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Celebrating Guru Purnima: Understanding its meaning and significance in Hinduism

According to Hinduism, Guru Purnima is also the day they remember the great sage Maharishi Veda Vyasa

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Lord Shiva and his followers (Representational Pic) Image source: isha.sadhguru.org
  • Guru Purnima is a festival which is celebrated nation-wide to pay homage and to show love for their Gurus irrespective of which religion they belong too
  • The festival of Guru Purnima holds a matter of great importance to Hindus, Buddhists and other religions in our country and internationally
  • The way it is celebrated is changed with course of time from doing Pujas (prayers) to giving gifts and doing fasts

In Sanskrit, Guru means ‘teacher’, one who dispels the ‘darkness of Ignorance’ and brings wisdom. Therefore, to mark the importance of Gurus, Guru Purnima is celebrated in India every year. Needless to say, for thousands of years, the festival of Guru Purnima has held a great significance for Hindus in particular and also in Jainism, Buddhism, and other communities. Celebrated on Purnima (full moon) in the month of Ashadha (July-August), in accordance with the Hindu calendar, Shaka Samvat; this year in 2016, it is celebrated on July 19.

In Indian culture, the ‘gurus’ are given much respect and are often compared to God. Their wisdom and teachings help guide the devotees to the path of righteousness. And on this auspicious day, the blessing by the guru is believed to be equal to that of a blessing from the God himself.

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Guru Purnima (Representation Image). Image source: www.mapsofindia.com
Guru Purnima (Representation Image). Image source: www.mapsofindia.com

According to Hinduism, Guru Purnima is also the day they remember the great sage Maharishi Veda Vyasa. Vyasa was the individual, to which all Hindus owe their gratitude for the 18 Puranas, Mahabharata, and the Srimad Bhagavatam. He was the one who separated the Veda and divided them into four parts, namely, Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva. Therefore, this day is also known as the Vyasa Purnima.

Guru Purnima has a strong spiritual significance. As stated in the yogic lore, on this day, 15000 years ago, Lord Shiva who was the Adiyogi became the first Guru or the Adi Guru of the Hindu religion. He inculcated his wisdom and understanding of life to the seven disciples. These disciples then became Saptarishis and carried on this knowledge with the to spread all across the world.

Guru Purnima (Representational Image). Image source: frenchopen2016schedule.com
Guru Purnima (Representational Image). Image source: frenchopen2016schedule.com

Guru Purnima holds a great significance in the Buddhist religion too. As the story goes, Buddha after attaining enlightenment in Uruvela left for Sarnath to teach his five former companions so that they can also attain enlightenment.

On reaching Sarnath, Buddha taught them the ways of Dharma and they too attained enlightenment. The day on which he first gave his sermon was on a Purnima (full-moon day) of the Ashadha.

For the farmers, Guru Purnima marks the beginning of the four months of the rainy season known as Chaturmas, which brings about new life to the dry fields and according to the spiritual Gurus, it is a great time for a devotee to begin his spiritual journey.

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According to the Jains, Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, made Indrabhuti Gautam, a Ganadhara, as his disciple and became a guru. Hence, it is known as Guru Purnima.

Guru Purnima celebrations across India. Image source: www.ibtimes.co.in
Guru Purnima celebrations across India. Image source: www.ibtimes.co.in

The way Guru Purnima is celebrated has changed with the passage of time. Earlier, the celebration was marked by doing a ritualistic Guru Puja (prayer). In these prayers, the disciples used to pay their respects to the guru and worship them.

Nowadays, the festival of Guru Purnima is largely celebrated in ashrams and in schools, colleges, and universities to thank and remember past teachers/gurus.

In ashrams, the disciples sometimes hold fast for the whole day and break it only when they meet their gurus, whereas, in schools and colleges, students bring gifts for them and touch their feet to show their respect. The way to pay respect to Gurus might have changed, but the spirit of the festival has remained the same.

– prepared by NewsGram Team

ALSO READ:

  • G P Selvam Mudaliar

    ” Teachers Day ” is celebrated on 5th September every year ( Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday ) ” Guru Purnima ” is celebrated on ‘ Aashadha Poornima ‘ . Which has more significance & relevance for 21st Century ‘ Teaching fraternity ‘ ?

Next Story

Christmas and Controversies

The Christmas tree came from Germany, Christmas card from England, Santa from the USA, and secular celebrations started all over the world.

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Christmas
Christmas was invented to convert people by appropriating pagan’s original practices with Christmas.

-By Bharti Raizada

Bharti Raizada
Bharti Raizada

To my knowledge, no other festival is as universal and controversial as Christmas.

As per M-W dictionary, the definition of Christmas is as follows:

“A Christian feast on December 25 or among some eastern orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday.”

Christ- Mas: is the church service that celebrates the birth of Jesus.

X- Mas: X is the Greek letter Chi that is a short form of the word Christ. In Greek, Christ’s name is Xristos. Therefore, X- mas is the same as Christ-mas. For some, X removes the religious aspect of Christmas by replacing Christ with X and this celebration then becomes more secular to them. You can fill X with anything you like.

People observe or celebrate Christmas in many different ways: religiously, in a secular way, or as a holiday. Some people do not pay any attention and become part of the Christmas in a mixed way.

Christmas
Christmas is celebrated every year to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ

Those who do not celebrate are either indifferent or wage a war against it.

Pagans are unhappy for Christianization of Saturnalia. Christians are complaining about paganization or secularization of Christmas. Some Christians believe that it is not their festival at all.

Actually, if we dig deep into it, we come to know that Christ’s birthday and life have been surrounded with assumptions. There is controversy whether he was Jewish or Christian; and whether Jews or Romans crucified him.

Contrasts between Hinduism and Christmas

Now, before we go further into the roots of this topic, let us take a glance at Christmas from the Hindu point of view. Here is how I would summarize a few contrasting points.

  1. Trees are sacred to Hindus. We worship them and believe that Devi, Devtas, or Bhagwan (God) live in them. We do not believe in cutting trees at mass level and bring cut trees inside our home for decoration purposes. We do not believe in the sacrifice of living beings/trees.
  2. We have all four kinds of weather and many varieties of trees but the Christmas tree is typically not found in India.
  3. Chimney is not a common architectural entity in Indian households. Hindu children typically touch the feet of elders, in morning, and get gift of blessings every day. The focus of secular Christmas celebration is expectation of a gift by Santa. Materialism and expectation of gift is not a central part of any Hindu celebration. Hindus give gifts on many occasions but expecting a gift from someone is not a primary theme of any celebration.

    Christmas
    The tree has pagan origins but now it represents Christian beliefs.
  4. Hindus go by facts. Hindu scriptures have a birth date for Ram and Krishn. Christmas celebration is based on an assumption- the assumption that December 25 is the birthday of Jesus.
  5. In Hinduism, one is not a sinner by birth and therefore does not depend on Jesus to save him or her. We all are part of the supreme divinity.
  6. Jesus died in place of all other humans so that they can live, i.e., he rescued humanity. We believe inkarma and therefore do not need Jesus for salvation. Someone else cannot own our sins and give us Moksha. Moksha is attained individually.
  7. Vegetarianism is a common theme in Hinduism. Christmas feasts in church typically include meat and alcoholic beverages.
  8. Hindus have so many festivals. It is not an exaggeration to say that every day is an occasion or festival for Hindus. We do not need more from other religions.

Christmas was invented to convert people by appropriating pagan’s original practices with Christmas. We know, the birth of Christ is not that important to Christians as his Resurrection. Protestants/Puritans do not even consider Christmas as their festival. Initially, the agenda of this celebration was conversion by assimilation.

 When we adopt festivals and traditions, which are not our own, it dilutes our own traditions and festivals and slowly our celebrations are replaced and become obsolete. Additionally, it does not take long (takes only a few generations) to lose our own practices.

Why do some Hindus celebrate Christmas?

  1. While Hindus do not believe in Jesus and Christianity, they get attracted to the holiday by the decorated trees, lights, and Santa. They take pictures, share them on social media, and may inadvertently give the false impression that they believe in Jesus.
  2. Some celebrate it just to show that they are secular and tolerant of other religions.
  3. Some who live in Christian dominated societies celebrate it for the inadvertent fear of exclusion, or to become a part of the process.
  4. Some do not think about it much and take it in a neutral/secular/holiday way. They believe in going by the flow.

    Christmas
    Puritans worked hard to stop Christmas celebrations.

Questions/ Observations:

  1. In USA, the Church and State are separate. Still, Christmas trees shows up in all public places, schools, and government buildings. Is there any explanation for this? If almost all government offices celebrate Christmas, then how are the State and Church/religion separate?

How is it democratic and gives equal rights when non-Christian children also have to do Christmas activities in schools?

How can one avoid this festival in Christian dominated areas? There are decorations, trees, Santa everywhere, in public places, official buildings, schools, malls, zoos, movie theaters, hospitals, parks.

You can choose not to celebrate it in your own home but you cannot close your eyes when you go out.

  1. Christians do whatever the Bible says and the Bible does not give ‘instructions’ to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They have written commandments, everything else is against Christianity. Bible has no Christmas tree and no date for the birth of Jesus. So, is this celebration a violation of the Bible?
  2. Many people greet others using phrases like ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Season’s Greetings’, Merry Christmas, Jesus is the reason, Happy HOLYdays? Does Christmas become secular by saying Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings?
  3. Are people forgetting the Christ’ birth part or real reason for Christmas and is it all traveling, feasting, gift exchange or gift giving, tree, decorations, Santa etc.?
  4. How is it justified to cut trees for decoration?
  5. If (religious) minorities cannot mingle with the majority and celebrate their festivals, should majority stop celebrating their festivals?
  6. By teaching your children not to celebrate Christmas, are you inadvertently making them more intolerant towards other people’s beliefs? If your own religion has a solid foundation, why are you scared of learning or teaching other religions or beliefs? Are you scared that you will start facing questions, which you cannot answer?
  7. How does Santa get so much money to donate? What does he do to earn? How does he choose good or bad children? What are the criteria? Is he better than parents are, as he gives gifts? Is it okay to cheat children and give them false information that gifts are from Santa? For how long this lie is going to survive and what happens when they come to know the