In the realm of spiritual growth and personal enlightenment, Guru Purnima stands as a beacon of divine inspiration and a day of profound significance. It, also known as Vyasa Purnima, is a highly revered Hindu festival that holds immense importance for spiritual growth and inner journey. Celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) in the month of Ashadha (July-August), Guru Purnima is dedicated to paying homage to spiritual teachers, or gurus.
It’s important to know that in the Indian tradition, each festival is intricately connected to astronomical events. These events refer to the celestial phenomena involving the sun, moon, planets, and stars. The changes during these events give rise to mysterious and enigmatic energy. It is this mystical energy that we strive to harness and utilize to its maximum potential. This is precisely why we celebrate festivals here on Earth, so that we may tap into this profound energy and embrace its abundance.
“Guru Purnima” is also similar to a festival. As the name itself suggests, it combines the words “Guru” and “Purnima,” indicating that this festival is celebrated on the day of the full moon. While a full moon occurs every month, there is something special about the full moon that falls in the month of Ashadha.
On that day the moon is present in the zodiac sign of Sagittarius (Dhan)ruled by Jupiter. Meanwhile, the sun is positioned 180 degrees opposite the zodiac sign of Gemini; therefore the energy of Jupiter or Guru is at its peak on that day. To harness these unique cosmic events we celebrate Guru Purnima.
As per etymology, the term ‘guru’ is derived from Sanskrit, with ‘gu’ meaning darkness and ‘ru’ symbolizing its elimination. Adaittarak Upnishad says,
“गुकारस्त्वन्धकारस्तु रुकार स्तेज उच्यते ।
अन्धकार निरोधत्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते ॥
The syllable “gu” refers to darkness (andhakāra), and the syllable “ru” refers to light or radiance (teja or steja). Due to its ability to dispel darkness, the term “guru” is used.”
A guru is not merely a teacher but a spiritual guide, an enlightened soul who dispels the darkness of ignorance and leads disciples toward self-realization and spiritual enlightenment.
The roots of Guru Purnima can be traced back to ancient times when it is believed to honor the birth of the legendary sage Vyasa. Vyasa is revered as the epitome of divine wisdom and knowledge, known for his remarkable contribution to Sanskrit literature. He is credited with organizing, editing, and classifying the ancient Hindu scriptures, including the Vedas and Puranas. His work revolutionized the preservation and dissemination of knowledge across generations.
It’s a very famous shloka:
“नमोस्तुते व्यास विशाल बुद्धे, फ़ुल्लारविन्दायत पत्र नेत्र।
येनत्वया भारत तैलपूर्ण: प्रज्वालितो ज्ञानमय प्रदीप: ।।
Salutations to you, Vyasa, with your vast intellect, whose eyes resemble blossomed lotus petals.
By you, the oil-filled lamp of knowledge, the Bharata lineage has been illuminated.”
In our traditional scriptures, there are profound references emphasizing the essential role of a guru in a seeker’s spiritual journey. For instance, the Bhagavad Gita, a revered scripture composed in Sanskrit, emphasizes the significance of the guru-disciple relationship. Lord Krishna advises his disciple Arjuna :
“तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया।
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः॥
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”
Bhagavad Gita, 4.34
Guru Purnima is marked by various customs and rituals that are deeply rooted in Hindu culture. Devotees begin the day by performing a ritualistic bath, known as ‘Snana,’ which symbolizes the purification of body, mind, and soul. Prayers and hymns are offered to Vyasa and the gurus, expressing gratitude for their wisdom and guidance. Guru Gita, a revered Sanskrit scripture comprising 182 verses, is recited with reverence during the celebrations, highlighting the importance of the guru in one’s spiritual path.
Just sharing one of the verse as a reference here.
“गुरुः शिवो गुरुर्देवो गुरुर्बन्धुः शरीरिणाम् |
गुरुरात्मा गुरुर्जीवो गुरोरन्यन्न विद्यते ||
Guru is Shiva, Guru is Deva, Guru is the relative and Guru is the embodiment of the body.
Guru is the soul, Guru is the life, there is nothing other than Guru.”
Guru Geeta, 2.85
On Guru Purnima, disciples show their appreciation and respect for their gurus by seeking their blessings and presenting them with tokens of gratitude. These offerings, often in the form of books or scriptures, symbolize the disciples’ commitment to lifelong learning and the pursuit of knowledge.
Furthermore, Guru Purnima extends beyond the honoring of individual teachers; it serves as a reminder of the significance of education, knowledge, and the preservation of wisdom. It instills in us the responsibility to transmit knowledge to future generations, ensuring its continuity. The festival fosters a deep sense of gratitude towards the countless gurus and scholars who have shaped society through their teachings.
Guru Purnima symbolizes the ongoing journey of seeking knowledge and the invaluable guidance of gurus in my intellectual and spiritual growth. I am deeply grateful to be part of this profound tradition that underscores the essence of lifelong learning, humility, and the cultivation of wisdom through the guidance of enlightened souls.
In conclusion, Guru Purnima is a remarkable festival that honors gurus and their pivotal role in spiritual and intellectual advancement. Through this celebration, devotees express reverence, seek blessings, and show gratitude towards their gurus. As a student of Hinduism, I cherish the teachings and wisdom imparted by my gurus and profoundly value the significance of Guru Purnima in my journey of knowledge and self-realization.