Saturday, June 23, 2012



Guru Poornima is the birthday of Krishna Dwaipaayana, popularly known as Veda Vyaasa. It falls on the full moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Aaashaadha. It is an auspicious day not only for Hindus but also for Buddhists and Jains. It is on this day Buddha gave his first sermon in Saranath in India after enlightenment. After the nirvana of Mahavir Vardhamana, Indrabhuta Gautama was born as first Ganaadhara on this day. In India this day heralds the eagerly awaited rainy season so important to the crops. The period of Chaaturmaasa (Four months) begins on this day. Sanyasins (recluses) in India stay at one place for four months for the next four months and study Brhama Sootra of Veda Vyaasa practicing meditation refraining from their routine of wandering as mendicants.
Veda Vyaasa hails from a family known for its famous Gurus. His great grand-father was Vasishtha. His grand-father was Sakti Rishi. His father was Paraasara who married Satyavati, a fisher woman to whom he was born. Veda Vyaasa was an avatar of Vishnu and a famous teacher who even taught Datttreya, Guru of all Gurus, another incarnation of Vishnu. He had also an illustrious son Sage Suka. Before going into further details let us consider the important role of a Guru to whom our scriptures pay lot of importance and deeper significance of the word Guru:
Our Saastras say:
Dhyaana moolam guror moortih | pooja moolam guror paadam ||
Mantra moolam guror Vaakyaa | Moksha moolam guror kripaa ||
The Guru's form should be meditated upon; the feet of the Guru should be worshiped; his words are to be treated as sacred Mantra; his grace ensures final liberation.
Taittareeya Upanishad says: "Respect your teacher as God" (Aachaarya Devo bhava)
You are all quite familiar with the most popular hymn glorifying Guru:
Gurur Brahmaa gurur Vishnu | gurur devoe Mahesvarah ||
Gurur Saakshaat Param Brahma | Tasmai sree Gurave namah||
Know the Guru to be verily Brahma himself; He is Vishnu; He is Siva; know him to be verily the Supreme Spirit (Brahman); and, offer thy adoration unto the Guru.
It is said by Manu that a person wins this world with his devotion to the mother; he wins heaven with his devotion to father (for he is the one who performs his last rites); and the Brahmaloka (salvation) with his devotion to Guru. Guru in Hindu tradition is looked upon as an embodiment of God himself like mother and father. It is through his grace one reaches the highest state of wisdom and bliss. In all these, Guru is the one who imparts Para-Vidya or temporal knowledge for spiritual evolution.
The general meaning of the word Guru is known to all as it is also found in English dictionary. The word Guru in Sanskrit consists of two syllables--"Gu" and "Ru". Gu stands for darkness (ignorance) and Ru stands for its remover. "Gukaaroe andhakaarasya rukaaroe-tan-niroedhakaha"— A Guru is so called because he removes the darkness (of ignorance).
Veda Vyaasa compiled and edited all the four Vedas and so he is respectfully called as Veda Vyaasa. The word Vyaasa means compiler. According to Vishnu Puraana, Vyaasa was helped bu four of his disciples in the compilation of the Vedas. Paila helped him to compile the Rigveda; Vaismpaayana, the Yajurveda; Jaimini, the Saamaveda; and Sumantu, the Atharva Veda. He is the author of eighteen Puraanas, the Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavta. But for him we would have had no clue as to the Sanatana Dharma, knowledge of Upanishads and Bhagavad-geeta. He is the author of Brahmasootra. Sometimes he is also called Baadaraayana.
Gurupoornima day is dedicated to the ancient sage Veda Vyaasa who is an avataara of Vishnu. He is the living Guru for all the times as he is considered to be immortal (Chiranjeevi) and presumed to be living in high ranges of Himalayan Mountains. Madhvacharya, the founder of Dvaita philosophy is said to have met him in Himalayas during his North Indian trip. His service to humanity is priceless. On this day it is fitting and proper to pay our respect and deep debt of gratitude to this ancient sage.
In honor of this divine sage all spiritual aspirants and devotees perform Vyaasa Pooja on this day. It is customary to honor saints, monks and gurus on this day with customary charity with deep gratitude and sincerity. All temples irrespective of their leanings celebrate his birthday. He is venerated by all the six religious groupings, Shanmatas established by Adi Sankara—Saiva, Vaishnava, Soorya, Sakta, Ganapatya and Kaumaara. It is but proper to dedicate this day of Guru Vyaasa to all teachers as Teacher's Day, especially those that impart temporal knowledge (paravidya). But India being a secular country celebrates Teacher's Day on the Birthday of the Philosopher–President Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan who was an eminent teacher and philosopher.
Vast majority of people in India have moved away from Paravidya and it is hard to find a Guru for imparting Paravidya. There are few institutions available in India in big cities and religious centers. There timings often clash with regular schooling (Apara Vidya) which is vital for all bread earners and to make a career in life. In migrant countries pains are taken to impart basics in Paravidya by special Sunday School Programs in Temples and religious and spiritual organizations. They have the problem to find knowledgeable teachers. For a long time learned parents undertook this responsibility to teach this to their children but this clan is fast vanishing.
It is also customary to direct the prayers on this day to Lord Dattatreya, who is Guru of all Gurus. He is also an avatar of Vishnu. He considered the Nature itself as his Guru. He took pride in saying that he learnt a number of lessons from twenty-four living creatures and hence he is said to have had twenty-four Gurus.
The four important Sootras from Brahmasootras are remembered and chanted on this day:
  1. Athaatoe Brahma-jigjnaasaNow therefore the enquiry of Brahman. [After an enquiry into Karma, on account of that reason only, one should make an enquiry into Brahman]
  2. Janmaadyasya YatahFrom which proceed the origin etc. [Brahman is that from which the origination and others of this world happen]
  3. Saastra-yonitvaat--Scriptures are the source of right knowledge. (See Geeta; "Tasmaat saastrm pramaanam te"—Saastras are your final authority). [The Statements of the Upanishads such as "whence the creatures are born" etc., has to be accepted as defining Brahman because the Saastra is the source of the knowledge of Brahman]
  4. Tat tu samanvayaatThat ONE (Brahman) is the Main support (of the Universe). [But that (the authoritativeness of Saastra regarding Brahman) happens because it is having connection or relationship (as the ultimate Purushaartha, goal with all scriptures).]
    {*The explanations within [ ] are according to Ramanuja, the great philosopher.}
One of the most important things repeatedly quoted in our Upanishads and religious scriptures is that no intellectual progress is ever possible in any field of life without the active help and guidance of a teacher, more so in the field of spiritual education. A thorough knowledge of the religious works, practical experience, a sinless life and a loving concern for the welfare of the disciple are the qualifications expected of a Guru. Humility, eagerness and earnestness to learn and devoted service to Guru are the desired qualities in a disciple. When then disciple advances to great heights in religious-spiritual life, the disciple is required pass on that knowledge to worthy disciples thus keeping alive a great tradition for the benefit of humankind. This has been the guiding principle by which our culture has been preserved and propagated over several thousand years. Vedavyaasa started this tradition. It will be fitting and proper to dedicate this day to Vedavyaasa and to our teachers who are striving hard to carry on his mission by tireless and selfless service for our intellectual and spiritual progress.
Om sahanaavavatu | saha nau bhunaktu | saha veeryam karavaavahai || tejasvi naavadheetamastu maa vidvishaavahai || Om saantih! Om santih! Om santih!
[Om! May he protect us both (teacher and the taught)! May He cause us to enjoy! May we strive together! May our study become brilliant! May we not become disputatious! Om Peace! Peace! Peace!]

Considerable assistance has been taken in preparing this discourse from the following literary sources which is gratefully acknowledged:
  1. Swami Sivananda, Hindu Festivals and Rituals, Sivananda Ashram, Hrishikesh, India.
  2. Swami Harshananda, Hindu Culture, Ramakrishna Math, Bengaluru, India.
  3. Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India.



    Dissatisfaction and the sense of incompleteness mark the life of everyone. Even the very accomplished people are not at peace with life, strictly speaking. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept the fact that humanity, by and large, is caught in some form of attachment or prejudice. Numerous dimensions of ‘egoism’ hijack us at different times. Spiritual awakening frees us from such a psychological bondage. The person who facilitates such a waking up in us is GURU. The Geeta (chapter 4, verse 34) advises us to reach men (or women) of wisdom, serve them, ask them our doubts. They will then surely open our eyes to the spiritual reality. That is enlightenment. If we are highly mature, ready to receive the highest knowledge, the journey to freedom takes no time. Otherwise we receive from the GURU such guidance that prepares us for the leap beyond the shell of ego.
    |उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनः तत्त्व-दर्शिनः |
     upadekshyanti te jnānam jnāninah tattva-darshinah |


    Bhagavad Gita is not a battle-field emergency production as many think it to be! It is a well thought out compilation of all Upanishads. Bhagawan in my opinion is none other than Vedavyasa himself whose name appears more often than not and seldom Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. Many of us even may not know he is an avatar of Vishnu though pushed to the back-ground. Probably Puranas did not want to embarrass him as he was very modest Guru who sought no fame or lime-light. Mahabharata contains a great Gospel of Life--The Bhagavad Gita, whose author is Vedavyasa that is another memorable episode in that vast drama, dramatically presented. William Von Humboldt regards it as “the most beautiful, perhaps the only fine philosophical song in any known tongue”. It is a gospel of life exhorting us to strive constantly for the control of the senses, sincere but unselfish performance of our duties, cultivation of equanimity of mind with the elimination of passions like lust, anger, greed, silent meditation, and finally surrender to Supreme will and grace leading to supreme peace. Vedavyas continue to teach us with these maxims even to-day. Puranas say he is Chiranjeevi whom Madhva met in the Himalayas and received further Gospel for Humanity whch he preached as Dwaita Philosophy.
    The choice to earmark a day to honor divine Guru among divines falls on Hayagrieva, Dattatreya, Subhramanya and Vedavyasa. No wonder Vedavyasa is considered the Guru of all times among these divines and today, July 18, 2016 is dedicated to him, and this Poornima is called Vyasa Poornima or more popularly Guru Poornima. It is unfortunate this day is not considered as Special religious Event Day by Hindu Temples in America though they rush to celebrate American Mother’s day, Father’ day and others but no Teacher's Day. It is also no surprise that Swami Chidananda has picked up a message from the wisdom thoughts of Gita itself to honor the great Guru who is an incarnation of Vishnu.

    Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprasnena sevayaa |
    Upekshyanti tay Jnaanam jnaaniastattvadarsinah

    This wisdom (Brahmajnyaanam) is to be acquired by reverentially approaching the teachers,questioning with humility the learned masters and by offering service to the sages. The wise men who see things as they really are will no doubt instruct and enlighten What better day is there to honor our teachers and dedicate a day to the Guru of all Gurus by way of temple worship.  Moreover he is an Avatar of Vishnu.


    It is the sacred time of the year in which we give thanks and offer our humble gratitude, love and devotion to our Gurus. What is a Guru? A Guru is one who removes our darkness. In Sanskrit, Gu means “darkness” and “ru” is that which removes,” so a Guru is one who removes the darkness in our lives, who shines the light of Truth on the illusions in which we live which cause our agony, our pain, and our grudges. The Guru brings the light of true understanding through which our egos, our insatiable desires, our fulfilling expectations and our illusions dissipate.
    Guru Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Ashadha and marks the beginning of the holy period of Chaturmas. After the long, hot, dry months of summer in which innumerable people, animals and crops have perished, the rains come coinciding typically with the time of Guru Purnima, quenching our thirst and bringing us life. And, in India, when the rains come it is not a mere drizzle which lasts for 10 minutes. Rather, the rains are downpours of heavenly nectar, completely saturating the land which has been parched for months.
    Similarly, on this day, as we find ourselves dying of thirst for knowledge, as we find our hearts and minds have become dry due to ignorance, anger and darkness, the Guru comes, pouring forth upon our lives the rain of wisdom, of love, of light and of life. Just as the flowers which have wilted and yellowed in the never-ending heat of summer, suddenly stand erect and succulent as soon as the rains come, so we, who have become ignorant and “dead” to the divinity within us are immediately born anew due to His grace in our lives.
    Yet, just as the soil must allow the rain to penetrate its depths in order to reap the benefits of this life-giving nectar, so we must become porous vessels into which the divine nectar of the Guru can flow.
    Guru Purnima is a day of renewing our faith, our shraddha, in He who bestows the light upon our lives. It is a day of re-opening our hearts, our souls and our lives to His divine presence and letting it penetrate and saturate every aspect of our being.
    There is a beautiful story told about a man who wanted to walk on water. He begged his guru to give him a secret mantra or a special boon so he could complete this remarkable feat. The man was extremely pious and devoted, and he had been in his guru’s service for many years. Therefore, the guru gave him a leaf, folded many times until it was very small. He told his disciple, “Within this leaf is a secret formula which will enable you to walk on water. However, you must not open it because the formula inside is a secret.”
    So the man agreed, and he takes the folded leaf carefully in his hands and begins his journey across the river. He is walking fine on the surface of the water, when suddenly he is overcome by curiosity. What could be this secret formula that has permitted him to accomplish this feat? Is there really a secret inside? Is it a powder or a stone or some holy mantra printed? Where did his guru get it? His doubts get the best of him and he begins slowly to open the leaf as he walks, careful lest any of the secret formula should spill out into the water. As soon as he unfolds the last piece to unveil the secret, he suddenly sinks into the water and drowns. Inside the leaf was written the simple word, “faith.”
    It was not the leaf, nor any secret powder or mantra that enabled the devotee to accomplish a miracle. It was the strength of his faith in his guru and in the “boon” his guru had given him. As soon as that faith wavered and doubt crept in, his life was lost. This is the power of faith.
    At this time of Guru Purnima, we must look at what really makes up the Guru-Disciple relationship – what makes it so special, so unique, so powerful and life-transforming? That answer is faith. Faith can work true miracles and without it, much of life is futile. The guru might be of infinite power, knowledge and compassion. Yet, without the faith of the disciple, the guru can do very little for him. There is a beautiful poem that says:
    As children bring their broken toys with tears for us to mend
    I brought my broken dreams to God, because He was my friend.
    But, instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone,
    I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.
    At last I snatched them back and cried, “How could you be so slow?”
    “My child,” He replied. “What could I do? You never did let go.”
    That “letting go” is the faith. If we can surrender to the guru with complete faith, the guru will transform our lives. However, if we “hang around” with doubt and suspicions, then we gain nothing. So at this sacred time let us renew our faith, let us replant the seeds of devotion in our hearts and allow them to grow into beautiful blossoming fragrant flowers of love and devotion.
    This year let us make our Guru Purnima a Green Guru Purnima. Just as the rain which falls brings greenery and life in the land, let our faith in our Guru bring greenery and life in our own hearts and lives. We are told in the Upanishads that the Divine pervades everything in the universe. So at this time in which we offer our love, our lives, our devotion to our divine gurus, let us remember that that same divine lives also in all of creation – all of the plants, the animals, the rivers, the mountains, the air and the earth. Therefore, let us tend and protect Mother Earth and Mother Nature with the same love and devotion that we prepare the flowers to offer our Guru on this day. The best gift we can give our Guru, the best way to show our devotion is to protect, preserve and serve the Guru’s reflection in all of creation.
    As our Guru has brought us life, let us plant trees in the name and love of our Guru which will bring life to others. As our Guru has quenched our thirst for knowledge, understanding and light, let us work to ensure that all of our brothers and sisters on earth have safe and sufficient water to drink to quench the thirst of their bodies. As our Guru has brought us a new, divine life, let us work to help all of our family on earth – of all colors, all countries, all cultures and all creeds – have a life that is free from hunger, thirst and oppression.
    Then, not only will we see the Light that our Guru shines on our lives but we will become reflectors of that light, bringing our Guru’s light, life, blessings and grace to so, so many on this earth.
    My love and blessings are always with you.

    In the service of God and humanity,
    Swami Chidanand Saraswati


    Many religions honor their founder or great teacher in various ways. Hindu dharma is perhaps unique in honoring the guru or spiritual master as a principle in itself beyond any particular personality, philosophy or revelation.
    The true guru is a position of spiritual guidance, the illuminating presence of a higher awareness. The guru is not limited to any physical person, however exalted he or she may be.
    The guru is an inner institution, an authority rooted in an experiential wisdom, not in any mere human convention. The guru works to awaken us to our own Divine potential beyond the limitations of time and space, fear or desire.
    Great souls who hold the position of the guru have a special honor and immense responsibility that can only be served in a selfless manner. The true guru is not conscious of being a guru to others, but of simply sharing the light of truth to dispel the darkness of ignorance.
    The guru is a powerful conduit to the universal flow of knowledge. As such, there is only one true guru in all gurus. The guru is the guiding intelligence of the universal and eternal dharma that assumes many names and forms.
    The importance of having a guru resides in being able to connect with the transcendent realm through a human representative. We should emphasize the guru’s teachings, rather focusing on outer appearances.
    It is the ability to surrender the human mind and its opinions that makes for a true guru. The true guru teaches a path of self-realization, giving us back our own true nature, not making us weak or dependent.
    Guru Purnima – The full moon of the universal guru
    Guru Purnima is the day of the Hindu lunar calendar established for honoring the guru in every form, all the teachers, educators and teachings that help us in life, through various rituals, mantras and meditation performed in their honor.
    Yet it is the spiritual master as the cosmic guru that is the main focus. On this day, one should dedicate oneself to following the guru’s instruction and putting it into practice. The guru principle is most active at this time, and we can more easily connect with notable gurus past or present.
    Guru Purnima marks the birthday of Veda Vyasa, who structured the four Vedas, composed the epic of the Mahabharata, and created the foundation for the many Puranas, the vast encyclopedias of Hindu sacred lore.
    As such, Veda Vyasa developed the foundation for Hindu dharma as it endures to the present day, with its main deity forms, philosophies and yogic paths. Yet Veda Vyasa stayed the background and never made himself into an object of worship.
    Veda Vyasa is said to have used Ganesha as his scribe. What this means is that his teachings were embedded in the cosmic mind, not simply composed at a human level. Ganesha rules over the organization of all higher knowledge.
    Guru Purnima represents the date on which Lord Shiva as the Adi Guru or original guru taught the seven rishis who were the seers of the Vedas. This reflects the fact that Shiva is Omkara and all the higher teachings arise out of Om as the Divine Word and cosmic sound vibration.
    In the Yoga Sutras, Ishvara as Pranava or Om is said to be the Adi Guru of Yoga. Lord Buddha was said to have delivered his first sermon on this day at Sarnath, reflecting the power of this sacred time.
    India’s most important gift to the world is its many great gurus. Since Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th century, a galaxy of monumental teachers has inspired humanity, and awakened India to its true role as the guru among nations.
    Today, a new generation of gurus is arising to continue the process of sharing the universal knowledge in this new era of global communication.
    While not all gurus are great, great gurus are always present, particularly in India, some prominent in public activities, others known only to a few.”


    Gururbrahmaa gurur vishnuh gururdevo mahesvarah |
    Gurureva param brahma tasmai sreegurave namah ||1 ||
    [Guru is Brahma, Vishnu and the great Easwara. Guru is the Omnipresent Brahman and so I pay my obeisance to the Guru]

    Ajnaana timiraandhasya jnaananjana-salaakayaa |
    Chakshur-unmeelitam yena tasmai sreegurave namah|| 2 ||
    [I pay my obeisance to the Guru who opens my eyes with his teachings, which are not able to differentiate between ignorance and knowledge, blinded by ignorance.]

    Akhanda-mandalaakaaram vyaaptam yena charaacharam |
    Tatpadam darsitam yena tasmai sreegurave namah || 3 ||
    [I pay mu y obeisance to the Guru who helps me in visualizing the feet of the Lord spread all over the world in all beings.

    Aneka-janma–sampraapta-karmabandha-vidaahine |
    Aaatmajnaana_pradaanena tasmai sreegurave namah || 4 ||
    [I pay my obeisance to the Guru who by enlightenment of self-knowledge relieves me from the bondages of Karma accumulated over several births.]

    Mannaathah sreejagannaatho madguruh sreejagadguruh |
    Mamaatmaa sarva-bhootaatmaa tasmai sreegurave namah || 5 ||
    My master is the Lord of the Universe: my teacher is the teacher of the Universe; my
    Self (aatman) is the same as in all beings; and so I pay my obeisance to that Guru.]

    Brahm-aanandam parama-sukhadam kevalm jnaana-moortim |
    Dvandvaateetam gagana-sadrisam tatvam-asyaadi-lakshyam || 6 ||
    Ekam nityam vimalam-achalam sarvadhee-sakshibhootam |
    Bhaavaateetam trigunarahitam sadgurum tam namaami || 7 ||
    [I pay my obeisance to my Guru, who is immersed in Divine Bliss; who is untainted wisdom; who is beyond all that is duplicated; who is comparable to the blue sky; whose description is 'I am That"; who is one; who is pure; who is immobile; who is witness for everything; who is beyond emotions and, who is beyond the three qualities of Satva (noble), Rajas (ego), and Tamas (ignorance).]

    Dhyaana moolam guror moorti | Poojaa moolam guror paadam |
    Mantra moolam guror vaakyam | Moksha moolam guror kripaa ||8 ||
    [The foundation of my meditation is the form of my Guru; the foundation of my worship are the foot-steps of my Guru; the foundation of my holy recital (chanting) are the words of my Guru; and, the foundation for my salvation is the blissful grace of my Guru!]