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(go͞o`ro͞o, go͝or`o͞o), in Hinduism and Buddhism, spiritual teacher. The guru gives initiation into spiritual practice and instructs disciples, often maintaining a close relationship with them. Among the Sikhs (see SikhismSikhism
, religion centered in the Indian state of Punjab, numbering worldwide some 19 million. Some 300,000 Sikhs live in Britain, and there are smaller communities in North America, Australia, and Singapore.
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) the title guru was given to the 10 leaders of the community from Nanak (c.1469–c.1539), founder of Sikhism, to Govind Singh (1666–1708). Govind appointed no successor, declaring that the Granth (the Sikh scriptures) was the true guru.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In Hindu tradition, a guru is an enlightened, spiritual teacher. The word comes from a Sanskrit word that means "heavy" or "grave," and it is roughly translated as "the venerable." In other words, being a guru is serious business, involving leading people out of the darkness of ignorance.

You don't become a guru by studying or going to school. You become a guru by finding enlightenment. And once you become a guru you don't advertise for students. Students are drawn to you.

Ramakrishna, the great nineteenth-century guru, has written:

Anyone and everyone cannot become a guru. A huge timber floats on the water and can carry animals as well. But a piece of worthless wood sinks, if a man sits on it, and drowns him.

Stories abound about famous gurus. Ramana Maharshi died in 1951 but is remembered because he sat alone on a mountaintop, so absorbed by ultimate consciousness that he neither spoke nor ate. Finally he had to be force-fed by his followers. But his glance alone was said to illuminate those who came to see him, drawing out of them the answers to questions they didn't even know they had.

Generally speaking, a guru will not try to "teach" you anything directly. Unlike Western teachers who try to deliver a body of knowledge, a prospective student of a guru will be asked, "Do you have a question?" The guru is attempting to meet the student at the point of their need.

A popular metaphor is that of the glass and the pitcher of water. The glass represents the student. The pitcher, the guru. The water is spiritual wisdom. If a glass is full of stale water, nothing can be added. First the glass has to be emptied of its contents. Then, and only then, can fresh water be poured. (This lends insight to the contemporary observation, "He is certainly full of himself, isn't he?" Such a person cannot be taught.) If a glass is on the same level as the pitcher, water cannot be poured. So it is expected that the guru will be lifted up to a higher level, or venerated.

This kind of veneration can be abused by unscrupulous gurus. But the authentic wisdom teacher knows that the real guru is within; it is the self. Swami Satchidananda writes:

What you wish to acquire is the way [the guru] lives, the serenity he has.... Ultimately all these forms and names should disappear into a formless and nameless One, who is the Absolute Guru.



head of the Sikh religious community in Punjab, India. The first guru was Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, who lived from 1469 to 1538 or 1539. Amar Das, who was guru from 1552 to 1574, made the post of guru hereditary. In the 17th century the gurus became secular rulers, owning land and collecting taxes from the members of the Sikh sect. The last guru, the tenth (1675 to 1708) was Govind Singh, who led the Sikhs in an antifeudal struggle.

What does it mean when you dream about a guru?

A symbol of spiritual authority. Meeting a guru in one’s dream can mean encountering one’s own inner guidance—a variation on the wise old (wo)man archetype.


a Hindu or Sikh religious teacher or leader, giving personal spiritual guidance to his disciples


An expert, especially in "Unix guru". Implies not only wizard skill but also a history of being a knowledge resource for others. Less often, used (with a qualifier) for other experts on other systems, as in "VMS guru".

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An advisor or teacher. The term, which comes from Hinduism, refers to a spiritual teacher. "Gu" means darkness, and "ru" means light; thus a guru turns ignorance into enlightenment. In the west, the term has been interpreted quite often as simply an expert in a field whether that person helps you learn or understand anything or not.
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