What is Guru Purnima?
In western countries, we lovingly celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in appreciation of our parents. Similarly, for thousands of years in India, people have been celebrating Guru Purnima, or Master’s Day—a festival dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers to thank and honor them, especially those who’ve dedicated their lives to the spiritual evolution of the student.
The word guru is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Gu’ and ‘Ru’. Gu means darkness or ignorance, Ru denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, one who removes the darkness of our ignorance is a guru. A guru is someone who is filled with devotion or love for the Highest Cause—love and compassion for all living beings—and who has dedicated his or her life to helping everyone find the true purpose of life.
But Guru Purnima isn’t just about external teachers; it’s also about recognizing the guru within. “Guru is tatva (principle)—an element, a quality inside you. It is not limited to a body or a form. Establishing connection with this principle is the source of greatest strength,” says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, world-renowned spiritual and meditation master and founder of the Art of Living.
This day is celebrated on the first Purnima (full moon) of a particular month—Ashadh—as per the Indian national calendar. As per the western calendar, it generally falls during the month of July.
7 Ways Guru Purnima has Special Significance for the Spiritual Seeker
- The Guru tatva (principle) is a thousand times more active on the day of Guru Purnima than on any other day. This is traditionally considered a good day for seekers to begin or deepen their spiritual sadhana, or journey.
- The mind and body are deeply connected with the moon. Research shows that the behavior of animals is affected by the phase of the moon, and it is thought that this connection also extends to human beings as well. The full moon symbolizes completion or fullness, the pinnacle of energy. Guru Purnima is the day the student or the disciple wakes up in full gratitude with this experience of fullness.
- Guru Purnima is the day, more than any other, to feel grateful for the wisdom you have received from your master. It’s a time to review how much of your teacher’s wisdom you’ve incorporated into your life in the past year. It’s a day to be grateful for the way this knowledge has transformed your life. It’s a day to renew your determination and focus on your ultimate goal. Gratitude and humility together blossom into a genuine prayer inside of you to celebrate both wisdom and love. The more gratitude we feel, the more grace flows in our life. More grace means more happiness, and more opportunity to gain knowledge.
- Guru Purnima is a day to remember and honor all of our teachers and mentors, past and present, and their tireless guidance, compassion, and encouragement we have received.
- In the presence of your Satguru (spiritual master), knowledge flourishes, sorrow diminishes, joy wells up, feelings of lack diminish, abundance dawns, and all talents manifest.
- The unique union of the hearts between the Guru and student on this day manifests exquisite and unimaginable changes for the growth of the disciple.
- The subtle process of removing karmic blocks, fears, and doubts is deeper on this day. Being in the physical (or virtual) presence of the Guru holds deep and special value.
Why it is important to meditate and observe silence during Guru Purnima?
Guru Purnima is a time to celebrate the path, the power of practice, the presence of wisdom in our lives, and to discover a whole new dimension to life. The practice of silence—of consciously withdrawing our senses and attention from outer distractions—has been used in different traditions throughout time as a pathway to physical, mental, and spiritual renewal. Through special meditation techniques specifically designed to take us beyond our usually active minds, we experience an extraordinary sense of peace and renewed vitality. This can also help strengthen our commitment to the spiritual path and will bring extraordinary depth to our journey towards the Self, or the divine or universal consciousness.