guru pūrṇimā


Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Guru Pūrṇimā is a day dedicated to paying respects and expressing gratitude to our teachers. Guru translates as the heavy one or heavy teacher, the one who is steady and grounded in any circumstance — who is never swayed by external events.

This year the festival falls on Friday, July 31st, the first full moon after the summer solstice. That full moon day is when life on this planet is at its most receptive to all possibilities.

Shiva the First Yogi (Adi Yogi) was also the Adi Guru (First Guru). It is said he transmitted the yogic sciences to the Saptarshis (the Seven Sages) on this day,around 15,000 years ago, high up on the banks of a lake in the Himalayas, It may have happened like this:

One day Shiva woke from his usual deep meditation to see seven men waiting in front of him. They begged him to be their teacher. In what would become a long tradition of guru/shishya (teacher/student) parampara Shiva refused them.

The aspirant must prove himself — prove that he is worthy. That he really wants the teaching. So after ignoring them for a very long time, the Adiyogi tested then by giving them some simple instructions. Then he closed his eyes again.

The seven men did as he said, And they continued for many days, and many weeks. The weeks turned into months, the months into years, and the Seven men, who would become the Seven Sages, followed Shiva’s directions.Finally after 84 years of this sadhana, Shiva opened his eyes. He looked at the aspirants again. And saw that they were ready — they were shining.

So on the very next full moon day, Shiva, the Adiguru, expounded the yoga sciences to the seven men. The Seven Ṛṣis went on to spread this knowledge to all: that a human being can evolve consciously, beyond all limitations is possible for everyone.

Our guru, Śrī K Pattabhi Jois, was born on the full moon day of July, 1915 — Guru Pūrṇimā. Guruji loved his birthday and always wanted his students to attend his birthday festivities. He enjoyed celebrating life.

In the 1990’s when we first traveled to Lakshmipuram, India to study with Guruji, we would practice in the mornings and return to his home later in the afternoons to visit him and his family. We would sit around him in his small living room for a few hours while he recited and translated sacred texts, examined what jewelry we bought that day, or answered our questions about life. Sometimes we would sit silently with him while he read the paper and drank his tea. We liked to sit down near him because his calm and stable presence would help us feel grounded.

In the mantra from the Guru Stotram translated below, the line, ‘guru sākṣāt’ means the guru is nearby, visible and true, is embodied before us. Paraṃ brahma is translated as ultimate consciousness or God. Guruji was fond of saying, “Everywhere you look you see God.”  And sitting next to him reminded us of that.

gururbrahmā gururviṣṇuḥ gururdevo maheśvaraḥ ।

gurusākṣāt paraṃ brahma tasmai śrīgurave namaḥ ।।

The guru is Brahma the creator.

The guru is Vishnu the sustainer.

The guru is Shiva the destroyer.

The guru is clearly the supreme spirit.

I bow to that guru.
Translation by Jenny Meyer