The day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh is traditionally celebrated as Guru Purnima by Hindus. Also known as Vyas Purnima, the day is celebrated in remembrance and veneration to sage Ved Vyas. He is the Adi (original) Guru of the Hindu Dharma, who classified the Vedas, wrote the eighteen Puranas and the Mahabharat. On this day, the Guru is offered Pujan (worship)by the disciples. First we shall consider the role of a Guru in life.

The Need of a Guru 
The Sanskrit root "Gu" means darkness or ignorance. "Ru" denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes darkness of our ignorance is a Guru. Only he who removes our ultimate darkness, known as Maya, and who inspires and guides us on to the path of God-realization is the true Guru. Students also refer to their school teacher or college lecturer as guru. The connotation of the word guru in this case is one who imparts temporal knowledge (Apara Vidya) and is thus accordingly offered respect.

A spiritual aspirant, no matter how brilliant, can never attain such knowledge by his own endeavor. This is stipulated in the Shrimad Bhagwatam in which Jadbharat reveals to king Rahugan:
"O Rahugan! One cannot attain knowledge of Atma and Paramatma by performing penance, sacrifices, renunciation, Vedic study or worshipping deities of water, fire or the sun. But when the dust from the feet of a satpurush (God-realized Guru) sprinkles on our heads, then we can surely attain this knowledge."

In essence, one can only attain salvation by serving the satpurush. Treading the path to God-realization by one's own efforts is likened by the Katha Upanishad as walking on a razor's edge. Adi Shankaracharya echoes a similar injunction: "If a person, despite possessing: a handsome, disease-free body, fame, a mountain of wealth, and even if he has studied the Vedas and all other scriptures, and has himself composed many scriptures, but has not surrendered himself at the feet of a Guru, then he has achieved nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing."

The Guru plays a vital role in boosting the aspirant frequently, when he loses track, becomes despondent or simply runs out of steam. The aspirant is thus better able to obey the Guru if he understands the Guru's glory.

Glory of the Guru
The Hindu shastras have hailed such a Guru immeasurably:

Skanda Purana - Guru Gita
A famous verse known by heart by all Hindu children glorifies the Guru:

Gurubrahma Guruvishnu Gururdevo Maheshwaraha |
Guruhu sakshaat Parambrahman tasmai Shrigurave namaha ||

"The guru is Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva), veneration to the Guru who is Parabrahman manifest."
The second line of the couplet does not literally mean that the Guru becomes Parabrahman - God, rather he is venerated as if God is manifesting through him.

This is subtly illustrated by another famous verse known to all Hindus:

Guru Govind donu khade, kisko laagu paay,
Balihari Gurudevaki jinhe Govind diyo bataay.

The Guru and Govind -God, are present before me, to whom shall I bow down first? Glory to the Guru since he showed me Govind.

Apart from guiding the aspirant on the path to God-realization, the Guru throws light on the profound meanings of the vast array of scriptural knowledge. Hence the Mundaka Upanishad calls such a Guru "Shrotriya" - knower of the true meanings of the scriptures. Adi Shankaracharya forbids an aspirant in endeavoring to decipher the meanings without a Guru. In his commentary on a Mantra (1/2/13) of the Mundaka Upanishad, he says: "Even if one possesses knowledge of the scriptures, he should not attempt to delve into their meanings by himself. He should obtain the knowledge of Brahman only through the Guru."

In their treatises, other Acharyas, such as Ramanuj and Nimbark have considered the Guru mandatory in God-realization.
The Guru in the Swaminarayan(Lord Vishnu) Sampradaya
In accordance with the injunctions from shastras of Hindu Dharma cited above, Bhagwan Swaminarayan too considers the Guru as foremost; to be venerated as one venerates God. In His Vachanamrutam He uses the terms Sadhu and Satpurush synonymously for the true Guru.

Gadhada III.27:
"The scriptures advocate five attributes of: Nishkam, Nirlobh, Nirman, Niswad and Nisneha for a sadhu. The sadhu in whom one observes such attributes has a constant rapport with God. Therefore one should have immutable faith in his words, and by his words should realize the knowledge of God."

Gadhada III.26:
"The sadhu who lives in a way in which he subdues his indriyas and antahkaran, but is not subdued by them, who engages in God-related activities only, strictly observes the Panch Vartamans, believes himself as being Brahman and worships Lord Purushottam, can be known neither as a human being nor a deva, since neither man nor deva possess such attributes. Therefore such a sadhu, though a human being, deserves to be worshipped at par with God."

Finally, how should an aspirant serve such a Guru?

Serving the Guru
Again the scriptures guide the aspirant:

(1) Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6/23) :
Advocates worship to the Guru in the same manner as the deity - God, to attain all there is to attain on the path of God-realization:

Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau |
Tasyaite kathitaa hi arthaaha prakashante mahatmanaha ||

(2) Bhagavad Gita (4/34) :
The disciple should humbly pose questions to the Guru and please him by serving him. He will then impart the knowledge of God, so ordain the wise sages.

(3) Shrimad Bhagvatam :
Bhagwan Rushabhdeva advocates his sons: Obeying the Anuvrutti - unvoiced wishes - of God and Guru is devotion.

(4 ) Vachanamrutam (Vadtal 5) :
The aspirant should offer equal and intensely loving service to God and His sadhu. Then, despite being the lowest type of devotee who is destined to become a great-devotee after either two births or four births or ten births or even a hundred births, he can become a great devotee in this birth. Such is the fruit of serving God and His sadhu equally."

The phrase "great devotee" signifies moksha-salvation.

Therefore on the day of Guru Purnima, disciples introspect, and resolve to offer pujan and reverence to the Guru in mind, action and speech; implicitly obey his unvoiced wishes, commands, serving him as one would God and lauding his glory and redemptive attributes.

Every year, the Guru Purnima Festival, in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj is celebrated with devotion and enthusiasm at Bochasan Mandir. An assembly from 8.30 am to 12.00 noon is held wherein bhajans and discourses by senior sadhus emphasize and sing the glory of the Guru. The festival is finally crowned with Swamishri's blessings and darshan - where thousands offer their reverence by filing past Swamishri.

Hindu Legend
This was the day, when Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa – author of the Mahabharata – was born to sage Parashara and a fisherman's daughter Satyavati, thus this day is also celebrated as Vyasa Purnima. Veda Vyasa, did yeoman service to the cause of Vedic studies by gathering all the Vedic hymns extant during his times, dividing them into four parts based on their use in the sacrificial rites, and teaching them to his four chief disciples – Paila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu. It was this dividing and editing that earned him the honorific "Vyasa" (vyas = to edit, to divide).

"He divided the Veda into four, namely Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. The histories and the Puranas are said to be the fifth Veda."

- Brahmanda Purana Vyasa Maharshi is the guru of all gurus.All prayers today to ones guru are directly reaching Vyasa.Vyasa maharshi has helped everyone to know vedas and puranas and lead life in a righteous way. Guru means one who removes darkness from ones life.
Buddhist History

The Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath about 5 weeks after his enlightenment. Before Gautama (the Buddha-to-be) attained enlightenment, he gave up his austere penances and his friends, the Pañcavaggiya monks, left him and went to Isipatana (Sarnath).

After attaining Enlightenment the Buddha, leaving Uruvela, travelled to the Isipatana to join and teach them. He went to them because, using his spiritual powers, he had seen that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly. While travelling to Sarnath, Gautama Buddha had to cross the Ganges. Having no money with which to pay the ferryman, he crossed the Ganges through the air. When King Bimbisara heard of this, he abolished the toll for ascetics. When Gautama Buddha found his five former companions, he taught them, they understood and as a result they also became enlightened. At that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones, was founded. The sermon Buddha gave to the five monks was his first sermon, called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It was given on the full-moon day of Asadha. Buddha subsequently also spent his first rainy season i.e. Varsha vassa at Sarnath at the Mulagandhakuti. The Sangha had grown to 60 in number (after Yasa and his friends had become monks), and Buddha sent them out in all directions to travel alone and teach the Dharma. All 60 monks were Arahants.
Observances by Buddhists and Hindus

Buddhists observe on this day uposatha i.e. to observe eight precepts. Vipassana meditators practice meditation on this day under the guidance of their teachers. Rainy season i.e. varsha vassa also starts with this day. During the rainy season lasting for three lunar months from July to October. During this time Buddhist monks remain in a single place, generally in their temples. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation. During Vassa, many Buddhist lay people reinvigorate their spiritual training and adopt more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking.

A sanyasi performing Vyasa puja traditionally held on Guru Purnima day, as a part of Chaturmas rituals

The Hindu spiritual Gurus are revered on this day by remembering their life and teachings. Vyasa Puja is held at various temples, where floral offerings and symbolic gifts are given away in his honour and that of the cosmic satguru. The festivities are usually followed by feast for the disciples, shishya, where the prasad and charnamrita literally nectar of the feet, the symbolic wash of Guru's feet, which represents his grace, kripa is distributed.

As a day of remembrance towards all gurus, through whom God grants the grace of knowledge (Jnana) to the disciples, special recitations of the Hindu scriptures especially, the Guru Gita, a 216 verse ode to Guru, authored by the sage, Vyasa himself, are held all day; apart from singing of bhajans, hymns and organising of special kirtan session and havan at many places, where devotees from all over gather at the ashrams, matha or place where the seat of Guru, Guru Gaddi exists. This day also sees the ritual of padapuja, the worships of Guru's sandals, which represent his holy feet and is seen a way of rededicating to all that a Guru stands for. Disciples also recommit themselves on this day, towards following their teacher's guidance and teachings, for the coming year.

A mantra that is particularly used on this day is "Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheshwara, Guru Sakshat Parabrahmah Tasmai Shree Guru Veh Namah".

This day is also seen as an occasion when fellow devotees, Guru Bhai (disciple-brother), express their solidarity to one another in their spiritual journey.
Jainism

According to Jain traditions, it was on this day, falling at the beginning of chaturmas, the four month rainy season retreat, Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, after attaining Kaivalya, made Indrabhuti Gautam, later known as Gautam Swami, a Ganadhara, his first disciple, thus becoming a Guru himself, therefore it is observed in Jainism as Guru Purnima, and is marked special veneration to one's Gurus and teachers.

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