This article is a chapter from the book Hindu Fasts and Festivals.
Click here for a discourse on Guru Purnima by Swami Chidananda.
Click here for a discourse on Guru Purnima by Swami Krishnananda.
THE FULL moon day in the month of Ashad (July-August) is an extremely auspicious and holy day of Guru Purnima. On this day, sacred to the memory of the great sage, Bhagavan Sri Vyasa, Sannyasins settle at some place to study and discourse on the thrice-blessed Brahma Sutras composed by Maharishi Vyasa, and engage themselves in Vedantic, philosophical investigation.
Sri Vyasa has done unforgettable service to humanity for all times by editing the four Vedas, writing the eighteen Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavata. We can only repay the deep debt of gratitude we owe him, by constant study of his works and practice of his teachings imparted for the regeneration of humanity in this iron age. In honour of this divine personage, all spiritual aspirants and devotees perform Vyasa Puja on this day, and disciples worship their spiritual preceptor. Saints, monks and men of God are honoured and entertained with acts of charity by all the householders with deep faith and sincerity. The period Chaturmas (the “four months”) begins from this day; Sannyasins stay at one place during the ensuing four rainy months, engaging in the study of the Brahma Sutras and the practice of meditation.
Mark fully the deep significance of this great day. It heralds the setting in of the eagerly awaited rains. The water drawn up and stored as clouds in the hot summer now manifests in plentiful showers that usher in the advent of fresh life everywhere. Even so, all begin seriously to put into actual practice all the theory and philosophy that have been stored up in them through patient study. Aspirants commence or resolve to intensify with all earnestness, their practical spiritual Sadhana right from this day.
Generate fresh waves of spirituality. Let all that you have read, heard, seen and learnt become transformed, through Sadhana, into a continuous outpouring of universal love, ceaseless loving service, and continuous prayer and worship of the Lord seated in all beings.
Live on milk and fruit on this day and practise rigorous Japa and meditation. Study the Brahma Sutras and do Japa of your Guru Mantra, during the four months following the Guru Purnima. You will be highly benefited.
The day of worship of one’s preceptor, is a day of pure joy to the sincere spiritual aspirant. Thrilled by the expectation of offering his reverent homage to the beloved Guru, aspirants await this occasion with eagerness and devotion. It is the Guru alone that breaks the binding cords of attachment and releases the aspirant from the trammels of earthly existence.
The Srutis say: “To that high-souled aspirant, whose devotion to the Lord is great and whose devotion to his Guru is as great as that to the Lord, the secrets explained herein become illuminated”. Guru is Brahman, the Absolute, or God Himself. He guides and inspires you from the innermost core of your being. He is everywhere.
Have a new angle of vision. 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 the 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.
Worship daily this Guru of Gurus, the Guru who taught even the Avadhuta Dattatreya. Dattatreya, regarded as God and the Guru of Gurus, considered Nature Herself as His Guru, and learnt a number of lessons from Her twenty-four creatures, and hence he is said to have had twenty-four Gurus. The silent, all-enduring earth with its lofty forbearance, the shady fruit-bearing tree with its willing self-sacrifice, the mighty banyan tree reposing with patience 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 were all divine Gurus to him. They who will look and listen, will learn.
Become a personification of receptivity. Empty yourself of your petty ego. All the treasures locked up in the bosom of Nature will become yours. You will progress and attain perfection in an amazingly short time. Become pure and unattached as the mountain breeze. 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.
The moon shines by reflecting the dazzling light of the sun. It is the full moon on the Purnima day that reflects in full splendour the glorious light of the sun. It glorifies the sun. Purify yourself through the fire of selfless service and Sadhana, and like the full moon, reflect the glorious light of the Self. Become the full reflectors of Brahmic splendour, the light of lights. Make this your goal: “I will be a living witness to divinity, the brilliant Sun of suns!”
The Supreme Self alone is real. He is the Soul of all. He is all-in-all. He is the essence of this universe. He is the unity that never admits of a duality under all the varieties and diversities of nature. Thou art this immortal, all-pervading, all-blissful Self. Thou art That! Realise this and be free.
Remember these four important lines of the Brahma Sutras:
1. Athatho brahma jijnasaa–Now, therefore, the enquiry of Brahman.
2. Janmasya yathah–From which proceed the origin, etc.
3. Sastra yonitwat–The scriptures are the means of right knowledge.
4. Tat tu samanvayat–For, That is the main support (of the universe).
Jaya Guru Shiva Guru Hari Guru Ram;
Jagad Guru Param Guru Sat Guru Shyam.
It is through the medium of the preceptor that the individual can raise himself to Cosmic-Consciousness. It is through that medium that the imperfect can become perfect, the finite can become infinite and the mortal can pass into the eternal life of blessedness. The Guru is verily a link between the individual and the Immortal. He is a being who has raised himself from this to That and thus has a free and unhampered access to both realms. He stands, as it were, upon the threshold of immortality, and, bending down, he raises the struggling individuals with his one hand, and with the other, lifts them up into the kingdom of everlasting joy and infinite Truth-Consciousness.
Do you realise now the sacred significance and the supreme importance of the Guru’s role in the evolution of man? It was not without reason that the India of the past carefully tended and kept alive the lamp of Guru-Tattva. It is therefore not without reason that India, year after year, age after age, commemorates anew this ancient concept of the Guru, adores it and pays homage to it again and again, and thereby re-affirms its belief and allegiance to it. For, the true Indian knows that the Guru is the only guarantee for the individual to transcend the bondage of sorrow and death, and experience the Consciousness of the Reality.
Give up the delusive notion that to submit to the preceptor, to obey him and to carry out his instructions, is slavish mentality. Only the ignorant man thinks that it is beneath his dignity and against his freedom to submit to another man’s command. This is a grave blunder. If you reflect carefully, you will see that your individual freedom is in reality an absolute abject slavery to your own ego and vanity. It is the vagary of the sensual mind. He who attains victory over the mind and the ego is the truly free man. He is the hero. It is to attain this victory that a man submits to the higher, spiritualised personality of the Guru. By this submission he vanquishes his lower ego and realises the bliss and freedom of the infinite Consciousness.
To strengthen and affirm the faith of the wavering man and to guarantee the attitude that is necessary for the fruition of all worship, the ancients have deified the personality of the Guru. To adore the Guru is indeed to adore the Supreme. In this world of mortality, the Guru is verily like an ambassador in an alien court. Just as an ambassador represents fully the nation to which he belongs, even so, the Guru is one who is the representative of the sublime transcendental state which he has attained. Just as to honour the ambassador is to honour the nation that he hails from, even so to worship and to offer adoration to the visible Guru is verily the direct worship and adoration of the Supreme Reality. Even as a distant tree though it cannot be seen is nevertheless known by the fragrance its fully-bloomed flowers waft far and wide, so also, the Guru is the divine flower who disseminates the Atmic aroma of divinity in this world, and thus proclaims the immortal Lord who is invisible to the physical eye. He is the standing witness to the Supreme Self, the counterpart of the Lord on earth, and through worship of him one attains the Self.
Remember and adore Sri Vyasa and the Gurus who are fully established in knowledge of the Self. May their blessings be upon you! May you cut asunder the knot of ignorance and shine as blessed sages shedding peace, joy and light everywhere!
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Guru Purnima is celebrated every year on a grand scale. Many devotees and aspirants come from all parts of the country.
1. All aspirants awake at Brahmamuhurta, at 4 o’clock. They meditate on the Guru and chant his prayers.
2. Later in the day, the sacred worship of the Guru’s Feet is performed. Of this worship it is said in the Guru Gita:
Dhyaana moolam guror murtih;
Pooja moolam guror padam;
Mantra moolam guror vakyam;
Moksha moolam guror kripa
“The Guru’s form should be meditated upon; the feet of the Guru should be worshipped; his words are to be treated as a sacred Mantra; his Grace ensures final liberation”.
3. Sadhus and Sannyasins are then worshipped and fed at noon.
4. There is continuous Satsang during which discourses are held on the glory of devotion to the Guru in particular, and on spiritual topics in general.
5. Deserving aspirants are initiated into the Holy Order of Sannyas, as this is a highly auspicious occasion.
6. Devout disciples fast and spend the whole day in prayer. They also take fresh resolves for spiritual progress.
Wake up at Brahmamuhurta (at 4 a.m.) on this most holy day. Meditate on the lotus feet of your Guru. Mentally pray to him for his Grace, through which alone you can attain Self-realisation. Do vigorous Japa and meditate in the early morning hours.
After bath, worship the lotus feet of your Guru, or his image or picture with flowers, fruits, incense and camphor.
Fast or take only milk and fruits the whole day.
In the afternoon, sit with other devotees of your Guru and discuss with them the glories and teachings of your Guru.
Alternatively, you may observe the vow of silence and study the books or writings of your Guru, or mentally reflect upon his teachings.
Take fresh resolves on this holy day, to tread the spiritual path in accordance with the precepts of your Guru.
At night, assemble again with other devotees, and sing the Names of the Lord and the glories of your Guru.
The best form of worship of the Guru is to follow his teachings, to shine as the very embodiment of his teachings, and to propagate his glory and his message.