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Guru Dakshina: donation for knowledge

In this article we will discuss topics of knowledge transfer and donation for knowledge from disciples who received it.

The tradition of Guru Dakshina has ancient Vedic origins. It is known that there was parampara in ancient India which means transfer of knowledge directly from a Master (Guru) to a disciple. Education took place in ashrams where disciples studied and lived. Also it is known that disciples did not pay Guru for education, but after the end of study they gave him a donation, which is called Guru Dakshina. It was the last gift of disciple before leaving the ashram and this gift was presented in any shape or form at the discretion of disciple.

In the modern society this tradition is almost completely gone because now everything is on the financial and commercial basis. Guru Dakshina included several important internal aspects besides the donation for knowledge. And these aspects distinguish it from the modern model of payment for knowledge, as well as help to give people completely different knowledge.

So what's the difference?

First of all the fact is that there was a substitution of concepts of knowledge and awareness. People can be informed about many things but do not have the knowledge which is based on spiritual and moral principles. There are qualities of true knowledge in the Vedic Writings; the knowledge which will provide benefit to all in all conditions with breaking no bones. These qualities are listed in the Bhagavad Gita: "Modesty; humility; repudiation of violence; tolerance; simplicity; appeal to a true spiritual master; purity; firmness; self-discipline; renunciation of objects of pleasure; absence of false ego; the realization that birth, death, anility and illnesses are evil; lack of affection; independence from captivity by home, children, housework and work; the calm in the face of both pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and pure devotion to Forefather; enlightened mind which lead you from idle communication and crowd to solitude; self-containment; recognizing the value of attainment of excellence; continuity of deep knowledge of the Spirit, Light and true "I", fond of wisdom search of absolute truth . The Supreme Being proclaims all of these concepts as the Knowledge and everything that exists apart from that is ignorance. "

Not only Vedic sources mention the difference of concepts of knowledge and awareness. In particular, German Catholic monk and priest Thomas à Kempis wrote:

Calm the desire of excessive awareness:

You will have great dissipation and seduction because of it.

Informed people like to be worshiped as the wiser heads,

There is a lot of information which brings little use for a soul or no use at all,

And you are insane if you care a lot about things which do not serve to the rescue.

A soul does not fill by awareness,

It is nurtured by a good life, wherefore clear conscience gives a strong confidence in the Supreme Being.

Another reason for the substitution of concepts is lack of understanding of original words meanings which brings confusion in terms. In this case, the term "scientist", in fact, means that a person had been taught to something but it does not mean that this person really has the knowledge as a result. But, anyway, when we hear the words: "scientists have proved or established", we believe them. We consider that the “scientific” title is a synonym for really knowledgeable person. So we have understood the terms and concepts, and then we can analyze the system of education and transfer of knowledge in general and the people who involved in it. There are three types of people who give certain knowledge, but they do it in different ways.

The first type is people who have received some knowledge and want to get maximal financial benefit from it. These people do not share their knowledge for no special reason. Usually, their motivations are different selfish desires leading to receipt of money and improvement of the status and position in society. They perform their specialness according to obtained knowledge in particular.

The second type is people who desire glory, recognition and the state of being relevant, important, and essential on the basis of knowledge they have.

They have much in common with the first type because the same motivations (such as to soothe the ego and self-exaltation) dominate. Sometimes they even do not care whether someone listen them or not. The main thing for them is to show off.

It is necessary to notice that position and the state of being relevant, important, essential of the first two types of people always depend on the dominant trends and stages of society development. And the society even accepted and respected the selfishness of such people. These people had lost their relevance and position in society when trends changed in society.

From the above it becomes clear that spiritual knowledge is not included in such system. This system consists of material and worldly knowledge and monetary exchanges. The power and desire prevail because selfishness is the common denominator of the giver and recipient. At this time the demand for teachers is great and teachers of any knowledge can obtain the top profit by those who wish to get this knowledge. And those who wish to get this knowledge will agree to spend big money. And in most cases he/she wants to obtain this knowledge not to allow others to get it. As a result the competitive business is created on a completely materialistic basis in the field of education.

Far-seeing masters and the wise knew it that is why they tried not to involve money in the education process. They understood that money leads to problems in society such as problems with ethicality and morality, spiritual development, life in harmony with nature. Also they understood that the money forms material and worldly part which generates material benefits and it becomes unable to bring spiritual values ​​in people's minds. Masters of the past knew that soulless mentality leads to demonism.

The lack of spiritual values leads to the development of various selfish and consumer features such as ignorance, greed and animosity. Domination of such features in people and in society as a whole leads to destruction only. Indeed, all wars started because of the desire to get new territories, resources and self-development at the expense of others. Another proof of this view is the invention of nuclear warheads which decorate "important" borders of all countries.

Before nuclear bombs were invented, people fought using guns, axes, spears and arrows. But the reason was the same material motivation in minds of society. To control these qualities a comprehensive and balanced approach is required. The wise, who examined this aspect, have written books about Raja Shastra (governance) and Dharma Shastra (rules of conduct).

In these treatises, they described the basic methods of acquiring knowledge from a mentor. Let's see what they wrote:

Guru shushrooshayaa vidyaa

Pushkalene dhanena vaa

Athavaa vidyayaa vidyaa

Chaturthee nopapadyate

This verse mentions three ways of acquiring of knowledge:

- A disciple must serve to a mentor and get knowledge

- A disciple must provide a mentor with as much money as he wishes (as Guru Dakshina) and should get knowledge

- Two educated persons can share knowledge

The fourth method does not exist at all!

The wise have foreseen that such situation with education issue can happen. They tried to stand against it and explained the following:

Guru shushrooshayaa vidyaa - a disciple has to obtain the knowledge by serving to Guru. In return guru has to provide with the knowledge only after a disciple’s service. The exchange can happen in this way. There should not be other ways.

Guru Dakshina has a strong sense. It means that Guru Dakshina (according to the scriptures) shows perseverance and interest of a disciple when he/she meets difficulties and obstacles on the way. As a result, ability and aspiration of a disciple to continue the education and to advance in spiritual search is Guru Dakshina in itself.

Promoting the same selfish motivations the modern society does not give the chance to do such things. "Here and now" benefit is a key pillar now, but this approach will lead to the fact that the knowledge will not be spread very quickly, but on the other hand it will inject ethical and moral foundations in society and protect people from the path of self and planet destruction.

That is why in the Vedic past rulers and authorities, having such ethical and moral education, understood the importance and benefits of such education. It was reflected in the fact that in the case of dissemination of knowledge for the money the government (not disciples or even Guru) determined a decision about it as well as the size of Guru Dakshina. But it was performed on a payable basis for all process participants taking into account the spiritual component. This approach allowed respecting the interests of all and sundry. As a result, not only the Guru and the disciples obtained something, but it was for the benefit of society and government as well.

In the ancient times kings looked closely at Guru Kulam (a hermitage where several disciples lived with Guru for several years to obtain the knowledge) to make sure that disciples perform their spiritual practices and prayers in the right way. Also they looked closely at the educated people, checking how well they perform their duties as stipulated in the scriptures. All of this was the area of responsibility of rulers. The system worked successfully because kings were honest and pure. From the scriptures and history we know such civilizations were at the height of the power.

Therefore financial approach in education and sale of knowledge for money are not able to take into account the benefits of society from this process, but only bring lasting harm to their citizens. At the same time it creates the appearance of the general good, but it is only at first sight.

The above refers to the first two categories of people with knowledge. Now let's talk about those who belong to the third category or type. We have repeatedly mentioned of Guru and the wise. In different traditions they are also called as Brahmans, lamas, Magi or wizards. These people try to provide with the knowledge in the masses. The knowledge which does not depend on trends in society such as the government and political situation. This knowledge is objective and harmonized with the whole creation, universe and space. Subsequently, having such knowledge, people will be able to bring true benefit to themselves, others, and, consequently, the society because they will live in harmony, in harmony with the natural and fair rules of the Nature.

Of course, there is a difficulty in discussion of such topic. We have a stereotype that spiritual development cannot go with the material development. Nevertheless, the ancient writings and even the history shows the contrary. In particular, modern scientists, armed with the latest tools of technological progress cannot say exactly how the Egyptian pyramids were built or how to grow almost live space ship using crystals as described in Vimanika Shastra. Apparently the previous technology had another basis which is more deep and harmonious. In view of this, such knowledge is not popular in the modern society. And there are few people who spread the necessary knowledge.

One of the basic principles and differences of the Vedic education system of the past was the fact that at first people were taught how to live in harmony with the nature and the universe, and only then they were given the specialized knowledge depending on aspirations and interests of disciples. Now it is the opposite. People are taught all sorts of professions and are not taught how to know yourself and the world as a basis for success and development in any sphere of life.

It leads not only to the fact that we progressively destroy our planet doing harm to nature and the environment. Equally important thing is that we all know about reincarnation and karma but follow the financial principles and start looking for the way to yourself in old age only. And as a rule we are no longer able for adequate spiritual practices in this age because of the health and physical condition. In addition, to prepare and leave this world properly it is pertinent to remember what wise teachers of the past told:

Dudjom Rinpoche said “Watch your mind, devote your life to the Dharma, and then in the moment of death you will not be ashamed of yourself and there will be no feeling of something unfinished”.

Nice sage Shantideva confirms this fact: “It is incredibly difficult to get precious human birth ... a means of supreme goal”.

Although we think that organizing homes for elderly people we satisfy their requirements, and we are sure that we have done good thing to take care of them. But is it really good thing for them? They have another needs and such “attention” does not correspond to the real requirements. Is it enough to get appreciable merit for us and help them to prepare for another life?

If you often ask yourself these questions it will lead to positive changes in society. When people know the objective laws of the universe, study the Vedic writings, they will have no need, for example, in so many drugs; mortality and number of diseases will decrease. Let's look at the origins of all these problems, which lie in our ignorance in relation to common and harmonious lifestyle. Such spiritual knowledge provide with the welfare and prosperity of each individual and society as a whole.

Starting from childhood we do not understand the necessity of spiritual education because of the ignorance of spiritual foundations of the universe. Of course in the past, such understanding of the necessity of spiritual education was the responsibility of Rulers initially. And they organized this activity of a state in this way. Now modern rulers are far from understanding of these important truths, like most of us. We think that the understanding of the spiritual education importance has to come on a person (it can happen very late in his/her life) and this person will begin spiritual search. But it may not happen at all because this person was informed that “really important things” are completely different. We have categorical opinion that spiritual education and the awakening are a private matter, but not a common goal.

As a result, we are starting to come to the importance of the spiritual self-knowledge very late. Many people are starting to show interest to the spiritual, teachings and Guru by being no longer able to understand many things. And in this case Guru has to teach such people to basics of spiritual knowledge. At that, Guru do not refuse to anyone who address to them for the knowledge. As a comparison, can you imagine that a notable professor will agree to teach in primary school? It is unlikely. Then, it seems strange why wise spiritual teachers do it, what kind of motivation do they have?

As original sources say (various Vedic scriptures and sutras), the only motivation in this case is compassion, love and beneficence to all unenlightened beings. They understand that if they don’t do it, the society can degrade even more.

Enlightened Guru and Lama know that human life is only a brief moment between birth and death, this moment is filled with sufferings because of obscuration and attachment to the material. That is why they are trying to provide with knowledge in every possible way, the knowledge that will help people to release from suffering and reach happiness and joy.

As we’ve already noted Guru Dakshina is a benefit for all participants of the process. That is why the scriptures tell us about the benefits not only for disciples but also for teachers. It is said that if a disciple continues a search and do practices in accordance with the instructions, Master will be ready to do anything for a disciple. If a disciple reaches a goal, patiently following the path indicated by Guru – Guru will be satisfied forever. Guru will appreciate it as Guru Dakshina (donation). It is a characteristic of the spiritual guru, the spiritual master. To satisfy Guru in this way is a feature of real disciple. In the scriptures it is also called as offering by Dharma or teaching that is described as the highest and most valuable offering to a Master from a disciple.

In conclusion, I want to quote the Vedic scripture: Be bees but not flies. Collect nectar rather than…you know what I mean. Learn spiritual scriptures such as the Vedas, Sutras, Puranas, Jatakas - anything you like. And keep in mind the worlds of one of the greatest teachers Buddha Shakyamuni:

"Do not think that your benefit may come from outside.

Benefit is within you and depends on you.

Waves are not born in the depths of a sea,

Everything is in peace there, do not make waves of the outside world in yourselves,

Don’t go for anything external and you'll have a benefit”

Show good sense and know thyself, hereby making the most valuable Guru Dakshina.


Written by yoga instructor Oleg Vasiliev