Guru Poornima is celebrated in the month of June/July on the day of the full moon, as the moon is the presiding deity for the mind. The full circle represented by the moon represents the mind when it is filled with love. It represents the mind when it is filled with illumination and purity. We dedicate this day to the guru (our spiritual teacher), the one who dispels darkness and ignorance. In 1956, Sathya Sai Baba revived this ancient spiritual festival as an occasion for all spiritual aspirants to remember and celebrate with reverence the teachings of the guru. It is an occasion when we can rededicate ourselves to living every day the teachings of our spiritual master.
For many years, Sathya Sai Baba gave a discourse on the occasion of this annual festival. He stressed the importance of the attainment of spiritual wisdom, as opposed to worldly knowledge, and also urged us all honour and revere our life teachers.
Who is a Guru?
Sathya Sai Baba declares that the true guru is one who can raise the student to his own level and who has no ego or selfishness. He cautions that there are many in the world today who profess to be gurus and that we must use our discrimination and look for the signs of a true guru— one who is completely selfless, equal-minded and without envy. He teaches that the true guru will lead us to discover that we are our own guru—the God within.
Many unwary spiritual aspirants are attracted by the magic of words and the verbal gymnastics of such showy ‘gurus’. The ‘gurus’ may be called pundits and may give lectures; but, just because of this, they do not become entitled to grant the boon of wisdom. That can be done only by Avatars, people who represent Divine attributes and glory, and wise people who have attained the highest good of spiritual discipline and have tasted the supreme bliss, who have realised the Absolute. It is no use claiming a fraction of this or that experience. The experience must be of the full and itself full. Those who know only a fraction will take you up to a certain point and leave you there, in the middle region, like Thrisanku, who was hung between heaven and earth.
Gita Vahini, p.45
Parents and Teachers as Gurus
The first guru is the mother; her example, her advice, her admonition affects man deepest and longest. The second is the father, who is admired by the child for his strength and knowledge and feared for the punishments he inflicts. Next is the teacher, who leads him and guides him into the maze of material knowledge. But, the guru (spiritual preceptor) alone can open the inner eye and cleanse the inner instruments of intuition. He induces you to question yourself, "Dheham?" (Am I this body or is this body only a vehicle which I am using) and discover the answer, "Naaham" (I am not this body). Then the investigation starts to delve into the reality of the I, "Koham" (Who am I then?) and the answer reveals itself in the purified consciousness, "Soham" (I am He); I am a spark of that Glory; I am Divine.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 11, Ch. 44, July 26, 1972
Throughout His teachings, Sathya Sai Baba stresses the Divine role of parents as teachers of the child. He urges us all to revere our parents; and also urges parents to remember at all times their holy task of being an exemplar to their children and their primary task of leading them towards God. He makes it clear that the parents have the primary responsibility of shaping the character of children and therefore of shaping the destiny of a nation.
Sathya Sai Baba has stated frequently that teachers play a vital role both in the development of the individual and in the future of society. On the occasion of Guru Poornima, it is therefore appropriate to pause and consider the role of teachers:
The Teacher is a king-maker
Teachers should not feel that they belong to a despised profession. Teaching is a very noble and respectable profession. The teacher is actually a king-maker. Even kings and emperors have to be in their early years students under a teacher. Bala Gangadhar Tilak, the great patriot and freedom fighter, who was in the teaching profession, was asked as to what position he would like to occupy when the country became independent. He replied that he was not interested in becoming a minister or holding any office in the administration. He would prefer to go back to his profession of teaching so that he could mould several students into ministers or rulers rather than be a ruler himself. Such is the nobility and dignity of the teaching profession.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 19, Ch. 2, January 20, 1986
In declaring the power and responsibility of the teaching profession, Sathya Sai Baba indicates that through education and science we have gained great control over the external world, but have lost control over the internal world. He states that this inability to use the powers of nature for human need has resulted in an imbalance with resultant pollution and destruction. He urges teachers to provide knowledge, skill and balance to lead students away from self interest towards a focus on serving society.
This is the plight of man today. Science has enabled him to acquire immense control over the external world. But he has no control over himself. Winston Churchill once observed: "Man has conquered all, but not himself." And this was what Prahlada told his father, Hiranyakasipu: "Oh Father! You have conquered all the world, but you have not conquered yourself."
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 19, Ch. 2, January 20, 1986
Sathya Sai Baba declared in this same discourse that it is only through love that we can teach love—that this love flows through us as an unseen river, which we need to develop for the well-being of all and for the future of our planet. At Guru Poornima, the full moon represents the mind when it is filled with this love. On the occasion of this holy festival let us reflect on, with gratitude, those who have transformed us with this love—our parents, teachers, and those who have been an example of illumined living and self-mastery. As parents and teachers, let us reflect on, and give thanks for, our Divine role as gurus—those who lead from darkness to light and who shape the lives of those in our care.
On this occasion of reverence for the guru, let us give special acknowledgement for the contribution which SSE (Sai Spiritual Education, or Bala Vikas) teachers devote to our future. Swami reveals that the ideal of these teachers is to raise a generation of children who have a clean and clear conscience, thereby generating true wealth for humanity. He indicates that the role of these teachers is to create an atmosphere which nurtures the very highest ideals and values.
The Bala Vikas (organisational wing for children's development) is the primary basis of the great movement to restore dharma (righteousness) in the world.
Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 14, Ch. 3, June 6, 1978
Let us resolve to practise the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba, whose Divine life was a living testimony of love and service to all of mankind.