Guru Purnima

Thank you to all my teachers

Image: David J. Bookbinder

Today marks the holy day dedicated to the Guru. The full moon of the Guru.  However, the Guru’s light is always full. The light of the Guru never dissipates or wanes. There is no such thing as the “half-moon” of the Guru or quarter-moon or sliver-of-a-moon of the Guru. The light and grace of the Guru is purna, always full, always constant.   That’s what the word “guru” means – the one who removes our darkness and brings light.      

The full moon of the Guru is a time dedicated to OUR understanding of the Guru , our awareness of the Guru.  The question, at this sacred time is, “How full are we, or how half or quarter are we in our ability to absorb and reflect the light of our Guru?”   The light of the full moon is the Guru, but the moon itself is actually us, the disciples.  The moon itself has no light. It is a lightless piece of rock; however, due to its unique position, it is able to reflect the light of the sun onto the Earth. The light of the sun never becomes full or half or quarter or non-existent. What happens during the month, when the moon is seen to wax and wane is that the alignment between the moon and the Sun and Earth shifts.  When the moon looks full, the alignment is perfect. When the moon looks “new,” or there is a “lightness” night, it is simply that the moon has traveled out of that perfect alignment and hence is not reflecting the sun’s light for us.    

The Guru is the Source of the light, and we as the disciples are the ones upon whom the light is shining and who must absorb and reflect that light for ourselves and for the entire world. It is we who become full or half or lightless.  

So on this day, we should ask ourselves, “Am I a FULL reflection of my Guru’s light?”  “How much am I in alignment with that divine light and divine grace of the Guru?” If you don’t have a guru, don’t worry. The Divine is the ultimate Guru and the Guru is the embodiment of the Divine.    

In our lives so frequently we think – Oh, I have done this. Or, Oh, I am smart, I am capable, I am great. Perhaps like the moon might think, “Oh I am full and bright. Look, people are singing my praises, writing me poems and songs and sonnets. I am the one who guides home those lost in the dark of night.”  The sun, of course, the true source of light, is great enough and humble enough not to put a sign on the moon that says, “Please note – the light is mine.”    

It is the same way in our lives: any greatness, any brilliance, any light we may be able to bring forth into the world, in any field, is due – not to us generating that light or brilliance – but simply to us being able to align ourselves in such a way that the Divine Light of the Guru shines through us.  As the moon is merely reflecting the light of the sun, similarly, whatever we may accomplish, achieve or become is merely a reflection of the light of the Divine. The question is not how to generate or create it or become it. But rather how to align ourselves in such a way that we can best reflect this light….  

If we, and our lives, don’t feel like we are full of light, then the question becomes, “How did I get out of alignment? If I am being showered with light and grace, where is it going?” For most of us, that light is getting dissipated and swallowed by the darkness of our own egos, by our own desires and expectations, by our own sense of how things should be. That’s what prevents us from living in the light.  

Gem sellers and collectors of precious stones know that one of the things that makes a gem more expensive is its clarity – the more cloudy spots, the less the gem can reflect light and hence the less perfect and less expensive it is. The truly precious, most expensive gems are the ones without cloudy spots, that are able to perfectly reflect and refract the sun’s rays.   Gems themselves don’t give light. But the precious ones, in their complete clarity, become glorious prisms filled with light, color and beauty.  In the same way, in order to be able to reflect that Divine Light into the world around us we have to become clear.    

There is a beautiful story of a man who had done a lot of scriptural study and a lot of spiritual practice. He decided he was now ready for enlightenment, so he went off in search of a Guru who could grant him enlightenment. Everyone directed him to this one divine Guru on a mountaintop cave. So the man walked for weeks, climbed the mountain and finally arrived in the cave. When he found the master sitting in the cave, he bowed at the master’s feet and explained to the master that he had come for enlightenment. He described to the master, in detail, all the study he had done, all the sadhana, all that he had learned and experienced and all of his particular challenges. “Now,” he said. “I have come to you for my enlightenment.”  The Guru listened carefully and replied, “Have a cup of tea.” Astonished, the man exclaimed. “I have not come for tea. I have come for enlightenment!” However, the Guru went to the back of the cave and returned shortly with a pot of tea. He put a cup in front of the man and began to pour from the pot.  Slowly the cup filled and finally the tea was pouring over the cup and running onto the floor. “Stop! Stop!” The man cried. “The cup is full. It cannot hold anymore tea.”  The Guru looked at him calmly and replied. “So are you. You are just like this tea cup. You are so full of what you think you know, what you think you’ve experienced, what you think you need, what you think your problems are, that there is no room for me to give you anything. First you must empty yourself of all that, and only then can I give you anything.”  

It is the same in our lives. We come, today, to temple with lists in our hands of what we want from God. We come to our Gurus set in our beliefs of what we need, what the Guru should be like, what he/she should give us, how he/she should flatter our ego.  Then we wonder why our lives feel lightness.   

We do not need to pray for the light or pray for the grace. The divine light and grace are there already. There is nothing but light and grace in the presence of the Guru. We are being showered with them. But if our cups are so full of our own egos, attachments, desires, fears, misconceptions, illusions and expectations, then of course we are not able to experience that grace, to literally “drink” of the grace, for our cup is already full.    

Therefore, on this sacred day, as we give thanks to our divine Gurus for bringing light to our lives, for bathing us in their divine light, let us pledge that we will dedicate ourselves to coming into alignment with the Guru’s light so that we may fully absorb and reflect it for the world, and also let us pledge that we will empty our cups of our egos, our grudges, our expectations and our attachments so that we may accept the Grace that the Guru is showering upon us.    

May you always be showered with the Divine Light of the Guru.    

My love and blessings are always with you and with all of your loved ones.  

In the service of God and humanity,    
Swami Chidanand Saraswati