Celebrating our Teachers

Today’s full moon is celebrated in many places as Guru Pūrnimā, a time to honor and give thanks to our teachers and tradition-holders. Guru means “teacher” (and also “heavy,” offering ballast to those in orbit around them)and Pūrnimā means fullness, referring to the full moon. The full moon in the month of Āṣāḍhā in the Hindu calendar (usually around July) marks Guru Pūrṇimā.

In the lineages I continue to learn within, I observe my teachers not only giving thanks to their teachers, but reconnecting the offering of their own teaching to the gifts that they have received. This unbroken chain reverberates with the power of lived experience, of personal integrated knowledge, in contrast to a superficial skimming of information regurgitated without the investment of time, heart and deep respect for its sources. 

The ancient texts of Ayurveda, such as the Charaka Samhita and the Ashtānga Hrdayam, demonstrate this tradition as each begins with an homage to the original teacher, the “pioneer physician,” from whom the ensuing information originated. Subsequent passages reveal that this Guru includes a divine source as well as historical teachers, such as Atreya and Agnivesha.

A 20th century Ayurveda teacher from Kerala, Raghavan Thirumulpad, taught that the integrity of sharing this ancient wisdom is preserved by following four steps:

  • adhīti: studying, absorbing and recollecting the material
  • bodha: internalizing the knowledge
  • ācharana: practicing the medicine and knowledge in our lives and with our clients or patients
  • pracharana: teaching the material to others

The oral tradition that maintained this wisdom for so many generations before the written word existed is a testament to the effectiveness of these 4 steps – and instructive for us today in a modern world over-populated with information and thirsty for lived wisdom.

In honoring our teachers, there is another benefit – when experiencing gratitude, we get to dwell in that heart-swelling place of remembrance of our own good fortune. How lucky are we to have met this teacher? How fortunate are we to have received this wisdom, when so many others do not have access to its life-supporting insights? 

To remember this good fortune is to experience the joy, celebration, and love that nourishes our soul, as well as irrigating our body with the supportive biochemistry of gratitude that calms the nervous system and restores proper functioning after periods of overactive fight or flight responses. Gratitude is good for us in so many ways.

We have many teachers in our lives, formal and informal. Who are some of the teachers you have most appreciated and benefitted from? Take a moment to remember them, to thank them internally or in prayer, or even in person. Tell us below in the Comments. We can all celebrate and strengthen this tradition today by honoring our wide lineage and giving thanks.

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