Guru Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day of Ashadha (July-August), at the beginning of the four month period of Chaturmas (the holy time of year in which the monsoons come and the saints refrain from movement). It is the day in which we offer our thanks, love and devotion to the Guru. The Guru Gita says “The Guru is Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Verily, the Guru is the Supreme Brahman itself.” But what is a “guru” in practical terms? While in the West, the term has taken on myriad, frequently derogatory connotations, the true meaning is pure and simple. In Sanskrit, “gu” means darkness, and “ru” means one who removes. So, a “guru” is one who removes our darkness. It is one whose mere presence emanates so much light, so much love and so much divinity that every darkness within us is alchemically changed into light. There is no darkness too dark for a guru. Their light can shine through and transform even the darkest darkness. Even the darkness of midnight would last but a second if the sun decided to rise six hours early. Similarly, no darkness can last in the Divine presence of a true guru. Unlike a “preacher” or “rabbi,” a guru does not necessarily have to be a religious figure, nor does it have to be a person of a specific religion, gender, age or ethnicity. It is simply someone who holds the light for you if your path becomes shrouded in darkness.You are lighter, freer, and more filled with joy. It is someone in whose light you want to bask forever. In the West, guru is frequently defined as “teacher.” Yet, the crucial difference between a teacher and a guru is that while teachers can explain concepts and give you verbal information, they cannot actually take you to the realms of which they teach. An astronomy teacher can tell you about other planets, but cannot take you there. A geology teacher can explain the properties of diamonds to you, but he cannot fill your hands with the precious gems. In contrast, a guru not only teaches you about God, but rather, he takes you to God. He not only teaches you about peace, but he also gives you peace. In Sanskrit, the word “guru” means one who removes our darkness. Yet it is not merely the darkness of ignorance. It is not simply that we go to our guru with a question, ask him, receive an answer and our confusion clears. Rather, the mere presence of the guru in our life removes all darkness – all anger, all pain, all confusion. History of Guru Purnima Guru Purnima is the day on which we pay our reverence to the Guru. It is a day filled with devotion, love and piety. On this day, Indians across the world pay their deepest reverence to both their personal guru, as well as to Sri Maharishi Vyasji. Vyasji is heralded as the one who classified and arranged the four Vedas, and as the author of the eighteen Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita.The Guru Gita tells us: “Meditate with concentration upon the Guru’s form. Worship with devotion the Guru’s feet. Take the Guru’s teachings as sacred, perfect mantras and recite them diligently. Only through the Guru’s grace will you attain liberation.” The Qualities of a Disciple People sometimes make the mistake of putting all of the responsibility on the Guru. We expect that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we want – along with our own egos, greed and vices – and yet the Guru will come, wave a magic wand and grant us instant peace, prosperity and enlightenment. It is not like that. The disciple must be dedicated, committed, faithful and assiduous in his/her sadhana. A good disciple: 1. Always tells the truth to the Guru and never hides anything from the Guru. HOLY DAYS • 2. Practices the teachings of the Guru with faith, discipline and regularity. 3. Follows the instructions of the Guru without argument. Questions, of course, can and should be asked when there are doubts or confusion in the disciple’s mind, but prior to asking any question the disciple should first deeply introspect to see whether the question really warrants the time and attention of the Guru or whether the question is simply to satisfy the ego or desires of the disciple. 4. Continues to grow and develop each day, making a commitment each morning to be more pure, and more divine every day. 5. Vows to live as a beautiful example and representative of the Guru. Disciples are the reflection of the Guru. So, if we truly love, revere and adore our Gurus, we must pledge to live our lives as shining examples of their teachings and as pure reflections of their Divine lives. 6. Is humble in front of the Guru, accepting the Guru’s words (and sometimes reprimands) with surrender and humility. 7. Is ever ready to serve the Guru – any time of the day, any day of the week, any week of the year. Seva given by the Guru and performed for the guru is a rare and precious jewel on the road to God-realization.