Guru Poornima – Celebrating the Guru

The Purnima (Full Moon) day in the month of Ashadha (July-August) is known as Guru Purnima (July 19th 2016). This is a very sacred day on which special worship is performed to the acharyas (Gurus), who have removed the veil of (spiritual) darkness from the eyes of their disciples. The ideal Guru is a facilitator and encourages the disciple to go and seek beyond that which is taught by the Guru. How does one find a Guru? Why celebrate Guru Purnima?

What is the significance of Guru Purnima?

Guru Purnima is the ideal occasion to seek out a Guru, and ask for their acceptance to be a pupil or student. The acceptance by the Guru is in the form of deeksha or some time of initiation (sometimes done by a specific mantra given to the disciple by the Guru). At the time of deeksha (initiation), the Guru absorbs the past sins and karmas of his disciple and reveals true spiritual knowledge. Bhagavad Gita shows that when Arjuna was confused about his duties, he put his faith in Lord Krishna, and accepted him as his Guru – then Krishna showed him the right path.

The festival or occasion of Guru Purnima celebrates the unique relationship between the shishya (disciple) and the Guru.
Guru is one who illumines the path to divinity. Purnima stands for the cool full moon light. Full moon stands for a mind with total illumination. It is spotless and blemishes. Even if there is a trace of blemish in the mind, it will lead to darkness. It cannot give you total bliss. – Sathya Sai Baba

The day is also observed as Veda Vyasa Purnima because Veda Vyasa is considered to be the Adi (first) Guru who composed most of the significant texts which form the foundation of Hinduism.

How does find an ideal Guru?

Some definitions of a Guru are –

any venerable or respectable person (father , mother , or any relative older than one’s self)

a spiritual parent or preceptor, from whom a youth receives the initiatory mantra or prayer , who instructs him in the shastras and conducts the necessary ceremonies up to that of investiture which is performed by the acharya

In a previous article, we had discussed the suggestions of the Bhagavad Gita regarding the role of a Guru and the qualities of an ideal Guru. The Gita alerts us…

We should not accept or take on face value what is said in the sastras or taught by the Guru. Religion must stand the test of reason. We must combine devotion to the teacher with the spirit of free examination and inquiry. Blind faith and adherence to authority is not the path to self-realization.

The Guru Mantras

On Guru Purnima day, we pray –

Guru Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devoh Maheswaraha
Guru Saakshaat Para Brahma, Tasmai Shree Guruve Namaha

गुरूर ब्रह्मा गुरूर विष्णु, गुरूर देवो महेश्र्वरा ।
गुरूर साक्शात परब्रह्मा, तस्मयी श्री गुरूवे नम: ।।

Let us approach Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara as the guru. These three symbolize the three qualities (gunas) – Brahma is activity (rajas), Vishnu is serenity (sattva) and Siva is inertia (tamas). The whole cosmos is constituted by these three qualities. The trinity are present in the form of the three qualities in every human heart.

A related mantra, known as the beej (seed) mantra in honor of the Guru is the simple –

AUM gum guru bhyo namah

ॐ गुम गुरू भ्यो नम: ।

Oh Guru, please remove all the obstacles in our spiritual path with your grace.

The Guru Mantras – Audio Extracts (mp3 version)


Do you have a Guru yet? Or are you following your spiritual path by tapping into your inner Guru? Please share with us in the comments below.

Originally published July 4th 2009. Revised with additions July 16th 2016.