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Hindus and Buddhists celebrate Guru Purnima every year. What is the significance of celebrating Guru Purnima? Are there any specific rituals that are expected to be done during the day? Also, when does it occur?

  • The true meaning of Guru is "one who dispels darkness of ignorance". "Gu" means "darkness of ignorance" and "Ru" means "one who removes". Guru resembles the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is creator. Guru creates or inculcates knowledge in the minds of the students. Guru is Vishnu. Lord Vishnu maintains the creation. Similarly Guru helps in keeping up the knowledge. Guru is like Shiva. Shiva is the destroyer, who destroys and creates anew.. This link is very useful, especially for students/scholars:- youtube.com/watch?v=944Fik5Y66Y – Uday Krishna Sep 17 '16 at 21:16
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अखण्डमण्डलाकारं व्याप्तं येन चराचरम् । तत्पदं दर्शितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥

Akhanndda-Mannddala-Akaaram Vyaaptam Yena Cara-Acaram | Tat-Padam Darshitam Yena Tasmai Shrii-Gurave Namah ||

Meaning: Salutations to the Guru ,Whose Form is an Indivisible Whole of Presence, and By Whom is Pervaded the Moving and the Non-MovingBeings,  By Whom is Revealed  that Feet , Salutations to that Guru. See More

The festival of Guru Purnima, (गुरु पौर्णिमा) is dedicated to shree Ved Vyasa and also known as Vyasa Purnima (व्यास पौर्णिमा) is celebrated on the full moon day of Hindu Month Ashad (आषाढ़) . The River Beas (बियास) is named after Ved Vyasa. He practiced penance on its banks and compiled the four Vedas, the Mahabharat and the Eighteen Purana there. Vyasa is considered by Hindus as Chiranjivi (चिरंजीवी) or immortal, one who is still living and walking the earth for the well-being of all.

Vyasa Purnima or Guru Purnima is a day of great significance in Hinduism. Guru Purnima or Vyasa Purnima is a  symbol of the Guru-shishya tradition. Guru or teachers play key role in one’s life. Spiritual gurus nurtures and modifies our lives. They make us understand the difference between right and wrong and good and evil.

On this day, all devotees, disciples , Students worship Shree Ved Vyasa in honor of his divine personage and all Hindu's perform a 'puja' of their respective "Guru's or Gurudevs" (गुरुदेव). By touching the feet of Guru's , they receive their well whishes.

Read more about Guru Purnima

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To excel in any field a learnt & experienced person is required and the one who teaches & guides you may be termed as guru where as the one who is self realized and can set you from cycle of life and death is spiritual guru or sadguru. Guru can appear to be an ordinary individual to all. He can be understood and experienced only by His blessings. He is neutral, He don't want any worldly things, He is self sufficient. He has become equal to bramha, the oneness. So the disciples worship and render dedicated service to his Guru to gain knowledge and liberation! Guru has infinite forms, Guru takes many bodies and descend to earth and by each form He preaches a specific (bhakthi/karma/gnana/..) to each of His follower.

Guru purnima is Guru worship day. One has to remember the Guru parampara/lineage from parabramha to His Guru. Guru pada puja or paduka puja (worshiping Guru's holy feet. If Guru is far or has left His body, His footware is worshiped) is done. It falls on the day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh (June–July) of the Shaka Samvat, Indian national calendar and Hindu calendar.

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To answer the first question:

Guru Purnima is called the day of the Master but it is actually the day of the Devotee. Guru Purnima is New Year for spiritual seeker. There are three types of people who come to the Master, the student, the disciple and the devotee.

A student goes to a teacher and learns something, gets some information and then he walks out of the School. There is no more information, just like looking at a guidebook, like a tourist guide. You go with the tourist guide to see a place, and the guide shows all the places, or like a Traffic Police, sometimes he directs you or like you ask someone, “Where is what?” and they’ll give you some information. You take it and you say, “Well, thank you” and there it is finished, isn’t it? You went to primary school, middle school, and whatever grade you call it, you collected information; you learned about mind, you learned about computers, learned about mathematics, and learned how 2+1 is 3. The student is one, who collects information, but the information is not knowledge, it is not wisdom, is it not so?

Then there is the disciple, the disciple follows the example of the Master. But a disciple is with the Master for the sake of learning wisdom, for the sake of improving his life, for the sake of attaining enlightenment. He has a purpose, a cause, so he is not just collecting information, but he goes a little deeper. He is trying to bring a transformation in his life. He wants to make sense out of his life. That is a disciple.

And then there is devotee. A devotee is not there even for wisdom. He is simply rejoicing in love. He has fallen in deep love with the Master, with the Infinity, with the God. He doesn’t care as to whether he gets enlightened or not. He doesn’t care as to whether he acquires a lot of knowledge or wisdom or not. But that very moment, and every moment, he is immersed in divine love that is enough for him or her. A devotee is very rare to find.

Students are in abundance, disciples are a few, but the devotees are rare.

It is nothing great to become God or be God. Whether you want or not, all are already Gods. A stone is also a God. You are also a God. Everything is God, God is already there, but it is great to become a devotee. Do you see this? Everything, whether you want it or not, is already God, but the love, devotion, has flowered somewhere. Where the devotion has flowered totally, the flower has blossomed, that is a devotee. Attraction is everywhere, love is somewhere, but devotion is again rare. Devotion is very beautiful. A student comes to a Master, Teacher, and Guru with tears in his eyes. There are so many problems, and when he leaves, he is carrying the same tears, but the quality of the tears is different, it is of gratitude. Still tears flow, but those are of gratitude, of love; it is so beautiful to cry in love.

One, who has cried even once in love, knows the taste of it, of surrender and of devotion and the entire creation rejoices it. The entire creation is longing for only one thing, the transformed tears, from salty tears to sweet tears.

One of Buddha’s disciples named Sariputra got enlightened. When he got enlightened, Buddha told him, “Now you go ahead, go into the world and preach, teach and do the same work I do, carry on my work.” Now Sariputra left Buddha, but he was crying and crying and people asked him, “Why are you crying when you are enlightened?” He said, “Who cares about this enlightenment, it could have waited, I would have waited. I didn’t even bother about it or asked for it because the joy of being at the feet of Buddha was so great. Being a devotee was so great, now I am missing this, I would have preferred that to this enlightenment.”

There is no separation, there is no difference, there is no distance, yet it has a different flavor, different joy. That is a devotee, a devotee can never fall, he cannot fall, and there is no chance for it.

When Krishna was leaving his body, he spoke to Uddhava. With tears in his eyes, “I can’t stand the amount of devotion these Gopies have for me, go and tell them, these devotees of mine that only they can free me of their gratitude and of their love.” It is so beautiful, he rejoices, “Go, tell them that is the glory of devotees, I am not in heaven, I am not in temple, but where my devotees sing, I am right there”. Devotion is something that can move even the rocks.

There once was a Zen Master who always thought that he was enlightened. He went around saying, “I am enlightened”. He happened to meet one of his Masters who gave him a puzzle, called ’koan’. The ‘koan’ was “the statue has eyes, the tears roll down silently”. Hearing this Zen Master was shaken and he said, “There is some depth in it”.

Love is something that even the Divine rejoices in it. The infinity longs for you as much as you long for it. It is waiting to receive you. God is as anxious as you are to be near. So when a devotee flowers on this planet, God is very happy. That is why Guru Purnima is the day of the Devotee.

Like fatherhood and motherhood, there is Guru-hood. We all have to play Guru-hood at least to somebody. We do play! Consciously or unconsciously you are all Guru to somebody. You keep giving advices and guiding people, giving them loving care! You all do this, but do it 100%, without expecting anything in return: that is living the Guru principle. There is no difference between the divine, the Self and the Guru. They are all one. Meditation is relaxing and reposing. Think of all the things to be grateful for and ask what you want for the future and bless everyone. We receive so many blessings and we should also bless all those who are in need.

From an article by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: http://www.artofliving.org/wisdom/knowledge-sheets/guru-poornima

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