Importance of Gurupurnima
Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah!
Traditionally all the sanyasis stay in 1 place for 2 months from the day of Gurupurnima which is also called chaturmasya vratham. Usually this is because in India the rainy season starts in early July and continues for 3-4 months and during this time many insects, worms are active and the sadhus are mindful not to create any ahimsa. When taking sannyasa they take a vow not to hurt any living, non-living beings and follow ahimsa. The vow is called the “four-month vow. How does four months become two? There is a version of this vow that requires remaining stationary only for two lunar months, because the month is defined as a fortnight (paksha), the fifteen-day period of waxing or waning of the moon. A month is indeed a paksha thus a four-month [vow]. For the two months of August and September the sanyasis stay in one place and teach.
On the day of Gurupurnima the day of the worshipping gurus. Just like we have father’s day, mother’s day etc.
Who is a guru?
“Guruhu” means the teacher. We have a text called guru gita where “gu” stands for ignorance “ruhu” – one who dispels. So Guruhu is a human being and is a dispeller of darkness and communicates the subject matter of shastram. We invoke the lord in guru and leave the human element and take only the truth element only, even though the guru is in human form. This Gurupurnima is also known as Vyasa purnima. Vyasa is the one who has written lot of sutras, and is considered as the foremost teacher and all other teachers in his lineage. The Lord himself is the guru and we have a verse which says this ‘sadashivasamarambam vyasa shankara madhyamam’. Every student who learns the shastram systematically from a teacher continuously for a length of time and that teacher must have learnt from another teacher, becomes eligible to be a guru later on. We use this guru in any context, e.g. music guru, dance, Sanskrit, etc. While there is nothing wrong to use the term Guru, according to tradition, the guru is the one who imparts spiritual knowledge. Srotriyam brahmanishtaha. Srotiryaha means one who has good knowledge of scriptures and brahmanishtaha means who remains steadfast in oneness of reality and the one who gives vision. So we invoke the lord in the form of the guru.
Normally when we are asked a question, how many gods are there, we respond saying that God is one. In Vedantic vision, we don’t say god is one, but only god and nothing else. Big difference in understanding as someone might ask if god is one, who is that one god? What about the others? Is Shiva the god, or Vishnu the god? In Vedantic vision, there is no dwaitam, there is only god i.e. Ishwara and nothing else. Sarvam Vishnu mayam jagath is the concept.
The role of a guru is to make us understand who the lord is? We always pray to god, worship god but many of us don’t even know who the lord is? This vision is given by a guru who has studied shastram properly and is a sampradaya teacher. A teacher who will lead us step by step and answer our questions or doubts. Understanding Vedanta requires a dedication and commitment to study. E.g. we cannot directly go to a university without going from year 1 to year 12 and studying all that is taught without questioning. We study all topics as we have to pass the exam, but in Vedanta there is no exam to pass, only realization that you are non-separate from Ishwara.
Similarly, when we praise the person who teaches us and for whom you have sraddha, it is not the individual we praise, but the teaching itself, for what he teaches is not separate from him.
guru brahma guru Vishnu guru devo maheshwarah
guru sakshat param brahma tasmai sri guravae namah
The guru is Brahma, the guru is Vishnu the guru is Maheshwara and the guru is the immediate limitless Brahman. Salutations to that revered guru.
All knowledge is only from the Lord, whether it is knowledge of how to make an enchilada or knowledge of physics. Every form of knowledge is in the all-knowledge. And the removal of the inhibiting factor is what we call knowing. Like a surgeon who removes cataracts so that we can see the world, the guru creates the conditions for ignorance to be dispelled, so that you can see the truth of yourself and the world. There are two types of blindness. One is not repairable; the other is. E.g. there are some people who are blind and medically they cannot be cured. We are not talking about that type. This second type of blindness is pointed out in the following verse as an example.
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah
Here the example is a blind person, andha. What is the cause of the blindness? Timira—cataracts. Due to cataracts, the person is not able to see; he is timira-andhasya. What is to be done? The surgeon removes the cataracts. In India, in the days in which this verse was composed, they seem to have had a remedy in the form of an ointment to remove cataracts. Ajnana means ointment. Ajnana timirandasya—by applying this ointment, the malady was removed. So too, here, even though we are a knowing person, essentially an all-knowing person, that knowledge is covered by ignorance. But, like a cataract, the ignorance can be removed. Therefore, everybody is blind due to the cataract of ignorance of who is the lord and our identity with him.
That is what the guru does. He or She helps us understand the lord and our connection and gives the vision. Then that vision is ours, and we become a source of love to everyone else. That’s why the guru-shishya relationship is entirely different from an ordinary relationship and why the guru is given so much praise in the shastram and in the tradition.
So Gurupurnima is a very important day for all seekers of knowledge. On this day, we seek the blessings of all the gurus in the parampara and remembering that the Adi guru is Lord Dakshinamurthi, the source of all knowledge. And so we praise him, and worship him seeking the grace of the guru.
Thirumandira Saram: Ninth Thandiram – Gyana Guru Dharshanam
ஆயன நந்தி அடிக்கென் தலைபெற்றேன்
வாயஎன நந்தியை வாழ்த்த என் வாய்பெற்றேன்
காயென நந்தியை காண என் கண்பெற்றேன்
சேயன நந்திக்கென் சிந்தை பெற்றேன்
என் ஞான குரு நந்தி பெருமான் ; அவர் தாயைப் போலும் கருணைவுடையவர்
உயிர்க்கு உறுதி பயக்கும் சொல்லை உடையவர்; கட்புலன் என்கிற திருமேனியை உடையவர்
எனினும் பாவிகட்கு எட்டாதவர். யான் தலையை பெற்றது அவரது திருவடிகளில் படும்படி
வணங்குவதர்க்காகவே; மற்றும் அவற்றை சூட்டுதறக்காகவும்; நான் வாய் பெற்றது
வாழ்துதற்காகவே; நான் கண் பெற்றது அவரைத் தரிசித்தற்க்காகவே; நான் மனத்தை
பெற்றது அவரை நினைததற்க்காகவே.
My Lord Nandhi Bhagavan is like a mother to me and is kind to me.
He is the lord who guarantees moksha at the time of death.
He has the body that has three eyes.
He who cannot be reached by ignorant people.
I have been given a head to bow at this feet
I have been given a mouth to sing praise of him
I have been given eyes to see him
I have been given a mind to think about him.
To that Lord, I bow unto and offer my salutations.
The Lord Nandikeshwara is none other than Lord Dakshinamurthi who is the Adi Guru.