Guru Purnima - A Day to Thank Your Teachers

Today is Guru Purnima, one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar. Celebrated on the first full moon (Purnima) after the solstice, it is traditionally a time to pay respects to those who help to guide you on your path and to express your gratitude for how they have impacted your life.

For many of us, the word guru can often conjure up images of robe clad spiritual leaders of sometimes-questionable intentions but another way of looking at it is to understand that anyone that has taught or guided you can be seen as a guru.  These gurus can come in many forms. Professors, yoga instructors, mentors, mothers, fathers, friends and even those that we have a hard time with.

Some believe that in addition to teacher or master, the word guru refers to anyone or anything that brings you from darkness to light. This comes from the claim that the etymological roots 'gu' means darkness and 'ru' means light or dispeller of darkness. 

While this is a beautiful idea that I am not quite ready to give up just yet, it is also interesting to note that a more accurate understanding of Sanskrit reveals that guru actually is an adjective meaning heavy. The word comes from the Sanskrit root "gru" literally meaning heavy or weighty. In this case it is in the sense of “heavy with knowledge or spiritual wisdom”.   

In India, this day not only has great importance for academics and scholars who use it as an opportunity to thank their teachers, but it also has religious and spiritual significance as well.  Many Hindus celebrate the day in honor of the great sage Vyasa, who is believed to be born on this day. Buddhists celebrate it in honor of the lord Buddha who gave his first sermon on this day and in the yogic tradition, the day is recognized as the occasion when Shiva became the Adi Guru or first Guru, as he began the transmission of yoga.

No matter what your background or belief system is, this can be a day to honor the people who have helped you to open your mind and heart and to celebrate the potential that we all have to evolve beyond perceived limitations and find true happiness and deep peace in this life. 

One of the aspects I love most about Guru Purnima is that in addition to honoring your external teachers, it is also about recognizing and celebrating the guru within. 

It’s a powerful time to a time to re-kindle your personal practices and dive deeper into yoga and meditation. Turning inward in this way, will strengthen your capacity to listen to the magnificent wisdom that is already within you. 

When you stay connected with your inner teacher, you will open up the doorway to more clarity and direction in your life. You will have access to a deep strength, even in the midst of challenge and be led by an infinite source of light, even in times of darkness. 

I invite you to take the time today to reach out to some of the people who have touched your life and say thank you.  And don't forget about the wise teacher inside of you... she might be the one who needs to hear it the most!

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Kirsten Warner