The real Guru’s Day, Guru Poornima, is a day you should look around the whole cosmos, and worship everything as guru. It’s not that you are here to glorify the guru, but to thank all the sages and saints for what they have done for us in helping us to realize God within. So it’s a special day to remember the guru within and without. Unfortunately, we seldom see what is inside, what is in you as the real you. You can only realize it, you cannot see it. To give an analogy, you know that you have a face, but in order to see your own face you need a mirror. In the same way, you have a guru within, but you don’t see it, and so sometimes you act as if you don’ know it is there.
But when you come in front of somebody who knows the real you, you feel, “Yes, I have a guru.” So the duty of the external guru is to act as a mirror to show you the guru within; then, the guru within helps you to realize God. In a sense, Mataa, Pitaa, Guru, Devam (Mother, Father, Guru, and God) are all one and the same. They take different forms, different names, but the ultimate purpose is to help you to know your own Self.
The guru need not always be an individual or a few sages and saints. If you want to learn, you can learn from anything and everything. A speck of dust can teach you something. A plant can teach you something. A seed can teach you something. A worm can teach you something. A bird, a beast, a stone. You can learn something from a thief. That’s why the great guru Dattatreya used to say that he had many gurus outside. He even learned how to concentrate from a fisherman.
The other day I was driving over the James River towards Scottsville and there was a person on the bridge who was totally ignoring the traffic. His eyes were fixed on the point where his fishing line entered the water. A whole parade was going by and the fisherman didn’t even turn around. He didn’t even know that a parade was going past him. His eyes were on the water. Why? Because the minute the pole shakes, he has to pull the line. He can’t be looking here and there. What a great guru he is, to teach us such concentration. We see the same concentration in a crane. If you see a crane in a creek, it will stand on one leg with its eyes constantly looking down. Hundreds of little, little fish will be moving around in the water. The crane will just stand quietly and the fish will think that he is sleeping there. But the minute the crane sees a nice big fish, whoosh! It is already caught! What a great lesson we learn from that. That’s what.
If we really want to learn, everything can become our guru. The unfortunate thing is, everybody wants to be a guru and nobody wants to be a student. Once a fellow with such an attitude went to an ashram as a guest. He stayed for a few days, looked around and then during the Saturday evening satsang he raised his hand and asked the guru a question. He said, “What are your disciples doing here?” The guru responded, “They are doing the things they are asked to do.” The guest questioned him further, “May I ask you what you are doing here?” And the guru explained, “Well, I tell them what to do.” So the guest asked the guru, “Oh, they just listen to you and do everything you say?” “Yes,” the guru replied. The guest wanted to be sure he understood completely, so he said, “That’s very good. So that means the disciples’ duty is to do what the guru asks them do and the guru’s duty is to tell them what to do?” “Yes,” the guru responded again. The guest then concluded, “Well, sir, having stayed here and observed all this, I would like to request you to make me a guru. Why waste time? Because it looks very simple. The guru tells everybody what to do and the disciple does it. It’s easy to say things, but hard to do them. Let me take the easy job.”
In India, there is a beautiful saying which means, “Do what I say. Don’t do what I do.” Saint Thiruvalluvar says. “It is very easy to say what to do, but it’s very hard to do what is said.” That’s why we find it hard to find real disciples. In the Bhagavad Gita we come across one good disciple, and that too was not easy. After a lot of argument and rebellion, ultimately when the disciple Arjuna failed in everything, he gave up. Only then did he fall at Sri Krishna’s feet and say, “I am your disciple. I know nothing. Please tell me what to do.” You see? That’s why it’s easy to be a guru, but hard to be a disciple.
Again, Thiruvalluvar says, “Who is great? The one who does what is not easy.” Anybody can do easy things. There’s no greatness in it. Anybody can do that. Find a little food, a little shelter, dress yourself nicely, have a little fun, expand the number of people in the family. Birds and animals do that. Ask the guinea pig. It knows very well. So what should we do that is difficult? Know the Truth. It is for that sake you need the help of somebody who has already gotten the light. It’s only a candle that is lit and shining that can give a little light to the other candles.
If you simply sit there as an unlit candle and listen for hours and hours and hours of talk about light, you still won’t get the light. A lit candle gives a talk about light, the unlit candle sits there. Even if you have three‑day conference, you won’t get the light. You have to come close, touch the lamp, get a spark and only then will you get lit. That is the duty of the disciple.
After having seen a lit candle, you should go, bow down and then get the touch. Once you have gotten that, then you work on yourself, make your life brighter, and of course you don’t forget that you got the light from the other lamp. So, you are grateful to that light. It is for that reason we celebrate Guru Poornima. All the great masters, sages and saints were flaming torches. We touch them in some form or other and get a little spark. We humble ourselves in front of those great sages and saints and express our gratitude. And by doing that we are able to receive more. That is the purpose of Guru Poornima.
As I said in the beginning, we give our gratitude to our mothers and fathers on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The same way we give our gratitude to the spiritual father, or the guru, who would ultimately help us to realize the final goal, the Truth, God, the inner Light. So Guru Poornima is not just a mere celebration. It is an observance. You observe the day and you receive the benefit.
So on this very, very auspicious day I wish and pray that the blessings of all the great sages, saints and masters may be upon you all to make your life more shining, more peaceful, more healthy and more happy, so that in turn you may share these blessings with all other beings. That way, one day we will see a beautiful blessed heaven on this earth. I thank you for coming here and joining us all to observe this beautiful day together. OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Sri Gurudev’s Guru Poornima Message on July 21, 1984 at Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, Virginia.