Visvanatha's Guruvastakam and the understanding of Guru in Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism

How to Cite

Graham M. Schweig. (2022). Visvanatha’s Guruvastakam and the understanding of Guru in Chaitanyaite Vaishnavism: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 12(1), 58–65. Retrieved from


The guru (spiritual master) in India has been an integral part of a vast and ancient tradition that includes virtually every religion within the Hindu complex, going back at least as far as the Vedas. This essential component of ancient Indian religious culture is discussed in almost every dharma sastra text, often in great detail, wherein the identity and role of the guru in society, the etiquette between disciple and master, and other such matters are elaborated upon.

The bhakti or devotional theistic traditions of medieval Vaishnavism cer­tainly follow suit. There are elaborate discussions on the guru and related matters in the gastras as well as in the traditions' didactic and commentarial literature. It is my task here to delineate the general concept of the Vaish­nava guru specifically within. the bhakti tradition arising from Chaitanya, by defining and examining it in light of the development of guru as presented in earlier Vaishnava texts. I will examine the general characterization of the guru in the Bhagavad gita and Bhagavada Purana, both of which predate the appearance of Chaitanya by at least one thousand years. Subtle develop­ments in the conceptualization of guru, as found in later sources produced by the tradition in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, will then be illuminated. Other scriptural texts such as The Bhakti Sutra of Mirada, Mann Smrti, and appropriate secondary works of scholars in the field will also be consulted.


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