Importance of the Guru

The Vedas and Shastras declare that it is impossible for anyone to achieve Self-Realization without the help of a Satguru. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna enjoins upon Arjuna,

Tadviddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya
Upadekshayanti te jnanam jnaninah tattva-darshinah.

‘If you wish to know the truth of the Paramatman you must seek such Masters who have an awareness of it themselves. Learn from them by surrendering unto them, by devoted service and by right questioning. Thus will you come to know the Supreme Truth.’

Even if, through determined effort and ruthless self-examination or devotional practices, a seeker does have the vision of God, the final attainment of realising God as one’s own Self and as the Self in all beings can be accomplished only through the Grace of a Satguru. Only those in whom the inner Guru is awakened by virtue of one’s past samskara (latent inherited tendencies) can gain God realisation without the assistance of a Guru. The story of Namdev, the great saint of Maharashtra, illustrates this.

Namdev had, even in his childhood, received the vision of God and used to consider the Lord to be his own friend. He used to be able to freely see and speak to his beloved Vitthal. As he grew up into a youth, his exalted state of devotion made people look upon him as a saint. He was slowly becoming egoistic, though unaware of it. Then one day, to his surprise, his beloved Lord asked him to attend a religious festival at a nearby village. When Namdev reached the place, he found a congregation of people, which included the great saint Jnaneshwar, his brothers and sister, and many great Mahatmas who were all realised souls. Nobody recognised or paid any attention to Namdev and he took his place in the crowd.

When everybody was seated Jnaneshwar asked another saint Gora Kumbhar who was a potter by profession, to check and see if the “pots” assembled there were “baked” or not. So Gora Kumbhar tapped with his stick, the head of each person in the assembly. They all sat without moving except Namdev. When Gora came up to him and tapped him with the stick, Namdev sprang to his feet and cried out angrily, “How dare you hit me with this stick? Don’t you know who I am? Hearing this Gora turned around and said to Jnaneshwar, “All are baked except this one.” The whole assembly burst into laughter and Namdev felt terribly humiliated.

Then Muktabai, the sister of Jnaneshwar stepped forward and said to Namdev, “How can one without a Guru have a place in this congregation of saints?” Namdev quietly left the place and went back to his Lord Vitthal. “O! Lord,” he asked “How could you allow me to be insulted so?” The Lord replied, “Namdev, you are most dear to me. But it is true that a man does not attain perfection except through the Grace of a Guru.” The Lord then directed Namdev to Vishobha Kechar, a true Master, through whose Grace he attained enlightenment… so the story goes.

Thus it is seen that even the exalted state of God-vision does not fructify into true realisation without the Satguru’s touch of Grace..