TWO OPINIONS on the need for a guru expressing opposite views, appeared in the Inner Voice (March 29 and April 10). Let us see what Hindu scripture has to say on this important subject.
In the Bhagavad-Geeta, this topic has been touched upon four times. Arjuna states, “ O Krishna! You are the supreme worshipable guru” (11.43). Lord Krishna instructs, “You obtain the requisite knowledge from knowledgeable persons by being respectful towards them, by serving them and by making suitable inquiries” (4.34). Again the Lord states, “To be respectful towards one’s teacher is the austerity of the body” (17.14). And in the thirteenth chapter Krishna terms the action of spending time with a person whose impeccable behaviour is worth emulating, as wise (13.8).
Or take the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, another venerated scripture. In the eleventh canto, Lord Krishna tells Uddhava, “One should spend time with a guru, who is knowledgeable, peaceful and who is God conscious” (11.10.5). Again He states, “ Since one is unlikely to get all the information from one person, there is need for several gurus” (11.9.31).
What do we make out of all this? That all of us need many teachers and consultants, to get all the guidance we need. One must choose them very carefully, like choosing a personal doctor. But a scripture does NOT say that a guru becomes our master; only God can be that. Vested interests have translated the word guru in English as spiritual master, whereas it should be spiritual teacher or just teacher / guide. One is ill-advised to totally surrender to any human being; nor does accepting a teacher mean that we should stop using our own power of discrimination, since no human being is infallible. Lord Krishna has specifically asked us to surrender to Him only (B.6. 18.66); meaning only to God, however we address Divinity.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that while we needs all kinds of teachers, including spiritual ones, no one person can teach us everything that we need to know. We should take guidance from a teacher but surrender only to God.