A child, when it is born, depends entirely on its mother for everything it needs. But, as it grows, it develops the faculty of observation. The father and finally the teacher step in, directing the child to understand its surroundings better. There are several teachers in one’s life. But, the one who imparts true knowledge as to who we are, what is the meaning of life and where do we go from here etc.- is the most important.

In Sanskrit, these teachers are known by the terms ‘GURU’ and ‘ACHARYA’. The word “Guru” means the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance and sheds light on the path of good conduct. The word “Achaarya” means one who has understood well Saastras (Holy Scriptures), conducts himself strictly according to the injunctions contained therein and guides others to follow his own example. That is why Achaarya is considered greater than all the rest.

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Without initiation and instruction by an Achaarya, it is not possible for one to gain knowledge of the ultimate reality. One who approaches a good Achaarya becomes capable of distinguishing good from bad in any given situation and adopts good ones and achieves a bright future spiritually.

The very first Achaarya in our tradition is (Satsampradaaya) is Bhagavaan Sriman Narayana Himself. In the beginning, Narayana in His form as Hayagriva (Horse faced) taught the Vedas to His son, the four-faced Brahma. Later in Krishna Avatara (Divine incarnation), He sang the Song Celestial called “Bhagavad Gita” and came to be known as “Gitaachaaryan”.

The Vedas declare that a person initiated by an Achaarya understands truth ‘as it is’ and therefore the Achaarya should be respected like God Himself. The Upanishads like Mundaka, Svetaswatara, Taittriya etc which are called ‘Vedanta’ (the ultimate end of Vedas) confirm that the Achaarya not only shows the path of knowledge and fills one with faith by setting an example but also initiates the procedure, plans for our progress, imparts us the necessary techniques, corrects us whenever we go wrong and leads us to the ultimate goal surely and safely.

Swami Desika says that in this form, we can see God and talk to Him and therefore there is no God greater than Achaarya. The Achaarya dispels the darkness of our ignorance. He removes all our sins. He makes us equal to himself. He endows us with a divine vision. “He gives us ‘Vidya Jnaanam’ and thus puts an end to the cycle of births and death” says Swami Desika.

A true Achaarya is one who imparts such knowledge out of infinite compassion without expecting any pecuniary or other compensation and teaches without any reservations. It will be impossible to repay our debt of gratitude to such an Achaarya.

His Holiness Srimad ParavakkoTTai Gopala Desika Maha Desikan of Poundarikapuram Swami Asramam, Srirangam was such an Achaarya par excellence. Those who have seen or heard him or have known him are indeed fortunate souls.

I am happy to submit this small note as a dedication to him, my Achaarya on his 92nd Tirunakshatram on 28th March 2012

Dasoham

Anbil Ramaswamy