When many Hindu followers begin a path of spiritual enlightenment, they seek the guidance of masters or gurus. These masters can advise their disciples on matters of spirituality and help the disciples better understand their religion and their place in the world. After years of such study, disciples may become masters themselves.
According to Hindu belief, there are four paths to salvation. The first path is the path of devotion and requires a follower to worship the various deities and gods in the faith. The second path is one of action where a devotee tries to help other people whenever possible. The third path is one of wisdom and the individual secludes herself in order to study sacred Hindu texts. Finally, followers of the royal path focus on understanding the universe and their place in it through meditation. When a disciple seeks religious enlightenment and salvation, that individual devotes herself to one of the four paths and finds a master who can instruct her.
In the Hindu faith, a master or guru is viewed as a god in human form and a follower's devotion to a guru is second only to the bond between a parent and a child. This owes partly to the fact that there is no central authority in Hindu religion, gurus are responsible for educating followers as well as interpreting and passing on knowledge about Hinduism. Gurus can come from all strata of society as long as they have a deep understanding of their religion and help educate others about it.
A disciple seeks spiritual enlightenment and seeks out a school called a gurukula where he can study a path of yoga. Once a disciple joins a school, her master dictates all aspects of his life, and tradition discourages the disciple from questioning this authority. Before ascending to the next level of spiritual enlightenment, the guru will test his disciple on particular skills needed for that level. Once a disciple finishes her studies, she leaves the school and begins her own path to becoming a master.
The relationship between a guru and his disciples is one of subservience on the part of the disciple. At a gurukula the disciples attend to the needs of their masters as a sign of devotion. In return for performing these duties, the master imparts spiritual knowledge to his disciples. In many cases, a disciple's devotion extends to the family of the guru and the disciple also attends to the needs of the guru's spouse and children. However, gurus must also respect their disciples by showing them their true selves.
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