Guru Purnima is a festival traditionally celebrated on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Asar (July/August). Also known as Vyas Purnima, the day is celebrated in remembrance and veneration to sage Ved Vyas. He is the Adi (original/first) Guru of the Hindu Dharma who edited the four Vedas, wrote the 18 Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavata. Vyas even taught Dattatreya, who is regarded as the Guru of Gurus. On this day, the Guru is offered Puja (worship) by the disciples.
The Need of a Guru
The Sanskrit root “Gu” means darkness or ignorance. “Ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes darkness of our ignorance is a Guru. Only he who removes our ultimate darkness, known as Maya, and who inspires and guides us on to the path of God-realization is the true Guru. Students also refer to their school teacher or college lecturer as guru. The connotation of the word guru in this case is one who imparts temporal knowledge (Apara Vidya) and is thus accordingly offered respect.
Significance of Guru Purnima
The essence of Guru purnima has equal significance in different religious cults such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
On this day, all Hindu spiritual aspirants and devotees worship Vyas in honor of his divine personage and all disciples perform a ‘puja’ of their respective spiritual preceptor or ‘Gurudevs’.
It is a good time to begin our spiritual lessons. Traditionally, spiritual seekers commence to intensify their spiritual ‘sadhana’ from this day.
The period ‘Chaturmas’ begins from this day. Chaturmas is a holy period of four months (July-October) beginning from Devashayani Ekadasi in Asar to Prabodhini Ekadasi in Kartik. The period corresponds with the rainy season. In the past, wandering spiritual masters and their disciples used to settle down at a place to study and discourse on the Brahma Sutras composed by Vyas, and engage themselves in Vedantic discussions. Sanyasis are supposed to halt during this period at one selected place (Rains Retreat), and give discourses to the public.