This photo was taken by Avrom Robin at the pujas conducted for Guruji’s birthday in Kowshika, Karnataka, on Saturday, July 16th. The deity is Saradamba (Saraswati), the Goddess of learning, wisdom and knowledge, who was worshipped by Sri Adi Sankaracharaya, the family Guru of the Jois family. Sri Sankaracharya had installed the icon of Saradamba at Srngeri Mutt in Karnataka, which became one of the four seats of the Sankaracharya lineage in India. After Amma’s death, Guruji built a small Sankara temple in his ancestral village, Kowshika, and installed both Saradamba and a murti of Sankaracharya within it.
Guruji was born on the full moon day of the month of June – July, which is an auspicious day called Guru Purnima. The day celebrates the day when the Rishi Vyaas was born, and the entire guru-shishya (disciple) relationship is celebrated throughout India, and now throughout the world, on this day. It is a sacred day when the disciples are able to express their gratitude, devotion, and appreciation for the teachings that the Guru has given to them, and this expression of sattvic emotion reinvigorates our dedication to practice, the teachings, and the teacher.
The goal of spiritual practice is to awaken inner happiness, happiness that is not caused by the fleeting, changing objects of the world, but is the uncaused happiness of the Self. Purnima refers to the full moon, when the moon is complete and reflects the full light of the sun. In the Hindu tradition the moon is the mind, and the sun is the heart – so when our mind completely reflects the inner happiness of the heart, it is said to be full. The yoga master Krishan Verma spoke this past Friday on this idea, remarking that the Guru is said to be the one to awaken this fullness, hence the special name Guru Purnima – what is fullness, he asked? Happiness. Where does this happiness come from? Devotion to the Guru. The Guru can be a person, but in essence is a principle, called Guru Tattva. The principle of the Guru is the light of knowledge – a light like the sun – which is shining in the heart of each and everyone of us. We can access that principle, and have our own experience of it. But while it is true that the Guru is within us, the need for an outer guide should never be discounted, one who can point us in the right direction – and especially in the cases where this principle shines forth brilliantly, and the vessel has become the embodiment of the principle.
For an interesting piece on the inner meaning of Guru Purnima, and the complexities of the Guru-disciple relationship, please see this blog by my friend Sheetal Shah, the Senior Director of the Hindu American Foundation, on Ekalayva.