(Last Updated on : 15/07/2015)
is an Indian national festival dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers. This festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, to pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) in the month of Ashadh (June-July) of the Shaka Samvat, which is the Indian national calendar and the Hindu calendar.
Guru Purnima is marked by ritualistic respect to the guru, Guru Puja. The Guru Principle is said to be a thousand times more active on the day of Gurupurnima than on any other day. The word guru is derived from two words, "gu" and "ru".
The Sanskrit root "gu" means darkness or ignorance, and ru denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore a guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance. Gurus are believed by many to be the most necessary part of life. On this day, disciples offer puja (worship) or pay respect to their guru. In addition to having religious importance, this festival has great importance for Indian academics and scholars. Indian academics celebrate this day by thanking their teachers as well as remembering past teachers and scholars.
Traditionally the festival is celebrated by Buddhists in honour of the lord Buddha who gave His first sermon on this day at Sarnath
, Uttar Pradesh
. In the yogic tradition, the day is celebrated as the occasion when Shiva became the first guru, as he began the transmission of yoga to the Saptarishis.
Many Hindus celebrate the day in honour of the great sage Vyasa, who is seen as one of the greatest gurus in ancient Hindu traditions and a symbol of the Guru-shishya tradition. Vyasa was not only believed to have been born on this day, but also to have started writing the Brahma Sutras on ashadha sudha padyami
, which ends on this day. Their recitations are a dedication to him, and are organised on this day, which is also known as Vyasa Purnima.
Guru Prunima in Hindus
Guru Purnima is common to all spiritual traditions in Hinduism, where it is an expression of gratitude toward the teacher by his/her disciple. Hindu ascetics and wandering monks (sanyasis), observe this day by offering puja to their guru, during the Chaturmas, a four-month period during the rainy season, when they choose seclusion and stay at one chosen place; some also give discourses to the local public. The students of Indian classical music, which also follows the Guru shishya parampara, celebrate this holy festival around the world.
In yogic lore, it is said that Guru Purnima was the day that saw the birth of the Adi Guru, or the first Guru. The story goes that over 15,000 years ago, a yogi appeared in the upper regions of the Himalayas
. But his presence was extraordinary, and people gathered. However, he exhibited no signs of life, but for the occasional tears of ecstasy that rolled down his face. People began to drift away, but seven men stayed on. When he opened his eyes, they pleaded with him, wanting to experience whatever was happening to him. He dismissed them, but they persevered. Finally, he gave them a simple preparatory step and closed his eyes again. The seven men began to prepare. Days rolled into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, but the yogis attention did not fall upon them again.
After 84 years of sadhana, on the summer solstice that marks the advent of Dakshinayana, the earths southern run, the yogi looked at them again. They had become shining receptacles, wonderfully receptive. He could not ignore them anymore. On the very next full moon day, the yogi turned south and sat as a guru to these seven men. The Adiyogi (the first yogi) thus became the Adi Guru. Adiyogi expounded these mechanics of life for many years. The seven disciples became celebrated as the Saptarishis and took this knowledge across the world.
Guru Purnima in Yogic Tradition
Guru Purnima is held sacred in the yogic tradition because the Adiyogi opened up the possibility for a human being to evolve consciously. The seven different aspects of yoga that were put in these seven individuals became the foundation for the seven basic forms of yoga, something that has still endured.
Guru Purnima in Buddhism
Gautama Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath about 5 weeks after his enlightenment. Before Gautama (the Buddha-to-be) attained enlightenment, he gave up his austere penances and his friends, the Pancavaggiya monks, left him and went to Isipatana (Sarnath). After attaining Enlightenment, Buddha leaving Uruvela, travelled to the Isipatana to join and teach them. He went to them because, using his spiritual powers, he had seen that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly. While travelling to Sarnath, Gautama Buddha had to cross the Ganga River
When Gautama Buddha
found his five former companions, he taught them, they understood and as a result they also became enlightened. At that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones, was founded. The sermon Buddha gave to the five monks was his first sermon, called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It was given on the full-moon day of Asadha. Buddha subsequently also spent his first rainy season i.e. Varsha vassa at Sarnath at the Mulagandhakuti. The Sangha had grown to 60 in number (after Yasa and his friends had become monks), and Buddha sent them out in all directions to travel alone and teach the Dharma. All 60 monks were Arahants.
Buddhists observe on this day uposatha that is to observe eight precepts. Vipassana meditators practice meditation on this day under the guidance of their teachers. Rainy season i.e. varsha vassa also starts with this day. During this time Buddhist monks remain in a single place, generally in their temples. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation. During Vassa, many Buddhist lay people reinvigorate their spiritual training and adopt more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking. A sanyasi performing Vyasa puja traditionally held on Guru Purnima day, as a part of Chaturmas rituals.