Friday, June 19, 2009
Why the Guru Narayana is not a ‘social reformer’ but a World-Teacher,Jagat-guru?
-by swami Vinaya Chaitanya
Another Guru-jayanti and Samadhi anniversaries have passed, and as usual, lot of newspaper publicity about the Guru, and all the politicians competing to praise him, should gladden the disciples of the Guru, but the fact is quite the contrary, and it’s also very sad. And my good friend Scott asking me to elaborate on this for the benefit of students/friends is the reason for this piece; otherwise I’d rather leave it well alone, and concentrate more on the translations of the Guru into Kannada and similar things that I am busy with these days, apart from the routine chores at the gurukula.
Even though lots of lip-service is paid to the Guru as a social reformer, hardly ever do we find any mention of him in speeches/writings on philosophy in India .
The first thing to note is that it is not so much as a historical figure that we study Narayana Guru, but more as a World Teacher and model Guru, in the context of perennial philosophy. Not that he didn’t respond creatively to the historical situation in which he found himself in the light of his wisdom-vision, but that is not to be mixed up with the far more important role of a Guru whose teachings are relevant to one and all, anywhere, anytime, who seek answers to questions that haunt humanity at levels far deeper than the social/historical questions. The reformer is forgotten once the social problems are redressed, but a Guru’s message is timeless, and this understanding/ discrimination between the eternal and the transient is the first qualification for a seeker of wisdom in the Guru tradition.
In the long line of Gurus of India, it was the Buddha who frontally dealt with the despicable issue of ‘caste’. Gurus who followed have left much to be desired on this front, in spite of being staunch proponents of advaita. Narayana Guru was unequivocal on this question, declaring the oneness of the human family through his writings as well as establishing centres where this could be lived. This must be the reason why he’s usually excluded by speakers and writers on philosophy.
And it is not helped at all by the almost ‘successful’ attempt by certain communities to see in him a ‘social reformer’ and leader of a particular tribe struggling for social and economic justice. To be affiliated to the name of the Guru for wrong reasons is just as bad as neglecting or ignoring him. It cannot be over-emphasized that the Guru Narayana was NOT for any one group of people as against another. He wanted humanity to recognize itself as belonging to the One caste of humanity, as made clear in all his writings, especially the Jati-Mimamsa (Critique of Caste).
Philosophy does not live in a vacuum. Falsehood has to be denied before truth can be founded firmly in the human heart. For example, before a farmer can sow seeds, he has to prepare the field properly, otherwise the seeds won't be able to sprout and put roots down properly. Guru does this not only in the social realm, but in all realms, as evidenced by his bringing in an Asatya- darsanam (Vision of Untruth) in the Darsana-Mala, where he integrates all possible philosophical points of view in terms of the Absolute Selfhood of the human being and its dearness to one and all. And, to conclude this, this integration at all levels is the uniqueness of the philosophy of Narayana Guru. Brahmavidya is this integrative or unitive understanding of all, not another system, and the Guru restated it clear and simple terms that befit the dignity of the human kind. And this is why he is universally revered and his name celebrated. May such understanding bless us all.
Posted by "Gurucharanam Sharanam" at 7:23 AM