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:
- If we are lucky enough to find an enlightened guru in this life, we should try to meet him and seek his blessing on this day.
- If we cannot do this, we can keep his photo in front of us and meditate on it. People offer many things as dakshina to the guru on this day like fruits, garlands, flowers and money but the greatest dakshina (offering) we can give our guru on this auspicious occasion is to resolve from the core of our hearts that we will follow his footsteps, drop our ego, practice what he has preached, see God in every living creature, love all, spread the message of peace and happiness and realise the Ultimate Goal.
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