There are two types of chetana or consciousness: bahiranga, or external, and antaranga, or internal. Through bahiranga chetana, or external consciousness, we get all our worldly and material thoughts, all our objective sense experiences, all our dreams in sleep and even visions in meditation. Antaranga chetana, the internal consciousness, comes during meditation. In this state there is consciousness, but the thoughts are absent and the senses do not register external impressions. However, it is not a state of the void: it is not chetana laya, the absence of consciousness, where you go into deep meditation and come out of it and feel very happy at your success. Someone asks, What did you experience within? and you say, Nothing, it was all blank. This is laya, and it is a deceptive condition, because you feel happy that you are making great progress whereas actually you are stuck.
When you reach the stage in which the bahiranga chetana is absent and antaranga chetana is present, there also comes into existence a field of consciousness which I call the karana chetana. At this stage, you require guidance from an advanced guru because you are entering the very portals of real yoga. As long as you are in the bahiranga or external consciousness, you can carry on the sadhana independently. You can practise nada yoga, kriya yoga, etc., and make progress. Then comes the boundary wall, which must be crossed over. You cannot cross it without the help of a guru. You may not believe in the principle of surrender to the guru, because it hurts your ego, but I must emphasize that if you want to overcome the laya condition and to go beyond, then you cannot do without the help of a guru.
I used to do sadhana even before I took sannyasa. In due course, I began to experience this void, this blank, in my meditation, and I congratulated myself that I had reached the goal. I became elated, until I met a sannyasin. He shook his head and said, You are stuck. You must cross this state if you want self-awakening, but only an advanced guru can help you, I cannot.
I left my home, not for sannyasa, but for this self-awakening. I met Swami Sivananda, and my self-purification and karmic dissolution started in the service of the guru. The I has to be subdued and whatever work is entrusted by the guru is to be done without demur. In this way, the disciple becomes attuned with the guru. With this attunement, a mental telepathy is established with the guru. The disciple begins to hear his gurus instructions in the unconscious when in deep meditation. Thus the guru takes him beyond the dead end of the void in which the disciple is stuck.
Worldly relationships give happiness of some kind or the other. The guru-disciple relationship is different. It leads you to self-realization because therein you empty yourself and go forward. But you must have advaita bhava, or feel unity with the guru. For this, admissions of imperfection, self-surrender and humility before the guru are necessary. You may be very smart, but dont be smart with the guru. You may be a great judge of human beings, but dont try to judge your guru: do what he says.
The disciple can carry on sadhana in the conscious only, while the guru helps him in the unconscious. He opens the closed door for him. In you follow any other path, you may possibly not require a guru, but in yoga the guru is a must, otherwise there is no progress. Again, an ordinary guru can help you in asana, pranayama and simple meditation practices. He has his limitations, but the one who knows how to come to you without himself moving an inch is the guru. He has no limitation: he leads the ignorant and the blind to the path of self-realization by opening their third eye. Such a guru is a real avadhoota, free from all worldly attachments or mental illusions. He is a child with children, a man with men, a woman with women, a simpleton with simpletons. He is the Master.
If yoga is your goal, then give up all empty intellectual talks and have a guru. I was with Swami Sivanandaji for twelve years, during which all my worldly ways and all my abnormalities came to an end. When you switch off the external current, only then can you switch on the internal light. This happened to me. If any of our scriptures say one can do without a guru, you should throw that scripture away. Scriptures are not the final word, but what self-realized saints say is the final word. All great saints have underlined the necessity of a guru.