Understanding and Honoring teachers on Teachers’ Day

In reality, one day is not enough for thanking even our worldly teachers, what to speak of the spiritual teachers, or acharyas, coming in the disciplic succession, who deliver genuine and unadulterated knowledge of the self, of the Supreme Lord, and of our eternal relationship with Him.

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So we got one more day to celebrate; the Teachers’ day. The first thing comes to mind is, why only one day? Is that all our teachers deserve who taught us how  to count numbers and how to read alphabets? Sure they deserve much more but before that, let us identify who are the teachers.

Those who we met in the schools and university are not the only teachers, nor are they only those who we may have gone to for private tuition. The simplest definition of a teacher is, one who teaches. You may have seen at least a dozen or two of teachers during your entire career. However, there are teachers who you may not remember or may not have considered teachers although they played a vital role in your education.  For example, the mother is considered our first teacher. Similarly the father also plays a teacher’s role. The teachers that we know of come much later in our life. All these teachers deserve our respect and gratitude on teachers’ day.

However, it would be unfair or thankless of us if we forget the original teacher. The teacher who is the original source of all teachings. We know that the Vedas are the most ancient source of teachings. The Vedas are apaureshaya, meaning they are not spoken or given by any mortal being.

Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita:

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas I am to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (B.G. 15.15)

pariprasnenasevaya
Remembering Srila Vyasa dev on Teachers’ day

There is a famous first verse of Sri Krishnastakam which says:

vasudeva sutam devam, kamsa chanura mardanam, devaki paramaanandam, krishnam vande jagat gurum

“Lord Krishna, who appeared as the son of Vasudeva, who killed the demons Kansa and Chanura, who is the source of joy to Devaki — I offer my obeisances to that Krishna, the teacher of the whole universe.”

The same Lord Krishna gave the transcendental knowledge to Lord Brahma, who, in turn, transmitted it to Narada and Narada gave it to Srila Vyasa dev, the great sage who put Vedas in writing for the benefit of humankind in this age. Even today we learn Vedic knowledge from these disciplic succession. There is a day known as Guru purnima in India when people offer their homages to Srila Vyasa dev and his representatives.

Considering this, if we really want to honor our teachers on the Teachers’ day, the first and foremost Person to be honored is Lord Krishna Himself because He is the original teacher. In the form of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Krishna again came as a student just 500+ years ago and taught us how to attain the highest perfection of spiritual life by rendering loving devotional service to Lord Krishna. His pure representatives like Srila Prabhupada carried His message to the western world and today, the teachings of Lord Chaitanya has spread in every corner of the world.

A genuine teacher is satisfied when his student successfully learns what he is taught. Learning the science of the Absolute Truth is the real education. Bhagavad Gita tells us who is a bona fide teacher and how to accept teachings from such a spiritual master.

tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah

TRANSLATION: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth. (B.G. 4.34)

The reason to bring up these universal teachers’ contributions on Teachers’ day is obvious; people have forgotten that the most important education in human life is the knowledge of the self, and that the Supreme Lord Himself assumes the role of a spiritual master to guide us in our spiritual journey. Srila Visvanath Chakravarty Thakur, a great Vaishnava saint and scholar, advises us in Gurvastakam. to honor the spiritual master by offering every day three full obeisances, not only once in a year!

While we must not forget the contribution of worldly teachers and always honor them, including on this specially designated  day, it would be a great blunder to forget those teachers of eternal Vedic knowledge. As mentioned earlier, only one day is not enough for thanking genuine teachers. Especially when it comes to spiritual teachers, or acharyas, there is no possibility that one can sufficiently thank them even in a whole lifetime as they deliver genuine and unadulterated knowledge of the self, of the Supreme Lord, and of our eternal relationship with Him.