Just as people around the world observe All Saints Day or All Souls Day, here in India on Guru Poornima we celebrate All Gurus Day. Poornima is the full moon, which represents the highest point of realisation, when the light shines in absolute and utter darkness. So, guru is the one who shines like the full moon on a dark night. Therefore, once a year, on the full moon of July, we get together and celebrate Guru Poornima and rededicate everything to guru.
We observe Guru Poornima each year in order to remind ourselves of our spiritual heritage and to re-establish our link with the higher forces that guide our evolution. Guru is the one who has completely transformed his consciousness. He lives in this world, but his spirit is always soaring in the highest dimension beyond space and time. Having completed his evolutionary cycle, there is nothing left for him to do but help raise the consciousness level of humanity.
The guru tradition is not a modern one; it is most ancient. Even before the advent of man, guru existed in the form of nature, which guided the seasons, the plants and the animals. Prehistoric and stone age man had gurus; the animists, naturists and idolaters had gurus. Those who practised animal sacrifice, who believed in abstract gods, who wanted to learn magic, siddhi, and witchcraft had gurus.
The tradition of guru is not only confined to India. The Atlantis civilisation had more gurus than any other civilisation up to date. South America, Europe, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Tibet, China and Japan had gurus. The guru tradition is universal, but with the wars and ravages of time, it was gradually destroyed all over the world. No country was able to preserve it except India.
Therefore, we are celebrating Guru Poornima only in India, but if you study the ancient South American traditions, you will see that they also had Guru Poornima. Thousands of years ago, there must have been Guru Poornima all over the world.
Guru/disciple relationship is surely one of the most significant aspects of human development. This relationship forms the basis of all cults, organisations and institutions, whether spiritual or otherwise. When we think about the great cultures that have flourished in the past, as well as those in existence today, we realise that they too are based on this same vital relationship. All the traditions, arts and sciences have been handed down generation after generation from guru to disciple, master to apprentice, father to son.
The guru/disciple relationship is man's link with the higher faculties, the greater dimensions of his being. Without it, we would be hopelessly lost in the external world of diversities. It is only the saving grace of the gurus and masters which guides us back to the inner source from which all our higher potentials emanate. This is why the great teachers have always been regarded as the cornerstones of higher culture. Without their knowledge and inspiration, the traditions would not be enduring, the culture would not last.
In India we consider the gurus and rishis from ancient times right up to the present day as the light and strength of our cultural heritage. What they taught and wrote in the Vedas, Upanishads and Tantras, was not an empty philosophy but a complete science of living. They encouraged the people to strive to fulfil their lives with abstinence, self-control, inner vision and self-knowledge. These qualities have a powerful influence on the whole society. Should all the people cultivate them, you can well imagine the heights to which such a culture would rise. Indeed, it would become a virtual Utopia.
Our gurus and rishis had in their minds the creation of exactly such a culture. After thousands of years of experimentation, they came up with a system by which every individual could re-orientate himself and push open the doors of his perceptions. This is the science of yoga. Just as the potter fires his clay pots to make them strong, so yoga provides heat treatment for the vulnerable mind. It tempers and makes it strong enough to bear the upheavals of life.
Although the gurus envisioned an evolved human race, and knew that such a culture had once flourished throughout the world, they were unable to effectively introduce yoga into the society of their times due to the adverse political situation. So, they remained in isolation and preserved the knowledge of this system for the time when mankind would again be ready for it.
This was the situation that prevailed right up to the twentieth century when the Age of Aquarius finally dawned. In this period the rulership of the kings and monarchs passed into the hands of the individual. As people were given more freedom to participate in the affairs of community and state, they also began to assume more responsibility for their personal lives. At first, with the distribution of wealth and the coming of industrialisation, people developed a more materialistic approach to life. But today this trend is rapidly reversing as more and more people become tired of materialism and look to yoga for a solution to their problems and a better way of life.
Now the people are ready for yoga and the time is ripe for restoring the yogic culture. Many realised souls are now moving amongst the people and helping to make yoga more accessible by establishing yogashrams and centres around the world. In order to step up the work, Bihar School of Yoga began a special program in 1980 for training householders to become yoga teachers. This month we are conducting the third Yoga Teacher Training Course and two more are forthcoming, in August (Hindi medium) and October (English medium).
So, today, we are witnessing the beginning of a great yogic renaissance. We are preparing for a gigantic leap forward in the evolution of mankind. Soon people everywhere will be practising yoga, and those who are not practising will at least know something about it. This year we are celebrating Guru Poornima in India, but before long it will become an international festivity as men, women and children everywhere gather to dedicate themselves to the guru and to the coming of the yogic culture.