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Devotional worship of the Guru - the preceptor - is one of the most touching and elevating features of the Hindu cultural tradition. The auspicious moment of Vyaasa Poornima, chosen for observing this annual festival, is no less significant. It was the great sage Vyasa, son of a fisherwoman, who classified the accumulated spiritual knowledge of the Vedas under four heads - Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva. To him goes the credit of composing the authentic treatise of Brahma-sootras to explain the background of Vedas. He also wrote the eighteen Puranas, the stories of our great heroes and saints, to carry the spiritual and moral precepts contained therein to the common masses.
The greatest of epics of all times and of all climes - Mahaabhaarata - embodying the immortal song of God, the Bhagavad Geeta, also in it, is also the priceless gift of Vyasa. The Bhaagavata, the thrilling and devotional story of Sri Krishna, was also his contribution. It is in the fitness of things that Vyasa should be looked upon as the supreme preceptor of mankind. Offering of worship to him signifies the worship of all the preceptors of all times.
The Guru in the Hindu tradition is looked upon as an embodiment of God himself. For, it is through his grace and guidance that one reaches the highest state of wisdom and bliss. "My salutations to the Guru who is Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. The Guru is Parabrahma incarnate"
Various have been the great sages and saints who have been the spiritual and religious preceptors to countless individuals down the centuries. But is there any one who can be looked upon as the preceptor for the entire Hindu people - for all their past, present and future generations? Obviously, no individual can play that role. A human being is after all mortal and, however great, has his own limitations. He cannot be a permanent guide for the entire nation for all time to come. The preceptor for a whole society should be able to act as a perennial source of inspiration to the people, embodying the highest and the noblest national values and ethos. To the Hindu people, such a Guru can be no other than the sacred Bhagava Dhwaj.
No one knows when and how this flag came into being. It is an ancient as the Hindu people themselves. It has flown over the hermitages of the seers and sanyaasins and also over the celestial palaces of emperors. It ha flown triumphantly over the battlefields of freedom struggle and has symbolized the immortal spirit of freedom in the Hindu mind. It is the one supreme symbol held in universal reverence by all sects and castes, and all creeds and faiths of the Hindu people. It is in fact the greatest unifying symbol of the entire Hindu world.
The color of the Bhagava Dhwaj - the saffron, depicting renunciation and service, epitomizes the culture of Bharat. The flames rising from the yajna are saffron in color and indeed reflect this spirit. The concept of yajna is extraordinarily unique to Hindu culture and tradition.. Yajna is not merely a physical ritual. That is only symbolic. The Bhagavad Geeta describes the concept of yajna as the sacrificial offering of one's self to the good of all beings. "Not mine, but thine" is the true message of yajna. Whatever one achieves in this life in terms of physical prosperity and knowledge, one has to offer them back to the society. The Ishaavaasya Upanishad declares:
Tena tyaktena bhunjeethaah maa gridhah kasyaswiddhanam ||
"God is the lord of all creation. After offering to Him, enjoy only that which is left over by Him. Do not rob what belongs to others."
Acquiring of wealth is no sin but utilizing all of it for one's own self and one's own family is very much so. In the Bhagavad Geeta Sri Krishna warns: "He who eats all by himself without first offering to others eats only sin". However much one may earn, only the minimum things necessary for one's physical sustenance have to be utilized and the rest offered in service to the society. This is the Hindu way of tackling the challenge of harmonizing economic progress with social justice. This attitude, even while giving full scope to individual initiative, effectively neutralizes the evils of individual capitalism. Also, while it ensures social justice for the lowliest in society, the tragedy of state capitalism of the communist type is obviated and the sanctity of individual freedom upheld.
The superiority of the concept of individual freedom implied in this trusteeship principle lies in its freedom to sacrifice for the social good with a high spiritual motivation, along with the commonly understood freedom to earn and acquire wealth. How is this transformation in individual's attitude to be effected?
"Herein comes the genius of the Hindu viewpoint which prepares the individual's mind for this adjustment. He is educated and enlightened with regard to the true nature of happiness. The goal that is kept before him is not merely one of physical enjoyment; that is not going to give him lasting happiness. For that, he has to rise beyond his dependence on the physical objects and plunge into the depths of his own being and discover the eternal and boundless ocean of joy and bliss within. He will then realize that the people around him are also manifestations of the same spirit and the enjoyment of the fruits of his labor by them is equivalent to his own enjoyment. It is against the background of this life-attitude that a balance could be achieved."
The pride of place given to men of sacrifice in the Hindu tradition was reflected in every stratum and aspect of life. The sages and saints, who had kept themselves away from the portals of pelf and power and had solely and wholly dedicated themselves to the temporal as well as spiritual enlightenment of the people, were looked upon as the leaders of par excellence of the society. They were in fact the lawgivers and the king was only the executive head to carry out those laws. This was how the political authority was held in check, and the moral and spiritual held sway in the affairs of the life of people.
The Upanishads declared -
Na karmanaa, na prajyaa dhanena tyaagenaike amritatwamaanashuh.
It is not through actions, progeny or wealth but through renunciation alone that immortality is attained. Needless to say, it is not the physical abandonment of these aspects of human life that is advocated here. It is mental detachment and a spirit of considering his family life, his wealth and all his actions as so many means of worshipping God in the form of society that is set forth as the ideal. It is this unique philosophical trait of renunciation and service which can form the basis for the highest evolution of the individual combined with the happiness, harmony and progress of the society as a whole.
The Bhagawa Dhwaj is the most resplendent emblem of this sublime philosophy. And, worship of this holy flag on this Guru Poornima Day is intended to instil in us this positive Hindu attitude towards life. The ceremonial worship of the flag through flowers accompanied by monetary offering is just an external expression of this attitude of surrender to the ideal. Real worship, for a Hindu, lies in becoming an image of the idea himself. Shivo bhootwa shivam yajet - one has to become Shiva Himself if one has to worship Shiva.
The annual function of Sri Guru Pooja presents a moment of introspection for us to check up how far we have progressed in this path over the last one year, and take lessons from it and resolve to march faster in the current year.