“The stranger asks the way of him who knows it; taught by him who knows, he travels onward. This is indeed the blessing of Instruction; he finds the path that leads directly forward.” [Rig Veda (X.32.7)]
“Approach a teacher with humility and with a desire to serve.” [Mundaka Upanishad (I.2.12)]
“To many it is not given to hear of the Self. Many, though they hear of it, do not understand it. Wonderful is he who speaks of it; intelligent is he who learns of it. Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to understand it.” [Katha Upanishad (I.2.7)]
“These are the last words that I shall say to you, the deepest of all truths. I speak for your own good. You are the friend I chose and love.
Give me your whole heart,
Love and adore me,
Worship me always,
Bow to me only,
And you shall find me:
This is my promise
Who love you dearly.
Lay down all your duties
In me, your refuge.
Fear no longer,
For I will save you
From sin and from bondage.”
—Sri Krishna expounding the Truth to his devotee, Arjuna (XVIII. 63-6)
“Only those who have attained to spirituality can communicate it to others, can be great teachers of mankind. They alone are the powers of light.”
[Complete Works of Vivekananda, vol. IV, p. 182-183]
“When going to a strange country one must abide by the directions of the guide who knows the way. Taking the advice of many would lead to utter confusion. So in trying to reach God one must implicitly follow the advice of one single Guru who knows the way to God.”
“He [Sri Ramakrishna] looked just like an ordinary man, with nothing remarkable about him. He used the most simple language, and I thought, 'Can this man be a great teacher?' I crept near him and asked him the question which I had been asking others all my life: 'Do you believe in God, sir?' 'Yes.' `How can you?' 'Because I see Him just as I see you here, only in a much more intense sense.' That impressed me at once. For the first time I found a person who dared to say that he saw God, that religion was a reality, to be felt, to be sensed in an infinitely more intense way than we can sense the world. I began to go to that man, day after day, and I actually saw that religion could be given. One touch, one glance, can change a whole life.”
“This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. The soul can receive impulses only from another soul, and from nothing else. We may study books all our lives, we may become very intellectual, but in the end we find that spiritually we have not developed at all. . . . The person from whose soul such an impulse comes is called the guru, the teacher; and the person to whose soul the impulse is conveyed is called the shishya, the student.”
“. . . there is another set of teachers, the Christs of the world. These Teachers of all teachers represent God Himself in the form of man. They are much higher; they can transmit spirituality with a touch, with a wish, which makes even the lowest and most degraded characters saints in one second. Do you not read of how they used to do these things? They are not the teachers about whom I was speaking [i.e., mere lecturers]; they are the Teachers of all teachers, the greatest manifestations of God to man; we cannot see God except through them. We cannot help worshipping them, and they are the only beings we are bound to worship.”
Shri Ramana Maharshi
In the recorded conversations in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, a seeker named Mrs. Piggott begins her conversation by asking the Maharshi, "Is a Master necessary for realization?" He replies: “Realization is the result of the Master's Grace more than teachings, lectures, meditation, etc. They are only secondary aids, whereas the former is the primary and the essential cause.”
Excerpt from Chapter One of Spiritual Instruction of Bhagawan Shri Ramana Maharshi, 1974 edition:
4. If it be true that the Guru is one's own Self (atman), what is the principle underlying the doctrine which says that, however learned a disciple may be or whatever occult powers he may possess, he cannot attain self-realization (atma-siddhi) without the grace of the Guru?
Although in absolute truth the state of the Guru is that of oneself it is very hard for the Self which has become the individual soul (jiva) through ignorance to realize its true state or nature without the grace of the Guru.
All mental concepts are controlled by the mere presence of the real Guru. If he were to say to one who arrogantly claims that he has seen the further shore of the ocean of learning or one who claims arrogantly that he can perform deeds which are well-nigh impossible, "Yes, you learnt all that is to be learnt, but have you learnt (to know) yourself? And you who are capable of performing deeds which are almost impossible, have you seen yourself?", they will bow their heads (in shame) and remain silent. Thus it is evident that only by the grace of the Guru and by no other accomplishment is it possible to know oneself.
5. What are the marks of the Guru's grace?
It is beyond words or thoughts.
6. If that is so, how is it that it is said that the disciple realizes his true state by the Guru's grace?
It is like the elephant which wakes up on seeing a lion in its dream. Even as the elephant wakes up at the mere sight of the lion, so too is it certain that the disciple wakes up from the sleep of ignorance into the wakefulness of true knowledge through the Guru's benevolent look of grace.
7. What is the significance of the saying that the nature of the real Guru is that of the Supreme Lord (Sarvesvara)?
In the case of the individual soul which desires to attain the state of true knowledge or the state of Godhood (Isvara) and with that object always practices devotion, when the individual's devotion has reached a mature stage, the Lord who is the witness of that individual soul and identical with it, comes forth in human form with the help of sat-chit-ananda, His three natural features, and form and name which he also graciously assumes, and in the guise of blessing the disciple, absorbs him in Himself. According to this doctrine the Guru can truly be called the Lord.
“To know a Krishna or a Christ is to know God; for verily these are the children of Light—indeed, they are Light themselves. Though God dwells everywhere, to see him one must look through these divine incarnations. To worship a Krishna or a Christ is not, however, to worship a man as God, is not to worship a person; it is to worship God himself, the impersonal-personal Existence, in and through a man-god. Sri Ramakrishna said that the divine incarnations are like so many doors through which we peep into or touch the Infinite…. From time to time, then, a divine incarnation is needed to re-establish the eternal truth, the eternal spirit of religion, by his living example. God descends upon earth in the form of a man to instruct man how to ascend towards him. Thus does the avatar really become the way, the truth, and the life.”
[The Spiritual Heritage of India (p. 120)]
From Divine Distraction: A Guide to the Guru-Devotee Relationship by James Steinberg
The great Indian philosopher Shankara, in his first encounter with his Sat-Guru, Govinda, is an example of right preparation for meeting the Sat-Guru. By the time he came to Govinda, Shankara was already a serious aspirant with a deep intuition of the Divine. He was born in the south of India and had renounced family life at age twelve to travel on foot in search of a true Spiritual Master. Over the course of his thousand-mile journey, he met many mystics, Yogis, and Saints, but none of them could fully answer his questions, nor grant Spiritual Realization. Finally, after four years, he found the forest hermitage of his illustrious Teacher on the banks of the Godavari River. There he first consulted with various ascetics, who led him to the entrance to Sage Govinda's residence—a cave whose entrance Govinda had blocked with a huge boulder, leaving only a small opening at the bottom. Shankara circumambulated the area surrounding the cave three times, and, prostrating himself in front of the entrance, he began to chant a hymn in praise of the Sage.
Govinda, seeing Shankara's feet through the opening, asked, "Who are you?" Shankara replied, "I have come to thee to know That."
Upon hearing these words, Sage Govinda was delighted, and he, through his own Spiritual advancement, could see the full and right preparation of Shankara. In response, referring to Shankara as his "dear child", Govinda said, "If you want to know That, hold on to this," extending his foot through the entrance to the cave so that Shankara could see it. Shankara prostrated ecstatically before the Sage's feet in true devotion and worshipped the Sage's feet with a proper ceremony of puja (devotional worship). Praying aloud, and offering his unconditional love to his Master, he also requested the Master's infinite Grace. At that, Govinda pulled both his foot and the boy Shankara into the cave. He embraced the youth, acknowledged his rare qualifications as an aspirant, and Transmitted his Spiritual Blessings to him by touch, word, and glance. Shankara stayed with his Teacher for a few days longer to receive Instruction, and then left to fulfill his mission.
Avatar Adi Da Samraj once read this story to His devotees and provided a Commentary that put it in proper perspective. Heart-Master Adi Da pointed out the factors that produced Shankara's ability to immediately and fully receive his Sat-Guru's Transmission. First, Shankara's state of preparation was extraordinary, owing to his inherent Spiritual qualities and the purifying practice he had already fulfilled. Second, he truly acknowledged and saw his Master as the Divine and completely surrendered to him as Sat-Guru. It was on the basis of these qualifications that he received and was strongly Graced by the genuine Divine Transmission of his Sat-Guru.
The story of Shankara is a model of the proper preparation and response in a devotee. In the history of the Great Tradition there have been many Sat-Gurus who did not allow anyone to come into contact with them until there had been tremendous testing. Other Sat-Gurus might allow a simple occasion of Darshan or sighting, but would not formally take on an aspirant as a student, or grant formal initiation, or communicate esoteric or advanced Instructions, before an intense period of testing. Just as the devotee is advised to prepare himself or herself, so the Sat-Guru is enjoined over and over again in traditional texts to be wary of taking on or intimately Instructing a devotee who is not rightly prepared.”
“It is laid down by the Lord that there can be no moksha, liberation, without diksha, initiation; and initiation cannot be there without a Teacher. . . . Without a Teacher, all philosophy, traditional knowledge, Mantras are fruitless.”
“At the root of dhyana [meditation] is the form of the Guru; at the root of puja [sacramental worship] is the feet of the Guru, at the root of the mantra is the word of the Guru and at the root of all liberation is the grace of the Guru.”
The Guru Gita
“The hidden ignorance, absence of the knowledge of Self, the world-Maya, the body – are all caused by ignorance (ajnana). By whose grace one attains direct knowledge of the Self — he is known by the name ‘Guru.’ There is no greater Truth than the Guru, no greater penance than the Guru, no knowledge greater than the Guru – therefore to that Guru I ever pay my homage. “
[The Guru Gita, translated by Sri Swami Narayananda, pp. 12 & 28]
Quotations from Gurus and Devotees Throughout History
Swami Prajnananda (Devotee of Swami Muktananda)
“An aspirant, not knowing what he has done in the past or where he stands at present, and not having a clear idea of the nature of the goal to be attained, follows a certain discipline according to his own ideas of austerities, rituals and learning acquired from reading books or hearing lectures. He is even apt to mistake the ego-satisfying promptings of his heart as inner spiritual guidance. When he does not get the expected results, he becomes frustrated. He keeps on changing the course of his discipline, or is urged to move from one place to another in search of a way to the goal. But a Guru who has attained perfection and is established in the state of unity with God, can see through an aspirant, know his past, and judge his present spiritual status. Therefore he properly guides the aspirant according to his nature, circumstances and competence, giving him a spiritual push on the path through his divine grace, which smoothes the course of discipline and makes the spiritual ideal real and living for the aspirant.
Thus, without a Guru it is impossible to proceed far on the spiritual path. Not a single enlightened soul will ever deny the necessity of a Guru. Those who do so are nourishing their egos in the darkness of their ignorance, because to accept a Guru, the ruthless killer of ego, is contrary to their self-conceited ideas.”
[From her article “Sadhana at the Feet of a Sadguru"]
“Who hath not seen, who hath had no sight of Sat-Guru, O Lord, he hath wasted, he hath lost for nothing his human life, O Lord. Within me cherish I true love for my beloved Lord; my body and mind swell with joy when in front of me, my Guru do I behold. . . . Thy sight washeth away all sins, O my Guru; and untieth us with God. . . . Wise was I, but on beholding Guru lost I all my wisdom; and with ecstasy was I charmed and bewitched. . . . My joy knoweth no bounds when I behold my Guru, my Guru's body.”
[Guru Granth Sahib]
“There where there is no Guru
Not even the name of Buddha is heard.
The Buddhas of a thousand aeons
Depend on the Guru for their appearance.
The fact is that they are His manifestation.”
—Naropa, The Indian Maha-Siddha (1016-1100), who, as a Teacher of the great Tibetan Adept Marpa the Translator, played an important role in the Transmission of Buddhism to Tibet
“With regard to the instruction on following a spiritual teacher, in all the Sutras, Tantras, and Sastras [three types of sacred Scripture], there is no account that tells of anyone who attained Buddhahood without a Guru.”
—Patrul Rinpoche, 19th century Tibetan teacher, Excerpt from “The Fifty Verses of Guru-Devotion”
“Guru-devotion involves both your thoughts and your actions. The most important thing is to develop the total conviction that your Guru is a Buddha. Such a conviction is a prerequisite for receiving any insight. If you are aiming to benefit yourself and overcome all suffering with the attainment of Liberation, or reach the perfected state of a Fully Enlightened Buddha so that you can help liberate others, your guru can only show you the way if he himself has already achieved these accomplishments. If you doubt your Guru’s competence and ability to guide you, your practices will be extremely unstable and you will be unable to make any concrete progress. You must have full confidence that it is possible to become Enlightened, that your Guru is living proof of this, and that by following Buddha’s teachings as he instructs, you can achieve the same. Only then will it be possible gain any benefits from the practices.
In ancient times in order to receive an initiation a potential disciple would have to ask over a period of three years. An initiation was not at all something casual. By making the disciple wait so long, a Guru impressed on him the seriousness of entering the tantric path, tested his commitment, and ensured that he was properly prepared. Often a guru would make a disciple wait even longer before agreeing to teach him anything. He would repeatedly test his character and only when he had understood him well would he accept him as his discipline.
The disciple also must test his potential Guru and determine if he is fully qualified. He must be confident that he will be able to devote himself fully to this Master. Before entering a formal Guru-disciple relationship, you have complete freedom of choice. But once such a bond has been established, these teachings on Guru-devotion must be followed with total commitment.”
—Asvaghosa, an Indian poet. Having previously been a strong non-Buddhist believer, he became an extremely devout follower of the Buddha’s path, writing many works on its various aspects.
Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) was an Islamic mystic called by the name "Maulana", meaning "our Master". He was the founder of the Mevlevi order of Sufis, known popularly as the "Whirling Dervishes". His own relationship with his Master, Shamsuddin Tabrizi, is famous, for the two loved one another with an overwhelming and consuming love. Rumi wrote in his Mathnawi:
“Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two days' journey.”
“If you had been without a guide
on that path which you
have travelled many times,
you would have lost your way.
—So beware, do not spurn a guide!
Do not venture alone on the road which
you have not yet seen.”
Choose a master, for without one
the road on this journey is
full of hazards, fear and danger.
If the shadow of the master is not near,
You will be terrified by the shrieks of ghouls. . . .
Only the master's shadow of Love kills the self.
Do not let go of your devotion
to him who kills the self.”
In the case of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and especially centering in Russia, all who truly wished to advance on the Spiritual path were required to place themselves under the guidance of a Spiritual father (or staretz). The rules and guidelines for the relationship with these "Spiritual directors" called for full submission to their Spiritual authority, for it was understood that the staretz held the means by which the aspirant would be connected not only to higher instruction and guidance, but to Divine Grace Itself.
“A spiritual father's power in guiding his spiritual children was to be unconditional and unlimited . . . and the penance . . . imposed by him had to be carried out as the 'commandment of God'.”
—Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (p. 76)
What is commonly found in the fullest relationship to the great Jewish Teachers, Zaddiks, Rebbes, Ravs, and Rabbis is that they were bearers of the baracha, or Blessing of God. In contact with such an individual, one found direction, guidance, and an example, as well as a direct means of connection to the Divine.
Such a Zaddik (literally, "righteous one") was referred to in the Old Testament (Prov. 10:25) as "the foundation of the world". The Talmud declares that he "stood at the very heart of the cosmos and could, by virtue of his meritorious deeds, intervene to remove the decrees of heaven." It was by his virtue that the world was sustained.
Avatar Adi Da Samraj
“I am Present in the same kind of bodily form as you— manifested in the same kind of physical condition, the same kind of nervous system, the same kind of brain. But in Me all these things are Raised to an Absolute level of Functioning, so that your entering into Communion with Me brings changes even at the level of the psycho-physical body that you present to Me. The abstract Deity cannot serve you in that way, because the physics of this Process must be directly Present, and the human Demonstration of the Process must be Present in a Form that can do its Work in your case. That Work is My Purpose, because I Represent a State of the ultimate physics of things that is your potential but not your actuality at the present time. The abstract Divine and the potential powers of the universe are just as true as the Spiritual Master, but they are not organized (except in the case of the Spiritual Master) for the sake of the immediate transformation of human beings. If people enter into right relationship with Me, they begin to Realize the same transformations I have Described in My own case. ” [The Divine Physics of Evolution]
“Only the Adepts, who are God-Realized, through whom the living Power of God manifests, can make a difference in human time. Such individuals are the instruments for the acculturation of humanity. Periodically, such individuals must appear, and they must be influential. There is a notion that Adepts should be hiding in caves in the wilderness. This is not true. If the Adepts do not speak, the only voice that will be heard is that of ordinary people who are not God-Realized. The Adepts are the Sources of Spiritual life. Such individuals must therefore enter into the stream of society, to purify the culture and reestablish the process of God-Realization. If they do not speak and become influential, there is no hope at all for humanity.”
[The Enlightenment of the Whole Body]
“All religions are historical forms of the Single and Ancient Way of Distracted love for the Divine Person, especially as Revealed in the Life and in the Company and in the Person of Incarnate Adepts in their various degrees and stages of Realization. This is the Great Secret.” [Da Love-Ananda Gita]
Every conditional action tends to be followed by an equal and opposite reaction. If the action of psycho-physical attention to the world arises, the self-contraction of the body-mind tends to follow. If the self-contraction arises, the reactivity of separativeness tends to follow. Whenever the ego-"I" is remembered, the states of separateness and limitation seem Real. If separateness and limitation seem Real, the Transcendental, Inherently Spiritual, Inherently egoless, and Self-Evidently Divine Self-Condition and Source-Condition has been forgotten. That One by Means of Whose Grace one Remembers and Realizes the Divine Self-Condition and Source-Condition—He Is indeed the Divine Heart-Master and the One and Only and Non-Separate and Indivisible and Inherently egoless "Bright" Divine Person Incarnate.
The Radiance and Profundity of the Divine Heart-Master's State of Being both Sustain and Dissolve His own Body-Mind. Therefore, feeling-Contemplation of Him Liberates attention from bondage to the world, the body, the mind, and even all of separate and separative self.
The casual Words and Footsteps of the Divine Heart-Master Build a Bridge across the ocean of our bondage. Therefore, attend to This Divine Liberator every moment of your life.
By Means of the Blessings Given by the Divine Heart-Master, the currents of un-Love are dissolved. Therefore, always bow down to His Supreme Help.
The Real and Ever-Living God Is the Heart Itself. The Heart Itself Is the Divine Person, the Very Heart and Person of the Divine Heart-Master. Therefore, by Means of all the Blessings of the Divine Heart-Master, devotees are Gifted to transcend the Heartless bondage of un-Happiness and un-Enlightenment.
Because He Is the Great and Only and Very One, devotees should surrender and forget themselves at the Feet of the Divine Heart-Master. Because He Is the Great and Only and Very One, the Graceful Radiance That Flows from the Divine Heart-Master's Feet Releases attention from the ego-"I" and the world.
The Divine Heart-Master Is the Supreme Help Offered by the Real and Ever-Living God. There is no Friend greater than the Divine Heart-Master. Therefore, body and mind should be entirely devoted to the Divine Heart-Master, so that attention is set free in His Heart of "Brightness". [Verses 38-44 of Ruchira Avatara Gita]
The supreme form of devotion, confessed in the esoteric spiritual traditions,
is devotion to a Guru—a Spiritually-Awakened being who is qualified to awaken
his or her Spiritual Realization in others