Today,  the full-moon day in the month of Ashada, is celebrated as Guru  Purnima. On this day disciples come together to express their  gratitude to their beloved guru, venerated as the embodiment of sage  Veda Vyasa. We worship Vyasa as an apostle of truth and wisdom, for  having systematized the divine utterances in the form of the four  Vedas, the eighteen puranas and the Mahabharata. Guru Purnima is a  special occasion to commemorate Vyasa’s service to humanity, and to  resolve to follow the path of learning and knowledge.

Indian  tradition believes in the importance of establishing a strong  guru-shishya relationship; only then can the seeker attain truth and  divine wisdom. According to the Taittariya  Upanishad,  ‘guru’ is considered to be the first letter or the purvarupa of  the alphabet and the disciple, the last letter or the uttararupa.  Wisdom is their meeting point or vidyasandhi.  The teachings and discourses of the guru constitute the link. The  guru-shishya parampara goes beyond mere pedantic or doctrinal  learning. As the late Swami Kuvalayananda said. “Very often  philosophical gymnastics is mistaken for spiritual knowledge. It is  to be remembered, however that no intellectual conviction or  philosophical training will take an individual even a whit nearer the  Lord; practical experiences in the sublime regions of adhyatma alone  count.”

The  term guru should not be confused with acharya or upadhyaya. An acharya  is one who performs ritual ceremonies and an upadhyaya,  a formal teacher of worldly and practical arts. Acharayas and  upadhyayas can be as many as there are rituals to be performed and  arts to be learnt. They could be called shiksha gurus. The diksha  guru, however, imparts instructive knowledge and guides the disciple  to a deeper understanding of healthy living and shows him the path of  self realization. Osho, while explaining the role of a guru says,  “the role of a guru is to give you a glimpse of the real – not a  teaching but an awakening. The guru is not a teacher, the guru is an  awakener”.

The  etymological meaning of the term guru conveys the same idea. The  syllable ‘gu’ stands for darkness and ‘ru’ for light. The one  who takes us from darkness to light is said to be a guru. Disciples  live together at the ashram of a guru, where they learn the  importance of austerity and devotion by serving the guru. All great  master have had their gurus. Even Lord Krisha, who is regarded as  Jagadguru, sat at the feet of Guru Sandipani. The guru shares his  being with his students. He initiates the disciple into a path of  learning which suits the seeker’s temperament and capability. A  worthy shishya should therefore listen to and respect diverse points  of view, even while remaining loyal to his diksha guru.

The  absence of a guru, though, does not preclude learning and wisdom  Indian tradition regards whatever is visible in nature – the  diverse objects of the universe – as replicas of the supreme guru.  This is described beautifully in the dialogue between Yaduraja and  Avadhut, in the Shrimadbhagwatpurana,  wherein, 24 principal objects are considered to be the gurus from  whom Dattatrey could learn the lessons of Truth. The allegorical  lesson being that the guru, the embodiment of divine wisdom, is all  pervasive. We therefore need to conduct ourselves virtuously, learn  to appreciate the beauty of natural phenomenona and live simply  before we can expect to find a Satguru. A guru can only guide us  along the path of learning; the effort and the toil has to be the  disciple’s. In a way, you are your own guru. Only when you learn to  seek divinity within your self, live a disciplined life and follow  the advice of your guru, will you find the light within.

First  published on July 24, 2002 in The Times of India, Pune Edition.  Copyright lies with The Times of India.

Also  read
1. An Offering on Guru Purnima

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