According to that tradition Guru is equated to the pAdukA (= sandal) of the divine feet. Vedanta Desika's pAdukA-sahasram is a well-known marathon eulogy of the pAdukAs containing 1000 verses, all composed in one night, by the Grace of the pAdukA. For details about pAdukA-sahasram go to Beach 6, Wave 1 of Gems from the Ocean of ... .
In the esoteric interpretations about the divine feet in the advaita tradition, however, things are a little more complicated. There is the 'tookiya tiruvaDi' (the raised foot) of the Lord of the Cosmic Dance and there is the 'oonRiya tiruvaDi' (the placed foot). The raised foot of the Divine gives moksha (liberation) from the cycle of births and deaths, whereas the placed foot disintegrates all the sins of the individual. In addition to the standard three functions of the Divine Absolute, namely, Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, there are two more, called tirodhAna ( = concealment, eradication, vanishing) and anugraha (=Grace).
These five-fold phenomena constitute the entire cosmic cycle of events. Though the third function, dissolution, puts an end to everything, it does not put an end to the sins - why sins, in fact all karma - in the bank-balance of individual jIvas. They remain in latent form till the beginning of the next cycle of creation. It is only the tirodhAna function of the Lord that eradicates the latent vAsanAs stored up by past karma. This 'tirodhAna' is the function of the 'placed foot' of the Divine. On the other hand, anugraha - Grace, the award of moksha is the function of the 'raised' foot of the Lord. That is why one surrenders to the 'tookiya tiruvaDi' of the Lord for Him to grace us so that 'we are no more thrown in the deep abysses of the feminine womb to be born again'. In the advaita tradition, this 'tookiya tiruvaDi' is equated to the Guru. He is the One on Earth who can grant the same Grace. The small poem bhaja-govindam of Adi SankarAchArya extols the lotus feet of the Guru for this very purpose. Incidentally the folklore is that Sankara immortalised the name Govinda in that stotra because it was the name of his Guru!
Indeed the Guru's Grace can give us a double benefit. It can give us what we want in this mundane world as well as take us towards the Lord. Guru destroys the ignorance of the disciple. He may do it by actual teaching, He may do it by just a blessing, or he may do it by a spiritual fiat. The last verse of bhaja-govindam talks of the disciple who is guru-caraNAmbhuja-nirbhara-bhaktaH, i.e, the one who is deeply immersed in the lotus feet of the guru. The profound subtlety in this reference to the feet of the guru here is to the fact that the guru stands for certain principles of behaviour as well as of wisdom. He not only stands for them but he stands on them! -- in the sense that the greatness of the guru goes back to the values of life for which he lives and preaches all his life. So the sandals or the feet on which he stands represent the values for which he stood. Therefore the devotion to those feet and to those sandals of the divine guru, will certainly confer on one the strength to respect and reverberate the same values. His 'placed foot' is ideal for us to cling close to his ideals and values.
A significant Sloka in the tradition in connection with the concept of the guru ought to be more well-known than it is now. The Sloka is analogous to the one (beginning with akAla-mRtyu-haraNam) that we repeat when we take the sacred water, at then of a ritual or a pUjA, in the hollow of the right hand and drink with reverence and sprinkle on ourselves, so that it may ward off untimely death, rid us of all diseases, and absolve us of all our sins. The corresponding Sloka for taking the holy water which has washed the feet of the guru is :
avidyA-mUla-nASAya janma-karma-nivRttaye /
jnAna-vairAgya-siddhyartham guru-padodakam Subham //
The holy water off the feet of the Guru is so powerful that it will destroy the very root of our Ignorance (which is the cause of all samsAra), it will eradicate the cause-and-effect chain, the cause being our karma and the effect being further birth (and therefore, death); and most of all it will bestow on us the spiritual knowledge and ultimate dispassion (and then we will be right at the very goal of all Life).
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March 26, 1999
Copyright V. Krishnamurthy