Guru lights up the path along the journey of our lives. In Sanskrit the syllable ‘Gu’ means ‘darkness’ and ‘Ru’ means ‘he who dispels it’. Therefore, Guru means someone who provides enlightenment, who clarifies doubts and points to promising pathways. The role of a Guru in our lives is irreplaceable.
Every year, we celebrate Guru Purnima on the first full moon of the Ashadh month of the Hindu calendar. Guru Purnima literally means large, darkness dispelling full moon. We celebrate Guru Purnima to honour the great sage, Veda Vyasa, the author of Vedas, Puranas, Mahabharata and many important scriptures. Guru Purnima is also called Vyasa Purnima as on this day the great Sage Vyasa was born.
Buddhists celebrate Guru Purnima to honour Lord Buddha, who gave his first sermon on this day in Sarnath. The Jains celebrate Guru Purnima to honour the 24th Tirthankara in Jainism, Lord Mahavira.
People celebrate Guru Purnima in different ways— some prefer to perform puja at home, visit temples and offer prayers. Some celebrate the event in their educational institutions and others commemorate the event by remembering the sermons of their Gurus. We may have different ways of celebrating Guru Purnima and may have different Gurus to honour but the core principle remains the same—to pay respect to the Gurus, who have been guiding and providing enlightenment to the people over many centuries.
Guru Purnima epitomizes the importance given from time immemorial to Gurus, who continue to enrich the lives of people with knowledge and wisdom, generations after generations. This reverence, respect and tribute for teacher or Guru is seen in Guru Mantra; “Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara Guru sakshat, para Brahma, tasmai shri gurave namah (Guru is the creator, Guru is the preserver, Guru is the transformer, Guru is the supreme god or almighty, we bow to that Guru”). In a somewhat similar vein, Waheguru in Sikhism refers to the almighty God and is used as a main mantra, called gurmantar. The Gurus and their wisdom contained in the sacred text, “Guru Granth Sahib” are central to Sikhism.
A Guru is someone who shares wisdom, imparts knowledge and guides disciples to sail through ups and downs in life. He is someone who shapes character, preserves culture and transforms our future. He shows us the righteous path. This day gives us an opportunity to acknowledge Gurus’ contribution in our lives and express sincere gratitude to him or her.
As I lost my mother when I was just 15-months old, my grandmother, Smt. Seshamma and my grandfather, Shri Narasaiah Naidu were my first Gurus. I remember and cherish their valuable teachings and every advice given by them during my childhood and later years.
In fact, for many years from my primary school to college, my grandparents were my teachers. The other teachers to whom I would like to offer my reverential pranams are: Primary School: Sri Penchaliah, Sri Venkata Subbaiah DLNR High School:Sri Chidamabaram, Sri Veguri Venkatappaiah, Sri R Narayana Reddy, Sri Doraiswamy, Sri Meera Reddy, Sri Raghuramaiah, Sri Peter, Sri Gopalakrishnaiah RSR High School: Sri Papaiah, Sri Raghuramaiah, Sri Sadasivam, Smt Ratnamma, B Pandu Rangaiah, Y Srinivasa Rao,Sri Jangam Reddy.
VR High School: Sri K Ramalinga Reddy (Head Masters), Sri G Govindaiah, Sri Kalahasti Venkatarayulu, Sri S.V.Tonpe, Sri Gadam Sivaiah, Sri Chakprapani, Sri P Veeraiah , Sri Chillara Venkata Ramanaiah, Sri I Rami Reddy, Sri Anji Reddy, Sri N Kanakam Babu, Sri P Mohan Rao, Sri Gadam Sankaraiah, Sri Nagabushanam, Sri Munaiah, Smt Siromani, Smt Saraswathamma, Smt Sobhagyavathamma, Smt Deva Karunamma, Sri Ramamurty
VR College, Nellore: Principles’ Sri Rebala Subba Reddy and Sri Chekkirala Janaki Ram, Sri Poluri Hanumath Janakiram Sarma (Telugu), Sri Kandula Venkat Reddy (History), Sri TV Krishna Reddy (Economics), Sri C V Ramchandra Rao, Sri V S Ramachandra Rao, Sri J Nageswara Rao (English)
Andhra University Law College, Visakhapatnam
Prof. Bhagavathula Satyanarayana Murthy, Sri D. Gopalakrishna Sastry, Sri K. Gupteswar, Sri A S Ramchander Rao, Sri Padmanabham, Sri Vankayala Lakshmana Rao, Sri Appala Naidu, Sri R Jagan Mohan Rao, Sri Krishnamurthy, Sri Kurella Santosh. In my early days of Sangh, I was mentored by Sri Somepalli Somaiah garu and Sri Bhogadi Durga Prasad garu. In my early political days, I had the fortune of being guided by Sri Tenneti Viswanatham, one of the most illustrious freedom fighters from Andhra Pradesh. Later, at the national level, I had the fortune of being guided and counseled by Sri L K Advani.
One of the most inspirational stories of Guru-Shishya relationship is that of Swami Vivekananda and his Guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. They came from different backgrounds, different belief systems and shared opposing views. For a long time, Vivekananda did not accept Ramakrishna as his Guru and challenged his views. Swami Vivekananda faced numerous challenges after the passing away of his father and turned to Ramakrishna for his guidance. This was the turning point in his life and with the guidance of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda began his spiritual journey.
While paying his reverential respect to his Guru, Swami Vivekananda once said: “I am what I am, and what I am is always due to him. Whatever in me or in my words is good and true and eternal came to me from his mouth, his heart, his soul. Sri Ramakrishna is the spring of this phase of the earth’s religious life., of its impulses and activities.” In fact, Swami Vivekananda started and named the spiritual organization, Ramakrishna Mission, after his Guru, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
In India for ages, a Guru or a teacher has played a very significant role in every individual’s life and has been the most important influence after his or her parents. According to our Puranas, Bhagwan Krishna studied under Sage Sandeepani, Bhagwan Sri Rama was mentored by Sage Vasishtha and Viswamitra. An ordinary boy met Chanakya and became the great Chandragupta… Arjuna became the famed warrior under the guidance of Guru Dronacharya.
In today’s context, the teachers are the most important mentors in guiding and shaping the lives of millions of children and youngsters. Thus, they have an onerous responsibility towards nation-building. They have to not only impart knowledge to students, but also teach ethics and inculcate the qualities of sincerity, selflessness, empathy, compassion, commitment, hard work and discipline. As the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had rightly said: “Education which does not mould character is absolutely worthless”.
Values are best taught through example. Teachers have to be role models exemplifying the value system.
In the fast-changing world, education is moving from classrooms to digital platforms. In the wake of the pandemic-induced lockdowns, schools, colleges and other educational institutions are conducting classes online. Although, online classes have become the only option in the present context, my advice to teachers is to focus on the holistic development of the students in the true ‘Guru-Sishya’ parampara. There is a need to provide a personal touch to make learning that much more interesting.
Teachers need to be actively involved in guiding students in this crucial time and ensure that their learning process does not get hindered. Time and again, Gurus or teachers have helped students realize their true potential and make a mark in life. Internet may provide you with a world of information, but a teacher alone can instill the power of analyzing and synthesizing, of evaluating, prioritizing and pursuing higher-order skills needed for the changing world of work. These life skills help the learners to navigate through difficult times.
Despite the ubiquitous presence of technology in our lives today, it simply cannot substitute a Guru, who not only imparts knowledge, but also inculcates values, humane thinking, compassion and discipline, among others, in the disciples.
Today is the day for every individual to gratefully acknowledge the role of the Guru or teacher. No matter how lofty our accomplishments, we should never forget the contribution of our teachers, mentors and guides. On this Guru Purnima, I urge every individual to take out time and express gratitude to his or her teachers or Gurus for being the guiding lights in all stages of life and work towards reviving the glorious tradition of Guru-Shishya Parampara. –
In the end, I offer my reverential Pranams to my mother, Smt. Ramanamma, who had wished that I should become an advocate, my father, Sri Rangaiah Naidu, my grandmother, grandfather and all my gurus and mentors who guided me at various stages of my life.
M Venkaiah Naidu