Guru Purnima is held on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Ashadh when devotees around the world celebrate their devotion for their spiritual master, and rejoice in their relationship with Knowledge. Our life begins with our mother; we come into the world through our mother. But our second birth is through the Guru (teacher), who gives us the Knowledge. In Indian culture, having a Guru was not just a matter of pride, but it was mandatory. Not having a master was looked down upon as being an orphan, being poor and a sign of misfortune. The word ‘anatha’ in Sanskrit means one without a master.

The guru principle pervades our life. Our mother is our first guru and then from science to spirituality, from birth to death, guru principle permeates our life. There is a guru for every discipline – a Dharma Guru (religious), a Kula Guru (family), a Raj Guru (guru for the kingdom), a Vidya Guru (guru for a particular discipline) and a Sadguru (spiritual guru).

A Guru does not simply fill you with knowledge, but he kindles the life force in you. In the presence of the Guru, you become more alive. The pinnacle of intellect is awakened intelligence. The Guru invokes not only intelligence but also the intellect in you. Knowledge may not invoke intelligence, but in a state of intelligence, knowledge is inherent.

An Acharya (teacher) gives knowledge, but a Guru gives a heightened sense of awareness that makes you alive. So on Guru Purnima you remember all Gurus of the past. It is the day when the devotee arises in full gratitude. They turn back and see how they changed and developed in the last one year. They assess what lessons they have learnt and how they are growing in knowledge. It is reviewing yourself in knowledge. Mind needs to be reminded again and again, so we review it.

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There are three types of people who come to the Guru – the student, the disciple and the devotee. A student goes to a teacher and learns something, gets some information and walks out of the school. The student is the one, who collects information, but the information is not knowledge, it is not wisdom. Then, there is the disciple; the disciple 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 attaining enlightenment. He is trying to bring a transformation in his life. And then there is a devotee. A devotee is not there even for wisdom. He is simply rejoicing in love. He has fallen in deep love with the Master, with Infinity, with God. Students are in abundance, disciples are a few, but the devotees are rare.

One of Buddha’s devotee named Sariputra achieved enlightenment. Soon thereafter, the Buddha told him, “Now you go ahead, go into the world and preach, teach, and do the same work I do. Carry on my work.” As instructed, Sariputra left Buddha, but he was crying. People asked him, “Why are you crying when you are enlightened?” He replied, “Who cares about this enlightenment? It could have waited. I would have waited. I didn’t even bother about it or ask for it because the joy of being at the feet of Buddha was so great. Being a devotee was so great. I cry now because I miss it. I would have preferred that to this enlightenment”.

A Guru is just like a window. Guru simply means one who brings more joy, more alertness, and more awareness into your life. A Guru is not one who holds any authority over you. He is not one who dictates terms to you. Rather, a Guru encourages you to be in touch with yourself. He reminds you to live in the present moment, and takes away the guilt, agitation, sorrow, and anguish. That in the true sense is the meaning of Guru.

In the Upanishads, five signs of sadguru are mentioned. In the presence of a sadguru knowledge flourishes (Gyana raksha), sorrow diminishes (dukha kshaya), joy wells up without any reason (sukha aavirbhava), abundance dawns (samriddhi) and all talent manifest (sarva samvardhan). Once you have found a sadguru, remember that he or she is always there with you, watching and giving you wisdom. Spiritual path is not a path of learning more; it is a path of unlearning. The true path is one that takes you home and kindles that deep love in you.

Love is not just an act. It is our very nature. It is what we are made up of. Love is something that even the Divine rejoices in. The infinity longs for you as much as you long for it. It is waiting to receive you. God is as anxious as you are to be near. So when a devotee flowers on this planet, God is very happy. On Guru Purnima give your guru the gift of your devotion. Understand that you are the number one devotee, and by realizing your true nature, you can and will transcend all boundaries and barriers and enter the realm of the true self.

There is an old proverb: don’t see the Guru as manush buddhi. This means, don’t see him as a personality. See beyond the personality. Respect and love everybody but stick to one path, one goal. Such unconditional love, coupled with unwavering determination, will help any sadhak discover his true self. And that is the best gift any devotee can give to his master.

The Guru principle is so vital in life. There is an element of the guru in every human being. That wisdom in each has to be invoked, awakened. When this element is awakened, misery in life disappears. It is the medicine for misery; the wealth of all knowledge. Gurave sarva lokanaam – the Divine Consciousness is the leading light of the whole world. Bishaje bhava roginaam – it is the medicine for the ills of society, of life, of misery. Nidhaya sarva vidyanaam Sri Dakshinamurthaye namaha – I take refuge in this consciousness which is in my heart!

In our consciousness, wisdom comes to life when the guru tattva comes to life. When we have no desires of our own, then the guru tattva dawns in our life. On this day, review how much knowledge you have instilled into your life during the past year. This may bring about a realization for scope of improvement, which in turn will bring humility in you. Notice a definite change inside you. If you cannot see any change, then you haven’t had a good look into yourself. Be grateful for the way this knowledge has transformed you.