The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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(1,305 words)

1. Derived from the Sanskrit root for ‘heavy,’ ‘mighty,’ guru denotes an outstanding religious personality and teacher—originally one's natural → father, who undertook the religious education of his son, taught him parts of the Veda (→ Hinduism), and arranged his → rites of passage (saṃskāra). Soon, however, religious specialists undertook these duties as ācārya (‘teacher’) gurus, who instructed the sons of the upper three → castes (varṇa) in the Vedic literature, in religious and socially (ethically) correct comportment, as well as in profane subjects. Through fulfillment of the d…

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von Somm, Christian, “Guru”, in: The Brill Dictionary of Religion, Edited by Kocku von Stuckrad. Consulted online on 28 February 2021 <>
First published online: 2006
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004124332, 20051223

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