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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
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  • 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

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  • 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 ‘ ?

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.