Spiritual Leaders of Hinduism
Knowers of God
Purified, empty, peaceful, breathless, selfless, infinite, indestructible, stable, eternal, unborn, free, he is established in his own glory. Having seen the Self who is established in His own glory, he looks upon the wheel of life as a wheel that rolls on.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad-6.28. ve, 440
Who Are Hinduism’s Spiritual Leaders?
The saints, sages and satgurus who commune with God and Gods through devotion and meditation are Hinduism’s holy men and women. We revere them and strive to follow their example and words of wisdom. Aum.
There are and have always been many holy men and women within the Sanātana Dharma.
They are considered holy because of their loving surrender to God and the Gods, their dedication to our faith, their accomplishments and profound realizations. Their knowing is more important than their learning, their purity more essential than their position.
It is very difficult to be so disciplined and devoted, and so we honor and love those who have attained God’s grace, and worship the Divine within them, not their personality or humanness.
Because of Hinduism’s great diversity and decentralized organization, holy ones are not universally canonized, for there is no single ecclesiastical hierarchy to do this.
Still, saints, sages and satgurus are sanctified by followers within their own sampradāya. Each within his or her own sphere of devotees is the authority on religious matters, listened to and obeyed as such.
The Vedas declare:
“Not understanding, and yet desirous to do so, I ask the wise who know, myself not knowing: ‘Who may He be, the One in the form of the Unborn, who props in their place the six universal regions?’ ” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Saint Tirunavukkarasar lived in South India in the eighth century. Calling himself the servant of the servants of Śiva, he loved to clean the paths in front of temples and carried a tool for the task. He wrote holy hymns that are sung today by millions.
What Is a Saint, a Sage and a Satguru?
Saints, devoid of ego, reflect the peace, humility and purity of a devout life. Sages, though perfectly liberated, may outwardly appear detached and ordinary. Satgurus, also fully enlightened, guide others on the path. Aum.
The saints of Hinduism are honored as exemplars of our faith. Often living the householder dharma, they teach us how to act and how to serve the Gods. The purity of the saint’s heart is evident in his or her words and deportment.
There are others in our religion who are inwardly pure and awakened, but who do not outwardly display their attainment. These are known as sages and often live as secluded munis or wander as homeless mendicants, remaining aloof from the world.
Satgurus are the masterful guides and mystical awakeners who bring us into the fullness of spiritual life. They are initiated swamis of recognized spiritual lineages.
Sages and satgurus are the most honored among holy men, beings of the highest attainment. Both are unmarried renunciates. Sages are generally nirvāṇīs, reposing within their realization; satgurus are upadeśīs, actively guiding others to Truth.
The Vedas offer this praise:
“We celebrate with dedicated acts the greatness of the illustrious supermen amidst enlightened persons, who are pure, most wise, thought-inspirers, and who enjoy both kinds of our oblations—physical and spiritual.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Are There Other Terms for Holy Ones?
Many terms name Hindu masters, teachers and aspirants including: Jīvanmukta, ṛishi, muni, siddha, mahātma, guru, swāmī, sannyāsin, tapasvin, yogi, sādhu, sādhaka, paṇḍita, āchārya, śāstrī, pujārī, śiṣya and brahmachārī. Aum.
A Jīvanmukta is a liberated soul. Rishi refers to a venerated sage or seer. A muni is an ecstatic mystic, especially one living in seclusion or vowed to silence.
Siddha refers to a perfected being or one who has attained magical powers. Mahātma denotes a great soul or renowned guru.
The term guru usually describes a spiritual master, but can connote a teacher of any subject. A sannyāsin, or swāmī, is a formally ordained renunciate monk. A tapasvin is an ascetic seeking purification through rigorous disciplines.
The yogi is dedicated to intense meditation for inner attainment. Sādhu is a general term for a holy man or wandering mendicant. A sādhaka is a serious seeker of the Self, and is often a monk.
The āchārya, like the paṇḍita, is a respected teacher and advisor. Śāstrī refers to an expert in scripture. A pujārī is a temple priest. A śiṣya is a formal disciple. A brahmachārī is a celibate student, often under simple vows.
Some titles have feminine equivalents, such as sādhvī, yogīnī and brahmachāriṇī.
The Vedas explain, “The brahmachari moves, strengthening both the worlds. In him the devas meet in concord; he upholds Earth and Heaven.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of Guru Protocol?
Guru protocol, as outlined in the Kulārṇava Tantra and Guru Gītā, defines the traditional ways of relating to one’s spiritual preceptor to draw forth his wisdom and blessings and fully understand his inner nature. Aum.
Guru protocol can be understood in three parts: devotional acts, codes of harmony and prohibitions.
Devotional acts include serving the guru, prostrating daily and offering a gift in love, chanting his name and meditating on his inner form as the embodiment of the Divine,
partaking of ucçhiṣṭa—waters from his holy sandals, and his food leavings—emulating his awakened qualities, seeking initiation and striving for Self Realization as he directs.
Codes of harmony include seeking his blessings, obeying his directions, keeping no secrets and honoring his lofty presence.
Prohibitions include never contradicting or arguing with the guru, never criticizing him, nor listening to criticism by others, not imitating his dress or deportment, not standing or sitting above him, nor walking or driving ahead of him;
not assuming authority in his presence, nor uttering words of falsehood or contempt, and not initiating conversation or asking questions unless invited.
The Kulārṇava Tantra explains:
“Be always in service of the guru, ever in his presence, giving up desire and anger, humble and devoted, lauding in spirit, upright in doing his work.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Satguru’s Unique Function?
To transcend the mind and reach the ultimate goal, seekers need the guidance of a satguru, an enlightened master who has followed the path to its natural end and can lead them to the Divine within themselves. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
The satguru is the devotee’s spiritual guide and preceptor, friend and companion on the path. Having become religion’s consummation, the satguru can see where others are and know what their next step should be.
Nothing is more precious than the first soul-quickening, life-changing śaktipāta from a guru. Nothing is more central to spiritual awakening than the progressive dīkṣās, or initiations, he bestows.
A satguru is needed because the mind is so cunning and the ego is a self- perpetuating mechanism. It is he who inspires, assists, guides and impels the śiṣya toward the Self of himself.
The satguru, perfected in his relationship with Śiva, administrates the sādhana and tapas that slowly incinerate the seeds of Sañchita karmas.
It is his task to preside over the annihilation of the śiṣya’s ego and subconscious dross, all the while guiding the awakened kundalini force so that safe, steady progress can be made from stage to stage.
The Āgamas affirm:
“Individuals who become, by the grace of Śiva, eager to extricate themselves from worldly fetters, obtain initiation from a competent preceptor into the path that leads to Śivasāyujya.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
He should be known as one liberated while alive. He is blessed and is of fulfilled duties. After giving up the state of being liberated while alive, when the time arrives for his quitting the body, he enters the state of disembodied liberation, even as the air attains the state of non-movement.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Paiṅgala Upaniṣad 3.5. upr, 918
He should fulfill, according to the rules ordained, for twelve years the observance of brahmacharya, such as the service of the guru.
Atharva Veda, Naradaparivrājaka Upaniṣad 1. upa, 135
The Self resides within the lotus of the heart. Knowing this, consecrated to the Self, the sage enters daily that holy sanctuary. Absorbed in the Self, the sage is freed from identity with the body and lives in blissful consciousness.
Sāma Veda, Chāndogya Upanishad 8.3.3-4. upp, 122
Let him approach him properly, with mind and senses tranquil and peaceful. Then will this master disclose the essence of the knowledge of Brahman whereby may be known the imperishable Real, the Person.
Atharva Veda, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.13. ve, 415
Without regard for themselves, without urges and efforts, absorbed in contemplation and established in the higher Self, they endeavor to remove evil deeds and surrender their bodies by renunciation. Such is a paramahamsa, such indeed is a paramahamsa!
Śukla Yajur Veda, Jābāla Upaniṣad 6. ve, 441
Earnest seekers who worship enlightened ones at sight—with perfume, flowers, water, fruits, incense, clothing and food, or by word, deed and thought—are absolved then and there.
Devīkālottara Āgama, Jñāna-achara-vichara 83. rm, 117
The guru who has attained Self Realization can alone help the aspirant in acquiring it.
Śiva Sutras 2.6. ys, 102
Those who themselves have seen the Truth can be thy teachers of wisdom. Ask from them, bow unto them, be thou unto them a servant.
Bhagavad Gītā 4.34. bgm, 64
One should worship his guru by daily performing full prostrations to him. By worship, one attains steadiness and ultimately realizes one’s own true nature.
Guru Gītā 97. gg, 37
At the root of dhyāna is the form of the guru. At the root of pūjā are the feet of the guru. At the root of mantra is the word of the guru, and at the root of all liberation is the grace of the guru.
Kulārṇava Tantra 8.1. kt, 77
Where there is a holy man of divine worth who pursues the Lord, that all space embraces; there enemies are none. Rains in abundance fall. Full is the people’s contentment. No evil befalls that land.
Tirumantiram 1868. tm
The heart of the holy trembles not in fear. All passions stilled, it enjoys calm unruffled. Neither is there death nor pain, nor night nor day, nor fruits of karma to experience. That, truly, is the state of those who have renounced desire.
Tirumantiram 1624. tm
One who has realized by himself his soul’s Self will be worshiped by all other souls.
Thirukural 268. ww
God is the Life of our lives. Therefore, we are His possessions. We are His bondsmen. All our movements are His movements.
We can never forget Him. We are lacking in nothing. We are forever. We are everywhere. We know everything.
By ceaselessly meditating and contemplating in this way, let us eliminate lower qualities and attain the higher, divine reality.
Natchintanai, “God Is Our All" NT, 8
A hundred times greater than the joy of the heaven of the ancestors is the joy of the heaven of the celestial beings.
A hundred times greater than the joy of the heaven of the celestial beings is the joy of the devas who have attained divinity through holy works.
A hundred times greater than the joy of the devas who have attained divinity through holy works is the joy of the Gods who were born divine, and of him who has sacred wisdom, who is pure and free from desire.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 4.4.33. upm, 137