In the month of July on the Siddha Yoga path, we celebrate Gurupurnima. This is the full-moon night devoted to Shri Guru, to the spiritual Master who guides us to realize great freedom in the midst of our daily lives. The sages of ancient Kashmir poetically imagined the Guru-disciple relationship with a striking image: the enlightened Master is represented by the moon, which radiates beams of light into the disciple's heart, a night-blooming lotus.
In honor of Gurupurnima, and as a way to further our understanding of the Guru-disciple relationship, we will inquire into a profound subject: the guru-tattva, or Guru principle. As Siddha Yogis, we are blessed to follow the path of a living spiritual Master, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, who embodies the guru-tattva.
To better understand what the guru-tattva is, it is useful to explore the meaning of these two Sanskrit words: guru and tattva.
One of the primary meanings of the word guru is teacher. This word also has other meanings that describe the attributes of a Master, such as “great,” “highly valued,” “venerable,” and “expansive.”
The word tattva means “truth,” “reality,” and “essence.” When tattva is placed in compound with guru to form the word guru-tattva, it refers to the Guru as the all-pervasive principle that is the source of everything in creation.
Having merged with the guru-tattva, a spiritual Master embodies the guru-tattva completely. The body, mind, prana, and senses of the Master are all expressions of that one guru-tattva. In this way, the all-pervading Guru principle and the individuality of the Guru are united in the living Master.
Verse 23 of the Morning and Evening Arati describes this truth of the Guru principle with reference to Lord Shiva, who in his form as the primordial teacher serves as an archetype for the guru-tattva:
Salutations to Shiva, the primordial Guru.
Although distinctly embodied as the Lord, the Guru, and the Self,
He pervades everything, like the sky.1
It is because the guru-tattva is all-pervasive, like the sky, that we are able to experience the Guru’s nature everywhere. We can see the Guru in the brilliance of the morning sun; we can sense the Guru’s presence in the soft touch of the moon’s cool rays; we can perceive this same Reality vibrating in our hearts. And, we experience the guru-tattva when we have darshan of the living Guru.
You may be wondering: if the guru-tattva is all-pervasive, how is it different from the universal Consciousness that exists equally in all things? This is an excellent question.
In the treasury of revealed and inspired texts of Shaivism we find a powerful answer. A great sage of 11th century Kashmir, Kshemaraja, says:
The Guru is the grace-bestowing power of God.2
The Guru principle is the grace that awakens Kundalini Shakti, the inner spiritual energy of a disciple, in the initiation known as shaktipat-diksha. The Guru’s grace is a liberating power; it gives us the direct experience of our oneness with God. The bestowal of grace is a supreme act of compassion, the highest of all gifts.
Once we receive this gift, it is our responsibility to nurture the awakened Shakti by walking the path shown by Shri Guru. When we apply ourselves with discipline and enthusiasm to the Siddha Yoga practices—meditation, dakshina, chanting, seva, mantra japa—the awakened Shakti is able to unfold naturally.
It is fascinating, for example, to consider the relationship between meditation and the guru-tattva. A classic sign of the presence of the guru-tattva in our sadhana is when grace begins to guide our spiritual practices from within. In harmony with our self-effort, the awakened Shakti illuminates our inner being until the brilliance of our Self shines forth—like a lotus blossom in the rays of the moon. For this reason, Siddha Yoga meditation is not forced or controlled, but rather inspired from inside. When we make the effort to focus our awareness upon the Self, and when we consistently set aside time for meditation, we discover how Kundalini Shakti naturally guides our practice.
This sacred month of Gurupurnima is a time to re-dedicate ourselves to spiritual practice and continue discovering all the ways we experience Gurumayi’s grace in our lives. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, may we remember Shri Guru, and give thanks for her presence in our lives.