By Nipun A Jacob
The rich pageantry of Guru Purnima, a day for honouring the spiritual preceptor, will unfold across the country this month as disciples pay homage to the most special relationship of their lives. Nipun Augustine Jacob reports on the activities of some of our leading ashrams
|Vianna Stibal (left) with Renu Aggarwal|
If there is one date that separates the seeker from his materialistic counterpart, it is Guru Purnima, held on the full moon day of the Hindu month of ‘Ashadh’. Before one enters this path, the day has no significance whatsoever. Indeed, it passes one by, just as other full-moon days do. But after one has been initiated into the path through a guru, the day scintillates with a lustre unrivalled by any other significant day, including one’s own or the birthdays of one’s spouse or kids. For the guru looms large in the life of the disciple. More than father and mother, it is the guru who unfolds the disciple’s purpose for living and his true nature. It is the guru who inspires and supports the disciple to discover the happiness embedded deep within him and which is his birthright. Our parents give us the great gift of life, but it is the guru who teaches us how to live it. All disciples know that no matter how much they may love and rever their guru, it is never enough in the light of the guru’s service to them as a direct emissary of God. No wonder then that Guru Purnima is celebrated by all spiritual and religious organisations with a rare depth and feeling. In this Guru Purnima special, we present the activities of most of India’s major organisations, presented in alphetical order, and speak to seekers on the significance of the guru-shisyha relationship,
Art of Living: Full-throated celebration
At the Art of Living Foundation headquartered in Bangalore and founded by the charismatic Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, devotees will perform Guru Puja and come together to sing, dance and meditate at satsangs across the cities and towns. Various service activities like blood donation camps, free medical check-ups, environment cleanliness drives, and distribution of food and clothes in the rural sections of society will be conducted.
Ami Patel, faculty at Art of Living, says about the guru-shishya relationship: “In Indian culture, having a guru was not just a matter of pride, it was mandatory. Not having a master was considered the equivalent of being an orphan. The word ‘anatha’ in Sanskrit means one without a master. The guru principle pervades our life. Our mother is our first guru. There is a guru for every discipline – a dharma guru (religious), a kula guru (family), a raj guru (guru for the kingdom), a vidya guru (guru for a particular discipline) and a sadguru (spiritual guru). On Guru Purnima, we express our gratitude to all the masters, past and present.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar adds, “Guru Purnima is the day when the devotee arises in full gratitude. It is the day to feel grateful for the great knowledge you have received from your master. It is time to review how much knowledge you have ingrained in your life and how you are growing in knowledge. This may bring about a realisation of how much more you need to improve, which, in turn, will bring humility in you.”
Disciple Sangeeta G Anand waxes eloquent. “My experience with the master is that Guruji is my mother and father all rolled into one. He protects, guides and takes me through life’s stressful situations by giving me amazing strength to face them. I don’t have to worry about things that come because I know he’s constantly with me. He has imparted ancient knowledge quietly and simply so that without being aware, I have imbibed inner calm and peace and tapped into the storehouse of happiness that lies within all of us. One rises above the mundane and sees life in its myriad dimensions.”
Chinmaya Mission: At the lotus feet
At all the 300 centres worldwide, Guru Purnima will be celebrated as the most auspicious and gratitude-filled day – where all the devotees will gather to chant and pray to the founder, Swami Chinmayananda. The morning will begin with a Paduka Puja, where devotees thank him for having blessed them with the wonderful opportunity to study and apply the ancient wisdom of the Vedas.
Isha Foundation: Honouring the Adi guru
Isha Foundation, based in Coimbatore, is founded by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. On Guru Purnima, visitors will be accorded the privilege of personally making an offering of ksheera (milk) or jala (water) to the Dhyanalinga, an energy center of tremendous proportions. Ksheera can be offered from 6.30 am to 12.30 pm and Jala from 12.30 pm to 8 pm. Just sitting silently in its sphere is enough to make even those unaware of meditation, experience deep states of meditativeness. In order to felicitate the Adi guru, an Isha Hata Yoga teacher training programe will also commence.
Dhyanalinga is an extraordinary meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular faith or belief system, nor does it require any ritual, prayer, or worship. All the aspects of life are enshrined in the form of seven chakras energised to the very peak and locked. In the metaphysical sense, Dhyanalinga is a guru, a doorway to enlightenment and liberation. Dhyanalinga offers a sadhaka the opportunity to perform sadhana in utmost intimacy with a guru, which is usually available only to a very few.
As Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says, “Anyone who comes into the sphere of the Dhyanalinga cannot escape sowing the spiritual seed of liberation.”
Mrityunjay, an Isha meditator from Bangalore, shares his experience on how he met his guru, “For a long time, I was experiencing disalignment. I often felt low for no reason at all. I constantly felt out of place. I was unable to make clear decisions with my life. I was looking for answers – in books, videos, spiritual websites – anywhere I could.
“In the midst of this inner turmoil, I had to travel on business. On the train I met an Isha meditator who was doing his Isha Yoga practices. Later on, we had a conversation. I was struck by his calmness. I thought to myself, “I want to have a little bit of that.” I had a box of sweets with me, and I offered a sweet to him. He took only a small piece, saying that he would have it after he finished his practices. Self-discipline, another desirable quality. He spoke about life at the Isha Yoga Centre where he had been living for the past year. I had been longing to visit an ashram, and as he spoke, I knew that this was the one I wanted to visit. He told me how Sadhguru – the Master in the ashram – plays volleyball with the residents and volunteers who stay! This was the selling point.
“I got off the train in Delhi and went home. Next morning, I walked out of the house and lying just in front of the doorstep was a poster of Sadhguru and the Isha Yoga Centre. That was it! I repacked everything, and headed for the Isha Yoga Centre. There was a satsang with Sadhguru the day I arrived, and it was incredible to experience a live master in a satsang.
“After the talk, I went to him and he looked at me and asked, “Who is this?” in a loving and gentle way. I grinned, a little shyly, and told him my name. A moment of silence followed and in my uncertainty, I asked him how he was. He grinned and turned away. I left the hall and headed back to my cottage at the ashram. And I just cried. Why? I felt that I had found something that was true. I had been longing for something true, and I had experienced fleeting moments of it but now, I felt that I had touched upon a possibility which would offer it permanently.
“I registered for an Isha Yoga programme a little later. Many wonderful things have resulted from my Inner Engineering programme – including relief from my spondylitis and chronic headaches. My clarity and capabilities have increased, making me more peaceful. My body and breathing are more restful and I am actually more grounded. But those are just side-benefits.
“The real thing is the Presence. It has been an experience beyond words to feel Sadhguru within me. In the last few months, I wake up in the morning and he is with me. I eat my meal, he is with me. I sit and meditate, he is with me. I close my eyes and sleep, he is with me. This kind of Presence is much more than I could have ever asked for, and this Presence is what I want to carry forward in my life. A new journey into the world of love and light has begun for me.”
Manasa Foundation: A day to meditate
|Guru Krishnananda: founder of Manasa Foundation|
This Bangalore-based spiritual organisation founded by Swami Krishnananda will celebrate with meditation at the Meditation Hall in Taponagara. Disciples will then take the guru’s blessings and reaffirm their commitment to their growth..
According to Guru Krishnananda, the entire month of Ashadha is rife with special and great energies coming directly from Parabrahma Loka to us, peaking on Guru Purnima day. He suggests that all aspirants meditate more and assimilate the Divine energies.
Seema from Manasa Foundation shares the impact the guru has had on her life: “My guru is a bridge between God and me. He has taught me invaluable life lessons such as learning to balance spiritual and material life, recognising that vairagya is detachment, not self-abnegation, and that sanyasa stands for the ideal of becoming perfect (nyasa means a circle) and not about renouncing material life. He has also taught us that Divine love is the most powerful energy, surrender to God means aligning our will with His, humility is the proof of spiritual growth, Brahmacharya is living in the awareness of God and is not about celibacy, and that sacrifice is higher than love.”
She adds, “My guru helps me to constantly grow in wisdom, patience, and inner peace so that I can be a better human being. He showers me with unconditional love and gives me infinite space to learn and grow; he imparts pure knowledge, rare Divine energies and teaches unique meditation techniques so that I can evolve into an efficient worker for the rishis.”
She concludes, “The guru-shishya relationship is the closest of relationships. A rishi told guruji that the relationship between a guru and a disciple is eternal and can never be broken, unless the disciple so wishes. The guru never gives up on any disciple and waits over lifetimes. I have experienced this firsthand. When I started attending his meditation classes I would have tears in my eyes every time I saw him; at the soul level I knew him as my eternal Holy Father and he knew me as his disciple.”
Manav Mandir Mission: Inner change
On Guru Purnima, Manav Mandir Mission, a Delhi-based Jain spiritual organisation which conducts many social projects, will organise community mantara paath followed by group meditation. Then in praise of their guru, Acharya Sri Roopchandra, desciples will sing hymns. The Acharya will then deliver a discourse on the importance of the guru. The programme will end with an aarti. Acharya Sri Roopchandra is against the practice of guru puja, which he believes has led to malpractices. The best homage, he opines, is for the disciple to live life according to the principles taught by the guru.
MCKS Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Trust: Invoking surrender
|Master Choa Kok Sui, founder of Pranic Healing|
MCKS Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Trust, founded by Master Choa Kok Sui, based in New Delhi will celebrate Guru Purnima at Sri Sathya Sai International Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. The programme will include sharanagati – surrendering to the highest power, followed by a lecture on the significance of Guru Purnima, and meditation on twin hearts. This meditation is practised worldwide as a global healing technique. It is also a form of world service because it helps heal and harmonise the earth by blessing it with loving kindness, peace, joy and good will.
One World Academy: Honouring the inner guru
|Krishna and Preetha, founders of One World Academy|
This Chennai-based spiritual organisation, founded by Preetha and Krishna, celebrates Guru Purnima in a simple yet enlightening way. The organisation stands firm, aiming at inner freedom and liberation of the soul, rather than deifying an external source. Prahasitha, faculty in the organisation, says, “We do not have a ritual where a particular person is worshipped. The only ritual practised is the one of rendering gratitude and love for people who have come into our lives. On this day, we meditate and move to the place of gratitude and love for our inner self and express gratitude to the Source for enabling us to live in complete awareness, without fear and conflict.” On the concept of the guru, she says, “Anyone who can help you move towards growth is your guru. The guru must connect you to awareness and push you to that inner self where you realise your true being. A guru helps you move away from conflicts and towards joy, peace, harmony through loving and living a compassionate life for others and for self.”
On Guru Purnima, disciples offer flowers at the feet of the three gurus at Osho Dhara – Maa Osho Priya, Osho Shailendra, and Osho Siddhartha – and receive their blessings. There will be a day-long meditation session followed by dinner prasad. Several programmes of song and dance will centre around the festival.
Prasanna Trust: Homage to the lineage
At this Bangalore-based ashram founded by Swami Sukhabodhananda, satsang and bhajans will be organised to facilitate the lineage of the guru parampara on this day. It signifies the importance and teachings of the guru who is the single-most important factor in eliminating the darkness of ignorance.
Parmarth Niketan: the gift of sacrifice
A special sacred guru pooja and hawan will be performed for the gurus in the Parmarth lineage that goes for several days. People come from all over the country to offer Guru Chidanand Saraswati their gratitude and love. On this day people across India and the world volunteer food for the poor and needy in his name.
Sadhvi Bhagwati at Parmarth Niketan says, “Nothing material can be served as the offering. Our guruji teaches people not to bring anything, even a garland or bouquet of flowers. He says if you really want to pay respect towards me then you can certainly offer me a flower of devotion, honesty, purity, submission to the highest entity, love and compassion, nothing is more expensive than this. Try to re-align yourself to my mission that I am carrying forward of saving Ganga. Stand along with me for the protection of environment, and cleanliness of our sacred heritage, by eliminating the pollution.”
Pyramid Spiritual Societies Movement (PSSM)
In this Bangalore-based organisation founded by Shri Brahmarishi Patri, Guru Purnima will be celebrated by organising mass meditation and sharing of meditational experiences by members. Felicitations to departed spiritual gurus like Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Guru Nanak will then take place before members pledge to follow their paths with unflinching devotion.
Lalitha Subramanyam from PSSM says, “Our guru is a man of scholarly spiritual wisdom, an individual who means good for all those around him and with a vision intended to benefit the whole of humanity. His tireless work in the last 30 years in remote villages and towns in the country have demonstrated that nothing is of greater priority to him than following the selfless path that Gautama the Buddha had set out for himself. The first meeting with my guru ended my search for a spiritual leader. Every step since then has emphasised that I create my own reality and that the law of karma operates at every moment of our lives. There has been a broadening of my outlook towards the whole world and a sense of soul satisfaction.”
Temple of Inner Wisdom
On Guru Purnima, followers at Temple of Inner Wisdom, a spiritual organisation based in Kerala founded by Master Minood, will honour their guru by holding an Akhand Dhyan of 12 hours across the globe in all centers. Master Minood says, “We wish to rejoice on each Guru Purnima that we were chosen to be in the company of an enlightened soul.”
|Master Minood: Going beyond duality|
Samita Munja, a member of the Temple of Inner Wisdom says that her guru is not just the personality in the physical body. “Our guru is the truth, the light that illuminates our life and fills it with grace, dispelling the darkness of ignorance.” She adds, “Master Minood moves in surrender and as we watch him operate in this world, he exemplifies what he teaches us – the path of surrender to the Universe and to listen to the intuition. He has demystified spirituality for us. He has made us go beyond the drama of life by shining light on our divinity, of who we really are. Through his wisdom we have learnt that a spiritual life is the embodiment of peace, equanimity, love, witness and balance of feminine and masculine energies.”
She concludes: “Our guru makes us our own master. He makes us aware of our own Godhood, our intrinsic divine nature. He frees us from our self-imposed constraints and limiting beliefs. and shows us the way to a life filled with awareness and joy, as powerful and purposeful spiritual beings in the physical plane.”
Shri Nimishananda Ashram: Homage to the guru
|Shri Shri Nimishananda: a day of homage|
Disciples from Shri Shri Nimishananda’s parampara, Bangalore, joyfully welcome their sadguru on Guru Purnima by strewing petals and playing musical instruments like conch, dholak and tala. A garland is reverently offered to him. His Holiness graces the guru peetha and the guru-paduka stotras are chanted as the pada puja begins. Disciples offer Navadhanya – nine varieties of cereals to him. They believe that this rejuvenates the body by eliminating the nine toxins. A series of homas are conducted for the guru’s longevity. Bhajans are also recited and His Holiness addresses the gathering with his aashirvachan in the morning and evening. Sumptuous satvic lunch and dinner prasad is served to everyone. Between satsangs, disciples share experiences and a lively, spiritual quiz is organised. Shri Shri Nimishananda says, “When the wick of your own soul is lit, it lights the lamps in all hearts with love. Each one of you is destined to become a Sun to light the world.”
Sadhu Vaswani Mission
On Guru Purnima, devotees assemble early morning at the sacred Samadhi of Sadhu Vaswani to offer their felicitations by reciting Sri Jap Sahib. The devotees clean the Samadhi with uncooked milk and water. In the afternoon, satsang takes place where Dada Vaswani, the present head of the mission, gives the discourse, followed by langar prasad –a fellowship meal where poor and rich sit together and eat. Distribution of rations to the poor and needy also takes place.
Vedanta Academy, Pune: Wisdom of the guru
The Malavli-based Vedanta Academy will organise a lecture by their founder, Swami Parthasarathy, at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Mumbai, on the topic: Vedanta- A Manual for Living. Swamiji runs the Vedanta Academy which conducts a three-year residential course on Vedanta for students from around the world. The Academy is at Malavli, near Pune. The Guru Purnima ceremony begins with bhajans, followed by an hour-long discourse by Swamiji.
Mahesh, a disciple of Swami Parthasarathy, says, “I was introduced to Swamiji’s teachings when I enrolled as an MA student in philosophy at the University of Mumbai. What attracted me most to his teachings was that he insisted that we accept what he said only if it met the strictest test of logic and reason. Critical as I was, his arguments always found victory. And then I came to understand and accept that, ultimately, one had to drop this hold on reason, in order to take a leap to a transcendental realm, a realm beyond thoughts and words. This extraordinary leap, a leap to infinite freedom, was possible only by the grace of the guru, for whom the only fitting epithet could be God.”
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