One defining characteristic of Vedic astrology or Jyotish is that it’s a lunar based system. The full Moon (purnima) is considered to be quite auspicious. Certain full Moons are highlighted in the Indian calendar as they are linked to special holidays or festivals. The very propitious full Moon of Guru Purnima 2018 falls on July 27 worldwide.
Guru Purnima 2018 marks the day devoted to honoring the Gurus, or sacred teachers, in our lives. The prefix Gu- means darkness. The suffix –ru means light. Thus, a Guru is one who leads us from the darkness of ignorance of our inner self to the light of self-awareness. In India, it is widely thought that the Gods incarnate in human form as Gurus to instruct humans and to lead them to the path of knowledge. Guru Purnima is alternately spelled as Guru Poornima.
Guru Purnima is also known as Vyasa Purmina. Veda Vyasa was the great Indian rishi or sage who is said to have compiled the four Vedas, the ancient books of Vedic knowledge. Vyasa also wrote the 18 volumes of the revered spiritual texts the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita. Additionally, Veda Vyasa instructed Dattatreya, who is thought to be the Guru of all Gurus.
As the story goes, Veda Vyasa’s disciples were so full of gratitude for all that they had received from him that they asked him how they could repay him for all the profound knowledge that he had imparted.
Vyasa told his disciples to choose one day of the year in which to pay homage to him. This way, their prayers and offerings could reach their Guru. Thus, the disciples chose the full Moon of the lunar month of Ashadha to honor their Guru, as it was the fullest and most luminous Moon of the year. They named this special day Guru Purnima.
On Guru Purnima, students honor the occasion by having the darshan of their living teachers. Additionally, disciples remember their teachers (both past and present), chant their name(s), and offer gifts (known as dakshina) to thank their teachers for the grace that has been bestowed in their lives.
Indians chant the name of their Guru or they chant specific mantras which honor their Guru. This way, the Guru is topmost in their minds on Guru Purnima 2018.
We commonly perform paduka pujas on Guru Purnima. Padukas are the sandals worn by many spiritual teachers. They are traditionally made of wood and have a round stub which separates the big toe from the others. Paduka translates as “footprint of the Gods.” The Guru’s power is said to resides in his / her feet. The Guru’s sandals are also symbolic of the teacher’s power. Hence, an abhishek or ritual bath to the Guru’s sandals is also traditionally performed, this time to revered silver, gold, or brass sandals which are imprints of the actual feet.
In Vedic astrology, Jupiter is the planet associated with spirituality, religion, teachers, and wisdom. In Sanskrit, the word Jupiter is translated as Guru. On Guru Purnima 2018, Jupiter will be situated in the nakshatra or constellation of Swati in Libra. Swati is the star associated with Goddess Saraswati, the deity of classical learning, speech, and the arts.
LUNAR ECLIPSE AND GURU PURNIMA
Guru Purnima is also known as Ashadha Purnima. In North America, the Moon is fullest at 4:25 PM Eastern time, so you can see it quite brightly at sunset. This year, the Moon will be full in the sign of Capricorn, with the Sun opposite it in Cancer in Vedic Astrology. This year, full Moon is in the nakshatra of Shravana. Shravana is the constellation which is symbolized by an ear. It represents both aural and oral traditions and has a propensity for ancient forms of learning.
What is unique about this Guru Purnima 2018 is that there is also a lunar eclipse happening on this sacred holiday. Vedic astrology views eclipses as inauspicious events. According to NASA, the eclipse is visible in Asia, Australia, South America, Europe and Africa. If you are in regions where the eclipse is visible, please stay indoors. Do your practices inside rather than venture out and look at the full Moon.
Shubh Guru Purnima 2018!