Guru Purnima: Honoring the Teacher

How to give thanks to your teacher—and rekindle your commitment to your yoga practice—on an auspicious day called Guru Purnima.

June 13, 2013    BY Dakota Sexton

Do you know what Guru Purnima is? Here’s a hint: Step into a yoga class and pay attention to your yoga instructor. Has she ever offered helpful assists to you on or off the mat? Given advice so heartfelt it was like he knew you as an old friend? Guru Purnima—a spiritual holiday celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, and yogis—allows you to remember those moments. Guru Purnima takes place on the first full moon in the month of Ashadh (June-July) in the Indian national calendar. Here at Yoga International, on that special day, we’ll be gathering with new (and old) friends alike to honor our teachers, past and present.

Back in 1987, Swami Rama said that on Guru Purnima, he remembered the way he was looked after by his own teacher. “He was so loving. When I see darkness everywhere, in all relationships in the world, from one corner gleams light. I call it the light of the guru.”

Guru Purnima is a day to remember and honor the light—the tireless guidance, compassion, and encouragement we’ve received from our own teachers.

He told his students that Guru Purnima is a day to remember and honor that light—the tireless guidance, compassion, and encouragement we’ve received from our own teachers. And, of course, teachers come in so many guises, from the English professor who believed in us, to the yoga teachers who paid extra attention, to our mothers, dads, friends and mentors we’ve collected along the way.

But he also noted something else about this cross-spiritual, international festival: it’s a time to re-kindle our personal commitment to yoga practice. Why? Guru Purnima isn’t just about external teachers: it’s also about recognizing the guru within.

Even when you don’t feel strong, or your teacher feels far away, your practice can reconnect you with the light of the guru that keeps you going.

Buddha might have put it best: light thine own lamp. Be your own beacon—your own lighthouse in the perfect storm. Because even when you don’t feel strong, or your teacher feels far away, as Rolf Sovik points out, your practice can reconnect you with the light of the guru that continually inspires and keeps you going.

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore illuminated it this way:

“Within us we have a hope which always walks in front of our present narrow experience; it is the undying faith in the infinite in us; it will never accept any of our disabilities as a permanent fact; it sets no limit to its own scope; it dares to assert that man has oneness with God; and its wild dreams become true every day.”

I hope that the words of each of these teachers will give you as much inspiration as they’ve given me. Want to celebrate Guru Purnima at home? Make kheer. Attend a community kirtan, or honor the holiday in your own way.

We’d love to hear who has inspired you and what makes that teacher so special in your life.

Dakota Sexton
Dakota Sexton is a freelance writer, designer, and the former Web Director of Yoga International magazine. For more of her stories, click here.