Celebrating Guru Purnima

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Happy Guru Purnima!

By Tasha Friedman

Nisargadatta Maharaj, the great 20th-century master of Advaita Vedanta, used to do a strange thing. He continued to honor his teacher in daily rituals, pujas with candles and incense and all the trappings of devotion, long after he stabilized in a non-dual perception of reality. He was often asked, “If you see everything as equally sacred, why do you keep on worshipping your teacher’s image?”

Nisargadatta would only reply, “It is a mystery.”

The most profound teaching is always pointing to the mystery.

In traditional Indian culture, as in many Asian cultures, teachers of all forms are held in great reverence, and spiritual teachers most of all. A “guru” is not just someone who purveys information but who dispels darkness and ignorance.

Hindus associate Guru Purnima with Shiva as the Adiyogi or Adiguru, the primordial teacher of yoga, as well as the birth of the sage Vyasa.

Buddhists celebrate Guru Purnima as the date when Buddha gave his first sermon.

The yogic tradition maintains that on this day, a certain alignment between the Moon and the planets creates an openness to a dimension from which spiritual teachings emanate. It is a receptivity not only to formal learning but to the teachings of life.

Receptivity, in general, is such an important quality for a student: being an empty cup, with humbleness and pure intention; a readiness to start fresh at any moment.

Every second has wisdom to offer. So how do you receive it?

By becoming quieter, more empty, softer around the edges. By simply listening, without trying to hear one thing or another. By forgetting what you think that you already know.

The spiritual path is ultimately a process of unlearning, a deconstruction, though paradoxically it involves constant learning and reshaping along the way. Spiritual seekers, as you may often observe in this world, love learning: courses, trainings, workshops, consultations, chart readings, ad infinitum. It’s all very good.

But finally, do you want to be a seeker or do you want to find what you’re looking for? This is the question posed by the presence of an authentic teacher, one who points beyond their own teachings.

Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of her posts here.

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