Guru Purnima or the Full Moon of the Guru is a very special celebration in the spiritual calendar. This is the day when we honor the Guru in all forms. We give thanks for all the blessing we have received in the past and ask for future support in all areas of our lives but particularly with our growth to Higher Consciousness and Enlightenment.
The word guru means remover of darkness or ignorance so the Guru can take many forms. Your first gurus were your parents, then your teachers and your college professors. Nowadays the word has slipped into the mainstream and we hear of Internet Gurus and Finance Gurus, again people who can offer us guidance. However, the most important Guru and the intent behind Guru Purnima is the Spiritual Guru, the one who awakens us from delusion and teaches us to recognize the Divine Temple within.
In India, Guru Purnima is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists. Traditionally the festival is celebrated by Buddhists in honor of the Lord Buddha who, after becoming Enlightened at Bodhgaya, travelled to Kashi (Varanasi) and gave His first sermon, on the Four Noble Truths, on this day at Sarnath. Many Hindus celebrate the day in honor of the great sage Vyasa, who is seen as one of the greatest Gurus in ancient Hindu traditions. Vyasa is credited with dividing Vedic wisdom into the four principle Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva, and also writing the 18 Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam–all of which form the very foundation of the Hindu religion.
In the yogic tradition, Shiva is not seen as a god, rather, he is seen as the Adiyogi, the first yogi. It is said that Guru Purnima was the day, when some 15,000 years ago, a yogi appeared in the upper regions of the Himalayas. No one knew where he came from but his presence was extraordinary. He simply came, sat and did nothing. The only sign of life were tears of ecstasy flowing from his eyes. People came to witness him. Most left but seven men remained. When the yogi opened his eyes, they pleaded with him, wanting to experience whatever was happening to him. He tried to dismiss them, but they persevered. Finally, he gave them some simple instruction and closed his eyes again. After 84 years of sadhana (spiritual practices), the yogi looked at them again, they had become shining reflections of his wisdom. On the next full moon day, the yogi turned south and sat as a Guru to these seven men. Shiva, the Adiyogi (the first yogi) thus became the Adi Guru, the first Guru. The seven disciples took this knowledge and spread it across the world. Since then, for thousands of years, Guru Purnima has been recognized and celebrated as the day when new possibilities opened up for the human race.
In India, devotees try to visit the Ashram or home of their Guru. They bring gifts of flowers, fruit and sweets and often adorn their Guru with beautiful garlands. It’s a great day of Love, Light and celebration. I have been fortunate to spend several Guru Purnimas with my Guru Sri Yanunacharya Satuwa Baba Maharaji, at his Ashram in Varanasi. There would be a steady stream of visitors from early in the morning until late into the evening. There would be pujas, chanting, food for everyone and a great celebration. Indians love sweets and my Guru was no exception so many people brought delicious candies. Maharaji wasn’t supposed to eat too much sugar but it would have been impolite not to taste everything. When sweets were offered, he would taste a small pinch and then, if I was close by, he would stuff two or three into my hand with the command, “Eat!”. Fortunately the remaining sweets were blessed and handed back to the devotee to take home and share with other family members. However, by the end of the day I was usually in a state of blissful sugar shock! Although Maharaji is no longer with us physically, I still celebrate this day with a much more modest sampling of sweets.
Guru Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day, which falls between mid June to mid July. An Internet search will give you the exact date for a specific year. We should be grateful to our personal Guru every day but Guru Purnima is a special and most auspicious time to celebrate him or her. The Guru Principle is said to be a thousand times more active on the day of Guru Purnima than on any other day. Whether your Guru is living or deceased, perhaps say a short prayer of gratitude, light a candle, offer incense in front of a picture, read his/her words, listen/watch to a recording or do whatever feels appropriate for you. Maybe do something of service in honor of your Guru(s), this day. The Guru’s way is one of service, to feed and support people’s needs. Maharaji, my Guru’s room was a revolving door for gifts. When I or others would bring things, he would immediately find a way to give them away to someone who needed them.
A true Guru only teaches from Pure Love. Only Pure Love and Light can come from a true Guru and it arrives in whatever form we need in that moment. Practice unconditional love, if not every day, at least on this one. Say Namaste to everyone you meet and recognize the Divine in them. This is also an auspicious day for beginning any new spiritual practice or undertaking.
As Ramana Maharshi told us, “The Guru is none other than the Self. As the seeker’s mind is bent outward, the Self takes a human shape as a Guru, to help drive it inward”. Deepak Chopra likes to ask people to slowly spell the word Guru – G (gee) U (you) R (are) U (you). Ultimately, the Guru lies within each of us and all the great Teachers are nothing other than mirrors of our own selves, someone we have created to remind us of all the things we have forgotten. The Light we see in these Divine Beings is a reflection of our own Light. We cannot bow to any external Guru without bowing ourselves. The end of the journey is to rediscover the Enlightened Guru that is none other than our own Self. The Vedas tell us that our true Guru is Pure Consciousness, beyond any physical form, all pervading, in everything. The Guru melts our ego, installs Dharma or righteousness in our lives. Nothing happens on the spiritual path without the Guru’s Grace. Spend time in silence and just listen. Listen to the voice of the Inner Guru.
Guru Purnima is a good day for fasting or eating lightly, listening to sacred chants, meditating and moon-gazing. In India, devotees will rise early to bathe in one of the sacred rivers. If this isn’t possible, sprinkle some pure water over your head, while remembering the feet of your Guru. This gives the benefits of bathing in all the holy rivers. If possible, spend extra time in silence this day. Either in meditation, walking in nature or just silently reflecting on all the blessing you have received in your life. If you have access to the text the Guru Gita, read it this day. It tells us, “The Guru, who is higher than the highest, who always bestows bliss and who is seated in the center of the space of the heart, shining like a pure crystal, should be meditated upon”. Another verse says, “The root of meditation is the Guru’s form, the root of worship is the Guru’s feet, the root of mantra is the Guru’s word and the root of liberation is the Guru’s Grace”.
Celebrate and enjoy this very special day.