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Hindu Concepts of Teacher Sanskrit Guru and Ācārya

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Sanskrit and Indian Studies

Part of the book series: Studies of Classical India ((STCI,volume 2))


The Sanskrit words ācārya and guru both have the meaning of ‘teacher’. The etymology of ācārya is not certain. It is generally supposed to derive from ācāra, right conduct, or fromācarati, to approach, to go to as for instruction, or from ācinoti, to accumulate knowledge, wealth or merit.2 Guru derives from an Indo-european word for ‘heavy’, its semantic development being from heavy to important, awesome, thus, an elder, a teacher.3 However, it is not with etymologies that we are here concerned, but with the finished product. In Sanskrit commentaries and versified texts the two words are freely interchanged, as though they were exact synonyms.4 However, the two words had separate origins, and to attribute equal semantic value to these apparently synonymous words may efface the subtle nuance attached to each.5 In the pages which follow, we shall examine briefly the passages where these words occur, bring to the light the aspects in which the two words distinguish themselves from each other, and ascertain several distinctive connotations of both words. It is with gratitude and respect toward my guru, who is at the same time a great ācārya in Indological Studies, that I here take up the Hindu concepts of teacher, and dedicate this small contribution to the guru-pūjā-kaumudī of Professor Daniel H.H. Ingalls.

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© 1979 D. Reidel Publishing Company

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Hara, M. (1979). Hindu Concepts of Teacher Sanskrit Guru and Ācārya . In: Nagatomi, M., Matilal, B.K., Masson, J.M., Dimock, E.C. (eds) Sanskrit and Indian Studies. Studies of Classical India, vol 2. Springer, Dordrecht.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-94-009-8943-6

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