Question: What is the meaning of the word “guru”?

Answer: The Sanskrit word “guru” means spiritual teacher; however it is also often used to refer to teachers of all kinds—be they teachers of music, ayurvedic medicine, cooking, etc.

“Guru” as an adjective means “heavy or weighty” as in “one who is heavy with spiritual knowledge and wisdom.” Additionally, “guru” means servant; “guru” does not mean master.

It’s very important to understand that an actual guru never sees himself as the dominator or master of anyone. He never teaches that he has become God, or realized he is God, or tries to take the place of God in people’s lives.

A guru is someone who is so filled with bhakti or love for the Supreme or Original Cause—and therefore love or compassion for all living beings who he understands are part and parcel of the Original Cause—that he sees himself as the servant of everyone and dedicates his life to helping everyone find true happiness.

Because he has realized the truth that happiness comes from rendering selfless service, he may accept the service of his students or disciples in order to teach them what he has learned from his own guru. This is his service. The important thing to understand is that a real guru finds his happiness in serving, not in being served.