Tvameva vidya dravinam tvameva
tvameva sarvam mama deva deva
Veneration to the Guru, who is a teacher, leader, guide and philosopher combined, is deeply ingrained in the Indian tradition, with the earliest words of the Veda asserting emphatically that Guru is equal to God, on par with matru and pitru, mother and father, on par with Para Brahman, the ultimate truth.
It is a mystical relationship, transcending time and blood ties, forged in the fire of the ultimate source, created as a way of transmitting deepest truths and the best of skills, both subtle and complex, both simple and powerful, constantly honing, transforming, perfecting the Jeeva into everything he was born to be.
Preserving, and paying tribute to, one of the most precious relationships in a human being’s life – that between the Guru and the shishya — has always been important, and in challenging times more so than before.
The full moon day (purnima) in Ashada month is observed as the auspicious day of Guru Purnima, a day dedicated to the memory of the great sage Maharishi Veda Vyasa, compiler and editor of the Vedas and the author of the Mahabharata and the great Puranas like the Srimad Bhagavatam. Vyasa is the first of the Gurus, an avathara purusha, and the Guru of Gurus. The day is also the beginning of the Chaturmasya, the four month period when sanyasis, spiritual masters and seekers, settle down for a period of intense observance, study, and sadhana.
Most of us are blessed and privileged to repeatedly come into contact with the great gurus of our times – brimming with knowledge, skill and deep sincerity, secure in their mastery and teaching ability, tough and demanding in their regimes, overflowing with generosity and compassion, whose only aim is to pass on the living flame. They are the people whom we venerate when we begin with Shri Gurubhyo Namah, when we pray, Tejasvi navadhitham astu. They are the ones we long for in our hearts — our personal masters, our mentors who will show us the way, from aspiration to mastery, from darkness to light.
This year too, Indic Academy will mark Guru Purnima on the full moon day of Ashadha masa, by honouring Gurus – Academics, Activists, Authors and Artists who have selflessly served the cause of Dharma. However, the scale of this initiative has been taken several notches higher with a decision to honour 108 Gurus. We have chosen scholars, artists, leaders and activists who have consciously devoted decades of their lives towards preserving and promoting our culture and resisting the ever increasing attacks on our Dharmic spaces, our traditions, our Gurus and the very being of Sanathana Dharma itself.
Previous recipients of this felicitation include luminaries such as Dr David Frawley (Pt. Vamadeva Shastri), author Shrikant Talageri, Professor Kapil Kapoor, Dr S Kalyanaraman, Professor B. B. Lal, epigraphist Dr R. Nagaswamy, Shatavadhani Dr R Ganesh, Dr Sonal Mansingh, Dr Kanagabasapathi, Dr R. Vasudevan, Prof Umadevi Ganesan, Dr Sadhana Rao and R Saraswathi Jois.
Among the 108 Gurus, we are paying tribute to this year are Anjaneya Sharma Garu, the Administrator of the famed Tenali Exams, Dr. Ramchandra Bhat Kotemane, Dr R L Kashyap, Dr R Mani Dravid Shastrigal, M.M. Prof. K.V. Ramakrishnamacharyulu, Brahmashri Subramanya Deekshitar, Brahmashri Sundara Kumar D, Acharya Chirravuri Srirama Sarma and Prof. V N Jha who are not only keeping alive precious traditional knowledge, imparted and learnt in the traditional way, but with a deep sense of the joy of bhakti, the excitement of Jnana, and a purity of bhavana that leads to divinely mandated achievement.
Subhash Kak, Koenraad Elst, Michel Danino, Bharat Gupt, S N Balagangadhara, Madhu Kishwar, Arvind Sharma, Meenakshi Jain are some of the academics we are honouring, who have in word and thought pushed the boundaries on scholarship and teaching in a university environment.
It is not everyone who can take the fight to the opposition. There are some who have had the courage to put their personal interests at bay to stand up and challenge those who take pot-shots at our Dharmic roots. We honour Rajiv Malhotra for his unflappable energy in highlighting and factually countering biased narratives espoused by a section of Western Indologists.
We are priviledged to honour Milind Kamble, who founded the Pune-based Dalit Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) to bring together Dalit entrepreneurs under one umbrella. DICCI has now become a one-stop Resource Center for existing and aspiring Dalit entrepreneurs, promote and entrepreneurship among Dalits as a solution to their socio-economic problems.
The Gurus from the field of arts, who are in our list this year, display the rare quality of Vatsalya epitomised by Dr Ramaa Kausalya, Prabha Atre, Dr Arvinda Hebbar, Tirumale Srinivas, Daksha Seth and Kosurlua Seshalatha. Always there, yet unseen are Dharmic impresarios including Mohan Hemmadi, as well as founder of TAG Centre and Vice President Music Academy Chennai – R T Chari, who have shown us how cultural entrepreneurship and activism are as indispensable as the art forms themselves.
Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta are among Bharata’s greatest treasures that have been the most valuable treasures that India has gifted the world. Prashant Iyengar, Dr Subhada Joshi, Dr R Nagarathna, Dr Gangadharan Nair and Raghu Ananthanarayanan are some torch-bearers of preserving and spreading this wisdom in an authentic manner.
At the turn of the 20th century, Swami Vivekananda said that there is one dominating principle manifesting itself in the life of each nation. “In each nation, as in music, there is a main note, a central theme, upon which all others turn. Each nation has a theme, everything else is secondary. India’s theme is Dharma.” Vivekananda was the one who raised the clarion call of not just the strong Indian, but the unapologetic one through his charismatic and compelling activism. In Grateful to Gurus, we also salute our spiritual gurus – Swami Paramathmananda, Swami Mitrananda, Swamini Vimalananda, Swami Vigyanand, Chilkur Rangarajan for their activism in protecting and promoting our Dharma. Chamu Krishna Sastry’s tireless work of promoting Samskritam needs to recognised and honoured.
The above are a few names from the 108 we have selected. A single post is not enough to do justice to a lifetime of work or even describe the gratitude we feel for each of these 108 Gurus. We will be preparing a citation for each one of them, describing their life, thought and body of work in an attempt to capture their life purpose.
The full list of the 108 selected is given below; we will shortly be writing to all of them and seek their acceptance of our gratitude.
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Vivekachudamani Says: manushyatvam mumukshutvam mahaapurusha samsrayam durlabham – being born as a human being and desire to get liberated and benefit of having the right teacher (in that order) are very difficult. It is the grace of the Lord that flows through the guru is indeed a blessing due to merits acquired in many lives. My pranaams to all the gurus.