834 – Acharya_Guru_Teacher

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit


Learning is understood as transmission of information from the teacher to the student, in today’s world. Swami Vivekananda had a diametrically opposite view. He says that, “Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life building, man making and character-making assimilation of ideas”. He further says: “My idea of education is ‘Gurukula Vasa’. One should live from his very boyhood with one whose character is like a blazing fire and should have before him a living example of the highest teaching”. Under ‘Gurukula Vasa’, the student observes that practice and precept cannot be contradictory or divergent.

In today’s world, people tend to confuse between a scholar, preacher, spiritually evolved person and an Acharya.

  • A person with profound knowledge of the spiritual scriptures is considered a scholar. (पण्डित:).
  • A person who, endowed with excellent oratory skills ,disseminates such knowledge, to the world at large, is a good preacher. (उपन्यासक:)
  • A person who practices them is a spiritually evolved person. (ज्ञानि:)
  • A person, who does not, just stop with acquiring knowledge and preaching, but encourages others to emulate him, by practicing those virtues during his life-time, is an Acharya. (आचार्यः) .

Thus, an Acharya is an aggregation of a scholar, preacher and a spiritually evolved person.

Our scriptures define Acharya as follows:

ஆசினோதி ஹி ஶாஸ்த்ரார்தா²ன் ஆசரதே ஸ்தா²பயத்யபி
ஸ்வயம் ஆசரதே யஸ்து ஆசார்ய꞉ ஸ உச்யதே

The importance of Learning is adequately summed up by the following adage

ஆசார்யாத் பாத³மாத³த்தே பாத³ம் ஶிஷ்ய꞉ ஸ்வமேத⁴யா
ஸப்³ரஹ்மசாரிப்⁴ய꞉ பாத³ம் பாத³ம் காலக்ரமேண ச

Meaning: “Knowledge is acquired, one fourth  from the teacher, one fourth from own intelligence, one fourth from classmates, and one fourth only with time.”

Thiruvalluvar in his Couplet 834 condemns people who have learnt the scriptures, realized their inner meanings, preach them to others but fail to adopt them in their own life, as the greatest fools on earth.

Scholars consider this foolishness, analogous to a switched off light in a Light House, which is intended to be a navigational aid for those in the sea.

ஓதி உணர்ந்தும் பிறர்க்குஉரைத்தும் தான்அடங்காப்
பேதையின் பேதையார் இல்

Oodhi Unarndhum Pirarkku-uraith-thum Thaan-adangaap
Pedhaiyin Pedhaiyaar Ill

பரிமேலழகர் உரை: 

ஓதி – மனமொழி மெய்கள் அடங்குதற்கு ஏதுவாய நூல்களை ஓதியும்; உணர்ந்தும் – அவ்வடக்கத்தான் வரும் பயனை உணர்ந்தும்; பிறர்க்கு உரைத்தும் – அதனை அறியலுறப் பிறர்க்கு உரைத்தும்; தான் அடங்காப் பேதையின் – தான் அவையடங்கி ஒழுகாத பேதைபோல; பேதையார் இல் – பேதையார் உலகத்து இல்லை. (உம்மை முன்னும் கூட்டப்பட்டது. இப்பேதைமை தனக்கு மருந்தாய இவற்றால் தீராமையானும், வேற்று மருந்து இன்மையானும், ‘பேதையின் பேதையார் இல்’ என்றார்.).

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S.N. Srirama Desikan

ஶாஸ்த்ரண்யதீ⁴த்ய தத்த்வார்தா²ன் பு³த்⁴வா சோக்த்வா பரான் ப்ரதி
யஸ்து நாசரதே தேன ஸமோ மூடோ⁴ ந வித்³யதே


The following is an interesting Story emphasising the importance of Practice of  Spirituality

There was a learned man who had a profound knowledge in the spiritual scriptures. By virtue of his wide reading, he could also understand the inner meaning of those scriptures. He was endowed with excellent communication skills and enjoyed a huge following among the public. People gathered in large numbers for his spiritual discourses. Lot of people attributed, reformation in their value systems and thought processes, to his  discourses.

Due to old age,  the Spiritual teacher passed away. When he woke up, he found himself in Hell. He was shocked and when he looked at people in the Heaven,  he was even more shocked . There, he found, people who had reformed themselves after listening to his discourse.

Unable to digest the humiliation, he appealed to God about the reasoning behind the decision. He argued that, he has profound knowledge, was able to reach out large sections of people and convince them to reform and lead a spiritual life.

God told him that, while they recognized his knowledge and contribution, he did not, himself practice those virtues during his life-time.  He used his knowledge and popularity to earn name and fame and nothing more. But people who listened to his discourses, understood the inner meanings in those scriptures and they started practicing it.  Hence they deserved the Heaven and he was in Hell.

Moral of the Story

It does not matter how much one knows about spirituality. It is how much one put them into practice, that is important.