From Guru to Gooroo- What’s in a Name
The Guru. Like so many overused terms, this one has lost its core meaning to most of us who use it. If you’re a western reader, it may call up images of eccentric cult leaders in 1960s America, yogi chai-latte hipsters, or — worst of all — a levitating Mike Myers in that astoundingly bad romantic comedy, “The Love Guru.”
The history of the Guru
Let’s set the record straight. The story of the Guru, the historical Guru, begins in the middle of the first century CE in India. Learned men of the Hindu tradition first composed and transmitted the sacred texts of the Vedas and Upanishads. These were foundational scripture in the Hindu religion and extraordinary, early contributions to world literature. Not unlike the monks of Medieval Europe, these Hindu scholars passed their lives in deep study and reflection and preserved in writing the origin stories of their culture. These scholars were known as Gurus.
In the eastern traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, Gurus served and continue to serve as religious leaders. They were responsible forthe spiritual growth in their disciples. As the scholar of Hinduism, Joel Mlecko, puts it: a Guru is not just a religious figure, but also a “counselor, who helps mold values, shares experiential knowledge as much as literal knowledge, an exemplar in life, an inspirational source who helps in the spiritual evolution of a student.” The word comes from Sanskrit and glows with meaning: the one who dispels darkness and takes towards the light. What a beautiful duty. And what more, really, can one ask of a teacher?
How the Gooroo name came to be
On a secular level, we can consider the task of the Guru and the tutor to be one and the same. It is to take the grand, unwieldy cloud of information available to all of us and crystalize it into discrete gems of knowledge, transmittable across time and space, luminous, and best when shared person to person, and face to face.
At Gooroo, we’re inspired by the kind of one-on-one teaching our namesakes have been practicing for millennia. In a world buzzing with information and data, it sometimes takes that most essential form of human interaction — the dialogue, the joining of two hearts and minds in intellectual union — to dispel the darkness of uncertainty and move boldly towards the light of knowledge.
Information vs. knowledge
Make no mistake: information and knowledge are not the same. The Greek philosopher Socrates — a Guru in his own right — would have lots to huff and puff about were he able to somehow experience modernity, and nothing would irk him more than our effortless access to information. Famously, he did not believe one ounce in the value of written information of any kind. He relied instead on the oldest of human technologies: memory.
Writing, he said (and his student Plato recorded), will “introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing.”
Now, we can disagree here with Socrates and certainly embrace the usefulness of writing. But, we can also glean some value from his point. That any of us with a smartphone can now be in instant possession of any known fact, tricks us into feeling that we are also perpetually in the possession of knowledge.
Knowledge comes only after you internalize, digest, and express the information within the framework of your own habits of personality and mind. The information must be measured against the experience of living for it to add up to knowledge; and for that, one needs someone with more experience in the fight for knowledge to guide them.
At Gooroo, our tutors are devoted to developing and sharing knowledge with their students. They do so with recognition that they are passing their torch. They come to their work generously and with a spirit of deep respect. Because this is the great opportunity of life, isn’t it?