Today is Gurupurnima, a day specially dedicated to the guru or teacher. This could be a spiritual guru, an academic teacher or someone who is considered a mentor. When I was living in the States, I always was aware of Gurupurnima, because as someone who is knowledgeable about and appreciates the principles and practices of Hinduism, I would acknowledge Gurupurnima as the day on which I pay special obeisance to my own spiritual master.
The word Guru literally means master or teacher. The word Purnima, means full moon. In the Hindu month of Ashad (July-August), the full moon day is observed as the auspicious day of Guru Purnima. In the Hindu tradition, this day is sacred and is dedicated to the great Hindu sage Vyasa. It is believed that this ancient saint edited the four Vedas, authored the 18 Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavata, some of the major scriptures and epics in Hinduism.
In Hinduism, and I would like to say in the Indian culture in general, the guru has a special place in an individual’s life, because he/she is looked upon as the link or cord between god and the student. In fact, among some of the many human relationships that are celebrated in Hinduism, such as that of a brother-sister (raksha bandhan) or husband-wife (karva chauth), the teacher-student relationship (guru-shisya) is one of them. This is a relationship that is not taken lightly, but considered to be one the significant relationships in an individual’s life and spiritual well being.
It may already be known to some of my readers that I belong to two Clinical Psychologist and Counselors online forum where I can derive support, resources, and other feedback from my peers. I did have a “strange experience” today because, this morning, I woke up to a flurry of emails on both the forums, where people were publicly wishing their gurus (Senior psychologists) for gurupurnima. The emails were expressions of immense gratitude and reverence for their gurus and mentors who helped and guided the “students” along the way. On reading these emails at first, I was pretty amazed, confused, and amused by this public display of sentiment and affection. It gradually dawned on me then, as I kept seeing similar emails during the day, that I no longer live in a culture where there is minimal respect for the teacher (especially in the academic realm); that I now exist in a culture and era where, despite the modernity of India and the ultra westernization of Mumbai, students are still mindful and cognizant of the role their teachers/mentors hold in their life and the respect that is due to them, be it at a kindergarten level or a doctoral level or a spiritual level.
It was a refreshing feeling to note that, to date, there is still a significant amount of value and reverence that gurus are given in their respective fields. I have had many a strange experiences in Mumbai, but this is one strange experience that is a welcome change in my perspective of this city, as well as a soothing reminder that there are still some things that are caring and loving about people of Mumbai.