The Seat of the Guru

This is a beautiful story from the Puranas. Lord Shiva is the Guru of the entire creation. He is called Adiguru – the Guru that is present from the beginning of time, and the Guru that is beyond time.

When Lord Shiva had a son – Karthikeya, he was sent to school to study and receive education from Lord Brahma. So when Karthikeya went to Lord Brahma, he asked him, “Please tell me the meaning of Om”. Lord Brahma said, "First learn the alphabets! You are directly asking me for the meaning of Om". Karthikeya said, "No, I want to know the highest knowledge first". Now Lord Brahma knew all about the alphabets, but he did not know the meaning of Om. This is because his knowledge was limited to the ‘A’ part of Om. The ‘U’ sound belonged to Lord Vishnu, and ‘M’ sound belonged to Lord Shiva. So, Lord Brahma did not completely know about Om. So Karthikeya said to Lord Brahma, "If you do not know the meaning of Om, how will you teach me? I will not study under you”. And Karthikeya went back to his father. Lord Brahma told Lord Shiva, "You alone can handle your son. I can’t handle him. Whatever I say, he says the exact opposite of that. I won’t be able to teach him. So you decide what is best for him and you handle him".

Hearing this, Lord Shiva asked Karthikeya, "What happened, son? Lord Brahma is the creator of the entire universe. You must learn from him". To this Karthikeya replied, "Then you tell me, what is the meaning of Om?" Lord Shiva smiled and said, "Even I don’t know". Karthikeya then said, "Then I will tell you because I know the meaning of Om". "Then tell me the meaning, since you know it", Lord Shiva said. "I can’t tell you like this. You have to give me the place of the Guru. Only if you put me on the pedestal of the Guru can I tell you", said Karthikeya. Guru means he has to be on a higher position or platform. The teacher has to sit on a higher place and the student has to sit down and listen to him.

Now how does this get resolved? Where to seat Karthikeya, for there is nothing above Lord Shiva! He is the highest. What to do? Lord Shiva too didn’t know what to do. Then Goddess Parvati (Shiva’s consort) said to Lord Shiva, "Lift him onto your shoulders".

So Lord Shiva lifted him on his shoulders and kept him high. And in the ear of Lord Shiva, Karthikeya gave him the meaning of the ultimate truth – the meaning of Om!

Symbolism of the story

The Guru Principle is like a child. There is such sweetness and innocence in the Guru Principle that even Lord Shiva had to give a position to the Guru principle which is above Himself. So the message of the story is that the Guru Principle is like a child – innocent, intelligent, dignified, yet humble. All the qualities present in an infant are the signs of the Guru Principle. And honoring that is honoring oneself, and honoring life which is what Guru Purnima is – celebrating and honoring the Guru Principle, the wisdom, the knowledge, innocence and love.

The meaning of Om

Karthikeya said, “Om means love. You are love, I am love. Everything that is present here is full of love. Love is the essence and the nectar of all that exists.” This is what Karthikeya said. So the meaning of Om came from the seat of the Guru.

Guru Purnima is a day to be thankful to your mentors and teachers. Click below to know more about this wonderful tradition.

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