Every soul is destined to be perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain the state of perfection.

How we are now, is the result of our karmas – acts and acts and thoughts in the past; and thus, whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think and do now.

But, as we build our destiny, this does not exclude us from receiving help from some, and in fact, it is very much needed. 

The soul can only receive impulses from another soul, and from none other.

This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. We may study books all our lives, and we may become very intellectual, but we may find that we have not developed at all spiritually. Developing oneself requires practicing the virtues, and bringing about self-transformation.In that sense, intellectual development does not go hand in hand with a proportionate development of the spiritual side in Man. In studying books we find that at the utmost it is only our intellect that derives profit from such studies, and not our inner spirit.

This inadequacy of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul, and that soul is the Guru.

Who is a Guru

To convey such an impulse to any soul, in the first place, the soul from which it proceeds must possess the power of transmitting it, as it were, to another; and in the second place, the soul to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it.

The seed must be a living seed, and the field must be ready plowed; when both these conditions are fulfilled, a remarkable growth of genuine religion takes place.

It is a mysterious law of nature that as soon as the field is ready, the seed must and does come; as soon as the soul earnestly desires to have religion, the transmitter of the religious force must and does appear to help that soul.

When the power that attracts the light of religion in the receiving soul is full and strong, the power which answers to that attraction and sends in light does come as a matter of course.

Common pitfalls on the seeker’s path

The danger to the receiving soul of its mistaking momentary emotions for real religious yearning. If we introspect, we find that many times in our lives, we develop momentary detachment and momentary interest in spirituality.

Somebody dies whom we loved; we receive a blow; we feel that the world is slipping between our fingers, that we want something surer and higher, and that we must become religious, and detached and understand the impermanence of the body. 

In a few days that wave has passed away, and we are left stranded just where we were before. All of us often mistake such impulses for real thirst after religion. So whenever we are tempted to complain about our search after the truth that we desire so much, proving vain, instead of so complaining, our first duty ought to be to look into our own souls and find whether the craving in the heart is real. 

Then in the vast majority of cases, it would be discovered that we were not fit for receiving the truth, that there was no real thirst for spirituality.

Pitfalls in identifying Guru

There is a greater danger in regard to the transmitter, the Guru. There are many who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and not only do not stop there but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch.

अविद्यायामन्तरे वर्तमानाः स्वयं धीराः पण्डितम्मन्यमानाः ।
दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथान्धाः ॥

 “Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind.” — (Katha Upanishad., I. ii. 5).

The world is full of these. Everyone wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.

How do we know a Guru then?

The sun requires no torch to make him visible, we need not light a candle in order to see him. When the sun rises, we instinctively become aware of the fact, and when a teacher of men comes to help us, the soul will instinctively know that truth has already begun to shine upon it. Truth stands on its own evidence, it does not require any other testimony to prove it true, it is self-effulgent. It penetrates into the innermost corners of our nature, and in its presence, the whole universe stands up and says, “This is truth.”

Om Swami ji shares that – As a realized saint, you are like perfume, you don’t need to announce yourself, and wherever you go, your sweet smell will indicate your presence.

The teachers whose wisdom and truth shine like the light of the sun are the very greatest the world has known, and they are worshipped as God by the major portion of mankind.

But we get helped by teachers who are comparatively lesser and because we may not have the intuition to ascertain properly, we should have certain conditions for the teacher to satisfy, as there are for aspirants.

We will cover these in the next article, which will have the qualifications of spiritual seeker and a Guru.

PS: Om Swami ji has given wonderful clarity on this topic, which is shared below

Is a Guru Necessary for Spiritual Progresshttps://youtu.be/6TZjWboaxx4
Presence of Guru in Lifehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RvOCw1mi7E
Is Physical Guru Necessaryhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6UFD7_hASg
The Meaning of Guruhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ege5Y7NZA8

Part 2 of the article – Qualifications for being a Guru and a Spiritual Seeker is here.

References – 

  1. Bhakti Yoga – The Need of Guru – Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – Vol 3.
  2. Bhakti Yoga – Qualifications of the Aspirant and the Teacher – Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – Vol 3.
  3. Vivekacudamani – Sri Sanakracharya’s –  Translated by Swami Madhavananda. 
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