The verse from Siksha Valli in Taitriya Upanishads…..
THE Guru bids his disciple farewell and delivers his last upadesh:
“Satyam vada, dharmam cara
SVadhyayan ma pramadah,
Acaryaya priyam dhanam ahrtya.”
Speak the truth; Practice virtue. Let there be no neglect of your daily reading. Give unto the teacher what is pleasing to him.”
Two ways to give the guru what is pleasing to him or her….
One is to give something ‘tangible’ what is called guru Dakshina. In the olden days, this involved living in the Gurukula system where the disciple lived with the guru, ate with him or her, helped the guru in all daily activities and in return the guru imparted valuable teachings. This was called guru seva!
But, over a period of time, a system of guru-Dakshina evolved where the disciple made concrete offerings in terms of cash, clothing or anything tangible. This guru-Dakshina was simply symbolic – expressing gratitude and appreciation for the teaching the disciple received from his/her guru. Guru Dakshina in any form, even monetary, is one form of energy or another.
The most pleasing (everlasting) gift a guru receives from his/her disciple is when the student practices the teachings of the guru with sincerity and earnestness- in fact, the student outpictures the living embodiment of the guru.
You identify a flower by its fragrance, and in the same way you recognize the greatness of a guru by his/her disciple. An ideal student is one who leads by example. Such a disciple follows all the instructions of the guru to a letter ‘t’. Whom we are descendants—that would be the Dakshina desired by the guru. This is the best guru seva or guru Dakshina.
The verse from Guru ashtakam composed by Adi Shankara…
shhadan gaadivedo mukhe shastravidyaa
kavitvaadi gadyam supadyam karoti .
manashchenna lagnam guroran ghripadme
tatah kim tatah kim tatah kim tatah kim.h ..3..
The Vedas with their six limbs and the knowledge of all sciences may be on one’s lips; one may possess the poetic gift and may compose fine prose and poetry; but if one’s mind is not centered upon the lotus feet of the Guru, what then, what then, what then?
Finally to end a beautiful katha on Ekalavya – the greater archer that would have been.
In the Mahabharatha, Ekalavya is introduced as a young prince of the lowly Nishada tribes. Ekalavya was born to Devashrava (brother of Vasudeva, who was father of Lord Krishna) and was raised by Hiranyadhanus, the leader (King) of the Nishadhas, who was a commander in the army of Jarasandha (the king of Magadha). Desirous of learning advanced skills of archery, he seeks the tutelage of Drona, the legendary weaponsmaster of and instructor of Arjuna and his brothers. Drona, however, rejects Ekalavya on account of the prince’s humble origins.
Ekalavya is undeterred and goes off into the forest where he fashions a clay image of Drona. Worshipping the statue as his preceptor, he begins a disciplined program of self-study. As a result, Ekalavya becomes an archer of exceptional prowess, superior even to Drona’s best pupil, Arjuna. One day while Ekalavya is practicing, he hears a dog barking. Before the dog can shut up or get out of the way, Ekalavya fires seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog’s mouth without injuring it. The Pandava princes come upon the “stuffed” dog, and wonders who could have pulled off such a feat of archery. Searching the forest, they find a dark-skinned man dressed all in black, his body besmeared with filth and his hair in matted locks. It is Ekalavya, who introduces himself to them as a pupil of Drona.
Arjuna fears that Ekalavya may have eclipsed him in skill with the bow. As a result, Arjuna complains to his teacher Drona, reminding Drona of his promise that he would allow no other pupil to be the equal of Arjuna. Drona acknowledges Arjuna’s claim, and goes with the princes to seek out Ekalavya. He finds Ekalavya, as always, diligently practicing archery. Seeing Drona, Ekalavya prostrates himself and clasps the teacher’s hands, awaiting his order.
Drona asks Ekalavya for a dakshina or deed of gratitude that a student owes his teacher upon the completion of his training. Ekalavya replies that there is nothing he would not give his teacher. Drona cruelly asks for Ekalavya’s right thumb, knowing that its loss will hamper Ekalavya’s ability to pursue archery. Ekalavya, however, cheerfully and without hesitation severs his thumb and hands it to Drona. For his part, Arjuna is relieved to find that the crippled Ekalavya can no longer shoot with his former skill and facility.
The Mahabharata is clear that Drona acted in order to protect Arjuna’s status as the greatest archer. However, the Mahabharata does not answer the question whether Drona was ultimately justified. The story thus leaves room for interpretation and moral speculation. As a result, a variety of answers have been proposed to these questions.
According to some, Drona wanted to hamper Ekalavya’s archery skills because he feared that Ekalavya would use them against Drona’s employer, the King of Hastinapur (Ekalavya’s father worked for Jarasandh, who was an adversary of the Hastinapur kingdom).
Others have alleged that Ekalavya learned all the archery skills by secretly observing the training sessions of Dronacharya. When Dronacharaya found out, he visited Ekalavya to verify his suspicions. Although Drona could have demanded an even greater punishment under the laws in effect at that time, he asked only for Ekalavya’s right thumb, thus making useless the archery skills which he had learned secretly.
Others still have said that Dronacharya demanded Ekalavya’s thumb because the latter was not a Kshatriya, and in those days only Kshatriyas were supposed to get a military education.
Ekalavya-ism, which is a bhava (ideal or sentiment) in the Mahabharata, is a philosophy of self learning with a meditative mind without physical presence of a guru, something which is technologically possible today. Ekalavya-ism also believes in learning for learnings sake, self perfectionism and the ability to give up the negative behavior when demanded by a guru. This closely ties in with the Indian Guru Daivo Bhava philosophy as a guru was thought to be essential in ones self development.
Modern technology like tele-presence, semantic web and neural augmentation makes it possible for students to learn from a guru. Initiations and advanced instruction is recieved in the precense of the guru. It truly depends on the needs of the individual student. The physical presense of the guru is more helpful for most students.