American Institute of Vedic Studies

Why Guru Purnima is unique to Hindu Dharma

All religions honor their particular founder, prophet or savior. Hindu Dharma is unique in honoring the guru or spiritual master as a principle in itself beyond any particular personality, philosophy or revelation. For Hindus the guru is a cosmic principle taking many names and forms. We can follow the guru that best takes back to our true Self.

The true guru is a position of spiritual guidance, the illuminating presence of a higher awareness. The guru is not limited to any physical person, however exalted he or she may be.

 

The guru is an inner institution, an authority rooted in an experiential wisdom, not in any mere human faith or belief. The guru works to awaken us to our own Divine potential beyond the limitations of time and space, personality or institution.

Great souls who hold the position of the guru have a special honor and immense responsibility that can only be served in a selfless manner. The true guru is not self-conscious of being a guru to others, but of simply sharing the light of truth to dispel the darkness of ignorance.

The guru is a powerful conduit to the universal flow of knowledge. As such, there is only one true guru in all gurus. The guru is the guiding intelligence of the universal and eternal dharma that assumes many names and forms.

The importance of having a guru resides in being able to connect with the transcendent realm through a human representative and conduit to the universal truth. We should emphasize the guru’s teachings, rather focusing on outer appearances, though these have their place. We should live the life the guru prescribes.

It is the ability to surrender the human mind and its opinions to the Divine within, the Supreme Consciousness, that makes for a true guru. The true guru teaches a path of Self-realization, giving us back our own true nature, not making us weak or dependent.

 


Guru Purnima – The full moon of the universal guru

Guru Purnima is the day of the Hindu lunar calendar established for honoring the guru in every form, all the teachers, educators and teachings that help us in life, through various rituals, mantras and meditations.

Yet it is the spiritual master as the cosmic guru that is the main focus. On this day, one should dedicate oneself to following the guru’s instruction and put it into practice. The guru principle is most active at this time, and we can more easily connect with notable gurus past or present. We should deepen our relationship with the guru and their connection within us.


 

Guru Purnima marks the birthday of Veda Vyasa, who structured the four Vedas, composed the epic of the Mahabharata, and created the foundation for the many Puranas, the vast encyclopedias of Hindu sacred lore.

As such, Veda Vyasa developed the foundation for Hindu dharma as it endures to the present day, with its main deity forms, philosophies and yogic paths. Yet Veda Vyasa stayed the background and never made himself into an object of worship.

Veda Vyasa is said to have used Ganesha as his scribe. What this means is that his teachings were embedded in the cosmic mind, not simply composed at a human level. Ganesha rules over the organisation of all higher knowledge.

Guru Purnima represents the date on which Lord Shiva as the Adi Guru or original guru taught the seven rishis who were the seers of the Vedas. This reflects the fact that Shiva is Omkara and all the higher teachings arise out of Om as the Divine Word and cosmic sound vibration.

In the Yoga Sutras, Ishvara as Pranava or Om is said to be the Adi Guru of Yoga. Lord Buddha was said to have delivered his first sermon on this day at Sarnath, reflecting the power of this sacred time.

 

India’s most important gift to the world is its many great gurus. Since Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th century, a galaxy of monumental teachers has inspired humanity, and now visit all the countries of the world.

Today, a new generation of gurus is arising to continue the process of sharing the universal knowledge in this new era of global communication.

We must honor the institution of the guru that has a cosmic significance, guiding us to our true Self.

 

Vamadeva Shastri

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