The word "Guru" in Sanskrit is translated as "dispeller of darkness." Hence the Guru dispels the darkness of ignorance and leads the aspirants on the path to enlightenment. The day of Guru Purnima is traditionally the time when seekers offer the Guru their gratitude and receive his/her blessings. Guru Purnima is also considered an especially beneficial day to observe yogic sadhana/practice and meditation. This is on Full-Moon day in the month of Asadha(July-August.)
In yogic lore, this sacred day started, when a Yogi appeared in the regions of the Himalayas, over 15, 000 years ago. Nobody knew what his origins were, but his presence was extraordinary. People gathered around him. He exhibited no signs of life, but for the occasional tears of ecstasy that rolled down his face. As people began to move away, seven men stayed on. When he opened his eyes, they pleaded with him to impart his bliss. 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. After eighty-four years of sadhana, on the summer solstice that marks the earth’s southern run, the yogi looked at them again. They had become shining receptacles. On the very next full moon, the yogi turned south and sat as Guru to these seven men.
The Adiyogi (the first yogi) thus became the Adi Guru, who taught the first transmissions of yogic sciences to the Saptarishis, the seven celebrated sages, who carried the knowledge throughout the world. Even today, every spiritual process on the planet draws from the spine of knowing created by the Adiyogi – Lord Shiva.
Hindu spiritual Gurus are revered on this day, by remembering their life and teachings.
This day is also known as Vyasa Purnima and commemorated as the birth anniversary of Veda Vyasa, the author and a character in the Hindu magnum opus Mahabharata.
Buddhists also celebrate Guru Purnima in honour of Gautama Buddha. The Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath about five weeks of his enlightenment. When he gave up his severe penances his friends, the five monks left him, and went to Sarnath. After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha, leaving Uruvela, travelled to Sarnath to join and teach them. He went to them because, he had seen with his spiritual vision, that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly.
When he found his five former companions, he taught them; they understood and as a result they also became enlightened. It was at that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones was founded. The sermon the Buddha gave to the five monks was his first sermon. It was given on the full-moon day of Asadha.
According to Jain tradition, it was on this day Mahavira after attaining his realization made his close follower, his first disciple, thus becoming a Guru himself. Therefore it is recognized in Jainism as Guru Purnima.
The very first prayer, my mother taught my brother and I was,
Nandralga – All be well
Guru Valga- Guru be well
Guruvey Thunai’- Guru is the eternal companion
As a child, I was about ten and my brother even younger, when we first received ‘diksha-mantra.’ The Teacher was then the almost unknown ‘Maharishi Maheshi Yogi,’ from Rishikesh, stopping over in Singapore, on his very first journey enroute to America. He was initially giving talks in the Theosophical Society. Later, he was to become the famous Guru for the Beatles.
My Appa/father had been attending his discourses, and had been impressed with the joy, that sprang from this Guru. We found the ceremony quite overwhelming. But I was also disappointed, for unlike my mother, we were initiated together; we were under the adult age of twelve.
A few years later, at the age of twelve, Swami Madhavanandji, the Head of the Ramakrishna Mission, was visiting Singapore from Belur Math, and I reminded my Appa, I qualified for my adult rites.
We had to write our child-mantra on a piece of paper and attach it to a stick and throw it into a flowing river. As my father had received his mantra from the esteemed Swami Virajananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, in Belur Math, India, we were fortunate to be closely connected to this illustrious establishment. We were already quite well inspired by the narratives of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda, and it stood us in good stead, as preparation.
On the appointed day, we took our full baths, wore new clothes and carried a tray of fruits, flowers and offered a voluntary envelope of dakshina/gift. It was early morning, and I still remember the room. Swamiji spoke to me in Bengali at first, perhaps because of my name, popular in that region. ‘Oh, how I felt on hearing my adult-mantra!’ He also showed me how to keep count with my fingers. The whole experience has proved invaluable in my life.
When I heard he had moved on, in my late teens, I felt quite responsible! All those years growing up, I felt I had lost out on growing up in a Guru-kula/community, where I could have learnt directly from a Master.
Years passed, and every time I thought I had met an adept, it was not to be. At length, even after moving into an ashram with my family, I did not find what I was seeking, until after a long painful process, I found myself being initiated by Amma, the Hugging Saint in the year 2000. Perhaps because of my background, I had encouraged our children aged twelve and eight to receive this gift in 1989, from Amma!
It is said, when the student is ready, the Teacher will appear. Maybe, I had to wait, to work out connections with other religious establishments, to search; a process in self-development, until the time was right?
Amma herself explains,
“A mantra with a bikakshara has to be heard from the Guru’s mouth directly. One has to be initiated by the Guru. That is what brings about a change, a transformation in the disciple.’
‘When a Satguru gives a mantra, he or she is infusing his/her energy into us, that can create a change from within us’ for me, I felt humbled that in giving us this present, while advising us to practice chanting the mantra diligently, She on her part, had also undertaken to be responsible for each and everyone of sikshas/pupils’ development until we reached our ultimate goal!
A mantra that is specially used on this day is:
"Gururbrahmaa Gururvishnuh Gururdevo Maheswarah|
Guruh-Saakshaat Parabrahma Tasmai Shrigurave Namah ||"
It means that the Guru is Brahma(Creator), Vishnu (Preserver) and Mahesh (Shiva), - the Trinity
The Guru is the witness of all that is around as the manifestation of the World, within and without. Salutations to that Guru with all our sincere humble respects.
As I conclude, I give my deep gratitude to my Guru in all I have encountered, be it human, friend or foe, or animals and in all of life, in Nature. I will give special thanks to my Satguru on Gurupurnima, who in Osho’s word on Master/Guru through Patanjali Yoga Sutra;
‘A master helps you to cross the gap, a Master – the first job is to help you to unlearn: that is the difference. A Master means somebody who is standing on the boundary of the human and the divine. He is more than human. And if you have surrendered to a Master, he can enter into your sleep. You will not be able to hear his footsteps. He can enter silently and work. The Master can twenty-four hours be with you – there is no problem.’
I also take heed from another Master, as he advises,
“Dedicate the day for your inner well being, eat light, listen to music, meditate, 'watch the moon.'
It will be fantastic for you because it is the first full moon day after the solstice. Tell other people that this is a significant day.”