One of the most important blessings we pray to God for is access to the right Guru. Adi Sankara himself says in Vivekasudamani

“Durlabam trayamevaitat Devanugrahetukam Manusyatvam, mumuksutvam, Mahaprusasmsrayah”

Three great boons are difficult to come by and can be obtained only by grace of God: birth as a human being; desire to seek truth; getting a great person as one’s Guru. Why? While none of us has seen Isvara, a guru is present before us in person – if he is pure of heart and mind, possesses jnana and other such qualities, he will give us the same peace of mind and blessings that we seek from Isvara.

What we therefore seek in a Guru is verily Isvara Himself. We commonly say: “Gurur Brahma Gurur VishnuGurur Devo Mahesvarah Guru Sakshat Para Brahma Tasmai Sri Guruve Namah”. We consider Guru as parabrahman, the source of all three, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. Another popular verse says the same thing about the great Guru, Vyasa or Badaranya:

“Acaturvandana Brahma, Dvibahuraparo Harih Aphalalocanah Sambhu Bhagavan Badarayanah”

He is ‘a-catur-vandana Brahma’ – Lord Brahma without four heads (but with just one head); ’dwi-bahurapor Harih’ - Hari or Lord Vishnu with only two hands and not four; and, also ‘aphala-locanah Sambuh’ - Siva without the eye on the forehead!

Chaturmasya Vratham and Vyasa Puja

In the journey of a Guru, the Tamil ‘Adi’ month, is important. On the full moon day, or Poornima, in Mutts like the Kanchi and Sringeri, the Acharyas start observing vratham called Chaturmasyam and, to signify it, perform an elaborate guru puja, called Vyasa puja. In many places this is also called Guru Poornima. Poornima means the effulgent full moon and Guru means destroyer of darkness or remover of ignorance. The veda says- "Chandro manaso Jathaha", meaning Moon is mind, so the full moon signifies the wholeness and brightness. Just as the moon shines by reflecting the light of the Sun, a true devotee can dazzle by gaining it from his Guru. It is part of Sanyasi dharma that, in tune with his vow of detachment, he should not remain in one place for long but instead be a wandering mendicant. This may however leave him with little time to meditation and other spiritual practices and to the acquisition of his own aatmajnanam. He, therefore, stays in one place during the chaatur maasya period.

Before taking the chaturmaasya vratham and commencing their discipline of meditation, yoga, and aatmavichaara, the sanyasins invoke the grace of Sri Veda Vyasa and other preceptors of aatma jnaana. This pooja is as important to sanyasins as Upaakarma (annual thread changing ceremony) is to those who belong to the other aasramas.

The puja is called ‘Vyasa Puja’, for Sri Vedavyasa stands foremost in the line of these preceptors. Vyasa codified the Vedas into four divisions. In Brahmasutra, he integrated the messages of the Upanishads relating to Brahman, Jiva and the Universe. It is not Veda Vyasa alone who is worshipped on Vyasa Pooja day. Several groups of preceptors and gurus are worshipped. Finally, Saaligramah pooja and an omnibus worship (samashti pooja) are performed.

This year the Vyasa Puja and Chaturmasya vratham will take place on 9th July, 2017. Those of us who cannot participate in such a puja in any of the mutts in India, may we remember and pray to our acharyas and gurus by joining any local puja.

Jaya Jaya Sankara, Hara Hara Sankara Hara Hara Sankara, Jaya Jaya Sankara