What is Guru Purnima?

What is Guru Purnima?

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It is believed that a person is blind without a teacher to guide him. A mother is the first teacher of a child, but after that, the guru becomes his or her second mother. The shastras proclaim that a human being is born twice or dvija, first by the union of the father and mother, and second when he is accepted by a bonafide guru, whereby he acts as a father and delivers him with the help of mother Gayatri, which is a personification of Vedic knowledge.

Guru Purnima (Poornima) is an Indian & Nepalese spiritual tradition dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers, who are evolved or enlightened humans, ready to share their wisdom, with very little or no monetary expectation, based on Karma Yoga. It is celebrated as a festival in Nepal by the Nepalese Hindus and Buddhists. This festival is traditionally observed by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains to revere their chosen spiritual teachers / leaders and express their gratitude. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) in the Hindu month of Ashadha (June–July) as it is known in the Hindu calendar of India and Nepal. This day marks the first peak of the lunar cycle after the peak of the solar cycle.

The word Guru is derived from two words, “Gu” and “Ru”. The Sanskrit root “Gu” means darkness or ignorance, and “Ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, a Guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance. The Guru Principle is said to be a thousand times more active on the day of Guru purnima than on any other day.

According to Hindu legend, this was the day when Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (author of the Mahabharata) was born to sage Parashara and a fisherman’s daughter Satyavati; thus this day is also celebrated as Vyasa Purnima. Veda Vyasa did yeoman service to the cause of Vedic studies by gathering all the Vedic hymns extant during his times, dividing them into four parts based on their use in the rites, characteristics and teaching them to his four chief disciples – Paila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu. It was this dividing and editing that earned him the honorific “Vyasa” (vyas = to edit, to divide). He divided the Holy Veda into four, namely Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. The histories and the Puranas are said to be the fifth Veda.

In yogic lore, it is said that Guru Purnima was the day that saw Shiva become the Adi Guru, or the first Guru. The story goes that over 15,000 years ago, a yogi appeared in the upper regions of the Himalayas. Nobody knew what his origins were. But his presence was extraordinary, and people gathered. However, he exhibited no signs of life, but for the occasional tears of ecstasy that rolled down his face. People began to drift away, but seven men stayed on. When he opened his eyes, they pleaded with him, wanting to experience whatever was happening to him. He dismissed them, but they persevered. Finally, he gave them a simple preparatory step and closed his eyes again. The seven men began to prepare. Days rolled into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, but the yogi’s attention did not fall upon them again. After 84 years of sadhana, on the summer solstice that marks the advent of Dakshinayana, the earth’s southern run, the yogi looked at them again. They had become shining receptacles, wonderfully receptive. He could not ignore them anymore. On the very 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. Adiyogi expounded these mechanics of life for many years. The seven disciples became celebrated as the Saptarishis and took this knowledge across the world.
Guru Purnima is held sacred in the yogic tradition because the Adiyogi opened up the possibility for a human being to evolve consciously. The seven different aspects of yoga that were put in these seven individuals became the foundation for the seven basic forms of yoga, something that has still endured.

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