Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, ‘You owe me!’
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights up the whole sky.”
It is a perfect July day. The sun sifts through the green branches of the trees and shimmers along the spine of the river. In the woods the blackberries are ripening and the ferns are growing tall and lush. It is the season of abundance, the time when the fruits, full of sunshine, begin to bow heavily towards the earth, offering the seeds of next year’s growth to the soil below.
Tonight the full moon will rise over the hills and shine silver across the forests and fields and cities. The owls, the foxes, the fireflies, and I will bask in this radiance, each in our own way dancing and singing in delight and gratitude.
Tonight is Guru Purnima, the full moon celebration of the Guru, the teacher, the one who illuminates, who shines light to reveal the Truth that was always there. This full moon of July is said to be the most brilliant full moon of the year because of the perfect alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. The Moon gracefully receives the light of the Sun and generously offers it to the Earth. Bathed in beauty, the whole Earth shimmers silver, each leaf luminous, her waters shining mercurial, lovers’ eyes everywhere sparkling.
In the Indian tradition, the Moon represents the mind, knowledge, and spiritual wisdom. Just as the Moon aligns perfectly to receive the light of the Sun, a great teacher aligns her heart and mind to receive divine wisdom. Having soaked in the solar energy, the Moon then reflects the Sun’s light towards the Earth. In the same way, the generous teacher offers the Grace she has absorbed to the student who aligns his heart and mind to gratefully receive.
The Sanskrit word guru can be defined to mean simply “teacher,” or, more poetically, “one who dispels darkness to reveal light.” According to Douglas Brooks (a great teacher in his own right), guru also means, “the weighty one,” the one with gravity, profound meaning, or heavy significance. The word purnima is from the root word purna, meaning “full, abundant, and perfect” in Sanskrit.
On this night of the most brilliant moon, at the height of the abundance and fullness of summer, we pause to honor and celebrate our teachers. As the heavy-seeded fruits bow generously towards the earth, offering the gifts of condensed sunlight to the soil to nourish future generations, we remember the ways in which the seeds of our teachers’ teachers have been planted in our hearts. Tonight we pray that these sacred seeds may come to fruition so that many more beings may benefit from this wisdom that has already helped us to grow in so many ways.
Though Anusara Yoga® is not technically a guru tradition, an integral part of our lineage is guru-based, and it is important to remember and give thanks for our teachers’ teachers and their teachers before. It is humbling and beautiful to remember those who walked this path of yoga before us, who were so generous as to write down or speak about their realizations, to pass this wisdom from teacher to student for so many generations.
Tonight I remember and honor my many yoga teachers, especially John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga and Bhagavan Nityananda, who was the guru of John’s guru’s guru. He said, “The Heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam.” I also celebrate Maharaji (Neem Karoli Baba), who is the guru of some of my other important teachers. His main teaching was “Love everyone; feed everyone, remember God; tell the truth!”
|Neem Karoli Baba|
For some of us our most important teachers were not ones who considered themselves spiritual masters at all. A grandmother, a child, a school-teacher, even a great tree could be an important “guru.” This is a time to give thanks for anyone who has taught you anything. Sometimes very important teachers can come in the form of someone you dislike or even an experience that is uncomfortable, scary, or painful. These too, are worth honoring, for ultimately, if they offered you an opportunity for growth and realization, then they are your teachers.
Who has illuminated your path? Who has generously shone the light of wisdom and understanding for you? To whom have you gravitated because of their profound and inspiring teachings?
A great teacher is one who shines the light of awareness into your heart to reveal the Sadguru (sat= truth), the true teacher who was always (and will always be) within you. Just as the light that emanates from the full Moon is actually the light of the Sun reflected from another source, the illuminating wisdom that emanates from a profound teacher is his or her unique way of expressing the divine energy that permeates all of Nature, including you. If aligned auspiciously, the way the Sun, Moon, and Earth will be tonight, the student receives that clear, articulate light of understanding and becomes herself able to radiate those teachings back out again.
May all beings soak in the luminous light of the Guru Purnima Moon this night with open hearts and minds. May we bow our heads with gratitude and respect for those who have come before, and may we dance with delight for all the beauty that is yet to manifest. And may we be illuminated with the awareness of our own capacity to become like the Moon, radiant, reflective, and, generous with the light that has been gifted to us by our teachers.
Om Jaya Guru Dev!