Etymology is the study, history and evolution of words. The etymology of the word ‘guru’ is a Sanskrit word. When translated, it typically refers to a ‘teacher’. Also, in ancient Indian traditions it is someone who teaches specific types of knowledge, and includes in its scope, someone who is also a “counselor, a sort of partner of mind and soul, who helps mold values and experiential knowledge as much as specific knowledge, an exemplar in life, an inspirational source and (a person) who reveals the meaning of life.”

Additional attributions for the word ‘guru’ include the notion of a person who dispels the darkness and leads a person toward improved knowledge and enlightenment.

One of the earliest references to the concept of ‘guru’ is found in the earliest Vedic texts of Hinduism. As early as the first millennium BCE, the ‘guru’ and schools run by the guru, were an established tradition in India.

The word has its roots in the Sanskrit ‘gri’ meaning to invoke, or to praise and may have a connection to the word ‘gur’, meaning ‘to reside, lift up, or to make an effort.’

Evidence of the use of the word ‘guru’ appears in multiple religions including Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. As an alternative to these established religions, a Western perspective considers a ‘guru’ a spiritual guide, especially popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

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