Guru Purnima is celebrated every year on the full moon day of the lunar month Aashad to strengthen spiritual bonds between Guru (spiritual teacher) and Shishya (disciple). It is difficult to tell for how long Guru Purnima is being celebrated in our country. But we can certainly tell that Guru-shishya tradition and the glory of Guru are as old as our Indian culture. This festival is also celebrated as Vyasa Purnima in the honor of Sage Veda Vyasa. This year Guru Purnima or Vyasa Purnima is falling on July 9, 2017.
In the history of India, Maharshi Veda Vyasa was the first person who collected, compiled and composed the entire repository of knowledge. This way he gave our country rich heritage of noble thoughts and a treasury of knowledge. Guru-shishya tradition played the pivotal role of disseminating that knowledge across generations. When wet clay is put in a mould, it takes the shape of the mould. Life of a Guru is such a mould in whose imprint many lives are carved out. If the mould is good, then the disciples that are shaped by them also turn out to be good.
The tradition of Upanishads thrived in India. The term “Upanishad” derives from the Sanskrit words “upa” (near), “ni” (down) and “shad” (to sit) — so it means “sitting down near” a spiritual teacher to receive instruction. In ancient India, whatever knowledge disciple gained by sitting at the feet of Guru was termed as Upanishad. Whenever a disciple sits near Guru, Upanishad is a natural outcome. This has happened many times in the modern era too.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the saint of Dakshineswar used to sit in the temple on the banks of Ganga. His disciples would gather around. Some of them were bachelors while some were householders. In that gathering, some used to be elderly people, some of them elites and some family men. There would be some light fun, conversations and a flow of eternal knowledge. A disciple of Paramhansa, Mahendranath Gupta, also known as Master Mahasaya, compiled such sagacious conversations under the title ‘Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrit’(in Begali).
Sri Aurobindo had a few selective disciples with whom he spent his evenings. He met these people even during his years of solitary sadhana. Nirodbaran, Nolini Kanto Gupta, Manilal were among them. There would be many discussions and conversations that were pregnant with occult knowledge. Nirodbaran was a good doctor and he was the one who compiled these conversations under the title ‘Talks with Sri Aurobindo’
There are many types of relationships. Some are related to our physical body, e.g. mother, father, brother, sister etc. Some relationships take birth from emotions; e.g. wife-husband, friends etc. However, there are relationships which take birth from the depths of soul. They are termed as soul-kinship or spiritual relationships. One such relationship is that of Guru and disciple.
A guru understands his disciples in totality. This is the only relationship in which a person is understood so holistically. Others will know a person, but in bits and pieces. A mother understands her child, but she cannot do so completely because when her child grows into youth, his personality changes so much that a mother might wonder if he is the same child she nurtured. The relationship between a wife and husband is very deep. They understand each other very well. Even then, there are instances when they might find themselves as complete strangers. It is only the relationship of Guru and disciple that the Guru understands the disciple completely. His understanding is not superficial. He knows his entire personality, his chitta and samskaras too. In addition to this life, he also knows the past lives of the disciple.
Purnima or Full moon signifies the quality of giving completely and receiving completely. In this context Saint Kabir says – ‘kahat kabir mein poora paaya’. Only a person who can give completely can receive completely. If you hesitate to give, then there will be a problem in receiving too. In this world, people believe more in getting than giving. But one should remember that those who do not know how to give cannot receive. Sri Aurobindo has written that intense aspiration, self-consecration and total surrender are the principles behind the relationship between guru and disciple.
Emperor Bali was performing a series of Ashwamedha Yagyas. He had completed ninety nine of them and the hundredth was in progress. Lord Vamana (Incarnation of Lord Vishnu) went in the form of a short-statured Brahmin and asked Bali for three steps of land. Bali smiled looking at the dwarf Vamana and his feet. Bali’s Guru, Sage Sukracharya however warned him to check what he was granting and to whom. He also said that Lord Narayana had come and what tests he might put forth was to be seen. Bali responded that it was indeed a great fortune that the Lord himself was at his door and was asking for something. Sukracharya did not object to this emotion, though he was not happy. The goal of the Guru is to facilitate the meeting of disciple and God. So, when the Lord came to the kingdom of Bali, he granted three steps of land. Bali was free from attachment and was a responsible king too. However, he still had the ego that he was a great philanthropist. When Vamana measured heaven and earth in two steps, he asked where to place his third step. Bali offered his head because that was the source of ego. So, in the third step, Bali gave his ego and the Lord took his ego.
Goswami Tulsidas says - bandau guru pada kanj kripa sindhu nararoop hari – Hari takes human form as Guru and lives amidst us. But we cannot see God with our naked eyes because he is formless. This formless God comes to teach us in the form of Guru. He guides us so that we may realize our true self, removes our ignorance, identifies our weaknesses and hones our personality. We just need to take one step towards him and he will awaken us and illuminate us. We are leading our life almost unconsciously. There is no awareness. We are merely bound by the raw threads of relationships. We have forgotten the strong and everlasting relationship of that of the soul. Guru teaches us, warns us and reminds us of our life. He reminds us of our relationship with our soul. He tells us about the pinnacle of human consciousness. He presents us with the example of his own life - A life, a personality, a pure consciousness, so pious and pure that it is very rare to find in the world. The Guru says – ‘See, if this can happen to me, it can happen to you as well. I have received the grace and I have understood, so can you. You do not need to run around, you just need to be where you are and be aware.’
There are only two doors to knowledge – intellect and love. Through the door of intellect, we understand the world and through love we understand the supreme God and Guru. The guru we see externally, when installed in our heart becomes the Sadguru. As long as his presence is merely outside, he is known as guru. When his presence is felt in our life, our breath and our heart, he is never separate from us. He is within us. He is present within us as the source of all knowledge and emotions. We will never lack anything after that. Only a person who can become a disciple like this can understand the Guru. When the disciple surrenders himself more and more, then the Guru’s presence is felt more and more within the self. If we can achieve this, then we have truly celebrated Guru Purnima.