(Posted with permission), reader M.C. from India writes:
Dear RebeccaI saw your noting on moonology.com about Guru Poornima where you mentioned that Guru is a "revered teacher". You are close."Acharya" is the literal translation for teacher. "Guru" is mentor.In each village, there were a few Gurus (less than five) and each family selected one of them as their Guru and sought his wisdom as and when required. Gurus keep tab on their wards just as a father would but without meddling until asked for and gave unbiased and the best possible guidance according to religious books. By and large, these Gurus were Brahmins.In Hindus, we used a barter system until 1950s. No money was ever transacted. So, for people who are in specialized professions, we earmarked a day in the year when we go to those persons and pay whatever little tribute we can and show our respect and gratitude.Guru Poornima is such a day when we are supposed to go to our mentors and pay our respects and tributes.Of course, now a days, the barter system is gone and we pay fee for every transaction. Also, nobody goes to a Guru and we do not have any real Gurus.What is happening in the name of Guru Poornima today, is a sham.You ask me how do I know all this – well, I come from one of those Brahmin-Guru families, – my dad’s elder brother was such a Guru.Best wishes for your success & happiness
(…) I would add though that although in a historical sense, you are absolutely correct about the GP holiday having been turned into something else in most places — but in my spiritual studies at the Shiva Sai Mandir ashram in Penukonda, the date retains the heart of its original purpose: To give thanks to my spiritual mentor, and through him to our divine lineage. No money is involved as such, but rather promises to do my dharma to the very best of my ability.
(Many thanks to M.C. for his thoughtful and informative letter. My only point of disagreement is that there are no ‘real’ Gurus in the world anymore. I feel there are still ‘gurus’, although perhaps their role has changed somewhat, as has that of their students and devotees. The respect and gratitude is still there, as is the spiritual mentoring on the part of the teacher.)