Guru Purnima, also known as Vyas Purnima, is celebrated on Ashadh Sud Poonam, the day of the full moon in the month of Ashadh. On this day, Hindus remember Ved Vyas, the eternal Guru of Hindu Sanatan Dharma, for he classified the 4 Vedas, Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva, and wrote the Mahabharata and 18 Puranas. Guru, a Sanskrit word, comes from the root words ‘gu’ meaning darkness or ignorance and ‘ru’ meaning remover of that darkness. Hence, a Guru is one who removes our darkness in the form of ignorance, helps us overcome maya, and guides us on the path to realizing Bhagwan. On Guru Purnima, devotees sing praises of their Guru and perform Guru-puja. At BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs around the world, devotees lovingly celebrate Guru Purnima, while remembering their Guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Annually, this festival is celebrated in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Bochasan, where close to 65,000 people gather to perform their Guru’s puja.
Why do we need a Guru?
The Shrimad Bhagavata elaborates on a conversation Jadbharat had with King Rahugan in which Jadbharat explained the necessity of a Guru:
“Oh Rahugan! One cannot attain knowledge of atma and Paramatma by performing penance, sacrifices, renunciation, Vedic study, or worshipping deities of water, fire, or the sun. But when the dust from the feet of a Satpurush (a true God-realized Guru) sprinkles on our heads, then we can surely attain this knowledge.”
The only way to attain moksha is by whole-heartedly serving and obeying the commands of the Guru. The Guru reminds the aspirant of his or her ultimate goal and motivates the aspirant to progress on the spiritual path.
Glory of the Guru
Several Hindu scriptures explain the glory of the Guru:
Skand Purana – Guru Gita
“Gurubrahma Guruvishnu Gurudevo Maheshwaraha; Guruhu sakshaat Parambrahma tasmai Shrigurave namaha.”
“The guru is Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh (Shiva); worship the Guru for he is the manifest form of Parabrahma.”
“Guru Govind donu khade, kisko laagu paay, Balihari Gurudevaki jinhe Govind diyo bataay.”
“The Guru and Govind, Bhagwan, are both present before me. Whom should I bow down to first? I bow down to the Guru, because he brought me to Bhagwan.”
This Upanishad calls a Guru “Shrotriya,” one who knows the true meaning of the scriptures.
In his commentary on a mantra (12/13) from the Mundak Upanishad, Adi Shankaracharya explains, “Even if one possesses the knowledge of the scriptures, he should not attempt to delve into their meanings by himself. He should obtain the knowledge of Brahma through the Guru.”
In their treatises, other Acharyas, such as Ramanuj and Nimbark have considered the Guru mandatory in God-realization.
Vachanamrut Gadhada III-27:
"The scriptures advocate five attributes of nishkam, nirlobh, nirman, nisswad and nissneh for a sadhu. The sadhu in whom one observes such attributes has a constant rapport with God. Therefore one should have immutable faith in his words, and by his words should realize the knowledge of God."
Vachanamrut Gadhada III-26:
"The sadhu who lives in a way in which he subdues his indriyas and antahkaran, but is not subdued by them, who engages in God-related activities only, strictly observes the panch vartamans, believes himself as being Brahman, and worships Purushottam, can be known neither as a human being nor a deva, since neither man nor deva possess such attributes. Therefore such a sadhu, though a human being, deserves to be worshipped on par with God."
Hindus pray to their Guru for the strength to progress on the spiritual path and to gain prosperity in life.
Devotees perform a special Guru-puja to honor their Guru on this day.