What is the Guru?

A short talk by
Prahlad Chandra Brahmachari
May 4, 1975

Translated 1976 by Bill Morgan and Pradeep Mukherjea

BABA SPEAKS: Today is an auspicious day for us. It is Sunday, the 20th of the month of Baishakh, in the Bengali year 1382. We are sitting in the courtyard of Anandamayi, near her feet, and with us are four disciples from America: Premananda, Yogananda, Nityananda, Gyanananda. Today I shall speak a little bit about the meaning of this word "guru," and they will translate this into English.

What is the Guru? Once long ago we had a great king, Janak. Janak Maharshi. He made a vow: "He who can give me the knowledge of Brahma in the wink of an eye, he will be my guru." That knowledge of Brahma, which cannot be had even after doing penance for many lifetimes, to get that knowledge edge in the wink of an eye is impossible!

Sanak and other sages and rishis, sixty thousand great rishis came and sat, motionless, and whoever would give King Janak the knowledge of Brahma in the wink of an eye would be his guru. They all sat motionless and silent.

At that time there was one rishi named Ashtavakra, who was deformed. He came, stooping over, to the guru seat which King Janak had prepared. King Janak asked, "Will you be my guru?"

Ashtavakra Rishi said, "Yes, I will be your guru."

"You will give me the knowledge of Brahma in the wink of an eye?"

"Indeed, I will give you that," said the Rishi.

Then King Janak asked him, "So, you will give me initiation?"

Ashtavakra Rishi answered, "Yes, I will give you initiation. But first you must give me the guru-fee. Because after I have become your guru, I cannot take any fee from you. Our Vedantic religion, our Hindu Sanatan Dharma, is very strict. There is no getting a guru before giving the teacher's fee."

Then Ashtavakra Rishi said, "Maharaj, there are three things you must give me for the guru-fee. The first is the body, the second is the mind, the third is your wealth. You have to give me these things first."

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Premananda's notes