Guru-Shishya Purnima

July 8, 2023

Bonus podcast! Shambhavi’s talk from Guru Purnima this year. The magic of the co-arising of Guru and student. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

This is called Guru Purnima. It's the full moon that represents the generosity and abundance of guru. Guru is the form of wisdom that we can be around without burning our eyes.

So the moon is reflected sunlight, right? And moonlight has opposite qualities to sunlight. So sunlight is burning, piercing, strong. And moonlight is gentle, and cool, and sweet. Even though it is sunlight that we're looking at, it's sunlight in a form that we can tolerate.

I don't know how many of you have read the Mahabharata. But in the middle section of the Mahabharata, which is the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, the archer, insists that Krishna, his guru, shows himself. Shows Krishna in his real form, not in a human form.

Krishna has been playing a part of Arjuna's charioteer. Arjuna is an archer. In those days, you had a chariot and a charioteer. And then you stood in the prow and you shot people with your arrows. [laughter]

This is a very famous scene. A lot of you have probably heard of it. But Krishna says, no, I am not going to show you my real form. He's basically saying, Arjuna is saying, I want to see the sun, not the moon.

Krishna says, No, I'm not going to do that. Then Arjuna just begs and begs and begs. Then Krishna finally relents and he reveals himself to be all worlds, all beings, all times, all spaces. [laughter] Utterly, completely overwhelming.

Arjuna is like, No, okay, I get it. I don't want to see you. I don't want to see you anymore. The moon is a symbol of the generosity of this alive, aware reality, giving us the means to approach wisdom without getting burned, without becoming blind, without being in too much pain.

This is why Guru Purnima is a moon. The moonlight is healing and used in a lot of healing practices because it has this quality which Ayurveda calls saumya. Even the word, we just hear the word saumya, you're already healed. [laughter]

It's about that quality of sweetness and coolness and evening everything out, and balancing everything, and smoothing everything. That's a reference to moonlight.

We use moonlight when we do healing mantras and we want to send out those mantras to everyone on the rays of the moon. There's many, many instances where the moon is about healing. But it is also the form of wisdom that we can approach. It's approachable.

And that's what the human teacher is. The human teacher is an approachable, or more or less approachable, shall we say, form of wisdom. And really, there's so much mercy and generosity in that.

What I wanted to point out is that maybe this should be called Guru-Shishya Purnima. Shishya means student, right? Because there is no guru without student and there's no student without guru. We're talking about in these kinds of traditions. They come together. They are making each other as they walk along.

This happened in a live stream once not too long ago where someone just showed up that we didn't know and announced that they were enlightened and proceeded to give teachings. [laughter] That just points out how without a student that is actually relating to you as teacher, you aren't a teacher.

Student and teacher, guru and shishya are co-arising. I want you to think about the magic of that as we're celebrating Guru Purnima this year. Or Guru-Shishya Purnima, not just Guru Purnima.

In that there's wonder for me anyway. There's wonder for me, just in the bare fact that teachings and teachers exist. I think it would be an absolutely miserable world if there were no teachers.

But I also feel just as astounded and transported when we have the capacity to be students. Whenever I meet someone who feels as I do, who really is moved by the whole scene of teaching, I've always been very moved by the whole process of working with a teacher as a student.

Much later in my life because I started doing sadhana under a teacher when I was in my mid 20s, and I didn't start teaching until I was in my early 40s. I was just purely student-ing for quite a long time by today's standards anyway.

So I've always been incredibly moved by the whole process. And also just so grateful that I came into this world with some understanding of how to be a student.

Being a teacher has been a huge learning curve for me on some level, but being a student felt very innate. I feel very, very grateful for that. And for the whole role of student. And for the whole role of serving one's teacher.

Somebody asked me the other day, we were talking about abusive teachers. And they said, I don't remember the exact words, but in a nutshell, why are you speaking well of this teacher that was abusive?

And I said, because that teacher gave me teachings that benefited me. I feel devotion toward that. Even if I still condemn what somebody's behavior is.

I've always felt just incredibly moved and grateful and astonished at this whole process that we go through. This extraordinary relationship, really, of teacher and student. And how we work together on so many different levels. And it's so nuanced and subtle and intelligent.

And it requires so much of us to be in a real guru-shishya relationship. Or even just like, forget about gurus, just like a spiritual student-teacher relationship. It just requires so much from us.

And the fact that anyone would ask us to be in that and to stretch ourselves that way and to learn in that way, I just find really unutterably beautiful. And it's always what I wanted to do in my life. I always wanted to be used to the utmost.

And certainly being a student does that. Being a student lets you be used to the utmost. And then being a teacher also in a different way. If you look on the altar, the picture that we have up here is Anandamayi Ma. She's my Satguru, my main guru.

And above and beyond everything, I always am her servant. I always am her student. That is really my primary joy in life, is to be in that role and to discover more about how to be a servant and a student.

That's what I'm celebrating tonight. [laughs] And I encourage you to celebrate your own studentship. Maybe some of you are teachers too, but I encourage you not to just think of this as Guru Purnima, but also as Guru-Shishya Purnima.

And to really feel the wonder of being a student. I feel that very deeply. And I so appreciate when anyone else feels even vaguely similar to how I feel. Think of this as a celebration of you.

And as the wonder of sitting in this room. Or being in any other rooms with any other teachers, and experiencing that process of student-ing, which is just so magical. Let's keep that in mind as we go along.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.