Guru Purnima: Be a Light Unto Yourself

Guru Purnima: Be a Light Unto Yourself

To the Universal Master
– a dedication to my Gurus

My Master
you are my prefect mirror
You play like Krishna
but really you are Shiva

Your Love destroying all separation
Your eyes shining with the Light of the Universe
Your form, Silence itself

Words run out
But never Your Grace
Never Your Love
Never You

– to follow my Instagram poetry account click here: @shruti.heartwords

On this blessed and auspicious day of Guru Purnima, I offer my humble pranams to all my gurus – Arunachala Shiva, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sadhguru, Mooji and so many more beautiful gurus and teachers to whom there is immense gratitude.


Guru Purnima is the day of the first full moon following the summer solstice and has very special significance for spiritual seekers. In ancient India, it was one of the most important days of the year.

The word Guru is a sacred word referring to one who removes ignorance and reveals the light of Truth. “Gu” means darkness and “ru” means dispeller. Guru is not a person but a channel for the universal intelligence or Grace of the Self that may manifest through a tangible form so as to guide a seeker.

Form of the Guru

The Guru is the Universal Self and not a person or a teaching although the Guru may be represented in an external form.

“Guru is the Self. Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires through prayer to God. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain his grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God’s grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association. The devotee’s mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. The calm expanse is the Self. The Guru is both external and internal. From the exterior he gives a push to the mind to turn it inwards. From the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quieting of the mind. That is the Guru’s grace. There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self.”

– Sri Ramana Maharshi (Be as you are, The teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, p. 91)

Through the ages, there have been varying kinds of guru-disciple relationships. Some rare realised beings did not have gurus in human form. The great Tamil female saint Avvaiyar (during the Sangam period, 1-2nd century CE) was a devotee of Shiva and her guru was Ganapati (the deity). Her initiation and guidance from her guru came from a murti (idol) of Ganesha and an inner communion with the deity. So deep was her devotion and connection, that astonishing miracles transpired around her. The famous story goes that when at age 9 she was due to be married against her will, she pleaded with Ganapati to turn her into an old lady, which the deity granted.

Ramana Maharshi’s took his guru to be the sacred mountain Arunachala. Before and after him, thousands have felt the strong spiritual pull of the holy mountain, considered to be Shiva’s tower of light.

For one who is very receptive and sensitive to life, everything can be one’s guru. The Avadhut (one who has cut all attachments and lives in the bliss of the Supreme) Dattatreya (also referred to as the Guru of Gurus or the Adi Guru) considered himself to have had 24 gurus: earth, air, sky, water, fire moon, sun, pigeon, python, ocean, firefly, bee, elephant, honey-gatherer, deer, fish, a courtesan called Pingala, sparrow, child, a girl, archer, snake, spider and wasp (bhramara keelaka).

Most of the beings who attained liberation though, had a master in human form who guided them in various ways.

Role of a Guru

With a guru in human form, one can sometimes come up against the protestations of one’s own conditionings and expectations regarding the guru’s personal demeanour and behaviour. Or the close personal relationship with the guru may hinder one from recognising the Impersonal Self of the guru as was the case with Krishna and Arjuna. 

The true teaching though is beyond the human play of guru-disciple. It is the Self conversing with Itself. That’s why the greatest teacher, Dakshinamurthi (Shiva’s form as a teacher), used the language of Silence (maunam) as his teaching.

The disciple is to follow the Master’s Spirit rather than his words or actions. There is a beautiful story told by Mooji. Once three disciples were following their old Master in climbing up a mountain. Two of the disciples were being very diligent in following exactly in the Master’s footsteps. They did not want to veer from the steps he took at all. The third disciple took a different route and made it up to the mountain much before the other two. When he was asked why he didn’t follow the Master’s footsteps exactly, he said, “I was following the Master closely and I understood the way he was moving and what he was watching out for. That is what I copied, which led me through a different path but quicker to the summit.” 

Sometimes disciples have a misconception that the guru will “give” them self-realisation. Instead the guru is pointing to something that the disciple must realise him/herself.

As the beautiful final conversation of Buddha goes: his close associate Ananda asked Buddha just before Buddha left the body, “I have been with you so closely all these years and still I have not become enlightened. How is that?” The Buddha uttered these beautiful and true words: “Appo Deepo Bhava” / “Be a light unto yourself”

May the Light of the true Guru, the One Self reveal itself brightly in all hearts.

“Be a light unto yourself. Do not follow others, do not imitate, because imitation, following, creates stupidity. You are born with a tremendous possibility of intelligence. You are born with a light within you. Listen to the still, small voice within, and that will guide you. Nobody else can guide you, nobody else can become a model for your life, because you are unique. Nobody has there been ever who was exactly like you, and nobody is ever going to be there again who will be exactly like you. This is your glory, your grandeur — that you are utterly irreplaceable, that you are just yourself and nobody else.”

– Osho

Two videos I recommend on this Guru Purnima Day:

“Guru Shishya Upadesha by Sri Nochur Venkataraman:

“Everything You Need to Know About a Guru” – Sadhguru

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