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To The Guru

Hari OM

Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

This week Guru Purnima was celebrated. Purnima refers to full moon and Guru, of course, to the teacher.

Guru Purnima is the auspicious day when Hindus celebrate, and show their gratitude towards, their Guru. As per the spiritual experts, a Guru is someone who transforms a person with the power of his knowledge and spiritualism. This festival is celebrated all over India and in year 2016 the date for this festival was 19th of July.

This festival is celebrated not just by Hindus, but also by Buddhists and Jainis. In Hindu dharma the Guru Purnima is celebrated to mark the birthday of Guru Veda Vyaasa and it is also a day when Hindus celebrate the teachings of their personal Guru. Guru Vyaasa is said to have written the four Vedas and also the eighteen puraanas. Apart from this he has also written the Mahabharata. For Buddhists it is a bit different. They believe it is the day when Lord Buddha migrated to Saranath from Bodhgaya along with his five disciples. Jainism celebrates this festival as the day when Gautam Swami became the first disciple of Lord Mahavira.

There are various things that are followed on this day by the Hindus. First of all there is the concept of Paduka-puja where the disciples wash the footwear of their gurus as a mark of respect. Then there are various prayers and pujas that are offered with songs and recitations. Many will take up a vrat (fast) for the day and seek to feed their Guru (or the image of that guru if they are not physically in the presence).

In the Hindu shaastra a Guru is required by all once attaining adulthood. A Guru not only gives the disciple education but also clears the dark and evil thoughts that are there in the disciple’s mind and heart. If we look at the word Guru then we will see that it is the combination of two Sanskrit words, namely “Gu” and “Ru”. The former refers to the darkness and the latter refers to the remover of that darkness. So a Guru essentially means someone who can remove the evils and dark thoughts inside a person’s mind. There are Gurus everywhere. Not in the modern sense, where the word has been demeaned somewhat… computer 'guru'… financial 'guru'. In these cases the use of the word guru has taken over from the more legitimate Sanskrit word, 'pundit'. Pundits are lay-teachers. They are experts in shaastra and are able to expound upon them, but have not necessarily followed any particular practice themselves and they will also be householders and will partake in worldly activity other than the subject. A Guru is a sadhu, a renunciate, celibate and focused only on the subject. At the very least a Guru is highly dedicated to spiritual life and the worldly is just something which has to be dealt with in order to further that spiritual life. We may find a Guru in the person we strike up conversation with on a train or a bus, that someone who leaves us thinking with just a few deep and meaningful phrases. We may find a Guru in the wisdom of a child alert to the sensitivities of spirit. We may find a Guru in any society, any faith structure, any part of the world. The word is Sanskrit, the meaning is universal.

Be grateful to those Gurus who have helped your thinking, pointed you in the True direction of spirit, and who have left something of themselves behind, as did Ved Vyaasa and our own Gurudev, in order that we may continue to have our darkness removed.

HH Pujya Gurudev Sw. Chinmayananda
Sandeepany Sadhanalaya, Mumbai
image copyright Yamini MacLean

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