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Acharya & Guru

From: Ranganathan, Sriram (
Date: Tue Aug 10 1999 - 12:29:22 PDT

First Union Capital Markets Corp.

Dear Bhagavatas,

I spent a while thinking about the topic, after reading some interesting

In my opinion, anyone who imparts some knowledge transfer  is basically a
guru or a teacher. On the other hand, an Acharya is usually a religious
head, who specifically follows and teaches religion and its underlying
philosophy and its nuances.  Since this is a Sanskrit term, let us  say,
Vedanta. He may be skilled in other fields, but he relies on them only to
get his central message across and does not teach them as part of the
curriculum (Gurukulam!). 

In the good old days, I guess, the students in gurukula-vaasam, were given
the basic training in many areas,  with special emphasis on certain skills,
based on the students' lineage. For instance, royal princes underwent
training on all aspects of leadership - particularly military and
statesmanship. In many cases the Guru also taught the basics of  Vedas,
Upanishads, etc. but probably left it to the Acharya, when it came to higher
learning. Say he taught up to Elementary/Secondary level, and an Acharya
took over at the Bachelor's !

In other words, when a guru specializes in religion and abides by it as his
way of life, and is accepted as an authority by his followers,  as opposed
to just belonging to or merely following a particular faith, he becomes an

As we all know, we can find  many references to the term Acharya in
Taittriya Upanishad - especially, Seekshavalli. 

"......Acharya devo bhava... Adithi devo bhava .... "

Sriram Ranganathan