The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “greatness of the preceptor (guru)” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 15 - The greatness of the Preceptor (guru)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Śrī Kṛṣṇa said:—

1-2. O holy lord, the greatness of the mantra has been mentioned by you as well as the rules governing its practice as found in the Śruti itself. Now I wish to hear the details of Śivasaṃskāra. While explaining the mode of accepting the mantra it has been slightly indicated.

Upamanyu said:—

3. Well, I shall mention to you the holy and sin-destroying details of consecration as explained by Śiva.

4. The consecration is so called because thereby the devotee is authorised in a splendid manner. It is the mode of purifying the six paths.

5. The same Saṃskāra is called initiation because thereby the perfect knowledge is imparted and the bondage of Pāśa is quelled.

6. The initiation as ordained by Śiva the great Ātman in the Śivāgama is threefold—pertaining to Śiva, Śakti and mantra.

7-8. The initiation of Śiva is that whereby at the mere sight, touch and talk of the preceptor (guru) the individual soul gains immediately the consciousness quelling the bondage. It is twofold in view of the difference in the destruction of bondage, viz. acute and more acute.

9. That is Tivratara whereby the bliss is immediately attained. The acute one purifies the sin of the living man effectively.

10. The Śaktī form of initiation coupled with knowledge is performed by the preceptor with knowledge for his vision, after entering the body of the disciple along the path of Yoga.

11. The Mantra form of initiation is coupled with the rites performed in the sacrificial altar. This has to be performed by the preceptor (guru) externally with respect to the dull-witted disciple.

12. The disciple receives blessing in respect of his Śakti,[1] because the pursuit of Śaivite virtue has that as the condition in brief.

13. Where the Śakti is not grasped neither purity nor Vidyā nor right conduct nor salvation nor any achievement is secured.

14. Hence, observing the symbols for securing Śakti, the preceptor shall purify and consecrate the disciple either by knowledge or by means of rites.

15. He who performs otherwise is the wicked person who perishes. Hence the preceptor shall test the disciple in every respect.

16. Since Śakti is enlightenment and bliss, the two are the signs of its manifestation.

17. The symbol of bliss and enlightenment is constituted by the changes and alterations in the mind in the manner of shivering, horripilation and alterations in the voice, eyes and other parts of the body.

18. The disciple too shall carry out the test of the preceptor through these characteristic symbols and contacts with him during the worship of Śiva or through those associated with him or resorting to him.

19. The test for the disciple has in view his worthiness of being taught and for the preceptor the gravity of his pursuit. Hence the disciple shall endeavour in every respect to honour the preceptor.

20. He who is the preceptor is Śiva and he who is Śiva is the preceptor. Whether the preceptor or Śiva the same person is stationed in the form of knowledge.

21. As is Śiva so the knowledge. As is the knowledge so is the preceptor. The benefit is similar in the worship of Śiva, knowledge or the preceptor.

22. The preceptor is in the form of gods and the mantras. Hence every endeavour shall be made to accept his behest with bent head.

23. The seeker of welfare shall never even think of transgressing the commands of the preceptor, because only he who carries out the behests of the preceptor attains the wealth of knowledge.

24. He shall not do any thing without the permission of the preceptor, nor even walk, stand, sleep or eat. Especially if the work is performed in the presence of the preceptor it must necessarily be with his permission.

25. Since the preceptor is the lord himself and his house is the temple of the lord, the disciple shall not sit as he pleases in the house of the preceptor or in his presence.

26-28. He becomes a fallen man due to his sins as due to the contact with the sinners. As the price of gold sheds off its impurities when put in fire so also the disciple sheds off his sins due to the contact with the preceptor. As the ghee melts when kept near the fire, so also the sin melts in the presence of the preceptor. As the blazing fire burns the twig whether dry or damp, so also the delighted preceptor burns off his sins.

29-31. The disciple shall never incite the anger of the preceptor mentally, verbally or physically. Due to his anger the longevity, prosperity, knowledge and sacred rites all these are burnt. The sacrifices of those who incite his anger are futile as also their restraints and observances. No doubt need be entertained in this respect. No man shall ever make any statement against the preceptor. If out of delusion he were to make such statements he will fall into the Raurava hell.

32-37. If the man is intelligent and seeks welfare he shall not act falsely to the preceptor mentally, verbally or physically. Whether expressly bidden or not, the disciple shall perform what is beneficent and pleasing to the preceptor. He shall carry out his task in his presence or otherwise. He who conducts himself like this, who is ever devoted, alert in mind and performs what is pleasing to the preceptor is entitled to the Śaivite rites. If the preceptor is intelligent, endowed with virtues, is capable of illumining the great bliss, knows reality and is attached to Śiva he is competent to bestow salvation. None else. The principle of producing knowledge is born of great bliss. Only he by whom that principle is known can point out bliss and not the one who is that only in name but is devoid of true knowledge.

38. Two boats can carry each other across the river. A piece of rock cannot take another piece of rock across the river. If the preceptor is nominal, the liberation too is nominal.

39. Those by whom this principle is known are liberated and can liberate others. There can be no enlightenment, no realisation of the self in one who is devoid of principles.

40. He who is devoid of realisation is an animal. One urged by an animal cannot eschew his animal nature.

41. Hence, only a knower of principles is sought as the liberated and liberator. He is endowed with all characteristics and he is the knower of all Śāstras.

42-43. One devoid of principles is inefficient though he may know all means and rules of procedure. The greatest bliss is generated by the sight of the preceptor whose intellect extending upto personal realisation functions in the principle. Hence an intelligent person shall choose one as his preceptor who can impart enlightenment and bliss.

44-46. The right preceptor shall be served by the disciples who desire salvation and who are expert in humble conduct to that end. When realisation dawns upon him he shall abide in him with stable devotion. He shall never eschew the principles nor neglect them. If neither enlightenment nor bliss is obtained by the disciple even after a year, even slightly, the disciple shall resort to another preceptor.

47. Even though he may resort to another preceptor he shall never dishononr his previous preceptor, his brothers, or sons or illuminers or urgers.

48-49. Having at the outset approached the brahmin preceptor who has mastered the Vedas, who is intelligent, handsome, of pleasant sight, the bestower of protection and merciful, he shall propitiate him and endeavour to delight him mentally, verbally and physically.

50. He shall continue to propitiate him till he is pleased. If the preceptor is pleased the sins of the disciple are immediately quelled.

51-52. Hence he shall give the preceptor coins, gems fields, houses, ornaments, garments, vehicles, beds, seats etc. in accordance with his wealth and resources. If he wishes for the great goal hç shall not be stringent with regard to wealth.

53. Since he is his father, mother, master, kinsman, wealth, happiness, friend, comrade etc. he shall offer everything to him.

54. After offering these, he shall dedicate to him, himself, his family and all his possessions along with water and remain subservient to him for ever.

55. Since he has offered himself to Śiva as his devotee he shall ever remain so. He will have no rebirth thereafter.

56. The teacher shall test the brahmin disciple for a year, the kṣatriya for two years and the vaiśya for three years.

57. He shall test the disciples, with commands to give up life and wealth or by engaging the superior devotees in mean tasks and the inferior ones in noble tasks.

58. Even when rebuked or beaten if they do not feel distressed they shall be considered self-controlled and pure and hence deserving consecration in Śaiva rituals.

59-61. The decision of the sacred texts is this that brahmin devotees with the following qualifications shall be consecrated properly and enlightened. They shall be nonviolent, merciful, ever active and alert in mind, free from arrogance, intelligent, devoid of rivalry sweet- tongued, straightforward, soft-hearted, pure, humble, steady, endowed with purity of conduct, and well-behaved in every respect.

62. Women by themselves are not authorised in Śaivite consecration. If they are devoted to the lord they can be consecrated at the instance of their husbands.

63-64. A widow can be consecrated with the permission of her sons; a virgin with the permission of her father. The purificatory rite for the pathways is not prescribed for Śudra men, particularly the fallen ones and the intercastes. If they have pious feelings for Śiva, the purification of sins shall be performed by administering holy washings of his feet.

65-67. The consccratory rite for people born of Anuloma marriage shall be performed in the manner customary to the family of the mother. The girl who is authorised in Śaivite rites by her father shall be given in marriage only to a devotee of Śiva and not to a non-devotee. If inadvertently she is given in marriage to a non-devotee she shall try to convince her husband about the Śaivite faith. If she is unable to do so she shall leave him off and perform holy rites mentally.

68-70. The chaste lady Anasūyā abandoned her husband Atri the excellent sage and propitiated Śiva by penance; Draupadī who was not engaged in holy rites of the elders propitiated Nārāyaṇa by penance and attained the Pāṇḍavas as her husbands. In view of the weightiness of Śiva’s behest, the woman engaged in Śaivite virtue does not incur sin as she has no choice of freedom.

71-72. Of what avail is much talk? Whoever solely resorts to Śiva shall be purified if he is subservient to the preceptor. The rite of consecration does not differ. He who develops consciousness by the mere sight, touch or talk of the preceptor is not faced with failure.

73-74. The mental consecratory rite which is performed along the path of Yoga is not mentioned here. It is a great secret and shall be known straight from the mouth of the preceptor. The consecratory rite with holy rites shall now be mentioned briefly. Its detailed explanation is not possible.

Footnotes and references:


The Śaktipāta doctrine of the Śaivas is concerned with the receptivity of the disciple or the communicability of the preceptor in receiving or imparting instructions in the principles of Śaiva cult.

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