Definition - What does Chela mean?

Chela is the Sanskrit term for a person who follows a guru and means “one who is eager to learn.” It is a term which, in some regards, is synonymous with “disciple” or “scholar,” but is used in yogic and Hindu traditions to denote a relationship with the guru, which is especially sacred and significant.

A chela will come to a guru to learn not only in an intellectual way, but also to develop their consciousness and spirit to seek enlightenment. It is said that most people who come to a guru to learn are not chelas because they are only wanting intellectual knowledge and either don’t understand or are not ready for enlightenment.

Yogapedia explains Chela

It is said that a guru and their chela are so close that their bond is more like that between a parent and child rather than a teacher and student. The guru takes over from the chela’s parents in developing the inner faculties that the parents bestowed upon them. The guru can be likened to a midwife to the chela’s soul and spiritual life. The chela has an extremely high level of loyalty to the guru and their teachings.

Some say that, in terms of consciousness, the guru and chela are one, rather than two beings. The guru can be considered as the source of spiritual energy, or shakti, and the chela is the one that reveals that shakti. The chela develops their own spirit and consciousness under the influence of the guru until they become Self-realized and achieve enlightenment.

It is said that a chela must surrender to the guru in order to realize unity. For this to happen they must follow the spirit of the guru, behaving and living exactly as the guru does.

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