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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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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

Hinduism
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The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

Hinduism
Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

Hinduism
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Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

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The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)