Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak

Have you ever tried to differentiate between a teacher and a Guru? Is there any marked difference between them in terms of the role they play in nation building or are they both sides of the same coin? There are so many questions which has multitudes of answers.He who teaches us is a teacher and he who guides us is a Guru. Does the teacher guide us and the Guru teach ? These questions always provide plethora of avenues to interprete their role in character and nation building. Teacher usually imparts knowledge and disseminate information as per the prescribed curriculum. But the Guru gives us life lessons. He enlightens the mind, paves the path for self-realization.

India is the land of Guru-Shishya tradition. It has been there from the ages of Lord Ram and Krishna. Epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat has glorified the role of Gurus in shaping the life of their disciples. Guru Vasistha has been given all credit to transform Ram to Purusottam, the best human being. Lord Krishna could manage to handle all the turbulent situations in lifewith much ease and flamboyance by the lessons he had learnt from Guru Sandeepani.

If the role of Gurus like Vashistha, Vishwamitra, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, and Parshurama has to be analysed in the present context, then definitely they were not less than modern age teachers. They not only taught history, geography, political science, science, spirituality, economics and war science but also guided their disciples throughout the thick and thins of their life.

Traditionally India treated the Gurus greater than the God. In Hinduism, Guru is treated as the trinity of Gods like Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserverand Maheshwar,the destroyer. It’s evident from the following verses.

“Gururbrahma Gururvishnu Gurureba Maheshwara

Guru Sakshyat Parambrahma tasmeishree Gurave namah”. 

The fifteenth century saint poet Santh Kabir had a different interpretation of Guru. He had kept Guru at a higher abode than the God. One of his many life transforming couplets says

“Guru Govind doun khade, kake lagun pawo

Balihari Guru aapne, jinhe Govind diyo bataay”.

This literally means if someone has to choose between Guru and God to bow down first, then the priority will be given to Guru as he is the one who explains the existence of God to the disciples. God has no identity until introduced by the Guru to the sishyas.

Gurus are the emissaries of bringing positive change and reform the society through their life changing lessons. There are innumerable instances that highlight the impact of gurus on their followers. Naren Datta, a youth form Bengal became Swami Vivekanandaand mesmerized the world through his speech in the world religious congress at Chicago only because of the guidance of his Guru Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Similarly Shivaji, the son of a common man became Chhatrapati Samrat Shivaji Maharaj only because of his Guru Samarth Ramdas. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Aadi Guru Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, Sri Chaitanya brought phenomenal change in the lives of people and reformed the society. Their contribution in establishing peace and harmony in the society is truly immense.

But this richness of our culture and tradition is getting diluted over the years. Modern day teachers have taken the place of Gurus. Their role is basically confined to the classroom teaching only. The activities of the students outside the classroom is beyond the purview of the teacher. The emotional connect between the teacher and student is constantly widened. According to Pandit Sri Ram Sharma Acharya, a great social reformer, freedom fighter, writer and scholar of scientific spirituality, “Teachers are the nation builders and the students are the future of the nation”. Hence the role of the teacher is very crucial in shaping the future of the nation.

Keeping in mind the contributuon of the Gurus and teachers to the society, the great philosopher, scholar and first Vice-President of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan preferred to celebrate his birthday on 5th September as “Teachers Day”. The teaching fraternity should not be marred with controversies related to their immoral conduct. Frequent incidence of immoral conducts by different teachers has tarnished their image in the society and the people has started looking at them in poor light.The essence of celebrating “Teachers Day” becomes worthless because of such controversies.

Modern age teachers should imbibe the virtues of a Guru and help in transforming the lives of their students. There should be a constant push to abridge the widening gap between the teacher and students. There should be an ambience of trust and mutual respect. Lack of it may ruin the future of education system of the country. The so called proctored system and mentoring facility may not help in bringing the desired changes in our academic exercise. The teachers should inculcate all the virtues of ancient “Acharyas”to transform the society in the right direction.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore said that the teacher is just like a burning lamp, if it continues its flames, then only it can enlighten other lamps (students). This is high time for the self-realization of the teachers. Let the dilemma of teacher or Guru do not continue. Let there be harmony among teachers and students. With the change of time let the teachers play the role of friend, philosopher and guide (Guru) to their students. Acharya Devo Bhavah.

(Dr. Nahak is currently into teaching as Associate Professor at
University Institute of Media Studies, Chandigarh University, Gharuan, Mohali, Punjab. Prior to this academic position, he was working as a News Editor at News 18 Odia.)