The full moon day in the Hindu month of Ashad (July-August) is observed as the auspicious day of Guru Purnima, a day sacred to the memory of the great sage Vyasa. All Hindus are indebted to this ancient saint who edited the four Vedas, wrote the 18 Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavata. Vyasa even taught Dattatreya, who is regarded as the Guru of Gurus.
Guru Purnima is traditionally held to be Bhagawan Vyasa’s birthday. According to the Indian calendar IT falls on the 15th of the month of Ashada. Bhagawan Vyasa is called Veda Vyasa – or the Compiler of the Vedas. Bhagawan Vyasa saw that, in the coming yugas, men would be of grosser mind and would lack the ability to learn and retain all of the Vedas. So he compiled the Vedas into four parts – the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda.
Furthermore he wrote the Puranas so that the common people could also benefit from the knowledge of the Vedas – he conveyed the same spiritual principles through the medium of stories and parables. He is also the author of the Brahma Sutras – the quintessence of Vedanta. So it is but fitting that his birthday is celebrated as Guru Purnima.
The Gurupurnima Story
Gurupurnima is an ancient Indian celebration. It goes back to the time when the four Vedas were established as the foundation of the Indian tradition. The great sage Veda Vyasa, who compiled the Vedas, was also the one whose inspiration gave rise to this celebration of Gurupurnima—a celebration in honor of the Guru.
The disciples of Veda Vyasa were pondering the immense nature of the gifts that he had bestowed on the world. Not only had he compiled the four Vedas, but he had recorded the Mahabharata and the thirty-six Puranas—masterpieces of the Indian spiritual tradition. In addition to these great bequests to mankind, he was their teacher and had bestowed his grace and his spiritual knowledge upon each one of them.
By following his guidance, the disciples of Veda Vyasa grew to spiritual maturity and felt rich in gratitude to their teacher. Uncertain what form of thanks could possibly be adequate to express their gratitude, they asked Veda Vyasa himself, “How can we repay you for the divine wisdom you have imparted to us?”
With great compassion, Veda Vyasa told his disciples that they could choose one day of the year to be especially dedicated to honoring Shri Guru as a way to express this profound gratitude. On this chosen day, the Guru would be honored with offerings and gifts. Disciples, for all time, would know that their offerings would always, on this day, reach their Guru.
The disciples of Veda Vyasa followed his guidance. They chose the full-moon day (purnima) of the month of Ashadha as it was the fullest and brightest of all the year’s purnimas. This day became known as “Gurupurnima”—the full moon of the Guru.
This tradition of Gurupurnima has continued throughout the ages, and Siddha Yogis celebrate the full moon of July with the Siddha Yoga practices, with our offerings, and with our love—all in gratitude for the Guru’s gift of life and knowledge. Siddha Yogis bow to Shri Guru’s grace with reverence and love.
Significance of Guru Purnima
On this day, all spiritual aspirants and devotees worship Vyasa in honor of his divine personage and all disciples perform a ‘puja’ of their respective spiritual preceptor or ‘Gurudevs’.
This day is of deep significance to the farmers, for it heralds the setting in of the much-needed rains, as the advent of cool showers usher in fresh life in the fields. It is a good time to begin your spiritual lessons. Traditionally, spiritual seekers commence to intensify their spiritual ‘sadhana’ from this day.
The period ‘Chaturmas’ (“four months”) begins from this day. In the past, wandering spiritual masters and their disciples used to settle down at a place to study and discourse on the Brahma Sutras composed by Vyasa, and engage themselves in Vedantic discussions.
Bhagwan Sree Veda Vyas Ji is the Vishwa Guru of Dwaapar Yuga an empowered soul who revealed the this world Vedic knowledge, wisdom and history in a written form.
Krishna -Dvaipayana Vyasa Deva has revealed a great number of Vedic literature. First he divided the One Veda into four, then he explained them in the Puranas, he spoke the Mahabharata to Ganesa who wrote it down for the first time. In the Mahabharata the Bhagavad-gita is revealed. Then all Vedic literature is summarized in the Vedanta sutra, and for future guidance he gave a natural commentary on the Vedanta sutra, called Shrimad Bhagwatam. This was after expressing a desire to reveal in a more direct way the pastimes of the supreme lord and his devotees. Shukadeva Goswami the son of Vyasa deva, in his turn delivered the Bhagavatam to the great Emperor Pariksit, who was surrounded by sages on the bank of the Ganges, awaiting death without taking food or drink for seven days. Shukadeva Said; This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krishna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Sincere persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana. This discourse took place 25-36 years after the Mahabharat war.
The Purnima (Full Moon) Day in the month of Ashadha (July-August) is known as “Guru Purnima”. This is a very sacred day on which special worship is performed to the Acharyas, who, through their Infinite Compassion and Supreme Grace, have imparted Knowledge of the Absolute (Brahma Vidya). Through a long and continuous line of Acharyas (Guru Parampara) to all sincere seekers . An Acharya is a person who lives and teaches by his own example.
Among the Acharyas, Shri Veda Vyasa stands as foremost and on His appearance day he is honored by all followers of the Vedic tradition.
He codified the Veda into four divisions ( 1131 Sakhas or Recensions divided into Rig (21 sakhas), Yajur(101 sakhas), Sama (1000 sakhas) and Atharva Veda (9 sakhas);
He wrote the Brahma Sutras (555 Sutras or Aphorisms integrating the messages of the Upanishads relating to Jiva, the Universe and Brahman); He wrote 18 Maha Puranas(Brahma Purana, Padma Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Siva Purana, Skanda Purana, Garuda Purana, Brahmanda Purana etc. Of these 18, Vishnu Purana compiled by Vysacharya’s father, Parasaracharya, but was edited and presented by Vyasa).
He witnessed and narrated the various incidents of the Mahabharata (with Maha Ganapati as the writer) which contains the crown jewel of Dharma, the Bhagavad Gita. Shri Vyasa is also a Chirajeevin (Deathless). He is very rightly called (one of vast intellect) and an eternal sage.
Badarajana (Vyasadeva): is known as Krishna, Krishna-dvaipayana, Dvaipayana, Satyavati-suta, Parasarya, Parasaratmaja, Badarayana, Vedavyasa, etc. He was the son of Mahamuni Parasara in the womb of Satyavati prior to her betrothal with Maharaja Santanu, the father of the great general Grandfather Bhismadeva. He is a powerful incarnation of Narayana, and he broadcasts the Vedic wisdom to the world.
Vyasadeva should be offered respects before one chants the Vedic literature, especially the Puranas. Shukadeva Gosvami his son, and Rishis like Vaisampayana were his disciples for different branches of the Vedas. The Brahma-sutras—the Vedanta-sutras, or Badarayana-sutras—were compiled by him.
Amongst sages he is the most respected author by dint of severe penances. When he wanted to record the great epic Mahabharata for the welfare of all people in the age of Kali, he was feeling the necessity of finding a powerful writer who could take his dictation. By the order of Brahmaji, Shri Ganeshji took charge of the writing. On the condition that Vyasadeva would not stop dictation for a moment. The Mahabharata was thus compiled by the joint endeavor of Vyasa and Ganesha, in Vyasa’s cave dwelling .
Just as the Moon shines by reflecting the light of the Sun, the disciples gain from their Gurus. Guru is the only assurance for the individual to transcend the bondage of sorrow and experience the consciousness of the Reality. The Guru is considered as an embodiment of the archetypes of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, and through His grace one reaches the highest state of wisdom and bliss. Hence, the Guru’s guidance helps in managing worldly affairs with ease.
Further, according to the Rishis of yore, cosmic energy flows through the human body: it enters through the crown chakra and leaves through the feet. It is believed that the cosmic energy flows from the Guru’s feet in abundance.
The Saptarishis, who are the venerated masters who completely dedicated themselves to the pursuit of divine light, are Atri, Bhrigu, Pulastya, Vasishtha, Gautama, Angirasa and Marichi. They are ’seers’ who possess knowledge about the past, present and future of humanity.
Jupiter represents Guru, that is the only planet that has the potency to nullify any affliction caused by the other planets. Hence, Jupiter represents the higher mind and goes quiet for transmitting knowledge.
The relationship between the Guru and the Disciple is a sacred one. It is purely spiritual in nature and based on the maturity of Gyan (spiritual knowledge) and Sadhana (spiritual practice). It is the Guru who dispels the darkness of ignorance, arising out of bodily attachment.
What is it that you are supposed to know on this day of Guru Purnima?
You must understand that God is in you, with you, around you, above you, below you. In fact, you are God. Recognise this truth in the first instance. Do not entertain excessive desires and become beggars. Do your duty sincerely. That is the true Sadhana. When you are in office, do office work only; do not think of your family matters. Likewise, when you are at home, take care of the needs of your wife and children. Do not make your home an office. But today because of too much work in office, people take office-papers to their homes to complete their work. They are thus facing difficulties because they mix up their office work, household work, business and spiritual matters.
Right from this day, try to reduce your attachment to the world to the extent possible. Be happy and make others happy. Do not hurt anybody. Consider difficulties as passing clouds. You have developed family relationships and there are bound to be some worries. But do not be perturbed by them. When you look at the vast sky, you find many clouds. Likewise, in the sky of your heart there are clouds of attachment. They just come and go. Do not worry about them. What is the shape of worry? It is a mentally created fear. It is the result of your imagination. Every man is bound to encounter difficulties and losses. We should face them with courage.
From this day of Guru Purnima, make your hearts sacred. Just as you wave away the mosquitoes that bite you, brush aside any difficulties that assail you. Do not be depressed by sorrow nor be elated by happiness. Develop equanimity and strive to attain Divinity.
The Role of the Guru
Swami Sivananda asks: “Do you realize now the sacred significance and the supreme importance of the Guru’s role in the evolution of man? It was not without reason that the India of the past carefully tended and kept alive the lamp of Guru-Tattva. It is therefore not without reason that India, year after year, age after age, commemorates anew this ancient concept of the Guru, adores it and pays homage to it again and again, and thereby re-affirms its belief and allegiance to it. For, the true Indian knows that the Guru is the only guarantee for the individual to transcend the bondage of sorrow and death, and experience the Consciousness of the Reality
The Guru’s Advice
Swami Sivananda recommends: “Wake up at Brahmamuhurta (at 4 a.m.) on this most holy day. Meditate on the lotus feet of your Guru. Mentally pray to him for his Grace, through which alone you can attain Self-realisation. Do vigorous Japa and meditate in the early morning hours.
“After bath, worship the lotus feet of your Guru, or his image or picture with flowers, fruits, incense and camphor. Fast or take only milk and fruits the whole day.
In the afternoon, sit with other devotees of your Guru and discuss with them the glories and teachings of your Guru.
“Alternatively, you may observe the vow of silence and study the books or writings of your Guru, or mentally reflect upon his teachings. Take fresh resolves on this holy day, to tread the spiritual path in accordance with the precepts of your Guru.
“At night, assemble again with other devotees, and sing the Names of the Lord and the glories of your Guru. The best form of worship of the Guru is to follow his teachings, to shine as the very embodiment of his teachings, and to propagate his glory and his message.”