Thursday, July 14, 2011

Guru Purnima

"The best form of worship of the Guru is to follow his teachings, to shine as the very embodiment of his teachings, and to propagate his glory and message."~Swami Sivananda

This week contains 3 events which are somewhat related.  July 14th is the anniversary of the Maha Samadhi of Swami Sivananda, the full moon is the anniversary of the birth of Pattabhi Jois, and it is also Guru Purnima, the celebration of the teacher.

"Gu" means "darkness," and "Ru" means "One who removes."  A Guru is one who removes darkness; one who removes obstacles from your path.

Guru Purnima is also a celebration of the sage Vyasa, who re-organized the Vedas to make them easier for humanity to memorize, chanted the Mahabharata to Ganesha, and wrote a commentary of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras which serves as the basis for all commentaries on this work.

I personally cannot say that I have someone who I would consider my Guru, however, my whole study and practice of the science of Yoga keeps returning to 2 people, Swami Sivananda and Pattabhi Jois.  My first book on yoga was Yoga Mind & Spirit by the Sivananda Vedanta Center.  Most of my svadhyaya is based upon the works of Swami Sivananda, and the best part is that so much of his written work is still freely distributed here.

 My asana practice has been concentrated in the Ashtanga Vinyasa method as taught by Pattabhi Jois.  It took several years of dabbling in this method before I actually buckled down and committed to learning and practicing the Primary Series.  Several months of 6 day a week practice later, I was able to move beyond trying to understand the method let the practice be my teacher.  Once I did, I found the practice which was right for me.

On Guru Purnima, Swami Sivananda recommends:
  • Wake at Brahmamuhurta (4 am)
  • Meditate, do Japa, pray to the Guru
  • Bathe, worship Guru or picture with flowers, incense, and camphor
  • Fast, or take fruit and milk only
  • Make fresh resolves
  • In the afternoon, sit with other devotees and discuss the glories and teachings of Guru
  • Alternately, observe silence and study
  • At night assemble again, sing the Names of the Lord, and discuss the glories and teachings of the Guru
Whether you observe in this way or another, honor your teacher through your practice.  Make every practice session your Guru Purnima.


  1. I'm intrigued by the fact that the Swami Sivananda's recommendation on how to spend the Guru Purnima reminds me a lot of how orthodox Jews practice their religion in their everyday life - waking up early (before dawn?) to do their morning service of laying tefilin and telling prayers, and during the day study and discuss the scriptures with their fellow men at the yeshiva.

  2. They are very similar--Swami Sivananda's teachings, much like orthodox Judaism, are about being devoted to God at all times, and to make all actions an offering. It is a path of love and devotion.