Mere study of books cannot make one a Guru. One who has studied the Vedas and who has direct knowledge of Atman through Anubhava can only be enrolled as a Guru. A Jivanmukta or a liberated sage is the real Guru or spiritual preceptor. He is the Satguru. He is identical with Brahman or the Supreme Self. He is a Knower of Brahman.
Possession of Siddhis is not the test to declare the greatness of a sage or to prove he has attained Self-realisation. Satgurus do not exhibit any miracles or Siddhis. Sometimes they may exhibit them in order to convince the aspirants of the existence of super physical things, give them encouragement, and instil faith in their hearts. A Satguru is endowed with countless Siddhis. He possesses all divine Aiswarya, all the wealth of the Lord.
The Satguru is Brahman Himself. He is an ocean of bliss, knowledge and mercy. He is the captain of your soul. He is the fountain of joy. He removes all your troubles, sorrows and obstacles. He shows you the right divine path. He tears your veil of ignorance. He makes you immortal and divine. He transmutes your lower, diabolical nature. He gives you the rope of knowledge and saves you when you are drowning in this ocean of Samsara. Do not consider him to be only a man. If you take him as a man, you are a beast. Worship your Guru and bow to him with reverence.
Guru is God. A word from him is a word from God. He need not teach anything. Even his presence or company is elevating, inspiring and stirring. The very company itself is self-illumination. Living in his company is spiritual education.
Man can learn only from a man, and hence God teaches through a human body. In your Guru, you have your human ideal of perfection. He is the pattern from which you wish to mould yourself. Your mind will readily be convinced that such a great soul is fit to be worshipped and revered.
Guru is the Moksha-Dvara. He is the gateway to the transcendental Truth-Consciousness. But it is the aspirant that has to enter through it. The Guru is a help, but the actual task of practical Sadhana falls on the aspirant himself.
Only the man who has already been to Badrinath will be able to tell you the road leading to it. In the case of the spiritual path, it is still more difficult to find your way. The mind will mislead you very often. The Guru will be able to remove pitfalls and obstacles and lead you along the right path. He will tell you: “This road leads you to Moksha; this one leads to bondage.” Without this guidance, you might want to go to Badrinath, but find yourself in Delhi!
The scriptures are like a forest. There are ambiguous passages. There are passages that are apparently contradictory and others that have esoteric meanings, diverse significance and hidden explanations. There are cross references. You are in need of a Guru or Preceptor who will explain to you the right meaning, who will remove doubts and ambiguities, who will place before you the essence of the teachings.
A Guru is absolutely necessary for every aspirant in the spiritual path. It is only the Guru who will find out your defects. The nature of egoism is such that you will not be able to find out your own defects. Just as a man cannot see his back, so also, he cannot see his own errors. He must live under a Guru for the eradication of his evil qualities and defects.
The aspirant who is under the guidance of a Master or Guru is safe from being led astray. Satsanga or association with the Guru is an armour and fortress to guard you against all temptations and unfavourable forces of the material world.
Cases of those who had attained perfection without study under any Guru should not be cited as authoritative against the necessity for a Guru; for, such great men are the anomalies of spiritual life, and not the common normality. They come into existence as spiritual masters as a result of the intense service, study and meditation practised in previous births. They had already studied under the Guru. The present birth is only its continuative spiritual effect. Hence, the importance of the Guru is not lessened thereby.
Some teachers mislead their aspirants. They say to all: “Think for yourself. Do not surrender yourself to any Guru.” When one says, “Do not follow any Gurus,” he intends to be the listeners’ Guru himself. Do not approach such pseudo-Gurus. Do not hear their lectures.
All great ones had their teachers. All the sages, saints, prophets, world teachers, incarnations, great men have had their own Gurus, however great they might have been. Svetaketu learnt the nature of Truth from Uddalaka, Maitreyi from Yajnavalkya, Bhrigu from Varuna, Narada from Sanatkumara, Nachiketas from Yama, Indra from Prajapati; and several others humbly went to wise ones, observed strict Brahmacharya, practised rigorous discipline, and learnt Brahma-Vidya from them.
Lord Krishna sat at the feet of His Guru Sandipani. Lord Rama had Guru Vasishtha who gave Him Upadesa. Lord Jesus sought John to be baptised by him on the banks of the river Jordan. Even Devas have Brihaspati as their Guru. Even the greatest among the divine beings sat at the feet of Guru Dakshinamurti.
A neophyte must have a personal Guru first. He cannot have God as Guru to begin with. He must have a pure mind. He must have ethical perfection. He must be intensely virtuous. He must be above body-consciousness. Then alone can he have God as Guru.
Man has a twofold duty here on earth—to preserve his life, and to realise his Self. To preserve his life, he has to learn to work for his daily bread. To realise his Self, he has to serve, love and meditate. The Guru who teaches him the knowledge of worldly arts is the Siksha Guru. The Guru who shows him the path of Realisation is the Diksha Guru. Siksha Gurus can be many—as many as the things he wishes to learn. Diksha Guru can be only one—the one who leads him to Moksha.