Knowledge of the Self can be attained only by the Grace of the Guru or the spiritual preceptor. The knowledge is transmitted from the preceptor to disciple.
You can know the unknowable (Brahman) by purifying your mind, by serving a Guru who is a Brahmanishtha (established in truth), by getting lessons from him and by meditation.
A medical student is in urgent need of a Professor of medicine. A Junior Vakil needs the help of a senior advocate for his guidance. A junior cook needs the help of a senior cook. When such is the case with worldly matters, what to speak of Adhyatmic spiritual subjects which deal with hidden, subtle Atman! The help of a Guru who has realised the Self is imperatively necessary for the aspirant for his guidance. Otherwise he will be groping in the thick forest of darkness, of ignorance.
The aspirant gets obstacles or impediments, dangers, snares, pitfalls on the spiritual path. He will have to be very careful in Sadhana also. A Guru who has already trodden the path and reached the goal is very necessary to guide him.
Young aspirants should always live under the guidance of a perfect Guru for some years. They should be under subjection. They should learn perfect obedience and humility. If they have their own ways, they become arrogant and conceited. They do not make even an iota of progress in spirituality.
In nature no two trees are alike; no two leaves are alike; no two persons are alike; no two vibrations are alike; no two temperaments are alike; no two minds are alike. Therefore there are various ways for controlling the mind to suit people of different temperaments. Each can have his own way of Sadhana. For yourself if you are not able to chalk out the path, get it from a Guru or preceptor. Learn Yoga under a Guru. Then only you will be able to understand the subtle points of Yoga. He will inspire you when you are depressed, will remove your doubts when you come across stumbling blocks on the path, and show you the right path because he has already trodden the path himself. If you are sincere and earnest, the Guru's grace will flow to you like Tailadhara-a continuous flow of oil. He will infuse energy, love, wisdom and spiritual current if you have true receptive attitude, sincere faith and devotion to him. Now stick to one path and one Guru. Do not waver. Be patient. Be sincere.
Aspirants do not possess unshakable faith in the Guru or Srutis. They have half or wavering faith. That is the reason why they fail in attaining success in Yoga or Jnana.
The Lord and the Guru are both one. Try to see the Lord in your Guru. Then only you will have progress in the spiritual path. Then only you will attain Self-realisation. If you try to see defects in your Guru, you will not be benefited in the least. Guru is your father. Guru is your mother. Guru is your saviour. Guru is your sole refuge and support. Therefore revere your Guru as the Lord Himself.
The real aspirant should drink the Charanamrita of his Guru, should take the Guru's Ucchishta, should meditate on the form of his Guru as Brahman Himself and should do Japa of his Guru Mantra constantly. Then he will have Self-realisation easily.
The duty of a soldier is to obey implicitly the commands of the commander. He must not question anything. Even so, the duty of an aspirant is to obey implicitly the orders of his Guru. Then only he can grow quickly in the spiritual path.
He who is devoted to his Guru and has done Upasana can only comprehend the depths of the teachings of the Vedanta. You will find also in Svetasvatara Upanishad: "Whoso hath highest love for God and for the Guru as for God, to that Mahatman, the truths here taught shine in full." Section VI-23.
The teachers in this world is said to be of three kinds, viz., the one who commands, the one who imparts knowledge, and the supreme one who gives release. The one who commands shows the way; the one who imparts knowledge teaches the supreme place; and the one who gives release reveals the supreme truth, knowing which you will attain immortality.
The people after crossing a river, wanted to see whether all the passengers were alive. But each of them counted all the nine others except himself, and found that one was missing and all began to weep bitterly for the loss of one of them. At last they were disillusioned by some one telling each of them that the reckoner himself was the tenth.
Just as the iron filings are magnetised in the presence of a magnet, so also aspirants are magnetised when they are in close contact with their masters or Gurus. Just as iron is transmuted into gold by the touch of philosopher's stone, so also persons with evil tendencies are transmuted into veritable saints when they come in close contact with sages and Yogins.
When a Guru is in the physical body, he can help the aspirants and disciples more. If the disciple has faith in his Guru, he will help him even after he has abandoned his physical body. Sri Sankara, the propounder of the Advaita philosophy, Sri Dattatreya, Sri Jnana Dev of Alandi even now bless the aspirants who have devotion unto them. They have no body on earth but yours, no hands and feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which they behold this universe. They move about through your feet and do good to the world.
One who is versed in Vedas, who has knowledge of Brahman, who has a balanced mind, who is an ocean of mercy and who is able to remove the doubts and Avarana of the aspirants is a real Guru.
A true Sat Guru is absolutely free from passion, anger, selfishness, greed, hatred and egoism. He is beyond worldly temptations. He is able to remove the ignorance of people. He can clear any kind of doubt. He can give practical, easy lessons to control the mind and the senses. His instructions are very impressive. Even an arrogant proud man bends his head before him. He is able to take the students to the door of Moksha. He can remove the obstacles, pitfalls and snares on the path. He is versed in the Vedas. He is sinless. He is an ocean of mercy. He is a friend to all.
There are some Sattvic souls in these days but sages who have Brahmic experience are very rare. These Sattvic souls have no direct experience and they are mistaken for liberated sages. Even Sattvic aspirants who are treading the path of Truth, who possess virtuous qualities must be adored. Such aspirants also are very rare. Some Sattvic souls pose for Jivanmuktas. This is deplorable. Their disciples begin to worship them, gradually they get a downfall by becoming a slave to respect, honour and worship. Maya havocs in a variety of ways. It is very difficult to understand her ways and operations.
Doubtless there is dearth of genuine Gurus. But there is still more dearth of genuine disciples also.
Aspirants complain: "We cannot get good Gurus in these days." Gurus also complain: "We do not get good disciples these days." Who is right? Who is wrong? The lower court cannot decide this point. The matter will have to be assuredly placed before the Privy Council of Jnanins. Can a patient gauge the merits of a doctor as soon as he enters the consultation room? Ignorant disciples who have not even an iota of experience in the spiritual path at once begin to test and examine the Gurus. They make serious remarks, some hasty, wrong conclusions and inferences from external appearances and ways of living. Paramahamsas have different mysterious ways of living. Even though you live with them shoulder to shoulder for twelve years, you can hardly understand their hearts and depth of knowledge. Jnana and spiritual experiences are quite internal states. Foolish Chelas run from one Guru to another Guru. Pitiable is their lot!
Do not dig here and there shallow pits for getting water. The pits will dry soon. Make a very deep pit in one place. Centralise all your efforts here. You will get good water throughout the year. Even so, try to imbibe thoroughly the spiritual teachings from one preceptor alone. Drink deep from one man. Sit at his feet for some years. There is no use of wandering from one man to another man out of curiosity, losing faith in a short time. Do not have the ever-changing mind of a prostitute.
With the help of one light you can light up several other lights. Even so, a realised soul can make several others to realise God, provided they are in a fit condition to receive the light imparted by him. Therefore serve your preceptor with great devotion. Out of compassion on you one day or other he will enlighten you. He will lift you up. Wait patiently. Surrender yourself unto him completely.
He alone who sits at the lotus feet of a preceptor, who has knowledge of the Self and who is also well-versed in scriptural knowledge is able to grasp the Truth. In the Gita also, Chap. IV-34, Lord Krishna says: "Know it by means of prostration to the Guru, interrogation and service. The wise who have cognised the Truth will instruct thee in that knowledge of the Self."
Initiation into the mysteries of Brahman will fructify only in that disciple's mind who is desireless and will produce Jnana in him.
It takes a long time for the charcoal to catch fire but gun powder can be ignited within the twinkling of an eye. Even so, it takes a long time for igniting the fire of knowledge for a man whose heart is impure. But an aspirant with great purity of heart gets knowledge of the Self within the twinkling of an eye, within the time taken to squeeze a flower by the fingers.
Unless you are pure, you will not be able to realise the true greatness of a liberated sage. When he appears before you, you will take him for an ordinary man only, and you will not be benefited. You will try to find out defects in him on account of your fault-finding nature (Dosha Drishti). Even if Lord Krishna or Sri Sankara remains with you, He will not do anything for you, unless you are fit to receive Him, unless you are ready to receive the spiritual instructions.
It is quite true that mere Grace of a Guru, his touch, sight or Sankalpa can work wonders, but that does not mean that the disciple should sit idle. Guru will show the path and remove obstacles, snares and pitfalls. The student will have to place his feet on the rungs of the ladder of Yoga. The Gita says: "Uddharet atmana atmanam na atmanam avasadayet-Let him raise the Self by the Self, let him not lower himself." Chap. VI. 5.
Guru's Grace is needed by the disciple. This does not mean that the disciple should sit idle and expect a miracle from the Guru to push him directly into Samadhi. The Guru cannot do Sadhana for the student. He can guide the student, clear his doubts, pave the way, remove snares, pitfalls and obstacles and throw light on the path. The disciple himself will have to place each foot step in the spiritual path. He himself will have to place his step on each rung of the ladder of Yoga.
You will have to place each step yourself in the spiritual path or rung of the ladder of Yoga. No miracle will happen to push you into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Teachers can inspire you and remove your doubts and pitfalls. Introspect, find out weaknesses and remove them. Be regular in your meditation. You will reach the goal quickly.
Realisation cannot come to the student as a miracle done by the Guru. Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus, Rama Tirtha have all done spiritual Sadhana. Lord Krishna prescribes: "Vairagya. Abhyasa-dispassion and practice." He did not say to Arjuna: "I will give you Mukti directly."
When there is intense urge from within to take the definite steps in the spiritual path, you will have to take recourse to rigorous Sadhana. But the Sadhana must be well-regulated and gradual. There must be ladder-like ascent like the rise of temperature in Typhoid fever. You must place your footstep in the Yoga ladder just as you place your footstep in the staircase.
Distance has nothing to do between a Master and a disciple. It is the nearness of the heart that counts. There must be perfect unity between the Guru and the Chela. Then only the disciple will be immediately benefited.
The sun is at a very long distance and yet the lotus rejoices in the morning as soon as it beholds the sun. The moon is at a very long distance and yet the lady-of-the-lake bursts into joy when it sees the moon. The clouds are at a long distance and yet the peacock dances in joy when it sees the clouds. Even so, friends may be separated by a long distance and yet they can be well-united in bonds of friendship and love. Distance is no bar. Gurus and disciples may live in distant places and yet the Gurus may help their disciples by their strong spiritual thought-currents.
This is a strange world. We have to learn many lessons. Even the disciple who was devoted to his Guru tries to destroy his own beloved Master at a later time. Many obstacles will come for the growing aspirant only at every step. These will develop his soul-force; inner strength and power of endurance. The aspirant will have to show his strength when he is placed in adverse condition. He should think and feel that nothing has happened.
If you have no Guru, take God, Lord Krishna, Lord Siva or Rama as your Guru. Pray to Him. Meditate on Him. Sing His Name. Remember Him. He will send you a suitable Guru. A personal Guru is necessary in the beginning. He the Guru of Gurus alone can show you the path to attain God, and obviate the snares and pitfalls on the path.