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"Gurur brahmaa gurur vishnuh
 gurur devo maheshvarah
 gurur saakshaat parabrahma
 tasmai shree gurave namah."

Translation: Know the Guru to be Brahma himself. He is Vishnu. He is also Shiva. Know Him to be the Supreme Brahman, and offer the adorations unto that peerless Guru.

  • Why is Guru equal to brahma, vishnu and maheshwara?

  • What is the exact meaning of "Guru" in this poem?

And In Hinduism had some stories like, If God and Guru appears together, first touch Guru's feet and pray him before you pray God.

  • Why is Guru so special in hinduism?

Also I would like to know source of this famous sloka.

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Why is Guru equal to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara

This is because Guru is God Himself come in Human form. The Guru is the guide who knows the way to take the jiva to the top, which is re-union with God.

Sri Swami Sivananda says in 'Guru Tattva':

The Guru is God Himself manifesting in a personal form to guide the aspirant. Grace of God takes the form of Guru. To see the Guru is to see God. The Guru is united with God. He inspires devotion in others. His presence purifies all.

Why is He equal to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara?

Advaitically speaking, the Guru has realized His true self. He has realized His true nature as Satchidananda or God. Thus verily He is God Himself come to help the jiva to this same realization.

Dualistically, He is equal to God, because it is God who sends the Guru to the aspirant. Thus He is a representative of God Himself.

Sri Paramhansa Yogananda Swami says that:

When a devotee prays intensely to God to know truth, God sends him a true guru to guide him. This divine grace comes to the devotee when he demonstrates his desire for liberation by sincere constancy in supplication to God.

Thus it is evident that Guru comes to guide the seeker, He is sent by God (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara) to guide Him. Thus in essence, he is equal to them.

What is the exact meaning of this Shloka?

Swamiji and also moonstar2001 have given some good possible translations of this Shloka, here is another one

Guru is the source (brahma), the sustenance (vishnu) and end (mahesvara) of My existence. I surrender to My Guru.

Why Guru is special in Hinduism?

You want to go to Mount Kailash to see Maheshvara. But you do not know the way. You have to traverse through multiple forests and traps. It is filled with dangers of samsara. How to get there?

Now suppose you meet a guide, who has already been to Kailash, and He agrees to take you to Kailash. Then you would be able to easily get there isn't it. There is no need to worry, for the guide has already been there before! This is the importance of Guru.

Sri Swami Sivananda says in 'Guru Tattva' by Sri Swami Sivananda:

For a beginner in the spiritual path, a Guru is necessary. To light a candle, you need a burning candled Even so, an illumined soul alone can enlighten another soul.

In other words following Guru and His teachings is the greatest of all Yogas. It is the easiest of all paths.

Sri Swami Sivananda says in 'Guru Tattva':

Guru-Bhakti Yoga is a Yoga by itself.

Yoga of Guru-Bhakti is the real safe Yoga which can be practised without any fear.

Grace of Guru is the end or goal of Guru-Bhakti Yoga.

Who is the real Guru?

In reality, there is no Guru, other than God Himself. As swamiji has said, this Shloka can also be translated in the reverse, that Brahma, Vishnu, Mahehvara, they are the only Guru.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa says Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna = that Satchidananda is the only Guru.

Satchidananda alone is the Guru. If a man in the form of a guru awakens spiritual consciousness in you, then know for certain that it is God the Absolute who has assumed that human form for your sake. The guru is like a companion who leads you by the hand. After the realization of God, one loses the distinction between the guru and the disciple. ‘That creates a very difficult situation; there the guru and the disciple do not see each other.

So in other words, there is no difference between God and Guru. From the disciple's point of view, Guru is God Himself. Because it is through Him that one reaches God.

From the point of view of the Guru, the Guru is merely an instrument. It is God who is doing the teaching. The Guru has no ego whatsoever that He is the 'teacher' of any kind. he simply serves God. It is really God, Satchidananda who transforms and liberates the individual. All the best!!

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    "Guru is the source (brahma), the sustenance (vishnu) and end (mahesvara) of My existence. I surrender to My Guru". This is the best translation or interpretation i have read till now. – The Destroyer Dec 23 '16 at 14:22
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First thing is that, Guru is not equal to God, Guru Is the God. The question of equality comes when there are two different things, but Guru and God are non-different. So the Bhagavatam says:

acaryam mam vijaniyan navanmanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruh
[SB - 11.17.27]

Meaning
One should know the acarya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.

The problem in understanding the identity of Guru and God is that when we think of the Guru we think of the physical body and qualities of the guru, but when the scripture (Guru Gita / Skanda Purana) talks about Guru being Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva himself it talks about the guru tatva or the essence, not just the physical guru. So the text defines the word Guru as below:

gukāraṃ ca guṇātītaṃ rūkāraṃ rūpavarjitam
guṇātītamarūpaṃ ca yo dadyāt sa guruḥ smṛtaḥ

Meaning
The letter gu means guṇātīta (beyond qualities) and ru means rūpavarjita (without any form). He who gives this formless and qualityless state is said to be the Guru.

Since the text is talking about the essence of guru, not exactly the physical guru, there should be no confusion regarding guru's identity with the supreme gods. Otherwise there would be so many different Brahma, Visnus, etc. on earth as there are so many gurus and each of their disciples and followers address them as the God. So guru as a tatva or essence is same in all God realised Gurus even though the physical bodies differ.

Because Guru Himself is God realised or brahman vid (knower of Brahman), he is Brahman Himself. And from the point of essence whether we say Brahman, Vishnu, or Shiva all are ultimately but one. So the text says Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu...

Just like God has a form, so also the guru has the physical form of a human. So pointing out the identity of Guru and the gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) from the point of view of the essence, the text explains how the Guru is different from those well known gods physically:

atrinetraḥ śivaḥ sākṣāt dvibāhuśca hariḥ smṛtaḥ
yo'caturvadano brahmā śrīguruḥ kathitaḥ priye

Meaning
Guru is Shiva directly without the three eyes and is said to be Vishnu with two hands. O beloved (Parvati), guru is said to be Brahma without the four faces.

Now that we have this much understanding, we can answer the questions:

Why is Guru equal to brahma, vishnu and maheshwara?

In short, becaue Guru is someone who is brahmanistha and brahmavid, He is Brahman himself (brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati [Mun. Up. - 3.2.9]). And because Brahman in His different temperaments is commonly known as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the text also equates guru to those Gods. But the thing to keep in mind is that the text mostly talks about the guru tatva, not just the physical guru.

What is the exact meaning of "Guru" in this poem?

Guru can mean many different things depending upon how it is interpreted. The text itself gives different meanings of the word guru which are as below:

  • 1st meaning:

    gukāraścāndhakāro hi rukārasteja ucyate
    ajñānagrāsakaṃ brahma gurureva na saṃśayaḥ

    Meaning
    The letter gu is indeed darkness and the letter ru is said to be light. There is no doubt that Guru only is the darkness destroying Brahman.

  • 2nd meaning:

    gukāro bhavarogaḥ syāt rukārastannirodhakṛt
    bhavarogaharatyācca gururityabhidhīyate

    Meaning
    The letter gu is like disease of wordly attachment and the letter ru prevents that. The guru is known as he who takes away the disease of wordly attachment.

  • 3rd meaning:

    gukāraḥ prathamo varṇo māyādiguṇabhāsakaḥ
    rukāro'sti paraṃ brahma māyābhrāntivimocanam

    Meaning
    The letter 'Gu' is the first syllable which expresses maya and its material natures (satva, rajas, tamas). The letter ru is supreme Brahman which releases from the illusions of maya.

Why is Guru so special in Hinduism?

Not just in Hinduism, guru is special in every case. But it is only Hinduism which states Guru as non different from God and teaches to respect Guru just like God (yasya deve para bhaktir, yatha deve tatha gurau). The reason is simple because our sages and saints had realized the ultimate truth and known the essence of all. They knew that the ultimate essence, known as God, can only be known upon the grace and instruction of the guru. So it is always instructed to get knowledge from the tatvadarshis or the knowers of the truth:

tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
[BG - 4.34]

Meaning
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.

Since it is the guru who helps the seeker realize God in the first place, Guru is more important than God. Only after following the instructions of a guru that one meets God, so when both of them come at once, it is the Guru whose feet should be touched first.

Secondly, in Hinduism knowledge (vedas, puranas,etc.) has been obtained from one person to another in a successive order (guru parmpara) starting from Brahma. And Brahma himself got knowledge from the supreme God. So there is the statement Krishnam vande jagadgurum. When one will realize the truth he will be able to see how exactly Guru is God Himself and then the following statment of the text will make sense to him:

yo guruḥ sa śivaḥ prokto yaḥ śivaḥ sa guruḥ smṛtaḥ
- He who is guru is said as Shiva, He who is Shiva is remembered as Guru.

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  1. The source of this sloka is Guru Gita imparted by Lord Shiva to Devi Parvati and it appears in the Skanda Purana. Once Lord Shiva was holding court when all the other deities were paying their respects to him when he suddenly stood up, turned and offered namaskaram. Devi Parvati was surprised and asked him who it was that was the recipient of the namaskaram of the Great God to whom everyone else pays obeisance. Shiva then spoke to her and said he was honoring the Guru and proceeded to explain the Guru tatva (essence of guru) to her in the form of Guru Gita slokas. In the same Guru Gita, Lord Siva himself states that if Siva gets angry, Guru saves us; but if Guru is angry with us, even Siva cannot save us.

  2. The word Guru means one who dispels darkness. gu means darkness/ignorance and ru sabda(root word) stands for dispelling. Guru also means heavy and pregnant. A guru is heavy because, having realised parabrahma, he carries it within him.

  3. A guru is superior to even God because, only with the grace of a Guru do we get to know God. Without a Guru, we remain godless and wallow in the cycle of birth and death. A guru imparts knowledge and it is only with knowledge/jnyAna, does one attain mOksha.

  4. Brahma creates; similarly the Guru sows the seed of knowledge within us. Vishnu sustains; the Guru cultivates knowledge within us. Maheswara does laya; Guru's grace helps us become one with the parabrahma. I paraphrased this explanation of "Guru brahma, guruh vishnuh, gurur devo maheswarah" given by a learned sanyasi.

  • Thanks for answer, Can you give me examples of guru's in both ancient and modern times.?Please – Avis Feb 9 '15 at 15:48
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    Divine gurus are Dakshinamurty, Hayagriva, Saradamba, Saraswati, Dattatreya. The advaita guru parampara (from ancient to modern times) is as follows: -- nArAyaNam padmabhavam vasishTam shaktim cha tat putram parAsharam cha vyAsam shukam gowDapadam mahAntam gOvinda pAda yOgIndram atha asya shishyam sri shankarAchAryam atha asya shishyAm padmapAdam cha hastAmalakam cha shishyam tam tOTakam vArtikakAram anyAn asmad gurUn santatam AnatOsmi. The advaita guru paramapara is also said to have started from sadasiva instead of narayana. Either list is acceptable and both are correct. – user1195 Feb 9 '15 at 15:52
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    In this yuga, the supreme guru is Sankaracharya. Sringeri jagadguru is the avatara of Sankara and is a prime example of a guru in the modern times. Other supreme gurus are Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Paramacharya. The list is endless. There are several gurus who are great taapasas but not as well known. Could Swamiji @SwamiVishwananda please give a nice list of genuine gurus in current times? – user1195 Feb 9 '15 at 15:53
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    More examples: Samartha Ramadasa- the guru of Sivaji, Appayya Dikshita, Tyagaraja Swami in nAda yOga (music), Yukteswara Giri, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa Goswami,Tulasidas--as I said endless list. Narada Mahamuni is also a guru swaroopa. – user1195 Feb 9 '15 at 16:02
  • @moonstar2001 Do you know what the oldest source is that claims that Gaudapada was a disciple of Shuka? I asked a question about it here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/7104/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 17 '15 at 0:08
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A better translation is The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru is the great God Siva. The Guru alone is the Supreme Brahman, I salute Him the holy Guru. Who pervades the universe, moving and unmoving, of undivided form, as the universe, who reveals that state, Him I salute the holy Guru.

It is a hymn is praise of God as Guru. God is the only Guru (teacher). God is the teacher of all.

One's own guru should be treated as the special manifestation of God to teach you.

A spiritual teacher, Guru, is not unique to Hinduism. Buddhists have gurus also but they use another term. Christian monks also have a tradition of having a spiritual teacher for learning Christian mysticism.

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The Manu Smriti says:

2.146. Of him who gives natural birth and him who gives (the knowledge of) the Veda, the giver of the Veda is the more venerable father; for the birth for the sake of the Veda (ensures) eternal (rewards) both in this (life) and after death.

Why “GURU” is equal to “supreme GODS”?

Because GUru is indeed the supreme God.That's why.

According to Tantra texts like the Mahanirvana Tantra & others:

The Guru is the religious teacher and spiritual guide to whose direction orthodox Hindus of all divisions of worshippers submit themselves. There is in reality but one Guru. The ordinary human Guru is but the manifestation on the phenomenal plane of the Adi-natha Maha-kala, the Supreme Guru abiding in Kailasa. He it is who enters into and speaks with the voice of the earthly Guru at the time of giving mantra. Guru is the root (mala) of diksha (imitation). Diksha is the root of mantra. Mantra is the root of Devata; and Devata is the root of siddhi. The Munda-mala Tantra says that mantra is born of Guru and Devata of mantra, so that the Guru occupies the position of a grandfather to the Ishtadevata.

and,

Initiation is the giving of mantra by the guru. At the time of initiation the guru must first establish the life of the guru in his own body; that is the vital force (prana-shakti) of the Supreme Guru whose abode is in the thousand-petalled lotus. As an image is the instrument (yantra) in which divinity (devatva) inheres, so also is the body of guru. The day prior thereto the guru should, according to Tantra, seat the intending candidate on a mat of kusha grass. He then makes japa of a "sleep mantra" (supta-mantra) in his ear,

The above two passages make it clear that although ,apparently, the mortal Guru is speaking the mantras in our ears its actually not so.

Its the supreme Guru or Sada Shiva who comes in every mortal Guru during each initiation and speaks the mantra on his behalf.

So,the Guru(whether its yours or mine) is indeed Sada Shiva.One who thinks otherwise can't get liberaton.

From the Kularnava Tantra :

1)To perdition he goes who regards the Guru as human, the Mantra as mere letters and the Images as stone. Never look upon the Guru as a mortal. Should you do so then neither Mantra nor worship can give you success.

2)There is no mantra higher than that of the paduka, no god higher than the Guru, no initiation than that of the Sakta and no merit higher than the Kula worship.

3)The Guru is not to be thought of as a mere man. There is no difference between Guru, mantra, and Deva. Guru is father, mother, and Brahman.

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Guru is the way that lead us to the lord Krishna, who will make us his servant by his glance , and make us pure, who do not have any material bussiness, he have only one bussiness to help us to make progress in spirtual path. Guru do not need your money, or anything from you but he has always have some instruction of the lord krishna for us. may lord bless you and me by introducing us to such real guru ji, so that whole world can come to the same plateform together and enjoy this world.

1

Guru is the one who realized the self the secret of creation and also can predict the presence, future and the end. He is the truth, knowledge and eternal happiness. the holy word ohm itself is the culmination of God.

1

The Guru is the supreme brahman made manifest before these fleshly eyes and so he is compared to the three Gods as Creator, preserver and destroyer to represent his power over Maya and the three gunas. It is because he is beyond qualities and mind that he is absolute, the essence of pure knowledge and the embodiment of God upon the earth.

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