Participants of the Gurupoornima Retreat 2015
Dear and blessed Brahmavidyā seekers and seekers of knowledge:
Every year, I have been speaking to you on the occasion of Gurupoorṇimā. This time Gurupoorṇimā falls very late in July, on the last day. Generally it arrives in the month of Āṣāḍha, a month noted for austerity. All people in our country are supposed to spend this month in special austerities.
Austerity – a means for achieving the higher
Austerities have a great place in human life. Right from birth, we are in search of external objects, in order to experience and enjoy them. Austerity marks a halt to this futile external pursuit. We withdraw from interactions, remain seated in a place, and employ the mind and intelligence, to imbue greater strength and qualities into them.
The power of austerity is ineffable, indescribable. Whenever I speak about austerity, I remember legendary Parvati, who performed protracted austerities called pañcāgni-madhya-tapas, with blazing fire on four sides and the hot sun above. By virtue of such tapas, she gained Lord Śiva as her consort. We have many other instances of austerity. Krishna himself speaks in Mahabharata that before begetting Pradyumna as his son, he and Rukmini went to Himalayas and both performed austerities for 12 long years. Pāṇini, the unparalleled grammarian, undertook severe austerity in the form of worship of Lord Śiva, before he commenced work on his famous Sanskrit-grammar. Lord Śiva seems to have appeared before him, played his ḍamaru (a kind of a small drum), and the rhythmic sound of the ḍamaru revealed to Pāṇini the Māheśvara Sūtras (the very famous grammar formulae)!
For us, austerity is a chosen means of achieving a higher pedestal we aspire to gain. Through austerity, mind becomes purer, intelligence becomes sharper, and heart becomes nobler. We become liberal, kind, and considerate.
There are different levels of austerity. At the sensory and oral level, they are physical and external. Then we have mental and intelligential austerities. Gurupoorṇimā is famous particularly for knowledge-austerities.
Knowledge - the greatest treasure
Gurupoorṇimā reminds us of India’s greatest, invaluable treasure. Generally by treasure, people mean material wealth – something like gold or other metal or mineral of the earth. But so far as we Indian thinkers are concerned, the treasure we look for is not any material wealth. To us, knowledge is the greatest treasure:
विद्याधनं सर्वधनात् प्रधानम् ।
Vidyādhanaṃ sarva-dhanāt pradhānam
The wealth of knowledge is the most important and valuable of all forms of wealth. Naturally, the austerity we value most, is the knowledge-austerity. What is knowledge-austerity? It is the pursuit of Truth disregarding all worldly gains or attainments.
Knowledge is divided into two categories. One is called aparā-vidyā, the inferior knowledge, and the other is called parā-vidyā, the supreme knowledge. Aparā-vidyā relates to things of the world – whatever we can see and interact with through our senses. All of them are perishable. By enjoying any object of the world, the senses only become weaker, get worn out and lose their efficiency, their brilliance – sarvendriyāṇāṃ jarayanti tejaḥ.
On the other hand, parā-vidyā, the superior knowledge, is about the experiencer, the Subject. It is the Presence within us that is responsible for all our experiences! All the rest of the world is outside, gross and perceptible to our senses. But the perceiver ‘inside’ can be traced, analyzed and researched by an individual only within himself. This Subject-knowledge is the parā-vidyā.
In connection with Gurupoorṇimā, the knowledge-austerity implies getting focused on parā-vidyā. It may include study, discussion, enquiry, contemplation or any other knowledge-oriented pursuit. The nature of austerity should be to reveal the presence, glory, splendour and magnitude of what is within you. Initially, it is identified as the mind. Then it becomes the intelligence. You also have the ego. But transcending all these is the presence – the immortal, unborn, undying Soul! That is what you refer to as ‘I’. That is what you are!
The Call of Bhagavadgeetā
Entire discussion of Prasthāna-trayam – the Upanishads, Brahmasūtras and Bhagavadgeetā – is about the glory and greatness of the Subject! Bhagavadgeetā tells you how to deal with your mind and make it noble, flexible, assimilative, and brilliant. It inspires you, making you invincible. There should be no life situation, where your mind feels defeated. Once you imbibe the message of this great Text, you will no longer say: “I cannot assimilate impacts of the world.”
The call of Bhagavadgeetā is clear: become a Sthita-prajña first and a Sthita-dhī next. These are the two models that Bhagavadgeetā upholds, and in clear terms it shows how to actualize these models in your life. The Upanishads too indicate the presence and glory of the Soul. And the Brahmasūtras are a logically connected aphoristic rendering of the Upanishadic truths and declarations lying scattered in various sections.
These three Texts together constitute the knowledge-treasure of India. And they have been available to us for thousands of years. The Upanishads are ageless. Both the Bhagavadgeetā (which is a part of Mahabharatam) and the Brahmasūtras were authored by Vyasa Deva. He wrote these at the end of Dvāpara Yuga, 5154 years ago.
Gurupoorṇimā – the most significant day in Indian calendar
Gurupoorṇimā is an opportunity for all seekers of knowledge to delve into this superior knowledge - Brahmavidyā. During the 4-month period following the Gurupoorṇimā, seekers of Brahmavidyā generally go to their Guru, and in Guru-sannidhi (in the presence of the Guru) Prasthāna-trayam is discussed. It is supposed to be an austere learning for 4 months. If one cannot spend all the 4 months, may be 4 weeks, and if not that, then at least one week of austere learning should be had.
On this occasion, I want to tell you that Gurupoorṇimā is the most significant holy day in Indian calendar! Whenever I speak about this, somehow our people do not seem to grasp the significance. The newspapers in particular, do not seem to accept that Gurupoorṇimā can be described as the holiest day. They are also not sure about the need for a Knower Guru in imbibing this knowledge of the Subject.
People should understand that knowledge alone makes man different from the rest of the denizens of earth. And how can knowledge be had? If you want to learn mathematics, you must have a mathematics-teacher. If you want to learn nuclear science, you must have a nuclear-scientist as a teacher before you. The same applies to different forms of art. A little boy can learn to talk and walk only from the parents as his teachers.
The role of a teacher for learning is unique and indispensable. It is all the more so in the case of knowledge about our own Self, the Subject, which is different from the knowledge of the objects. As actualization of this knowledge means a complete transformation of our personality, learning in close association with the Guru becomes essential. Recognizing the importance of this association, our Seers have earmarked a Teachers’ day in our calendar. That is the most sacred and sublime Gurupoorṇimā.
We have a great civilization. Ours was always a very contented, happy and highly refined society. We might have had many calamities and hazards of Nature; also many devastating invasions. We have learnt to live with them. With droughts on one side, we had floods on the other. A number of epidemics we used to have. In spite of all these, we were able to reconcile with whatever Nature brought or took away, from time to time. This meant a great deal of flexibility, insight, and inner resilience. By dint of our inner anchor, we were able to remain unshaken by whatever transpired in our country, including cruel and ravaging invasions.
Now, I would like to declare before you, before the entire world, that for Indian civilization, the Teacher, the Guru, is the most important institution. In fact, when we think of the Teacher on one hand and the religious God on the other, we always feel that the Guru is greater! How do we say so?
It is the Guru who tells us about God, and it is he who shows the way to realize God. God has no mouth to speak. He does not appear in front of us. We are born of humans. We are bred by humans. We have to be taught by humans. We have to be fulfilled by humans. Here comes the role of a Teacher; and the Teacher becomes the best, when he reveals to you your own inner identity – its greatness and splendour!
This revelation can be had only from a Knower-Teacher. So, we Indians do not need any other “Teachers’ day”. Our Teachers’ day is
Gurupoorṇimā, and that alone. On this day we express our gratitude to all our ancient Teachers. Our memory goes to the Supreme Lord Narayana, then Brahmā, Vasiṣṭha, Parāśara, Vyāsadeva, Śukadeva to Gauḍapāda, Govindapāda, Śaṅkarāchārya and his disciples, and finally our own nearest spiritual lineage. That is how our memory works on the wonderful Gurupoorṇimā!
Traditionally, our observances and festivals are timed according to the positions of celestial bodies in the sky. Gurupoorṇimā too is observed on the full-moon day of Āṣāḍha. Whatever we learn should shine like the full moon! While the sun gives heat and brilliance, which can be scorching, the rays of the moon are always cooling and soothing. We can have it as much as we want.
Understand therefore the significance of Gurupoorṇimā. Remember your Guru. If you don’t have one, try to seek one and establish your fondness and intimacy with him. If you have one, remember him, speak to him, write to him, make whatever offering you can as a mark of respect and gratitude, and declare to yourself: “My Guru is most important in my life.”
Other relations like father, mother, married partner, children, etc., are based on bodily relationships. In contrast, the Guru-śiṣya relationship is established on the basis of mind, heart and soul. This alone is going to enrich you, empower you, elevate you and enlighten you. This alone will fulfill you. Its importance should not be under-estimated.
As usual we are going to have the Gurupoorṇimā celebration today. I will remember all of you, particularly our Guru-śiṣya relationship. On this day, many devotees and disciples from far and near seek to stay in the Ashram. We try to accommodate the maximum, based on the facilities we have. Due to lack of space, we had to write to many asking them to visit the Ashram some other day later. I hope they have taken it heartily.
I greet all of you, embrace you mentally and also bless you. May the importance and sublimity of the day be sufficiently felt by you and let it transform and fulfil your life. Also make sure that the importance of the day is instilled in and bequeathed to your family members, thereby making your lineage strong, sublime, holy, spiritual and benevolent.
Hariḥ Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.