None is as faithful as our Mother Earth. She brings the day, night, week, month and year so regularly without fail or delay. This fact alone keeps our life meaningful and effective.
Thus comes the month of Ashadha with its gifts of refreshing shower. New moons, especially the Ashadha amavasya, are marked for oblations to the departed souls. Poornimas, on the other hand, mark the austerities and ceremonies to be done for oneself and others that live. Ashadha poornima has remained the most sacred and auspicious, with an emphasis and memory making it distinct in every way.
Gurupoornima emphasizes spiritual learning, teaching and austerities. All these are strengthened by its memories. Guru represents a unique institution. The child born to parents and reared by them, must find his wholesome growth under a teacher. To impart wisdom is as important as to give birth and provide nourishment, or even more. Guru’s place is thus held supreme in every way.
Amarasakti was a king, who had three sons, none of whom could succeed in learning as was expected of princes. All the three proved to be idiotic. The King called an assembly of ministers and eminent men and presented the discomfiture before them. There came the suggestion: “Vishnu Sarma is one, who should be called immediately and apprised of the plight. He will be able to resolve the crisis.” Amarasakti sent for Vishnu Sarma. On being told of the problem, he confidently said, “Send your sons to me. In six months, if I am not able to present them back with an expert knowledge of princely arts and wisdom, my name will be changed.”
The princes went with the new Teacher, who first wrote the well-known Panchatantra for teaching them through absorbing tales. He presents in this book, in the form of stories, the various knowledge skills and expediencies to be applied in different contexts of life. Ever since, the book has stimulated numerous boys, girls and grown up individuals. Because of its uniqueness, it has been translated into several world languages.
The princes were brought back in due time as intelligent royal men.
How much devout can a Teacher be, and how such devoutness can transform an idiot into an expert, is evidenced in this story. Similarly, it has been only due to Teachers and their zeal that our society has remained strong with its heritage – mental, moral and intellectual.
Let us peep into Treta Yuga. Dasaratha, after performing Asvamedha and Puttrakameshti yagas, was blessed with four sons. The princes grew, learning the usual princely skills and wisdom. The king was happy, but the fatherly heart yearned for matching princesses to be married to the sons. Where would he get such a set, that would adorn the Raghu dynasty?
One day, while discussing the subject with the Acharyas and Ministers, there came suddenly the great Saint Visvamitra. The Sage wanted to take Rama for fighting Ravana’s men that disturbed his sacrifices, as his special vow for the occasion precluded the use of his own spiritual power against the assaulters. The King was taken aback; he resented, but before Viswamitra could return dishonoured by reputed Dasaratha, Vasishtadeva intervened and advised Dasaratha to send his son cheerfully with the Sage. “What else than the care and guidance of such an illustrious Sage could help the prince blossom forth with vigour, maturity and splendour,” asked Vasishtha. Dasaratha corrected himself, gained composure and sent Rama and Lakshmana with Viswamitra.
The princes thus spent a phase of life with the great Kshatriya Sage in forest under the austere routines, receiving a new spiritual grace, benediction and skill. In fact, it was the enrichment gained during this period that helped Rama and Lakshmana withstand and face gloriously the prolonged forest exile later. After winning the cause, Viswamitra took them to Janaka’s palace, which led to the marriage of all the four brothers with Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Srutakirti, the daughters of Rajarshi Janaka and his brother. How benedictory was then the visit of Viswamitra for Ayodhya palace when the King was just discussing the marriage of his sons? And, timely and wise was the interference of Vasishtha in correcting Dasaratha?
Even today, if we think of Rama and the rest, adore them, look to them for inspiration, guidance strength and even blessings, it is not because they were born in palace, but because they could take to a very austere, persecuting and sacrificing life, in which their hearts, minds reason and power climbed from peak to peak. The Sages Vasishtha and Viswamitra shine well behind this unusual greatness and glory.
Come down to Kali Yuga, as recent as 1200 years ago. A young Brahmin boy, living with his widowed mother as the only child, felt his pull to abandon home and trek to the distant Narmada bank in Madhya Pradesh in an unquenchable thirst for knowing Truth. Walking weeks and months, the tired lad reached the doors of Govindapada’s hermitage. The bearded hermit embraced the seeker forging a new parental and filial bond. Sankara sought, learned and gained the object of his life under Govindapada. The Sage father fondly lamented and hoped: “Look, alas, the Vedic knowledge is in distress. The great civilization has become corrupt. Who will restore, purify and sublimate it rendering the holy country strong and spiritually vibrant again? My heart is deeply wounded; who is there to heal?”
The new son was quick in responding. If the situation hurt the Sage’s heart, it melted the disciples mind. Soon the sishya left his beloved hermitage and father. Walking across the great country, as if in a ceaseless pilgrimage, the undaunted Sankara met scholars, teachers, exponents, reformers and preceptors, telling them of the true import of the Upanishads, bringing correction to the Vedic practices. Many were the challenges, risks and dangers to be faced by the ascetic youngster. Stunning heroism and self-abnegation had to be displayed in ample measures. With the blessings of the great Guru, with the spirit of wisdom and love for society, Sankara triumphed through all hazards, making India known ever since for its spiritual greatness and glory. The abuses were set right and a new spirit installed which even today shines and spreads its splendours.
Scholars and seekers there are, there will be. But those adorned with the spirit of fidelity and belonging to the Teacher regarding Him as supreme and undeniable, are rare indeed. To the indecisive and divergent life of one, devotion to the Guru brings clarity, definiteness and convergence.
When a real seeker becomes a SISHYA, there is nothing or no one for him greater than the Guru. Guru and God are alike. Before he meets the Guru, God was present everywhere, but without any form to be interacted with. On meeting the Guru, he feels there is some one visible, with whom he can speak, from whom he can hear, by whom he can be corrected, strengthened, inspired and led. The relationship is as much spiritual as bodily. The disciple’s ego vanishes, a new ego emerges; his life and dedication receive a new direction. The potential manifests and often spreads with unique grace and splendour.
It is the teacher who gives form, speech and effectiveness to the mute and invisible God. No wonder that our people commemorate the Ashada Poornima with great feelings and memories; they begin austerities and commence special spiritual assignments on this day. Vyasa Deva started writing Brahma Sutras and Sankara began commenting upon them on this day. The season becomes wet. The ascetics are tied to a place, reading prasthanatraya to refresh themselves and also to disseminate the wisdom.
Seekers go to the Teachers, make offerings, receive blessings and commence their yearly austere spell. The union or reunion takes their heart and mind to the Vedic age and still earlier. Like Ganges, spiritual felicity bathes them in its eternal flow. The Teachers also look to this day, as God in a temple does on the Pratishtha day, to meet and regenerate the sublime confluence.
The Day means a great deal to our country. People are yet to know what Guru Poornima means to their quest for fulfillment – be it material or spiritual. Let the Day bring splendid memories of Angiras-Saunaka, Yama-Nachiketas, Sandipani-Krishna, Krishna-Arjuna, Krishna-Uddhava, Govindapada-Sankara, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and a host of other GURU-SISHYA relationships, enriching the flow of this wonderful civilization towards Divinity.
* * *