Hindu celebration at U honors teachers as ‘gurus’

Hindu and Vedic students gathered at Coffman for prayers, songs, and food.

Mehgan Lee

Prayers, chants and music filled Coffman Union Theater on Friday at the Guru Puja Celebration.

Approximately 150 University students, faculty and Hindu family members took part in the event. The celebration, hosted by the Hindu Student Society and the Vedic Cultural Society, honored gurus.

“Guru literally translates to mean ‘the remover of the darkness of ignorance,’ which translates in English to ‘teacher,’ ” said Sajeet Haridas, president of the Hindu Student Society and graduate student in plant biology.

The Guru Puja, a holy Hindu ceremony, is held on what is considered to be the birthday of Ved Vyas, he said. Hindus believe Vyas was the original guru to all mankind, he said.

“All Hindu scripture was compiled or written by him,” said Vishal Agarwal, a member of the Hindu Student Society who graduated last spring with a master’s degree in business administration.

Vyas taught that charity, respect and compassion for others are the essence of virtue and piety, Agarwal said. He defined sin as hurting others, he said.

But the Guru Puja doesn’t just honor Vyas, Haridas said. Current gurus that Hindus look up to are also honored, he said.

“According to the Hindu tradition, we must never forget the debt we owe to our teachers,” Agarwal said. “We owe all our success in life to them.”

“We all know that teachers are not adequately compensated financially by our educational system, so it’s all the more important to respect them,” he said.

Friday’s ceremony was held on the theater’s stage. A shrine featured pictures of Vyas and other Hindu gods and goddesses. Audience members could place pictures of their personal gurus at the shrine.

Incense burned and participants offered fruit and flowers to their gurus while praying.

The Vedic Cultural Society then sang a song accompanied by drums and hand cymbals.

“It was a traditional prayer song to spiritual masters, or gurus, asking them to help us in our journey towards self realization and becoming the best we can be,” said Nicholas Rabe, president of the Vedic Cultural Society and graduate student in the school of public health.

Frank Morales, a spiritual teacher and priest, spoke after the ceremony. Morales began with a moment of meditation. He then discussed what Hinduism is and what constitutes being a Hindu.

Event organizers offered free holy food to participants after the celebration. Those present feasted on rice with vegetables, bread and fruit punch, along with a mixture of yogurt, cucumbers, cilantro and onions.

The meal was vegetarian because Hindus do not generally eat meat on religious occasions, Agarwal said. This is because meat is associated with violence and killing, he said.

Aaron Jacobs, a junior studying philosophy, stumbled upon the Guru Puja celebration while heading to the television room in Coffman.

“It was very interesting and informative,” Jacobs said. “Before the presentation I had an interest in Eastern stuff like Taoism, but the celebration interested me in Hinduism now.”