For a beginner in the spiritual path, a Guru is necessary. To light a candle, you need a burning candle. Even an illumined soul alone can enlighten another soul.
Some do meditation for some years independently. Later on, they actually feel the necessity of a Guru. They come across some obstacles in the way. They are unable to know how to obviate these impediments or stumbling blocks. Then they begin to search for a Master.
Only the man who has already been to Badrinath will be able to tell you the road. 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 (liberation); 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 which are apparently contradictory. There are passages which 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 authority against the necessity of 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 unto all: “Think for yourself. Do not surrender yourself to any Guru”. When one says, “Do not follow any Guru!”, he intends to be the listeners’ Guru himself. Do not approach such pseudo-Gurus.
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 (the science of God) from them.
Lord Krishna sat at the feet of His Guru Sandeepani. Lord Rama had Guru Vasishtha who gave Him Upadesha (spiritual advice).
Excerpted from the book ‘Bliss Divine’. The 132nd birth anniversary of Swami Sivananda will be celebrated on September 8. Teachers’ Day is observed on September 5