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I was watching a movie called "Sur Sangam". It is one of my most favorite of the movies and re-make of "Shankarabharanam" in Hindi. All the characters in the movie appear to be at their best. Movie projected the relation between a Guru (The Teacher) and Shishya (The Student) and what each other can do to maintain the value and the sanctity of this relationship. There is a song in the Movie from which title of today's article is taken. The song goes like this which I have tried to translate it into English literally.

"Sadho, Aisa Hi Guru Bhaave"
"Raag Ranga kaa Bhar Bhar Pyaala"
"Piye aur Pilaave"

(O righteous man, I like only the Teacher who himself drinks glass full of juice of the beautiful melodies and makes others drink it too.)

"Naad Chhipaa Taname Lay Maname"
"Koi Pataa Na Paave"
"Chaand Suraj kaa Lochan Gurukaa"
"Dekhe Aur Dikhaave" .

(He is the one with tone hiding in the body and tempo hiding in the mind, and no one knows about it. The eyes of teacher are of sun and moon who are able to see the world and show it to other too.)

"Paramhansa Guru Ansa Roop Jab"
"Hirday Beech Biraaje"
"Saat Sooron Ki Baani Meri,"
"Aumkar Dhun Gaaye"

(The teacher, who is the miniscule part of the almighty himself, when dwells in my heart, through my language of seven notes, I sing the tune of Aum, the symbolic sound of the creator)

Whenever I hear this tune, tears find their place in my eyes. The feeling of gratitude overflows with the memory of all who were responsible for parting their knowledge to make me a better human being. I call all of them as my Gurus. It especially reminds me of my Guru Pt. Manohar Chimote and I wonder sometimes if the lyricist had person like my Guruji in front of him when he wrote this song.

Following are some of my thoughts as I write out loud about what is my perception of the term, "Guru". When I start thinking about the "Guru" as concept, it brings me the feelings of serenity, purity and selflessness. There is a lot said by many saints and scholars about what "Guru" is. I have no doubt in my mind that those words by some of the most wise men are coming out directly from their own hearts and souls. Let me however declare on the onset of sharing my thoughts on this topic that the discussion is restricted strictly to classical music field and does not discuss about Guru's role in mysticism or spiritual enlightenment

When I ponder, on one hand my traditional bent of mind tends to accept the very age old concept of "Guru" verbatim, however on the other hand my modern surrounding makes me interpret it in a different manner. I am neither the conformist nor rebellious. I sometimes think about the relevance and scope of this concept called "Guru". I respect the traditional aura around "Guru" but at the same time I also witness the progress made by the West in the field of classical and contemporary music alike by being very objective about process of learning.

During the olden days in India, when the teaching and learning was mostly verbal from "Guru" to "Shishya", "Guru" expected "Shishya" to surrender to him completely. This was the only way "Shishya" could gain knowledge from his "Guru". Guru's word was final. We can always debate on the interpretation and scope of what "surrender" meant and in what context. However when I went through some of the life stories of old musicians, I see that that "surrender" was misused by some of their masters. I hear stories about giving the hardships to a knowledge seeking student and make him do all physical labor, without imparting any knowledge directly and the explanation usually given was the test of ones patience. I feel leaving the comforts of your house in search of Knowledge itself is an indication of ones dedication and desire to learn.

In contrary, in ancient "Gurukul" where "Guru Shishya Parampara" was quite prevalent "Guru" used to arrange for the shelter, food and looked after well being of the "Shishyas" like his own sons. And there was an era of Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who rejuvenated the same legacy in its true spirit. I have heard from the people of my grandfather's generation that "Maharajji" (As Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar was called then) once had about 100 students in one of his centers and he looked after them and took care of their expenses out of his own pocket. His dedicated "Shishyas" really surrendered to him and on his command settled in the villages and cities for spreading music even against all odds and at the cost of their entire life. We also find such examples in he current world too.

Now, when I observe quite an objective process of learning in the West, I see teachers mixing as equals with the students of music. There is more of the exchange of ideas and thoughts at equal level. There is more jamming than command or surrender. Though it appears that this mode of learning might not create the emotional and spiritual bond between the people involved, as much in the eastern world, it does achieve the final objective of knowledge transfer from a person to other and from one generation to the other. I do not see westerners; though work equally hard on their music creation, composition and performance are quite hung up on emotional bondage with the teacher.

The advancement of technology has also created many avenues of learning. It could be audio and video equipments and even computer. The world is really coming closer and amount of knowledge made available is growing exponentially overall and also specific to music as well. There is no limit to the channels through which knowledge can flow in. So in the modern world one needs to be open to all sources of knowledge and broaden ones horizons.

The point here, I feel it is all about approach. Although, I am of opinion that learning from the person as teacher has the maximum impact in the process of learning, I also strongly feel, it should not matter whether Knowledge is coming from a person, a book, a cassette, a CD or even from the internet. If knowledge from any channel is treated as coming from "Guru" in its true sense, it would probably make the same impact if the approach of a person is of true "Shishya".

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