Have you seen the moon these last few days? More importantly, have you felt the moon these last few days?
For dharma practitioners, this particular full moon, in the month of Āṣāḍha, is known as Gurupūrṇimā. The moon tonight is the largest and brightest of the year, and we feel the presence of divine grace more intensely than ever.
On Gurupūrṇimā, we honor the guru. There is perhaps nothing in the tradition so mysterious, nor so widely misunderstood as the word “guru”.
Even though technically anyone who imparts any form of learning or wisdom can be called a guru, the most literal meaning of the word is that which brings light to the darkness. Rather than a specific person or a formal role, a more comprehensive description of the guru is that it is an infinite force field of grace. Grace is also hard to translate, but you can think of it as pure love – totally unconditional and always there for you, ready to serve and uplift for no reason other than that it can.
In this tradition, the real cause of suffering is ignorance – you don’t know who you are, what life is, and how the world works, and so you constantly get kicked around by inner and outer forces. Grace – which is pure love – wants you to be happy and whole. For that, you need real knowledge, deep understanding – and the guru is the love that loves you by sharing the wisdom you need to feel whole and happy and free.
This love takes many forms:
You might have had the experience of the guru as a universal power. For example, have you ever had the experience of being in a new or challenging situation, but somewhere along the way you realize that everything is alright, and that it’s all happening just so that you can learn something? You recognize the presence of grace, that it’s all been engineered just for you to be able to grow.
Or, perhaps you encountered the guru in human form. It might have been momentary – a friend or a stranger who shared wisdom with you that opened your eyes and your heart. Perhaps you’ve even had the blessing to meet a true guru, called a sadguru.
A sadguru is someone who is so totally surrendered to the power of grace that the only thing that flows through them is this grace. In their presence, and through their guidance, you can also experience the deep space of truth and love that they inhabit.
And of course, the guru is not only found outside. The scriptures say that the guru permanently abides within your own heart, in the form of your own inner love and wisdom. If you’re here with us on Living Sanskrit right now, there’s a 100% chance that you’ve heard that voice before in some form or another. There’s no other reason to be here. (Unless you just got lost on the internet, but go back a few paragraphs to where we talk about grace as a cosmic power and you’ll see that it might not be as accidental as you think)! :b
It’s the part of you that is always present and available to serve, and wants what is best for everyone. It has no judgments, no suffering, and no fear, because it experiences everything as its own sacred and beautiful self. When your mind is quiet enough to listen to the guru in your heart, your whole being fills up with its wisdom and compassion. When you act on your heart’s guidance, you find that whatever you do benefits and uplifts everyone.
The scriptures also say that the forms of the guru – whether they are cosmic or human or internal – are all manifestations of one supreme power, one great love. On this day, we honor this great power and deepen our longing and efforts to experience it fully.
Practice: Honor the Guru
On this holy night of Gurupūrṇimā, you may want to perform any of the following suggested practices:
1) Have darshan (a sacred and heartfelt viewing) of the full moon, and use this opportunity to express your gratitude for the grace in your life, renew your commitment to learning and awakening, and send love and blessings to all creation.
2) Sit for meditation, and connect with the space of the heart. Let the mind turn inwards and gently become quiet. Visualize or experience the presence of the guru within. It may or may not have a form. From the space of the heart, thank this presence for always compassionately guiding and watching over your life. Take some time to quietly rest in the guru’s love and presence.
3) Perform gurupāduka-pūjā. If you have pāduka – symbolic sandals that represent the flow of the guru’s power, you can perform a worship ceremony, making offerings of songs, flowers, flame, incense, money, and/or fruit. If you do not have these materials, you can perform mānasa-pūjā – visualize yourself performing this ceremony in your mind. The important thing is to have a strong experience of honoring the guru, whether it happens in real life or in your mind.