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July 30, 2015

What is Guru Purnima (Poornima)?

NEW DELHI: Guru Purnima (Poornima) is an ancient Hindu religious festival devoted to paying respects to one's teachers (guru puja). The day is also observed by Jains and Buddhists. Guru Purnima (Poornima) is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu calendar month of Ashad (July-August). The word 'guru' is derived from 'gu' meaning darkness and 'ru' meaning remover of the darkness. Here it means one who removes ignorance.

The feet of the guru in symbolic form is worshipped on Guru Purnima (Poornima). It is called padapuja, worship of guru's sandals, considered the holiest of holy things. Many rituals and recitations of scriptures are held at temples and Brahmins' homes. Guru Gita is recited. One's parents too are worshipped on this occasion.

Vyasa puja is also conducted at many temples with rituals and offerings as it is also a day devoted to the memory of the ancient sage Veda Vyasa, the saint who edited and divided the Vedic scriptures into four Vedas based on the rituals for the convenience of teaching his disciples. It is said, because 'vyas' means divide he came to be known after Vyasa. The four Vedas are Rig Veda, Yatur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda.

Adi Guru Vyasa was born on this purnima (poornima) day and hence it has become a custom to recite the Brahma Sutras written by him on this particular purnima day as part of the festival since time immemorial. Because of this, the guru purnima (poornima) is at times also referred to as Vyasa purnima (poornima).

It is also believed by some that Adi Shankaracharya was a reincarnation of Vyasa.

Bhuddhists also honour the guru purnima (poornima) day as Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh on this day. The sermon he gave to his five monks that purnima (poornima) day was his first teaching. This sermon is called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta which contains the "Four Noble Truths," the core of Buddhism. The Buddhists also do not travel during the period of Chaturmas.

The period of Chaturmas (four months) begins on this day. The spiritual leaders do not undertake any travel during this period and they settle down at one place to study and give Vedantic discourses.

According to Swami Sivananda, the guru's role in the evolution of man's consciousness has a sacred significance.

The specific line of the mantra Hindus recite, reads: "Guru Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheswara, Guruha Sakshat Parabrahmah Tasmai Shree Guruveh Namaha." Guru is above all!

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