अस्मदाचार्यपर्यन्तं वन्दे गुरु परंपरां॥
sadāśivasamārambhāṁ śaṁkarācāryamadhyamāṁ |
asmadācāryaparyantaṁ vande guru paraṁparāṁ ||
(Beginning from Lord Sadāśhiva, through Śaṁkarācārya and up to my Guru, I pay my obeisance to all the Gurus)
Guru Pūrṇimā this year (2018) falls on July 27. Lunar eclipse also falls on this days. This is a day when we have to pay our respects to our Gurus and spiritual teachers. This is celebrated on the birth day of Veda Vyasa. On this day, thousands of years ago, Sage Vyasa was born to sage Parāśara and Satyavati, (Satyavati was born in a fisherman’s family). As Veda Vyasa wrote all the epics and Vedas, his birth day is celebrated not only to pay our respects to him, but also to pay respects to our Gurus. It is also said that Ādiguru (Shiva) appeared on this day and created the universe.
Ritualistically, one’s Guru and his lineage are invoked in a maṇḍala and worshiped. If guru is alive, then we have to seek his blessings. In Śrī Vidyā, one’s Svaguru, Paramaguru and Parameṣṭhi Gurus are worshiped. Some also worship Saptaṛṣi-s (seven great sages) on this day. Saptaṛṣi bhojana is also organised. Food is served in seven plantain leaves and after completing the servings, door of the room is closed for some time after invoking Saptaṛṣi-s and inviting them for the feast. During this time, it is believed that Saptaṛṣi-s descend and relish the food served and bless the participants. Afterwards, Saptaṛṣi ucchiṣṭa (ucchiṣṭa means remnants of food) is consumed by those who participate in the worship and also given to others.
Here are some of the glimpses from Guru Gīta, in the form of yet another conversation between Shiva and Pārvatī.
1. Guru is Conscious Self.
2. Gu represents māyā, and ru refers to the supreme knowledge that destroys the illusion of maya. (Therefore, Guru is the one, who leads a person from the deceptive world to the world of reality; he is the one who transforms a spiritual seeker from rituals to meditation.)
3. He acts as a bridge between Shiva and the worshipper. (He gradually teaches Brahma Vidyā to his disciple and ensures that he realizes Shiva Consciousness).
4. There is no need for practicing prāṇāyāma, and instead, worship Guru and seek his grace.
5. One should purify one’s mind by following the path shown by the Guru.
6. One should never speak egotistically and should never tell a lie before the Guru.
7. Guru protects one from various curses.
8. One should not talk ill of his Guru.
Apart from what is mentioned in Guru Gīta, following should be borne in mind.
1. Guru should not be addressed by name or colloquial addressing such as hi or hye.
2. Guru should never be criticised. A realized Guru will be deceptive in appearance. For example, Ramana Maharishi.
3. One should follow meticulously the teachings of Guru.
4. One should not have multiple Gurus.
5. If one is not able to find a right Guru, he can have Shiva as his Guru.
But we have to remember that many of those who call themselves as gurus are not real Gurus. A true Guru cannot be induced with money. He will not demand money to initiate mantras nor take money to teach the path of spirituality. He will not hold spiritual retreats. He will not have people around him, as his teachings are always one to one basis.
In Śrī Vidyā, role of a Guru is extremely important. Pursuing Śrī Vidyā in its proper perspective leads to liberation step by step. Śrī Vidyā literally means exalted science. But, there are various paddhati-s (पद्धति) (paddhati means path or divisions) which discuss about various aspects of worshipping Lalitāmbikā. In Śrī Vidyā cult, one’s Guru is called Śrī Guru and prefix Śrī not only delineates the auspiciousness of the Guru, but also used as honorific prefix. Guru-śiṣya relationship is not only extremely important in Śrī Vidyā, but also sacred and auspicious. The inherent factor in this relationship is mutual trust. At the time of choosing the Guru one should make proper enquiries about the prospective Guru and once Guru-śiṣya relationship is established, the disciple should not move away from the Guru without any valid reasons. Similarly, a true Guru from Śrī Vidyā lineage will also evaluate a person before accepting him or her as a disciple. But how many Guru-s in Śrī Vidyā really know the subject and how many of them are capable of taking the disciple to pursue spiritual path for attaining Her Grace and final liberation, is a big question. Though many of them are thorough with practices, they are not aware as to how to lead his or disciple towards liberation. Without the goal of realization, mere ritualistic practices are of no use. In a spiritual journey one begins with dvaita (dualism) philosophy, moves to Advaita and finally realizes Brahman. In Śrī Vidyā also this is the fundamental intent. Śrī Vidyā is in no way a substitute to Advaita Philosophy and on the contrary it explicitly advocates non-dualism in stages. The culmination of Śrī Vidyā is at the Bindu in Śri Chakra, where Śiva and Śakti unite. Understanding the union of Śiva and Śakti is of great importance in Śrī Vidyā. Their union is known as kāmakalā and only from kāmakalā “mahā parāprāsāda mantra” originates (mahā parāprāsāda mantra is hsauṁ shauṁ; from this originates “haṁsa” mantra). This is based on the revelation made in Saundaryalaharī (verse 1), “Śivaḥ śaktyā yukto yadi bhavati śaktaḥ prabhavituṁ” which means that Śiva becomes inert if He is not united with Śakti. The greatest advantage of Śrī Vidyā is that a practitioner is made to realize Lalitāmbikā first, who personally takes the aspirant to Śiva for liberation. It is important to understand that only Śiva is capable of granting liberation and Śakti evaluates a person for liberation. Hence She is adored as Śiva-jñāna-pradāyinī (Lalitā Sahasranāma 727). Thus, for the purpose of liberation, one has to realize Śakti first. Śrī Vidyā strongly paves the way to realize Her through mantras and yantras and hence attains great importance. Śrī Vidyā is a quicker way to realize Her due to the intensity of upāsana. Upāsana consists of four aspects one leading to the other and they are upādāna or preparation of offering, ijyā or oblation, svādhyāya or recitation, and yoga or devotion. This means that there are four stages in upāsana and these can be briefly explained like this. The first stage is preparatory stage, where a mantra is initiated to a disciple. The disciple, apart from reciting that initiated mantra, begins to understand the mantra and with the help of the mantra, begins to worship the concerned deity. His worship then evolves into offering oblations to the concerned deity. After having satisfied himself with all the procedural aspects of worship, he moves to mantra recitation. This stage is the most crucial aspect of any upāsana, where inexplicable connection is established between him and the concerned deity, which blossoms into devotion for that deity. With more intensified pursuit, his devotion transforms into love and he becomes one with the deity, the logical conclusion of any upāsana. Transition from one level to next higher level is aided by one’s Guru. Transition happens both in the physical plane as well as in the mental plane. Physical transition leads to perfection in ritualistic procedures and transition in mental plane leads to realization of the Self through Her. An aspirant under normal circumstances may not be able to realize mental transformation and only Guru can guide him in this aspect. An aspirant will have several confusions when hypervelocity mental transformation happens. All these doubts can be clarified only by a Guru. When hypervelocity mental transformation begins to unfold, one is bound to move away from the first two aspects of upāsana, upādāna and ijyā, which will stop automatically. When one enters into trance, even the mantra stops on its own, as in samādhi everything is stilled including the mantra. During this stage, one naturally gets a doubt whether it is right to stop this mantra like this. A Guru will surely advise his disciple, that this is the perfect stage in his spiritual path. This stage alone leads to perfection in yoga (yoga means union, union of individual consciousness and Supreme Consciousness).
There are many Scriptures that describe about Guru-s. Kāmakalāvilāsa (verse 39) says that both Śiva-Śakti are in the form of Gurumaṇḍala-s. It describes them as Gurumaṇḍala-svarūpa. Though they are apparently different from Gurumaṇḍala-s, yet is not so. This is explained by using the phrase aviśeṣa-bheda bhinna (अविशेष-भेद भिन्न). Similarly, Kulārṇava Tantra speaks about Gurus extensively. Two chapters have been exclusively devoted to Guru-disciple relationship. It speaks about two types of initiations, one is external initiation (bāhya dīkṣā) and another is internal initiation (vedha dīkṣā). Bāhya dīkṣā is also known as kriyā dīkṣā, when a mantra is imparted to a disciple after performing specific rituals. But, in vedha-dīkṣā, Guru transfers his energy to the disciple, which will have almost have instantaneous impact on the disciple. Śiva tells His Consort in Kulārṇava Tantra (14.66), “O! My beloved! Difficult to get is such a Guru who can initiate thus through subtle impact of vedha (not to be confused with Veda; vedha contextually can be explained as penetration, piercing, breaking through, breach); difficult also is the disciple fit for it.” This means that this type of initiation is possible only by Self-realized Guru-s and a disciple will attain such a Guru only, if he or she has Her Grace. She manifests in the form of such a Guru and liberates a well-deserved disciple. When one is fortunate to get initiation from such a Guru, Śiva says, (Kulārṇava Tantra. IV.95), “For the one who is initiated thus, there is nothing to be achieved by tapas (meditating for a longer duration), regulations (scriptural dictums), observances (fasting, etc.), pilgrimages (visit to holy places) and regulative controls of the body (religious symbols like wearing of sacred ashes, celibacy, restrictions on food, bodily comforts, etc.).”
Another important aspect of a realized Guru is that he will stick on with one mantra and will prepare his disciple with that mantra alone to attain liberation. Initiating too many mantras will severely hamper spiritual progression and such a disciple will not be able to proceed to the final aspect of upāsana, transforming into a yogi. If there are too many mantras, it is difficult or rather impossible to establish a connection between individual consciousness and Supreme Consciousness. There should be one Guru, one mantra and one Devata for upāsana, which alone is known as sādhana. Sādhana is not possible with multiple mantras and multiple forms of devata-s. A true Guru will impart the knowledge of Brahman to his disciple who has attained perfection in sādhana. At this point of time, Guru will say to his disciple “Tat tvaṁ asi” (you are That) and the disciple will explore this ultimate teaching and after satisfying himself will affirm to his Guru “ahaṁ Brahmāsmi” (I am Brahman or I am That). Guru will know whether such an affirmation comes from the disciple after realization or it is simply a verbal statement or deceptive realization. Ultimately, Brahman is devoid of any forms and all forms lead only to the formless Brahman. Though Śrī Vidyā is about Saguṇa Brahman (Brahman with attributes), ultimately while performing pūjā at the Bindu, Saguṇa Brahman is dissolved and Nirguṇa Brahman is revealed. Without understanding this concept, any number of japa-s and pūjā-s will not yield the desired result.
A true Guru will not give importance to his attire. He will be one amongst us. He will be averse to crowd. He will select his disciples and teach them the ultimate knowledge or Brahmavidyā (Śrī Vidyā is also known as Brahmavidyā). Brahmavidyā should be taught on one to one basis, as all the disciples will not attain the same level. It is not a classroom teaching. It is always one to one teaching. Such a Guru will not make his disciple to pay him for initiation. Spirituality should never be traded like a commodity. Spiritual knowledge is to be sown as a seed within the disciple by his Guru and he will be taught how to germinate the seed and grow it into a huge tree. Once the tree is fully grown, that disciple is made to become a Guru. This is how a Guru maṇḍala grows.
Lunar eclipse falls only on full moon day and this time, both lunar eclipse and Guru Pūrṇimā falls on the same day. When mantra japa is done during eclipse, the effect of the mantra increases multi fold. Hence, it is better to do mantra japa (always there should be one mantra, one Deity and one Guru) during the entire eclipse period. But, this time, eclipse is for longer duration and the total eclipse would be for a period of 90 minutes. In India, the duration of entire eclipse is for about six hours and the eclipse ends in the early morning hours of next day.
To conclude, Guru Pūrṇimā including Saptaṛṣi bhojana can be done in the morning and in the evening/night/early morning, mantra japa can be performed. One can also meditate during this period, which will yield very good results.