Department of Religion

Vinay Limbachia

Thesis Title: "Contrasting the Classical and Modern guru through BAPS and ISKCON"

Advisor: Edwin F. Bryant

Throughout my years at Rutgers University, I have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to take a number of classes with Dr. Bryant. In his courses, I was able to engage deeply with numerous primary sources critical to the Vedanta tradition, a traditional school of Hinduism. While each and every class introduced me to a fascinating part of the tradition, the phenomenon that most clearly captured my attention was the guru-shishya relationship. The relationship between a traditional guru and his disciple is an essential ingredient to the latter’s spiritual development, according to many of the different texts that I had studied under Dr.Bryant.

For my honors thesis, I chose to specifically examine the guru in two distinct arenas: first, I examined the guru in some of the central texts of the Vedanta tradition; second, I studied the modern guru in BAPS and ISKCON, two living Vedanta traditions. I tried to understand how these two distinct portraits – of the guru in the classical texts and modernity – interact with one another. In particular, I attempted to examine how these modern movements could claim to be deriving their particular metaphysical understanding of the guru from the earlier, classical texts. I hope that the conclusion I ultimately reached, however narrow and humble, can be an important part of the dialogue on this fascinating topic.


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