(Last Updated on : 13/05/2010)
Role of Acharya in Vaishnavism is of utmost importance. In fact it is considered as one of the essential requirements of a Vaishnava to have a well-qualified Guru or acharya in order to lead a religious life. The term acharya signifies a person who represents certain qualities. He is one who has acquired philosophic knowledge by the study of sacred texts. He is capable of making the followers to adopt the religious life as laid down by the shastras by imparting his philosophic knowledge to them. The acharya himself strictly follows the same. The term Guru itself means the one who removes the ignorance of philosophic knowledge. It is believed that the one who aspires for moksha or final liberation from bondage needs the blessings and the spiritual guidance of a preceptor.
It has been pointed out by a Smriti text that a person may be a sinner of the worst kind or one may be the most meritorious but both of them would achieve moksha
only through the guidance of an acharya. It is, therefore, essential for a Vaishnava seeking moksha to have a preceptor. The Upanishads
also enjoin that one should approach a proper guru in order to comprehend the philosophic truth. The reason for emphasising the need to acquire a preceptor is that true philosophic knowledge and a deeper understanding of the inner meaning of the philosophical truths with conviction cannot be obtained by self-study of Vedanta. It has to be imparted by a suitably experienced and qualified teacher. Only such knowledge as is obtained through the teachings of a guru will be useful for practising the sadhana laid down by the Vedanta for achieving the spiritual goal. Once a person is attached to a Guru, he should show him the utmost respect. The principle of devamiva acharyam upasita is strongly upheld. This means that it is almost like a moral obligation that a Vaishnava should worship the acharya in the same way that he worships God. The Katha Sruti says, "An individual who has the utmost devotion in God and who in the same way shows equal respect to his guru, will be able to comprehend all philosophic knowledge."
It is, therefore, absolutely necessary for a spiritual aspirant to show the utmost devotion to his guru and speak about his glory. It is believed that a failure to do so leads to the decay of his spiritual knowledge.