The need for a guru or spiritual teacher in spiritual life has often been questioned the world over. One valid reason is the fear that has been created by the false gurus in the marketplace of spiritual seekers. The large number of sects and stories of abuses of spiritual power that are circulated in the news media from time to time have legitimately contributed to guru-phobia, especially in those who are unfamiliar with Hindu Vedic tradition.
The world has always had false gurus and teachers. They are not necessarily bad, we just don’t realize our mind has the potential to guide us to a level where our eyes are not clouded and we do not ask the wrong thing from the wrong person. Like ever-changing, upgraded mobile devices, the spiritual gurus keep on coming with newer methods to move us to angelic divinity.
Everywhere we look we find a master of this, a master of that, a guru of this, a guru of that. There is a rush for attention; a stampede to put oneself forward as the one with all the answers, as one who has made it.
Where are the disciples? Where are the disciplined human beings? It is so much harder to be a disciple, an authentically humble servant of God, than it is to claim to be a master or a guru. What the world needs today is not more teachers or masters, but more humble servants of the Divine and of humanity.
Self-Realization and a Teacher/Guru Go Hand in Hand
Who is the guru? The guru is the one who is the most wonderful loving guide to our own mind. Our higher mind is the guru to our lower mind, the disciple.
Whatever the reason for the present day guru-phobia and the attendant indifference towards the need for the guru in spiritual life, the truth remains unchanged. Realization of the self and the need for the guru or spiritual teacher always go together. Without the grace of such a master as a spiritual teacher, the path of truth is like moving through the thickest jungle without a guide.
If we study the lives of the greatest sages and seers of all times we will always find there was one who showed them the ultimate path. Half the battle is won once one finds the teacher-guru of his or her life. The next half is to tread in the path of the light that the teacher ignites in the heart of the seeker, leading from darkness to light. In Sanskrit, Guru is defined as the one who dispels the darkness.
No one has ever achieved spiritual enlightenment without first finding the person to whom he or she can surrender unconditionally. It is the divine design; we can achieve material goals without a teacher, but never in the path of inner awakening can we achieve goals without a teacher. God invests His power in the teacher and the teacher holds the key to self-realization. If God wishes, He can always free a bonded soul, but He never does it. He lights the lamp of awareness in the heart of the seeker through the life and teachings of a Master.
The true teacher is never a human body, but the eternal light that shines in our heart. The external teacher only comes to awaken the sleeping God in us. Once that is done, the student, teacher and the God are not separate entities but become merged into Oneness.
Heeding the Inner Call
A day comes when we recognize all the illusions and falseness in our lives. Our ego may have achieved a lot, but there is a voice inside that begins to regret having missed so much in the bargain. Then the inner call comes. An unseen force whispers in our ear that life is not all that it appears on the surface, there is so much more waiting in the inner space.
Then the journey to the inner world begins. We attract the person or teaching that appeal to us, and we start to practice that path. If we want to go deeper (like when we study for a PhD) and realize our self who lives within, we need this guide. When it comes to self realization, we need another realized master to light the light, or dispel the darkness of our doubting mind, for like a PhD, it is higher state of investigation, and research into the unknown and unknowable.
How Do We Find a True Guru/Teacher?
There are those who are open to a guru or teacher, but who remain confused as to who is the right one. During our daily meditation we need to open up to the divine forces and ask for someone who can dispel our darkness. As we pray to God with all earnestness we will attract different teachers and have the opportunity to be in their presence.
When we are ready for it, the teacher comes. We recognize our true teacher because he or she will answer our questions unasked. We will feel a deep sense of presence and also a feeling that the teacher is not teaching by words, but more by his or her own life. We will feel a deep sense of connection, and feel most peaceful in his or her presence or company. Then we know we are close to some one who is our teacher or guru. As long as we have a deep reverence and faith in his/her instructions and can practice without any doubts, we will advance faster.
In the path of Truth, we need a teacher to hold our hands and take us through the haze of karma, remove the cataract of our eyes, lift the veil and allow us to see the very purpose of this birth and this human body-mind-soul. Without the grace and continual guidance of the teacher it is indeed very difficult to cross the turbulent ocean of life all by one's own self.
The teacher only shows us the way, points to our final destination, helps us, and guides us. But the journey is ours, the agonies and ecstasies are ours; it must be our commitment to translate his/her words into our realization.
To be in the company of a living pure soul utterly given to mad love of God, a living teacher who teaches not with empty words of wisdom, but is the very embodiment of his teachings, is ultimate fortune of our life. We can soar high in the firmament of spiritual realm only in the company of such a pure soul and the pure love that he or she can give. Enlightenment comes through our earnest efforts, but never without the grace of a living teacher, a guru.
Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari (Kolkata, India):
Globally acclaimed motivational and inspirational teacher, (specializing in mindfulness meditation and stress reduction), author, and peacemaker (Man of Peace Award 2012).
Visionary social advocate; founded Lokenath Divine Life Mission, 1985. Programs serve thousands of poverty-stricken individuals in slums of Kolkata, India and remote villages of West Bengal.