Written by Vanamali Devi
Navaratri means nine nights and in this festival of Navaratri we worship the Divine Mother in her many forms. It takes place in the first nine days of the bright half of the lunar fortnight in the Hindu month of Ashwin, September/October. This year 2021 it starts on the 7th October and ends on 15th October. The 10th day is known as Vijayadasami or the day of victory and falls on the 16th of October. The Devi Purana gives the story of how the virgin goddess, Durga killed the buffalo demon known as Mahishasura on the 10th day of victory. The buffalo demon of course is an allegory for abysmal ignorance.
Hinduism believes that the reason behind human birth is to gain liberation from the coils of maya and enter the blissful realm of the Absolute. The festival of Navaratri ensures that this knowledge is never forgotten and helps all Hindus renew their relationship with the Divine Mother every year.
This festival is also known as Durga Puja. It shows how Hinduism has always revered the feminine and strived to empower women through the ages. Unfortunately, with the advent of the Abrahamic religions, masculinity has been extolled so that now we find that women are actually trying to ape men. They wear men’s clothes and demand their rights as equals. This is amazing. Surely, we were not made equal or meant to be equal. Both males and females have different physiques, different roles and different temperaments. Both males and females are unique creations of God. Nature never likes duplicates. Even the five fingers of one hand are totally different and play totally different roles. Then why should women demand equality with men? It is quite absurd. Navaratri is a Hindu festival which extols and proclaims the individuality and strength of the feminine.
Durga, is the virgin goddess. She stands on her own and does not need the support of any of the male gods. She is a true representative of dynamic feminine power at its highest. If only this feminine power was ruling the world, we would not have had all these world wars!
During these nine days and nights Durga is worshipped in her nine different forms but this might be too complicated for most people so we will give the nine different names of the goddess at the end so that devotees can make use of them if they wish.
The Supreme Reality of Hinduism is a formless, immutable, eternal, unborn entity or spirit known as the Brahman. It is the same for all living creatures and underlies both the manifest and unmanifest states of Being. It is an integrated state, that is changeless, indivisible, without distinctions or qualifications and thus utterly beyond human comprehension. It is Pure Consciousness and can only be known through direct experience. The embodied soul is known as the jivatma. It is a projection of the Absolute Brahman. It takes many births and goes through the dramas of many lives until it reaches a point of satiation with the external world and longs to return to its original status. This then is the purpose of life in Hinduism – to return to the source from which we have come. Hinduism gives many methods for having this experience and these paths are known as “yogas”. They help us to transcend the levels of the mind and experience the Absolute.
Hinduism is a way of life, and our ancient sages saw to it that all our rituals and festivals were meant to upkeep this tradition and ensure that we never forget the goal of human life. Consciously or unconsciously these rituals help to nurture that one single aspiration in us, that our culture has been enshrining within itself from eternity. Even if our conscious minds forget the purpose for which we are born, that purpose will remain imprinted on the level of our subconscious. Thus the Hindu calendar is studded with numerous festivals, all intended to take us back to our roots. This goal is embedded in our genes and carried forward from generation to generation. All our scriptures, epics, ceremonies and festivals are charged with this spiritual goal. They have an esoteric significance that is not apparent to the common eye.
Indian thought is famous for its symbolism and from ancient times the pictorial representation of God took the form of both male and female. The universal form of the motionless Absolute came to be associated with the male and the manifested energy of Nature with the female. To the undiscerning eye, the Brahman and Nature are two completely different things but this is only an apparent phenomenon. Fundamentally they are one, as gold and ornaments made of it, are one. The Absolute and Nature are not “two” but “two-in-one”. Hinduism has always recognised and accepted these two principles and variously called them by many names as Shiva /Shakti or Purusha/Prakriti.
Just as the tree is latent in the seed, so this universe of names and forms, lies enfolded in this Shakti of the Brahman. She is the Divine Mother who is the womb of all creatures. As Nature, this Shakti manifests herself in multifarious forms, so we personify the Divine Mother in the forms of various goddesses. She pre-supposes all existing forms, past, present and future. But she is also maya, the illusory power that entrammels us in her web of beauty and mesmerises us into believing that this world which we see before our eyes is real. The jivatma or embodied soul is so fascinated by her beauty that it forgets the purpose for which it has incarnated in a human body.
Seen on the background of eternity, the drama of our lives, enacted on the stage of space and time, is only a show of light and shade, like a TV show. It is only a creation of the mind and like all TV shows it passes, flows and vanishes into the space from which it came. This phenomenon is what Hinduism calls maya – shakti of the goddess who has produced this phenomenal world which has its basis in ignorance of the true nature of reality.
This view of the world as given by our ancient rishis has been corroborated by Quantum Physics. They have discovered that we are connected to every single thing in the cosmos by this one underlying energy field that they call “The Field” and which our rishis called Prakriti. The tiniest bit of matter is not solid as we have been led to believe but only energy in motion. This pulsating energy field is the centre of our existence. Our eyes deceive us into imagining a reality that does not exist in the way we perceive it. But we are so fascinated by this world which has been created by this enchantress that we forget the purpose for which we have taken a human birth. In order to remind us of this purpose and re-connect with this source of the universal energy of the Divine Mother, the Hindu culture has demarcated two festivals in the year dedicated to the remembrance of that energy.
The Devi Mahatmyam, also known as Chandi Pat or Durgashaptashati, is a deeply esoteric book which we are all encouraged to read during these nine days of Durga Puja. In this scripture Durga slays all the various forms of asuras or negativities that threaten to overwhelm us.
The nine days of Navaratri are meant for reflection and removal of our negative traits and the acquisition of positive qualities. These nine days can be divided into three parts. The first three days are kept for the worship of Mahakaali, the next three days for Maha Lakshmi and the last three days for Maha Saraswati. Some people also worship the Navadurgas or the nine aspects of Durga on each day.
Let us take the first method of worship of the three different goddesses. Before we can proceed towards our goal of union with the Absolute it is absolutely necessary to remove all the complex amount of negative traits that we have accumulated throughout the year.
For this a certain amount of force may be necessary. So during the first three days the goddess is worshipped as Kaali which is her unconquerable form as Kaala or Time – relentless, all-consuming and indomitable. Time is the only killer! Everything in creation falls a prey to Time. All of us fear Death in its aspect of Time, so Kaali’s form is frightening to behold. It is meant to intimidate those who are not ready to accept the fact that life is a coin with two sides – birth and death!
She is usually portrayed as pitch black with long dishevelled hair falling behind her like a cloak. She wears a girdle of severed arms and a necklace of freshly cut heads. She has a cavernous mouth dripping with blood from her lolling tongue. She has long sharp fangs and claw-like hands with hooked nails. She portrays one of the masks of Prakriti – of Nature giving birth to all beings from her womb, feeding them at her breast and then devouring and assimilating them back into herself!
Kaali’s nature is such that she cannot tolerate deceit and falsehood. Her wrath is immediate and dire. Thus we spend the first three days and nights of Navaratri worshipping her, for only she can remove our negativity and vulgarity. When we start a garden, the first thing we have to do is to dig the ground and remove all the stones and unwanted grass and weeds from it. This is the job which is given to Kaali so for the first three nights we pray sincerely to her to take away our negative traits even though this may cause some pain.
The next three days are kept aside for Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, beauty and auspiciousness. She is the one who is lavish with her gifts of all types of good fortune which include positive traits of the mind. In the garden of our mind which has been ruthlessly weeded by Kaali we invite the beauteous Lakshmi to come and sow the seeds of love, generosity, consideration, compassion, gratitude and so on. For this we worship this beautiful goddess and entreat her to come and take her abode in our hearts that have been cleansed of all negativity.
The last three days are dedicated to the enchanting Saraswati- the goddess of learning, arts, science and wisdom. Seated on her vehicle, the graceful swan, she floats through space looking for an opportunity to bless us. During the last three days we beseech her to enter our hearts and fulfil the goal of human life which is to attain the Absolute. In that garden of our mind which has been weeded of all its negativity by the forceful Kaali, and in which the gracious Lakshmi has sown the seeds of positivity, we invite Saraswati, the one who can give us the bliss of union with the Absolute. Only in such a garden can the pure lotus of enlightenment bloom.
This is the esoteric meaning behind the festival of Navaratri which is celebrated all over India. This festival is celebrated twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. In these following days and nights let us beseech her in her various forms to enter into us and dispel the darkness of the accumulated ignorance of our true nature with the glowing lamp of knowledge which only the she can light for us.
Some people also worship each of the forms of the Nava Durgas on each day of the festival. These are forms and names of the “navadurgas” nine durgas, starting from Shailaputri.
Aum Shakti Aum
Written by Vanamali Devi
Our Puranas (books on the stories of the gods) are studded with stories of an amazing variety of gods and goddesses who are the dynamic representations of the abstract Supreme Power called Brahman, as given in the Vedas. These stories are not fairy tales, but they are the reflections of the revelations of the rishis. The rishis realised that it was imperative to create ideals of perfection for the society in order to help it evolve to higher states of consciousness. Their language is couched in mysticism since that was the only way in which these great esoteric secrets could be communicated to the normal human being whose mind is conditioned by names and forms from birth onwards. The Puranic stories are like abstract paintings that suggest a different dimension to the mind and enable it to comprehend the intangible ideas that are expressed through these forms. The mind of man has to learn to focus on some form that inspires him before proceeding to the formless.
The figure of Ganesha has a deep spiritual significance. It symbolises the idea of the emergence of life from earth and the unfolding of consciousness from matter. His dual form of animal and human points out to us that we too can aspire to a supra-mental level even though we have come from an animal background. The apparently ludicrous figure of Ganesha mounted on a small mouse is actually a representation of this theme and meant to give an impetus to the human being to realise his own inner divinity. Ganesha is the first letter in the alphabet of symbolic forms devised by the rishis.
He is the most popular of the gods in the Hindu pantheon. Even votaries of other gods have to pay obeisance to him before starting their rituals to their own chosen deity. Hindus start all religious ceremonies and even worldly affairs of importance by breaking a coconut to Ganesha. He represents the power of the intelligent will unfolding the spiritual life from the world of matter. Hence, he is associated with the Mooladhara Chakra at the base of the spine which denotes the element “earth”. He is said to be God of gravity that is the base of all existence. Anyone who wants to get into the Hindu fold has to supplicate Ganesha first.
Vyasa is the great sage or rishi who is the author of the eighteen Puranas. He was a master story teller. He said that stories serve as pools in which the reflection of Reality can be caught. The subtle essence of Reality can be caught only through allegories, symbols and stories. They have to be read with the sensitive heart of an artist and not with the carping intellect of the scientist. If we listen to them with the innocence of a child, they will open our hearts to a vast vista of mysticism and romance for which the human heart actually craves.
Vyasa saw the totality of nature, both her outer physical phenomena as well as her inner invisible psyche. The forms of the various gods and Ganesha in particular are the visible signs for expressing the invisible. One who meditates on these symbols will be able to penetrate the subtle psychic presence in them and attain a comprehensive view of the totality of the cosmos. He will also be able to dive into the recesses of his own psyche and get higher spiritual experiences. This is the truth underlying the often-bizarre forms of the Hindu gods as in the case of Ganesha. They translate the Infinite in terms of the finite and the spiritual in terms of the material. By fostering our faith in the symbols and forms of the deities we can establish a rapport with the deity that will draw us closer to the Supreme, of which they are reflections. In this unique way Vyasa succeeded in getting the incomprehensible Supreme, reflected in the liquid poetry of the Puranic literature and created a myriad forms or altars for worship which would be suitable for different personalities.
Now let us first see what the word Ganesha or Ganapati implies. The word “gana” comes from the root “gan” which means to count. “Ganya” means limited and “aganya” means unlimited or infinite. “Ganya” includes the whole of manifold creation, everything that the human intellect can comprehend. Therefore, Ganapati is the Lord of all finite things. He is also “Ganyaapati” — Lord of everything in creation. The “aganya” or Infinite has taken on a finite form as Ganapati or Ganesha in order to
uplift humanity out of these finite forms. The ganas are the subtle creative powers and elements that cause diversity and create obstructions in the universe. Since he is Ganapathy or the leader of the ganas, we have to contact him so that these obstacles can be removed. He not only removes obstacles from our physical life but also from our spiritual life. When a devotee takes a wrong path, he also places obstacles in our way so that we are forced to take a different path which is better for us.
The most striking thing about Ganesha is his elephant head. There is a deep esoteric reason for this. The elephant is the largest of the vegetarians in the animal world. In fact, it is the most powerful and massive creature on earth. It is long-lived, vigorous, has a large brain and an excellent memory. Elephants can be trained to become great friends of the human being. You find that in Nature animals that are feared by men and beasts alike are all predators and flesh eaters. No one fears a vegetarian giant. This is one of the reasons that the elephant was chosen as a most auspicious symbol in Hinduism. Most houses in India have an idol or picture of Ganesha at the front so that they can pray to him before going out.
An elephant’s trunk is the most amazing instrument known to man. Human ingenuity still has not been able to devise such an instrument. It is capable of lifting huge logs of wood as well as of picking up small pins lying on the ground. With this trunk, Ganesha is capable of removing every obstacle in the path of his devotee. His large ears act like antenna to receive all possible sounds and thus he can easily gauge every situation. In an esoteric sense he can discern the real from the unreal. His huge belly is a symbol of the whole universe. Everything emerges from the cauldron of his belly. His small eyes show his ability to make minute observations.
The fact that the insignificant mouse is his vehicle is the most enigmatic portion of his figure. According to Hinduism, consciousness is ingrained even in the grains of sand. It turns into intelligence after passing through many rudimentary forms. The mouse is a fitting symbol for this. It is a creature of the earth and lives in burrows and holes in the ground. Its body touches the earth all the time. It cares only for the satisfaction of its palate. It has a primitive intelligence encased in ignorance. It is restless, avaricious and worried. On the other hand, the elephant is the symbol of power and wisdom. The fact that Ganesha rides on such a creature shows that the liberated man keeps his worldly desires completely under control. The picture of Ganesha mounted on a mouse shows that the human being has the power to be calm and majestic and reach the infinite source of all power. However, most of us continue to be rats and rush about in the rat race of life, fighting and squabbling over trivialities. Thus, his whole image is a graphic picture of the immense possibility of the human being to reach the heights of consciousness.
There are many accounts of the birth of Ganesha. The most popular one comes from the Shiva Purana. Once when Shiva had retired to the high Himalayan peaks for his meditation, Parvati felt a bit unsafe when she went for her bath to the pool since she had only two female attendants. In those days there was no soap, so she had smeared a mixture of turmeric, sandal powder, mud and various other unguents over her body. Before she got into the water, she scraped this out and made a beautiful figure of a boy. Parvati is Prakriti or Nature which is latent with infinite creative potency. It gives birth to life that emerges and evolves and eventually turns into consciousness in the human being. So, she breathed life into the figure of the boy she had made. She made him stand at the door of the path leading to the pond and told him to obstruct anyone who tried to enter.
When Shiva returned from his meditation, he found his way barred by the child who absolutely refused to let him in. Shiva sent his ganas to rout the boy, but they were defeated and eventually Shiva himself came and cut off his head. Parvati was distraught to see the headless torso of her boy and threatened to destroy the whole world if her son was not restored to her. Shiva immediately sent the ganas to cut off the head of the first creature they found who was sleeping with his head turned to the north. As it happened, they found an elephant and brought his head and Shiva fixed it on the torso. The priests muttered some mantras and the body came to life. The body was that of a boy and the head was that of the elephant. Parvati was delighted to see her son alive even though he had the head of an elephant.
She took him on her lap and christened him “Vi-nayaka”, the one who is born without a sire. This happened on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadra (August/September) and hence this day is celebrated as his birthday. When his trunk is turned to the right his figure is a representation of the mantra Aum as written in Sanskrit.
Actually, the fourth day of the bright half of every lunar month is believed to be the day for Ganesha and is known as Siddhi Vinayaka Chaturti. However, the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (August/September) is the most important and is known as Mahasiddhi Vinayaka Chaturti. As mentioned above, this is the day on which Parvati created Ganesha. It was on this day that his first birthday was celebrated in Kailasa.
This festival had been celebrated in Maharashtra for centuries in private homes but the great Marathi ruler Shivaji made it a public event in order to foster nationalist sentiments among his subjects while they were fighting the Mughuls. Later when the British banned political rallies, this festival was revived by the great leader Lokamanya Bala Gangadhara Tilak who made it into a national festival. He hoped that when people came together to celebrate the birth of a god, they would forget their differences and stand united as the citizens of one country – Bharat. He was one of the fore-runners of the Indian national movement to free the country from the British. Today Ganesha has become so popular that the festival is celebrated all over the world.
The Mahabharata gives the mythological story of this festival. The Pandava king, Yudhistira once asked Krishna the reason why people who do many good deeds get no rewards. Krishna replied that Ganesha had been specifically created for giving benefit to those whose good deeds had not been rewarded. He recommended that the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada should be kept aside exclusively for the worship of Ganesha especially by those who suspected that their good deeds were not being recognised.
On the day of Ganesh Chaturti, devotees are advised not to see the moon. It is believed that one who sees the moon on Ganesh Chaturti will get Mithya Dosham or Mithya Kalank, which means that they will be falsely accused of stealing.
This year, Ganesha Chaturti falls on Friday, September 10, 2021. As per Vedic astrology, Madhyanna Kala or mid-morning is considered to be the most appropriate time for Ganesha Puja. This year the auspicious time for the puja is from 11:03 am to 13:33 (Duration: 02 hours 30 mins)
A simple method of worship is as follows:
This puja should be done for three, five or ten days depending on your convenience and on the last day the idol should be immersed in some water. Another novel idea which many people are doing now is to keep the mud figure in a mud flower pot and fill it with mud and water and plant a flower in it. Thus, it will not pollute any water and you will get a special flower in your garden with Ganesha’s blessings.
The ceremony in which he is immersed in water is known as visarjan. The ritual is done to signify the birth cycle of Lord Ganesha. Parvati created him from the earth so we make his statue out of earth. The idol is immersed in water so that Ganesha may return to his home after his ‘stay’ at the devotees’ home or temple where his rituals are conducted. While it might seem like a good idea to skip the visarjan and keep hosting the God for fortune and prosperity, it is said that the power that suffuses the statue after 10 days of worship is all a human can bear. So it is not to be kept longer!
In cities the idol is taken to the sea or river and immersed in some water body. The devotees take the idol through the streets, singing, dancing and shouting ‘Ganapati Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya’ in which we beg the Lord to return the next year.
The breaking of coconuts in front of Ganesha in order to remove all obstacles on our path is an offering that is very special to him. This has an esoteric significance as is usual with all Hindu rituals. The coconut represents our prarabdha karma or the karma of our past lives for which we are either being rewarded or punished now in this life. When we break the coconut, we should have the mental attitude that we are offering this load of karma to him and begging him to deliver us from them. The outer fibrous covering of the coconut represents the gross body which carries a lot of desires and attachments. Before breaking the coconut, we have to remove this fibre of attachments. Then we break the hard shell which is our ego and then expose the white kernel of our pure desire to be united with him. Finally, the sweet water of our love is poured over him. In South India we always break a coconut before we start on a journey or before we start some new enterprise.
May Ganesha’s blessings flow over all those who read this, and may he remove all the obstacles in their path!
Aum Ganeshaaya Namaha!
Written by Sathya Shivakumar (Global Member – Himalayan school of Traditional Dance)
Lord Ganesha has a universal appeal and the principle that He represents touches the hearts of everyone in every walk of life as much as it does a yogi on the spiritual path.The primordial sound “Aum”, when represented pictorially, resembles the trunk of Ganesha.
Ganesha is visualised as the custodian of Root chakra or Muladhara chakra. The saint poetess Avaiyar describes Ganesha as the Guru principle, the one who initiates the Kundalini energy to rise above and reveal the knowledge of the supreme self.
Ganesha assumes myriad forms and can be cherished by one and all by connecting to one or more of his many facets. For instance, Ganesha is seen as Nritya Ganapathi (Dancing Ganesha), Bala Ganapathi (Adorable child), Siddhi Ganapathi,(The bestower of Siddhis) or Yoga Ganapathi (The ascetic one) to name a few.
In India, it is customary to offer our salutations to Lord Ganesha at the beginning of any auspicious event. It may seem like a ritual but when one grasps the inner meaning, it is of great significance in the path of spirituality.
The most important aspect of the act is Surrender. But why Ganesha, one may wonder!Mohanji sheds light on this aspect. Ganesha’s elephant head represents the cosmic consciousness or Rithambara Buddhi. When the limited self identifies with the ego and personality, it cannot perceive the vast, unfathomable potential of the soul. By honouring Ganesha, the one who represents that unborn, infinite bliss, one can connect to the infinite dimension of the soul that is as grand as the mighty elephant.
Personally, Ganesha enthrals me with the captivating elephant head. To me, it is a reminder of the immense power and courage one can exhibit while being gentle and majestic at the same time. Power is usually associated with carnivorous animals but the Elephant possesses immense strength and is a herbivore!
Even the act of offering a coconut or the traditional practice of breaking the coconut as an offering to Ganesha has a subtle meaning, upon reflection. It means that we have to break free from the shackles of the mind to unleash the power within. While coconut has a hard exterior, once the outer shell is broken, it reveals a pure, soft interior, just like our own. We may all have hard layers that are a concoction of all the negative emotions we store up such as anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, boredom, sadness etc. However, when we go to the core of our self, all that can be found is divinity.
The Modak that Ganesh is offered represents the pure soul concealing the sweetness of the divine. Ganesha is indeed a favourite of artists too. Art, to be experienced in its full splendour, presupposes that the artist fully surrenders to the art. Surrender is the act of dissolving the limited notion as a personality into that of being one with the art.
May we celebrate the sweetness of our true self and endeavour to spread this fragrance of true love by soaking in the myriad dimensions and possibilities that Ganesha represents.
Written by Vanamali Devi
“Ajnana timiranthascha, jnananjana shalakaya,
Chakshur unmeelitam yena,
Tasmai Sri Gurave namaha!”
I bow to
that Guru who removes the blindness of ignorance,
With the collyrium of wisdom.
In the tradition of the Sanatana Dharma, the guru is one of the most important persons in our life. Our biological parents gave us physical life but it is the guru who takes us to the final purushartha or goal of life which is “moksha” or liberation from the wheel of birth and re-birth. The guru holds the key to the door leading to the divine which is within each one of us. With his wisdom he unlocks the existing fund of wisdom and divinity that is enshrined in everyone. He teaches us the meaning of self-realisation or god-realisation.
Etymologically, the word guru has been derived from two roots – gu which means darkness and ru, that which removes. Thus, the word guru implies someone who takes away the darkness of ignorance and leads us to the light of knowledge.
We wander aimlessly through the pleasures and pains of this world looking for our true path and goal. At last, if we are fortunate enough to find a guru, he points out to us that the path and the goal are both inside us! He does not give us anything from outside but only teaches us to see the truth which is ever shining within our own hearts. He is the alchemist who converts the dross of human existence into the gold of divine reality. Thus, we can understand the great importance that is given to the guru in the Sanatana Dharma. Even if we are learning arts like music, sculpture or painting we would need a teacher,
who has learnt and practiced it for himself. How much more would be the need for a captain who would help us to cross over the ocean of trans-migratory existence! It is only through the medium of the guru that we can raise ourselves to the state of cosmic consciousness. It is through this medium that the imperfect can become perfect, the finite can become infinite and the mortal can reach the heights of immortality. He is the link between human and divine. He stands on the threshold of immortality and frees the struggling shishya (disciple) from the morass of maya and mortality in which he is floundering.
A guru comes to us by the grace of God, according to our readiness, karma and faith. The guru’s blessing is a form of Shaktipat. Shaktipat is the transfer of spiritual energy from teacher to the student in order to awaken the inherent spirituality in him. In simple terms it can be compared to the process of lighting one lamp with another that is already lit and glowing. Shaktipat can take place through eye contact, or through touch or by thought or mantra.
Moksha has always been considered to be the final goal of life in Hinduism therefore in India, we have always recognised the need for such a person to help us in our march to the Infinite source of our being. Through the centuries we have carefully tended and kept alive this tradition of worshipping the guru. Year after year, age after age, we worship the ancient concept of the guru, pay obeisance to it and re-affirm our belief and allegiance to it in the form of our own guru. For this we have kept aside one particular day for his worship. This day is known as “Guru Purnima.” It falls on the full moon day of the month of Ashada (June/July). It was only very recently that the west started a “Teacher’s Day”!
The full moon reflects the full splendour of the dazzling light of the sun. Thus, on this day we should also begin to reflect the glorious light of the Self. We should become full reflectors of that Brahmic splendour, the light of all lights because of which even the sun and moon are lit up. On this day we should realise that we are indeed that immortal, all-pervading, blissful Self.
On full moon days, those who live near the sea can notice that the moon tries to pull everything on the Earth as if to bring it closer. Huge tidal waves arise in the ocean. On these days, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun are combined. Our physical body is composed of 72% water. There are more than 27 trillion cells in our body and each cell contains water. Thus, the gravitational pull can be felt in each part of the body even though we may not be aware of it.
Modern science has verified this. Research conducted by the Vidyasagar University in India has proved that the moon affects both our blood pressure and heart rate. Radbound University, Nijmegen has discovered that on full moon days the flow of fluids to the brain increases in velocity. Individual brain cells also increase which in turn may alter people’s mood and behaviour. This pull can also affect our digestion. The main effects however are to be found on the chakras.
There are seven chakras in the body. The Kundalini Shakti is lying dormant in the first chakra which is the Mooldhara Chakra. During meditation we try to activate these chakras and send the Kundalini Shakti upward. When we meditate on full moon days, we find that the gravitational pull of the moon hastens this process.
This day of Guru Purnima also marks the beginning of the monsoons. This has a great significance in this country. After going through the blazing heat of summer, the whole earth quivers with delight when the first showers of the monsoons fall upon its parched breast. This is the sensation we get when we first listen to our guru. Our minds that have been languishing in the inertia of ignorance thrills to feel the shower of bliss that he pours on us!
This also marks the beginning of the Chaturmasya (four months of the monsoons). In olden times sannyasins were never allowed to settle in one place. They were supposed to keep travelling all over the land for eight months of the year so as to avoid attachment to any one place. However due to the difficulties of travel during the rainy season, they were allowed to stay in one place during these four months of Chaturmasya starting from Guru Purnima. At this time the sannyasins would hold discourses for the householders on various scriptures like the Brahma Sutras composed by Vyasa and engage in Vedic discussions. All this was of utmost help to the householders who never had time to delve into the wealth of our scriptures. Shravan is the first month of Dakshinayana and this is also known as the Ramayana mas. Everyone was encouraged to read the Ramayana on this month. This, is how our scriptures were kept alive. Dakshinayana means the Southern Path and demarcates the shift of the sun from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere.
This day is important to all the major religions of Bharat – Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
On this day many important things happened in our country. First of all, the great sage called Vyasa, who is venerated by all of us as being the Adi Guru or the first guru was born on this day. Therefore, this day is also known as Vyasa Purnima. He has done an unforgettable service to all humanity by editing the Vedas and making them into four, writing the eighteen Puranas, the Mahabharata, Shrimad Bhagavatam and the Brahma Sutras. The only way we can repay the deep debt that we owe him is by studying his works and practicing his teachings. Thus, Hindus begin the day with a puja to Vyasa Guru.
Amongst the Shaivites, this was the day that Shiva, the Adiyogi gave his first teachings to the seven sages or saptarishis. He had been meditating on the banks of the Kanti Sarovar, a lake which lies above Kedarnath. He was facing south and thus he came to be known as Dakshinamurti. The sages had waited for many years but he had ignored them. At last, when the solstice had shifted from summer to winter – the beginning of Dakshinayana, he decided that these seven were worthy of receiving the teaching. This happened to be the full moon of the month of Ashad now known as Guru Purnima.
According to Buddhist beliefs, the story of Guru Purnima is based on Buddha’s life and living. After many years of the most intense practices, Prince Siddharta became the Buddha. This happened in Bodhgaya. From there he crossed the Ganga and went to Sarnath where he preached the sermon to his five previous disciples. This was the Dharmachakra Pravartana Sutra. This happened on Guru Purnima day.
The story of Guru Purnima amongst the Jains revolves around the Jain guru, Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of the order who attained Kaivalya on this day. He ordained Indrabhuti Gautam as his first disciple on this day. The Jains observe this day as Treenok Guha Poornima.
It is very important to understand that all Hindu festivals have a connection to the working of the planets and their positions in the galaxy. In fact, all our festivals are based on scientific truths. This is to ensure that we never forget the fact that we are not just puny creatures inhabiting this microscopic planet, but we are denizens of the cosmos. Our every act and thought have an intimate connection with the entire universe.
Vedic astronomy has seven planets that closely influence human life. Of these the most benign is Jupiter which we call as Brihaspati or the guru of the gods.
According to Vedic astrology the planet Jupiter is kind, optimistic, the giver of wisdom etc. So, during Guru Purnima day we offer worship to Brihaspati the planetary teacher or the guru of the gods! In the month of Ashada, Jupiter is in the sign of Cancer which is the 12th house which is his own home. The moon is also in the sign of Sagittarius which again is ruled by Jupiter. Ashada nakshatra is famous for motivating us towards moksha or liberation. On this day, Jupiter moves closer to the sun and is not visible from the earth. This brings blessings on everyone. This is the most auspicious time for meditating and increasing spiritual growth since there is an abundance of divine cosmic energy in the atmosphere.
It is interesting to note that whenever we have sent out satellites into space, we have used the gravitational force of Jupiter or guru!! Jupiter is also famous for protecting the earth from the impact of long-term comets. Again, and again, we see that in our culture, science and spirituality go hand in hand. The human being has his feet on the earth but his head is in the heavens like the cosmic Purusha! May the divine guru bless and guide all of us and lead us to Supreme bliss.
In this modern age where everything that we see has been robbed of its natural splendour it might be difficult to find a true guru. A small guide to those who are seeking a guru would be to warn them to avoid those spurious gurus who always demand money from them. Another point to be noted is to observe the lifestyle of the guru and find out if he really practices what he preaches. After having found such a pure soul, let the disciple follow him with faith and surrender. If we never come across such a pure soul in our lives then it must be remembered that the whole of Nature is capable of teaching us everything we want to know.
The great sage Dattatreya, regarded as the guru of gurus, considered Nature Herself as his guru, and learnt a number of lessons from her. He said that he had twenty-four gurus. He learnt patience from the silent, all-enduring earth with its lofty forbearance, the shady fruit-bearing tree with its willing self-sacrifice, the mighty banyan tree hiding in the tiny seed, the drops of rain whose persistence wears away even the rocks, the planets and the seasons with their orderly punctuality and regularity. All these were divine gurus to him.
The Srutis say: The Guru is Brahman, the Absolute, or God Himself. He guides and inspires us from the innermost core of our being. He is everywhere. Behold the entire universe as the form of the guru. See the guiding hand, the awakening voice, the illuminating touch of the guru in every object in this creation. The whole world will now stand transformed before your changed vision. The world as guru will reveal all its precious secrets of life to you, and bestow wisdom upon you. The Supreme Guru, as manifested in visible nature, will teach you the most valuable lessons of life.
Things to be done on Guru Purnima Day:
As the river flows continuously, steadily and constantly towards its goal, the ocean, so also let your life flow ceaselessly towards the supreme state of absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, by letting all your thoughts, all your words and all your actions be directed only towards the goal.
Jai Guru Deva!
Originally Published July 23, 2021:https://blog.vanamaliashram.org/blog/guru-purnima-2021