Guru Purnima is referred to in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata and other texts as the day to worship our Guru, especially “Sat Gurus”, those who teach us about the deeper, spiritual lessons in life. It is said to the most auspicious day to be with your Guru. It was originally called Vyasa Purnima, after the sage and author Veda Vyasa, but with th passage of time has been changed to Guru Purnima.
It occurs on the Full Moon day in the Indian month of Ashada (July – August in the Gregorian calendar system). This is the day when our mind (Moon) can most easily “feel” the Guru, and greater imbibe their wisdom.
So, why this day? Why this full moon day at the exclusion of the others? As far as I know, there is no authoritative reference that explains why this full Moon is more special than the others. This is not unusual with Vedic / indian culture and observances. None of the astrological correlations or reasons are explained, even though all holidays (holy days) are timed to cosmic time (specific astronomical phenomena), not to calendar days in the 365 day year.
Actually this preference for cosmic time also extends to personal holidays, like birthdays. Indians primarily celebrate their birthday on the same Nakshatra (birth star) day of the corresponding month of their birth, not the (Gregorian) calendar day. Another alternative is to celebrate on the corresponding day in the Moon cycle (called Tithi pravesh) in the month of your birth.
It is tempting to not ponder the origin of sacred days and events “determined by the sages”, as they seem too sacrosanct to investigate. But I find enormous richness in pondering why the sages chose certain days and moments as the ones to celebrate.
As astrologers or students we deepen our understanding of all indicators being referenced when we ponder such things. The important indicators for Guru Purnima are:
- Moon (feeling/heart/jiva)
- Purnima (The Specific lunar phase)
- Ashada (Solar month in July or August)
- Guru (teachers)
Why the Full Moon?
A full moon happens when the Moon is completely opposite from the Sun, and thus it’s light is the brightest to us on Earth. But realize, if we were on another planet, the Moon would not be seen as full at that time. Like everything in astrology / astronomy, the entire practice is accounted from our vantage point.
The Moon is the indicator of mind, which is simply the feeling of being alive as an embodied expression of the Sun’s light and power (Soul). Sun is soul, Moon is mind, Earth is body. When the Moon is full, the feeling of life is more intense and bright in our heart – for good or ill. In a general sense we are more “full of ourselves” on full Moons, much more full of feelings and emotions.
The fact that this is “Guru” Purnima, we can deduce that this is the day when feeling the truth of our Guru will be the most profound than at any other time that year.
Month of Ashad
There are 12-13 full moons each year. The word “month” comes from the word “Moon”. It is used to denote how far the Earth travels around the Sun in one synodic cycle of the Moon (from New Moon to New Moon). Since the Sun is not actually moving, (we are) we experience the Earths movement as the Sun moving against the backdrop of astrology signs.
In the month of Ashad, the Sun is usually in the sign of Gemini (Maithuna), producing a full Moon that will usually fall in Sagittarius (Dhanu). Sometimes the full Moon (Purnima) will occur with Moon in Capricorn, but it is usually Sagittarius (the last 12 years, 8 times Guru Purnima occurred with the Moon in Sagittarius or mostly in Sagittarius on the day of Purnima).
The bottom line is, If we needed to pick the one full Moon per year that was likely to fall in Sagittarius, the full Moon in Ashad would be the one.
Gemini / Sagittarius Axis and Guru
Astrologically speaking, this axis is pivotal spiritually for several reasons.
Gemini is the sign of trying and testing our ideas and experimenting with what we think is right. It is playful and rajasic, not serious or interested in moving forward in life. Instead, through Gemini we are experiencing the joy and distraction of life through the world of our ideas, interests and senses.
The Sanskrit name for Gemini is “Maithuna”, which literally the same word for “sexual intercourse”. The symbol is two adults – a very masculine man holding a club and a very feminine woman playing a musical instrument. In the mind of Gemini are these two characters in a fun, stimulated and passionate dialogue with the world.
Gemini is ruled by Mercury, the planet of play, flexibility, curiosity, details and intellect – Buddhi. (Mercury is called “Budha” in Sanskrit). It is Mercury that organizes, compares and intellectualizes our life experiences. The story in your head about your life comes from Mercury. The inner dialogue that is constantly running is Mercury as you try to understand the nature of the world and yourself in it.
Sagittarius is opposite the experimentation and playfulness of Gemini. Sagittarius give us the awareness of the big picture. Not so interested in the minutae of the moment and all the messy details of life, Sagittarius is where we have faith in things higher and more enduring than all of the detail vks of our worldly experiences – all of the things of Gemini.
The Sanskrit name for Sagittarius is Dhanu, which means “bow”. The symbol is (likely) a man riding on a horse with a bow and arrow in his hand. The Western astrology symbol of a centaur is almost certainly not correct for Dhanu as there are no centaurs in Vedic literature (that I am aware of). Plus there are no supernatural creatures represented in the Vedic Signs of the Zodiac. They are people or animals. The symbol of a man riding a horse with the bow and arrow shows an individual having mastered his lower nature, using the vitality and power of the inner animal as his vehicle for truth and purpose. The bow and arrow is a symbol of mastery and discrimination as we must aim at only one thing if we are to hit the mark. These are all analogies to the spiritual path.
Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, the planet of growth and morality and the things that define our sense of meaning. Essentially we experience Jupiter in the form of our beliefs and belief systems, including religion. Jupiter is Sattwic and oriented toward judgment and righteousness, but may overlook details and circumvent inquiry and precision – preferring hope and grace.
Like Mercury, Jupiter is intellectual, related to thinking, concepts and ideas, but these are big ideas, otherworldly ideas. Jupiter’s Sanskrit name is Guru, which means “teacher”, “remover of darkness”, “heavy” and several other things that help us both expand beyond the gravity of Earth and sink deeper into the truth of Earth.
Equilibrium in the Gemini / Sagittarius Axis
We need to uplift the detail oriented, rajasic, questioning mind (Gemini/Mercury) toward things that are eternal, meaningful and good (Sagittarius/Jupiter). After gathering enough information we need to marshal our energy toward one goal if we are to hit the mark. Also, we need our beliefs and philosophies (Sagittarius/Jupiter) to make sense to us (Gemini/Mercury), otherwise we will just be preaching dogma that we do not understand. The man has to come down from his mighty perch on the horse and be willing to engage with those who do not just “believe” in what he says.
With the Moon in Sagittarius and the Sun in Gemini there is a balancing of these two important axes. You see, Sagittarius is literally the astrology sign of the Guru, the teacher. It is no coincidence that Guru Purnima usually happens when the Moon (our mind) is in the domain of Guru.
As shown by the dual symbols of Gemini (Worldly Man and Woman) and Sagittarius (Man riding / presiding over a Horse) these are signs of dialogue, change and rapid transformation – both within themselves and with each other. In these signs we are gathering knowledge about how life works – seeking to merge the details of this world (Gemini) with the bigger picture and the other world (Jupiter).
Blessings From the Milky Way
The plane of the Milky Way Galaxy runs along this sign axis. When we look up at the Moon on Guru Purnima the Moon has just crossed the plane of our galaxy and we are looking back into its center – the source of our mystical power in this world. It is very interesting to note that in Brihat Parashara Hora Sastra it is said that “Lord Brahma himself has blessed Sagittarius”. This is the only time such a thing is said about an astrology sign. This is especially telling when we ponder the story of Lord Brahma emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu, a reference most feel implies a connection to the Galactic core.
Conclusion – Guru Purnima July 14, 2011
I feel the reason Guru Purnima is celebrated in Ashad and not other months is because Ashad is most likely to reveal the best time to unify the power of details, flexibility and vision (Sun in Gemini) with the heart connected to Gurus grace (Full Moon in Sagittarius).
Especially for those as fortunate as me to have a living Guru (Mine is Ammachi, the hugging Saint from India), seeing and experiencing the Guru in the flesh, in the world of details, willingly enmeshed in the illusion we are all trying to escape from, is a tremendous blessing.
On Guru Purnima we have a great opportunity to actually feel the sacrifice made by the great Saints, those who have willingly come to sit amongst us and endure the sufferings of the world, just to give us a glimpse of our truthful nature.
Guru Purnima will be in July 14, 2011 this year (occurring between 3:15 AM EDT on July 14, 2011 and 2:40 AM EDT on July 15, 2011). Don’t pass up this opportunity to connect your mind and heart in celebration of those beings who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
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