Guru Purnima 2018: It is believed that a person is blind without a teacher to guide him. A mother is the first teacher of a child, but after that, the guru becomes his or her second mother. The shastras proclaim that a human being is born twice or dvija, first by the union of the father and mother, and second when he is accepted by a bonafide guru, whereby he acts as a father and delivers him with the help of mother Gayatri, which is a personification of Vedic knowledge.
It is the teacher who teaches us how to live this life and become a human being. There is nobody in this material world who can save us from the dangers of material miseries unless we have received proper guidance from our teachers, preceptors and well-wishers.
According to Kathopanishad (1.2.12), tad-vigyananartham sa gurum evabhigachchhet, samit-panih shrotriyam brahma-nishtham. This Vedic injunction means, “In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplined succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth. Thus, it has been enjoined herewith that in order to receive that transcendental knowledge, one must approach the guru.”
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The scriptures discuss the absolute necessity to accept a spiritual master and take guidance from them to know about the realities of this material world, transcend them and become eternally situated in happiness.
The Vedic system of education or the Gurukula had a provision of nitya acharya upasana — the daily routine of worshipping the guru — since he only used to be the parent of the child for the entire duration of his education and graduation. By worshipping him and offering him respects, the sincere disciple would progress in his active education.
Guru Purnima marks the appearance day of Srila Vyasadeva. It falls every year on the day of Ashadha Shukla Purnima. This year, Guru Purnima will be observed on July 27.
Guru Purnima: The appearance of Srila Vyasadev
Srila Vyasadeva was the son of Parashar Muni and Devi Satyavati. According to scriptures, Parashar Muni was once travelling across the lands of Bharatvarsha and happened to stay for a night on the banks of river Yamuna. He stayed at the house of fisherman chieftain Dusharaj and asked his daughter to ferry him across the river to his next destination.
The name of his daughter was Matsyagandha, or one who smells like fish. During their journey, Parashar was fascinated by her beauty. Using his mystic powers, he created an island in the midst of the river and asked her to land him there. But, she refused. So, he created an impenetrable mist in the river and then, blessed her with a son.
The boy with a blackish complexion (Krishna), was born on an island (Dwaipayana) and would divide the Vedic literature into four parts (Vyasa). Therefore, they named him Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa.
It is said in Srimad Bhagwatam (1.3.21), “Thereafter, in the seventeenth incarnation of Godhead, Sri Vyasadeva appeared in the womb of Satyavati through Parashara Muni, and he divided the one Veda into several branches and sub-branches, seeing that the people in general were less intelligent.”
Srila Vyasadeva: The original spiritual master
Srila Vyasadeva is considered to be the spiritual master of all the acharyas or teachers of Vedic wisdom since he made them available to the entire world.
Originally, the Veda is one. But Srila Vyasadeva divided the original Veda into four, namely Sama, Yajur, Rig, Atharva, and then again they were explained in different branches like the Puranas and the Mahabharata. Vedic language and the subject matter are very difficult for ordinary men to understand, therefore, Vyasadeva divided them and wrote appendices like Puranas and Upanishads to allow common men to understand them and follow them practically.
You will be surprised to know about his intellect of division.
Detailed them into four Vedas — Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva
Explained them further in 18 Puranas
Explained them further in 108 Upanishads
Summarised them into highly condensed Vedanta Sutra
Explained it thoroughly in Srimad Bhagwatam
For others, he went on to produce Mahabharata, which is also termed as the fifth Veda.
Guru Purnima: The day of Guru Puja
The festival of Guru Purnima is celebrated in countries like India, Nepal and other countries of Buddhist and Jain influence. On this day, people belonging to spiritual culture and tradition worship their spiritual preceptors or gurus and give them gifts. They visit their temples and offer them respect and seek their blessings.
Most people observe fast on this day to show their respect to their Guru and surrender to him. Fasting is a symbol of loving exchange and prayers for the long life of Guru in order to get his regular guidance.
Those who wish to serve the Lord out of love and affection, the lord being more eager, sends them to his real representative, the bonafide spiritual master.