Vande Gurunam Caranaravinde
Reverence to the Gurus’ Lotus Feet
Meaning of July
Each year we celebrate the full moon of the guru known as Guru-Purnima. This celebration is marked in July because in India the rainy season happens at that time. It is said that teachers and students can’t easily move when the heavy rains come so the opportunity to bond and set a good course of study together is present during this time of year. It is for this reason that July has become known as the month of the guru.
The Lotus Feet
During my time with Guru ji whenever I would move to touch his feet in the traditional manner of a student, he would hug me instead. As time went on I would say to him “But Guru ji I am your cela, I want to have the dust of your lotus feet I have my rights.” This made him chuckle a bit and he would say, “ok ok.”
But what does it all mean? What does touching the feet signify? In India, children are born into a cultural system where they touch the feet of their parents or some respected elder. I am not sure if at times they even know why, it is simply woven into the culture. But with the guru the teaching is as follows: In most people the head is the highest seat of consciousness and the feet are the lowest, but in an enlightened being, the head and the feet are synonymous. Moreover, to obtain the dust is symbolic of receiving the light. There is also the cultural significance, which is that in the Indian culture this is how you show respect. The idea is you bow down your being to That and you trust in That. In such surrender and trust, you bridge a depth of teaching that is obtained no other way, and is quite beautiful.
Of course many westerners are highly uncomfortable with this gesture seeing it as a kind of deference and submission of self to another. In some cases, they are right to feel that such submission may be dangerous. For these reasons, it is my feeling that there should be no force or expectation for such a gesture especially within our western world. However it would also be wise to apply no stigma to those who feel drawn to engage this movement. From my own engagement and what I’ve observed in my life and practice, it is a very personal gesture.
Mantras & The Value of Surrender
Many mantras praise the gurus lotus feet. If the phrase is not something you care for, you can always translate it as; We respect and honor the light that comes through the teacher and to that we bow. The meaning of these lines is really that they are instructing the reader or chanter to be absorbed in surrender. There is a necessity of letting down one’s ego in order to enter the teachings more deeply. That is the aspect where a seeker ought not to make a choice about, but instead should find a way to connect with. It is in surrender, where one finds a powerful spiritual opening and connection with one’s own heart.
*All references to Guru ji, refer to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati in this article.
© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama