Guru Purnima: Celebrating Divine Teachers & Spiritual Enlightenment

Discover the profound significance of Guru Purnima, the ancient festival celebrating spiritual gurus.

Learn about the timeless celebration of Guru Purnima, a sacred day that honors spiritual teachers and the transformative wisdom they bring.

Guru Purnima: A Day of Gratitude

Every year I look forward to the Gratitude for Teachers festival celebrated in the East for centuries. It is a holy day in the Hindu religion, called Guru Purnima, which occurs at the time of the full moon in July. It is an occasion to offer gratitude for spiritual teachers, for the divine light and grace of God acting through them.

We celebrate enlightened teachers of all traditions and the gurus or spiritual masters in our spiritual tradition. We honor those who show us the divine light of our being, who help us realize who we are and what God is.

For our spiritual community, those gurus of Kriya Yoga are Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, Paramahansa Yogananda, Roy Eugene Davis, and their successors.



Guru Purnima’s Significance

Guru is a Sanskrit word that means the light that dispels the darkness. Its most basic meaning is teacher.

Purnima means full moon. The full moon's brightness signifies the divine light reflected in the heart of the receptive devotee.

full moon over a mountain on guru purnima

"The guru introduces us to our divine Self by showing us how to experience the Self and live in harmony with it."

—Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

The Sacred Role of a Guru

While we have many teachers in life and perhaps many spiritual teachers, the relationship between guru and disciple is distinct. It has a particular and singular purpose— dedication to Self and God-realization to bring the liberation of consciousness and freedom from sorrow. That liberation and freedom from sorrow require spiritual awakening, the direct experience of the innate divine Self.

The guru introduces us to our divine Self by showing us how to experience the Self and live in harmony with it.

Encountering the Divine Self

In the heart

is a well, filled

with the sound

of silence.


from it.

One taste



How do I know?

The day I stopped

sitting on the edge

and fell in,

told me this. [1]

That "one taste" is the direct encounter with the Self, the true Healer that brings access to the well of infinite wisdom within. We live in a thirsty world—both literally and figuratively. The effects of avidya or spiritual ignorance—global warming, unhealthy lifestyles, materialism, racism, environmental degradation, violence, militarism, and more—are on the rise.

Every person thirsts for true fulfillment. We yearn for something that will bring real peace and lasting happiness. But we are offered the salt water of acquiring one more thing—only to find our thirst increased.

What will it take to quench the thirst of the soul, of the heart, of our world? What will bring about the lasting change we seek and need? Only a change in consciousness can, and will, do that. No information, no "thing," no product, no research, no political solution can accomplish that. Vedic teachings tell us not even good action can do that. Only Self-realization—the direct encounter that radically reorders our perception and priorities—will bring about the positive and lasting transformation of self and society.

The Urgency of Spiritual Awakening

Yoga, the universal spiritual system for Self and God-realization, drawn from the essence of Vedic wisdom, is rising at this time on the planet because we need it.

Parmahansa Yogananda, who came to America in 1920 with the blessings and instruction of his guru, Sri Yukteswar, to bring Kriya Yoga to the West, predicted that there would come a time when yoga would be taught in schools and universities. Even though, at that time, most Americans had never heard of yoga, and those who had, were profoundly confused about what it is! He saw that need.

Mahavatar Babaji said: "Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization, will ultimately spread in all lands and aid in harmonizing the nations through man's personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite."

Kriya Yoga is a path that offers the vision of wholeness, of a sacred life—the vision of individual and planetary spiritual awakening- and provides the way to realize and actualize it—personally and globally.

Embracing Our Divine Destiny

Bringing that vision to fruition takes all the qualities referred to in the Bhagavad Gita's description of those with a divine destiny, starting with fearlessness and purity of heart. The qualities listed in Chapter Sixteen, verses one through three, include: fearlessness, purity of heart, abiding in yoga along with knowledge, charitable giving, self-restraint, and holy offerings, the study of sacred texts, austerity, and uprightness, nonviolence, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, serenity, freedom from finding fault, compassion for all beings, absence of cravings, gentleness, modesty, steadiness, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, freedom from malice and pride; these are the endowments of those born to a divine destiny. [2]

We all have a divine destiny. That is the message the guru brings us. We are divine. We have a divine destiny, and we all have the necessary divine qualities to fulfill that destiny.

Let me conclude with a story.

A Story of Vision and Action

Deep in the forest, a fire broke out. Some animals escaped, but many were trapped as the fire raged on. A bird heard their cries and was moved to help. She was fearless. She gathered water from the nearby river in her beak and released it onto the flames.

Tirelessly, she flew back and forth. The other animals standing by watching taunted her, saying, "what do you think you are doing?" She replied, "I am doing what I can." Her courage, consciousness, and vision of possibility stirred and awakened the hearts of the others. Soon, one by one, they joined her—bringing water from the river until the fire was extinguished.

That river is the Vedas. But we must carry its living water of wisdom into the fire threatening our world. The bird is the one with vision, the one who is fearless in acting on that vision with a compassionate heart.

As we celebrate Guru Purnima, let us recognize the gurus of Kriya Yoga and all enlightened teachers through time for their vision, fearlessness, and purity of heart. At the same time, let us remember that it is up to each of us to do what we can.

[1] Ellen Grace O’Brian, The Moon Reminded Me (Homebound Publications: 2017) 78

[2] Roy Eugene Davis, The Eternal Way: The Inner Meaning of the Bhagavad Gita (CSA Press: Lakemont, 1996) 240.



The Moon Reminded Me

In her luminous poems, Ellen Grace O’Brian manages to braid contemporary moments of everyday life with ancient spiritual teachings—the sight of a hummingbird’s red throat, bread on the table, a couple’s quarrel, a mother’s advice—become doorways into the divine mystical heart.

The Moon Reminded Me, subtly laced with Sanskrit, gives us an insight into a poet who bridges two worlds eloquently enough to take us along with her. Sandhya, the numinous time for stepping into the temple, suddenly becomes this moment, now.

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