Guru Charitra is a profoundly revered scriptural text dating back to the 15th century and followed mostly in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It mainly deals with the biographies of Lord Dattatreya and His subsequent incarnations as Sripada Sri Vallabha and Sri Narasimha Saraswati. This book, steeped in scriptural texts of Hinduism, presents a picture of the social and economic conditions of the medieval times in India and the message conveyed by the teachings of the guru.
Namdharak, a devotee of Sri Narasimha Saraswati sets out for Gangapur for darshan of his holy padukas (feet). Tired and exhausted, he faints. At this point, Guru Nath appears before him in a dream and revives him. Namdharak meets Siddha Yogi, a close disciple of Guru Nath. Siddha Yogi narrates the Guru Charitra to him, stressing on the importance of guru bhakti and guru sewa. He expounds on the Vedas, which is both the Dharma and the guru. One who abides by the Dharma is sure to find enlightenment, says the book.
The subsequent chapters narrate the story of King Ambareesha who is saved from the wrath of sage Durvasa when Lord Sri Hari draws upon himself Durvasa'scurse and takes repeated incarnations on the earth; the advent of Sri Dattatreya as the son of Anamya and Atri to illustrate the power of chastity; the reincarnation of Sri Dattatreya in kaliyuga as Sripada Sri Vallabha who cures his lame and blind brothers; the birth of Gokarna Mahakshetra; Sri Vallabha'svisit to Gokarna to burn off all his sins; Sri Vallabha blesses the blockheaded son of Ambika with shastric knowledge; Sri Vallabha gives a boon to his devotee, a rajak, that he would be a ruler in his next birth; Sri Vallabha, despite the withdrawal of his avatar, continues to manifest and shower his grace on his devotees.
The book then talks about the qualities of Sri Narasimha Saraswati who could chant the Omkara at birth; his cure of stomach ulcer in a desperate Brahmin; the importance of doing pilgrimage; the need for single-pointed devotion to the guru and guru sewa; the transformation of a dumb Brahmin youth into a learned pandit; provide relief from poverty to a Brahmin of Amarpur by making him discover a treasure pot in the backyard; bless a Brahmin'swife whose five children were killed by Bramha Rakshasa; make a dry buffalo yield milk in Gangapur; grant sadgati to a Bramha Rakshasa; the importance of the Vedas which are not meant for vada and polemics but for reverence and veneration; his explanation of the Vedic injunctions to a Brahmin woman and her husband; the duties of a grihastha (householder); transformation of the food meant for a couple to suffice for feeding thousands of persons; the birth of children to a barren woman of sixty; curing of leprosy in a Brahmin named Narahari; turning a disbeliever poet into a devotee and disciple of Guru Nath; finally his withdrawal from his physical form at Gangapur, leaving his nirguna padukas behind and setting out on the waters of Patala Ganga for his eternal abode. His final message to humanity is that through remembrance of one'sguru one can earn his grace.
The teachings of Saraswati try to show that Guru Charitra is a sacred confluence of karma, bhakti, and jnana; is a panacea for all human ills of the body, mind and spirit; and is a manual of moral and spiritual codes. The goal of human life, in short, is to attain union with Godhead, the antaryamin, the indweller and controller of our heart. It clears several doubts plaguing the human mind regarding religious dogmas, rituals and doctrines through conversations between the guru and his disciple. Problems of modern-day living can be overcome by performing sadhana (spiritual pursuit) of one'sguru?this is the gist of the book.