God as love can be a teacher of godliness and God to man.

When you see that in your teacher these conditions are all fulfilled, you are safe; if they are not, it is unsafe to allow yourself to be taught by him, for there is the great danger that, if he cannot convey goodness to your heart, he may convey wickedness. This danger must by all means be guarded against. — "He who is learned in the scriptures, sinless, unpolluted by lust, and is the greatest knower of the Brahman" is the real teacher.

Ramakrishna Paramhamsa's wife, Sarada Devi, told her women disciples to hold their chastity above all else and told them that if God comes to you in the form of a man and wants you to lose your chastity, disobey God.

Hold yourself to the highest morals.

  • 1
    Not an answer i think. Voting May 1, 2018 at 16:18
  • Agreed, not an, it is confused between God, Guru and Acharya
    – Akhil
    May 1, 2018 at 21:03
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    @RakeshJoshi No, this answers the question. Would be better when quoted with some sources.
    – Pandya
    May 2, 2018 at 0:44

No, there is no need to believe blindly in whatever the Guru said. Totapuri the Advaita Guru of Sri Ramakrishna taught him Jnana for 11 months and still Sri Ramakrishna did not give up Bhakti.

MAHIMA: "I have a question to ask, sir. A lover of God needs Nirvana some time or other, doesn't he?"

MASTER: "It can't be said that bhaktas need Nirvana. According to some schools there is an eternal Krishna and there are also His eternal devotees. Krishna is Spirit embodied, and His Abode also is Spirit embodied. Krishna is eternal and the devotees also are eternal. Krishna and the devotees are like the moon and the stars — always near each other. You yourself repeat: 'What need is there of penance if God is seen within and without?' Further, I have told you that the devotee who is born with an element of Vishnu cannot altogether get rid of bhakti. Once I fell into the clutches of a jnani, who made me listen to Vedanta for eleven months. But he couldn't altogether destroy the seed of bhakti in me. No matter where my mind wandered, it would come back to the Divine Mother. Whenever I sang of Her, Nangta would weep and say, 'Ah! What is this?' You see, he was such a great jnani and still he wept. (To the younger Naren and the others) Remember the popular saying that if a man drinks the juice of the alekh creeper, a plant grows inside his stomach. Once the seed of bhakti is sown, the effect is inevitable: it will gradually grow into a tree with flowers and fruits.

"You may reason and argue a thousand times, but if you have the seed of bhakti within you, you will surely come back to Hari."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 41, At Ram's House, May 23, 1885

The Jnani mentioned by Sri Ramakrishna is his Advaita Guru Totapuri.

However, there is no need to show disrespect to Guru.

Sri Ramakrishna: Therefore I say, 'Even though my Guru frequents a grog-shop, still to me he is the embodiment of Eternal Bliss.'

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Appendix A, With Keshab at Dakshineswar, January 1, 1881

The point is that disciples think that the human personality seen by them is the Guru. Actually it is the divine power in the Guru that is the real Guru. When scriptures like Guru Gita ask one to worship the Guru they really mean the divine power within.

There is only one Guru, and that is Satchidananda. He alone is the teacher. My attitude toward God is that of a child towards its mother. One can get human gurus by the million. All want to be teachers. But who cares to be a disciple?

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 5, Tha Master and Keshab, October 27, 1882

VIJAY: "Don't the teachings of the Brahmo Samaj bring men salvation?"

MASTER; "How is it ever possible for one man to liberate another from the bondage of the world? God alone, the Creator of this world-bewitching maya can save men from maya. There is no other refuge but that great Teacher, Satchidananda. How is it ever possible for men who have not realized God or received His command, and who are not strengthened with divine strength, to save others from the prison-house of the world?

"One day as I was passing the Panchavati on my way to the pine-grove, I heard a bullfrog croaking. I thought it must have been seized by a snake. After some time, as I was coming back, I could still hear its terrified croaking. I looked to see what was the matter, and found that a water-snake had seized it. The snake could neither swallow it nor give it up. So there was no end to the frogs suffering. I thought that had it been seized by a cobra it would have been silenced after three croaks at the most. As it was only a water-snake, both of them had to go through this agony. A man's ego is destroyed after three croaks, as it were, if he gets into the clutches of a real teacher. But if the teacher is an 'unripe' one, then both the teacher and the disciple undergo endless suffering. The disciple cannot get rid either of his ego or of the shackles of the world. If a disciple falls into the clutches of an incompetent teacher, he doesn't attain liberation."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 7, The Master and Vijay, December 14, 1882

  • How bhakta contradicts jnani or vice versa? May 1, 2018 at 15:09
  • Can one try to correct their guru or they have to worry about retaliation? May 1, 2018 at 17:02
  • @JulioOlivieras Bhakti does not contradictJnana. Strict followers of Advaita like Sri Totapuri look down on Bhakti. They consider only Jnana to be the way to moksha. May 2, 2018 at 10:59
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    @sv It is best not to try to correct one's Guru. The point is that very few Gurus are perfected persons. They have some human imperfection and are more like advanced students and they may not like the disciple's attempt to correct them. One notorious example is that of Yadavprakasa who tried to murder his disciple Ramanujacharya. Later Yadavprakasa became a disciple of Ramanujacharya! May 2, 2018 at 11:04

Then Drona, addressed Ekalavya, saying, 'If, O hero, thou art really my pupil, give me then my fees.' On hearing these words, Ekalavya was very much gratified, and said in reply, 'O illustrious preceptor, what shall I give? Command me; for there is nothing, O foremost of all persons conversant with the Vedas, that I may not give unto my preceptor.' Drona answered, 'O Ekalavya, if thou art really intent on making me a gift, I should like then to have the thumb of thy right hand.'

'Hearing these cruel words of Drona, who had asked of him his thumb as tuition-fee, Ekalavya, ever devoted to truth and desirous also of keeping his promise, with a cheerful face and an unafflicted heart cut off without ado his thumb, and gave it unto Drona. After this, when the Nishada prince began once more to shoot with the help of his remaining fingers, he found that he had lost his former lightness of hand. And at this Arjuna became happy, the fever (of jealousy) having left him.

—Mahābhārata, Book I, Chapter CXXXIV

This shows that a guru may not have your best intentions in mind. Arjuna was Drona's favorite student. The very fact that the guru had a favorite shows that he was without equanimity. Ekalavya chopped off his own thumb to prove his loyalty to a guru who would not have him. But, if he hadn't, he may have become the best archer of all time, even out-performing Arjuna. And this, through self-training and dedication.

Personally, I would be likely to "try to correct (my) guru and show him where he's wrong." I am not so self-assured to believe I could change the guru's thinking. Rather, by speaking up the guru can better understanding my thinking and thus teach me better. That is, if I don't speak what is on my mind, no one can point out the faults in my thinking.

  • what's the relevance of the blockquote and your commentary? are you saying Drona as a guru had some weaknesses so not the best guru? May 1, 2018 at 11:01
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    Drona was a weapons guru and not a spiritual guru. This example is not quite right. May 1, 2018 at 12:21
  • @sv. For Ekalavya, yes. May 1, 2018 at 15:23
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    @moonstar All students lack wisdom or they wouldn't need a guru—Drona refused to be that guru. It required less effort to limit Ekalavya than to teach him. So, I still argue that Drona wasn't a good guru for Ekalavya and thus Ekalavya should not have obeyed Drona. Regarding the dog, Ekalavya's arrows were said to seal up his mouth without harming him. May 2, 2018 at 14:49
  • 1
    "You would argue so because of your conditioning." This is not a helpful response nor does it counter my claim. Do you claim that Ekalavya was correct in obeying Drona? May 2, 2018 at 14:51

First the problem is the misunderstanding of the word Guru. Once the student internalizes the meaning of Guru, they this "cognitive dissonance" wouldn't arise. Even if it does, easiest way is to follow the Guru's orders blindly and politely ask him/her for solution.

Guru's purpose is to raise the consciousness of the disciple, and they lay down the path to cause and overcome "cognitive" dissonance deliberately to expand the disciple's "inner space".

Sanskrit word for Guru is very very specific. Not all teachers are Gurus. There is a distinction between Guru, Acharya etc.

Guru has to be an enlightened being. Acharya is someone/something that puts you in the right path and need not be an enlightened being.

That is why in Hindu traditions Guru (in body or not) is given utmost importance. And Guru dhroham is considered the worst Karma incurred by anyone. Anyone who has the protection of a Guru, even Gods cannot touch him. But if anyone has incurred the Karma of Guru Dhroham even Gods cannot touch him.

So before finding the Guru its one's responsibility research and question the Guru. Once a Guru accepts a person as a disciple then Shishya's Dharma is absolute obedience to the Guru. One can question God but not a Guru.

The key to it is understanding the difference between Guru Vs Acharya.

If one were to question on anything it has to be specific and backed up by scriptures.

One classic example of the Guru-Shisya relationship is 11th century Ramanuja and his Guru Yadava Paksha in Tamil Nadu. Ramanuja is of Vishishtadvaita tradition where as his Guru is of Advaita tradition. This is represented as case of Shishya "disobeying" the Guru, and represented as such in popular literature.

What is not considered is that the roots of this tradition was developed when Ramanuja was in his Guru's gurukul. Guru allowed the development of this philosophy which deviates from his own.

One is not allowed to question Guru unless Guru allows it to happen. The traditional Guru-Shishya tradition is based on discussion (not debate), but the student has to earn that privilege. If the student cannot blindly follow the Guru until Guru feels the student is "ready" for "discussion", then the student should leave the Guru but not question the Guru.

Quote from Sri Guru Gita:

Na guroradhikaṁ na guroradhikaṁ
na guroradhikaṁ na guroradhikaṁ
Śivaśāsanataḥ śivaśāsanataḥ
śivaśāsanataḥ śivaśāsanataḥ || 96 ||


Nothing more than Guru, Nothing more than Guru,
Nothing more than Guru, Nothing more than Guru
It is Shiva’s teaching It is Shiva’s teaching
It is Shiva’s teaching It is Shiva’s teaching


It is perfectly valid to make a non-human form as guru

To the son-of-vasudeva, to the god, to the killer-of-kaMsa and chANUra | to the utter-bliss-of-devakI, to kRiShNa, praise, to the universal-guru |

  • Dattatreya guru's list

ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dattatreya#Self-education:_the_24_Gurus_of_Dattatreya

Hence, Now make a non-human form currently (like dattatreya) as guru , and the above cognitive dissonance situation itself will not arise

  • 'the above cognitive dissonance situation itself will not arise' - it will, search the site for posts questioning Krishna's actions. May 2, 2018 at 16:07
  • @sv. : okay. your point well taken, so then what about choosing dattatreya :-) . I updated my post.
    – zaxebo1
    May 2, 2018 at 23:50

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