Aarti Natarajan Sharma
In Hindu tradition a Guru or teacher has always been given the status of a God. In Sanskrit the word Guru means ‘one who frees us from ignorance’ and Purnima means ‘full moon’. Guru Purnima is the day dedicated to the Gurus or spiritual and academic teachers. It is the worship of the Guru celebrated as a festival on a full moon day in the month of Asadha wherein Gurus are thanked for giving us enlightenment and imparting wisdom. This festival is celebrated in India, Nepal and Bhutan.
This year Guru Purnima is on the 24th July.
History of the Festival
The history of celebrating Guru Purnima can be traced back to honoring Ved Vyas, one of the most learned gurus of ancient idea who edited and authored several important works such as the 18 Puranas, four Vedas and the Mahabharata. This day is often referred to as Vyasa Purnima for this reason.
In yogic culture, Lord Shiva was not considered to be a God but the Adi Guru or the first teacher. According to popular mythology, 15,000 years ago Lord Shiva started his transmission of yoga to the seven Rishis or Saptarishis who were the seers of the Vedas, on the day of Guru Purnima.
Festival Celebrated across Religions
The celebration of Guru Purnima is a spiritual tradition not just for the Hindus but also for Buddhists and Jains. The Buddhists celebrate it in honor of Lord Buddha who gave his first sermon on this day at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, after achieving enlightenment. For the Jains this day is an occasion to honor Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara in Jainism. Jainism believes that on this day, Mahavira got his first follower, Gautam Swami, after which he became a Treenok Guha.
This festival was also revived by Gandhiji to pay tribute to his spiritual Guru Shrimad Rajchandra.
All the Hindu holy scriptures emphasise the importance of the Guru and his shishyas or disciples. Teachers have been given an all- important position in Hindu tradition. History is full of examples of the relationship which exists between a guru and his disciple. One of the most famous incidents is when in an act of extreme reverence, Ekalavya cut off his thumb as Guru dakshina asked for by Guru Dronacharya.
On this day in monasteries and ashrams, disciples offer their prayers to their teachers. The day is celebrated by chanting one of the important mantras—Vishnu Sahasranama, consisting of a thousand names of Lord Vishnu. Disciples fast and have fruits and yogurt only during the day.
Importance in Astrology
In Vedic astrology, the significance of honoring ones teachers on a full moon day is that the planet Moon represents mind. The teacher influences or moulds the mind. It is the mind that shapes our personality. On Purnima, there is a connection between the Moon and other planets which makes us receptive to the teachings of the Guru. It is the best time to receive the grace of the Guru. It is also considered auspicious to be born on a full moon day.
Each one of us is who we are because of what we have been taught. That is the beauty of celebrating Guru Purnima. All the great saints have said that if we follow the teachings of a guru, we shall receive enlightenment of mind and spirit and be liberated from the endless cycle of birth and death.
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