Guru Purnima 2017: It’s Importance in Life
--R. K. Shridhar
In Indian tradition Guru holds the highest place in life and the society. He is the one who leads a pupil from darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom. Our ancient literature tells us emphatically that nothing worthwhile can be attained in the world by a person without the grace of Guru. ‘It is said if Guru and God are standing at the same spot and time, then Guru must be greeted first only because through him does one come to know God…or God tells us to hail Guru first.’
Guru Purnima, also known as Vyasa Purnima falls on 9th July, 2017 (Sunday) and this day is commemorated as birth anniversary of Veda Vyasa. Veda Vyasa was the author as well as a character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Fortunately, combination of a pious constellation Poorvashadha, a pious yoga Indra and Bav karan makes this day more important. It is more significant from Astrology point of view that Rishi Parashar narrated whole Astrology to Vedvyasa to pen it down.
According to Indian tradition of learning ,a total surrender to Guru is the only way by which a learner is capable of acquiring perfection in any discipline in life.Questioning Guru’s ability and style of teaching, is the greatest demerit in a seeker of knowledge .This concept does not seem to appeal to a large majority because now the very concept of teaching has changed vastly.The commercialization of education is the governing factor.There has been revolutionary changes in different fields of knowledge.The demands of the modern world cannot be overlooked.The ‘explosion of knowledge’ in the present-day world cannot be put aside by anyone.It is true that no single person can claim to possess the entire range of all disciplines.
There has been two different traditions in teaching in the world:the oriental and the occidental.The oriental tradition in the past, demanded a total faith in Guru.In contrast to this the occidental tradition emphasized upon the individuality in a way that even the teacher’s words and instructions could be subjected to doubts and analysis of the pupils.The very idea of questioning the finality of any statement from any one was the guiding principle.It did not mean any disrespect towards the teacher;it was meant to show that each brain had its own quality and the best learning was only possible in the atmosphere of absolute freedom.
There has been a tradition of guru-pupil in the west too .The importance of guru has been pointed out and his profound role in the life of a pupil has been acknowledged too.The Greek civilization is the oldest one in the western world .Socrates was born about 470 B.C in ancient Greece.He was not from a rich family and was not even very good-looking person either.He influenced the minds and attitude of the youths of the best families in his time.The Greek society in those days was divided into categories.Socrates was a fearless and great teacher. He adopted a unique method of teaching through question-answer pattern .In contrast with him his disciple,Plato,belonged to a very prominent,aristocratic family of the time.Plato has given a graphic portrayal of his noble Master in his books and the way his guru influenced and directed him in his life through mentoring and giving him an insight into life.Plato’s gratitude towards his own teacher amply proves that there has been a guru-pupil tradition all over the world throughout the history of mankind.
Plato’s own disciple, the great Aristotle, belonged to a noble family of the time.He came into the Academy of his master Plato only at the age of 17. He looked up to his teacher and, yet, he did not lose his own originality.When he started his own Lyceum,his teaching had a different approach towards life.Unlike Plato’s idealistic and philosophical interpretation,his was a pragmatic and scientific one.
We must not forget here that Aristotle’s own disciple was none other than great warrior and martial luminary; Alexander.Aristotle was Alexander’s mentor in his military expeditions according to some writers.The legend is that at one occasion, he even saved the life of Alexander from a vishkanya-the poison girl. In the similar manner once the great Chanakya had saved the life of Chandra Gupta from a poison girl.Both these examples prove that an enlightened guru is not just a mentor, he is also a protector too.A guru is a shield against all threats from outside.Through his infinite grace, a disciple can attain anything in life.
A true guru loves his disciple. Instead of acting like a vain and carping critic,he puts in his best efforts for bringing about a change in the character of the disciple and helps him find out his own forte.It is a global phenomenon in teaching. We must here recall the life of the great scientist, Albert Einstein when he was in school.Some of his teachers who could not foresee and appreciate his latent potentials, looked down upon him all the time and insulted him before his classmateswithout any consideration for his feelings .However,an imaginative teacher there advised him to go to another school and study under a teacher known to his mentor.Einstein acted on the advice and the rest of it is history.
The search for a true guru is a complex task.When a disciple happens on one,his very life changes.The best guru is the one who can fathom the true depth of his would-be learner.In the world of sport’s it is very clearly noticeable.You cannot have a Sachin Tendulkar without a Ramakant Achraker. Almost all achievers in the world of sports have had big mentors and gurus are my conviction.
In our Indian tradition,a guru may demand anything from his disciple.There have been instances when a guru acted immorally.The most celebrated example of it is the story of guru Dronanacharya and his disciple, the tribal Eklavvya. All things said and done, guru Dronacharya failed miserably as a teacher when he denied admission to Eklavvya into his Academy because of his caste and also when he asked him to give his right thumb as guru dakshina so Arjun could be the most accomplished toxophilite in the world.A thoughtful person cannot put aside all these issues for his convenience.Today there is a need for a global definition of the word guru.
Guru Purnima is the right occasion for giving an expansion to the term.There is a need for a synthesis between the oriental and the occidental interpretations of the word today. In fact, this term Guru Purnima suggests a metaphor of reverence in the sense that it is related to the idea of the importance of guru in the matter of learning. Purnima signifies radiance and guru suggests the means through which one can come by that in life. In truth, it seems to be a sort of a synallagmatic contract between guru and disciple. It means a learner should trust his teacher to the core and, in return, a teacher should not be wanting in giving out his best to the learner and simultaneously he should not try to discourage and smother a disciple’s individuality and originality.
Here we must recall the story of deva guru Brahashpati-Jupiter and Sukarcharya-Venus-the guru of demons.Both are equally competent and talented gurus: and, yet, the latter created negativities in his disciples only because of his personal enmity with Lord Vishnu. A guru’s intention matters a lot in guiding a disciple.Today there seems to be a real need for a global guru .Someone has rightly mentioned in this context: ‘The need of the hour is a universal Guru who would be Grand Master, both in Science and Spirituality. This Guru will realign Yin and Yang of ailing humanity. All religions have to seek a common platform and give space to science in their life to better their suffering lot…This Guru when accepted by one and all, will ultimately give individual space to everyone to practice spirituality. Once you are truly spiritual you cannot even hurt a fly.All the masters of the past never founded a religion, they only taught spirituality. Be it Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Buddha, Mahavir, Sankaracharya, Zoroaster, the followers subsequently founded the religion. All hatred, violence, assertiveness, aggression are the bi-products of religion, which the original masters never taught their disciples.’
This article has shown how the very concept of guru is a universal one.It should not just be limited to a single country. So Guru Purnima can be a global festival in every respect. Even if the modalities of celebrating the festival differ from one another in different regions of the world, the metaphor remains intact: A Metaphor of Reverence.