Guru Purnima

On Saturday our Sathya Sai Baba group had a presentation for Guru Purnima, a day like father’s day, set aside to reflect on and honor the guru in our lives. (Here is a very detailed essay on the details of the holiday and its meaning).

A young woman in our group put together a lovely slideshow encouraging us to discuss such questions as do we need a guru (I’ve asked that before!), how do we find a guru, what do we do once we have a guru.

It was nice to get different people’s thoughts on these questions. Many felt that though the true guru is within your own heart, it is still a good idea to have an external guru who can help you hear that inner voice.

In terms of finding a guru, one person said something that was fresh to me. He suggested formulating a question. Go into the world knowing what question you are asking so that the correct guru can appear for you. If you have a science question, you ask a scientist, not a novelist. In the same way, you need to know what it is you want to know so that you’ll recognize it when you get an answer.

Someone else brought up the idea I’ve heard before that your devotion and sincerity is more important than the authenticity of the guru. I can understand this thought, that if you show love and devotion to a corrupt guru, you will still be purifying your soul. But it’s also a rather dangerous idea. It makes me think of the Nazi soldiers who followed orders without question. I’m not sure it’s okay to let them off the hook that easily. That, I think, is a discussion for another time!

We also got to watch some video footage of Sathya Sai Baba. What really struck me as I watched the video was the sincerity, longing, and love on the faces of the devotees. I saw that reflected in myself and the people sitting in the room with me too. All of us seekers have this exact same desire: to find and understand Truth. I felt so connected in that moment to Hindus everywhere.

From what I understand, Guru Purnima was originally a celebration of the birthday of Vyasa, a legendary guru and storyteller who is said to have created The Mahahbharata as well as codifying the Vedas.

The prayer to say on this day is:

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo, Maheshwaraha

Guru Sakshat, Para Brahma, Tasmai Sri, Guruve Namaha

The devotees of Sathya Sai Baba see him as God. They call him Bhagawan and say, “How lucky are we that God himself is our guru?” I don’t feel quite like a part of the group yet because of my difficulty accepting gurus. I will say, though, that I will see Sai Baba as God in the same way that I see myself and all those I interact with as God!

So Guru devotion is still a difficult thing for me. In some ways I feel like I’m moving backwards, since devotion and adoration came so easily to me as a child and teenager. But Krishna says nothing is ever lost. So I think my struggle to surrender to a guru or any kind of master is a step along the way of my spiritual progression and will eventually be worked out and overcome.

Vyasa narrating The Mahabharata to Ganesha, the scribe.

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • 5w_haul

    the thing is when one have innate desire to find a true guru and surrender in his feet, a true guru will automatically appear to the disciple. you just don’t go and make someone your guru.

    most of your doubt about guru will be cleared by reading autobiography of a yogi
    and some of vivekananda’s books.

    “Guru Govind dou khade, kaake laagoon paye Balihari guru aapki, Govind diyo milaye.”

    cheers !!

    • Ambaa

      Yes, I agree that I do not seek one, but one will find me. I think what I need is to clear away some resistances. I hope reading Autobiography of a Yogi will help. It is next on my reading list!

    • HARRY


      You explained it so well, I can’t add anything to it, for that my one thousand Naman. And that last statement says it all it need to and I don’t think we can add anything to it. Nice one. :)

  • 5w_haul

    There is no deity superior to the Guru, no gain better than the Guru’s grace …. no state higher than meditation on the Guru.
    The pan-Indian,Sanskrit term ” Guru ” has a cluster of meanings with significance beyond that of English translation ” teacher. ”
    Gu means ” ignorance ” and ru means ” dispeller. ”
    The guru is a dispeller of ignorance, all kind of ignorance
    The guru is both a formal teacher and a spiritual preceptor. He is a storehouse of spiritual energy, which he can transmit to others. He helps the aspirant to polish his inner self till it reflects the light of truth.
    Even avatars like Rama and Krishna subjected themselves to the tutelage of worthy gurus like Vashishta and Sandipani.
    The scriptures revere the Guru’s feet, which are said to embody Shiva and Shakti, knowledge and action, the emission and re-absorption of creation. Powerful vibrations of shakti flow from the Guru’s feet. They are a mystical source of grace and illumination, and a figurative term for the Guru’s teachings.

    only mother, father, guru, and god are worthy of Pranam.

    but remember beware of fake businessman gurus.


    @ Ambaa

    I’ve asked this question to my late mother, how will I know when I have found that great Guru and she said you will know but you need to listen to your heart and soul and the things she told me I can’t explain it at this time, but I will next time, when I have more time.

    • Ambaa

      That was kind of what I was thinking as I was listening to the presentation. If I had spoken up I would have said that having your heart and mind open and ready is an important part of having a guru find you.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    I’ve heard of Sathya Sai Baba, but mostly in the context of his being a fraud or charlatan or stage magician. I’ve not read much from someone arguing for his validity. Could you point me to somewhere (perhaps your own posts) that summarizes the positive case for the miraculous stories told about him? Something not too long would be appreciated.

    • Ambaa

      Well…I’m actually not the best person to defend him. lol. I did a post about him summarizing the criticism and the praise. I am not impressed with the supposed miracles, but I like a lot of the things he’s said and I like the charity organizations he’s set up. One thing I like is that he does preach the idea that other religions are also valid paths to truth. That is really important to me.

      I don’t consider him my guru, but I go to the group because I love being in a community of Hindus and people who are really working hard at being spiritual. I don’t have the same reverence for Sai Baba that the others do. I’m not sure if that’s his failing or mine.

      So even though I go to a group focused on his teachings, I’m still in the market for a guru, hoping that some guru can get me past my serious distrust (I grew up in a cult and I have a lot of trouble with authority now, particularly religious authority). Here is a post about my background

      And some on Sai Baba:

      My feeling about gurus:

      • Bob Seidensticker

        I’ve had something of a similar experience with Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh). I’d seen intriguing and clever quotes by him, but when I looked him up, I saw that he had a rather unsavory past.

        Maybe the lesson is that not-so-good people can say or do good things, and it’s our job to separate the good from the bad.

        If you’re your own guru, why look for a guru? It sounds like you already have one, and the inquisitive wisdom quest (if that’s the right term) that you’ve assigned yourself is a great journey.

        Thanks for the links.

        • Ambaa

          I did a post on Osho also. Found the same thing as you!

          Where I’m at now is that I’m open to the possibility that a guru may come into my life, but I’m not seeking it out. I’m happy charting my path through life and I trust my inner Self to guide me.

    • 5w_haul

      always remember a true yogi never shows miracles.
      and especially tag heuer Watches


    @ Ambaa

    I have heard many thing what guru should be, but never, what he or she really is. Every human being is born with faults including gurus, this is part of Hinduism. Self prescribed rules which you think what guru should be, then you are wrong in your understanding of gurus. Most of the rules that you and I are familiar with are self prescribed by a specific guru himself. Therefore there are no hard and fast rules what a guru should be. Each guru is different in his own way and what they do. Western understanding of a guru is that all the gurus should follow one set rules, and they compare this to other religious faith, where it is not the case.

    What I want to know is, what do you think the guru should be ? and what kind of rule he or she should follow and if that is the measure you are looking for then that is never going to get fulfilled because you will never find a guru that matches your specification. We are all INDIVIDUALS on this planet and Hinduism says that.

    What I want to know is what do you think a guru should be? What is your perception of a guru? I’m just curious.

    • Ambaa

      I definitely don’t think all gurus should follow the same rules! What would be the point of different gurus in that case?

      I guess people look at it as each guru being kind of like a priest of the same religion? That’s pretty far off from the reality.

      I am happy to take advice from gurus, study and listen to the teachings of various gurus, but always I will evaluate whether what they preach feels right (anyone preaching hatred of others is not going to be getting any respect from me). I value the information and help that gurus can provide, but in the end I trust my inner Self before anyone else. I am not likely to let a guru ever become so central in my life that I do everything he says without question. A lot of people do, but I am not one of them.

      • HARRY

        Hey Ambaa I like you. You are very set in your way ( Like my sisters ). Hinduism hinges on guru bhakti and parampara, even Avatars are not exempt from it either. Without these concept Hinduism would not exist. It’s not about what the guru tells you to do, and you don’t have to do everything they tell you to do. And if they are real gurus, then they will never tell you to do things that question the moral compass inside you.

        When you go to the doctor, and if he tells you to follow a prescription, you have to, even when you don’t like the taste of the medicine. The whole concept of that is to make you better and healthier. When you and I seek help from the doctor, we do not ask what his sexual habits are, or what he eats, or who he likes, and a kind of company he keeps, why? because we are not interested in what he does, or what he like. We are only interested in his curing ability and nothing else. Because that’s his speciality.

        Gurus are doctors of souls and Mandir is a clinic likewise and we should look it from the same perception and nothing more then the doctors of our body.

        Gurus are just as much human as they are divine like Krishna. Even he had his faults. The faults are part and parcel of a human body.

        When a baby is born in Hindu family it goes through variety of Sanskars, where first one is a nam karan sanskar, and followed by others, and when that child reaches the age of understanding, then he gets Gurus Gayan sanskar, which is same as all the Avatars had, and the Gurus of the Gurus also had too, and the last one in line is an Antim sanskar, which take place on the day of that individuals funeral. And Without this sanskar your path to the Hinduism is not complete. Even Sankrachariya himself is not exempt from this either, thus guru parampara. On that note my pranam to you.

        • Ambaa

          Well, it’s not exactly my choice that I don’t have a guru right now. They always say when I am ready, one will appear. So all I can do is work on being ready.

          Your example doesn’t really hold up for me, as I avoid going to the doctor to a ridiculous degree and often don’t take medications they recommend! I’m definitely as suspicious of doctors and medications as I am of gurus.

          • HARRY

            @ Ambaa

            I am sorry to put you in the deep end like this. I like the banter with you. You are a nice person inside and out. I wanted to see how you will react when I have thrown different Hinduism concept at you, but I don’t think you need to worry about them. They were there just as an information only and by no means it was to corner you in one place or to intimidate you. If I’ve done that then I apologise. I am still laughing at your responses you posted. I think if my Mrs was around she would slap me LOL.

            I think your wedding is around the corner and I wish you and Brad all the best on the day. Whatever happens don’t worry, just enjoy the day. :) I will take break from posting because I am about to tare down one of my property and I am planing to rebuilt it, but I will come back and still read those articles. Enjoy your day. HARRY. :)

          • Ambaa

            Thanks! And no worries, I’m not upset or anything. I’m just not sure what role gurus will play in my life. It’s definitely an aspect that’s a work in progress for me! Maybe i should have added trust issues to that karma burning post ;)