Guru Poornima: Understanding the Guru-Disciple Relationship

"Guru Poornima: Maharshi Valmiki"
 

Guru Poornima reminds us of the value of an association with a true Guru. Such an association is pivotal in lifting the curtain of ignorance and accelerating spiritual progress. On the most auspicious day of Guru Poornima, let us remind ourselves of the divine qualities and virtues of a true Guru, so we can appreciate our good fortune and express our gratitude to the Guru who nurtures and patiently guides us on this beautiful spiritual journey.  

Deep Compassion of a Guru

"Guru Poornima: Maharshi Valmiki"

Maharshi Valmiki was a very kind and compassionate Guru. One night, one of his disciples stole some objects from the ashram. The other disciples knew of his identity. They complained to their Guru who assured them that he would talk to the disciple who stole the objects. A few days later there was another theft. The same disciples were very upset and approached their Guru again and requested him to expel the thief or they would have to leave the ashram.

Valmiki Maharshi assembled all his disciples and said, “My dear children, you all are very attentive disciples. You have learned and realized what is good for you. Therefore, if you leave this ashram now, you will still find a place in another ashram and continue your learning. However, the disciple who stole the objects, has not yet learned the difference between right and wrong actions. As his Guru, I have to teach him that lesson, so I cannot send him away. Hence, I am willing to let all of you go for his sake.” Moved by his Guru's empathetic words, the disciple who committed the theft prostrated in front of Maharshi Valmiki and with tears welling up in his eyes, promised that he would never ever steal in future. Such is the impact of a Guru’s compassionate love for the disciple, reminding us of the virtues of a Guru especially when we celebrate Guru Poornima.

A divine Guru is also bhakt-vatsal and bhakt-vashya. He is enslaved by the pure and selfless love of his disciples. A story of Sage Ayodadhaumya illustrates the Guru’s love for his selfless disciple, Aaruni. 

Love of a Guru

Sage Ayodadhaumya had many disciples living in his ashram but one of them was Aaruni. He was the most devoted disciple, always following his Guru’s instructions. 

The Guru’s ashram had paddy fields to ensure the availability of food when the crop was ready for harvest. One time, due to heavy rain, the rice fields got flooded and there was a breach in one of the embankments. Ayodadhaumya asked a disciple to repair the breach to stop the water from entering the embankment and destroying the crop. The disciple returned saying that the speed of the flooding waters was beyond control and he was unable to repair it. The Guru sent another disciple, but he too returned without any success. One by one all the disciples returned to the ashram without accomplishing the task. Then Ayodadhaumya asked Aaruni to try to repair it.

Aaruni humbly bowed down before his Guru and went to the field. It was dark outside and hard to see clearly. He tried several times but could not repair the breach due to the sheer force of the water. The task was more difficult than expected. After trying several times, Aaruni became exhausted and wondered what he could do instead to fulfill his Guru’s wish. Then, an idea came to his mind. He lay down on the embankment at the source of the breach to block the water flow. He remained in this position the entire night.

"Guru Poornima 2022: Ayodadhaumya & Arauni"

Early next morning when Ayodadhaumya woke up, he did not see Aaruni who used to perform his Guru’s personal sevas in the morning. He asked other disciples about Aaruni's whereabouts. They said that he had not returned from the paddy field since the previous night. So, Ayodadhaumya ran outside and called his name. Aaruni responded by saying that he was lying down and would get up if the Guru asked him to, however, there was a risk of damage to the crop. When Ayodadhaumya saw Aaruni freezing in the cold water but lying down in the breach of the embankment to protect the crop, he was very touched by his disciple’s devotional sentiments. He picked him up and embraced him. Due to his Guru’s blessing, the divine knowledge of the scriptures flowed through Aaruni. Since that time, he came to be known as Uddalaka because of his loyalty, devotion and obedience.

On this Guru Poornima Day, let us reflect on the compassionate nature of our Guru. Did we express sufficient gratitude to our Guru for protecting us from any and all kinds of harm?

An essential ingredient for associating and benefitting from a Guru’s guidance is faith in the Guru’s words (i.e., vaani). The deep faith needs to be based on the knowledge of Guru-tattva, not just attraction to the magnetic personality traits of a true Guru. A lovely story about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his disciple illustrates the importance of such deep faith. 

Faith in the Guru's Words

Once, a disciple of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Him a question, “Guruji, how long will it take for me to achieve God-realization?” Mahaprabhu jokingly replied, “This tree under which you are sitting, has many leaves on it. It will take as many births as there are leaves on the tree.” The disciple heard the Guru’s words and started dancing with joy because it was confirmed that he would attain God after having lived an infinite number of lives in the cycle of life and death. He was thrilled! Seeing his elation, Mahaprabhu said, “No, I have to make a correction. You will attain God-realization in this life itself.” The disciple was so delighted that he danced with more abandon. Seeing his enthusiasm, Mahaprabhu said, “No, you will attain God during this year itself.” The disciple’s enthusiasm reached sky-high and Mahaprabhu said, “You will attain God in this month.” Finally, Mahaprabhu said, “Here is Shree Krishna. Come and take a look at Him.” When the other devotees asked their Guru about why He kept changing His word, Mahaprabhu said that the disciple’s firm faith that he would attain the goal, kept on increasing and the firm faith is what attracted the grace of God. 

"Guru Poornima 2022: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu"

How much faith do we have in our Guru's words? On this Guru Poornima Day, let us reflect on how we can increase our faith in our Guru’s words. Do we need to increase our knowledge of Guru-tattva to increase the faith?  A disciple’s deep faith in the Guru is a direct outcome of association with a divine personality. The power of association with a true Guru can best be explained by this lovely story of Narad ji.

Power of Association with a True Guru

Once upon a time, Narad ji went to Vaikunth to visit Lord Vishnu. Upon seeing the Lord, he folded his hands and asked respectfully, “O merciful Lord, can You please tell me the outcome of sadhu sang (or association with a saint)?” Lord Vishnu smiled and said, “My dear son, you will find the answer to your question when you go to a specific forest on earth. Once there, you will see the nest of a parrot on a banyan tree and a newborn baby parrot in the nest. Ask him the question and he will give you an answer.” 

Narad ji immediately went to the forest and to the tree where the newborn parrot had emerged and asked him the question. As soon as Narad ji asked the question, the baby parrot fell off the tree and died. Narad ji was shocked. He returned to Vaikunth to ask Lord Vishnu what just happened. The Lord did not respond but told him to return to earth and visit a certain village at a Brahmin’s house where a newborn calf would answer the question.

Being a surrendered soul, Narad ji returned to earth and to the newborn calf. He asked, “O my dear calf, what is the outcome of sadhu sang?” Just like before, the calf too died immediately. Narad ji was in total disbelief and thought, “I am responsible for the death of two innocent beings. What a sinner am I!” Grief-stricken, he returned to Vaikunth and narrated the event to Lord Vishnu. The Lord looked at him compassionately and said, “Narad, you are not responsible for their death. Now, go to the stable of the king of Kashi. A newborn horse will answer your first question.”

As it happened, history repeated itself and the newborn horse also died. Feeling totally dejected and in despair, Narad ji could not figure out God’s purpose behind these incidents. Was he supposed to ask the question in a different manner? He could not deal with the weight of three deaths on his conscience. He said, “O Lord! What sin did I commit that these innocent beings died upon hearing my words?” Once again the Lord consoled Narad ji and said, “You followed my instructions and incurred the hardship yet, you did not get an answer to your question. I am asking you one last time to go to the palace of the king of Kashi. His wife just gave birth to a son. He will definitely answer your first question.” 

Narad ji’s fear knew no bounds. He said, “O Lord, how can I be responsible for one more death? I will let go of my need to know the answer to the question about sadhu sang.” He was about to leave when Lord Vishnu stopped him and said, “I promise you that this time you will get an answer.” While Narad ji was reluctant to go to the king’s palace, he did not want to go against God’s wish. When he went there, the king saw Narad ji and bowed down with respectful obeisance. He thanked Narad ji for his blessings.

"Guru Poornima 2022: Narad ji"

Then, the king brought his newborn son and placed him in Narad ji’s arms. Narad ji lovingly looked at the infant and gently asked, “O sweet child, what is the outcome of sadhu sang?” Immediately, the baby babbled, smiled and said, “O humble sage! Do you not see what happened? I am the very same parrot, calf and horse to whom you had asked this question previously. Each time, the brief contact with you, released me from the birth of an insignificant creature and elevated me to the most precious human form in this life. This is the answer to your question. As a result of the brief sadhu sang, I was gifted with this most significant human form. I am eternally grateful to you.” Narad ji’s doubts were cleared and he experienced a deep sense of peace. He blessed the prince and left as he chanted, “Narayan, Narayan! Such are Your leelas (pastimes).”

What does this story teach us? While there are several sublime messages, the most important is the transformational impact of an association with a true saint. Such an association helps the soul to rise to its fullest potential. On this Guru Poornima day, let us contemplate how we have benefitted from our association with our Guru. What true knowledge did we learn and how are we implementing it? What are the ways in which we can bridge the gap between knowledge and practice? Some beautiful stories about Swami Haridas, a disciple of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, illustrate the power of association with a true Guru. Swami Mukundananda narrated these stories in his divine discourses.  

The Loving Pastimes of True Saints

Swami Haridas lived in a little hut in Nidhivan (Vrindavan). His divine bhajans attracted a huge congregation. One of his maternal cousins, Vitthal Vipul, also renounced his worldly life and became his disciple. Once, Vitthal Vipul noticed that his Guru stared at Saghan Kunj (forest grove). When he went for a bath, he would look in that direction and sometimes do pranam. So, Vitthal Vipul asked Swamiji Haridas, “Guru ji, what do you see?” Haridas started singing a kirtan, “Yugal Jodi, please give me Your darshan,” and told Vitthal Vipul to go into the forest grove. When he went into the forest, he had darshan of Yugal Sarkar (Radha-Krishna). He returned and expressed his gratitude to his Guru. The other students could not believe Vitthal Vipul’s words. So, Swamiji Haridas told him to get a utensil from Saghan Kunj. He went to the spot where the leela took place and picked up a gold utensil and brought it back. Then others believed him. 

"Guru Poornima 2022: Swami Haridas"

Swami Haridas had another disciple named Hrishikesh who was sent to Rajasthan to preach. There he met a man named Vigyani. Hrishikesh told him that his Guru has conversations with Lord Krishna. Vigyani deeply desired to witness this leela. He asked Hrishikesh what he could take to his Guru when he went for his darshan. Hrishikesh said that Swami Haridas wanted nothing so he could either take some bhog item or some perfume to offer to God.

So, Vigyani used all his wealth to buy the expensive items needed to make an exquisite fragrance and took all of it with him and walked bare feet to meet Swami Haridas. At that time, Haridas ji was in samadhi, doing roop dhyan of Radha-Krishna are doing their kunj leela. In his roop-dhyan, it was time for Holi and Shree Krishna threw wet colors infused with fragrance. Radha ji told her sakhi to give her the colors infused with fragrance so she could throw it on Shyamsunder. The sakhi looked at the utensil but it was empty. So, Swami Haridas started to worry that if Radha ji wanted fragrance infused with colors but there is none left, from where would they get the fragrance? As Swami ji was meditating, Vigyani reached Nidhivan. He gave the fragrance to Swami Haridas, who was very happy that now Radha ji could throw the fragrance on Shree Krishna. So, he took the huge container of fragrance and threw it inside the Yamuna, making the offering to Radha ji.

When Haridas came to a conscious state, he saw Vigyani who introduced himself. Swamiji asked why he looked so unhappy. Vigyani said that he had brought the fragrance with so much love but could not understand why Guru ji threw it in the river. Swamiji told his disciples to take Vigyani to Bihari ji (Shree Krishna). When he went there, he saw that the entire grove was flooded with the fragrance that he had brought, which Radha ji had thrown on Shree Krishna. After this experience, Vigyani surrendered himself to Swami Haridas.

Such is the impact of a true Guru. Only those who associate with their Guru with selfless motives are fortunate to experience such divine leelas. Like God, a true Guru is both bhakt-vatsal and bhakta-vashya. God’s grace flows through the medium of the Guru to the deserving disciple. Here is a story about an exceptional disciple whose guru-bhakti attracted Lord Ram’s grace. 

The Outcome of Guru Bhakti

This is a story from the treta yuga about a five-year-old disciple of Maharshi Agastya whose name was Sutikshna. One time, as the Rishi was getting ready to leave for pilgrimage, he told Sutikshna to worship the Shaligram in the same way as he did every day. Sutikshna promised his Guru that he would worship the Shaligram with devotion and dedication. 

The next day, when Sutikshna went out to walk, he came across a jamun tree (the Indian Java Plum). Like all little children, he was tempted to eat the fruit. He threw a stone at the tree and several berries fell on the ground. Sutikshna relished the jamuns but became greedy. He threw a few more stones and ate more berries until he could not find any more stones on the ground. So, he took his Guru’s Shaligram and threw it up to the tree but unfortunately, it went through the branches and fell in the stream without dropping any jamuns. Sutikshna got worried and searched for pebbles that looked like the Shaligram but could not find any. So, he took a jamun that resembled the Shaligram, thinking that his Guru would not be able to differentiate between the two! 

When Agastya Rishi returned and started his pooja of the Shaligram, he observed that the peel and the seed separated from the jamun. Agastya became very angry and told Sutikshna to leave and not return until he found his Shaligram. Sutikshna resolved to return only when he found God. He started to practice severe austerities and continued them for decades. It was during this time that Lord Ram’s vana-gaman leela had started.

"Guru Poornima 2022: Maharshi Agastya & Sutikshna"

When Sutikshna heard the news that Lord Ram was in exile, he danced with joy in full ecstasy. Attracted by his pure devotion, when Lord Ram visited him, Sutikshna was meditating on the Lord. When he opened his eyes, he saw Lord Ram. Sutikshna requested the Lord to meet his Guru Maharshi Agastya. Maharshi Agastya was immensely pleased at his disciple’s intense devotion that brought God to him (instead of the other way around). 

We learn from this story that the materially conditioned souls are in no position to understand the actions of a true Guru. Thus, following his instructions and improving the quality of devotion is the best way to attract divine grace. On this Guru Poornima day, let us reflect on the outcome of following the Guru’s instructions. Are we aware of all the graces He has showered upon us? 

Guru Poornima 2022 at the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen)

As the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen) celebrates Guru Poornima, please take the opportunity to express your gratitude to your Guru. Guru Poornima is one of the most auspicious of all days for followers of the Sanatam Dharma. It is celebrated in the month of Ashadha (June-July as per the Hindu calendar) to commemorate the birthday of Ved Vyas, the Guru of all Gurus. Thus, this day is also known as Vyas Poornima.

Guru Poornima provides us with an opportunity to express our sincere and deep gratitude to our Guru for all the divine knowledge, teachings that transform our lives, blessings that roll in the propitious tide, and graces showered out of deep compassion and mercy for fallen souls.

We would like to express our humble and heartfelt gratitude to Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj for being the source of quintessential divine knowledge and love. Maharajji received the title of Jagadguru (or the spiritual master of the universe) in 1957 at the young age of 35 years. This title was conferred by the Kashi Vidvat Parishad comprising 500 Vedic scholars whom Maharajji mesmerized through scholarly debates by reconciling numerous contradictory philosophical tenets of the Vedas.  

We would also like to express our deepest gratitude to Swami Mukundananda, the senior disciple of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj for his endless compassion, limitless love, unflinching support, and infinite patience in the process of mentoring us on this difficult but beautiful spiritual journey. No words can sufficiently describe His virtues nor the tremendous power to transform souls from within.

Thank You, Maharajji and Swamiji for everything you do to elevate the souls. 

Join us at the Radha Krishna Temple of Dallas (Allen) for a 3-day grand celebration of Guru Poornima to commemorate the occasion. What makes this even more special is that 2022 is the 100th year of the divine descent of Jagadguruttam Shree Kripalu ji Maharaj.

You can submit a short video message of gratitude on Guru Poornima celebrated from July 11-13, 2022. Other expressions of gratitude include participating in the Abhishek and Charan Poojan of Jagadguruttam Shree Kripalu ji Maharaj, bringing items for Shree Maharajji’s Chhapan Bhog, and participating in other interesting and devotional activities.

Seva opportunities are available for interested devotees and participants at the event website.