The syllabic 'GU' denotes darkness and 'RU' denotes dispelling of the same. Consequently, he who dispels the darkness (of ignorance) and imparts illumination is styled the 'Guru'.
In this world our plight is truly pitiful. We are blind. We do not know our true goal. We are severely alone. We carry a heavy load or sins on our heads. No matter what our station in life may be, we are always restless. The likes of today become the dislikes of tomorrow. We invariably feel the lack of something.
Even in our happiest moments we miss something. This something is the inclination of our soul towards our Lord, for our soul is of the essence of the Lord. We are completely immersed in the pleasure of the senses. Eat, drink and be merry.
The feeling that 'Sweet is this World', who has witnessed the next keeps us away from Reality. Our desires are legion.
No one has ever succeeded in satisfying all of them. We know that their consummation means that we must assume one or another again and again and thus plunge ourselves and over again into new woes and miseries. It is there that cravings which keep us continually tied to this wheel of birth and death. Relentlessly and restlessly the soul tried to experience and enjoy everything. The acquisition of wealth and power give rise to endless other desires and we gradually forge heavy chains around us and ignore and harden our hearts. Little do we realise that whatever we get in this life was imprinted on our foreheads long before we were born. We are so overpowered by our desires even when we go to saints we carry at the back of our minds lurking desires for getting more and more worldly possessions rather than a real longing for self-realisation and we remember only when pain and suffering come which make us become aware of our mental and physical subjection. Consequently it becomes the aim of all of us to obtain eternal liberation.
Thus we find that the modern mind is so egoistic and individualistic that it is inclined to think the necessity of a Guru is illusory. They always question, 'is not God everywhere? Why should we need an intermediate?' These are all fine sayings but quite, meaningless. Yes true, God is everywhere, and the truth is inherent in us, the fact is that inspite of His Omnipresence and Omnipotence He has let us be tangled in His Maya for so many lives, yet we continue to be as ignorant.
It is best therefore we make up such meaningless ideas and proceed as serious minded practical persons. Again and again the saints have said that it is only rarely that a man can realise God. And then, through what troubles and tribulation. That is His will. He doesn't let Himself be known easily. Knowing this, man has to do his utmost to realise Him.
For instance, to become a competent Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer, it is not enough merely to have read and studied books, however well written they may be. It is also necessary to under go practical training to become a qualified Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer. If this is true in the case of worldly professions and sciences, it is much more of spiritual science, which is far more subtle and intricate.
Therefore, in this attempt, there is supreme need for a Guru because this path is beset with innumerable obstacles. It is a narrow path, not straight or broad. Who can tell us if we are going along the correct path or have lost our way? Nobody but the Guru. A mere knowledge of the path, mere redirection, is not enough. You must also have the power to walk it tirelessly. The Guru infuses strength into disciple and when there are difficulties in the way, when we lose the path or get entangled, he graciously places our feet again on the right path and unties the knots that bind us.
Therefore, the Holy Books have prescribed that we must realize the Lord by questioning men of realization and by serving them. Without service their instructions will not fructify in our lives and there is a deep truth.
The words of a man of realisation have a peculiar potency. To listen to them from the lips of a man of God is to derive a unique benefit. Much depends on us, if we are not earnest even the words of a man of realisation prove comparatively futile in our life. Hence there is the necessity of service. Devotion and service to the Guru can be accomplished in four ways, with wealth, with body, with mind and with soul. The offering of wealth and property is meant to loosen the ties of attachment to this phenomenal world. Selfless service with the body purges the mind and drives out egoism and vanity. Service with the mind and in yielding to the will of the Guru, carrying out his instructions and abstaining from sensuous pleasures and going through one's destiny cheerfully and in thankfulness to the Lord. This leads to the inner realization. The first three types of service prepare us for the last which is the highest form of service.
All the saints bring the same messages and preach the same truth. They come to create in us love for the Lord. They come to teach us one pointed devotion to Him. They come to take the soul back to our Lord. The secret of this knowledge is, however, with the saints and they alone can reveal it. We have to go to them and win their grace with our love and devotion, get the secret from them and then discover this Almighty Lord. It is they alone who can connect our Consciousness with the Immanent Power. Whoever surrendered to them completely is transformed by their self effulgent light into a Divine Being. The royal road to our destination comes within the span of our vision. We have a constant companion to guide us and above all the load lightens in a surprising manner. In contact with saints, the impurity of your heart will vanish and you will gain spiritual radiance. Being in their company one loses interest in the show of the world and acquires love for the Lord. The sinners turn saints, the wicked become virtuous. It is for this reason that the company of saints is so greatly valued and praised.
Now, the point is who is the real Guru? What is the sign of a true Guru? Therefore it is absolutely necessary that before we select our Guru, we should closely examine and watch him for a long time, and if he fulfils all our expectation, then only we may submit to him, but not until then. Once however we have accepted him as our Guru, even if we subsequently discover any defects in him, we must never pay attention to them. We must know him as God himself and give him our whole-hearted love. Once we have chosen a master, we must follow his instructions and must not be thwarted in their observance by the running of the mind. The guru knows what is best for us and will grant us nothing beyond it. God's decrees are not easy to understand, we cannot truly know which is good and which is evil. We would do well therefore to leave everything to him.
Of course Guru has to be carefully sought for. The high position of a Guru is a rarity. Neither can every man be a disciple, shishya. The Guru and the disciple must posses the necessary qualifications. We are considering here the case of an aspirant who is eager to realize God, who is not attached to the things of this world, who is full of Viveka (the finer sense of discrimination) and Vairagya (detached outlook), he is qualified to be a disciple.
With regard to the Guru we must remember that a man of realisation is very rare. Not one in millions has realised the Truth. Moreover, if a man has realised God, he does not want to let it be known, he would prefer to keep it a secret. That makes the finding a capable Guru much more difficult. It is easy for us, ignorant as we are, to be deceived by pseudo-gurus. And in truth there are many of them always about. We have no idea of true spirituality. A few occult powers are enough to delude us. Yet occult powers have nothing to do with spirituality.
Many are caught in the snares of these frauds and suffer greatly and as a result their life is a failure and they lose faith in religion itself. But there are signs by which we may know the right persons. If we are sincere, if we seek only God, we shall instinctively know if the person claiming to be a Guru is genuine or not.
The first condition necessary is that he may know the secret and spirit of the scriptures. The second condition is sinless-ness. His character must be pure and then alone comes the value of his words because he is then only a true transmitter. The third condition is in regard to the motive. He must not teach with any selfish motive for money, name and fame. His work must be simply out of pure love for mankind at large. The only medium through which spiritual force can be transmitted is love, any selfish motive such is the desire for gain or for name, will immediately destroy this conveying medium. When you see that in your Guru these conditions are fulfilled, you are safe. If they are not, it is unsafe to allow yourself to be taught by him.
We know such Gurus are rare. But then, are real aspirants plentiful? They are also rare. Most of us are aspirants in name. We are half hearted. But when once the yearning for Him has flamed up in our hearts, we shall find the true Guru. Guru does not bring about self-realization but simply removes obstacles to it. The Self is always realised. So long as you seek self-realisation Guru is necessary. Guru is the Self. The proximity of the Guru is essential for rapid progress and the more of it, the better. A self-realised being cannot but help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good. The wisdom that flows from his lips and the purity of his life and conduct stand as shining ideals for humanity.
If the aspirant meditates upon his Guru, a definite connection is established between him and his or her Guru. The Guru radiates power, peace, joy and bliss to the disciple in response to his thoughts. He is bathed in the powerful current of ethereal magnetism. The stream of spiritual electricity flows steadily from one vessel to another. The disciple can imbibe or draw from his Guru in proportion to his degree of faith in his master. The more the faith, the greater the imbibing or drawing capability. Whenever the disciple sincerely meditates upon his Guru, the Guru also actually feels that current of prayer (sublime thoughts) proceeds from his disciple and touches his heart. He who has the inner astral sight can clearly visualise a thin line of bright light between the disciple and the Guru which is caused by the movement of the vibration of sattwic thoughts in the ocean of chitta (mental substance).
Thus, those who are fortunate enough to contact the Divine melody through a living master fulfil the true mission of their life; others merely squander away the precious gift of the human existence. Such devotion is characteristic of those alone who have been initiated by a perfect adept and in whose lot it is so written by the Lord, for He alone is the Doer and the Cause. Nobody, however, can succeed in the purpose unless he takes refuge in the saints. Only then he can know the secret of human life and fulfil its great destiny. God has locked this priceless treasure within all human beings and has handed the key over to the Saints and they alone know how to unlock this mystery. Whenever He will take us out of the cycle of birth and death, He comes in the garb of a Master to take us back home.
Here and now is the opportunity. Here and now it is time to take refuge in the Saints and release the soul from perpetual bondages. In short, there is no liberation without a true Master. Such is the law of the Creator.