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What is Guru Purnima?

Guru Purnima is an occasion where the lineage of masters who are on the planet—masters who have been and the ones to come—are venerated with heartfelt gratitude for all the knowledge that has been passed down for thousands of years.

It is observed on the full moon day, Purnima, in the Hindu month of Ashadh, usually June or July (the dates change every year in the Gregorian calendar). This is when we honor and acknowledge the guru principle in our lives, which has guided and shaped the blossoming of our consciousness, potential, and talents in various areas of life and continues to show us the way on the path to meeting our goals. 

In many traditions, guru puja is performed, a sacred ceremony where the masters either in the body or in the presence are worshipped amid melodious chants and offerings of fruits, betel nuts, clothes, incense, and a lamp of light.

Importance of a Master

It is said that if you want to make steady progress in any field of knowledge, you need a mentor, master, or guru. But a Guru is much more than just a mentor, teacher, or a provider of information. The Guru is considered a principle, or tattva, much beyond a person or an individual.

Guru is the principle that is synonymous with wisdom and love that gets awakened once a person embarks on a spiritual journey. In a Guru, there is no gap or difference between wisdom and love. “Often one recognizes wisdom but sees a gap between wisdom and one’s own life. The purpose of becoming a disciple is to bridge that gap. Being with the guru means spontaneous integration of life and wisdom.”

Everyone Plays Guru to Someone

A Guru is not a far-fetched concept about someone sitting on a pedestal above everyone else. Everyone is endowed with the guru tattva. It only needs some nurturing. Today, as the world grapples with rising incidents of violence and aggression, and more people are looking for guidance to inner peace, Art of Living Founder and spiritual leader Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar makes a very special point—that of everyone being a Guru or guide to someone.

“Like fatherhood and motherhood, there is guru-hood. We all have to play Guru to at least somebody. We do play! Consciously or unconsciously you are all Guru to somebody. You keep giving advice and guiding people, giving them loving care! You all do this, but doing it 100%, without expecting anything in return: that is living the Guru principle.”

Who is a devotee?

Not everyone who comes to a master is a devotee. For example, in school students seek informational learning from their teachers and the job of the teachers is to give the information and explain the concepts. A student goes to school, learns and one day leaves the school. It is like going around a place with a tourist guide.

Then there is the disciple who follows the example of the master. But a disciple is with the master for the sake of learning wisdom, for the sake of improving his life, for the sake of attaining enlightenment. He has a purpose, a cause, so he is not just collecting information, but he goes a little deeper. He is trying to bring a transformation into his life. He wants to make sense of his life. That is a disciple.

And then there are devotees. A devotee is not there even for wisdom. He is simply rejoicing in divine love. “The devotee has fallen in deep love with the Infinity, with the God,” says Gurudev. “He doesn’t care as to whether he gets enlightened but that very moment, and every moment, he is immersed in divine love that is enough for him or her.”

“A student comes to a master, teacher, and Guru with tears in his eyes. There are so many problems, and when he leaves, he is carrying the same tears, but the quality of the tears is different, it is of gratitude. Still, tears flow, but those are of gratitude, of love; it is so beautiful to cry in love.”

Gurudev beautifully captures the essence of being a devotee, and Guru Purnima is more a day of such devotion than anything else.