Monday, February 18, 2008

What does Hinduism expect from an Ideal Advisor?

While nothing less than realization of our eternal connection with Brahman is expected from a satguru -- the spiritual guru who is trusted to guide our soul -- the Indian culture has some guidelines for advisors and teachers of all subjects. Besides enough knowledge to clear a student’s doubts (jnana) and the yearning and energy to orally (and truthfully) communicate (vak-shakti), two major qualities that are repeatedly stressed include: fairness and optimism.*

Fairness is such a huge term that it can mean “equanimity towards all beings,” but let us limit it to “equanimity towards all disciples” for our purposes. Because oral communication of knowledge under the student-teacher relationship has been the strength of the ancient Indian knowledge society and the process continues in many fields to this day, mentors preferring to teach their own kids or a “favorite student” are responsible for the continual loss of knowledge in the world. To balance out their karma, serious seekers have to spend lives rediscovering lost treasures. Is selfish prioritization of goals by mentors a contributing factor in the tumbling of popular interest in areas like Indian classical music?

Optimism includes encouragement of new ideas and the ability to transfer good wishes to the classroom. People who seek amusement in communicating but say, “No!” to every idea that originates in a student can never become advisors, for advising is about opening new channels for growth in a student’s life; it is not about blocking the existing ones. While information is transferred from a guru’s mouth to a disciple’s ears, optimism is the positive energy (good wishes) that is transferred from a heart to a heart. Revealing knowledge is not mere mechanical data transfer that needs some intellect for processing, but it involves positive thinking which the ideal advisor uses to ‘donate’ knowledge-energy to a deserving student, who accepts it in an optimistic mind with gratitude.

Fairness and optimism are not theoretical attributes for an endorsed advisor alone. Whenever we communicate with our family and friends, we can assess if our speech embraces these qualities. As we learn to pay attention we will find that chatting is easy, but advising is difficult.

For your contemplation:
In spite of his expertise in the chosen field of study, what went wrong with Dronacharya, the guru of archery, in the Mahabharata? Why are Sage Vasishta and King Janak recognized amongst the best gurus of ancient India?

*Just as a fun fact, fairness and optimism (along with education) are signified in the horoscope by Jupiter (Guru), the planet known as "the advisor to the gods" in Vedic Astrology.

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