The book, containing papers presented at a conference held in Venice, Italy, examines the relevance attached to the institution of the guru with special reference to the religions and philosophies of India. It explores the nature and function of the guru figure and the master-disciple interaction in religious traditions of the world including those of Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient Greek, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Confucianism and native American traditions. It delves into the dynamics of the guru's influence and guru-disciple interaction that involves two aspects of power -- spiritual power and the very worldly socio-political and economic interests. It deals with characteristics and charisma associated with the figure of the spiritual master, his authority, pupils' devotion for him, trials for a pupil, motivations of a guru, pandita as guru and recognition of the true master. It scrutinizes the difference in the Eastern and Western traditions vis-a-vis the guru-disciple relationship referring to a variety of sects, thinkers and works: the Mahabharata, Sufism, tantric traditions, Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism, and the guruvada among Bauls of Bengal.
The study meticulously unravels certain fundamental questions like sources of legitimation of religious authority within a religious-spiritual tradition. It throws light on the link between overcoming fear, ritual death and immortality, and the guru figure in Indian traditions.
The book will interest scholars of religion and philosophy particularly those studying Hindu and Buddhist religious-spiritual traditions.