Learning in the Guru-Shishya Parampara

Tabla like any other Indian traditional art (or I could traditional art period) has always been taught in the traditional guru-shishya parampara. According to Wiki –

The guru-shishya tradition, lineage, or parampara, is a spiritual relationship in traditional Hinduism where teachings are transmitted from a guru (teacher, गुरू) to a ‘śiṣya’(disciple, शिष्य) or chela. Such knowledge, whether it be vedic, agamic artistic, architectural, musical or spiritual, is imparted through the developing relationship between the guru and the disciple. It is considered that this relationship, based on the genuineness of the guru, and the respect, commitment, devotion and obedience of the student, is the best way for subtle or advanced knowledge to be conveyed.

From experience, as a foreigner, the concept and nuances of the guru-shishya parampara can be difficult to understand when looking at it from the outside. My own understanding has only really developed as I found myself within the system and was very fortunately taught the behaviour and attitude necessary to learn within this system.

In the West, when you think about education, the onus is on the teacher to ensure that the student learns. (Speaking in terms of general education, which is where most people’s perspective on education is developed as we are taught in that system).

In the Guru-Shishya parampara, the student must inspire the teaching out of the teacher. The knowledge they hold is sacred and powerful. The Guru has gone through their time of trials and tribulations, spend immense energy to prove themselves worthy and learn what they have learnt. They aren’t just going to give away their knowledge or their wealth to anyone. As wiki says, knowledge of astrology, arts, vedas, spirituality, etc are all imparted through the Guru-Shishya parampara. These arts all have a spiritual quality to them, a deeper level of knowledge that cannot be taught to just anyone.

Traditionally, parents used to drop off their child at a young age to a Gurukul or ashram of a Guru, where the child would stay for 15, 20 years until they were ready before they returned home. The child’s life was in the ashram, their development in the hands of the Guru.

When a teacher and student are tied together in the Guru-shishya parampara, a ever deepening relationship develops between them. It is a relationship built on trust, on understanding, on submission (on the part of the student), on love and so many other qualities. The Guru takes full responsibility for the students growth and well-being and the student takes surrender at the feet of the teacher.

As Guruji says, each student for him is a diamond hidden in coal. His job is to chip away the rock, unearth the diamond and give it shape to show its beauty and essence to the world. Unyielding rock does not give its sculptor the freedom to do his work, complete submission allows for the best form to come through.

Once one had made the decision to places one’s faith and one’s life into the hands of the wise Guru, you have to put aside your ego and doubts. You have to do whatever is needed with full committment and dedication. The greater your faith and devotion to your art, your work, your teacher, the greater the rewards one receives. There is space to have questions, but not questioning of the way. You don’t know best, the teacher knows best. Without obedience, progress is greatly hindered.

Under the auspices of love and respect, the relationship flourishes. As the student proves himself worthy, he is granted entry in the deeper, more subtle and more powerful aspects of the art. To get to this stage requires passing many previous and is another step along the path. Ultimalely, every genuine Guru wishes that his students surpass him and reach greater heights and in that finds his greatest achievement.

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Filed under Indian classical music, Reflections

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