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My reflections on Guru Purnima: Giving thanks to teachers

July 9th 2017 is a full moon day and more significantly marks the day of Guru Purnima. This may be a new concept to many, but has been celebrated over the ages in various spiritual schools of thought including Yogic and Buddhist traditions.

The festival is dedicated to gurus, both spiritual and academic on the full moon day in June-July, which marks the first peak of the lunar cycle after the peak of the solar cycle. The Sanskrit word Guru is combination of two words, gu and ru. 'Gu' means darkness or ignorance, and 'Ru' is the remover of darkness. A Guru is seen as one who 'sheds the light' or removes the ignorance. In most spiritual traditions, gurus are seen as essential, guiding us closer to understanding ourselves and our truths. 

The theories and stories behind this tradition are extensive, and offer hours of fascinating reading. Some things I have learned from these are that the day stems from paying respects to the memory of the great Sage Vyasa, who edited the four Vedas, wrote the 18 Puranas, Mahabharata, and the Srimad Bhagavatam. Some believe that this was the day Sage Vyasa was born and thus it is also referred to as Vyasa Purnima. The significance of the full moon is also interesting; the thinking here is that just as the moon shines by reflecting the light of the sun, students draw the light of knowledge from their guru and in turn, shine. 

In my own musings on the significance of the day, I believe that anyone can play the role of the student, and the of the teacher. Academia aside, as sentient beings we are constantly learning, adapting, and evolving through interacting with others, talking with them, observing them, relating, engaging and (in some cases) departing from them. To that end this is also a time for reflection and gratitude for people and circumstances that we have learned and grown from - good, bad, sour and sad. 

I encourage you to use the day to reflect upon your life's greatest teachers. Thank them for the knowledge and the wisdom you have gained. Meditate with your eyes closed, focusing on directing positive energy and goodwill their way. Wish them well. 

Directing positivity and good energy without expecting returns is a good way to practice karma yoga - selfless action. It is a chance to get out of our own heads, desires and goals in an increasingly selfish and capitalist world. Taking the time to pause and give thanks, spread positivity and goodwill for others may help to enhance an inner smile, inner peace and just plain old make the world a nicer place to live in! So this weekend, make a list of people or situations that taught you something, good or bad. And thank them for uncovering the darkness.

Hari Om.

guru purnima: giving thanks to teachers