Today is Guru Purnima. The full moon night of the month Ashaad when we honour the memory of the great sage Ved Vyasa who compiled the Vedas and our own gurus who guide us.
India has had a long tradition of revering and worshipping teachers. The guru or the teacher holds a place of paramount importance in our lives and our society. So important is the guru that he is considered to be a form of the Supreme Brahman, the Godhead of all knowledge.
In praise of the guru we chant:
गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुर्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः ।
गुरुरेव परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥१॥
Gurur-Brahmaa Gurur-Vissnnur-Gururdevo Maheshvarah |
Gurure[-I]va Param Brahma Tasmai Shrii-Gurave Namah ||1||
1.1: The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru Deva is Maheswara (Shiva),
1.2: The Guru is the Para-Brahman (Supreme Brahman); Salutations to that Guru.
Although the guru has become synonymous with spiritual teachers and leaders, a guru is anyone who instructs or guides us in any area of our lives.The word ‘guru’ is made up of two words, ‘gu’ meaning darkness and ‘ru’ meaning light. A guru is someone who leads us from darkness into light.
In the ancient gurukul system, children left their homes at the age of 6 or 7 and went to live with a guru in his forest academy till they reached adulthood. The guru became their guardian and teacher and was responsible for preparing the students not just in academics and other skills but also for life.
This tradition continues unbroken in some areas of learning even today. All the classical and performing arts are still passed down directly from guru to shishya in a personal and often life long association.
Our earliest teachers are our parents, or grandparents. Then our school teachers and teachers of the arts. When we get older we many seek a spiritual guru.
Today we honour all of them. School children will bring flowers for their teachers. Students of art and music will pay their respects to their teachers and seek their blessings by touching their feet. And spiritual aspirants will worship their gurus and intensify their sadhana. Aum.
For another more detailed write-up on Guru Purnima here is a link to the wonderful Speaking Tree.