Where in Shruti (Vedas, Some Upanishads) texts say you must have a guru to be a hindu? Besides, one tells every Hindu has a guru by default : his father. So does it mean that everyone has actually a guru, but that's not necessarily a great one ? Moreover, I found the topic about the initiation of Mantra. The answer is great, that's not the issue. What I am looking for is the Shruti validation, not interpretations.

To finish, how was it in Vedic times for this aspect ?

  • guru translates as teacher. Do you mean a spiritual guru for a spiritual aspirant or what? Your question is to general. Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 4:43
  • @SwamiVishwananda I guess by spiritual aspirant you mean someone who want to be a monk or priest, someone who want to be in the "clergy". I am talking about any person, any hindu, not these particular case of devotion that are the monks and so on.
    – AvyWam
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 6:54

2 Answers 2


There are three equivalent types of Gurus:

  1. Antaryami-guru is the inner teacher, the Lord Himself residing in the heart of every being (Vedanta-sutras 1.1.20, 1.2.7; Bhagavad-gita 8.4, 10.20, 13.17, 15.15, 18.61).

  2. Shiksha-guru is the visible preceptor for all people (Manu-smrti 2.20).

  3. Diksha-guru - a visible mentor conducting the initiation of a specific person.

Today most traditional Hindus follow the instructions of all kinds of Shiksha gurus (Bhagavad-gita 4.34).

Diksha initiation is desirable, but it does not affect the prospect of attaining Moksha (Bhagavata Purana 11.7.19-23, 11.29.6).

The Guru is generally not an impeccable authority in our Kali-yuga (Bhagavata Purana 12.2.4-5, 12.3.32, 12.3.38; Narada Purana 1.41.24-88; Padma Purana 6.71.56-60; Kurma Purana 1.30.31; Linga Purana 40.5; Vayu Purana 58.52-66).

  • Sutras, Smriti, Bhagavad Gita, Purana (texts adressed to women and shudras) are not Shruti at all.
    – AvyWam
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 10:52

The sources are mostly from french here. I will obviously translate it as much as I can

What is a guru ?

According to linguists, the sanskrit term guru (serious) is a 'cognat'* from latin gravis that derivates from a indo-european radical meaning heavy. So the guru is a 'big man'.
The term gu means darkness and ru means lights that disperses, so guru means the one that disperses the darkness — Advayataraka Upanishad, verse 16.
In the Vedānta trend (an orthodox trend), the Vedāntasāra in XVIth century gives as definition:

a real guru is a man for who the practice of virtues is familiar, who pruned all the roots of evil with the sword of wisdom [...] who behaves with dignity and independence. Who sees gold and precious stones with the same indifference as scrap iron and shards of glass, who totally cares to push back the darkness of the ignorance where other people are benighted Wikipedia source in French

*cognat: word of a language that has the same origin as another word of another language

The role of a guru

His role in Hinduism is to guide his pupils to the relief.

Adi Shankara, from the Advaita Vedanta trend, explains what is the role of the guru and the qualities he must get:

When the teacher finds from signs that knowledge has not been grasped or has been wrongly grasped by the student, he should remove the causes of non-comprehension in the student. This includes the student's past and present knowledge, want of previous knowledge of what constitutes subjects of discrimination and rules of reasoning, behavior such as unrestrained conduct and speech, courting popularity, vanity of his parentage, ethical flaws that are means contrary to those causes. The teacher must enjoin means in the student that are enjoined by the Śruti and Smrti, such as avoidance of anger, Yamas consisting of Ahimsa and others, also the rules of conduct that are not inconsistent with knowledge. He [teacher] should also thoroughly impress upon the student qualities like humility, which are the means to knowledge. — Adi Shankara, Upadesha Sahasri 1.4-1.5[48][49]

The teacher is one who is endowed with the power of furnishing arguments pro and con, of understanding questions [of the student], and remembers them. The teacher possesses tranquility, self-control, compassion and a desire to help others, who is versed in the Śruti texts (Vedas, Upanishads), and unattached to pleasures here and hereafter, knows the subject and is established in that knowledge. He is never a transgressor of the rules of conduct, devoid of weaknesses such as ostentation, pride, deceit, cunning, jugglery, jealousy, falsehood, egotism and attachment. The teacher's sole aim is to help others and a desire to impart the knowledge. — Adi Shankara, Upadesha Sahasri 1.6 Wikipedia source in English

How to be a guru ?

There is no authority able to entitled a guru; hinduism has not a centralized authority (like Catholicism) to do this. Jean Varenne (a French Indologist) tells "It is inconceivable someone self-proclaims himself a guru, because this is the public acknowledgement, about the self-fulfillment of the person concerned, who tells that he has the stature of a guru".
Then, there are two possibilities:

  1. To be recognized as a guru by a guru (guru shishya parampara). So the guru tells his student is able to teach: so to be a guru.
  2. The rumor plays its role: the guru is someone people listen/learn from. If there are people claiming they are disciples, then his cause is listened, it makes him a guru.

Of course, this is above all based on ethics. Indians know the existence of fake gurus and fake sadhus. To illustrate this, a low-relief (VIIth century) in Mahaballipuram shows a cat in meditation position while mouses, mistaken by cat's attitude, approching the cat by trust, will finally die.

Source wikipedia in French

The texts mentionning the neccesity of a guru

The term guru appears in post-vedic Upanishads. So this is only Smriti, not Shruti.

Alexandre Astier et al. call the Shvetâshvatara Upanishad as "the front door of hinduism". Written during the VIth and IIIth century BC, it is composed of 5 chapters, and gives three new elements that seem to be an annunciation of what is the next hinduism. In other words: the line break between Vedism and Hinduism.

  1. The idea of a supreme God (theism, a trend to merge all Gods of vedic pantheon to a only God). [...]
  2. The texts insists on the necessity of a guru in charge of the transmission/teaching of wisdom and the necessity of a guru as an intermediate to reach the relief.
  3. The knowledge is not enough for the âtman to realize its merge with brahman, the grace of the divinity (prasâda) is needed too. [...]
    Source: L'Hindouisme, Alexandre Astier, ed. Eyrolles, 2013, Chapitre 6: les nouveaux textes, page 79-80.

The Advaya Taraka Upanishad; classified as Upanishad of Yoga; describes in details the mystical experience that happens when you managed to obtain the vision of the supreme reality. This same texts clearly mentions:

A guru totally fulfilled is needed to obtain the supreme reality vision. This guru must be permeated of Vedas,[...], liberated from any antipathy, expert of yoga, devotes himself permanently in the purity of the spiritual union. source: Les 108 Upanishads, traduction et présentation, Martine BUTTEX, ed. Dervy, 2012
be careful some internet free content about Upanishads are very short compared to original version


When one tells every Hindu has a guru by default : his father, this is in opposition to what is written in Upanishads. A guru is not anybody, so not your father except if he is a real guru.
Besides Upanishads mention the necessity of a guru to reach the relief. It does not say you're not hindu if you have not a guru. It just say you will not reach the relief without a guru
Moreover, not everybody, even hindus, is in quest of the relief. Some spiritualities are "poorer" but are still spiritualities.

So no Shruti tells this and not all hindus are in quest of the relief and it does not make them nastika in my opinion.

  • 1
    regarding etymology, almost all english words are eventually derived from Sanskrit. There is a PIE theory which postulates a language that is supposedly the ancestor of Sanskrit, but without a history, race, religion, script, epics or civilization. Whereas Sanskrit has all of these yet the western historians are unable to accept its antiquity
    – ram
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 17:48
  • 1
    @mar lol, what is the point with the topic ? hahaha. Besides I am not English :D
    – AvyWam
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 20:15
  • 1
    the point is regarding the first sentence in your answer about linguistic roots of word guru. you mentioned some "indo-european". the root is all indo, no european.
    – ram
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 19:55
  • 1
    AvyWam and @mar Please do not use swear words. Also be respectful to your fellow users.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 18:03
  • 1
    @TheLittleNaruto I am totally respectful. I simply quoted what is mentioned in sources as "indo-european". The one who makes troubles here is not me. Period.
    – AvyWam
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 18:14

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