Question: If God and the Guru are within us, what is the need for an external Guru?
Mother: In every stone, there is a potential icon lying concealed. It is when the sculptor chisels away the unnecessary parts that the icon is revealed. Likewise, the Guru brings out the Divine Essence in the disciple, who, being caught in delusion, is in a state of deep forgetfulness. As long as we are unable to awaken from the delusion by ourselves, we need an external Guru. The Guru will remove our forgetfulness.
A student studied intensely for an examination. But when he received the question paper in the examination hall, he was so nervous that he couldn’t remember anything. A classmate who was sitting next to him reminded him of the first line of a poem. The boy could then recall from memory the whole poem and he wrote it down on the answer sheet. Likewise, there is dormant knowledge within us, and the word of the Guru has the power to awaken that knowledge.
As the disciple undergoes spiritual discipline in the proximity of the Master, that which is unreal in him fades and his real Being begins to shine forth. When an icon covered with wax is brought near a fire, the wax melts and the icon become visible. The fact that a few Self-realized sages didn’t have a Guru doesn’t mean that there’s no need for anyone to have a Guru.
God and the Guru are within you, like the tree that exists within the seed. It requires a congenial climate and suitable soil for the seed to grow into a tree. So also, for the innate Divinity in man to shine forth, we need a congenial environment. The Guru is the one who creates that environment. Apples grow abundantly in Kashmir, because the climate in Kashmir is favourable for apple trees. It is also possible to grow apple trees in Kerala, but they require very careful nursing; and even then, most of the saplings will wither away. Because the climatic conditions in Kerala are not suitable for apple trees, the trees that do manage to survive will only give scanty yield. Just as the climate in Kashmir is suitable for growing apples, a Self-realized Master’s presence is conducive for the spiritual growth of the disciple. The Master creates a suitable atmosphere for awakening the Guru that is dormant in the disciple, so that the disciple realizes his true Self.
Practicability has its place in spirituality just as it has in materialism. It requires a mother to teach a baby how to hold the milk glass, how to put on clothing, etc. Later the child learns to do all this by itself. Similarly, until a sadhak is capable of progressing spiritually by himself, he needs an external guide.
People who undertake a journey with the help of a map may nevertheless lose their way and wander about. However, if they have a guide with them, this will not happen. If there is somebody with us who knows the path very well, we won’t lose our way and our journey will be smooth. Even though the Supreme Self is within all of us, as long as we are caught in body-consciousness, we need to have a Guru. Once an aspirant has given up his identification with adjuncts such as the body and mind, there is no longer any need for external help, for then God and the Guru within have awakened.
However much we may dig in certain places, we will not necessarily find water. On the other hand, if we dig beside a river we will easily get water. Similarly, the proximity of a true Master makes the task easier for the disciple. He will be able to enjoy the fruit of his sadhana (spiritual practices) without overstraining himself. The strength of his prarabdha (the fruit of past actions) will also be mitigated in the presence of the Master. A spiritual Master is a tapasvi (someone who has undergone intense austerities). If an ordinary person is compared to a candle, a tapasvi is like the sun. Modern science admits that if we are able to fix the mind at a point we can conserve mental strength. If this is so, how much power will there be in a tapasvi who has practiced one-pointedness of mind for years and years! That is why it is said that by the touch of a tapasvi, spiritual power can be transmitted to us, like an electric current. A Master is capable of not only creating a congenial atmosphere for the spiritual advancement of the disciple, but is also able to transmit spiritual power to the disciple.
Only one who has gone through the different stages in sadhana can properly guide an aspirant. A student can master the theory by himself, but to be successful with the practical elements, he requires the help of a teacher. Though we can learn about spirituality from books to a certain extent, in order to translate those spiritual teachings into practice, we have to seek the aid of a living Master. An aspirant will come across countless obstacles and will face many problems on the spiritual path. If those problems aren’t properly dealt with, there is a risk that the aspirant may lose his mental balance. While giving a seeker advice on spiritual practices, it is necessary to take into consideration his physical, mental and intellectual propensities. Only a true master is capable of giving the right advice. Tonic is good for one’s health. However, if it is consumed indiscriminately, it will do more harm than good. It is the same with spiritual practices. So the guidance of a spiritual Master is indispensable.